Aldridge, Blazers pull away from Thunder in fourth

LaMarcus Aldridge scores 27 points, Trail Blazers rally to beat Thunder 106-89

      
 

 

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Tyreke Evans Gets Away with Ridiculous Travel in Preseason Game

Tyreke Evans put on his dancing shoes for Monday night’s preseason game against the Washington Wizards.

The New Orleans Pelicans swingman caught an entry pass in the high post during the third quarter and did everything but moonwalk to the arc while attempting to reposition himself with the ball.

Next Impulse Sports’ John Ferensen crafted a GIF of the moment. The baseline official ran toward the action, managing to keep an eye on everything but Evans’ rendition of the “Cupid Shuffle.” 

It was a travel worthy of The Proclaimers, and it went completely uncalled. Traveling, however, is a time-honored tradition in the league. Even the greats—especially the greats—utilize shuffling and footwork to get to the basket. 

Warning: Video contains some NSFW language. 

Some salsa, others shuffle. It all comes down to personal preference and officiating cataracts.

The Pelicans won the game 88-84.

 

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Joel Embiid’s younger brother passes away

Philadelphia 76ers rookie Joel Embiid’s younger brother, Arthur, died Thursday, the team announced. Embiid will not attend the 76ers’ preseason game Thursday night against the Boston Celtics. Sixers head coach Brett Brown, general manager Sam Hinkie and forward Luc Mbah a Moute will miss the game, as well, to be with the young Kansas product. “We obviously consider members of our organization as a huge family,” 76ers director of public relations Michael Preston said, via CSNPhilly.com. “When something of this nature occurs, it trumps a game. Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to his entire family.” Assistant assistant Chad Iske will take over head-coaching duties in Brown’s absence. Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, is expected to miss most, if not all, of this season as he recovers from foot surgery. Photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports ImagesFiled under: Boston Celtics, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers, Top Stories, Zack Cox

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Doug McDermott Will Force Chicago Bulls to Find Real Role for Him Right Away

The Chicago Bulls aren’t going to hand major minutes to sharpshooting rookie Doug McDermott.

That isn’t the style of head coach Tom Thibodeau, nor is it a common practice among any NBA team holding even the faintest championship hopes. The fact that McDermott’s debut coincides with that of celebrated rookie Nikola Mirotic only compounds the issue.

As Thibodeau has been quick to point out, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, championship rotations typically don’t have room for two first-year players:

If Thibodeau has hesitations about playing a pair of rookies, though, that won’t be McDermott’s problem. The 22-year-old has left little doubt he is capable of playing a meaningful role for Chicago already this season.

At his essence, he is a scorer. Broken down even further, the guy is a lights-out shooter.

“McDermott is one of the best three-point shooters in the annals of the NCAA,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Kelly Scaletta. “Per Sports-Reference, of players who attempted at least 500 threes in their collegiate careers, his long-range shooting percentage of 45.8 is fourth-best all-time.”

McDermott’s four-year stay at Creighton could only be called legendary. He was a high-volume, high-production player as soon as he stepped onto campus, and over the course of his career, he managed to increase both categories plus clean up his efficiency.

He does more than score—he averaged 7.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists last season—but the Bulls can employ him as a shooting specialist right out of the gate.

“So far, what I’m seeing from Doug, in the USA setting and summer league, is his ability to shoot,” Thibodeau told reporters at the start of training camp, via ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “And I see how people react to his ability to shoot. When you have someone like that, it opens up the floor.”

The Bulls managed to scrape by largely without a three-point attack last season. Their 34.8 perimeter percentage ranked 24th overall, which was the lowest among all 16 playoff teams. That success rate wasn’t negatively impacted by an abundance of attempts either. In fact, only the New Orleans Pelicans (15.9) and Memphis Grizzlies (14.0) averaged fewer than the Bulls (17.8).

Chicago won’t be merely trying to survive at the offensive end this time around—not with former MVP Derrick Rose back leading the attack and four-time All-Star Pau Gasol forming arguably the NBA’s best passing frontcourt combo with Joakim Noah.

The Bulls have the chance to field an elite offense. They were fifth in offensive efficiency during the 2011-12 campaign, and this group looks deeper on paper than that one.

Having a marksman like McDermott on the floor only adds to the potential potency. The more defensive attention he draws as a shooter, the wider the driving lanes for Rose become. Real estate comes in equal abundance for Gasol’s post offense, Jimmy Butler’s off-ball cutting and Taj Gibson’s rolls to the rim.

McDermott can play that role right now. That isn’t me making that claim; it’s his 44.4 three-point success rate at summer league and his preseason 42.9 three-point percentage saying he’s ready. It’s the short-term memory he has already shown, having followed up a dismal 3-of-12 effort from the field in his second game with a 16-point, 5-of-8 shooting performance two games later.

“His nerves are calming down,” Rose said, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “Getting more confidence with the way that he’s playing, knowing that he’s able to take shots whenever he’s open. He’s going to be a big part of this team.”

The long ball alone won’t secure McDermott that “big part,” of course. Luckily, it isn’t the only trick in his bag.

He has an underrated knack for creating his own shots, which will be a valuable tool when he isn’t logging minutes beside Rose, Gasol or Noah. McDermott is capable of taking defenders off the dribble, comfortable banging with them on the low block and crafty getting himself to the free-throw line, where he was an 87.0 percent shooter his final two seasons at Creighton.

As Bleacher Report’s Dylan Murphy observed, McDermott has enough in his arsenal to attack any type of defense:

As an offensive player, his three-point range, off-the-dribble capabilities and clever post-up game provide him with the kind of versatility that makes him valuable to any type of offense. 

If he gets matched up against a smaller player, he can walk him down to the block and take advantage with his strength and well-groomed back-to-the-basket repertoire. If he’s guarded by a bigger player, his quickness and ability to stretch the floor can cause serious problems.

McDermott’s offensive versatility will allow him to fill a number of different roles depending on which players are surrounding him.

“Doug can play off of people,” Thibodeau said, per Comcast SportsNet’s Mark Strotman. “You can also run stuff through Doug, so I think you can play him with either unit and he’ll fit well.”

McDermott’s ability to adapt to different situations will be the key to keeping him on the floor. Despite the fact his offensive skills seem to mesh so well with the rest of this offense, he will need to constantly prove himself at every step.

That isn’t a knock on him, just a reflection of the short leash with which Thibodeau has typically handled rookies.

During his four seasons at the helm, four players have made at least 40 appearances during their rookie years. Two of them, Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague, saw fewer than nine minutes a night. Omer Asik held a small rotation role in 2010-11, playing a little over 12 minutes per game. Tony Snell saw 16 minutes of action a night last season, but his contributions fluctuated wildly as largely an injury replacement.

Obviously, the Bulls like McDermott, otherwise they wouldn’t have parted with a pair of first-round picks to get him. And their three-point collection needs his touch, even with newcomers like Mirotic and Aaron Brooks helping to bolster the ranks.

But McDermott needs to prove he can limit his mistakes and make a relatively seamless transition into the middle of a championship chase. The Bulls want to see him clear this hurdle, but they’re still going to force him to jump.

“I know there’s a steep learning curve,” Thibodeau said of playing rookies, via the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson. “You can’t do it at the expense of winning or losing games. It’s important they earn their time. I think they will as we go along. How much, I don’t know yet. But shooting is one of the areas we wanted to address, and I think we’ve done that.”

While the Bulls will welcome the new offensive help, they won’t sacrifice their defensive identity to get it.

That puts the onus on McDermott to show well at that end of the floor, but his teammates can help him get there. He doesn’t need to be a lockdown defender, just someone who understands how to take advantage of that proven system and individual defensive talent already in place.

“I think I still have a ways to go to to learn the terminology and get on the same page with some of these guys,” McDermott said, per Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin. “I think I can become a good defender, especially a team defender.”

McDermott isn’t your “typical” rookie.

He understands how to play the game, a gift stemming from both being the son of a coach and having spent the last four years playing it at a high level. He also knows what he brings inside the lines, which will help him maximize his strengths and work around his weaknesses.

While none of this will spare him from the “typical” rookie challenges, it will allow him to produce some atypical results for a Thibodeau-coached rookie.

McDermott will have to earn every minute he gets, but with his shooting touch, intelligence and competitive edge, he has all the weapons needed to secure a significant role in the rotation.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Grizzlies giving away ‘Z-Bow-Ties’ to fans

See, they’re bow ties with Z-Bo on them.

      
 

 

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Memphis Grizzlies Will Give Away Flip-Flops vs. Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles Clippers are known around the league for flopping, with superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin the most notable offenders. 

So when the Clippers come to Memphis on Feb. 27, 2015, the Grizzlies will have a special treat for fans. 

According to the team, Grizzlies Flip-Flops will be handed out to the first 5,000 fans to show up to FedEx Forum on that Friday night. 

This isn’t just a promotion on a whim; this goes back to the face-offs of the 2012 and 2013 Western Conference Playoffs, where each team took a series win. During these playoff series, a rivalry was born with the Grizzlies constantly frustrated with the Clippers’ flopping tactics

It seems the Grizzlies have some ground to stand on, as we’ve found plenty of evidence to support the Clippers’ love of flopping.

Chris Paul deserves an Oscar for this one: 

For a man who weighs about 250 lbs, Blake Griffin goes down quite easily here: 

So good on you Grizzlies; way to have a great sense of humor.  

[YouTube, ProBasketballTalk]

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Pros and Cons of Boston Celtics Starting Marcus Smart Right Away

The sky is the limit for Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart. A tenacious rookie out of Oklahoma State, Smart was selected by the Celtics with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft for one obvious reason: Boston feels he could be a cornerstone for the future of the franchise.

The question is, should the C’s start Smart (try saying that five times fast) alongside Rajon Rondo right out of the gate, or should they exercise patience and allow him to grow off the bench?

Taking into consideration the fact that the Celtics re-signed Avery Bradley to a four-year, $32 million deal this summer, per Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, you would think the plan is to bring Smart off the pine due to the amount of money Bradley will be making. However, take a second look at that contract. It’s for four years. Does anyone seriously believe that Boston aims to keep Smart in a reserve role for four seasons?

That’s what makes this decision a bit debatable and why it is prudent that we weigh the pros and cons of the C’s immediately throwing Smart into the fray as a starter.

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Pros and Cons of Andrew Wiggins Starting Right Away for Minnesota Timberwolves

When the 2014-15 NBA season tips off, there’s still no telling where Andrew Wiggins will be. 

At least we know what team he’ll be playing for, as he’s officially joined the Minnesota Timberwolves following the trade that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But beyond that, everything is up in the air, as Minnesota head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders won’t commit to starting Wiggins. 

According to Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Twitter (h/t CBS Sports’ Zach Harper), Saunders was “noncommittal on Andrew Wiggins starting” during a radio appearance. 

That’s fine.

There’s plenty of time remaining—as well as training camp and preseason—before the Timberwolves have to make any sort of decision as to Wiggins’ role during the opening salvo of his rookie season. Rushing into a choice would be foolish.

But what’s in the team’s best interest? We can determine that much at this stage, even if that doesn’t lock Wiggins into the starting five or onto the pine. 

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NBA Insider: Trading Away Taj Gibson Could Be The Difference Maker

The Chicago Bulls find themselves in a unique situation, they have two valuable starting power forwards on their team and there’s a ‘sense’ one of them isn’t happy. To be clear, there is no official report stating Taj Gibson is unhappy (like from his mouth), but you’d have to imagine that the acquisition of Pau Gasol pissed him off a little bit.
After the amnesty of Carlos Boozer, Gibson was the front man to sign Carmelo Anthony. Appearing at the United Center for Anthony’s visit, if the Bulls signed Melo then Taj would have instantly become the starting power forward.
Things didn’t work out that way, Pau Gasol was signed instead and Taj finds himself as the backup power forward, nothing has changed.
Trading Gibson Could Be The Difference
According to a report, Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders thinks trading Gibson could get the Bulls a few more pieces to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and win the Eastern Conference.
“It just makes the most sense for both parties to see if there’s som

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John Calipari gives away beds, pillows to Kentucky fans camping out Big Blue Madness

Five students got Tempur-Pedic mattresses because, apparently, their sleeping setup at Tent City really needed an upgrade.

      
 

 

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