Can Cole Aldrich Play Real Role for the NY Knicks Next Season?

The New York Knicks need a rim protector. Good thing they already have one.

The team that finished 24th in points allowed per possession last season could use major defensive help on the perimeter and in the paint for the upcoming year. But the Knicks defense isn’t completely hopeless for 48 minutes. It does have one guy who was possibly underutilized throughout last season: Cole Aldrich.

Aldrich, who re-signed with the Knicks in July, averaged only 7.2 minutes a night last year, getting into just 46 games. He’s never played more than 8.6 minutes per game in his four-year career. But it may finally be time for him to get some burn.

The Knicks don’t have an abundance of defensive personnel. Going through the roster leaves you wondering exactly how many above-average defenders they have. 

Iman Shumpert is certainly in that category. Samuel Dalembert still has defensive value. Jason Smith does as well, though he can be inconsistent. But is that it? 

The rest of the roster seems to be far more offensive-minded. But then there’s Aldrich, the seldom-played former 11th overall pick who once averaged 5.2 blocks per 40 minutes while wearing blue and white in Lawrence, Kansas. 

Dan Devine of Yahoo Sports realizes just how much the Knicks’ woeful defense could hurt this team:

With the possible exceptions of Shumpert and little-used center Cole Aldrich, this roster features no player who seem capable of being as anything better than slightly-above-average on defense. That’s not the kind of foundation on which playoff teams are typically built. Even improving to something like the No. 20 defense in the league might be a hard sell for these Knicks, and if the offense takes any kind of step backward as it goes through Triangle growing pains, it’s going to be tough to crack back into the top eight.

At first, Aldrich didn’t adapt fluidly to NBA basketball. His offensive game wasn’t particularly refined, he got bullied down low and his feet didn’t move as quickly as his mind. Now, Aldrich is different.

He’s probably never going to live up to what many thought he could be when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for him on draft night, but with new, reset expectations, Aldrich can help this Knicks team—mainly because he’s a plus defender who can play on the back line.

Above all else, Aldrich is a rim protector, the one guy the Knicks have who can honestly retain that title. 

The four-year vet averaged 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season, and swatted 8.1 percent of two-point shot attempts while he was on the floor, a figure that would lead the league by a hefty margin if strung out over enough minutes. And on a team that has just one guy who consistently defends on the perimeter (the Knicks need you, Iman), rim protection is a skill Derek Fisher’s squad can’t take for granted.

If you’re not going to stay in front of ball-handlers, you better have someone behind them. And now, Aldrich can actually go out and attack offensive players.

Often, guys will pop against Aldrich when they set ball-screens. That’s on his ability to intimidate at the rim, and the former KU star has become much more adept at closing out on those who do stray from the paint to shoot jumpers against him. 

On this play from last March, he closes out in time on DeMarcus Cousins to force DMC toward the basket. When the guy, who is arguably the most skilled offensive center in the league, penetrates to the hoop, Aldrich stuffs him:

This all starts when Cousins sets a weak screen on Pablo Prigioni during this short pick-and-roll. 

Failing to body up Prigs allows Aldrich, who is a better athlete than he gets credit for, to close out on Cousins once he gets the ball, taking away the 14-footer that he’s eyeing.

Cousins is still developing as a passer. His first instinct often tells him to score. Once Aldrich takes away the shot, he knows Boogie is going right and stays in front of him for as long as he should.

Aldrich is quick enough to keep his chest squared to Cousins, but once he gets to the restricted area, he halts—as Cousins leaves his feet—and goes for the block:

This is what the great shot blockers do. DeAndre Jordan is the king of this style, which can be high-risk, leading to fouls if executed poorly considering it involves pendulum-like arm swinging. But if a guy has the ability to wait for the scorer to make the first move, that’s how to get blocks in these scenarios. 

Cousins’ feet leave the floor before Aldrich’s, not only showing the Knicks center’s ability to understand tendencies and fundamentals but also displaying an underrated athleticism, an ability to end his momentum as he gets to the restricted area and propel forward to stuff a dominant player at the rim. It’s a skill that is valuable in a backup center, and one that Dalembert, Smith, Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire don’t possess.

The Knicks defense needs Aldrich for that reason alone. Add in an 18.6 percent career rebound rate, in line with those of Chandler, Tim Duncan and Kevin Love, and throwing Aldrich into the rotation should be a no-brainer, considering the Knicks’ struggles on the glass. 

It may not seem like he can sway their season, but for 15-plus minutes a night, Aldrich can alter an opponent’s offensive execution more than any other big on the Knicks’ roster. It’d be foolish to let that go unnoticed for a second consecutive year.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNs TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of August 20 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Stephon Marbury to star in play about Stephon Marbury

You simply cannot make this stuff up. Former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury will star in a Chinese play about his life during the 2011-2012 season in which he led the Beijing Ducks to a Chinese Basketball Association championship (via Sports Illustrated).  Per SI, “I Was Marbury” runs 11 straight nights from October 1 to 11 in Beijing Wukesong Stadium. Ticket prices range from about $30 to $270. If you happen to be in China at this time, it might be some nice comic relief to check out Starbury in all his glory. That is of course, if you’re willing to drop nearly 300 big ones for a nice seat at the stadium. If you do, remember to stop by the life-size statue of Marbury that is located just outside of Beijing Wukesong Stadium. Courtesy of Deadspin. The Great Wall has nothing on this. According to the report, former NBA star Yao Ming will be one of many guest stars during the 11-day slate. Let’s just hope Marbury isn’t locked out of the stadium on opening night. That wouldn’t be good fo…

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Derrick Rose’s Play vs. Brazil Further Proves Bulls Star Is Ready for NBA Return

As Derrick Rose gets closer and closer to his NBA return, the signs continue to show that the Chicago Bulls star might actually be better than he was on Nov. 22, 2013—the last time he played in a regular-season game.

Team USA played in its first exhibition contest Saturday night against Brazil, and Rose stood out as you’d expect in his own United Center. The point guard finished with seven points in 24 minutes of play, but his impact went beyond the box score.

Of course, it became apparent before the game even started that it would be a special night for Rose regardless. Not only was it his first competition since 2013 other than a Team USA intra-squad scrimmage, but it gave Bulls fans a firsthand glimpse of their star for the first time in a while.

The excitement was at a fever pitch, as SLAM Magazine captured:

Rose reacted accordingly. Although he failed to score until the end of the first half, his first basket came in spectacular fashion.

Gathering the ball underneath his own basket, Rose raced the length of the court and finished a runner off the glass to beat the buzzer. It was big at the time, pushing the Americans’ lead to eight just before the half.

Here’s a look at the pretty layup:

The 25-year-old continued to be in attack mode into the third quarter. He showcased his individual ability again late in the third, when he drove past two defenders only to rise up and finish over Anderson Varejao—a sign of many more future scores over the Cavaliers center, Bulls fans hope. 

USA Basketball posted his finish in slow-mo:

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated his guards, as expected, with the 12-man roster cuts looming, but Rose proved in his two dozen minutes what most in the building wanted to see. He was explosive, agile and smooth with that killer instinct that makes him one of the NBA’s most effective rim attackers. 

It was a sight to behold for any basketball enthusiast following Rose’s recent career. After tearing his ACL and missing all of the 2012-13 campaign, he returned last season only to suffer a torn meniscus less than a month in.

And in his first true competition in over nine months, Coach K and his staff opted to give Rose some extra run and weren’t disappointed in what they found, per Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson:

With everything in perspective, the typically wise Rose tempered expectations, per Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears:

For anyone who has followed Team USA closely over its training in Las Vegas, Rose’s strong performance Saturday is far from surprising. The rave reviews on Rose’s health and overall game were coming in by the day, and he impressed in the team’s scrimmage at the end of camp.

Nothing can replicate true competition, and certainly Saturday’s game is just the next step in Rose re-familiarizing himself with the NBA game. Next up is the looming FIBA World Cup in Spain, and if his spot in the starting lineup Saturday is any indication, he’ll be getting plenty of minutes.

Rose has been surrounded by a contending Bulls squad throughout much of his time there, but now couldn’t be a better time for him to return to full health. Offseason acquisitions of Pau Gasol, Doug McDermott and the signing of Nikola Mirotic have Chicago as one of the East favorites.

Of course, that’s assuming Derrick Rose is healthy, which has been a rarity in recent seasons. But considering how he’s performing alongside some of the world’s best with Team USA, his best is yet to come. 

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Paul George: ‘I would love to play this year’

Paul George knows he could miss the entire season but is trying to maintain optimism.

      
 

 

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George ‘would love to play this year’

Paul George knows he could miss the entire season but is trying to maintain optimism.

      
 

 

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Report: Carmelo Anthony lost weight ‘to play trianngle offense’

Carmelo Anthony shocked the NBA world recently when he posted an Unstagram photo of himself looking skinner than he usually looked.  Anthony had spent the off-season losing weight.  It wasn’t initially clear why he would do this but now we know.
According to the New York Post who cite an ‘Anthony confident’, the reason that Anthony lost the weight was to better fit the triangle offense which the Knicks will be running in the upcoming season.
“He wants to be as athletic as he was when he was a rookie,’’ the confidant told The Post. “Plus he wants to be a facilitator in the triangle and speed will help that.’’
The All-Star forward, who re-signed with the Knicks after weeks of indecision, feels that being in better shape as well as being faster and quicker will help him fit the role better.
The triangle offense is a read-and-react scheme that requres a lot of passing and movement.  It’s a far cry from the offense the Knicks ran under Mike Woodson in the past.
Knicks president Phil Jackson

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Michigan’s LeVert able to play again after injury (Yahoo Sports)

Michigan's Caris LeVert reacts to a call during the second half of an NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal college basketball tournament game against the Tennessee Friday, March 28, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan guard Caris LeVert is back playing again after surgery for a stress fracture in his foot.


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Michigan’s LeVert able to play again after injury

Michigan guard Caris LeVert able to play again after surgery for stress fracture in foot

      
 

 

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Lakers to Play Howard’s Rockets on Opening Night, Gasol’s Bulls on Christmas

LOS ANGELES — Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have distinctly different legacies in Los Angeles, but these days they share a link: They’re moving on in life as former Lakers, having left Kobe Bryant behind.

And in the established and admittedly irresistible tradition of NBA scheduling with a vengeful accent on the not-so-dearly departed, Bryant will be going up against Howard on opening night and against Gasol on Christmas Day in two of the Lakers’ and the league’s highest-profile games of the 2014-15 season.

Although the schedule won’t be officially announced until NBA TV unveils it at 3 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday, the Lakers are set to face Howard and the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on Oct. 28 and visit Gasol and the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 25, according to league sources. The games will mark the first times Bryant plays against Howard and Gasol as former teammates.

As an added boost to the old revenge angle, Lakers Jeremy Lin (former Rocket) and Carlos Boozer (former Bull) can circle those same dates on the calendar. Even better!

The Dwight-less Lakers were relevant last year, too, playing (and beating) the Clippers as part of the NBA’s TNT opening night showcase. With Bryant plotting his return, it’s logical that the league thinks enough of the Lakers to feature them again on the opening Tuesday night broadcast.

But it’s a testament to how much the Lakers’ past remains prominent in their future when the NBA makes Bryant’s first game back from Achilles and knee injuries last season against the guy who deserted him while he was down.

No matter how much diehard Lakers fans are ready to embrace Julius Randle and Byron Scott and savor whatever small victories they earn along the rebuilding road, the reality is that the Lakers’ 2012-13 car wreck was massive enough for rubbernecking still to be taking place years later.

Bryant, Howard, Gasol and Steve Nash were supposed to make magic as Lakers, but they so didn’t. And just as we don’t want to forget underdogs who rise to stunning success, we don’t want to let favorites forget their epic fails.

Bryant’s injuries meant he didn’t play against the Rockets last season, which was Howard’s first after snubbing the Lakers’ “Stay” ad campaign to move to Houston. Now Gasol, whom Bryant has said he considers “a brother,” has left the Lakers via free agency in hopes of winning his first NBA title without Bryant in Chicago.

We could argue for more years to come on which was truly the first domino in the Lakers’ 2012-13 mess. Nash suffering what would be a career-threatening injury in just his second game as a Laker certainly tilted the court immediately into an uphill battle.

But would Nash have even been effective in Mike Brown’s undefined offense (or Phil Jackson’s triangle offense)? Would Gasol have ever been effective at forward in Mike D’Antoni’s spread-floor offense? Did the team ever have any real chance on defense or at greatness with Howard never buying in to being a Laker?

As intriguing as those questions remain, the guy who is being scheduled to play those mind games on opening night and Christmas Day most assuredly has already left them behind.

Bryant has been known to hold a grudge, but his modus operandi is just as certainly not to wallow. He is all about going onto the next thing he can control, and right now that’s his body, mindset and whatever ways—individual and team—he can continue his pursuit of excellence.

If the Lakers are to have a successful season, that’s the theme that is going to have to pervade: forward progress.

Bryant will need to be healthy and strong enough to make his comeback a singular story of inspiration that transcends whether the guy he’s scoring over is evil Dwight or good Pau. Scott, Lin, Nash and Boozer will all have to be rowing meaningfully in that same boat toward individual redemption, and guys such as Randle, Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly, Xavier Henry and Robert Sacre will all have to step up for a lot of look-what-I-can-do nights.

If not, then it’s going to be a long season in which the most meaningful storylines are indeed about the opponents and the past.

The only good news on that front is that Gasol, even with his clear decline, is a lot more likely than Howard to be the one winning the post-Lakers title this season.

The Rockets were weakened by Chris Bosh not coming and by Chandler Parsons going, while it’s nearly impossible to find anyone with the Lakers who begrudges Gasol future success. Given the obvious defensive deficiencies on LeBron James’ new Cleveland team, Gasol has an excellent chance at following Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau into another immediate NBA Finals.

Yes, there are those with the Lakers who were disappointed by Gasol’s level of aggressiveness and commitment to earn the massive contract extension Jerry Buss gave him. But if the Lakers are OK with having to visit anyone on Christmas, it’s Gasol.

The Lakers haven’t had to hit the holiday road often. They’ve played on Christmas every year since 1999, and the only times in that 15-year span they’ve had to load up their sleigh and leave Staples were in 2005 and 2006 to play at Miami.

Those games followed the original Kobe-Shaq Christmas Ice Show at Staples in ’04, and that three-game Christmas series after their breakup just goes to show how the NBA tries to help out: by giving families at home for the holidays the chance to bond together while watching people on TV not get along!

Although Gasol did choose to leave the Lakers, it’s different in this case. Christmas might pit brother against brother, but you know Kobe and Pau will have a heck of a hug right after.

What Bryant will have to prove that night and every other is that the Lakers’ season isn’t about the guys they no longer have.

 

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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Doug McDermott “Hand-Crafted By God” To Play For The Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls fans are very excited about the new additions to the team for the 2014-15 season, mainly centered around Derrick Rose. However, Doug McDermott has also been creating quite a buzz. Even though he’s only a rookie, McDermott is expected to thrive in the Chicago Bulls’ system and the front-office isn’t being candid about it.
Joel Brigham, from Basketball Insiders, says the Bulls are talking about McDermott like he’s some sort of God:
The Bulls talk about McDermott like he was hand-crafted by God to play for them, so I think he’ll see a lot of floor time, and based on what I’ve seen so far and know about the kid, I think he’ll do plenty with his time on the floor. Mirotic will be good, too, but barring an injury he’ll play less. If only by attrition, I think that gives McD the better shot at immediate success.
Knowledgeable Bulls fans are convinced that McDermott’s role will be limited simply because Tom Thibodeau normally doesn’t play rookies, but ‘McBuckets’ may have a

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