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Brad Hurt
Brad Hurt
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Jazz Fan

Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward lead Jazz past Grizzlies posted by Jazz Fan

After losing to Eastern Conference foes Chicago and Cleveland over the weekend, Memphis showed signs of fatigue in not being able to counter Utah's youth, allowing the Jazz to beat the Grizzlies 97-91 on Monday night.

Alec Burks scored 23 points and Gordon Hayward added 21 to lead the Jazz, who withstood a late push by hitting eight of 10 free throws down the stretch for their third win in the last four.

Derrick Favors finished with 15 points, while Enes Kanter added 13 points and nine rebounds. Rudy Gobert had a career-best 16 rebounds as the Jazz dominated the boards 49-34.

"I think our offensive game started with our defense," Hayward said. "We have a goal of not letting teams score over 24 points per quarter, and we won on three of four quarters."

Utah connected on 9 of 19 from outside the arc to create a buffer from Memphis. Another factor, beyond the rebounding margin, was the Jazz converting 20 of 27 free throws, while Memphis went to the line only nine times in the game, making eight.

Utah led through much of the second half until Gasol connected with 5:32 left for a 77-75 Memphis lead. Burks answered with a 3-pointer, and Utah never let go of the lead the final 5 minutes in rebounding from a 104-86 loss Saturday at Charlotte.

"It was big for our confidence to be able to come back and get a road win here in Memphis after a poor performance in Charlotte," Jazz guard Trey Burke said.

The Jazz pushed the lead to six points in the third quarter, and managed to keep the Grizzlies at bay through most of the period as Hayward had nine points and Kanter added seven.

Continue reading "Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward lead Jazz ..."

Grizzlies Fan

Biggest Surprises and Disappointments for the Memphis Grizzlies posted by Grizzlies Fan

The Grizzlies are playing remarkably well, with impressive offensive showings by a few players. Marc Gasol has found a new gear on that end. In his 11th season, Beno Udrih is having one of the best performances by point guard. 

Marc Gasol played within himself before this season. He'd been a complementary shooter in his first six years in the NBA, even while averaging career highs of 14.6 points and 12.1 shots per game in 2013-14. He was a pass-first center who dished out 3.6 assists across three years entering 2014-15.

Nevertheless, Gasol's taken his game to the next level. He's averaging 19.7 per game on 50.3 percent shooting. Still, he's facilitating the offense, distributing 3.7 assists per game.

Gasol hasn't been surprised by his big step, telling Tillery, "I don't see the big deal. It's just a natural progression. I just have to score more; give us a good chance to win."

The Spaniard now has the offense to match his prowess as a rim protector. It's hurtled him into the MVP discussion and confirmed his place as the NBA's best center.

Courtney Lee has made a career out of being a solid perimeter shooter, but he's on another tier this year.

Lee's leading the league at 54.5 percent from long range, 15.5 percent higher than his career rate. That's a big rebound after he shot 31.8 percent from beyond the arc in the final three months last season.

"I'm definitely comfortable with this team because it's my second year. I'm comfortable with everyone out there, and they've got confidence in me, and that helps a lot,"

Continue reading "Biggest Surprises and Disappointments ..."


Grizzlies Fan

Memphis Grizzlies Preseason Report 2014 posted by Grizzlies Fan

Memphis Grizzlies had a shaky start in 2013-14 season with 10-15, but performed much better later. They fought back impressively in the West the second time, and managed to be seventh seed. Marc Gasol made a difference, when he returned after his injury, and new acquisitions during midseason such as Courtney Lee and James Johnson gave the team a better look. Memphis was a strong team in the playoffs but Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City Thunder managed an explosive performance that defeated the Grizzlies.

For 2014-2015 season, the Grizzlies may not be the favorites, but they are a serious contender to the title. Bringing in Zach Randolph was a costly move, but it could pay off, as he is quite formidable in PF position, and also the team's top player. In the draft, Jordan Adams was picked in the first round and hence there is not much possibility of further help. Adams is not considered athletic, as there are special provisions in his contract for keeping his fat low. In the second round, the team managed to acquire Jarnell Stokes, who even though undersized, has a long reach. Since Ed Davis, the PF backup has left; Stokes might be more in play compared to Adams.

The C position will be held by Marc Gasol to provide the required defense and toughness, while assisting Randolph. Tayshawn Prince and Tony Allen could be holding the SF and SG positions. Combining Prince with Allen is a good strategy, and adding Gasol in the starting lineup would provide Grizzlies with a formidable defense. Memphis Grizzlies have also picked up veteran Vince Carter who could provide a good offense, and Quincy Pondexter could contribute considerably, if he remains uninjured. Lastly, David Joerger, the head coach, who managed 50-32 record for the team last season, could take the team to the finals this season.

Continue reading "Memphis Grizzlies Preseason Report 2014"


Brad Hurt

Gasol out indefinitely with MCL sprain posted by Brad Hurt

An MRI on Marc Gasol's left knee, which he injured in the first half of the Grizzlies' loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night, revealed a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL).  The injury, similar to one suffered two years ago by Zach Randolph, will keep Gasol out of action indefinitely but will not require surgery.  Kosta Koufos will start in his place.  This is a huge blow for the team, both in terms of production and morale.  The injury has been called "non-contact", although there could have been some contact as it occurred while the Spurs' Danny Green posted up against Gasol and backed into him.  Even so, it's still a freakish, unfortunate injury.Continue reading "Gasol out indefinitely with MCL sprain"

Brad Hurt

Gasol leaves loss with knee sprain posted by Brad Hurt

The Grizzlies had reason to be proud as they returned home Friday to face the perennially tough San Antonio Spurs.  They had just finished the most successful West Coast road trip in a decade.  Now they would have the FedEx Forum crowd behind them to urge them to victory.  Unfortunately, the Spurs would have none of that, playing the role of the rude houseguests with a 102-86 victory.

Potentially far worse for the home team, however, is the fact that center Marc Gasol left the game after suffering a non-contact injury to his left knee early in the second quarter and did not return.  The team is calling it a sprain, and Gasol will undergo an MRI today.  Losing Gasol for any extended period of time would be a crushing blow to the team.  He is currently averaging 16 points and more than 7 rebounds per game, teaming up with Zach Randolph to form an imposing post duo.  Randolph has been putting up monster numbers in his own right, but losing Gasol would undoubtedly change the way teams choose to defend Randolph, enabling more double-and-triple teams.  The Grizzlies currently have the 23rd-ranked offensive output in the league, averaging 94.1 points per game.  Ideally, they would like to see that number increase as they work toward a return to the playoffs come April.  Gasol is also a great veteran leader for the team, and intangibles are difficult to replace.  So let's hope the sprain isn't too severe and Gasol can return to action soon.

Continue reading "Gasol leaves loss with knee sprain"


Brad Hurt

Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep posted by Brad Hurt

It was anything but easy, but the Memphis Grizzlies outlasted the Golden State Warriors, 88-81 in overtime on Wednesday night to complete a perfect West Coast road trip.

The comeback happened largely thanks to the team's Grit N Grind mentality.  After spotting the home team a double-digit lead in the opening quarter, the Grizzlies (7-5) relied on strong defense to get back into the game.  They had to overcome a 12-point deficit in the second half to escape with their 11th consecutive head-to-head win over the 8-4 Warriors.  They won the third quarter 25-13 behind a 17-2 run led by Zach Randolph's eight points in the period.  Randolph finished with another double-double of a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Ball control played a huge part in the win as the Grizzlies turned the ball over only seven times.

The Grizzlies shot only 38 percent for the game, led by Marc Gasol's 6-of-14 effort.  Gasol added 11 rebounds to his 18 points to join Randolph with a double-double.  His pair of free throws with 2:02 left in the fourth quarter forced the game into overtime.  Mike Conley also finished in double figures scoring for the Grizzlies, scoring 19 points and draining the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime.  The Grizzlies' bench came up large, outscoring the Warriors' reserves 16-7.  Kosta Koufos led the Grizzlies subs with seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.

Andrew Bogut led the Warriors with 12 points and 14 rebounds.

This trip proved the Grizzlies can compete with some of the top teams in the West.  It is never easy to win away from home, and putting together a streak like this shows the character and fight this team has.

Continue reading "Close call: Grizzlies rally for sweep"


Brad Hurt

Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04 posted by Brad Hurt

The Grizzlies have reeled off three straight wins on the road since falling at home to Toronto last Wednesday.  West Coast trips are usually daunting, but the Grizzlies have found ways to win to this point.  Their current trip reaches its conclusion tonight in Oakland as the Grizzlies (6-5) take on the Pacific-leading Golden State Warriors (8-3), winners of four straight.  So someone will see a streak end.  If the Grizz get the win, they will have their first road sweep of at least four games since March 2004.  The Warriors are 5-0 at home this season, a mark the Clippers also had before falling to the Grizzlies on Monday.

The Warriors boast five players averaging double figures in scoring at this point in the season, led by Klay Thompson's 20.5 points per game.  Sensational guard Stephen Curry is a close second with 19.9 points per game.  Curry, who usually gets top billing as the team's superstar leader, will miss Wednesday's game with a concussion.

The Grizzlies have seen good balance offensively.  Mike Conley is off to a good start, scoring 18.7 points and dishing out around six assists per game.  As he has gone over the past few years, so have gone the Grizzlies.  He seems to be over the confidence issues and inconsistency that plagued him a couple of years ago, when trade rumors surrounded him.  Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have been key for the Grizzlies, continuing to comprise one of the biggest post tandem threats in the league.  Gasol is putting up 17 points and seven rebounds per game on the season.  However, on this trip he is scoring over 20 points per game with 8+ rebounds and 8+ assists.  Randolph is leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game while scoring 16.1 points per contest on a career-high 55 percent shooting clip.

Continue reading "Grizzlies seek first road sweep since '04"


Brad Hurt

Tony Allen Receives Dubious Suspension posted by Brad Hurt

The NBA has announced that Tony Allen will be forced to sit out the Grizzlies' game at Golden State on Wednesday as he serves a one-game suspension for his actions on Monday. Allen was assessed a Flagrant 2 Foul and ejected from Monday night's 106-102 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers for kicking Chris Paul in the face.  The kick in my opinion was clearly inadvertent as Allen jumped and kicked his legs out in a defensive move against the driving Paul.  Such a move is a fairly common part of today's NBA game and is a natural reaction.  Players want to do all they can to impede the progress of the ballhandler and get the ball free.  I don't think Tony said, "Hmmm...I think I'll kick Chris Paul in the face."  Tony is one of the best defenders in the league and doesn't need to resort to cheap shots to get the job done.  It was just a case of bad timing and an unfortunate accident.  Paul is among the shortest players in the league.  That is the only reason the blow landed where it did and made this an issue.  I can see calling a Flagrant 1 because it's not an everyday occurrence, regardless of alleged intent, but a suspension seems a bit heavy-handed to me.  Save that for thrown punches.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flz-uF9ldls

Continue reading "Tony Allen Receives Dubious Suspension"


Brad Hurt

Grizzlies Adjusting to Changes posted by Brad Hurt

It was an eventful offseason for the Memphis Grizzlies, centering around the drama that comes with a regime change.  Following the franchise's first-ever appearance in the Western Conference Finals, a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, new owner Robert Pera made his presence known by allowing the expiration of head coach Lionel Hollins' contract.  While stunning in the wake of a string of postseason appearances and a new milestone, this move came as no real shock from a business perspective.  Anytime someone new takes over a team, he is going to want to surround himself with people who fit into his vision for the franchise.  Very few coaches in sports survive changes at the top of an organization for very long.  Displeased by pending changes in the team's philosophy, Hollins made his frustration publicly known, and that did not help any chance he may have had of returning to the bench for the 2013-14 season.

With lead assistant Dave Joerger getting the front office's support as the new head man, the Grizzlies have gotten off to an uneven start, but that is to be expected as the players adjust to the change.  I think bringing in a total stranger would have made the transition more daunting.

So far the biggest asset for the Grizzlies as they try to establish the type of team they are going to be this season has been Zach Randolph.  Z-Bo proved to be very valuable down the stretch last season, and he continues to be a crucial factor in establishing the Grizzlies as a powerful post team.  If Zach continues to be on top of his game and the guards knock down perimeter shots, the Grizzlies will be back contending for a spot in the finals at the end of the season.

Continue reading "Grizzlies Adjusting to Changes"


Andy Charles

Grizzlies give Thabeet some time posted by Andy Charles

The Memphis Grizzlies will be hopeful that the NBA D-League lives up to its name after they sent 2009 No 2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet down to the North Dakota Wizards and made just a little bit of history in the process.

Thabeet, who was expected to be a fairly raw rookie anyway, has had little or no success since the Grizzlies drafted him out of Connecticut last summer, and he is the highest draft pick yet to be sent down to the Developmental League, the NBA’s own version of the minors.

The 7ft 3in giant, who has only really had any success as a shot-blocker and often looked lost out on the court against more seasoned professionals, will be working mainly on his shooting according to NBA Tips, after averaging less than three points per game.

Thabeet has been on court in 50 Memphis games this season, but only logged an average of 10 minutes, scoring in double figures just once against Phoenix in early January.

Although the Grizzlies knew he was going to be something of a project, much of the trouble has come for the right reasons; Memphis are only a couple of games out of the playoff picture and felt less need to risk their prized rookie in key moments.

Seasoning may well prove to be all he needs, although adding a few pounds to a fairly wiry frame would help as well, but shooting was a problem for him in his college days as well and is something that could well prove to be a concern through his career if it is not dealt with sooner rather than later.

Thankfully Grizzlies officials appear to have learned from previous picks, though, as they are finally showing a little in the way of patience. It is doubtful that they will see Thabeet in a Memphis jersey again this season, but it could well be to their benefit by the time next season rolls around.

Continue reading "Grizzlies give Thabeet some time"

Memphis Grizzlies News

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LaMarcus Aldridge needs thumb surgery, and the Blazers might be in big trouble (Ball Don't Lie

We started to get bad vibes after Wednesday's reports that the results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the left hand that LaMarcus Aldridge injured during the Portland Trail Blazers' Monday's win over the Sacramento Kings were "inconclusive." We knew something definitely wasn't right when Blazers general manager Neil Olshey confirmed the Thursday morning report by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News that Aldridge's left thumb was in a cast heading into today's follow-up MRI. On Thursday night, we learned that our fears were well-founded: MRI confirms Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge has a radial collateral ligament tear in left thumb. He will undergo surgery; out for 6-8 weeks. —Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) January 23, 2015 The three-time All-Star power forward suffered the injury while defending Kings center DeMarcus Cousins early in the second quarter on Monday night: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Aldridge left the game at the 10:26 mark of the second quarter and did not return, finishing the game with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 13 1/2 minutes. Inside the Blazers' locker room prior to Portland's Thursday meeting with the Boston Celtics, the news —as you might expect —wasn't greeted warmly, as Jason Quick of the Oregonian reports : Wesley Matthews was sitting in front of his locker and perusing his phone, when I mentioned "Bummer.'' "What?'' he asked, and I pointed to Aldridge's stall, where a horde of media had gathered for a 6:10 availability with Aldridge. "Torn ligament. Surgery. Out 6-to-8 weeks,'' I told Matthews. Matthews chucked his phone over his right shoulder and immediately got up from his chair and left the locker room. Jeff Stotts of the great medical/injury information blog In Street Clothes notes that Aldridge's injury is the same one suffered this offseason by Los Angeles Lakers wing Nick Young. Swaggy P was expected to miss eight weeks, as well, but came back a bit earlier than that , which offers something, at least, for Blazers fans looking to remain optimistic as they grapple with the notion of life without their leading scorer (23.2 points per game) and rebounder (10.2 boards per contest). Here, however, is the dark cloud within that silver lining: here are the western playoff hopefuls POR plays in the next two months: DAL (x2), HOU (x2), LAC, MEM (x2), OKC, PHX, SAS. —Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) January 23, 2015 The Blazers have been excellent this season, riding a balanced attack (10th in the league in points scored per possession, fifth in points allowed per possession) to a 31-12 record that's good for the No. 2 seed in the West (behind only the on-another-level Golden State Warriors) and an 8 1/2 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. But they've rolled up that record against a less-than-murderous slate of opposition; a handful of different strength-of-schedule measurements all peg Portland's schedule thus far as one of the seven easiest in the league. As you can see from the rundown above, that's about to change in a hurry . The Blazers' timeframe would keep Aldridge sidelined for anywhere from 18 to 24 games, slating his return somewhere between the first and third week of March. That's an awful long time to be without your top gun, especially in as dangerous an environment as the Western Conference; while it's very nice for Portland to have that 8 1/2 game division cushion, it probably wouldn't serve as a seismic shock to see the now-surging Thunder take a sizable bite out of that lead in the weeks ahead. The challenge for Blazers coach Terry Stotts will be to keep the margin from disappearing entirely. On that score, it'll be nice to be able to rely on Damian Lillard, who's in the midst of his best season as a pro (22.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game) and has become one of the league's most lethal fourth-quarter performers . But the Blazers will need more than All-Star play from their All-Star point guard. With starting center Robin Lopez still recuperating from the broken bones in his right hand and reserve big man Joel Freeland still working his way back from a right shoulder strain , Portland's frontcourt was already stretched thin. And Olshey saying Thursday that it's possible that neither Lopez nor Freeland will return before the mid-February All-Star break, Stotts will have to lean even more heavily for frontcourt productivity on the likes of Chris Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver, and on small-ball lineups featuring Nicolas Batum and versatile reserve Dorell Wright sliding up to the four spot. Batum has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 9.4 points in 33.7 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 39.5 percent from the field and just 28.1 percent from 3-point land, but he did have a bounceback outing (27 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 6-for-8 from long distance, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block) in Portland's Wednesday loss to the Phoenix Suns. Blazers fans must now hope even more fervently that the Frenchman's sweet shooting in Arizona was a sign of an impending return to form. Despite the daunting prospect of facing the double-tough schedule ahead without their most accomplished interior scorer, it's possible that Stotts, one of the league's sharper tacticians, will be able to bubblegum-and-duct-tape together enough solutions to be able to weather the storm, fend off challenges from the snarl of teams below them in the standings (the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Suns and Thunder) and keep the Blazers in position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs until Aldridge returns. This is, after all, a deeper, more talented and experienced Portland team than we've seen in the past couple of years, and Lillard sure looks to be more than capable of carrying the weight of superstar-level expectations; Dame seems like the kind of dude who will hear droves of people saying, "Oh, no, this is baaaaad news for Portland," internalize it all, pressurize it into some kind of "nobody believes in us!" anger diamond and go average 30-7-7 for the next six weeks just to prove a point. That said, there's a reason why the Blazers' offensive efficiency drops from top-five-in-the-league (108 points per 100 possessions) to just-above-bottom-five (100 points-per-100) when Aldridge sits down . It's not just that he's one of the game's elite midrange shooters, a pick-and-pop maestro whom defenses just can't leave alone at the elbows and near the arc lest they suffer the same fate as the Houston Rockets. It's all the open space and opportunity that his shooting, and the threat of his shooting, opens up for Lillard, Batum and 3-point-bombing shooting guard Wesley Matthews. It's the added bonus afforded by the continuity and familiarity that the Blazers' core has built up by playing so many minutes together over the past few seasons. It's the knowledge that, virtually regardless of what happens on an offensive possession and how badly a defense blows it up, they can almost always get a decent look just by giving it to the 6-foot-11 cornerstone with the high, nearly unblockable release. It's hard to replace all that. Well, no, scratch that; it's probably impossible to replace all that. But the Blazers will have to do their best to keep plugging along, and Aldridge —reportedly in good spirits as he spoke briefly with media after the announcement —will do his best to both get back as quickly as possible and make sure he's healthy enough to stay back once he returns. From Joe Freeman of the Oregonian : "It's tough. We have been in a pretty good rhythm most of this season. We've lost guys a lot this season. This is a totally different season from last year. But we have a lot of guys here that can step up and play better and make plays. So I feel like the team shouldn't stall. We're going to get guys back soon, so it's going to be good for us." While Aldridge is to be commended for putting a brave face on bummerific news, we'll have to agree to disagree that anything about this is "good" for the Blazers. The difference between Portland contending for a title and missing the playoffs entirely could very well rest on how well and how quickly a tiny stretch of connective tissue on the outside of a thumb heals. It seems an absurd statement, but it also feels like a sadly appropriate margin of error in this unrelenting Western Conference. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Randolph's double-double leads Grizzlies past Sixers 101-83 (Yahoo Sports)

[read full article]

From Yahoo Sports


Grizzlies coast past Sixers behind Randolph, Green

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The experience of the Memphis Grizzlies was just too much for the young Philadelphia 76ers. [read full article]

From FOX Sports Digital


LaMarcus Aldridge needs thumb surgery, and the Blazers might be in big trouble (Ball Don't Lie

We started to get bad vibes after Wednesday's reports that the results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the left hand that LaMarcus Aldridge injured during the Portland Trail Blazers' Monday's win over the Sacramento Kings were "inconclusive." We knew something definitely wasn't right when Blazers general manager Neil Olshey confirmed the Thursday morning report by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News that Aldridge's left thumb was in a cast heading into today's follow-up MRI. On Thursday night, we learned that our fears were well-founded: MRI confirms Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge has a radial collateral ligament tear in left thumb. He will undergo surgery; out for 6-8 weeks. —Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) January 23, 2015 The three-time All-Star power forward suffered the injury while defending Kings center DeMarcus Cousins early in the second quarter on Monday night: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Aldridge left the game at the 10:26 mark of the second quarter and did not return, finishing the game with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 13 1/2 minutes. Inside the Blazers' locker room prior to Portland's Thursday meeting with the Boston Celtics, the news —as you might expect —wasn't greeted warmly, as Jason Quick of the Oregonian reports : Wesley Matthews was sitting in front of his locker and perusing his phone, when I mentioned "Bummer.'' "What?'' he asked, and I pointed to Aldridge's stall, where a horde of media had gathered for a 6:10 availability with Aldridge. "Torn ligament. Surgery. Out 6-to-8 weeks,'' I told Matthews. Matthews chucked his phone over his right shoulder and immediately got up from his chair and left the locker room. Jeff Stotts of the great medical/injury information blog In Street Clothes notes that Aldridge's injury is the same one suffered this offseason by Los Angeles Lakers wing Nick Young. Swaggy P was expected to miss eight weeks, as well, but came back a bit earlier than that , which offers something, at least, for Blazers fans looking to remain optimistic as they grapple with the notion of life without their leading scorer (23.2 points per game) and rebounder (10.2 boards per contest). Here, however, is the dark cloud within that silver lining: here are the western playoff hopefuls POR plays in the next two months: DAL (x2), HOU (x2), LAC, MEM (x2), OKC, PHX, SAS. —Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) January 23, 2015 The Blazers have been excellent this season, riding a balanced attack (10th in the league in points scored per possession, fifth in points allowed per possession) to a 31-12 record that's good for the No. 2 seed in the West (behind only the on-another-level Golden State Warriors) and an 8 1/2 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. But they've rolled up that record against a less-than-murderous slate of opposition; a handful of different strength-of-schedule measurements all peg Portland's schedule thus far as one of the seven easiest in the league. As you can see from the rundown above, that's about to change in a hurry . The Blazers' timeframe would keep Aldridge sidelined for anywhere from 18 to 24 games, slating his return somewhere between the first and third week of March. That's an awful long time to be without your top gun, especially in as dangerous an environment as the Western Conference; while it's very nice for Portland to have that 8 1/2 game division cushion, it probably wouldn't serve as a seismic shock to see the now-surging Thunder take a sizable bite out of that lead in the weeks ahead. The challenge for Blazers coach Terry Stotts will be to keep the margin from disappearing entirely. On that score, it'll be nice to be able to rely on Damian Lillard, who's in the midst of his best season as a pro (22.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game) and has become one of the league's most lethal fourth-quarter performers . But the Blazers will need more than All-Star play from their All-Star point guard. With starting center Robin Lopez still recuperating from the broken bones in his right hand and reserve big man Joel Freeland still working his way back from a right shoulder strain , Portland's frontcourt was already stretched thin. And Olshey saying Thursday that it's possible that neither Lopez nor Freeland will return before the mid-February All-Star break, Stotts will have to lean even more heavily for frontcourt productivity on the likes of Chris Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver, and on small-ball lineups featuring Nicolas Batum and versatile reserve Dorell Wright sliding up to the four spot. Batum has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 9.4 points in 33.7 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 39.5 percent from the field and just 28.1 percent from 3-point land, but he did have a bounceback outing (27 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 6-for-8 from long distance, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block) in Portland's Wednesday loss to the Phoenix Suns. Blazers fans must now hope even more fervently that the Frenchman's sweet shooting in Arizona was a sign of an impending return to form. Despite the daunting prospect of facing the double-tough schedule ahead without their most accomplished interior scorer, it's possible that Stotts, one of the league's sharper tacticians, will be able to bubblegum-and-duct-tape together enough solutions to be able to weather the storm, fend off challenges from the snarl of teams below them in the standings (the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Suns and Thunder) and keep the Blazers in position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs until Aldridge returns. This is, after all, a deeper, more talented and experienced Portland team than we've seen in the past couple of years, and Lillard sure looks to be more than capable of carrying the weight of superstar-level expectations; Dame seems like the kind of dude who will hear droves of people saying, "Oh, no, this is baaaaad news for Portland," internalize it all, pressurize it into some kind of "nobody believes in us!" anger diamond and go average 30-7-7 for the next six weeks just to prove a point. That said, there's a reason why the Blazers' offensive efficiency drops from top-five-in-the-league (108 points per 100 possessions) to just-above-bottom-five (100 points-per-100) when Aldridge sits down . It's not just that he's one of the game's elite midrange shooters, a pick-and-pop maestro whom defenses just can't leave alone at the elbows and near the arc lest they suffer the same fate as the Houston Rockets. It's all the open space and opportunity that his shooting, and the threat of his shooting, opens up for Lillard, Batum and 3-point-bombing shooting guard Wesley Matthews. It's the added bonus afforded by the continuity and familiarity that the Blazers' core has built up by playing so many minutes together over the past few seasons. It's the knowledge that, virtually regardless of what happens on an offensive possession and how badly a defense blows it up, they can almost always get a decent look just by giving it to the 6-foot-11 cornerstone with the high, nearly unblockable release. It's hard to replace all that. Well, no, scratch that; it's probably impossible to replace all that. But the Blazers will have to do their best to keep plugging along, and Aldridge —reportedly in good spirits as he spoke briefly with media after the announcement —will do his best to both get back as quickly as possible and make sure he's healthy enough to stay back once he returns. From Joe Freeman of the Oregonian : "It's tough. We have been in a pretty good rhythm most of this season. We've lost guys a lot this season. This is a totally different season from last year. But we have a lot of guys here that can step up and play better and make plays. So I feel like the team shouldn't stall. We're going to get guys back soon, so it's going to be good for us." While Aldridge is to be commended for putting a brave face onbummerific news, we'll have to agree to disagree that anything about this is "good" for the Blazers. The difference between Portland contending for a title and missing the playoffs entirely could very well rest on how well and how quickly a tiny stretch of connective tissue on the outside of a thumb heals. It seems an absurd statement, but it also feels like a sadly appropriate margin of error in this unrelenting Western Conference. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

From Yahoo Sports

LaMarcus Aldridge needs thumb surgery, and the Blazers might be in big trouble (Ball Don't Lie

We started to get bad vibes after Wednesday's reports that the results of a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the left hand that LaMarcus Aldridge injured during the Portland Trail Blazers' Monday's win over the Sacramento Kings were "inconclusive." We knew something definitely wasn't right when Blazers general manager Neil Olshey confirmed the Thursday morning report by Sean Deveney of the Sporting News that Aldridge's left thumb was in a cast heading into today's follow-up MRI. On Thursday night, we learned that our fears were well-founded: MRI confirms Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge has a radial collateral ligament tear in left thumb. He will undergo surgery; out for 6-8 weeks. —Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) January 23, 2015 The three-time All-Star power forward suffered the injury while defending Kings center DeMarcus Cousins early in the second quarter on Monday night: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Aldridge left the game at the 10:26 mark of the second quarter and did not return, finishing the game with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting in 13 1/2 minutes. Inside the Blazers' locker room prior to Portland's Thursday meeting with the Boston Celtics, the news —as you might expect —wasn't greeted warmly, as Jason Quick of the Oregonian reports : Wesley Matthews was sitting in front of his locker and perusing his phone, when I mentioned "Bummer.'' "What?'' he asked, and I pointed to Aldridge's stall, where a horde of media had gathered for a 6:10 availability with Aldridge. "Torn ligament. Surgery. Out 6-to-8 weeks,'' I told Matthews. Matthews chucked his phone over his right shoulder and immediately got up from his chair and left the locker room. Jeff Stotts of the great medical/injury information blog In Street Clothes notes that Aldridge's injury is the same one suffered this offseason by Los Angeles Lakers wing Nick Young. Swaggy P was expected to miss eight weeks, as well, but came back a bit earlier than that , which offers something, at least, for Blazers fans looking to remain optimistic as they grapple with the notion of life without their leading scorer (23.2 points per game) and rebounder (10.2 boards per contest). Here, however, is the dark cloud within that silver lining: here are the western playoff hopefuls POR plays in the next two months: DAL (x2), HOU (x2), LAC, MEM (x2), OKC, PHX, SAS. —Aaron McGuire (@docrostov) January 23, 2015 The Blazers have been excellent this season, riding a balanced attack (10th in the league in points scored per possession, fifth in points allowed per possession) to a 31-12 record that's good for the No. 2 seed in the West (behind only the on-another-level Golden State Warriors) and an 8 1/2 game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Northwest Division. But they've rolled up that record against a less-than-murderous slate of opposition; a handful of different strength-of-schedule measurements all peg Portland's schedule thus far as one of the seven easiest in the league. As you can see from the rundown above, that's about to change in a hurry . The Blazers' timeframe would keep Aldridge sidelined for anywhere from 18 to 24 games, slating his return somewhere between the first and third week of March. That's an awful long time to be without your top gun, especially in as dangerous an environment as the Western Conference; while it's very nice for Portland to have that 8 1/2 game division cushion, it probably wouldn't serve as a seismic shock to see the now-surging Thunder take a sizable bite out of that lead in the weeks ahead. The challenge for Blazers coach Terry Stotts will be to keep the margin from disappearing entirely. On that score, it'll be nice to be able to rely on Damian Lillard, who's in the midst of his best season as a pro (22.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game) and has become one of the league's most lethal fourth-quarter performers . But the Blazers will need more than All-Star play from their All-Star point guard. With starting center Robin Lopez still recuperating from the broken bones in his right hand and reserve big man Joel Freeland still working his way back from a right shoulder strain , Portland's frontcourt was already stretched thin. And Olshey saying Thursday that it's possible that neither Lopez nor Freeland will return before the mid-February All-Star break, Stotts will have to lean even more heavily for frontcourt productivity on the likes of Chris Kaman, Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver, and on small-ball lineups featuring Nicolas Batum and versatile reserve Dorell Wright sliding up to the four spot. Batum has struggled mightily this season, averaging just 9.4 points in 33.7 minutes per game while shooting a career-low 39.5 percent from the field and just 28.1 percent from 3-point land, but he did have a bounceback outing (27 points on 9-for-15 shooting and 6-for-8 from long distance, 10 rebounds, five assists and a block) in Portland's Wednesday loss to the Phoenix Suns. Blazers fans must now hope even more fervently that the Frenchman's sweet shooting in Arizona was a sign of an impending return to form. Despite the daunting prospect of facing the double-tough schedule ahead without their most accomplished interior scorer, it's possible that Stotts, one of the league's sharper tacticians, will be able to bubblegum-and-duct-tape together enough solutions to be able to weather the storm, fend off challenges from the snarl of teams below them in the standings (the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Suns and Thunder) and keep the Blazers in position for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs until Aldridge returns. This is, after all, a deeper, more talented and experienced Portland team than we've seen in the past couple of years, and Lillard sure looks to be more than capable of carrying the weight of superstar-level expectations; Dame seems like the kind of dude who will hear droves of people saying, "Oh, no, this is baaaaad news for Portland," internalize it all, pressurize it into some kind of "nobody believes in us!" anger diamond and go average 30-7-7 for the next six weeks just to prove a point. That said, there's a reason why the Blazers' offensive efficiency drops from top-five-in-the-league (108 points per 100 possessions) to just-above-bottom-five (100 points-per-100) when Aldridge sits down . It's not just that he's one of the game's elite midrange shooters, a pick-and-pop maestro whom defenses just can't leave alone at the elbows and near the arc lest they suffer the same fate as the Houston Rockets. It's all the open space and opportunity that his shooting, and the threat of his shooting, opens up for Lillard, Batum and 3-point-bombing shooting guard Wesley Matthews. It's the added bonus afforded by the continuity and familiarity that the Blazers' core has built up by playing so many minutes together over the past few seasons. It's the knowledge that, virtually regardless of what happens on an offensive possession and how badly a defense blows it up, they can almost always get a decent look just by giving it to the 6-foot-11 cornerstone with the high, nearly unblockable release. It's hard to replace all that. Well, no, scratch that; it's probably impossible to replace all that. But the Blazers will have to do their best to keep plugging along, and Aldridge —reportedly in good spirits as he spoke briefly with media after the announcement —will do his best to both get back as quickly as possible and make sure he's healthy enough to stay back once he returns. From Joe Freeman of the Oregonian : "It's tough. We have been in a pretty good rhythm most of this season. We've lost guys a lot this season. This is a totally different season from last year. But we have a lot of guys here that can step up and play better and make plays. So I feel like the team shouldn't stall. We're going to get guys back soon, so it's going to be good for us." While Aldridge is to be commended for putting a brave face on bummerific news, we'll have to agree to disagree that anything about this is "good" for the Blazers. The difference between Portland contending for a title and missing the playoffs entirely could very well rest on how well and how quickly a tiny stretch of connective tissue on the outside of a thumb heals. It seems an absurd statement, but it also feels like a sadly appropriate margin of error in this unrelenting Western Conference. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more. [read full article]

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