Notebook: Aldridge out as Blazers’ injuries mount
PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge was a late scratch from the team’s starting lineup Tuesday night before a game against the Miami Heat at the Rose Garden.
Aldridge, who is averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds this season, missed the contest due to a right knee bone contusion. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound former University of Texas standout will be re-evaluated prior to Saturday’s home game against the Houston Rockets.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Aldridge received the injury during an 83-74 road victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 1. Aldridge played just 12 minutes in the win. He limped off the floor late in the first quarter and did not return to action.
However, Aldridge took the court in the Blazers’ next game, a Nov. 3 contest against the Atlanta Hawks. And he had started all 19 of Portland’s games this season, prior to Tuesday’s matchup against the Heat.
“He’s had that bruise for a while,” McMillan said. “It’s been sore.”
McMillan stated that X-rays of Aldridge’s knee were negative. But Aldridge showed up at the Blazers’ Tuesday morning shootaround ailing, and the team decided to hold him out of action.
“It was just too sore to go,” McMillan said.
Rookie forward Dante Cunningham was slated to start in Aldridge’s place.
Cunningham held averages of 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds heading into Tuesday’s game.
He had assumed the team’s back up power forward role, replacing veteran Juwan Howard in the rotation.
McMillan said he was looking for scrappy, energetic play from Cunningham, who was drafted by the Blazers with the 33rd overall pick in the second round of the 2009 NBA Draft out of Villanova.
“He’s the next guy in line,” McMillan said.
However, McMillan added that the Blazers’ injury woes are beginning to take a toll.
Key players Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw are expected to be out at least three more months, while rookies Jeff Pendergraph and Patty Mills are also out of action.
“It’s a big change,” McMillan said. “The NBA is about adapting, though.”
McMillan said all of the Blazers’ starters other than center Greg Oden were playing below their potential.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Steve Blake were all scoring at or below their career averages. Meanwhile, Martell Webster’s 8.4 points per game average was more than two points less than the career high 10.7 he averaged in 2007-08.
“All of our guys have played better,” McMillan said.
He added: “I think we’ve had a few guys that have been out of rhythm.”
McMillan left open the possibility that point guard Andre Miller could start in place of Blake in the future.
Blake has started all 19 of the Blazers’ games this season. He took over the starting point guard role following a nine-game experiment in which McMillan placed Blake and Miller in the same starting lineup.
Miller has been the team’s back-up point guard since a Nov. 20 blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors.
“We have to look everything right now, with the injuries we have; the way we’re playing,” McMillan said. “We’re going that way, but to say that we’re going to stay that way, I wouldn’t go there.”
McMillan moved Miller to the second unit because he felt the veteran point guard could help out a rotation that has been “destroyed” by injuries.
McMillan said the current rotation of the Blazers’ second team is “still the way I want to go.”
But he added that all possibilities are open as Portland’s injury problems continue to mount.
Praise for Wade
McMillan and Roy praised the play of Heat guard Dwyane Wade before the start of Tuesday’s game.
Roy said the Heat “start and stop” with Wade, who held averages of 27.1 points, 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds heading into Tuesday’s contest.
“He’s definitely one of the top three players in the league, arguably,” Roy said. “But he’s just so fast, explosive, and he’s just a big-game player. He’s definitely one of the top guys in this league.”
McMillan referred to Wade as an “unbelievable player” who creates problems for opponents by opening the floor and attacking. McMillan also had strong words for Wade’s defensive skills.
Wade, a seventh-year guard who starred at Marquette University, is a five-time NBA all-star. He has twice been named first team All-NBA, and received the most valuable player award during the 2006 NBA Finals.