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.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lots of news surrounding player movement, as always this time of year. I love the NBA offseason. It's a blast, with all of the signings, trades, draft, etc ... there seems to be some sort of news every day.

A few items we haven't talked about yet:

Blazer Rumors

I'll refrain from analyzing the same thing that you all have heard 1000 times ... that Portland wants a first round draft pick from New Jersey and the Nets aren't willing to give it. I expect Shareef to end up in New Jersey one way or the other, and it's an interesting storyline to watch. And that's really the only prominent rumor surrounding Portland right now. They've got plenty of young assets and plenty of time to figure out how to shape the roster, so I'm fine with Nash and Patterson sitting back , giving Nate a chance to evaluate exactly what the team's got, and get more aggressive come August.

In other Blazer news, Travis Outlaw has looked fantastic in the Las Vegas Summer League, and Telfair and Outlaw have both looked good as well. I can't decide whether this is funny or unfortunate, but Ha Seung-Jin (who's father's name is Dong-Ki; don't get me started on that) will miss the remainder of the camp with tendonitis in his left knee. We reported here earlier that Ha was out of shape, and the tendonitis injury would seem to jive with that. And in case you're wondering what's up with Sergei Monya, he did secure his VISA - but not in time to join the team for the summer league. He'll be there for fall training camp ... shame.

Cleveland Cavaliers

I think you've got to view their offseason as a success thus far. True, they missed out on Michael Redd -- but they recovered very nicely by adding Larry Hughes. Hughes has had an up-and-down career, but he truly blossomed into one of the NBA's top-tier scorers last year, and he's a very nice defender. He won't give them that deadly outside shooter they'd hoped for, but he'll contribute in many other ways and will look very nice alongside LeBron. Additionally, Cleveland re-upped Big Z, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Ilgauskas, when healthy, is one of the more underrated centers in the league. He's good for 16 and 9 every night, and although the 5 year contract is too long, it's not a terrible deal and I'd probably rank Ilgauskas as the second best center in the Eastern Conference.

Kwame Brown

The Lakers probably got taken in their trade, dealing a veteran backup point guard and Caron Butler to the Wizards for Kwame Brown, but it's impressive that they were able to only sign him to a two-year guaranteed deal, with a team option for a third year. I'm 100% sure that Brown could have received more money from a team like Atlanta or New York, but this is an interesting trade. I'm not sure that Butler was ever going to reach his full potential in LA playing next to Kobe and Lamar Odom, and if Brown doesn't work out, LA has got Will Bynum who will probably be ready to start in a few seasons. I hate saying it , but I think it's a nice deal for the Lake-show.

Jerome James

Another terrible move by the worst GM in sports: Isaiah Thomas. The Knicks are all set to give Jerome James a 5-year deal worth $29 million.

James' career highs, yes that's right not average, but highs, are 5.4 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game. Brutal. I guess that Isaiah figured that since he'd traded one of his centers last season - Nazr Mohammed - and traded another this offseason - Kurt Thomas - and had reached in the draft for a highly overrated center - Channing Frye - that he needed to overommit way too much money to a guy who essentially played two decent games all year, the two playoff games vs the Kings where James claimed he had "finally arrived". Isaiah Thomas is such an absurdly bad GM that I'm baffled Knicks fans are accepting this. Fortunately for him, Nate Robinson has looked fantastic in summer league play (though I'm curious to see how he does when real NBA players are patrolling the paing), masking his mistakes.

LA Clippers

The other team in LA is making some noise, the Clippers. I'll tell you something: I really like that team. It's too bad Shaun Livingston missed most of last year with injuries, or I'd tell you that they could compete for a playoff spot. The clips missed out on Bobby Simmons, but they did land Cuttino Mobley -- who's less of a complete player but more of a pure shooter. The Clippers' starting lineup now looks like this, assuming they resign Marco Jaric: PG - Jaric SG - Mobley SF - Maggette PF - Brand C - Kaman, with Livingston and Wilcox the first few guys off the bench. That's a nice young squad; it's too bad the franchise's history of losing takes over the attitude of all involved. But if they can get some development out of Kaman and Livingston ends up as good as we all think he can be ... watch out.

Friday, July 08, 2005

More McMillan Thoughts & A Blazer Trade Rumor

Two items for today's column.

1. Additional Thoughts on Nate McMillan

Yesterday I wrote that I was hoping for a little more out of Portland's coaching hire. After chewing on it for a day, I've come to the same conclusion that it appears most of you have: it wasn't my top chocie, but let's give the guy a chance.

My personal feelings were that I was hoping they'd hire Marc Iavaroni ... but he would have been, admittedly, a bit of a wild card. McMillan is a safe hire -- you know what you're getting with Nate, a very tough coach who won't put up with any BS and will help out the point guard. I lived in Seattle for nearly three years while Nate was the coach, and while they didn't have a lot of talent on the team, I wasn't ever too impressed with his X's and O's ... but was always impressed with his management style and the way he handled the players as he seemed to be a very good mentor for him.

Here's a quote from Steve Kelly, who's a columnist for the Seattle Times:

"Nate is very good with players, but he's not going to put up with crap in Portland. He's as far from Mo Cheeks as you can get. Darius Miles wouldn't have had an 'N' out of his mouth before Nate would have had a fist down his throat. He's tough, tough, tough, and that's just what that team needs."

Can't argue with that.

What this hiring comes down to is that I'm willing to give McMillan a chance. He really only had one successful year in five seasons in Seattle, but he also didn't have much talent to work with. There's rumblings that his top assistant, Dwayne Casey (now the head coach of the Timberwolves) was the main defensive specialist. Nonetheless, McMillan has done a nice job with Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis -- so hopefully that can translate over to Sebastian Telfair, Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw. Zach Randolph and Joel Pryzbilla are more talented than any low-post players McMillan worked with Seattle. If he can get these guys to run plays on offense and play some serious defense, we'll all have to take our hats off. At the very least, McMillan will have the respect of the players much more so than Cheeks did.

I've received a few emails asking if McMillan was Seattle's coach when Ruben Patterson was a Sonic -- and the answer is "no". So there aren't any loyalties there, for what that's worth. I sent an email to Ian Furness, one of 1080 am's afternoon-drive radio hosts, asking what he thought the sentiment seemed to be in Portland of the hire. His response:
There were a handfulof calls from people who didn't want Mr. Sonic here, but most were very excited. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Nate was offered an average of 5 million a year over 4 years bySeattle. 2) The Blazers offered him an average of 5.5 million over 5 years, witha 6th year a team option. Outside of the extra year, when you add in state income tax and the inconvenience of commuting, I think you can argue it wasn't about the money.
Very interesting point. Let's hope Nate does a great job and we all have man-crushes on him in six months.

2. Portland Trade Rumors

Chad Ford is saying (any time you see those four words, you should know by now to take the subsequent sentences with several grans of salt) that the Timberwolves are interested in two Portland players -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles. The thought here is that Portland would be receiving Wally Szerbiak in return, either straight up for D-Miles (and some additional cap fodder) or in a sign-and-trade for Shareef.

I have mixed feelings on these two deals. Acquiring Wally would be nice, and it would take some pressure off of our young 2-guards, but he's got a monstrous contract that pays out $46 million over the next four years. That's scary, and I don't think Portland wants Martell Webster coming off the bench for that long. Doing a sign-and-trade for Shareef doesn't help Portland's logjam at small forward, and you're adding another wing player who needs 30 minutes per game. So there are "issues" with each deal. Face-value, I like the idea of acquiring one of the league's better 2-guards ... I just don't like his contract. What's the point of acquiring Szerbiak at this juncture? You've already got your 2-guard of the future, why pick up another with a big, long-term contract? The team would be much better in the short term but it may not be the best idea for the long-term.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Blazers Hire McMillan

Passing up an opportunity to be brave and take a chance on a promising young coach, Portland instead today hired a man who's had one year of moderate success and won one playoff series in five years as a head coach, Nate McMillan.

Not only did they forego an opportunity to grab one of the NBA's bright young minds, they made an insane five-year, $30 million commitment to this coach, making him the second-highest paid coach in the NBA.

McMillan is, essentially, a slightly better version of Maurice Cheeks: a players' coach, former point guard, not necessarily an X's and O's guy. He'll do a better job of commanding the respect of the players and installing an offense. They could have done a lot worse, but I was hoping for a little more. What are your thoughts? We'll have more on this later today.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Clarification on Amnesty Clause

I've received a few emails from readers about how this amnesty clause works that was built into the new CBA.

To clarify: in the latest collective bargaining agreement, the owners built in a clause that allows each team to release one player before October 1, and the team will not have to pay luxury tax on that player's salary as they normally would have. The player who is released does still count against the salary cap for the team who cuts him. They also still have to pay the player the full contract amount. Essentially, the only way it helps a club is that they don't have to pay the luxury tax on that particular salary. For teams who are under the cap, they don't pay luxry tax, so it doesn't help them ... it's mainly for teams who are are way over the cap like the Mavericks, Blazers, and Knicks, who could have to pay as much as $2 in luxury tax for every $1 they are over the cap, depending on how far over they are. So, they can essentially save twice the guy's contract in taxes they wouldn't have to pay.

For example, say the cap is $60 million for purposes of this argument, and you have a payroll of $75 million. This team would have to pay$30 million in luxury tax (twice the amount they're over). But if you cut a player making $10 million over the next three years with this amnesty exception, then you're saving $20 million in luxury tax per year, because this player doesn't count against the luxury tax calculation. And you save that money through all three years, for a total of $60 million in tax savings. The player still counts against the salary cap and you still have to pay him $10 mil, but you don't pay the luxury tax against his salary. So releasing a player making $10 million can turn out to be worth much more than that.

So where does this leave Portland? Theo Ratliff has about $11 million per year for three years left on his deal, and Derek Anderson has about $9 million per for two years left on his deal. This would seem to point that Ratliff would be the amnesty casualty ... but he's also got much bigger trade value than Anderson. So stay tuned.

More Blazer Rumors

1. Several of you have reported seeing the Brian Grant rumor ... this being the notion that the LA Lakers will use their amnesty exception and release Brian Grant this offseason, and Portland will then re-sign him for the $1 million veteran's minimum. BlazersBlog correspondent Lochi weighs in:
"I heard last night ... that he's only really interested in signing with Portland and will do so for next to nothing since the Lakers will still have to pay him his big deal. To me this is a no brainer on many levels. He can't play effectively for more than about 10-15 minutes, which is perfect for Z-bo, you don't lose any rebounding when he comes in, and from a PR standpoint it just doesn't get any betterthan this because who didn't love Brian Grant (fans wise I mean). He still has his house here out in Tigard."

Agreed on all counts. This would be a great deal for Portland, both from a backup-PF stance and a PR stance. It seems a little far-fetched but certainly not out of the realm of possibilities.

2. This from Chad Ford's chat today:
Kevin (New Jersey): Hey Chad, how big are the chances of Shareef Abdur Rahim running alongside J Kidd, Vince, and RJ in a Nets uniform next season?

Chad Ford: They are praying. He'd be a great fit there and both Shareef and the Nets know it. The problem is that several other teams like the Spurs are talking sign-and-trade with the Blazers. That allows them to pay more money. The Blazers are trying to work out a Rasho Nesterovic for Abdur-Rahim swap.

Like most of what Ford says, I don't believe this to be true. We don't need Nesterovic -- he makes too much money and Portland already has two centers. I assume this would lead to Ratliff being the amnesty cut, but again, don't put a lot of stock in this.

3. Blazer coaching rumor ... they're supposedly offering McMillan five years and $30 million. This is in response to Seattle's 4-year, $18 million offer. I'm not sure how much faith to put into that number that Portland's offering (why outbid themslves by so much?), but I'm really, really hoping that they don't hire McMillan. Please, people, for the love of god, do the bold thing and give the job to Marc Iavaroni. Hopefully the re-signing of Ray Allen will prompt McMillan to simply use Portland to get more money out of Seattle, but we'll see. This is one time where I'd be happy to see us as a pawn.

4. Non-Blazer-related item: I thought we'd left the era of teams throwing max or near-max deals at second-tier players? Now we're hearing rumors that guys like Joe Johnson, Sam Dalembert, and Eddie Curry could get close to max deals. These guys are very nice players, but maximum contract? It really makes me shake my head that clubs haven't realized the extent to which these contracts saddle teams when players who don't deserve it get them.

Blazer Summer League Update

Portland begins its summer league play tonight (versus the Knicks' squad at 3:00 pm PST), and here's what we're hearing about the team. You can see the team's roster here. The names of note include Telfair, Webster, Jack, Monia, Outlaw, Sinanovic, and Ha. Here's what we're hearing:

-Sergei Monya: He's trying to get his VISA situation handled, and it will probably be another week before he can join the team, meaning he'll likely miss the first 3-4 games.

-Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw are going to be the focus of the team. Coach Bill Bayno (one of Portland's scouts) said that "we might play them until they drop", and he wants to see both play extensively with Telfair. Pritchard added that "we might be seeing our 1-2-3 of the future". I found that comment intersting for a two reasons ... 1. What does that mean for Darius Miles? He's not exactly an elder citizen. 2. Clearly this means that the team isn't looking at trying to make Outlaw a shooting guard, which some had speculated.

-Ha reported badly out of shape. The club isn't sure at this point if he's got the stamina to play even starting minutes in the summer league. A bad sign for a player who showed a bit of promise last season.

I wish that NBA TV would televise these games live. It's a travesty that we can't see every summer league game on the tube. A few of them will be broacast on NBA TV next week on a tape-delayed basis ... here's when Portland's games will be televised:

7/13 game, Cavaliers vs. Blazers (airs 7/19 - 6:00 PM ET / 4:00 AM ET / 2:00 PM ET on 7/20)
7/14 game, Blazers vs. Wizards (airs 7/20 - 8:00 PM ET / 2:00 AM ET / 12 noon on 7/21)
7/15 game, Cavaliers vs. Blazers (airs 7/22 - 8:00 PM ET / 4:00 AM ET / 12 noon on 7/24)

Blazer Draft Review

My apologies for going AWOL the past week ... clients in town and a short holiday vacation ate up all the free time. On to the biggest Blazer news since firing Mo Cheeks: the draft review!

Overall, I thought Portland did well. Not great, but well. Nash ended up turning the #3 and #35 picks into the #6, #22, and a first-rounder next year.

With the #6 pick, Portland selected (predictably) Martell Webster, a big shooting guard from Seattle who has an "nba-ready body" and may be the best shooter in the draft. A very solid pick. It may take a few years for Webster to develop, but I like him as a player and will be excited to see him run the backcourt for Portland next season alongside Sebastian Telfair. Clearly, Portland wasn't bluffing when they told Gerald Green that he'd need to compete against other players to be considered as a top-ten pick. I expect Webster to contribute in a similar manner as Telfair last season; coming off the bench for limited minutes early in the year and eventually taking over the starting spot by late season. It's only a matter of figuring out how quickly he can pick up the offense and adjust to the speed of the NBA game. A nice pick, and one we can all be excited about. I also have to give John Nash credit for immediately stating that "we don't expect Martell to immediately come in and start". It was obvious, but needed to be said nonetheless.

As for the #22 pick, I like Portland grabbing Jarret Jack. We here at BlazersBlog predicted that this could be a spot that Portland looked at moving up to (although not for a point guard) and dealing the #27 and #35 for this pick was fine. We've got enough youngsters on our roster, trading two to upgrade to one is a solid move. One thing about this pick that I'm not buying is the "he'll take some pressure off of Telfair" aspect. I believe the opposite to be true ... a veteran who didn't have starting aspirations would take pressure off of Telfair; in my opinion, selecting Jack actually adds a bit. Portland now has two PG's of the future, and if Jack (who's bigger and plays a different style than Telfair) plays "too well", it could could indeed cause Telfair to look over his shoulder. Which may not be a bad thing. Regardless, I think the Telfair-Jack combo at point guard will be a great compliment.

So where do the Blazers go from here? The squad's depth chart looks like this:

PG: Telfair, Van Exel, Jack
SG: Anderson, Webster, Monya
SF: Miles, Patterson, Outlaw, Khryapa
PF: Randolph,
C: Pryzbilla, Ratliff, Ha

Four things immediately stick out:

1. By my count, that's fourteen players. And Nash has spoken about adding veterans, which means a few guys have to go. This doesn't even include Richie Frahm, whom the team has restricted FA rights on. There are a few obvious solutions ... the first of which being that they'll probably let Van Exel go with nothing coming back in return. The second being that the new collective bargaining agreement contains a loophole that allows each team to, during this offseason, release one player and not pay the luxury tax on his salary. The obvious candidates for this on Portland's roster would be Derek Anderson, Ruben Patterson, or Theo Ratliff. You can draw up a list of pro's and cons for each player but it's a near certainty that it will be one of those three. My preference? Anderson. Yes, he's the only player on the team with starting 2-guard experience ... but he's worthless. I'd rather suffer through either watching a rookie struggle to learn the game or signing a retreat veteran stopgap than have DA's terrible game playing 25+ minutes per night. So there's two spots gone, and we're down to twelve.

2. We'v got a logjam at Small Forward. There are only 48 minutes per game available at the small forward spot, and you can't keep four guys happy that way. Miles has the talent to be the team's starter when he feels like it, and Outlaw has proven that he needs more minutes with his scintilating play last season. We have no idea what we've got with Sergei Monya, and he'll likely get the mop-up minutes ... which leaves Ruben Patterson as the odd-man out. If you look at the team's +/- numbers, Patterson ranks near the top in player efficiency, and the entire league knows that he plays a very high-intensity hustle game. Now that his contract only has two years left, he's got some trade value, and I expect Portland to deal him during this offseason.

3. We have no backup PF. Zach Randolph is one of the league's best PF's when healthy, but he can't play all 48 minutes. Theo Ratliff can play some PF, and since Pryzbilla has replaced him as the team's starter, it's another way to find him minutes (if he is not cut after all). This is the area where I expect Portland to use most of it's mid-level exception, to sign a veteran to take up some of those backup PF minutes and provide a bit of leadership. A couple of ideas: Udonis Haslem, Christian Laetner, Bo Outlaw, Vitaly Potapenko.

4. Assuming Van Exel doesn't play for Portland, that's an awfully young PG tandem. Yes, it sure is. And as much as Telfair and Jack's games compliment each other, we're still talking about a 19-year old and a rookie here. We've got to add a veteran who can play some minutes at the PG to give these guys some tutelage. This is the other area I expect Portland to use its MLE on. The immediate thought is Ronald Murray ... he could both handle some PG minutes and play SG if the team releases DA. The problem there is that Murray would probably want the full exception, and then you don't have anything to sign a backup PF with. Additionally, he'll want a long deal, and he isn't a viable long-term solution at either position here. I'd more expect the team to go with someone like Darrell Armstrong or Erick Strickland ... a cheap vet with experience they can sign for the short-term.

Other draft notes:
  • I can't believe Danny Granger fell to #17. Unbelievable. Teams like Toronto (Charlie Villanueva ... by far the worst pick of the day, and Joey Graham), LA Lakers (Andrew Bynum), and New Jersey (Antoine Wright) are really going to regret passing on him. Indiana got the steal of the night grabbing Granger at 17.
  • Utah's selection of Derron Williams over Chris Paul was interesting. It's as close to a Moneyball debate as you can get in hoops ... Paul's on-court performance versus Williams' all-around skill. He'll be compared to Paul for his entire career, and I expect them both to do very well.
  • Interesting that Denver passed on Francisco Garcia at #20, and took Julius Hodge. Garcia was probably the second or third best shooter in the draft, and Denver could certainly use him more than Hodge's half-court style. Nonetheless, Garcia will be a great fit in Sacramento.
  • For those of you who have Comcast on-demand, check out the sports and fitness section, then click NBA TV, then the draft, then player profiles. The analysis is useless, but they've got quick 3-4 minute videos of both Webster and Jack where you can see some highlights.