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!