Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We apologize for the lack of columns recently. BlazersBlog has been temporarily shut down until further notice. Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Catching Up & Answering A Few Questions

Very nice win by Portland last night. Built a solid lead, weathered Memphis' third-quarter storm, and kept the game within distance in the fourth quarter. I think that for this club to get its first road-win against a team that isn't in the bowels of the league will be good for them, and may set the table to get another road win or two (Orlando and Atlanta anyone?) on this trip.

As they stand now, the club is 4-5 and for all practical reasons probably eclipsing most people's expectations for the team by a bit. Of the four wins, I believe you can call two of them "quality wins" (vs Chicago and at Memphis). So if you look at -- based on on-paper talent and road/home splits -- where the team is at record-wise:

-2-0 in games they should win (home games versus bad teams ...vs ATL, vs NY)
-0-2 in games they should lose (home games versus very good teams or road games versus good teams ... @Den, vs DET)
-2-3 in games that could go either way (@MIN, vs CHI, vs GS, @NY, @MEM)

So in a nutshell, they're winning when they should, losing when they should, and have a .400 record in games that could go either way. Given the lack of experience on this team and universally low expectations, I think we as Blazer fans have plenty to be happy about (or "give thanks for", being this week) and look forward to.

A couple of quick notes:
  • Darius Miles has been great. Without him, the team would be sunk on offense. His 20 points a game have been huge, and although he settles for jumpers too often his 48% field goal shooting can't be argued with. Even his adjusted field goal percentage -- a stat that takes into consideration three-point accuracy combined with floor accurace -- is great. More on that later.
  • Ruben Patterson ... dude, wake up. He's a good spark off the bench/role player at his best, and a poor-shooting ball hog distraction at his worst. From Mark in Portland: "I’ve suspected all year that Ruben really was hurting more than helping out there because he’s a terrible passer and a black hole when he gets the ball, plus he clogs up the middle and he’s not a post player. Good times."
  • Last night's game was the first in which Travis Outlaw really looked good. Let's hope the reason he hadn't been playing truly was an injury, and that Patterson's departure will bring him more minutes.

Now, on to the adjusted field-goal percentage. Essentially what this stat does is measure shooting efficiency by taking into account the total points a player produces through a field goal attempt. Hence, it adjusts for three-point accuracy. Assume for a moment a player will make 50% of his 2-point attempts. Six shots will generate six points. Then, in order for that player to justify attempting a three-pointer, he'll need to shoot at least 33% from beyond the arc, in order to generate the same amount of points. Very similar to the points-per-shot you've seen me reference on this site before which also takes free throws into consideration.

Portland's player rank in adjusted FG%, with points-per-shot in parentheses:

1. Monia: .630 (1.39)

2. Pryzbilla: .615 (1.54)

3. C. Smith: .500 (1.14)

4. Telfair: .494 (1.17)

5. Dixon: .494 (1.28)

6. Miles: .483 (1.21)

7. Ratliff: .474 (1.42)

8. Outlaw: .471 (1.06)

9. Zbo: .456 (1.16)

10. Jack: .400 (1.11)

11. Patterson: .360 (1.12)

What to make of all this nonense? We're only 9 games (or roughly 11% of the season) in, so I'll spare you the deep-dive until we have more to work with. There are a few nuggets to be gleamed, however.

Clearly, volume has a lot to do with Monia and Smith being so high. As they take more shots, their AFG will inevitably drop. I think we can see a directional trend with Monia, however ... that he's got potential to be a very nice three-point threat. His current clip of 56% from behind the arc probably won't stick, but he's clearly demonstrating some value. And you'd expect the big men to be high in AFG and PPS, considering that many of their shots are taken in the paint ... but Zbo's low numbers are clearly a concern. Bottom line is that he needs to do more passing out of double-teams. It feels like every game there are at least two or three instances where he receives the ball in the low post, a double-team comes to help, he dribbles a few times and forces a shot. Granted -- I'm all for Zach getting as many touches as possible -- I'd just like him to be a little smarter with the ball.

More on this next week. In the meantime, enjoy your long weekends and Go Blazers!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Guest Article: +/- And The Myth Of Scrappy

Once again, BlazersBlog contributor The Loch has another fine article written. For your enjoyment ...

+/- And The Myth Of Scrappy
By The Loch

The Portland Trailblazers are in first place. Wow. That’s where they sit right now on November 17, 2005, cut it out of the paper and pin it up because it’s certainly something nobody really expected even 6 games into the season. Now, before we get into the roster through 6 games I need to squash something that I’m a little worried is gaining momentum. Jason Quick, who I like, wrote this in today’s Oregonian: “the Blazers once again unveiled a scrappy style of play to pull out another close game in the fourth quarter on Wednesday”. First of all, I know people like to read that their team is scrappy, has heart, and all that other rubbish, so I’ll let Quick off the hook this time because I assume he knows that. However, the Blazers did not win last night because they were “scrappy”. They won because they shot 51.5% from the floor and held the Bulls to 39.1%. Plus they managed to only hoist up 6 three pointers, which is good because this team can’t shoot them. It’s really that simple, they played smart, took good shots, made the good shots they took, and for the most part prevented the Bulls from getting off a lot of good shots. If anything they almost lost because they were being “out scrapped” by the Bulls, who crushed them on the boards, had more assists, and less turnovers. So let’s just agree to stop the “scrappy” non-sense, just play smart, take and make open shots, and you’ll win games.

Now, let’s look at the roster from a +/- standpoint, a terrific statistic that you can find for every player on every team by using the link to 82games over on the right hand side of this page. The Blazers roster breaks down like this, and we’re only using the 10 guys who have really played so far this year, along with a minutes percentage thrown in there for easier analysis later on:

Randolph +33.1, 80% of the available minutes

Telfair +15.8, 58%

Miles +15.2, 80%

Joel +13.5, 48%

Monia +12.3, 19%

Ratliff +2.3, 46%

Reuben -4.0, 41%

The Chaz -6.3, 16%

Dixon -6.5, 40%

Jack -17.2, 46%

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way, there are a lot of small sample size hi-jinks involved with looking at these numbers right now. We’ll revisit these numbers later in the year when there is a larger sample size and compare. So the question arises, what can we take out of these numbers to date? Well for one thing it certainly appears that Nate has figured out who to start the game since they are the top 5 guys in +/- on the team. It also shows the overall value that Zach Randolph brings to this team. When he’s on the floor, the team is pretty good, when he’s not they’re very simply a bad basketball team. I would theorize that his presence opens up cutting lanes for Miles, frees up open shots for the 2 guard du jour, and really helps out a player like Sebastian because they can run that high screen and roll and he can blow by the big man on the switch and create havoc or he can dish back to Zach for the mid range jumper that he seems to hit almost every time. Ratliff and Joel have formed a pretty formidable duo in the middle, and the only weak spot appears to be Nate’s reserve 3-some that he loves so much, Reuben, Jack, & Dixon. A spaz, a rookie point guard, and a mad gunner, shocking that it doesn’t work out that well. The other issue with those 3 on the floor is it usually involves Reuben at the power forward. This is problematic because, well for one he’s not a power forward, but it also takes Zach out of the lineup and they really can’t score without him out there. I think Jack is being small sample sized a bit, probably hurt a great deal by that Denver game, but just looking at those numbers it’s pretty clear that Telfair changes the game for the better when he’s out there ahead of Jack. 20-25 games in we’ll take another look at these numbers but for now, scroll up and read that first sentence again.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Game 4: Blazers (1-2) vs Knicks (0-3)

The Blazers host New York for the only time this season, as the winless Knicks and their shiney new coach Larry Brown come rolling into town. This is the first of six straight road games for New York, and arguably the first "non-playoff" team they've played as their three losses have come at the hands of Boston, Washington, and Golden State. This matchup pits two teams who don't shoot very well (39% and 40% for New York and Portland), although New York has shown to be a very good rebounding team.

Starting Lineup Preview:

PG: Telfair vs Marbury ADV: NY
SG: S. Monia vs J. Crawford ADV: NY
SF: D. Miles vs Q. Richardson ADV: POR
PF: Z. Randolph vs A. Davis ADV: POR
C: J. Pryzbilla vs E. Curry ADV: EVEN

Bench: Patterson, Jack, Dixon, Ratliff vs Barmes, Frye, James, Ariza, Robinson, Lee ADV: NY

As you can see, New York has the backcourt advantage while Portland has the frontcourt advantage. Portland will be able to post up Monia over Crawford, while New York can do the same with Marbury and Telfair. Pryzbilla is a much better rebounder and defensive player than Curry, whereas Curry has the advantage on offense.

Game Observations:

  • Antonio Davis has definitely lost a step. Zbo torched him several times in the first quarter both on the block and tip-ins, and Davis committed three fouls right off the bat.
  • Had to love this little nugget that The Mike Brothers (Blazer broadcasting team) dropped on us late in the first quarter .... Rice: "Isiah is always looking to trade someone a uniform for their best player. Usually someone not too intelligent." Barrett: "Don't say that - there have been rumors of a Portland-New York deal. John Nash did confirm with us today that he had a phone conversation with Isaiah Thomas, but that was all."
  • Speaking of which, how do you guys feel about our broadcasting team? Personally I think they're terrible, but I also think that about 90% of all sports tv broadcasters are god-awful which would make them average for their field. Mike Rice in particular really annoys me at times (despite the "Nate Robinson was a husky, but I still like him" line which was the smartest thing he has ever said). Am I alone on this one?
  • Isn't it bizarre that Travis Outlaw is on the inactive list right now? I wonder if something's wrong with him physically and the team isn't telling us about it. He was expected to do so much this season, it's really a surprise what a non-factor he's been.
  • Stop shooting, Juan.
  • First half was UGLY. Terrible game. Telfair and Pryzbilla both got into foul trouble and couldn't play much. Portland scored 39 points, committed 12 fouls, shot 32% (including 1/10 from three), and was 8-16 from the line. Brutal. Oh, and Juan Dixon chimed in with a smooth 0-for-6 in 7 minutes. Portland had more turnovers (5) than assists (3) as a team. New York wasn't a whole lot better -- committing 17 fouls, but outrebounded Portland by 9 and shot a higher percentage, finishing the half with a 10-point lead.

And then ... Portland came out and played a fantastic second half. They moved the ball as well as they have all season and shot a much higher percentage (both from the field and the line). Sebastian Telfair did a great job running the team, especially during a stretch at the end of the third and first half of the fourth quarters, feeding the shooters who caught fire: Miles, Patterson, and even Ratliff. However, following his fifth foul, Nate went with a lineup of Jack, Miles, Ruben, Zbo, and Ratliff (who by some stroke of god managed to knock down a couple of key jumpers -- yes, that's right, jumpers, and had an impressive put-back dunk on a missed free throw) and they were extremely effective. The fourth quarter was Portland's best quarter of year to date. The team went from looking lifeless in the second quarter to looking like a contender in the second half. Nate pressed all the right buttons as well -- kudos to him for coaxing a fantastic half of basketball out of this team. (Can't say nearly the same for Larry Brown.)

Final stats of note: Zbo - 29 pts, 12 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl. Miles - 26 pts, 8 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl. Patterson - 17 pts, 5 reb (including 4 offensive), 1 ast, 1 stl. Blazers even things up at 2-2 and move to 2-0 on their home court. A nice win for this team and a great effort.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Guest Article

As you all know, I will occasionally pull in other writers to contribute to the site. Fellow Blazer fan, NBA critic and e-mail site contributor The Loch is makes his full-article debut for your Blazer enjoyment.

The Backcourt Problem
by The Loch

It’s no secret that the front line for the Blazers is certainly above average by NBA standards with Miles, Z-bo, and Joel, although the depth is pretty much non-existent with Reuben out of position at the backup 4 and Theo somehow contracting Dale Davis Disease this past off season. Bottom line, you can win with the front court players they are going with right now. Unfortunately, the backcourt has a whole host of issues and the team will win and lose depending on how they play from night to night. Their first 3 games they’ve got this from their backcourt:

At Minnesota:
PG (Telfair & Jack, 48 minutes) – 5 for 13, 12 points, 6 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 rebounds
SG (The Chaz, Dixon, 48 min) – 7 for 19, 16 points, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 6 rebounds

At Denver:
PG (Telfair, Jack & Blake) – 4 for 18, 9 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, somehow 13 rebounds
SG (The Chaz & Dixon) – 8 for 17, 20 points, 5 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 rebound

vs Atlanta:
PG (Telfair & Jack) – 11 for 21, 28 points, 7 assists, 2 turnovers, 8 boards
SG (Monia & Dixon) – 4 for 13, 12 points, 7 assists, 0 turnovers, 6 boards

Obviously the big game from Telfair and Jack against the Hawks stands out as a solid performance. When you have a young point guard tandem like this, you’re going to get some streaky nights. I accept this. What I don’t accept is The Chaz and Dixon, they are awful. The Chaz basically does nothing at all out there, love the line against the Wolves where he was just out for an evening jog, 0 assists, 0 rebounds, 0 turnovers, 1 steal in 21 minutes. Thanks for that. Dixon on the other hand has got to stop shooting. His mad gunning has become ridiculous and every time he jacks one up with 19 seconds left on the shot clock it’s one more possession where Miles & Z-bo don’t touch the ball.

So where does this leave the backcourt for the future, the rest of this season and beyond? I think you take your lumps with Telfair and Jack, both bring stuff to the table, both take some things off at times. There’s obviously a contingent forming already in the “Jack for starting point guard” camp, but it’s way too early to pull the plug on Sebastian. I know Jack played in the ACC, took a team to the NCAA title game, and certainly looks like he’s got that prototypical NBA point guard game, but Telfair’s your guy for the time being. You have to give him at least 30 games to see what he can do, then make the change if it’s clear Jack is the better option. My suggestion: Telfair 28 minutes, Jack 20.

At shooting guard, the Monia insertion in to the starting lineup and 30 minutes in the home opener was a shocker to just about everyone, probably including Monia. That being said, I think he’s the starting shooting guard indefinitely. As we’ve covered previously, The Chaz does nothing and Dixon is a streaky shooter that obviously thinks he’s a lot better than he is. Monia showed us the other night that he’s not overmatched out there, although the quicker 2 guards in the league will certainly tear him up off the dribble. He also seems to grasp the concept of get the ball to Miles and Z-bo, only shoot when you’re open and the ball’s been kicked out to you, and more importantly make the shots under these circumstances. Webster is the guy they want to develop into this role, but Monia is the guy that’s NBA ready right now, he’s your guy. My suggestion: Monia 30, the other 18 depending on if Dixon is hot in those first 5 shots he takes (should only take about 2 minutes of game time to see those 5 shots) or The Chaz if Monia’s getting ripped up by the opposing 2 guard.

What Have We Learned So Far?

An extremely busy work schedule and a visit from a family member has kept me from posting ... apologies. However, a few quick thoughts.

What have we learned about the Blazers after three games? Here are my quick thoughts. Again, this has only been three games so these are preliminary thoughts:
  1. Darius Miles has stepped up his game. We all knew he had the talent, and he seems to now have a desire to take a leadership role. Granted, it's early November and we could be talking about what a jerk he's reverted to in a month, but he has clearly been the leader of the team. Without his 20, 8, and 4, Portland would be completely lost on offense.
  2. Sergei Monia looks much better (granted in limited action and granted against a very crummy Atlanta team) than I thought he would. As far as I can tell, he should be the defacto starter until proven otherwise. He's got a nice jumper, decent size, passes the ball, and runs the court well. Now about that defense...
  3. Stop Shooting Juan Dixon (I hear that's officially part of his name these days) looks awful. The man is a black hole. Once the ball gets passed his way, it's going up, and it's probably bouncing off the rim. So far I haven't found much that he's adding to the team, and for the record, he's got the second-worst +/- statistics of the club's regulars.
  4. Chaz Smith looks very blah, which is about what we expected. I can see him having the skills to be a 10-15 minute per game player off of the bench, but he doesn't appear to have the talent or court presence to be a starting 2-guard in the NBA.
  5. Jarrett Jack has been a nice surprise. His +/- numbers don't look good, but he's got a very nice presence with the ball and a decent looking jump shot. It appears that he'll be able to fill holes at both PG and SG this year as well.
  6. Travis Outlaw's playing time has been sporadic and much smaller than we anticipated. Given Outlaw's emergence last year, I expected him to get at least 25 mpg and fill up the bucket with plenty of points; he's only made it into one game for 10 minutes. What gives?
  7. Theo Ratliff looks terrible. He's clearly lost most of his skills and is starting to look like a terrible contract extension signing.

What do you think? Email me your thoughts and I'll post them here. And as for the Blazers-Knicks trade rumors floating around, I don't buy into them. Reason being, the Knicks will want Miles in any deal, and Darius Miles has clearly shown himself to be the key to Portland's offense this season, and I don't believe the club will trade him. At least not yet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Game 1 Obersvations

Ducked out of work a bit early yesterday in order to catch Portland’s first game in its entirety. Despite Portland’s lack of a real shot this year (both literally and figuratively), I think there are a bunch of exciting reasons to watch the Blazers this season; most of which we’ve covered. Nonetheless, on to game 1. Bring me my bullets! Bear in mind that I’m an out-of-towner, which means I’m watching on NBA Season Pass, which means when the Blazers are the away-team I’m stuck with the other team’s announcers.

  • Loved Timberwolves point guard Marko Jaric out hustling Charles Smith and Zbo to the tip off, snagging the ball and scoring a quick up-and-under. Waty to get the season started.
  • To that point, however, you had to love the energy and the offensive setups that the team started out with. They already looked like they were at least running plays, which is four steps better than last year.
  • The game started out a little sloppy, with both teams turning the ball over and fumbling around a bit. Marko Jaric was creating a little havoc for the Twolves. And speaking of Jaric, these Twolves announces just informed us that “he’s just as big in Europe as Michael Jordan”. Call me crazy but I’m going to go ahead and doubt that.
  • Blazers looked good in the first quarter, with the exception of Telfair. They drew two fouls on Garnett, took smart shots, and had a lead as many as 9.
  • Juan Dixon looks terrible, and he shoots FAR too much. Juan - stop shooting.
  • Rashad McCants was Minnesota’s first player off the bench, and he looked okay. He’s clearly hobbled by that sprained ankle but managed to knock down a couple of open jumpers.
  • It’s sad to see how much Theo Ratliff’s defensive presence in the paint has deteriorated. He's wortheless. The bottom line with him these days is that he needs separation from the player he’s guarding if he wants to affect the shot; a player with any sort of size puts their butt into him and he’s helpless. In the first half alone, Wally Szczerbiak scored right over the top of him and Kevin Garnett threw down a huge dunk right in Theo’s grill (and bloodied his nose in the process to add insult to injury).
  • Portland’s shot selection faultered significantly in the second quarter, and it showed as Minnesota turned an 11 point deficit into a two point deficit in just a few minutes. Juan Dixon hit a couple of long jumpers, but is a bit of a mad gunner and needs to do more passing.
  • Richie Frahm entered the game in the second quarter and formed a nice backcourt with McCants for the Wolves. They had a combined 18 points in the quarter and sparked the Twolves. The announcers couldn’t shut the hell up about how much Frahm reminded them of Fred Hoiberg.
  • Zach Randolph had six field goals in the first half, and half of them were long jump shots. Not what we’re looking for from Zbo.
  • Charles Smith has no business being a starting wingman in the NBA. During four consecutive plays, he airballed a three pointer, failed to block out on a rebound that Szczerbiak put back in, then turned the ball over and fouled a Wolve on the other end fast break. Thanks for that.
  • Portland’s defense really started falling apart in the third quarter, and Nate tried to put a stop to it after Minnesota had built its lead to 9 points (in my opinion, Nate was about two possessions too late but you can’t blame him for seeing if they could pull out of it on their own). Darius Miles’ scoring (he had 20 points with five minutes left in the third) kept Portland in the game, but he cooled off and they were down 13 heading into the fourth quarter. Miles, however, is having a phenomenal game. Nobody has ever questioned his talent, it's his effort that's been the issue, and tonight's bringing an exceptional amount of effort.
  • Portland came out hot in the fourth quarter, and closed to within four with nine minutes left. They traded baskets for the rest of the game and ended up losing by four; they’d have had a real chance to win the game if Zbo hadn’t had a layup blocked with about 24 seconds left that would have cut the lead to 2.

Nonetheless, a nice game for Portland. Granted, Minnesota isn't a playoff team and the Blazers still lost, but they brought a ton of effort, Miles was spectactular and if Juan Dixon hadn't sabotaged parts of the second and third quarters, they may have snuck out a win.

Opening Day for Portland! Game 1 Preview

Portland (0-0) at Minnesota (0-0), 5:00pm PST

You can get the starting lineups and last year's scoring averages anywhere (there are plenty of links to your right if you don't know where to find them), so we'll take a slightly different approach to our game previews here at BlazersBlog.

Both teams have tons of question marks, and neither is projected to make the Western Conference playoffs. Hence both teams have much to prove. Portland's starting point guard, Sebastian Telfair, is lightning-fast -- but he's small at 6-0, 165. Minnesota's starting point guard, Marko Jaric, doesn't have nearly the quicks or the passing skills as Telfair but he's much bigger at 6-6, 250. Expect Minnesota to slow the game down and utlize their size advantage there as well as Kevin Garnett's amazing low-post scoring and passing skills. If Jaric spends too much time passing directly over Telfair or posting him up, look for Portland to test out Jarrett Jack' s effectiveness early in the game.

Speaking of the point guard situation, it appears that Jack may get more playing time than we initially thought. A few interesting quotes:

Nate McMillan: "They both play like young point guards. You see some bright spots, but then you see the inexperience, the youth. Sebastian is trying to figure out what is going on. He’s like a Ferrari. He wants to go. When he has to set an offense, the engine is boiling over. Understanding situations and how to run a team is going to take some time with him. He’s always played an uptempo style, always depended on his speed. He has to learn to use that speed and run a team. Right now, he’s inexperienced — it’s as simple as that. He’ll look good some nights, and then he’ll look really bad."

Again, McMillan: "Jack could be a little bit more seasoned, because he spent that time in college, had that teacher, was in a lot of big games. Though (the Atlantic Coast Conference) is not at the NBA level, it’s really good competition. He understands a little better right now slowing up, running a team, attacking, handling the pressure situations.”

A very disturbing quote from Telfair: “I was in a slump offensively. It’s surprised me. I just haven’t been feeling right out there. But I remember Damon (Stoudamire) started last season in a slump and shot his way out of it. I’ll do the same thing.”

After watching last season's tiny tandem of Damon and NVE do more than their fair share of shooting, I'm really hoping he's not taking that too much to heart. A few final notes on tonight's game:

  • Keep an eye on Zach Randolph's playing time. He'll definitely get the starting nod, but I'd be surprised to see him play much more than 28 minutes tonight.
  • Also keep an eye on Travis Outlaw's perimeter rotation when he's on the court. One of McMillan's crucial but highly unpublicized decisions during this summer and fall was to keep Outlaw solely as a "3" and not have him learn the "2". When Outlaw is on the floor it will be interesting to see how much time he spends jump-shooting as opposed to slashing and getting to the hoop.
  • Minnesota's new head coach, Dwayne Casey, was Nate McMillan's top assistant in Seattle and they have worked together for 11 years. McMillan had claimed for years that Casey deserved to run his own team.
  • Minnesota has won 10 consecutive home openers.
  • Portland's roster is beginning the season at 15, with three inactives and no players in the NBDL. Both of the russians (Monya and Khryapa) and Ha Seung-Jim will begin the season on the inactive list. And speaking of the NBDL, the NBA's non-embracing of it as a whole has been fascinating. It seems that NBA teams generally value their own ability to monitor the player in practice and have their own coaches groom them with the team far more than the player getting on-court game time. And I can't say I blame them.

Enjoy game 1 -- and go Blazers!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


To celebrate opening day, ESPN held several NBA chats. A few highlights:

Sean (Vancouver): What's the over under for Blazer wins this year. Healthy or not.

John Hollinger: I'll go with 30 wins. They're an interesting team to watch with all those young guys, but it's going to take a while, and I'm not sure McMillan is the right guy for their situation.

Interesting prediction from Hollinger. My personal prediction is 33 wins for our boys. The funny thing is there are a million question marks for the Blazers this season but it seems to me that McMillan has proven himself to not be one of them.

Mike (Reno, NV): Is there anything for us Blazer fans to look forward to this year?

Chris Sheridan: Start keeping a tally of the number of times Zach Randolph shows up late for something. Zach and coach Nate are already at odds over Randolph's tardiness, and McMillan is probably scoring points with some of the other players by holding the tam's highest-paid player to the same standard as everyone else.

A smart, thoughtful journalist might say something like "watching the development of all of Portland's young guys" or "seeing Sebastian Telfair blossom", but's Chris Sheridan comes in with the easy route. Nice work.

Joe (New York, NY): Why do half the people at doubt the Lakers will make the playoffs? They have arguably the best player in the league, Lamar Odom playing a more natural three position, and arguably the greatest coach of all-time. If he can win with MJ, Scottie, and Bill Cartwright, he can win with this team.

John Hollinger: The absolute, only reason to think L.A. will make the playoffs is Jackson. L.A. has no point guard, a weak frontcourt and little depth. Plus, the Jordan-Pippen comparisons to Kobe-Odom are just a wee bit overdone -- the only thing Kobe does like Jordan is imitate him in interviews, and perhaps if and when Odom makes an All-Star team we can start comparing him to one of the league's 50 greatest players.

I put this question in here not because it was about the Blazers, but because it echoes what I've been saying all offseason: the Lakers are a garbage team and I don't understand how even half of the ESPN prognosticators could predict them to make the postseason.

Also a note about our opponents tomorrow night (you'll remember that McCants was rumored to be a possibility for Portland to draft for a couple of months):

Matt (Orlando): With the drafting of McCants, already having Wally and Trenton, what are the Wolves thinking? Are they done as a playoff contender already, or can Jaric and KG be enough to sneak in?

John Hollinger: McCants gives them a bench scorer and they need somebody like that, but they can't play Wally and McCants together because they'll get ripped on D. T'wolves only shot for the playoffs is if KG plays all 82, Jaric stays healthy and Kandi Man wakes up.

A Quick Look at Portland's Schedule

29 hours and counting until Portland tips off the season at Minnesota tomorrow night. We'll take a closer look at that game in our next column tomorrow morning, but in the meantime: how about Portland's schedule? How do they start out? Let's see.

As mentioned, the first game of the year pits two likely non-playoff participants in Portland and Minnesota. This game to me is the type of game that will determine if Portland finishes in the 9-11 range or the 12-14 range when all is said and done. Following that game, the Blazers get an off day, and then play back-to-backs, at Denver and versus Atlanta. Normally, that Hawks game would be a likely win but given that Portland has to criss-cross the country and play the next day, *and* it will be the first home game for a couple of our rookies, don't count on it being a shoe-in. The team then has three off days in a row, followed by well-spaced-out home games versus New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Golden State.

On November 20th, the team hits the road for what is tied for their longest road trip of the season, visiting New York, Memphis, Miami (back to backer), Orlando, Atlanta, Philly and Washington (back to backer).

Does that mean the season will start out slow? Let's take a look.

Likely wins: vs ATL, vs NY, @ORL, @ATL (4)
Likely losses: @MIN, @DEN, vs DET, vs CHI, @MEM, @MIA, @PHI, @WAS (8)
Could go either way: vs GS, @NY (2)

Of course, predicting wins and losses in specific games like this is a bit ridiculous, but it's worth a shot. The above theory gives us a 4-8 record with two swing games. Suppose Portland goes 1-1 in the swing games, leaving them with a start of 5-9. Thank god for those two games versus the Hawks, eh?

Game 1 preview will be posted tonight/tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Western Conference: THE Prediction

Predictions are lame, for a number of reasons. Especially in basketball where how players integrate their abilities together is very important. Remember how huge we all thought Brent Barry would be for the Spurs last year?

What I've done is organize the conference into three tiers of teams: Contenders, A Player Away, and Wannabes. Without further ado ... BlazerBlog's official Western Conference Predictions.

(note: these predictions are not reflective of playoff seed -- but rather regular season final record.)

Tier 1: Contenders

1. San Antonio Spurs
Starting lineup: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bown, Tim Duncan, Nazr Mohammed

Real bold prediction, huh? Add me to the 100% of other "experts" who think San Antonio will repeat. Somehow they have become stronger while the other elite teams in the conference have become slightly weaker. They've got depth added with Michael Finley coming off the bench that they didn't have last year; now Manu can start and they don't lose anything. Unreal.

2. Phoenix Suns
Starting lineup: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, James Jones, Kurt Thomas

Phoenix will likely not win as many regular season games as they did last year, but they're a tougher team. I still don't see them getting past San Antonio (save for an injury to Tim Duncan) but they'll be a very strong club. There's a chance they could drop down to the 3rd or 4th seed but I would still expect them to make the Western Conference Finals.

3. Houston Rockets
Starting lineup: Rafer Alston, David Wesley, Tracy McGrady, Stromile Swift, Yao Ming

It's hard to pick a team who has Rafer Alston as their starting point guard to be the #3, but I truly believe that the Rockets can put it together this season. They won't be the #3 seed anyways because they're in the same division as San Antonio, but look for the Rockets to take big step forward this year. Stromile Swift will be a huge addition for them and I expect him to start at the 4 more than Juwon Howard.

4. Denver Nuggets
Starting lineup: Andre Miller, DerMarr Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby

Hard team to try and predict ... I debated heavily between Houston and Dalls and which would end up with the league's third best record. Rumor has it that Carmelo Anthony has been working his tail off all summer long and is focused & ready to take the leap. They have a huge hole at the 2-guard and great depth on the frontcourt with Nene as a backup. Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby are very nice players, but are they really strong enough to push Denver in the NBA's elite?

Tier 2: A Player Away

5. Dallas Mavericks
Starting lineup: Jason Terry, Doug Christie, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier

Dallas has lost some of the firepower that they've been known for over the past couple of seasons, but they're also tougher, a better rebounding team (as last year's numbers demonstrated) and play better defense. You know that Terry, Howard, and Dirk will fill up the bucket with points (and don't be surprised to see Marquis Daniels get plenty of starts this season as well) -- the big keys for this team will be Doug Christie and Eric Dampier. Which version of these two players will Dallas get -- the spectacular 03-04 versions or the injured, mediocre 04-05 versions?

6. Sacramento Kings
Starting lineup: Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Peja Stojakovic, Kenny Thomas, Brad Miller

Another tough team to try and predict. They've certainly got talent in Bibby, Wells, Peja, and Brad Miller (few teams have a four-some as offensively potent), but there are too many questions to project them into the top four. Which Peja will show up? How much of a clubhouse cancer will Bonzi become? Can Brad Miller stay healthy through a full season

7. Golden State Warriors
Starting lineup: Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Adonal Foyle

Call me biased because I live in San Francisco, but this one very talented Warriors team that I fully expect to make the playoffs next season. They went 14-4 down the stretch after acquiring Baron Davis, and granted while the games were meaningless, they've got several components to build around: athleticisim, shooting, and depth. Jason Richardson is one of the league's top-10 offensive players, and if he can cut down on his three point attempts should get some recognition for that this season. Their biggest question revolves around the center position -- don't be surprised to see Golden State play quite a bit of small ball when they can based on matchups, utlizing Murphy at center and adding Mickael Pietrus to the starting lineup.

8. Seattle SuperSonics
Starting lineup: Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Nick Collison, Vitaly Potapenko

A very similar team to the Warriors: a blossoming squqd with a great young point guard, fantastic wing players (in Lewis and Allen), and a question at the center position. Nick Collison's second full season of experience should help him tremendously this year, and they've still got depth with Ronald Murray, Reggie Evans and Danny Fortson coming off the bench. They'll drop off a little bit from last year but will still make the playoffs.

Tier 3: Wannabe's

9. Los Angeles Clippers
Starting lineup: Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman

I truly thought last year would be a great season for The Clip. They've got a few solid wing players, a very good power forward, some depth, and a quality coach. But then they proved to us one thing that will never go away: they're the Clippers.

10. Memphis Grizzlies
Starting lineup: Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones, Mike Miller, Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright

The fact that they'll fall off from last season isn't necessarily a bad thing. They did lose talent, but I'm not sure that the team as previously composed was doing a whole lot anyway. In unloading Bonzi Wells, Jason Williams, and James Posey, Jerry West got rid of a few bad contracts and players whom they didn't want around anyway. They can build around Gasol and Miller, and made a nice draft pick in Hakim Warrick. Plus, Pau Gasol has a beard.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves
Starting lineup: Marko Jaric, Trent Hassell, Wally Szczerbiak, Kevin Garnett, Michael Olowokandi

I just don't see it with this team. Kevin Garnett is still one of the top 3 players in the NBA (and he's bulked up for this season), but there are big weaknesses all over the court for the Wolves. Jaric is a very shakey point guard, Hassell provides very little scoring, Szczerbiak is terrible on defense and a one-dimensional player, and Olowokandi is basically size and that's it. I think Minnesota's window has completely slammed shut and they'll be rebuilding for a while.

12. Portland TrailBlazers
Starting lineup: Sebastian Telfair, Chaz Smith, Darius Miles, Zach Randolph, Joel Pryzbilla

Ah, my beloved Blazers. I truly believe that this team will be very good ... starting in about 2007. It will be a very interesting year watching Telfair and Outlaw develop, seeing what we've got in Webster, Khryapa, and Monia, and monitoring the production of Pryzbilla, Miles, and Randolph. They'll have some fantastic nights and some brutal nights, and you and I will be there for all of it. I honestly expect about 35 wins out of this team.

13. Los Angeles Lakers
Starting lineup: Aaron McKie, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm

If you need a goal for this season, look no further: finishing in front of the Lakers. Granted that won't be too tough this season but hey, we take the small victories right?

14. Utah Jazz
Starting lineup: Deron Williams, Gordon Giricek, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

At least they have AK-47 back. Unfortunately that's about all they've got. Boozer is a nice player, but everyone else on this team really should be coming off the bench.

15. New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets
Starting lineup: Chris Paul, JR Smith, Desmond Mason, PJ Brown, Chris Anderson

They took a crappy team from last season and made it even worse, trading away Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire. Anderson will now start at center, and although they did need a SF badly, they're still a terrible team who will be giving the Hawks and Raptors a real run for that #1 pick.

Whew ... there it is! I'll do a mid-season and end-of-season analysis to see how close (or far) I got. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts as well -- email me here and I'll post the better reader thoughts/predictions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jamaal Magloire

Let me start this off with one statement: have you SEEN some of the piss-poor centers that Eastern Conference teams are rolling out as their starters lately?

Zaza Pachuia (Atlanta)
Primo Brezec (Charlotte)
Jeff Foster (Indiana)
Nenad Kristic (New Jersey)
Jerome James (New York)
Kelvin Cato (Orlando)
Loren Woods (Toronto)
Brendan Haywood (Washington)

... just to name a few. A quick parusal of's depth charts yields those names. Of starters. We're not talking roster-hangers-on here folks (as a few of them should be), or borderline D-League'ers, but starters. Lost in how bad New Orleans (Oklahoma City for this upcoming season, and possibly Las Vegas for future seasons -- we can all dream) has been is how underrated their center is -- Jamaal Magloire. Put that guy in the eastern conference and he'd probably be the third best center in the league (behind Shaq and Eddie Curry). Fortunately for him, we'll get to find that out, thanks to another brilliant move by the Hornets. They traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for Desmond Mason and a first round pick. Magloire is a great young player -- a bit undersized at 6-11, but he rebounds the hell out of the ball, blocks shots, has some very nice post moves on offense, and lives in the paint -- think Theo Ratliff with a decent offensive game. Great pickup for Milwaukee, as they can now move Andrew Bogut to power forward, complementing those two with TJ Ford, Michael Redd, and Bobby Simmons to form what definitely looks like a playoff team in the East. As for New Orleans, they did fill a desperate need at small forward (I watched Desmond Mason play in Seattle for a full season and he is a very exciting player to watch) and acquired a first round pick. Yawn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blazers' Preseason

In the words of George Costanza ... "I'm back, baby!!". The NBA season is nearly upon us and BlazersBlog is back in a regular posting rotation. Portland is 2-4 in the preseason, we're already looking shakey, and there are health concerns. All before game 1. Welcome to Portland TrailBlazers baksetball, '06 style!

We've got 8 days until the first regular season game, and what better way to kick off the NBA Preseason than a reader email? I received this from loyal reader and official correspondent "Dr. Michael Mancini" today:
Some serious answers to the big questions were given last night. Nate played his regular season rotation and the team apparently looked pretty solid. People panic early in this town, I’m as guilty as anyone, but this might be reason to be less worried than I was. The starting line up was as predicted, Telfair, Chaz, Miles, Z-bo, and Joel. Z-bo is not going to be playing 40 a night for a while, probably in the 25-28 range so Reuben is getting a lot of time there and the focal point of the offense is Miles. Get him the ball in the low post, 1 on 1 situations, or in transition with Telfair running the break. This isn’t a major surprise, the surprise comes with
the bench rotation. Jarrett Jack and Juan Dixon are the backup guards and Jack a lot of the time looks better suited to the NBA game than Telfair at the point. My theory is that Nate’s going to play the hot hand between Dixon and Webster, but the second team is pretty clearly Jack, Dixon, Outlaw, Reuben, and Theo. The Foreign Legion is a non-factor and Webster will obviously see a little action but that’s still a little unclear outside of my own personal theories. Bottom line, the sky is not falling, they aren’t going to go 10-72, relax and take a deep breath.

A couple of thoughts on this. First of all, if I'm reading this correctly, it appears that our playing rotation is looking something like this:

PG: Sebastian Telfair, Jarret Jack
SG: Charles Smith, Juan Dixon
SF: Darius Miles, Travis Outlaw
PF: Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson
C: Joel Pryzbilla, Theo Ratliff

Other roster members: Ha-Seung Jin, Sergei Monya, Victor Khryapa, Steve Blake, Martell Webster

Secondly, I'd speculated after the draft and once we saw the lack of trades that the Russian Mafia, Martell Webster, and Steve Blake would all be seeing plenty of "DNP"'s this season and that appears to be the case. By mentioning "Chaz", I'm assuming that Dr. Mike is referring to Charles Smith. I like it; let's go with it for now. Given that we've already got a small point guard, Portland can't start Juan Dixon at shooting guard or they'd have an impossibly small starting backcourt -- and we all saw how well that worked out last year, with our Tiny Tandeom of Damon/NVE. Which means the options for this season boil down to either Chaz or our dear friend Martell Webster. If there's one thing I learned from the three NBA Summer League games I was able to watch, it's that Webster isn't ready yet for consistent playing time; let alone a starting gig. So while he may grow into it this season, I don't think we should count on seeing a whole lot of Webster on the floor for Portland; at least for the first 20 games or so.

Thirdly, I'm still worried about our backup PF. Ruben's a nice bench player. He doesn't execute terribly well but he does provide energy, hustle, and spark to the team off of the bench ... but he does that from the wing and on the break; not on the post. If Zbo truly will only be playing 25-28 minutes per game, we're going to have a big, gaping hole in the post when he's out of the game. Hopefully Theo Ratliff will be able to step in and play some significant minutes, which he hasn't been able to do in a year and a half.


More info coming tomorrow. In the meantime, a bit of site news:
  1. We'll be sending in a full roster evaluation and Western Conference review/prediction column out before the first games; stay tuned for that over the weekend.
  2. Due to the spammers hitting up my message boards (if any of you need a home loan apparently this has become the place to advertise), until I figure out how to stop them I'll have to shut off the readers' ability to post messages. My apologies on that. In the meantime, please email me at and I promise to post as much reader interaction as possible.

After a long hiatus ...

BlazersBlog is back! My sincere apologies for the lack of posting ... a new job, a long vacation, a series of weddings, and several other items have kept me away. But I've got my analysis ready, my NBA Season Pass ordered, and will be back with twice-a-week columns (at least) starting this week.

Stay tuned ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blazers' Questions Answered on ESPN Chat

Mark Stein, John Hollinger, and Chad Ford did a 90-minute combo chat today, and a Blazer questions arose:

Paul (Portland, OR): I hate to ask, but what do you see for the Trail Blazers? Other than D.Miles they don't seem to have as many "problem children", but are obviously very young. I read recently that Zach Randolph's knee rehab is going very well. What do you think?

John Hollinger: Yes, the site of Z-Bo taking his mountain bike through the Portland suburbs must be a site to behold. I think the Blazers are still too young to contend for a playoff spot, but they're going to be really good in a couple years if they don't screw things up.

Zbo has been spotted riding his bike through the Portland suburbs? Can any of you expand on this?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More On Blake

From's John Hollinger (arguably the most underrated hoops journlist on the net):

Mark (The OC): John, Thanks for the good work. With Chad out, it is nice to know that ESPN had Tom Brady waiting the in wings... ...quick question- is Portland attempting to become the West Coast version of the Wizards? With the signing of Blake (or at least the intent to sign him) how will the backcourt minutes be divided? Is there still the thought that Telfair is the future? I know he had a great Summer League, however, with Blake and Dixon on board... Mark

John Hollinger: Thanks, although this comparison unfairly compares Chad to Drew Bledsoe. I'd like to think of it more as Montana handing off to Steve Young ... at any rate, don't worry about Telfair, he's still their guy. Blake isn 't any kind of threat to become a starter, and he'll be battling for scraps with Jarrett Jack as the backup. Dixon seems headed for the off guard spot and could even start if Martell Webster proves unready.

Blazers Sign Steve Blake

The Blazers signed restricted free agent Steve Blake to a contract yesterday, inking their second Washington Wizard. Blake is a "crafty" guard who is a mediocre shooter but knows how to run an offense and is a heady player.

At least, that's his reputation. If you look at his numbers last year (he sprained an ankle and only played in 44 games), he averaged about 15 minutes per game and put up 4.3 points, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 rebounds while shooting 37%. I suppose that I'm okay with this move, because fundamentally you can't count on a 2nd-year man and a rookie to give you 48 minutes of point guard play for an entire season, so you can make the argument that Portland needed another point guard. However, this tells me a couple of things about Portland:

1. They don't have much confidence in Jarret Jack. Fair enough, the kid's a rookie. Still, a bizarre draft pick.
2. They view Juan Dixon as a 2-guard. Between Telfair, Dixon, and Jack, Portland would have been fine at point guard. Between Telfair and Jack, probably not. Hence you can see that Portland isn't envisioning getting a whole lot of minutes out of Dixon at the point, likely due to his need to play shooting guard. I think Webster's showing in summer league (where he frequently looked lost on the court) may have contributed to this.
3. He's an insurance policy for Telfair.
4. All of this is probably moot, because Washington will likely match the contract.

John Nash's comment read "Nate wanted a perimeter threat at the point guard position". One thing we do know about Blake is that he can hit a three. Last season he shot 39% from 3-point. The key is not letting him take any other shots (33% from the field overall, which means when you take out his three pointers -- which were exactly half of his shots -- he put up 27% on non-three-point shots). So if you're looking for a guy to come off the bench, play a little point, and shoot a few threes, fine. If you're looking for anything more than that, you're out of luck.

My apologies for the lack of posts lately ... went on vacation, started a new job, and took a business trip. We'll be back on a regular schedule in October.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Catching Up On Blazer News

We're in the slow part of the NBA offseason. The draft and free agency are over (for the most part, that is unless Scott Padgett joining the Nets tittilates you), the summer leagues are complete, and the teams' individual camps haven't started yet. A chance for all of us to take a breath and focus on other things (the Oregon Ducks winning their first football game, for example). Here's what's going on with the Blazers:
  •'s Chad Ford predicted that Portland will finish 14th out of 15 in the Western Conference this year.
  • Damon Stoudamire has been crying about Portland's upper-management to anyone who will listen in the media. First, it was John Canzano. Then it was Dwight Jaynes. (Did you know, by the way, that Dwight Jaynes is a right-wing conservative who is very open about his Christianity?)
  • Zach Randolph, for the second year in a row, is doing the "Basketball Without Borders Africa" Tour. This is a very cool program that promotes friendship, healthy living, and education, and is targeted to young people. Here is a link with a story about it.
  • Nick Van Exel signed with the Spurs. This is a weird signing that we haven't talked about much on this site. The Spurs are the NBA's version of the New England Patriots, and a big part of their success is due to their team chemistry and the players' understanding of their roles. I get that Gregg Popovic wanted some depth at point guard behind Tony Parker, and some offense off the bench, but Van Exel can be a head case. I got a message from a friend the other day who's a Spurs fan that read: "Spurs + Finley = Championship. Spurs + Finley + Van Exel = 2nd round exit." Hard to argue.
  • Portland's website has a Q&A article with assistant coach Maurice Lucas here.

And one final note: Yes I realize that I led you astray with four of my five recommendations not panning out for last weekend's college football bets. And you thought I was just going to sweep that under the rug? Nonsense my friends. I'm going to make it up to you. Last season I started tracking my football gambling very closely; and I'll be honest with you: I learned that I'm much, much better at identifying profitable NFL lines than I am at college lines. So you shouldn't listen to me when it comes to college football betting. Would have been nice to share that with you prior to the 1-4 week, eh? Well, there you have it. So, following are five NFL games (the lines came out today) that you must bet on during week one. Week One betting lines are frequently as much as seven points off what they'd normally be, and it's the easiest week to make money. Anyhow, with the exception of the Philadelphia game, I wouldn't place these bets yet -- wait until Saturday so you know everything you can about injuries, etc.
  1. Denver -5 @ Miami
  2. Cincinnatti -4 @ Cleveland
  3. Buffalo -5 vs Houston
  4. St. Louis -6 @ San Francisco
  5. Philadelphia -2.5 @ Atlanta

Enjoy the start of the NFL season. In the meantime, once Portland breaks camp we'll take an in-depth look at the roster.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Non-Basketball Related Football Gambling Post of the Week

Since we don't have much Blazer news to talk about, why not discuss gambling? I just know that some of you out there have "the sickness". It's a beautiful thing. With the first big week of college football underway, let's talk about the lines that look good this week.

Hawaii +35 vs USC. Not that I think Hawaii can win this game; I don't, I think USC wins easily. I do however think that Hawaii can put up enough points at home against a team playing its first game after losing their offensive coordinator to keep it closer than 35.

Michigan -19 vs Northern Illinois. Michigan is a terrific team this year and one of my "dark horses" (if you can call a #4 ranked team that) to meet up with USC in the Rose Bowl. Northern Illinois is a mediocre team from a mediocre conference, and this game could get ugly. Love Michigan to cover and then some.

Texas A&M -3 @ Clemson. Have you seen A&M's quarterback Reggie McNeal? The kid is the fastest player on the field, has a cannon arm, and is a big-time playmaker. A&M will surprise some people this year as they have a legitimate chance to win the Big 12 South and I like them to beat Clemson by more than a field goal.

Teaser Bet: Auburn vs Ga Tech and UCLA @ San Diego State. If you tease these two games, the lines drop to Auburn -1 and UCLA -4. Two teriffic lines. A lot of poeople feel that UCLA will be right there in the mix competing for second place in the Pac 10; I like them to win without too much difficulty at SDSU. Auburn, despite losing their top two running backs, is still a loaded team who's got a ton of speed on defense. Getting them at home at only -1 is a solid bet.

We'll keep track of our record throughout the year as a little side-plot while following the Blazers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Finley Chooses Spurs

And the rich get richer.

Michael Finley shared with on Wednesday night that he had agreed to sign with the NBA's version of the New England Patriots, the San Antonio Spurs. Terms of the deal, including both total money and length of conract, haven't been finalized yet but the one thing we do know is that Finley will recieve a starting salary of $2.5 million.

After annoncing that the Denver Nuggets were not candidates for his services (despite being the only team who could guarantee all of a starting spot, lots of minutes, and the full $5 million mid-level exception), Finley had narrowed his choices down to the Heat, Suns, Twolves, and Spurs. Clearly, the main factor for Finley was which team could give him the best opportunity to win a championship. The Spurs couldn't have asked for anything more; they were already the best team in the NBA and they've just gotten better.

Finley will come off the bench for San Antonio, playing both the "2" and the "3" wing spots, spelling both Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen. He'll provide a fantastic offensive threat off the bench and provide much needed three-point shooting to a team that was already short on weaknesses. Finley's ability to knock down jumpers will only make Tim Duncan better, if that's possible, exploiting his fantastic skils even further. Additionally, this puts an even bigger gap between San Antonio and Phoenix, keeping Finley out of Phoenix where he would have been a viable replacement for the departed Joe Johnson.

Three final points on this:

1. What does that mean for Brent Barry? He was rumored to be on the trading block already, and this acquisition pushes him to fourth on the depth chart. One might point out that he could be used as a backup point guard, but then why did the team just sign Nick Van Exel? My money says that Barry is traded before the season begins.

2. This has got to drive Dallas fans (and thier front office) crazy. They cut the guy who was with the team since it's bottom-feeder days, whom they watched blossom into a star and wanted to finish his career there, only to see him go to their biggest rival to most likely help them win another championship. Brutal. Now they'll know how Red Sox fans felt watching Roger Clemens win two championships with the Yankess.

3. I think it's worth noting that all of the "final four" teams who were in the mix for Finley's services were summoned to Chicago to make their pitches. The Suns sent Amare Stoudamire and a group of guys. The Heat sent Pat Riley and a group of guys. The Timberwolves sent Kevin Garnett and a group of guys. Who did the Spurs send? Gregg Popovic and ... um, well, just Gregg Popovic. The guy beat out all of those other big names to win Finley over. Incredible.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Catching Up

My apologies for the post-less week last week ... I've been out of the country. There hasn't been much Blazer news for us to talk about, but the leage has been relatively active. Catching up on other items around the league:
  • Michael Finley. The Nuggets are out, leaving the Suns, Spurs, Twolves, and Heat as the final three contenders for Big Mike's services. Many people thought that with the Nuggets being the only team who could offer Finley a guaranteed starting position that they'd have the upper-hand, but they were ultimately the farthest team away from a championship and that's what cost them. This isn't a big shock, as they weren't invited to Chicago to pitch to Finley and his agent (as the other four were). Phoenix is rumored to be the front-runner, which has got to have Mark Cuban wincing ... I imagine he's hoping that Mike lands in Miami. it will be very tough for Dallas fans to watch Finley playing for another western conference contender next year. Either way, he's expected to announce his decision today or tomorrow.
  • Latrell Sprewell. With the Nuggets missing out on Finley, they promptly moved over and signed Latrell Sprewell. Terms of te deal haven't been announced yet, but I imagine is a two-year MLE deal. I'm not convinced that this was a smart move by Denver; it smells a little bit of desperation. Sprewell is not a good guy, and an average-at-best player these days. Is it really worth tying up your MLE with a risky signing? One of few moves that Denver's made in the past two years that haven't made sense to me. We'll dive into this more once we find out the terms of the deal.
  • Derek Anderson. The NBA's first amnesty-victim, he's found a home in Houston. Fortunately for Rocket fans, the deal is only a two-year deal worth $1.67 million. To quote my man Bill Simmons, "there's comedy, there's high-comedy, and then there's this" ... Houston GM Carroll Dawson when talking about the signing:
    "We think we've added another top-line piece of the puzzle and a great talent. To get a guy like this I feel very blessed. There are many ways that this guy can help our team."
    Now that's quality. Do you think that Dawson refers to him as "guy" twice in a row is because he's afraid he'll throw up in his own mouth if he has to say his name out loud? Yes, there are many ways Derek Anderson can help your team. Let's count a few of them: 1. When he's on the bench, it doesn't drag down your offense. 2. When he's on the bench, he's not a liability on defense. 3. When he's playing, all of those missed jumpers create chances for your frontcourt players to pad their stats with offensive rebounds. 4. He'll give your trainer and team doctor something to do nearly every night with petty injuries such as aching toe and throbbing tooth.
  • Jalen Rose. Rumors have the Raptors and TWolves talking trade, with Jalen Rose reportedly headed to Minnesota. That's an interesting thought. It's well known that Michael Olowokandi is available. Then, the Raptors could have three crappy, overpaid centers on their roster, with Olowokandi, Rafael Araujo, and Charlie Villanueva. (alright, that's a bit early to label Villanueva, but does anyone really think he'll be an allstar?)

That's about it for today. Be on the lookout tomorrow for a possible guest-columnist ... and in the meatime, email with your thoughts. It's a slow time in the NBA and this is a great time to post your thinking.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Portland's Roster & The Michael Finley Sweepstakes

Nothing new out of Blazerland over the past couple of days, other than statements from the front office that the roster, as its set now, is likely the roster that the team will go into opening day with. Despite having only one power forward on the roster. Personally, I don't buy it -- I imagine they'll make an October deal to bring one in -- ideally, unloading one of the small forwards.

But, I digress. Many of you likely noticed that Brian Grant, a long time blazer fan-favorite, was amnesty'd by the LA Lakers. I received more than a couple emails from hopeful fans thinking that he'd be a great fit here: he's willing to sign a small deal (his agent has made it known that he'd be fine with a one-year, $1.1 million veteran's minimum contract), plays the only position we have a true need at right now, and would provide some much-needed veteran presence in the locker room. Yet, rumors have him all set to sign with Phoenix. So why didn't Portland sign him? It sounds like Grant had some issues with Portland's team. Observe:
“Would I like to come back to Portland? Yes. My home is here. We love it here. From my heart and my family, we want to be here. But it’s not going to happen under the current circumstances. I just had one request. Bring in another veteran or two, guys with experience who could be a locker-room presence but would also help make the team more competitive. (The Blazers) are very, very young, and everybody knows they’re going to struggle next season. They let (Nick) Van Exel, (Damon) Stoudamire and (Shareef) Abdur-Rahim go, and got nothing in return.“At this stage in my career, I can’t go through three years of a rebuilding program.”

Very interesting. It sounds like he's not necessarily excluding non-championship-caliber teams, but he doesn't want to play grandpa for a bunch of high school kids and be the only guy doing so. I'm a little suprirsed to read that coming from Grant, but I guess when you've got 20 teams coming after you, one can afford to be a little picky.

Mike Finley

I've always like Michael Finley ... seems like a classy guy, played hard, stuck with a terrible franchise and was their main building block in getting them to be one of the league's most successful franchises over the past five years. Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks amnesty'd him as expected, and he's now a free agent. Mark Stein over at has a nice breakdown of the teams likely to sign him here, and it appears that Miami is the front runner. Yes, the same Miami who currently has on its roster Shaquille O'Neal, Dwayne Wade, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem, and James Posey. That's a lot of players who need starter-type minutes, and a lot of players who expect to take 10-20 shots a night. If Miami does indeed sign Finley, might they run into the same issues that Portland ran into in the late 90's/early 2000's, with "too much talent" on a team and not enough basketballs to go around? Especially with volatile personalities like Jason Williams and Antoine Walker? I love Miami's team and think they're the favorite to win the East next season regardless of whether they sign Finley, but chemistry, playing time, and number of shot issues could certainly pop up on them next year.

Random side note ... did you know that Finley played for Stan Van Gundy at Wisconsin?

As for the other teams vying for his services, it apparently includes Phoenix, San Antonio, Detroit, and Denver. Finley and Steve Nash are very close friends, and San Antonio probably provides the best opportunity to win a championship, so watch those two situations closely as well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NBA Schedule Announced

This actually happened yesterday, but the NBA announced its schedule for the 2005-06 season. You can see the full schedule here, see the national TV schedule here, and see the Blazers' schedule here.

The first month of the season starts off tough. Portland opens the regular season on the road at Minnesota and Denver, then comes home for a five-game homestand versus Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Golden State. Not too bad, right? Following this, they go on their longest road-trip of the year, seven games on the east coast. They will be on national TV eight times this season:
  1. Friday Nov. 11th vs Detroit, 7:30 pm, ESPN
  2. Sunday Dec. 11th vs Houston, 6:00 pm, NBATV
  3. Wednesday Dec. 28th vs Philly, 7:00, NBATV
  4. Sunday Jan. 16th vs Cleveland, 6:00, NBATV
  5. Monday Jan. 30th @ Seattle, 7:00, NBATV
  6. Friday Feb. 3rd vs Minnesota, 7:30, ESPN
  7. Tuesday Feb 21st @ LA Lakers, 7:30, NBATV
  8. Wednesday Mar. 29th vs Sacramento, 7:00, ESPN

Clearly the networks aren't expecting a ton of success out of Portland this season. Can't blame them.

Update: Nets Rescind Offer to Abdur-Rahim

The New Jersey Nets this afternoon announced that they were rescinding their offer to Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and hence voiding the trade with the Blazers. This means that Portland won't be, after all, getting that lottery-protected first round pick from New Jersey next year and Rahim will be a free agent.

This is kind of a shame, and more than I'm disappointed that Portland isn't getting that pick, I'm shocked at New Jersey. If I were a Nets fan, I'd be awfully pissed off ... after all of the haggling, they kill the deal over a knee injury that Shareef suffered in high school, and one he's never missed an NBA game for? Between that and Shareef's comments over the weekend that he "didn't want to play there" anymore, it's a very bizarre turn of events. I imagine Shareef will land on his feet somewhere, likely for the full mid-level exception -- but it really makes you think that something else happened.

Catching Up on Several Blazer Items

Happy Anniversary!

You are probably saying to yourself, "what are you talking about?". Well, today is the one-week anniversary of Derek Anderson's ostracization from Portland's roster. He's been dead to me for a long time, and I know that I'm celebrating this past week as a watershed week; an epiphany; a movement away from past bad times and towards future good times; a "team-changing deciscion" if you will.

My apologies for the length between posts ... a tough week of work and a long weekend vacation combined to steal all my BlazersBlog time.

Not a whole lot of news out of the Blazers over the past week, but we do have several items to talk about. Without further ado ...

Derek Anderson

Good riddance. In case my post last week and the first two paragraphs above don't make clear what my thoughts on the team getting rid of DA are, let me spell it out: the man can't play basketball any more. As soon as the amnesty clause was made public, I wrote that he'd likely be the victim, and I couldn't be happeir that he's off the roster. He was a decent swing man for a couple of years with the Clippers and Spurs, but he's a terrible player now, and I personally hope that these rumors about the Lakers being interested in them are true. Some thoughts from long time BlazersBlog reader and correspondent Lochi on DA's "career" as a Blazer:
He played one year in San Antonio after being rescued from the purgatory that is Clipper-ville where he was actually a pretty darn good player. For the Spurs, DA averaged 15.5 points per game, played in all 82 games, shot 41.6% from the floor and 39.9% from beyond the arc. That is solid. Then he got his big deal with the Blazers, oh happy day. He’s been pretty much a steaming pile ever since and his only major contribution would be that he’s been able to get hurt and not play, hence not hurting the team with his tremendous brick laying. He’s played in 70, 76, 51, and 47 games in 4 years. Shot 40.4%, 42.7 % (actually pretty decent in 02/03), and then the amazing nose dive to 37.6% and 38.9% the last 2 years. Beyond the arc is where it gets really frightening, 37.3%, 35.0%, 30.5% (holy hell), and 38.4%. On the bright side, he did manage to take almost 1,000 three pointers in those 4 years while he was trying to injure people in the front row with the carom off the rim. I think for every black eye he caused he got a bonus in his contract or something.

That's ugly, folks. How appropriate is it that DA was the first player amnesty'd and that Portland was the first team to use it? Great stuff. Clearly, Travis Outlaw's play in the summer league has convinced management that he can play significant minutes at the "2", and you can make an argument that this development was what allowed Portland to waive DA. Thank you, Travis.

Nick Van Exel

I was disappointed to see that Portland wasn't able to get anything for NVE's contract. As most of you know, his contract is voidable this season (meaning you can waive him without penalty), and any team who wanted $12 million in salary cap relief could have easily traded for him, waived him, and immediately saved that money off of their cap. Portland's roster already has too many players on it, so I'll grant John Nash that there wasn't much he could get back -- but you'd think he could find some way to bring something back in return. We've got a glutton of small forwards, couldn't NVE's contract and one of those guys have brought something significant back in return?

The Shareef Deal

Honestly, this whole thing cracks me up. One day, Shareef is saying "I want to be a New Jersey Net, this is the best place for me, and I will sign there even if it is for the mid-level exception." Then Portland and New Jersey reach a trade agreement, Shareef gets more money, he flunks his physical and then says he doesn't want to be there after all. However, New Jersey still might accept him anyways, and he might still end up there anyways. It's been quality entertainment. As for the first-round pick that Portland will get from New Jersey, I suppose it would be a nice trade asset, but we have enough young guys and I'm really quite ambivalent about whether or not we get that pick. Not sure why. I wish Shareef luck in New Jersey if he does end up there (which I suspect he will).

Blazer Roster

Going by the position traditionally played, the squad currently looks like this:

PG: Telfair, Dixon, Jack
SG: Outlaw, Dixon, Webster, Monia
SF: Miles, Patterson, Outlaw, Khryapa
PF: Randolph, Ratliff
C: Pryzbilla, Ratliff, Ha

There are a couple of things that jump out:
  1. I'm convinced that Outlaw is the starting "2" right now.
  2. We have too many small forwards.
  3. We need a backup PF.
  4. Jack, Monia, Webster and Khryapa are going to get a lot of "DNP-Coach's Decision"'s.

You may also notice that that's fourteen players. It's a bizarre mix right now. My thinking is that Ratliff can get as many as 30 minutes per game backing up the PF and C spots, Dixon can get the same in the SG and PG spots, Patterson will be the third guy off the bench, and those three plus the starting five will likely get the bulk of the minutes. I'd love it if Portland sent Khryapa, Monia and Ha to the NBA Developmental League where they could get some real on-court minutes and we could start to figure out what we have in these guys.

And Finally, a Non-Blazer Note

Allow me to digress from basketball for a moment and get a bit sentimental about another sport -- baseball. My all-time favorite baseball player and childhood hero (he shared the duties with Terry Porter and Clyde the Glide), Ryne Sandberg, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame two weekends ago and he gave a fantastic induction speech. Known as one of baseball's more conservative guy, I don't think he gave a controversial quote during his entire career. You can read the whole thing here, but I'd like to give a few particular portions some BlazersBlog love (I'm sure that Ryne-o can sleep at night now). Enjoy ...

"As I look behind me here, wow, at the greatest players in the history of the game, I am in awe. I know that if I had ever allowed myself to think this was possible, if I had ever taken one day in pro ball for granted, I’m sure I would not be here today. This will come as a shock I know, but I am almost speechless."

"The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the game a certain way, that I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I don’t know about that, but I do know this: I had too much respect for the game to play it any other way, and if there was there was a single reason I am here today, it is because of one word, respect. I love to play baseball. I’m a baseball player. I’ve always been a baseball player. I’m still a baseball player. That’s who I am."

"Everything I am today, everything I have today, everything I will ever be is because of the game of baseball, not the game you see on TV or in movies, baseball, the one we all know, the one we played with whiffle ball bats pretending to be Yaz or Fisk or Rose, in dirt fields and in allies. We all know that game. The game fit me because it was right. It was all about doing things right. If you played the game the right way, played the game for the team, good things would happen. That’s what I loved most about the game, how a ground out to second with a man on second and nobody out was a great thing. Respect."

"The fourth major league game I ever saw in person, I was in uniform. Yes, I was in awe. I was in awe every time I walked on to the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your
organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. Make a great play,
act like you’ve done it before, get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases, hit a home run, put your head down, drop the bat, run round the bases, because the name on the front is a lot more important than the name on the back. That’s respect."

"People like Harry Caray and Don Zimmer used to compare me, they used to compare me to Jackie Robinson. Can you think of a better tribute than that? But Harry, who was a huge supporter of mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit 40 homers or steal 50 bases drive in a hundred runs is the best bunter on the team. Nice? That was my job. When did it become okay for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game? A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect. If this validates anything, it’s that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera."

"I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here today. I hope others in the future will know this feeling for the same reason: Respect for the game of baseball. When we all played it, it was mandatory. It’s something I hope we will one day see again. Thank you, and go Cubs."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Derek Anderson's Rotting Corpse Has Been Amnesty'd

... and will no longer be a part of the Portland TrailBlazers. What we all anticipated has come to bear. Good riddance! More on this and other Blazer items tomorrow ... check back around noon PST for a plethora of BlazersBlog thoughts.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blazers Sign Juan Dixon

The Washington Post is reporting that the Blazers have agreed to a three-year, $8 million contract with former Washington Bullet Juan Dixon.

It's a nice little signing for Portland. And I do mean "little", in that he's not the biggest guy. Dixon is 6-3, 160 lb shooting guard, and that 160 is generous. His rep is that he can shoot it when he's hot; although his percentages (41.6% FG, 32.7% 3pt) aren't pretty, so I question that a bit. His PPS (points-per-shot) was a very pedestrian 1.13, and assist-to-turnover ration of about 2-1. He's not necessarily a great defender or ballhandler, but he is a smart player and a great character guy. Smooth but unspectacular. He is the University of Maryland's all-time leading scorer and led them to a national championship in 2002. Plus, he's got a nice little 'stache, which is always a positive. While there is a part of me that says "why?" when reading about this signing, there are two reasons why I like it:

  1. 1. He's a guy who CAN start at the 2, but he doesn't HAVE to start at the 2. Meaning he functions both as a stop-gap to play some minutes until Martell Webster is ready and as a player who can do a little scoring off the bench once Martell turns into Ray Allen.
  2. This means that DA is likely the amnesty casualty. Anything that gets DA farther away from this team is OK by me.

I don't see Dixon starting; that will likely be Outlaw at the "2", but I do see him playing 15 minutes per game off the bench at the shooting guard spot and taking some serious pressure off of Webster. I do have some concerns about Dixon and Telfair playing at the same time in the backcourt; that would be an awfully tiny set of guards who's defense would bring back awful nighmares of last year's Stoudamire/Van Exel tiny tandem, and we certainly don't need that again. I'll be curious to see how Nate uses him; I could envision Dixon playing a both a big of SG (especially alongside Jack if he gets much PT) and even putting in some backup PG minutes.

You'll probably remember his pro career best from game four of the first round of the playoffs this year, when he scored 35 points against the Bulls. As the story goes, he had a terrible night in game 3 and begged his coach for another shot, which he received, and promptly went out and dropped the hammer. Speaking of Dixon's scoring, his career averages are just over 8 points and just under 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes per game. Decent enough for a bench player I suppose.

Nonetheless, he'll do for now. It's a good time in his career to pick up Dixon, and it's a very low-risk signing.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Blazers complete Shareef Trade with Nets

Well, give John Nash credit: he won the game of chicken.

Knowing that New Jersey wanted to give Shareef the 6-year, $38 million contract he deserves, and knowing that New Jersey couldn't make that offer without Portland, and knowing that New Jersey would have had to use it's full Mid-Level Exception to sign Shareef and then would not have been able to use it on another player, Nash held firm to his demands that Portland wanted a first-round pick in addition to New Jersey's trade exception in order to complete a sign-and-trade with the Nets. And, he got it. Portland last night agreed to the sign-and trade, sending Shareef Abdur Rahim to New Jersey in exchange for a first-round pick next season and their $5 million trade exception.

This is, quite honestly, a win-win situation for both teams and the player. Shareef gets the money he wanted, Portland gets their draft pick, and New Jersey added a very nice starting-caliber power forward to their club while keeping their mid-level exception to sign a backup poing guard (likely Keyon Dooling). The Blazers didn't want to receive any players in return for this deal -- as documented here, we've got plenty of those already -- and didn't have much use for the trade exception as it still counts against the luxury tax. Hence, it was a first-round trick that was going to do the trick, and a first round pick they got. Granted, it's lottery protected, and as a matter of fact there are additional restrictions on the pick (I'm trying to find out exactly what they are) that may push it past 2006 -- but nonetheless, everyone's happy.

The Blazers now have three picks in next year's first round: their own, the pick they acquired that belonged to Detroit on draft night, and now the New Jersey pick. The last thing Portland needs is another slew of youngsters, so those will make for some interesting trade bait items for the rest of this offseason and this upcoming year.

In other news, how about what the Nets have done? You have to give GM Rod Thron some credit. Following the team letting Kenyon Martin go, he took a lot of heat ... but since then has added Vince Carter, extended Richard Jefferson, added Shareef and now likely adding Keyon Dooling. Things are looking up for New Jersey.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

NBATV: It's Fan-Tastic!

Game 2.

Once again, our friends at NBATV decided to show us another week-old Blazer summer-league game. This game featured Portland’s C-team versus the Bullets’ C-team. How better to dignify our opponent than utilizing their old name as my post format?
  • Webster’s jump shot looks silky smooth. The more I see it, the more I love it. Even if he only contributes as a pull-up shooter this season, that’s fine by me.
  • Nedzad “Ned” Sinanovic is so bad, it’s a joke. So many follies to choose from just in the first half alone … what do we point out? Getting one of his shots blocked by someone six inches shorter? His tip-in that drew only glass? Fumbling the ball and midcourt? No, I select the very beginning of the game. My personal favorite Nasty Ned Folly of the first quarter was the opening tip off. Or, should I say, both of them. The first tip-off, the opposing center jumped too eary, and Ned scooped the ball directly behind him, straight off of the hands of an opposing team player. The ref blew the whistle and lined everyone up for a re-tipoff (not that the announcers felt the need to tell us why; I assume because Ned’s scoop was deemed illegal which would seem to me that Washington would simply get the ball but let’s not digress). Anyhow, they re-jumped, the opposing center jumped too early again, which was funny enough, but Ned followed it up by scooping the ball to the other team, again. Quality work.
  • Speaking of The Bullets, not a game note, but the action is lulling … looks like we won’t be signing Antonio Daniels after all because they did. Which is too bad. He wold have been a great fit here – but we can’t blame him for wanting more job security. Washington gave him a five-year deal, and it’s doubtful that Portland was offering much more than 3 years at the most.
  • As hot as Outlaw was yesterday (make that a week ago yesterday), he’s really forcing shots tonight, and nothing is falling. At least he’s aggressive with the ball, but he’s a bit of a black hole … once you pass him the ball, it’s never coming back.
    Telfair is going headband-less tonight. Worth nothing.
  • Webster was working on a variety of moves; it’s clear he’s trying to establish that he can do more than jump-shoot. He took a couple of fadeaways and posted up a smaller player. Good to see him trying to add to his weaponry. In the second quarter, he also made a very nice save of a loose ball in the corner: jumped, spun, and fired an overhead pass straight into an open shooter’s arms in the second quarter. Nifty maneuver.

John Nash visited with the announcers during the second quarter. Highlights:

  • When asked about Sinanovic: “He was drafted at a time before I got to Portland. He’s made progress, he still looks a little raw, he has fresh legs because he didn’t play last night. Ned can block shots and rebound.”
  • On Telfair: “He’s well beyond his years in terms of basketball acumen. But we still want to bring in someone to challenge him, and that might be Jarret Jack, but we might bring in a veteran. We’ve been talking to a couple of veteran free agents and might bring one in.”
  • I’d like to thank the two announcers for not asking him about Martell Webster or Travis Outlaw. WTF is that? “How much playing time do you envision Webster getting?” “Is Outlaw a candidate to start at shooting guard or do you want to keep him as a small forward?” “What have you thought of Outlaw’s defense so far?” … not that there was anything they could have asked him.

Nate McMillan joined the announcers as well…

  • When asked about Telfair’s failed attempted alley-oops: “I just keep telling myself that this is summer-league ball. The players will try those plays in summer league.”
    “One thing I want to work with him on is how to learn to win.”
  • “We’re going in a much different direction now than they were last year. We are going to have to learn to grow on the fly, on the floor.”
  • How surprised are you that your situation panned out with Portland? “I was trying to negotiate something with Seattle that made sense … after a couple of weeks, just talking to Portland and John Nash and Mr. Allen about the club and what they wanted to accomplish, that got me excited …I just felt like, I’m still young enough, this is my fifth year of coaching. I can take a job like this. It’s a rebuild. I felt like … it would be a challenge and I have time to accept a challenge like this.”
  • When asked about some of the other younger players: “Travis is only 20 years old, and he has the ability to create his own shot off the dribble, out to the fifteen-foot range… the only thing that can help these guys is time on the floor.”
  • Do you have any idea what your rotation will be? “I’m thinking about it, but really I don’t determine that. Those guys will (the players). All of them will have the opportunity to start and play. The guys’ play out on the floor will determine that.”
  • On Martell Webster: “He has really impressed me. Martell and my son played AAU ball together, so I’ve had a chance to see him for a long time.. I’m really impressed with him at the offensive end of the floor. He just looks like he belongs in the NBA. Like Travis, it will take him a while to figure out the defensive end.”
  • “We’re so young that I can’t hold him back. If he comes to training camp and shows he can play, he will be out there. I don’t care how young you are, how old you are, free agent or all-star, come out and get it done and do the things that your team needs to do win games and you will play.”
  • Have you thought about what it will be like to go back to Seattle? “I know it will be different, and it will be hard for me … I know that once you switch uniforms, they’re on you. They have a really good team up there and good players, and that organization is in good shape.”

Good stuff from Nate. He was a much better interview than Nash, for what it’s worth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Blazers vs Cavs on NBATV

NBATV is broacasting a few of the week-old Las Vegas Summer League games every day, and Portland was on yesterday vs the Cavaliers. A few quick thoughts on the squad:

  1. Telfair looks awesome. He's totally ready to play 30 a night, dish out plenty assists and do some significant scoring. I'm actually almost worried that he looks to score too much, but I think that could be a function of the caliber of players in this league. He looked like an offensive machine at times. The team's offense went to hell when Telfair left the game. He looks bigger, too. Clearly hit the weights and bulked-up this offseason.
  2. Same goes for Outlaw. Despite his receding hairline, he's ready to score 15+ a night in the nba, his jumper looks awesome and he can get off his shot from anywhere. He's got to get consideration for the starting lineup, even if it's at the 2. He really shoots the lights out when he gets hot. You can tell he'll be one of those guys who just collects points in bunches and given the way Portland's offense struggled at times last year, he'll be a breath of fresh air.
  3. Webster ... he's huge. Looks like a power forward out there. Big guy, shot looks good, but not sure he's ready to play consistent backup minutes in the nba quite yet. His jumper looks nice out of his hand, he sets his feet well, releases high and the good sign is that he doesn't need to dribble to shoot it, but so much more goes into getting off a shot in the nba than just getting in the hoop and he's probably not ready yet. Can look a little clumsy at times. I think he's more like a 5-10 minutes a night guy right now. That could be change further into the regular season, but I wouldn't count on him for much more than that at this point. He does a lot of floating around the perimeter on offense, standing behind the three-point line and can really disappear at times (and this is in the summer league). He does go after rebounds on defense and isn't afraid of contact in the paint. He fearlessly attacks the rim on fast breaks as well. The Glen Rice comparisons are understandable. Webster's got a lot of confidence, which is good see in such a young guy.
  4. I really wish we could have seen Jack play.
  5. Sinanovic is terrible. He's like a clumsier, smaller version of Ha and it's hard to see him ever having success in the league.
  6. There isn't a whole lot of defense being played in this league. Portland shot 53% in the first half, Cleveland 58%. It's up-tempo, entertaining basketball. The second half was a bit slower, mainly due to less jumpers falling.
  7. The play where Telfair hurt his wrist (as most of you probably read about last week) was a fast-break where he was attacking the rim, and it appeared to happen after the contact when he fell to the floor.
  8. This team could struggle from the free-throw line this season. Telfair and Outlaw are both a little shakey, and if they're takign as many shots as it looks like they'll be taking, we could see some serious standing-bricks.
  9. The officiating is horrible. Which is nice because it will get these guys ready for the real NBA.
  10. These broadcasts on NBATV kind of suck. Their ticker at the bottom of the screen is too big and annoying, picture quality is mediocre and you never get replays. The score they show on TV doesn't contain either a game clock or a shot clock. Plus, the announcers go off on their own tangents for plays at a time and forget that us viewers need information (such as how much time is left or what the referees' call was). But the ghetto commercials are pretty funny and it gets us our hoops fix. So I'm not complainign ... too much.

Did any of you catch the game? E-mail me here as I'm curious to know what you thought. The next broadcast is tomorrow (Wednesday) at 5:00.

Additionaly, Portland has been making a tiny bit of non-Las Vegas news. Bring me my bullets!

  • Here's to hoping that Portland is able to sign Antonio Daniels. He's a versatile, solid player who will fill two of our needs: a guy who can start at the "2" and play minutes at the point guard. If the club can ink him for a three-year deal at the MLE, I think that's a very nice pickup; I think this would also likely solidify that DA will be the amnesty-casualty. (Good riddance).
  • If Daniels doesn't work out, rumors have Portland considering Juan Dixon. I don't quite understand exactly why they'd want Dixon. He isn't a young guy and would certainly want more than a two- or three-year contract, which it doesnt make a lot of sense for Portland to offer.
  • And let's not forget that we still need a Power Forward. As much as I love Theo Ratliff, I don't know that we can count on him to provide 15 minutes-per-game as a backup to both the C and PF positions -- both from a health standpoint and the fact that he can get a little "plodding" on offense.
  • The Shareef-Abdur Rahim situation: I actually admire the team for sticking to their guns and demanding a first round pick from New Jersey. I don't believe they dropped the ball at all. The trade-exception is nice, but doesn't buy them a whole lot and would still count against the luxury tax, so where's the motivation for the team to make that deal? Either way I'm okay with the situation. If New Jersey acquiesces and gives the first round pick, great. If Abdur-Rahim walks for the MLE and Portland gets nothing in return, that's fine as well. We don't want any players back (we've got plenty of those) and we don't want second-round picks, so if you can't get a first rounder, why take on additional luxury tax burdens?
  • Assuming that both Van Exel and Richie Frahm, two players Portland owns rights to, don't end up on the active roster, and Portland amnesty's DA, and sign either Daniels or Dixon, the Blazers already have twelve guys who deserve spots: Telfair, Jack, Daniels, Webster, Monia, Miles, Patteron, Khryapa, Randolph, Pryzbilla, Ratliff, Ha. And that's without having signed a backup power-forward. One of Ha, Khryapa or Jack can easily start the season on the newly named "inactive list" (formerly known as "injured list", where a team can hide up to three players it doesn't have room on the roster for) and you aren't losing much from your rotation. Clearly, one of those SF's has to go. I imagine it'll be Ruben.