This team is way past moral victories, but that doesn't mean there weren't positive to be taken away during the 87-82 loss to the Hornets last night. Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojackovic were all relatively contained, Greg Oden obviously had the best performance of his young NBA career, and LaMarcus Aldridge, despite not having a great night from the field, succeeded in changing his approach on offense. After much pleading from Nate McMillan and the rest of the coaching staff, Aldridge finally got his face-up game going.
There is something to be said for having a solid back-the-basket game, and that's always going to be a part of Aldridge's répertoire, but LA's body type (long), form (high release) and skill set (jump shooting), along with the integration of Greg Oden, lead Nate McMillan to believe the Trail Blazers would be best served if Aldridge would face-up a bit more on offense.
"What I would like to see him do a little more probably is face-up and use his shot –because he can shoot the ball – as a threat," said McMillan before Friday's game in New Orleans. "It’s OK to play with your back to the basket, but he’s a serious threat when he’s facing that basket and I think he can drive a guy more from that position than fading away."
It causes all kinds of trouble for defenses when Aldridge gets low post position and is able to face his man up in or around the block. At that point, LA can raise up and "get shot," as the coaches and players often say, and if the double-team comes, Aldridge faced-up is in a much better position to kick out to the open man.
Aldridge knows all of this, and as we say last night, especially in the first half, he's taking the advice of his coaches and applying it on the court.
"I just told myself I was going to face-up more (against New Orleans)," said Aldridge. "They preached it to me enough where I think I should.
"When I face-up I can see if they’re going to double-team me. In the first half they really didn’t double-team at all -- I don’t think they double-teamed until the fourth. So I think facing up gives me a better picture of the floor and I can see when the doubles start to come to me."
With the floor spaced with shooters on the perimeter and with Oden in the block, being able to see those double-teams gives Aldridge many more options than if he were operating with his back to the basket. It allows him to be a distributor and a decoy, which in turn opens up better looks for LA, as it forces the defense to reconsider doubling, which in turn opens up the back to the basket game.
Expect to see Aldridge continue to focus on facing up, starting tonight against the Timberwolves, as McMillan is still dead-set on running the offense though his young power forward.
"We want to go into the paint with (Aldridge) and establish that just like we did last year," said McMillan. "Go to the paint early and see if we can get something inside. Teams are giving him different looks where they are fronting him, double-teaming, playing him straight up; they’re digging and bluffing. So he’s still adjusting to different looks that teams are giving him. But I want him to be the focus, both he and Brandon, with that first group. We’re going to play through those guys."