Blazers: Aldridge talks goaltending and being “the closer”

The NBA admits the officials got the call wrong last night

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Tuesday afternoon, the NBA confirmed what thousands of fans in the Rose Garden already knew the night before — that the late-game goaltending call against LaMarcus Aldrdige was, in fact, a clean block.

The blown call eventually sent the game into overtime and resulted in the Trail Blazers losing to Oklahoma City 111-107. So it’s easy to see why, despite the the league confessing the referees’ error, players didn’t exactly find satisfaction.

Asked if the NBA admitting its mistake made him feel better, Aldridge replied, “No it doesn’t. I still lost the game.”

Most of the questions Aldridge fielded after Tuesday’s practice centered around that very play. He reiterated that he thought it was a clean block and that it was the wrong call, but while he was obviously disappointed with the turn of events, did not express his displeasure maliciously.

Aldridge even said of the officials “they have a tough job.”

Blazers coach Nate McMillan seemed to express a touch more contentment in the league’s statement. While he knows that the result can’t be undone, he did seem to take some solace in the fact that the NBA saw the same thing he did.

“Well, I’m glad that they reviewed it and came up with the correct call,” McMillan said. “You make mistakes. You blow some calls. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m glad they reviewed it.”

Since goaltending is considered a judgment call, it is not reviewable. Plus, if that were to change, it would raise questions such as: Would you stop play to check the monitor? And if it wasn’t goaltending, who would be awarded the ball?

A reporter asked McMillan if goaltending should be reviewed in a late-game situation, to which Nate responded with a grin, “Yeah, last night that would have been good.”

LAMARCUS THE CLOSER?

Aldridge may have scored 10 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter Monday while providing what could have been the game-ending block. 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.”

BLAZERS GUARANTEE CHRIS JOHNSON’S CONTRACT

Portland center Chris Johnson was told by Blazers acting general manager Chad Buchanan that the team will keep him for the remainder 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 per 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, CAMBY PROBABLE

Neither Raymond Felton nor Marcus Camby participated in Blazers practice Tuesday. Felton is still recovering from the left foot sprain that he suffered against Nuggets Saturday and is questionable. Camby had bronchitis Tuesday but is probably for Wednesday’s game against the Rockets.

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