Aldridge seeks ‘closer’ role for Blazers

Post-reliant game may not fit end-of-game situations as well as perimeter player

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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TUALATIN, Ore. -- LaMarcus Aldridge may have scored 10 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter Monday in a 111-107 overtime loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

And he may have provided what could have been a game-ending block for the Blazers, instead being called for a goaltending violation that league officials subsequently admitted was in error.

But once overtime began, the probable All-Star wilted away -- tallying just two points in the extra period.

The lackluster late-game performance had many wondering if Aldridge has what it takes to play the proverbial “closer” role.

Asked if he thought of himself that way, Aldridge responded: “Of course. I feel like I try to score, get to the free throw line or pass to open teammates if I get double teamed. That’s what closers do down the stretch.”

Aldridge said that he feels he does a better job this year in crunch-time situations than last season, but still needs to improve.

That said, if you look at traditional closers, most are guards or small forwards who can get the ball on the perimeter and create. Aldridge, meanwhile, relies on teammates to feed him in the low post, which may make it more difficult to count on him for a shot.

So is it fair to throw him into the closer role?

“Yeah, it’s fair,” Aldridge said. “They go to me all game. We can’t just change it up at the end of the game. We may have to change some of the ways we do it, but it’s definitely fair.”

Johnson gets guarantee

Portland center Chris Johnson was told by acting general manager Chad Buchanan that the team will keep him for the rest of the season.

This means his contract is guaranteed.

The 26-year-old appeared in 14 regular-season games and four playoff games for Portland last year.

This season, he has played in 11 games and is averaging 1.5 points and 0.6 rebounds in 4.2 minutes a game. But despite the limited production, the organization appears optimistic about what he can provide.

“He’s a young big who has length, who’s active,” McMillan said. “We think he has a pretty good future. He’s a guy that we’ve liked the last year or so and have tried to tie him up.”

Felton questionable

Neither Raymond Felton nor Marcus Camby participated in Blazers practice Tuesday.

Felton is still recovering from a left foot sprain that he suffered Saturday against the Nuggets and is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Rockets in Portland.

Camby had bronchitis Tuesday but is probable for Wednesday’s game.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com