Aldridge starts over, with same team


Aldridge starts over, with same team

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) LaMarcus Aldridge is getting a fresh start with his old team.

No, Aldridge never left the Trail Blazers, but this season is decidedly different for the All-Star forward.

``New pieces, new players, new locker room, new coach,'' he said. ``Everything's new.''

Of course, only time will tell whether that's a good thing or not.

The Blazers finished last season 28-38 and out of the playoffs for the first time in four years. They dismissed head coach Nate McMillan and let go of some of their more veteran players, choosing to build around Aldridge and swingman Nicolas Batum.

Aldridge, 27, is starting his seventh season with the Blazers. He's averaging 17.8 points and 7.5 rebounds for his career, but last season he averaged 21.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting a career-high 51.2 percent. And he made his first All-Star team.

Parallels could be drawn between this season and Aldridge's rookie year in 2006, when the team was trying to crawl out of the Jail Blazers era when it was known for its off-court trouble. But the 6-foot-11 power forward says there's a difference this season.

``My first time, it was much more dramatic. It was a team that was trying to change its image. It was a team that had won 21 games in the regular season,'' Aldridge said. ``So that time was a lot different than this one. This time we really have some good pieces, and I think guys are actually better this time. ``

Much of the cast that supported Aldridge in past seasons is now gone. Blazers starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were traded away. Brandon Roy retired, but has come back this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Center Joel Przybilla signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks.

A new Blazers team emerged over the summer. It started when the Blazers hired general manager Neil Olshey, who spent the past nine seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Olshey went to work right away preparing for the NBA draft, and went on to land guards Damian Lillard and Will Barton and center Meyers Leonard. Olshey also won a chess match with Minnesota to keep Batum, who was a restricted free agent.

The Blazers' next internal move was to bring in head coach Terry Stotts, who was 115-168 as coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks but spent the past four seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks, where he won a championship.

Stotts has already spurred changes in Aldridge's style of play.

``I'm excited about my game, really. I feel that (Stotts') offense is tailored more to the elbow and that's what I've worked on this summer,'' Aldridge said. ``So I'm excited about showing people that I've gotten better.''

Aldridge is coming off offseason surgery to repair a slight labral tear in his right hip, a procedure he said was proactive. While he was a finalist for the U.S. Olympic team, Aldridge's recovery prevented him from earning a spot on the squad that won the gold medal in London.

Now fully healed, Aldridge led team workouts in September at the Blazers' Tualatin practice facility before the start of fall camp. The idea was to get to know the newcomers - especially Lillard.

Aldridge will obviously be working closely this season with Lillard, whom Olshey has labeled the team's franchise point guard. The sixth overall pick in the NBA draft, Lillard averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists as a junior last season at Weber State.

The rookie was impressive in the NBA Summer League, averaging 26.5 points, 5.3 assists and four rebounds in four games. In three preseason games, Lillard is averaging 16.3 points and five assists per game.

``We have a lot of young pieces that have the potential to be really, really good. I felt like seeing Damian in person and playing with him was big for me,'' Aldridge said. ``I want to start building that chemistry.''

Lillard added: ``It doesn't take long, just because I'm a willing passer, and so is he. As long as we're willing to work off each other and keep it simple - and we're not trying to force it or make it go one way or the other - I feed it to him, he's the All-Star. It's as simple as that.''

So far in the preseason, the Blazers are 2-2, coming off a 97-80 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Portland hosts Golden State on Friday night.

The Blazers open the regular season on Halloween night at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Oh, and as for that new locker room, the Blazers unveiled it before the Nuggets game on Wednesday night. It includes a hydrotherapy room and a smoothie bar.

Aldridge, meanwhile, is remaining realistic about the team's chances this season.

``I think there's going to be some ups and downs - with any young team you have some ups and downs,'' Aldridge said. ``With me, going through it my first season, we'd win one then lose three or four. I'm not saying it's going to be a down season but it's going to be hard sometimes.''

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Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

USA Today Sports

Jay Gruden shown no love in preseason coaches ranking

Yahoo! Sports ranked all 32 head coaches in the NFL and Washington Redskins fans may not be too happy with where Jay Gruden ended up.

Entering his fifth year as head coach, Gruden was ranked as the No. 27 head coach in the NFL. Here's Yahoo!'s rationale behind his ranking:

"Four years, one playoff berth, one plus-.500 season, one franchise quarterback run out of town."

All that is ... not false, but the whole franchise quarterback being run out of town thing is at least debatable. And even if the ranking is fair, it's still okay to be upset because it's the middle of July, training camp hasn't started yet and the offseason is the perfect time to get irrationally angry about things like these.

Elsewhere in the NFC, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur checks in at No. 23, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is No. 17 and the Eagles' Doug Pederson is No. 2.

Unsurprisingly, Bill Belichick was ranked No. 1; he may be the greatest of all time when all is said and done, if not already. The top five rounds out with Pederson at No. 2, New Orleans's Sean Payton at No. 3, Minnesota's Mike Zimmer at No. 4 and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin at No. 5.


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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

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Stroman pitches 7 sharp innings as Blue Jays beat Orioles 4-1

TORONTO (AP) -- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman gave up hits to the first three Baltimore batters Saturday.

The Orioles got just two more hits the rest of the afternoon.

Stroman pitched seven sharp innings for his second win in three starts and Toronto beat Baltimore 4-1 for its sixth straight victory over the struggling Orioles.

"He started working both sides of the plate with his sinker and I think that threw them off a little bit, especially late in counts," Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile said. "Overall it was just kind of vintage Stroman."

Baltimore right-hander Alex Cobb picked up his major league-worst 13th loss. The Orioles dropped to 1-8 against Toronto this season.

"I absolutely hate seeing that win-loss in parentheses next to my name," Cobb said. "It's sickening."

Stroman (3-7) allowed one run and five hits. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, the first time this season he has topped 100.

Stroman is 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA in five starts since returning from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss more than a month. He went 0-5 in seven starts before the injury.

"Since he's come back from the DL he's been really good," manager John Gibbons said. "I just think he's pitching like he's always pitched."

Stroman said he's focused on forgetting his early season struggles.

"I know I didn't have the first half I wanted but I've always been someone who prides myself on the second half and finishing strong," Stroman said. "That's something I'll look to continue to do this year."

Friend and teammate Devon Travis likes what he's seen from Stroman since the right-hander returned from injury.

"He's got that fire back," Travis said. "He's really under control. I think he's locking in on every single pitch."

Seunghwan Oh worked the eighth and Ryan Tepera finished for his seventh save in 12 opportunities.

Baltimore scored one run or fewer for the 27th time, the most in the majors.

The first three Orioles batters all singled, although Jonathan Schoop was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double. After Adam Jones gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead with an RBI hit to right, Mark Trumbo grounded into an inning-ending double play.

The Blue Jays answered with a three-run fourth against Cobb, taking advantage of a key Orioles error.

Justin Smoak opened the inning with a walk and, following a video review, was ruled safe at second after Cobb's high throw pulled shortstop Tim Beckham off the base on at attempted force play.

"That's not it in a nutshell but I can understand why that's the focus, a play we haven't been making," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Randal Grichuk followed with an RBI double, a second run scored on Diaz's double play grounder, and Maile capped the rally with an RBI single.

Diaz had four hits Friday, including the game-winning single in the 10th. He went 2 for 3 Saturday with a pair of singles.

The Blue Jays made it 4-1 in the fifth when Teoscar Hernandez doubled, advanced on a fly ball and scored on Cobb's balk.

Cobb (2-13) lost his sixth straight decision, allowing four runs, one earned, and four hits in five innings. Showalter said Cobb was removed to avoid worsening a blister on his pitching hand.

"I was only going to have a few more pitches going into the sixth so he felt like the risk-reward was not really worth it," Cobb said.

Grichuk made the defensive play of the game, a running catch on the warning track in left center to retire Trumbo for the first out of the ninth.


Jones and Chris Davis got stuck in an elevator at the team's downtown hotel following Friday night's defeat. Jones documented much of the saga on Instagram. The players and fellow passengers were eventually rescued by Toronto Fire Services staff. The sound system at Rogers Centre played a few bars of Aerosmith's `Love in an Elevator' before Jones batted in the fourth inning Saturday.


Toronto won without hitting a home run for just the third time in 26 games this season.


Orioles: Baltimore is expected to demote a reliever when RHP Andrew Cashner (neck) is activated off the 10-day disabled list Sunday.


Cashner (2-9, 4.56) last pitched July 10, when he allowed five runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Yankees. Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ (10-6, 4.29) is 0-3 with a 9.75 ERA in three July starts.