Here's a quick round-up of Portland Trail Blazers-related links from the last few days.
Mike Tokito of The Oregonian with some thoughts from Blazers coach Terry Stotts on his substitution patterns with Damian Lillard.
Instead of substituting for Lillard in a way that is standard for NBA starters - taking him out late in the first quarters of both halves, then resting him for six or seven minutes - Stotts has been subbing Williams in for Lillard in each quarter, usually around the five to six minute mark, and resting him for about three minutes.
"Giving him those two little blows, I think, refreshes him because he plays hard," Stotts said. "When Mo comes in, he's got a timeout every three minutes, so he's able to play for that extended period. And part of it is, I like having either Dame or LaMarcus on the court, and trying to manage that as well."
Zach Lowe ofGrantland.com includes the Blazers' "quick-seal post-ups" on his list of things he's liked from the first few weeks of the season. Click the link to view the accompanying video.
A few other teams do this with their guards, and Portland has worked the out-of-nowhere corner-to-post cut early in the shot clock for both Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum.
The loosening of illegal defense over the last decade has made scoring out of the post harder, but post-ups remain an effective way to bend a defense, draw attention, and open up opportunities elsewhere. They can, on their own, generate scoring chances or fouls - if they are designed as quick-hitting flashes built to produce an instant shot upon the catch. And if nothing materializes, one can go to something else right away, as Batum does here in scampering away from a pinned-down Evan Fournier, around a Joel Freeland screen, and into an easy triple.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated takes up a Blazers trade question.
Can you explain why the Blazers should not trade LaMarcus Aldridge to Houston for Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin (for salary reasons), Chandler Parsons and maybe a draft pick? I'm not saying anyone has made the offer, but it makes a lot of sense for both teams. Houston obviously, and Portland is not going to really contend with Aldridge as its best player. So build with two 7-footers and a young team. -- Stephen, Hood River, Ore.
That deal would make sense for Houston, Stephen. It would leave the Rockets close to championship contention because Aldridge would complement Howard offensively while giving the Rockets an All-NBA trio (including James Harden) in their 20s.
But I don't see why Portland would want any part of that deal unless Aldridge was forcing it (which isn't happening right now). Maybe you're right that the Blazers can't contend as long as Aldridge is their No. 1 star. But how does dumping their best player make the Blazers a better team? The Rockets you named are very good role players, but role players all the same. The goal for the Blazers will be to add another star to their core of Aldridge and Damian Lillard, as opposed to weakening the current one.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports on LaMarcus Aldridge's approach to becoming more comfortable late in games.
"I've made big shots before, but I've never been dominant down the stretch," he explained. "I think I made big shots but it's noticeable now. A lot of my big shots in the past came in Andre Miller pick-and-rolls, Brandon Roy pick-and-rolls. So I was making jump-shots that we needed to win the game but I was catching and shooting. Where as these plays, I'm creating my own shot and I'm scoring. People are seeing me differently because I'm initiating my moves instead of off the pass."
Erik Gundersen of The Columbian looks at Damian Lillard's finishing numbers.
"I got to start finishing more anyway," Lillard said. "The ball is just not spinning how it usually does. Those finishes, they'll go in."
Lillard is shooting just 42 percent within five feet of the basket and shot 52 percent from that distance last year, per NBA.com.
Casey Holdahl previews the Suns game at ForwardCenter.net.
Phoenix's victories haven't been against top competition, but for a team many assumed would be the worst in the league, credit have to be given to the players and coaching staff.
"For a young team, they really established an identity early," said Stotts. "They know how they need to play, they have a style that they've really bought into. I think what's probably surprising is they're one of the top defensive teams as well. They're young, they play with energy, they share the ball. The way they played against us isn't a fluke. They've continued that and they're playing very well."
Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum landed an interview with Rod Thorn, the NBA's new president of basketball operations, for his NBA.com rookie diary.
CM: I've done a lot of research on your career and have a tremendous amount of respect for you and what you have accomplished. What would be your advice for me for my basketball career and transitioning into the working world? I am interested in journalism and sports broadcasting, but I would also like to be a general manager. Any advice on the court and off?
RT: I think as you're coming into the league, your first order of business is to become the best player you can be. Always maintain the best conditioning as you can, learn as much as you can about the game. Secondly, don't forget about what goes on off the court. You'll be in a position to make great contacts, you'll be in a position to have a tremendous reputation not only as a player but also as a human being. If you work at your playing, if you work at making all the contacts you can, doing all you can when you're not playing, there are so many other things you can do. You're in a position to make a difference with kids, with other people, and in the business world. Learn all you can about it, don't waste time. Do all you can with the many advantages you are going to have for as long as you play in this league. If you do, then you are going to have a heck of a playing career and you are going to be in a position to do things after your career is over, whether in the business world, the NBA, or wherever it is. Don't let this opportunity go by. Too many live for only the moment and don't try to branch out or think about what is going to happen to them. Hopefully your career will be a long, long one, but it will come to an end someday, so make sure that when it does, you're ready for whatever comes after that.
Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of The Oregonian reports that Free Throw Guy's lady friend is a "professional cuddler."
[Samantha] Hess is not a prostitute. She's a professional cuddler. And before you go shaking your head and grousing that the wool is being pulled over someone's eyes, know that she isn't alone. She is one among a budding industry of healers sprouting up nationwide who believe that an intimate - though strictly non-sexual - snuggle by a stranger can bring contentment and solace to those who otherwise might go without.
Charging $60 an hour, Hess cozies up to men of all stripes and ages - and, so far, one woman - in movie theaters, parks and clients' bedrooms.
"I'm totally stoked that she can see those people and still find something special in me," said Robert Ems, Hess' boyfriend, who also happens to be the Trailblazer super-fan known as Free Throw Guy. Ems and Hess hit it off after she appeared in August on the Ed Forman Show, a local variety show where Ems works as a producer.
Rice, who is 44, was raised in a working-class suburb of Pittsburgh, where his father was the head basketball coach at Duquesne University.
The elder Rice was an honorable-mention All-American in college, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard. ("Let's just say he wasn't the cleanest player," Rice says.) He grew up playing pickup in Detroit - his own father, Rice's grandfather, worked at a Ford factory and played semipro baseball - and he wanted to replicate that experience for his son, to instill in him the values of the street-baller. "He was a white kid playing in the middle of Detroit," Rice says of his father. "He wanted me to play the way he learned."
Rice's father refused to buy him a hoop, forcing him instead to ride his bike to a schoolyard and find some competition when he wanted to play basketball. By the time Rice was in middle school, his father was taking him along to adult pickup games. "These were some of the meanest, nastiest places in all of Pittsburgh," Rice says. "That's how I grew up, and how I was taught to play basketball, and how I was taught to handle myself."
In one conversation, Rice described his father as "the most competitive human being on the face of the earth."
"More competitive than you?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah," Rice said. "I'm calm compared with him. He's renowned."
David MacKay of Rip City Project vents some frustration in the directon of Mo Williams.
I can almost hear Flight of the Bumblebee playing in Mo Williams' head while Damian Lillard spectates from the arc. Why is Terry Stotts using the reigning Rookie of the Year, praised for his elite court vision and seemingly veteran leadership, as a spot-up shooter? I know that 48.5% from deep thus far looks awfully swell in a vacuum, but Lillard is needed to lead the team.
If the Trail Blazers are going to play Mo Williams at the same time as Damian Lillard, they need adjust his role. Mo is a 38.5% career 3-point shooter, for Pete's sake! Let Damian run the offense while Mo spots up. I'm more comfortable with a Lillard drive and kick than a Williams dive and brick. Besides, if the kick lands in Mo Williams' irrationally confident hands, at least it's a high percentage shot.
Mike Acker writes about Thomas Robinson facing the Sacramento Kings over at Willamette Week.
Can some credit for that success be given to Robinson wanting to prove to his old team that he's found a place with his new team, and that maybe they should have given him more than 51 games to prove his worth? Not to hear him tell it.
"It's over with," Robinson said. "It's a business. I got traded. It probably won't be the last time. I'll move again. It's a business, you've got to accept that and keep playing. This is about the Blazers, it's not about Thomas Robinson getting traded."
In a league that makes considerable hay out of clichés both tired and worn, "it's a business" is one of the most tired. It's also one of the very first NBA neophytes learn. And it could also be the cliché steeped in the most truth. The NBA is a business. The decisions made by NBA owners are business decisions. And if we know anything about business, it's that it's not personal.
Lindsay Mills offers some thoughts about the NBA.com's selection of female clothing over at Portland Roundball Society.
I recently headed over to NBAstore.com to see if there was anything I was remotely interested in buying after I realized all of my Trail Blazers gear is sadly outdated. I took one look at the "NBA4Her" section and was instantly reminded of why I haven't purchased anything in close to three years. Within 30 seconds, I was completely repulsed by some of the products the NBA wants women to buy. It's painfully obvious that the league thinks "looking hot" should be the main priority for female fans. Lace thong, anyone? "With this thong, you'll be able to sit back in comfort, knowing that you've taken your Bulls fanaticism to a whole new level!" according to the description. I shouldn't have to tell you how creepy and uncomfortable it is for a league run by men to tell women what underwear they should wear to games. Perhaps a cleavage-baring "frisky henley tank top" with a barely noticeable logo is more your style. "You'll probably catch the glances of a few fellas." What could be more important than that, am I right, ladies? The message the NBA is sending to women with these products (and their descriptions) is that if you want to support your favorite team, you sure as hell better look cute. What woman would ever have the goal of expressing their love of hoops when they should be worried about catching the eye of potential suitors?
Dane Carbaugh writes at A Young Sabonis that it's not time to give up on Meyers Leonard just yet.
What Leonard lacks in shot blocking prowess he makes up for with natural talent on the offensive end of the floor. Meyers runs the floor extremely well on the break, and is a good leaper and finisher at the rim on lobs. He shows a good touch around the basket even with his wonky, elbow-out shot. And, despite his dropped passes, I'm inclined to believe he has soft hands that are sabotaged by his panicky demeanor. He can shoot from mid to long range. There's lots to like about Leonard's game.
That is perhaps the best reason for patience with Meyers Leonard. His natural upside isn't on the defensive end of the floor, but as Blazer fans have seen this year with Joel Freeland, defensive prowess is learnable. Along with his mistakes, Leonard shows promise of being an offensive weapon capable of contributing reasonably at the defensive end of the floor.
Chris Reichert of HoopsHabit.com shows some love to Wesley Matthews.
Lost in the shuffle is that Matthews also guards the other teams' best offensive on the perimeter night in and night out. He doesn't wear down, he rarely misses games due to injury and you never hear him complain about his role or anything else. Matthews is that guy that you love to have on your team, but hate to play against; because he's so unassuming that you forget about him for a second and he hits a dagger right to your heart.
PS Thanks to MaveTheGreat in the FanShots who beat me to the McCollum interview.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter