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NBA Sunday: Aldridge No Longer a Snub
Posted By Joel Brigham On February 26, 2012 @ 8:41 am In All,All Star,Main Page,Sunday | No Comments
LaMarcus Aldridge Finally Gets His All-Star Props
Last February, the city of Portland really felt pretty strongly that LaMarcus Aldridge should’ve made the All-Star team. There was some sentiment that perhaps he was more deserving than Blake Griffin, and when Yao Ming couldn’t play because of his injury, Kevin Love also leapfrogged Aldridge for the replacement spot. It was, quite simply, the most glaring snub of the season, but there was no way it was happening again in 2012.
Now that Aldridge finally has the All-Star designation he deserves, he’s focused on staying healthy, winning games in Portland, and figuring out a way to compete more consistently in the Western Conference the second half of the season.
As for making the All-Star team, Aldridge appears to understand that receiving this sort of accolade is all part of the patient growth of an NBA star.
“It takes time to learn how to win. It takes time to learn how to get over the hump, and I went through that process my first two years I played,” Aldridge told HOOPSWORLD.
The process was supervised by Portland head coach Nate McMillan, quietly one of the best coaches in the league. Aldridge gives him a ton of credit for both his and his team’s success.
“[McMillan] just tries his best to get the best out of everybody,” he said. “Every time we lose someone, he never gives into that. We never take any cop-outs. He always says that we have enough talent in the room to win, and he gives us confidence to play better. That’s why last year we had such a good year; he gave Wesley Matthews the confidence to play better, and I played better.”
Aldridge can’t even explain how McMillan is able to inspire this kind of growth in his players.
“It’s just him. His personality, the vibe he gives off, is that we’re going to work hard and we’re going to get better. If I put you in, you’re going to work hard. If you play well, you’ll play more. I think guys like that.”
As for the Blazers, they’ve seen moderate success to start the season despite the double atomic bomb of bad news before play even kicked off in the fall. Yet even without Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, Portland remains in the playoff picture. That, however, is not a given. They’ve still got plenty of work to do.
“We need more consistency. We’ve definitely been up and down with our play,” Aldridge said. “Shots falling, play-making, consistency are the things we need for the second half of the season. If we can do that, we can beat anybody.
“The pieces are there. We have the pieces to be a great team this year, we just have to figure out what tweaks to make. I think Nate made that tweak by putting Nic (Batum) into the starting lineup, and then he took Ray (Felton) out and put in Jamal (Crawford), who had 15 in the first half. That’s big for us.”
We’ll see if the lineup changes stick around long-term, but with the right mix of guys and Aldridge’s continued success, the Blazers could be a headache postseason team this year. Before all that, though, Aldridge gets to enjoy his first ever All-Star team selection. He’s deserved it for two years, and finally got his reward.
And the city of Portland couldn’t be prouder.
Jameer Nelson Ready to Roll, With or Without Dwight
At a media session before Saturday’s Shooting Stars competition, of which Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson was a part, one reporter asked Nelson if it was nice to have a fun break away from a season full of questions about Dwight Howard trade rumors.
Of course, that in and of itself was a question about the Dwight Howard trade rumors
“That stuff is going to be talked about every day,” Nelson said. “We’re here at the All-Star break and we’re talking about it. No matter what time it is, it’s going to be talked about because the media puts it out there, and everybody wants to know.”
There was no vitriol, no real annoyance, just a cold reality that many of the Orlando Magic players have apparently made peace with. Whether Dwight’s traded or not, they have a job to do.
“My job is to go out there and play, no matter who’s on the court,” Nelson said. “We have a good team. We have a lot of talent, players that can score, and a lot of the pieces we need to be a great team. It’s just a matter of keeping our confidence level high and just try to get better every day.”
Still, Nelson, like a lot of his teammates, would rather play with the best center in the game than against him.
“We’ve been together for eight years,” he said. “He’s such a dominant threat in the post, the best big man out there, so he draws a lot of attention. We have good enough shooters on our team for him to kick it out and we’ll make shots.”
Even with Howard, the Magic have to find a way to play more consistently in the second half of the season. They won’t win the Southeast with Miami all healthy, but they could host a first-round playoff series. That’s going to mean eliminating those nights off Orlando has been prone to taking some games.
“We don’t have to make too many adjustments to our game plan; our focus should just be to come out with as much energy as we can and play as well as we can for 48 minutes and not turn it off and on over the course of the game,” Nelson said. “We know we’re going to have games and days where we’re tired, especially in this condensed season, but a lot of it for us is that when we’re losing a game, it’s because we’re lacking energy. We’ve got to find that as individuals and just give as much energy as we can.”
It can’t be easy playing with all the Howard drama looming over the team’s collective head, but all things considered Orlando has actually done pretty well. There’s still time to pull off a trade that could convince him to stay, or the current team could just play better in the second half.
Either way, Nelson has a job to do, and he seems pretty motivated to do it. It’s been three years since he was an All-Star himself, but there’s still a talented point guard in there. He’ll have to tap into it if the Magic want to have a chance at keeping their franchise center.
Greg Monroe On the Brink of All-Stardom Himself
Indiana’s Roy Hibbert was voted in by coaches as the back-up center for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, due largely to the fact that the Pacers have been so good this year and deserved a representative, but if you compared Hibbert’s numbers with those of second-year Pistons center Greg Monroe, you wouldn’t see a whole lot of difference.
In short, Monroe could find himself on an All-Star team sometime relatively soon, especially if he continues to develop at this incredible rate.
“I’ve gotten better scoring in the post, and just being more confident,” Monroe told HOOPSWORLD. “My role’s been a bit bigger for me this year, so more is expected of me. I think [my success] is just a combination of all of that.”
That expanded role has given him an opportunity not a lot of young bigs get, but that means he’s a huge part of Detroit’s hope for turning that franchise around. That’s a lot of pressure, but Monroe’s doesn’t seem phased by it at all.
“I like it,” he said. “I know I had to pay my dues and wait my turn, but I like it and it’s something I’m used to. I’ve had a role like this most of my life. I’m happy that people are looking at me in that light, so I just want to make sure I continue to produce.”
Of course, he understands how far he has yet to go, but when the talent is there, further success really just becomes a matter of minutes and games and seasons played.
“Nothing can substitute for experience,” Monroe said. “You get a year under your belt and you’ve got that experience where you find out what this game is all about. That second year is where you can make that turnaround.”
As for Monroe’s burgeoning rivalry with fellow Georgetown alum Hibbert, he credits their college program for their NBA success, and obviously holds no ill will for falling just a tad bit short of the Hoya center that preceded him in Washington D.C.
“That’s just a testament to us working so hard,” he said. “We’re a close-knit family back at Georgetown. We all go back there and work out together in the offseason. We all come from the same cloth—hard workers always wanting to improve. I’m very proud of Roy, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does Sunday night.”
Of course, we’re all looking forward to what both he and Monroe do the rest of their careers. Both are young, talented, and gigantic. Even the sky seems like too low a goal for these kids.
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