Notebook: McMillan wants more from Aldridge
PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge is again posting strong numbers this season. Aldridge ranks second on the team in average points (14.9) and rebounds (7.8). And the fourth-year player has recorded team highs in points four times this season, and has topped the squad in rebounds on six occasions.
However, Blazers coach Nate McMillan is still looking for more from Aldridge. McMillan praised the forward’s overall talent and his ability to dominate both ends of the floor. But McMillan wants Aldridge to “take that next step” as a rebounder, defender and offensive presence.
“With his athletic ability, his size and quickness, that should be something that he can improve on,” said McMillan before the start of the Blazers’ contest Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies at the Rose Garden.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Aldridge averaged a career-high 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds last season.
The former University of Texas standout’s average scoring is down more than three points per game this year, but that can be attributed to the improvement of center Greg Oden and the addition of point guard Andre Miller.
And while Aldridge’s average rebounds have shown a minimal improvement, McMillan said the forward must continue to refine his focus when it comes to crashing the boards.
“It’s a mindset,” McMillan said. “Rebounding is about, ‘I’m going to go get it.’ “
He added: “You may not get it every time you go. But the majority of the time, with his length, you’re going to get some. You’re going to get your share. Especially when you have another big in there like Greg.”
During the first few games of the season, only guard Brandon Roy and Aldridge were averaging double digits in scoring. Now, four Blazers have reached the mark. And another is not far behind.
Roy’s 19.4 average points top Portland, while Oden (11.6) and Miller (10.8) round out the top scorers. Factor in Rudy Fernandez’s 9.1 average points, and the Blazers are showing strong signs of spreading the ball around while not relying on Roy and Aldridge to score.
“We’ve got options,” McMillan said. “And what we want to do is take advantage of our options.”
McMillan stated that the Blazers possess enough reliable scorers that opponents cannot “take away everything,” as long as Portland works to find the open man.
Screens, floor spacing and ball movement are all keys to balanced scoring, McMillan said.
And if an opposing team decides not to double team Roy and Aldridge, and attempts to counter all of Portland’s offensive weapons?
“They’re going to play you straight up,” McMillan said. “And most players in the NBA, you can’t guard them with single coverage.”
The Blazers travel to face the Northwest Division-rival Utah Jazz at 6 p.m. Saturday.
And while McMillan was reluctant to discuss the Jazz before the start of Friday’s contest against the Grizzlies, he was willing to praise the game of Utah guard Deron Williams.
Williams is averaging 19.2 points, 9.2 assists and 4.5 rebounds this season.
“He’s one of the top young point guards in the league,” McMillan said. “And that team goes as he goes.”
On the mend
Blazers rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph continues to make progress while recovering from hip surgery.
Pendergraph worked with fellow rookie Dante Cunningham and assistant coach Monty Williams during a Friday morning shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore. He ran the court at near full speed, and knocked down a series of mid-range jump shots.
Pendergraph said he is at 75-80 percent right now, but has tried to push it toward 100 during recent practices.
“It feels good,” Pendergraph said. “It’s been sore the last couple of days, so we kind of tuned it down a little bit.”
The former Arizona State standout said he expects to be cleared to play by Dec. 25 at the earliest.
Former Blazers forward Zach Randolph returned to the Rose Garden on Friday.
Randolph, who starred for Portland from 2001-07, is averaging 18.6 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Grizzlies this season.
“This is where I started,” Randolph said. “I still have got a lot of friends around here, and still got my house.”
Randolph stated that his current team, which held a 5-10 record heading into Friday’s game, is mainly focusing on playing a consistent 48 minutes as it attempts to become a legitimate NBA contender.
“It’s a lot different,” Randolph said.
Blazers vs. Jazz, 6 p.m. at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: KGW (8)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Steve Blake 6-3 8.2
G Brandon Roy 6-6 19.4
F Martell Webster 6-7 7.4
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 14.9
C Greg Oden 7-0 11.6
Coach: Nate McMillan (5th season, 160-185)
Player to watch: Aldridge — The Blazers forward will have to help Oden on the glass for Portland to win the rebound battle.
Key reserves: Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla, Jerryd Bayless, Dante Cunningham
G Deron Williams 6-3 19.2
G Ronnie Brewer 6-7 11.7
F Wes Matthews 6-5 6.9
F Carlos Boozer 6-9 19.5
C Mehmet Okur 6-11 14.2
Coach: Jerry Sloan (22nd season, 1051-637)
Player to watch: Williams — He is one of the league’s top point guards and always gives Portland trouble.
Key reserves: Paul Millsap, Eric Maynor, Andrei Kirilenko, Kosta Koufos