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Another missed its destin
SAN ANTONIO -- One 3-pointer careened off the side of the rim. Another missed its destination totally, crashing to the wood at the San Antonio Spurs practice facility with the tenacity of a medicine ball.Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge understands the team wants him to incorporate more 3-point shooting into the arsenal for 2016-17, but these latest hiccups at practice seem like utopia compared to his early experience last season as the most coveted free-agent acquisition of 2015 joining a squad already chockful of established stars in Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.Sixty-seven games, Aldridge said, letting out a laugh.Thats how long it took for Aldridge last season to find even the slightest hint of a comfort zone.I dont know that he struggled, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. I would guess there are very few mid-career changes where you walk in and its an instantaneous transition; especially in a group that had played together for a long time. I dont know that any of us felt like he struggled to begin with. It took time for us to understand how he fits best, and for him to learn how to best impact our club. I think he was very respectful of the group that was here. He had no intention of coming in and impacting our group in a way the team wasnt comfortable with.Deference no longer stands in Aldridges way, as he and Leonard now take the mantle of ushering the Spurs into their latest evolution sans-Duncan. Leonard still views San Antonio as a championship-caliber team, and it starts with me and LA [Aldridge], first, he said. If we win a championship, its going to be up to us to lead the group.That last statement represents a major shift in where Aldridge stood at this point last season.Think about it: Oct. 20, 2015, seems like a lifetime ago. But on that night, coming off a 104-84 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the preseason, Aldridge hit the court 20 minutes after the buzzer sounded at 9:44 p.m. For more than an hour, Aldridge took pass after pass from Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, firing countless jump shots from multiple angles, followed by a succession of free throws on one basket with him repeating the entire process again on the opposite end of the court.In that game, Aldridge shot 4-of-10 for nine points in 28 minutes, and up to that point, in two outings at the AT&T Center, he had connected on 8 of 24 shots.Thats why a tired and sweaty Aldridge walked back out on the court in practice gear to get in more work, as workers scrambled to pull up the floor off and get the ice ready for an upcoming San Antonio Rampage hockey game. Aldridge didnt leave the court until 11:14 p.m. that night.I dont really know these rims like that, Aldridge said at the time. Everything is still new to me.Not anymore.Im a lot more confident, for sure, Aldridge said. Comfortable, confident and looking forward to it, whereas last year was kind of a mystery, my first year leaving a team I had been with for so long. This year was a lot easier, for sure. I know whats going on most of the time, where I was lost all the time [last season]. I think Im doing more teaching this training camp as far as the younger guys, and trying to instill the principles, whereas last year, I was just learning everything for the first time.Aldridge started 74 games during the regular season in 2015-16, and averaged 18 points, a team-high 8.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.09 blocks in an average of 30.6 minutes on the floor. Aldridge said he didnt start to find a comfort zone until after the All-Star break. But even that feeling proved fleeting when on April 8, Aldridge dislocated his right pinkie finger attempting a reverse layup against Golden State, which was blocked by Andrew Bogut.Still, Aldridge found a way to crank up the production even more in the postseason, averaging 21.9 points to go with 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and an assist in 33.7 minutes, while nailing .521 from the field. In fact, Aldridge became the first Spur to score 20 points or more in the first five games of a playoff series (against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference semifinals) since Tim Duncan accomplished the feat in 2007 against the Phoenix Suns.I would say I felt my best in the playoffs, Aldridge said. Thats when I really felt like I could be myself and do the things I do.Added Buford: The continued production you saw [from Aldridge] was us all learning to play together.Still, Aldridge admitted to feeling frustration leading up to that point.Of course theres going to be frustration because I felt I wasnt helping the team as much as I could, he said. I wasnt bringing the value I felt like I could. But I stayed patient with it. The coaching staff was great, talking to me every day and keeping me positive.Spurs coach Gregg Popovich led the charge in that arena. During most early afternoon shootarounds in advance of night games, Popovich could often be seen alone with Aldridge leaning against the scorers table away from the rest of the team counseling the power forward.On multiple occasions, Popovich admitted last season that Aldridge was deferring to his new teammates, just trying to fit in.Now, Popovich absolutely envisions Aldridge taking on more of a leadership role with the Spurs in the absence of Duncan.LaMarcus and Kawhi are the main scorers on the team so to speak, Popovich said. So itll be interesting to see how [their] leadership develops.Aldridge welcomes the challenge.Sure, I know that he and I have to take on bigger roles, especially [with] Tim being gone, Aldridge said. Were going to try and be more vocal leaders; try to do more on the floor and in practice. Its just a mutual understanding that things are starting to shift here, and its just more on him and me.Along the way, Aldridge needs to further advance his 3-point shooting acumen, while learning to co-exist with another new big in Pau Gasol, who joined the Spurs back in July after playing the past two seasons with the Chicago Bulls.Despite shooting 51.3 percent from the field last season, Aldridge attempted a total of 16 shots from long range and none of them fell. That statistic fell in stark contrast to Aldridges production from 3-point range in his final season with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2014-15, when the five-time All-Star connected on a career-high 37 of 105 from 3-point range.Popovich talked to Aldridge during the offseason about incorporating that element back into his game.Pop after last season told me to get back with it, Aldridge said. So Ill start taking that shot more this year.As for Gasol, Aldridge expects the two to develop chemistry quickly.Hes a very skilled player. Weve had some high-low action together, Aldridge said. I feel like weve kind of learned how to play off each other in the post; so far, so good. The players who have played versus him, we all feel like hes a pretty smart player. I dont see him having issues picking up the offense. He played the triangle in L.A., and we have a lot of elbow stuff. I dont see him having any issues with that.The pairing with Aldridge only reinforces Gasols belief that despite recent changes to the game, a strong interior presence makes a difference.The game has changed, no question about it, Gasol said. The teams that have won championships have won going small and playing at a faster pace. So you have to be aware of it, adjust to it. But you dont get away from your strength. Im a big believer in playing to the strengths of you weapons and you have to utilize them. Were all here to win. Thats the main thing. The team is always gonna be first. So whatever it takes.Thats Aldridges mentality, too, which is why day after day he stands in the corner letting 3-pointers fly at practice in an attempt to add yet another wrinkle as he preps to play Year 2 with the Spurs now totally in his comfort zone.Aldridge didnt travel with the team Monday for its 91-86 loss to the Phoenix Suns in the exhibition opener.People are a lot better than Year 1 [in Year 2] as far as being comfortable, he said. I feel like I adjusted as time went on. Now, it should be easy for me. Xavier Williams Jersey . Newcastle dominated in the early stages but City weathered the storm and then raised its game in extra time. Negredo broke the deadlock from close range after a simple move in the 99th minute before Dzeko took the ball round goalkeeper Tim Krul to seal the victory in the 105th. Len Dawson Jersey . -- The plastic that was taped across the lockers in Oaklands clubhouse came down and the champagne that was on ice went back into the cooler. . Louis Blues absence from top spot in the TSN. Anthony Sherman Jersey . Their experience showed Tuesday as the No. 10 Badgers blunted a Saint Louis surge to win 63-57 and advance to face West Virginia in Wednesdays finals of the Cancun Challenge. Emmanuel Ogbah Jersey . The winner Saturday will remain in the elite 10-team field next year. "We talked about wanting to be disciplined and stick with our game plan and good things will come," Draisaitl said, who had two goals for the victors. PHOENIX -- Patrick Corbin was all over the place at the start of the game. Fortunately for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he settled down in time to put together another great performance. Corbin matched a career high with 10 strikeouts for the second straight start, and the Diamondbacks beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1 on Friday night. Corbin (11-1) allowed a run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings. The All-Star left-hander threw three wild pitches -- tying a franchise record -- hit a batter and walked two, but still managed to win consecutive starts for the first time since he won seven in a row from April 28 to June 2. "Early in the count I wasnt locating and they got some hits," Corbin said. "When they got some guys on I made some pitches to get out of jams." The Diamondbacks beleaguered bullpen managed to hold on for Arizonas seventh victory in the last 10 games. Heath Bell escaped a jam in the eighth thanks to a diving catch by centre fielder A.J. Pollock, and David Hernandez finished for his second save in seven chances. "I didnt have much time to think. It was a couple of steps and I was diving there. Im just glad I got a decent jump." Pollock said of his big play. Bell had blown a save opportunity in each of his last two outings, leaving the closer spot unsettled. Bell, Hernandez and J.J. Putz, who got two outs in the eighth, came into the game with five blown saves apiece this season. "Thats what we do, we grind out victories," Hernandez said. "Im happy to close out a game for Pat and send him off to the All-Star game." Milwaukee starter Tom Gorzelanny (1-3) pitched six effective innings on his 31st birthday, but was saddled with the hard-luck loss. He allowed two unearned runs and three hits. The Brewers chased Corbin in the seventh, but were unable to take advantage of a prime scoring opportunity. Yuniesky Betancourt had a leadoff double and Logan Schafer followed with a base hit to right, putting runners on second and third. Corbin retired the next two hitters, and then walked fellow All-Star Jean Segura to load the bases. Will Harris came in and struck out another All-Star, Carlos Gomez, to end the inning. Milwaukee went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on baase.dddddddddddd "When it rains, it pours," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I feel like everything that can go wrong, does. We struggled getting runners in from third with less than two outs, and thats what beat us." Arizona scored in each of the first two innings, taking advantage of a pair of defensive miscues by Milwaukee. Adam Eaton led off the first with a base hit and raced to third on errant pickoff attempt by Gorzelanny. He came home when Paul Goldschmidt bounced to third baseman Betancourt, tying it at 1. Betancourt misplayed a sharp ground ball in the second that kicked off his glove for an error, allowing Cody Ross to score from second. That was enough for Corbin, despite a wild start that cost him a run in the first. Segura reached on a one-out infield single and moved up on Gomezs sacrifice before a pair of wild pitches allowed him to come home. Corbin threw a third wild pitch in the fourth inning after Lucroy led off with a double. Lucroy was on third with no one out, but Rickie Weeks popped up, Sean Halton was retired on a shallow fly ball and Betancourt struck out. "Certainly had opportunities, and we just cant get it done," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "We dont do a good job with people on base. To have that many opportunities and not to have somebody come through, it shouldnt go on this long." The Brewers loaded the bases with two out in the eighth inning. Bell came on to a chorus of boos, but retired pinch hitter Martin Maldonado on the ball hit to Pollock. NOTES: The Diamondbacks have an extra-base hit in a major league-best 77 straight games. ... The Diamondbacks will play a makeup game against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 1 in Arlington. The May 29 game between the teams was rained out. ... Brewers pitcher Marco Estrada will throw a bullpen session Saturday. Hes on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. ... Weeks played in his 1,000th career game, making him the 11th player in club history to reach that mark. ... Right fielder Norichika Aoki took an extra-base hit away from Pollock with a lunging catch near the fence in the sixth inning. Schafer stole a hit from Martin Prado in the seventh with a diving catch of a sinking drive to left. ' ' '

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