Q&A with David Aldridge

NBA.com’s David Aldridge answered a bunch of questions from NBA bloggers this week, and we were able to sneak in two about the Hornets…

Several articles have appeared online this season arguing that the Hornets would be better off trading Chris Paul and starting from scratch, since they can’t seem to surround him with a good enough supporting cast to win a championship. What would be your thoughts on such a move?

DA: I completely disagree with it. The hardest position I feel to fill correctly on a basketball team is point guard. It’s just really hard to find these quality level point guards that can help you toward a championship. And Chris Paul is one of the two or three best point guards in the league. You are never going to get equal value for him, no matter who you trade for him, unless you trade him for Deron Williams. So you’re going to be a lesser team without him no matter what you get. To me, that wouldn’t make any sense at all. A team like New Orleans, which is going to have limits on what you can spend, when you have a great player it’s one less great player you have to go and try to get. That is something that is their job and Jeff Bower’s job as GM is to surround him with with good enough players just like R.C. Buford did with Tim Duncan in San Antonio. They have Tim Duncan and they surround him over the years with very good to excellent players who are good enough to help them win championships. That’s what Jeff Bower’s job is in New Orleans.

What’s your take on the Hornets’ rookies (Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton and Jeff Bower) this season? Do you see them having successful NBA careers in their respective roles?

DA: Well, Collison’s been great, he’s been terrific. A lot of people wondered about him coming in and he’s been great. We’ll see how he does after a month, but right now he’s been excellent for them and has done a really good job of getting guys into their offense and distributing the ball, and scoring when he has to. So he’s doing a good job. Thornton’s played I think pretty well in spots and so what they’ve done this offseason I think is good for that team. They finally addressed their bench situation and they added some depth and did a good job there, but I think for them to have a chance to get to the playoffs and be good in the playoffs you need guys like James Posey to play like he played in Boston. And he’s played better of late and they need him to do that if they have any chance.

Read David’s responses to questions from other NBA bloggers after the jump, including some words on Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas, who the Hornets are reported to be interested in…

You’ve seamlessly made the shift from writing for a prominent newspaper to writing for NBA.com. What are some of the aspects of writing online that you enjoy? What are some of the challenges you face? (Ryan McNeil — Hoops Addict)

DA: Well, I think the thing that anybody who writes wants more space and certainly when you write online you have more space than you do writing for a newspaper. It allows you to get more in depth with a topics, it allows you to address more topics. That’s always a positive when you’re writing online. I don’t know if there are any special challenges to writing online. I think all of us who are in journalism face the idea that there is more pressure because there are so many more doing it out there than there were 20 years ago. And there’s such a … to break stories and be first that you have to really be careful about being right. I’d always rather be second than write it first and wrong. There’s no reason in being first if you’re wrong. So the challenge is in this very competitive medium to try to break stories, but I believe the ultimate responsibility of any journalist is to be bright and to be accurate, so that’s what I strive for.

A lot of athletes have started using Twitter over the past few seasons to mixed results. What are your thoughts on athletes using Twitter to interact with fans? (Ryan McNeil — Hoops Addict)

DA: I think it’s great. You know social media is a reality, and I think these guys understand that. And anything that allows players to communicate more directly with fans I think is a positive thing.

As a basketball fan, what has been your favorite storyline to follow so far this season? (Ryan McNeil — Hoops Addict)

DA: To me, it’s the idea that the kind of smaller market teams are really putting some good play together. I mean, Sacramento’s tailed off now, but the first month they were really playing some good basketball. You look at Memphis who’s been very good this season, much improved after starting 1-8. And Oklahoma City’s been very good almost all season, very consistent. I just love seeing small market teams being successful because I think that’s crucial to the league. Everybody can’t play in New York, everybody can’t play for the Lakers. Somebody has to play somewhere else and so those teams have to be successful for the league to be successful. The small teams and the large market teams need to have good products out there. So it’s encouraging seeing a kind of Kevin Durant becoming a star in Oklahoma City, it’s encouraging to see Rudy Gay having a great season in Memphis or you see Tyreke Evans playing really well in Sacramento. Those are good things for the league because it gives those teams and those fans hope and I think that’s important. I think it’s really important for this league long term in terms of its success.

The Spurs had a great offseason, trading for Richard Jefferson, drafting DeJuan Blair, and signing Antonio McDyess. Yet here we are heading into the All-Star break and the Spurs seem to still be looking to turn the corner and get some consistency. What one thing can you point to as a reason for the lack consistency with the Spurs? (Jeff Garcia – @ProjectSpurs)

DA: I think it’s their defense. Their defense is falling precipitously in the last couple of years. The way San Antonio won championships is it made it impossible for you to get to 90. You had to really struggle to score 90 points against them when they were good defensively. And so, they never had a great offensive team. This is the best offensive team they’ve ever had, but they don’t win this way. This is not how they feel comfortable winning. This is not their system for winning. Their system for winning is with defense, and their defense has dropped. It’s been a noticeable drop. And part of that is guys getting older, Tim Duncan’s getting older. Obviously Bruce Bowen is not there anymore. He was a very important part of what they did defensively. And they really have struggled to find that right complementary piece, a big man for Duncan. Now they are using guys like Bonner and stretch more to shoot threes, but obviously I don’t think I’m breaking any news here that Matt Bonner is not a great defensive player. He actually puts more pressure inside and puts more pressure on the rest of your team. You know, they just aren’t as good defensively as they used to be.

As we know, Manu Ginobili is in his last contract year with the Spurs and the Spurs still have not had contract extension discussions with Manu Ginobili. What seems to be the hold up and do you see the Spurs resigning Manu or perhaps trading him before the trade deadline? (Jeff Garcia — @ProjectSpurs)

DA: Well, the holdup is that they’re not interested in giving him an extension. The Spurs have made it clear that they have a two-year window with this group that they have now because that’s when Duncan’s contract expires and they feel like this year and next year are the years they are willing to pay luxury tax to be competitive and try to win a championship. So they’re not going to get Manu Ginobili a three-year or four-year extension. They’re just not going to do it because they are looking at this year and next year, and then after next year they may as well have to break this team up and start moving people. I think Manu understands that. I’m sure he’s not happy with it. He understands it and so he’s going to go into free agency and see what’s out there and if there are teams that are going to make him a good offer. I think he’ll get some interest. I think there will be three or four teams that will have a lot of interest in Manu but it’s a matter of whether he gives the Spurs the right opportunity to match whatever is out there or if he just walks. I think frankly the Spurs understand that they are in a position now where they have to prepare for the fact that he may not be there next year.

This year’s Cavaliers team is nearly on the same pace as last season’s team through 50 games. What are your thoughts on this squad. Is it better than last year? (John Bena — @FearTheSword)

DA: I think they are, but that may not matter in the playoffs. I mean that’s what this is all about, the playoffs. And so when it comes down to it, make Howard work enough on the defensive end so he isn’t dominant on the offensive end. And I think that’s what this comes down to, playing Orlando in the Conference finals again. And we don’t know the answer to that. We’re not going to know that until seven games get played. And then we’ll find out how that works out. But I do think they are better and have more balance now than they’ve had in years past. They can go inside and they have gone inside to shoot I think more, obviously with Shaq, than they had the previous year. And so they have a little more depth. They’ve played guys like Jawad Williams, who has given them some good minutes and J.J. Hickson. So up front they have a lot more depth than they did last year. We don’t know what Leon Powe’s physical health is going to be, and if he can give them anything that’s another body that they can throw out. Whether it’s Boston or Orlando or Atlanta, to have another body that they can throw out there is going to help. I do think they are better but again that means nothing until we see them do it in the playoffs.

Who should the Bulls go after to make them a viable playoff team? And who should they be move to make it happen?” (@matt_gavenda — The Hoop Doctors)

DA: This season, before the trade deadline I think they’re obviously going to move Tyrus Thomas. The question is do they go after Amar’e Stoudemire as a rental player for three months? Well I don’t even know if they’re going to resign him or not because I don’t think he’s the guy they want. Keep in mind what Chicago’s goal is ultimately. It’s not this season. They’re goal is to get to free agency in the summer and get a superstar. They are going to get Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, or Joe Johnson, that’s they’re goal. Maybe even LeBron. You don’t hear much about Chicago and LeBron, but they are going to have enough money to go after a superstar, and that’s what they want. They want to pair a superstar with Derrick Rose and with Joakim Noah and they feel like they can really take a big jump. This year, it’s not that they’re irrelevant but it’s not their ultimate goal. So whatever moves they make are not going to be for a playoff run this year. It’s going to be to make sure they have enough cap room this summer to go after a superstar.

DA do you have any word on Chris Cohan selling the Warriors to Larry Ellison (or any other competent millionaire)? The rumor was hot a month ago. (@theMercyRule — The Hoop Doctors)

DA: Larry Ellison has been trying to buy the Warriors for five to six years now. And he’s still trying to do it, it’s just a matter of finding a price that Chris Cohan is comfortable with. I know that the league would very much like Larry Ellison to buy that team obviously as a guy with a lot of not only money but interest. You want people who are interested in running the basketball side of things and I think that’s just a matter of when, not if that gets done.

Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith isn’t shy about making in-season trades, having made at least one in three of the last four seasons. How active do you expect Smith to be at this year’s deadline, who are his biggest trade chips, and in which players (or types of players) is the most interested? (Ben Q. Rock — Third Quarter Collapse)

DA: Well I think Otis keeps saying he’s not going to do much to strengthen this group up. And I think they do want to see this group in the playoffs, so my guess is that they are not going to be as active this trade deadline as they have in the past. If you remember last year, they made that trade for Rafer Alston because Jameer Nelson was hurt and they didn’t really have an athlete who could certainly play backup point guard. Well they got Jason Williams in the offseason and he’s played very well for them and Jameer is healthy now, so I think they feel very good about where they are. Everybody keeps asking about Brandon Bass but it certainly feels like Bass, if his agent is being honest, is not going to make a stink until the offseason. So even if he’s not playing, he’s not going to complain about it. I think if they do anything, I would be surprised if they do anything other than a very minor deal. Maybe trade their twelfth guy or one of the guys who doesn’t play for a pick and ease their luxury cap burden for next year. But I don’t think they’ll trade any of their core guys. I’d be surprised if they did. Because I know they like Ryan Anderson very much, obviously Gortat is important to them. And Bass is a guy who hasn’t played and it seems like they’ve reached this accommodation with him.

Your NBA.com colleague John Schuhmann wrote recently about how Shaquille O’Neal has improved the Cavaliers on both ends of the floor. How well does Cleveland match up with Orlando now? What must Orlando do to counter the Cavs’ ability to defend Dwight Howard one-on-one? Can Orlando hope to upset Cleveland on its way to the Finals for the second straight year? (Ben Q. Rock — Third Quarter Collapse)

DA: I think Shaq obviously makes them better. I think he makes them better at both ends because they shoot a better percentage with him on the floor and that obviously limits the opportunities the other team gets. I think Shaq defensively, from a rebound standpoint and from a putting a body on somebody standpoint helps them out defensively. Again, the central question is how does Shaq play Dwight Howard. Orlando is going to screen roll Shaq. It’s what they do; it’s what they did against Cleveland last year. You gotta make Shaq guard. It wouldn’t surprise me if you see Rashard Lewis in some screen roll with Dwight Howard, you see Vince Carter in some screen rolls with Dwight Howard because they want Shaq to have to cover somebody in space, which he’s not comfortable doing. So that’s what Orlando will do to try and counter it. At the other end, I believe Orlando will be very happy if Shaq is averaging 25-26 points a game in the playoffs. And the reason I say that is because they’d much rather take the chances guarding Shaq one-on-one with Howard and Gortat and Bass, trusting them not to get into foul trouble when trying to find LeBron with the ball on the wing or on the run with the ball on the top of the key. Every time Shaq touches the ball is a time LeBron doesn’t touch the ball. To me he’s still the most dangerous guy in Cleveland by far. So if Cleveland is content throwing the ball inside to Shaq, I think Orlando will be perfectly happy with that and take their chances.

Do you see a lockout as the most likely scenario in the summer of 2011 or is that just doomsday talk? Also, what do you see being the key changes that go through the renegotiations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement? (Mookie — A Stern Warning)

DA: To the first question, unfortunately yes I do. The owners are really putting the doomsday scenarios out there with regard to going through another negotiation and are determined to work out a percentage of what players take from basketball and lower the income significantly. And so I think that’s going to be a major part of it. Right now the players get contractually 57 percent, but they obviously get more than that when you factor in bonuses and those things. And the owners are trying to get that to not only a 50-50 split but more of a split for the owners. They want more dollars than their players. I don’t know how hard the players are going to fight on that. I’d suspect the owners are going to try to reduce the number of years on contracts, it’s been kind of a steady drop, seven to six and I’m sure they’re going to try to get it down to five. I think that they will probably try to limit the maximum amounts, and this gets pretty complicated, the maximum amount that any player can get on a contract as a percentage of his team’s cap. So what they are going to try to do is make sure the guys who get the most money, LeBrons and Kobes and people like that, can’t get more than 30-35 percent of the team’s salary cap amount. They’re going to try to push on that. I think those are the areas where you will see them really try to be aggressive in getting something done.

If you were an NBA GM, what kind of contract would you give Amar’e? (Michael — Valley of the Suns)

DA: Now I was talking to somebody about this the other day and Stoudemire’s standard for an extension is what Pau Gasol got, which is $57 million over three years. He actually wants $60 but that’s his benchmark and I think a much more realistic one is the one Antawn Jamison got from Washington, which was about $50 million for four years if I remember. I think that is much more in line with what people are going to be wanting to pay Stoudemire. Somewhere in that $11-12 million a year range as opposed to $17-18, certainly not $20 million, that’s not going to happen. I think that would be kind of what I’d be looking at in terms of a contract extension if I were a GM.

Bryan Colangelo has long believed that Andrea Bargnani is a future star in the league. How does the rest of the NBA view Andrea; is he the “next Dirk” in their eyes or simply a more offensively talented and mobile version of Radmanovic? (Raptors HQ)

DA: I would say he’s not Dirk, and I don’t think anybody is because I just don’t think anybody shoots it the way Dirk shoots it. His shot is consistently perfected. I would say less than Dirk but more than Radmanovic. Radmanovic has never been a defensive player or a rebounder. And Bargnani has struggled at the defensive end, but I think he is better now than he was before and he does … on the glass. I don’t know that he’s ever going to be a star. I think he could be a good player. My guess is that on a good team he could be a very good player because his skill set would be very advantageous for a good team, a big that can shoot the ball like he can would be very difficult to guard if you had to guard other really good players on a team as well.

If the Nets break the record for most losses, will that keep free agents from signing with New Jersey? (Sebastian Pruiti — Nets Are Scorching)

DA: I think it’s going to be difficult for them to attract the difference-making type of free agent. Certainly players like Dwyane and LeBron I don’t think are going to go to New Jersey. But somebody always takes the money. There is always a free agent that wants to get paid, so they will have the ability to sign one or two maybe second or third tier free agents, depending on who they consider to be second or third tier free agents. They should really get somebody and I just don’t know that they’ll be able to get those really special players that can really take you somewhere. And that to me is the dilemma New Jersey has is how much money do you put into good but not great players and I think that’s what they’ll be able to get this summer.

The Clippers are one of a small number of teams with the cap space to make a legitimate offer to LeBron James this season. Would LeBron even consider coming to L.A. and battling Kobe head-to-head in this market? Would he view it as the ultimate challenge, or as an unnecessary complication compared with his other options? (Steve Perrin — Clips Nation)

DA: My guess is no but that doesn’t stop the Clippers from trying. You know I mean, I think LeBron very much values loyalty and values a team concept. And I believe, while I think the Clippers have a lot of talent, I don’t know that they have a good team if that makes any sense. So I think that would be difficult for LeBron to accept, the notion of going somewhere number one where he hasn’t grown with those guys and doesn’t have any special affinity to. And number two, frankly I think the West being harder than the East, I think it’s going to be harder for LeBron to win than it would be if he stayed in the East whether that’s with Cleveland or somebody else. My guess is no, I don’t think that that would be a place LeBron would want to go.

Who’s play have you been most surprised with from Denver’s supporting cast? (NuggDoctor)

DA: Ty Lawson has been terrific coming off the bench. You know with his speed, he really does change the game and especially playing at their altitude I think it makes it very difficult for teams to kind of stay with them. I would say of those guys, he has been the biggest surprise. There has been a lot really good production out of a lot of people this year. I think Kenyon Martin’s had his best year, I believe, since he got there just in terms of his consistency and effort and ball movement. I don’t consider Billups as supporting cast. I consider him a lead guy along with Carmelo so again I would say Lawson as a supporting cast guy is the biggest surprise.

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