Sunday, December 31, 2006

Back In The Saddle

I'm finally back from my holiday travel so prepare for an epic run of posting through the end of the season. Feel free to skip down to the Season Status/PER check if you want to read Blazers stuff, but I need to have one of my freak outs here for a minute, totally unbasketball related. Alaska Airlines, which I typically love, had a solid F- performance in my travels this week. There was a 5 hour delay on my flight while 4 other flights had no problem making the perilous journey from Oakland to Portland. Ordinarily this type of thing doesn't bother me a whole lot, but Oakland International Airport is a disaster on every level imaginable. That has to be the worst airport on the planet (and yes I know the whole "what do you expect, it's Oakland?" thing applies). There's like 8 gates total, 1 bar with roughly 6 tables and a tiny tv over the bar, and 50,000 people trying to get in there. Bad times, bad times all around. I don't think people appreciate PDX enough, fantastic airport compared to others around the country.

Well, now I feel better. The Blazers sit 13-18, 4th in their division and ahead of only the Hornets, Sonics, and Griz in the West, that Philly loss at home stings. Still, it's hard to call the first two months anything but a success overall. The PER check, and remember 15 is the league average:

The Marcus: 15.37. Somehow he's on Nate's shit list and there doesn't appear to be any reason for it other than some vague comments from time to time. He's the team's best center and he's racking up one DNP-Coach's Decision after another. This vexes me, I'm terribly vexed.

Dan Dickau: 8.75. He's still on the team? I need some verification.

Johnny Dixon: 10.88. I am not a Dixon fan. He shoots too much, misses way too much, is a dreadful passer and defender and he's one of Nate's favorite guys. This upsets me but not as much as the Aldridge Situation (this needs a full post and will get one shortly).

Jarrett Jack: 16.23. I think it's safe for you jersey wearers out there to buy a Jack #1, he's going to be around for a long time. Just a rock solid NBA point guard, looks like a young Chauncey Billups to me.

Raef LaFrentz: Incomplete. We'll see how he progresses, he hasn't played enough to generate a reliable PER. I think he's useful off the bench.

The All Star: 10.38. He's freaking garbage. His last 3 years have been 12.91, 11.16, and now he's at 10.38 and logging heavy minutes off the bench over Aldridge and he's not even close to being as good as Aldridge is right now. Again, there's a long, insult laced tirade coming on this in a day or two, trust me.

Travis Outlaw: 15.39. Far better than I expected, and anyone who said they expected this type of performance is lying through their teeth. Finally starting to show off some of that potential he was drafted with.

Joel Przybilla: 8.75. Everyone loves The Captain, and he's played better lately, but I can't give him a free pass, he's been shitty. Any team actually playing to win or building for the future would have him coming off the bench and starting...forget it.

Z-bo: 26.36. Just an animal this year. He's a no doubt all star this year and if it was based purely off merit he'd be the starting power forward. He's been nothing less than the best power forward in the NBA this year. He obliterated a very good defensive Utah front line last night for 34 and 13 and it didn't even surprise me. He may actually be worth that max contract.

Sergio Rodriguez: 15.28. Can't shoot at all, but a terrific looking passer and ball handler. I don't think we're going to be needing any point guards in the draft or in free agency for a long time. We've got two very good ones, and that's not even counting the next guy on the list...

Brandon Roy: 15.53. The Savior is back in the lineup, but not quite as amazing as he started off the year. That foot/heel/ankle injury is going to bother him all year, but I like the way they've gone about it. Get him in there for an average of about 25-30 minutes a night, don't abuse him, but let him get this first season out of the way, then clean up whatever is going on in there. He's the leader of this franchise already, and with this year of experience under his belt, he should be a force next year, I see a possible playoff team next year with Jack, Roy, Z-bo, and Aldridge leading the way (please, if there's a God, let Durant be the final name in that starting 5).

Ime Udoka: 12.01. It's very hard not to like Udoka, he's basically Ruben Patterson without all the bullshit. He doesn't think he's a star, only shoots when he's open or has an open lane, dives for balls on the floor, plays good defense, etc. I think he might be a Blazer and a fan favorite for the next three to five years. However, he needs to be an energy guy off the bench, the team still lacks a quality small forward.

Martell Webster: 11.38. I'm done with Martell. I've tried to be patient, but this guy just isn't a building block for the future of this franchise, no matter what Subterfuge Stevie says. He sucks. He might be a nice bench sniper at some point in his career but he needs to be traded along with The All Star or Miles' contract before everyone else realizes that he's pretty much useless.

One final note, Ducks 13-0, will probably be 14-0 and facing the #1 UCLA Bruins in The Pit on Saturday. I will be in the fetal position all day. The Pac 10 is a monster this year, I'm not going overboard with the Ducks right now, I think they finish 10-8 in conference, 22-8 overall, and grab a 6 seed in the Big Dance.

Happy New Year everybody, Go Blazers and Go Ducks.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Recap of 12/21 Quick & Patterson Chat

You can get a cheeseburger anywhere; why do you come to Blazersblog? You come to Blazersblog for the attitude, and the atmosphere. And so we can cut through the bullshit. We'll save you the pain of listening to Casey Holdahl's chat with Quick and Patterson (the latter two are great; its the host is unbearable) by getting straight to the good stuff.

Notes from Quick:
  1. Raef LaFrentz will be getting game action this week; he's ready and he's earned it.
  2. Why hasn't LaMarcus been playing? According to McMillan, he hasn't earned it. He's making mistakes on the floor.
  3. Brandon Roy: his heel responded well to playing 23 minutes on Wednesday night (including all of crunch-time, by the way) and he played almost the entire practice on Thursday at the PG position because Jarrett Jack was under the weather. Quick also mentioned that he thinks PG could be Roy's permanent position long-term. We won't go too far into that right now, but file it away.
  4. "What's the deal between you and Bonzi?" -- Every time Bonzi sees Quick, he calls him a female dog, and did it again on Wednesday. "What up, you bitch" is apparently how it's phrased. I wish Quick would respond with something like "hey how'd that contract negotiation go this summer?" but he's too classy.
  5. Why is Magloire playing better? (Note: Holdahl asked this exact same question last week, not sure why we needed to cover it again) Quick essentially repeated his answer, that is has more to do with understanding of role and playing with the second unit.
  6. Pryzbilla played his best game of the season on Wednesday night. He was "awesome" defensively, and he's starting to look to shoot a little. It may only be a few shots per game, but it loosens up the defense a bit.
  7. Quick's take on the AI trade: "I think it makes Denver a better team ... Denver is a formidable team now". Thanks for that.
  8. Blazer MVP so far, aside from Zach? Quick selected Jarrett Jack. He's been solid, he's answered the call, and been better than the team imagined.
  9. How long until Roy is back in the starting lineup? Just a few more games; perhas the NOOCH game.
  10. Will Portland try and keep Ime Udoka beyond this season? Yes, most likely. It's a good fit for both sides.
  11. Preview of the Portland-Toronto game: Curious to see Brandon Roy. Was a little rusty on Wednesday, will be interesting to see what kind of a step forward he takes. Bargnani is fun to watch; he can be good at times and can look lost at times. It's a game Portland should win.
  12. With Roy back, Martell will move to the bench. And speaking of Martell, he's lost that fun, child-like aura, and is quite moody. Oh and by the way, Jason Quick apparently hosts crazy parties every christmas eve. (?)
Notes from Patterson:
  1. Thoughts on AI: Denver will be putting a lot of points on the board, and they've created a window in the next few years where they coudl make a serious run.
  2. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you saw the fight last week? Not the image that the league wants to portray. Felt that the penalties that were handed out were appropriate.
  3. Regarding Zach's foot, what's his status? He's fine, played well on Wednesday night.
  4. What does Brandon Roy bring to the team? Enthusiasm, the fans love him, makes the players around him better, savvy, wants the ball, etc.
  5. Does he keep in touch with players who have moved on past the team? Sometimes yes, sometimes know. Guys he was a part of drafting (sam cassell, jon barry, etc) he keeps in touch with a little bit. Bonzi is not one of those guys.
  6. What's the situatoin with the team's second round picks? The club picked up four additional second round picks over the next couple of years. They've had some calls about the extra pick this upcoming draft because it's expected to be a deep draft.
  7. Tomorrow's game versus Toronto: Roy will play, probably not start, that'll be up to Nate. Toronto has a good young team, looking forward to seeing Bargnani,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tier Trauma Volume 3: Updated Rankings

We're coming at you fast and furious today, and up next is a new set of rankings. As you know, around these parts we don't beleive a whole lot in "ranking" teams numerically; we prefer to take the easier (and more accurate, really) way out of grouping them into "tiers" of respectability. How appropriate that our Tiers happen to align with the boxing world during the week when the newest Rocky movie comes out.

We're about 30% of the way through the NBA season and we're starting to get a pretty good idea of how things shake out. First, a reminder of how the tiers work:
Tier 1: Heavyweights. Teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the whole shebang.

Tier 2: Cruiserweights. Not quite ready to be considered in the league's upper echelon, but close and very talented.

Tier 3: Middleweights. Teams are a few steps away from contention, but have enough to challenge for a playoff spot.

Tier 4: Lightweights. Bad teams who don't have a chance.*

*when we say "don't have a chance", that refers to the championship, not the playoffs. The reason for this caveat is that because the Eastern Conference is so weak, there will inevitably be a lightweight team or two who challenges for a playoff spot.
On to the Tiers!


Note: a “+” in front of a team notes that they have been promoted a tier, “-“ signifies a demotion.

Tier 1 - Heavyweights


You all know why the Nuggets get added to this section. Despite last weekend's brawl, I still believe Denver has the potency to compete for a top seed in the West. They'll have Melo back by mid-January, at which point they'll be rolling out a staring five of AI, JR Smith, Melo, Nene, and Marcus Camby, with Boykins, Johnson, Najera and Evans coming off the bench. That's a good ballclub right there, folks. Moving on: I told you all year that Phoenix would get their act together, and I'd say 15 straight wins since our last Tier Trauma rankings pretty much confirms that. I still refuse to include Utah in this group (4-3 in their last seven games and cooling off.)

Tier 2 - Cruiserweights

Palace Gift Cards

Courteous of me to add the Jazz and Lakers to this group, eh? Considering they're both playing over .650 basketball and what-not. Orlando and Chicago both fully deserve to be here, and I won't accept any argument regarding this. Those two teams join Detroit, Cleveland and Indiana as the "5 teams in the East that have a shot to go to the Finals to take an ass whooping from whomever emerges from the West".

Tier 3 - Middleweights


It's well documented on this site that the Blazers are now 1/2 game out of a playoff spot in the loaded, loaded West. We don't want to jinx anything so we'll try not to talk about their 5-game win streak TOO much. Sacramento and Milwuakee both get promoted to Tier 3 this month (I'm sure they're quite thrilled), and I refuse to accept Minnesota as a legitimate playoff threat in the West. Between KG's inevitable head explosion and the letdown of not getting Iverson, they're already done. Look at every team on this list, though, and you'll find yourself nodding: "yep, if a few things break right, they could definitely make the playoffs."

Tier 4 - Lightweights
Tony Allen

I think we're pretty set here with our bottom tier. Every single team on this list is a bad basketball team, and it's disturbing that 30% of the league is legitimately bad. There's a lot of crappy basketball in the NBA right now, which is too bad because there's a lot of fantastic basketball too. I'd argue that the NBA is extremely top-heavy right now, with those 13 Tier 1 and 2 teams owning everyone else. Boston is probably the only team from this mix who has a shot at making the playoffs, which isn't exactly something to brag about in the Eastern Conference. Seattle gets demoted to Tier 4, where they probably should have been from the beginning, and I don't think we'll be seeing a lot of change here.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone. As a side-note, one of your faithful BlazersBlog authors will be attending the Blazer-NOOCH game next week; email us at the link above if you'd like to have a beer and complain about Jamaal Magloire. We had a decent turnout last time.

I Finally Figured Out What I Want For Christmas

(Quick non-basketball related note for the day)

I want all of these people to be rounded up and exterminated.


Ho hum, another night, another Blazer win. That makes 5 in a row, this time over the Houston Rockets, even surviving a monster game by Yao. The win moves the Blazers into third place in the Northwest Division, and .5 game behind the Warriors for the 8th playoff spot in the West. They currently have a higher winning percentage than the Clippers, Kings, and Hornets. That qualifies as a WATFO moment of the year right there. A couple box score musings from the game:

The return of Brandon Roy, 9 points on 4 of 6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 assists in 24 minutes and resumed his status as the Go To Guy late in the game. He hit the game winner with 19 seconds to play.

Z-bo, 24 & 13, funny how that's almost reached yawn status. He has to be an All Star this year.

Jarrett Jack, again almost a yawn at this point to see the point guard of this team go for 13 points, 6 assists, 4 boards, and just 1 turnover. I'll have a the whole team's PER check as I do every month next week, but Jack's is up to 16.47 in his first season as a starter in the NBA, with over 30% of his possessions ending with an assist. Outstanding.

That's all for now, and I will be out of town most of the next week so if you don't hear from The Other Guy in that time frame, I'll be back a week from today. Happy Festivus everyone.

Monday, December 18, 2006

1 GB

The Golden State Warriors currently hold the 8th spot in the Western Conference at 12-13. The Blazers are 11-14. That puts the Blazers just 1 game out of the playoffs right now. Warrants mentioning. Some other bits of randomness regarding the Blazers current level of good play, the silver lining version:
  • The 4 game winning streak is the third longest in the NBA behind the Suns and Celtics.
  • They are no longer in last place, looking down on the Sonics by a game.
  • They have 1 more victory than the Miami Heat.
  • They have already won as many road games as all of last year.
  • Their current winning percentage would put them in the playoffs in the East, and would be leading the disaster that is the Atlantic Division.

Let the record show that there were some shenanigans on behalf of The Other Guy which temporarily left me unable to discuss the performance the other night against the Clip (best Blazer performance in years). I think he threw a tantrum over the fact that his professional football team is a non-factor and didn't want to be mocked in this space. Yes, he suffers from Seahawk Blindisitis, luckily it appears to have been cleared up after the moment of clarity last Thursday night. Seahawk Blindisitis is a particularly nasty virus that apparently needs a double dose of the antidote, which was delivered in the form of back to back losses to the Cardinals and 49ers. Me, I knew my team was a non-factor weeks ago, long before they lost to his Seahawks.

UPDATE: Make that 1 game behind Minnesota, the Warriors lost last night and now sit just .5 up on the Blazers. The Blazers sit 10th technically in the West.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Notes From Quick/Patterson Chat

Another session (moderated by Casey Holdahl, who is just brutal) held by O-Live yesterday.

  • Sounds like Portland isn’t involved in the Denver/Philly three-way. The 76ers really want Magloire, but Portland wants nothing to do with Nene (rightfully so).
  • Quick think Magloire’s improved play of late is more a result of becoming accustomed and comfortable with his role than effort.
  • This has cut into LaMarcus Aldridge’s minutes, primarily because he’s having trouble with fouls and struggles a bit versus some of the “bigger” big men on defense.
  • Why is the team playing better lately? Quick mentioned two things: 1. The team coming together more (both off the court and on), and Joel Pryzbilla’s interior defense has played a huge role.
  • Regarding the canning of assistant coach Darnell Valentine: it sent ripples through the team and the players were shocked. He was a guy that a lot of the players could relate to (Martell Webster apparently goes with him to see movies - ?) but the players weren’t happy about it.
  • "Was really pleased with the record" on the road trip (which was 4-2).
  • The Darnell Valentine situation: Didn't want to get into specifics; "any company as economically stressed as we are is going to go through turnarounds ... we'll need to continue to monitor our costs and our levels of employment." He indicated that it was more economic than performance, but wouldn't come right out and say it.
  • Holdahl asked a really stupid question about all-star voting, mentioning the number of forwards who were ahead of Zach in the fan balloting. Patterson rightly pointed out that only the starters are selected by the voting, and the coaches can add him in, which he expects to happen. (Memo to Casey: try and ask intelligent questions to the team's president if you wouldn't mind.)
  • Allen Iverson: are the Blazers involved in any connected deals? "The phones are busy the last few days ... we'll continue to have conversations with folks around the league, as will everyone else."
  • Patterson added a funny note when asked if he had ever been asked by a player to be traded, "You probably remember Ruben Patterson who said it after every single game for about 2 1/2 years here, the problem was that nobody in the league was interested in him. A lot of times, that's what you have to tell these guys."
  • A question asked: "Is it your experience that players over-value their place in the league?". I swear to god, if O-Live doesn't replace this hack then they're in big trouble. Patterson's response was great, though: "Don't we all? That's just human nature."
Also, one other note from today – Brandon Roy will not be making his reappearance tonight after all. Looks like next Wednesday against Houston.

Getting A Few Things Out Of The Way

Corey Maggette
Corey Maggette, the spectacularly underrated small-forward of the LA Clippers, has requested a trade. Portland desperately needs a starting-caliber small forward. What could Portland give up that the Clips could use? I know there’s been some rumors about whether LA has the expiring contracts to get a deal done. Well, what if Portland shipped out Jamaal Magloire, Travis Outlaw, and a draft pick for Maggette and some salary cap fodder. Wouldn’t that help out all parties? I doubt that would be enough to pry Maggette out of Donald Sterling’s greedy little sasauge-like fingers, but I’m just sayin’ that the Blazers should give it a shot. Or perhaps they could be on the back-end of a three-way Iverson deal where they don’t get AI but end up with Maggette.

As my co-author knows, I’m not really in favor of the Blazers making a ton of trades right now; I really do believe they should sit back for a while and let the youngsters develop. But they have an expiring contract to deal and they have one gigantic hole in the rotation, let’s see if we can’t get this done.

Portland's Upcoming Schedule
They surprised us with a cute little three-game win streak; what's up next? They've got the Clippers tonight, followd by Houston, Toronto, @ Phoenix, and The NOOCH, a game which I will be attending. Not an easy stretch, if they can find three wins in there I'll be purely amazed, and two is probably the expectation at this point. If they can beat Toronto IN Toronto when they don't have Zbo or Roy, they should theoretically be able to win in Portland with both of those guys right? Sometimes I wonder why they even play the games.

Throwing Up All Over The Page – Random Thoughts:
Anyone see the game-winner Baron Davis hit last night? … This Warriors team is the second-most fun team in the league to watch, behind the Suns … When the hell is Iverson going to get dealt? … I hope he gets sent to the Western conference, it would be awfully fun to see him in the west playoffs in May … Alright, I’ll just come out and say it, AI is a ballhog, and there aren’t a lot of teams who have room to give up that many shots … More AI stuff; currently he’s the leading vote-getter in the Eastern confernce; what happens if he gets traded to the West? … (I really don’t know, that’s why I’m asking) … You gotta love Paul Pierce, who justified his potential co-existence with AI by saying "I've played with the biggest 'jacker' in league history in Antoine Walker, didn't I?” … I’m pretty sure he’s talking about shot selection there, but hey, these are different times … Dirk Nowitzki has never had a triple-double in an NBA game … Who would you rather have, Marcus Camby and his $8 million cap number, or Ben Wallace and his $15 million?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Yes I Know The Finger, Goose

Look at that, a 4-2 road trip and the boys return 10-14, two games closer to .500. I have to say that I didn't see that one coming. I know they only beat the craptastic Griz, Raptors, and The Answer-less 76ers, but they also beat the Pistons, still more than a formidable bunch. Time to build some momentum, a somewhat struggling Clip team comes in Friday night and then a bunch of days off to rest up and get healthier.

There are a few issues to discuss however, there always are, the first would be Z-bo giving the bird to the opposing fans and getting hit with a whopper of a fine and a 1 game suspension. Luckily the game he missed didn't hurt them and Jarret Jack continued his terrific play, leading them to a win in Toronto. The bigger issue is the $133,000 he had to pony up and needless to say that pissed him off. Lots of guys, Mike Vick, a certain QB in the Mile High City who shall remain nameless because he can rot in hell, and even our own Bonzi Wells lobbed the bird at us one night. These brought about mostly $10,000 and $20,000 fines. Zach, somehow, makes sense bitching about being hit with a fine of 133 large. However, he still didn't take it like a man and simply say "it won't happen again". It's time to grow up Zach, you're playing like you have, off the court, not so much.

This Valentine sacking, while it does seem a bit like a meeting with the Bob's and their corporate downsizing, "I don't see...what it is you do here." Maybe he should have looked at them and said "I have people skills, I TOLD YOU DAMNIT, I'M GOOD WITH PEOPLE!!!" Anyway, again the big issue is how Subterfuge Stevie is just and world class ass head. Nothing like canning a dude the week before Christmas, not to mention flying all the way to Philly, whacking him, and then having him go tell the team about it. Look, if you want to fire someone fine, but at least do it with a little class is all. Of course that's asking a bit too much to ask from SS.

Even with those two unfortunate issues taking place in the last week, it does appear to be getting brighter on the horizon. A winning road trip, the return of Brandon Roy is upon us, hopefully the guys can grab a few more W's and string together a long winning streak. I'm optimistic right now, try not to screw it up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Return of The Savior

Help is on the way. While the Blazers continue their longest roadie of the year, 3-2 so far, the biggest news took place at the team's practice facility out in Tualatin. Brandon Roy had an extended workout today, including a ton of running, cutting, and shooting. Results were positive, a bit of rust, and his ankle that was in the boot for so long appears to need some strengthening, but if all goes well tomorrow and at practice on Thursday, he'll be back on the court on Friday night against the Clippers. If he needs a little more time, the return is set for next Wednesday night.

The immediate impact is they actually get a quality NBA 2 guard back on the floor. Despite Martell's recent upswing and Dixon's occasional good play, the lack of a shooting guard has really cost them since he went down. Long term, let's just hope his foot is completely healed and he can get back to his rookie of the year campaign.

The most notable loss was his defense of course, but with Jack turning it up a notch, they have the makings of a dynamite backcourt, along with Z-bo and The Marcus up front, it's finally getting exciting around here.

As for the roadie itself, 3-2 heading to Memphis is more than I could have asked for. I know they only beat a dreadful Raptors team and Philly without The Answer, but wins are wins. A win in Memphis is almost probable at this point, 10-14 when Roy returns? I'll take it. The schedule is also a bit light coming up, I'm not saying they'll get back near .500 this season, but let's just say they're going to win a hell of a lot more games than the 21 they won last year.

Just Throwing It Out There

I don't really believe that Portland will be in on any of the Iverson stuff as a third team. But if they were, what would be available, and what would they want?

Looking at the team as currently constructed, the following guys are both a big part of the future and are currently getting PT:

PG - Jack, Rodriguez
SG - Roy
SF - (Webster, Outlaw)
PF - Randolph, Aldridge
C - Pryzbilla

I put Webster and Outlaw in parentheses because we just aren't sure what's up with those two. Are they building blocks? Are they busts? Neither outcome would surprise me.

Items that would likely be available:

Items Portland would want:
-A decent backup center with a short contract
-A SF to fill the gap while they figure out what the futures of Webster and Outlaw look like

So given all of these things, what kind of deals actually work? Here's one three-team trade works under the cap:

To Golden State: Iverson, Dickau
To Philly: Richardson, Ellis, Foyle
To Portland: Mikael Pietrus

The Warriors get Iverson and another PG to fill part of the Monta Ellis gap; Philly gets a dynamic #2 in J-Rich and a very promising young PG in Ellis, and takes on Adonal Foyle's contract. Portland gets rid of a player they don't need while adding a SF who's contract expires at the end of the year.

As said above, I don't really think Portland will be in on any of the Iverson stuff, but if we come up with any more trade possibilities that make sense, we'll post them here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Afternoon Delight

Without much else to chat about this week, we throw a monkeywrench in my co-author’s six-out-of-the-last-seven-post streak to catch up on a few items both inside and outside of Blazerland.

The Blazers
As much as you can sum up the work of 15 very tall, athletically blessed men over a month and a half in a few short sentences, here it is: They kind of suck right now, but Nate’s got some very promising young pieces playing extremely hard. A couple of specific notes:
  • From the “apparently it’s optimism day” department: Jack, Roy and Aldridge look like the building blocks of a championship team. I’ll just say it. Yes, they’re a few years away; but this is a rebuilding team and I would defy anyone to point to a team with three first-or-second-year players with that much promise. If Portland can keep these three together for several years to come, we’ve got a lot of excitement ahead of us. And we haven’t even started talking about Sergio, Outlaw or Martell yet.
  • I’ve heard some grumblings on email about the contract that Portland gave Joel Pryzbilla this past offseason, and how it could end up being a mistake because of LaMarcus’ play. Let me get this out of the way right now: That contract will not be a hinderance to the Blazers. Shot-blocking big men like Joel are not easy to find, he’s young, and I don’t think Portland would ever have a problem trying to move Pryzbilla if they so desired.
  • And speaking of LaMarcus, what a pleasure he’s turned out to be. As John Hollinger said in his rookie review on today, “This guys is good…once he adds some muscle, he’ll be unstoppable.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
  • Still hearing anyone complain about Portland taking Aldridge over Morrison? Yeah, me neither. I said at the time I had faith in that pick, and say what you will about Steve Patterson, he looks to have made an incredibly bold and correct decision there.
  • The latest regarding Brandon Roy is that he’s hoping to be back practicing in a week, perhaps playing in 10-14 days. I suppose this is good news, although it feels like every two weeks we hear “two more weeks”, so we shouldn’t get too excited yet.

Western Conference Standings
Don’t look now, but Portland already has the second-worst record in the league 20 games in, and many people consider this season to be going well so far. Shows you far the team has fallen. Outside of Portland, things are looking a little bizarre. Here’s how the seedings would be in the west if the playoffs started today:

1. Utah
2. San Antonio
3. Dallas
4. LA Lakers
5. Houston Rockets
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Denver Nuggets
8. LA Clippers

You have to love the Western Conference. The Hornets have a .530 winning percentage, and aren’t even in the playoffs. (FYI, that would give them the #4 seed in the East). The Southwest division has four teams over .500; the Pacific has three. The Atlantic and Southeast divisions over in the East? A combined one team. Unreal.

Back to the seedings, though. If things hold true – and they won’t, but for argument’s sake – how about that first-round Phoenix-Dallas matchup? And also, who do you think would be favored, the #1-seeded Utah Jazz or the #8-seeded LA Clippers? It’s going to be a very fun year of Western Conference basketball.

Allen Iverson
Maybe you’ve heard the rumor, maybe you haven’t: Allen Iverson apparently walked into Sixers “GM” Billy King’s office on Tuesday night and requested to be traded. That’s interesting, for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that you can bet Philly would much rather send him to the Western Conference than keep him within the Eastern. Iverson’s a score-first point guard; and anyone who has read this blog with any consistency knows how I feel about them. But AI can still get to the rim, he’s durable as all hell, and he fills up the bucket with points. Put him on a team with a good ball-handling distributor with size (which he has never for one season played with in his entire professional career, and no I will not accept Eric Snow as such), and he could be an absolutely deadly force. I imagine Denver will take a look, and don’t count out Minnesota, The Clip, or the Atlanta Hawks. Sounds weird I know.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a random non-basketball related note of the day. Follow along with me here for a moment:
1. Dwight Schrute looks like Ben Gibbard, the lead singer of “Death Cab For Cutie”.
2. Dwight Schrute appeared on HBO’s “Six Feet Under” for a full season.
3. During that same season, a “Death Cab For Cutie” song was featured in an episode, with the entire cast on-screen signing along.


Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Rock City

See, I told you that was an automatic loss going into Detroit to start the 6 game roadie. With a hat tip to The Sports Guy, the lesson, as always, I'm an idiot. I forgot this was the NBA where elite teams mail one in against lower level teams all the time and just figure they'll do enough in the 4th quarter to pull it out. The NBA version of the Milton Berle game. Every once in a while though, that young team doesn't back down and they shock you, like the Blazers stunning 88-85 win in the Palace last night. Some things I thought were nothing short of outstanding:

The Marcus with his first double double in the NBA, 11 points, 11 boards, a HUGE blocked shot on Prince in the 4th quarter. I know Nate is still trying to ease him into the NBA, but he's got to play more than the 24 minutes he played last night. He's a force, particularly on those high pick and rolls. I think it's time to start thinking about the offense that Dunleavy ran with Sabas in the high post. The Marcus in the high post, Z-bo in the low post, Jack with the ball in his hands and players like Roy and Outlaw wheeling off of them, now that's interesting.

Nate had his best game I've seen in a while. He got the total disaster that is Martell Webster (1 for 6 from the floor in 16 minutes of suckage) off the floor early and played Outlaw and Dixon a combined 60 minutes. He subbed in Joel for that last series when you knew they were going to try to get to the basket. And he rotated The Marcus between Sheed and Prince defensively, who he helped contain to a combined 17 points on 7 for 23 from the floor.

Late in the game, Jack high pick and roll with Aldridge or Z-bo, and then when they really, really needed a bucket they got the ball to Z-bo in the low post and cleared out.

Z-bo 31 & 13. The Marcus 11 & 11. Jack 18, 5 assists, 1 turnover against Chauncey Billups. Very nice all around.

Well on their way to that 3-3 trip we were hoping for here in Blazerland. Let's see how they do tonight in the land of PBR.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Dark Times Ahead

This could get ugly. As if losing a game in The Garden to the freaking Atlanta Hawks isn't bad enough, it completed a stellar 0-4 homestand, 3 of them blow outs, and as an added bonus they just played 6 out of 7 at home and went 1-6. Ouch. As a reward for such a tremendous amount of suckage, they now get to go on their longest trip of the year. It's a six game vagabonder that goes from Detroit to Milwaukee to Indianapolis to Toronto to Philly to Memphis, all in 9 days, then they come home to play the Clips next Friday night. Holy crap.

I'm looking for some sort of silver lining, but frankly it's quite difficult. There's one team in the NBA with more losses, the comedy gold mine that is the New York Knickerbockers. I suppose if there was a glimmer of hope it would be that it's all against the Eastern Conference, except for Memphis and they might as well be in the East. Obviously the worst case scenario would be to come home 6-18, let's look at the best case scenario just for fun.

Pistons, 11-6, Lost to the Hawks this year: No. Um...we'll call this one a loss.

Bucks, 6-10, Lost to the Hawks: Yes. Averaging a smooth 104.4 points against. Yes, that's worse than the Blazers. This is one they could win. It should be entertaining at least since the Blazers have no 2 guard so Redd might score 60.

Pacers, 9-9, Lost to the Hawks: Incomplete. They have lost a couple in a row to fall back to .500 but I don't really see how the Blazers get out of there with a win.

Raptors, 7-10, Lost to the Hawks: Yes, twice. They pretty much suck too. They've won 2 in a row to get to 7-10 and their points against are worse than Portland's as well. Possible win.

76ers, 5-11, Lost to the Hawks: No. This is a dreadful team that's lost 4 in a row. Possible win.

Griz, 4-12, Lost to the Hawks: Incomplete. The one team in the West that's legitimately worse than the Blazers. Possible win but it is the end of that jaunt all over the heartland and Canada (someone tell them Canadians don't like it when you bring your glock in the pillowcase on the plane this time). Still, possible win.

So where does that leave them? They could win 4 out of 6, and I'd pretty much be popping some bubbly if that happened. Let's hope for a treading water 3-3 trip and then Brandon Roy would come back to help lead this team out of the ashes.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


You've got to be kidding me. They didn't really have Sergio Rodriguez taking the last shot, he of the awful shooting and on the night was 1 for 2 from the floor (1 for 3 now of course). Surprising...well...nobody he missed a little runner with a second left on the clock so the game was headed to overtime. Or not. I think I saw the in bounds pass alley oop work once in junior high school, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen it work in an NBA game. Added bonus, it was Grant Hill that they let get to the basket for the alley oop game winner. That's completely inexcusable in every way.

I don't really know what the worst part of that sequence was, but it's all awful and we'll just call that Nate's second really awful coaching move of the year. First off, that ball has to be in the hands of Jarrett Jack or Travis Outlaw on the perimeter. A high screen and roll with Aldridge (looking terrific again) would have been fine too. Hell, I could come up with about 20 plays I'd like better than "Sergio takes his guy" and I'm not a professional coach.

Needless to say, bad times, bad times all around last night in the Garden.

Friday, December 01, 2006

ESPN Page 2's Editors Are A Bunch Of Douchebags

As if you weren't already aware.

Wanted to alert you, our faithful 32 readers per day (thats how many unique visitors we're told paruse this part of The Internets) about a little story. In Scoop Jackson's column for ESPN Page 2 (found here), he writes another terrible column. Typically, we'd just ignore it and move on, as per the usual behavior when a Scoop Jackson column shows up. This time, however, something caught our eye: he wrote a first-person story from the perspective of the NBA's new ball, calling himself "Orange Roundie".

One of the better NBA blogs on the net, YAY Sports, has been creatively referring to the ball as Orange Roundie for quite some time now. Scoop stole the reference, used it in his column, and provided no reference for where he got it! What is that?

I'll tell you what that is, it's theft of intellectual property, and it's wrong. ESPN Page 2 has since edited the article to reflect the reference, but it's a bit ridiculous. And perhaps more importantly, he used "Orange Roundie" incorrectly. I let the good folks at YAY explain:
Another point that’s really clawing at us is that Scoop completely misunderstood and bastardized the humor in “Orange Roundie” and the personality of same. You don’t throw that phrase out there without going back to the source and seeing it in context.

And you certainly don’t try to do a lame imitation of someone else’s character. This is like if someone wrote their own Spider-Man comic and gave him bird powers.

Since we’ve got stealing on the mind, allow us to steal from Seinfeld – this portion of the problem doesn’t offend us as the owner of “Orange Roundie”, it offends us as a comedy writer.

Anyhow, Scoop claims that the editors took out his URL reference. Either way, it's terrible. That's about all we've got to say on this topic, but I felt it appropriate to show a little support for one of our fellow NBA Bloggers when the big boys try and step all over us.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Martell Situation

There is a growing debate here in Rip City about what to do with Martell Webster. His play in the first month filling in for the injured Brandon Roy ranks somewhere between "rubbish" and "dreadful" depending on which game you watch. Here are his numbers through 16 games this year:

22 minutes a night, 6.8 points, 0.7 assists to 1.13 turnovers, 2.4 boards, shooting 40.4% from the floor and 41.1% from downtown, while playing arguably the worst perimeter defense you will ever see on the professional level.

The three point shooting is fine, everything else sucks. This is where the questions start. When Brandon Roy comes back, he'll obviously take a ton of minutes away from Webster. Outlaw has to keep playing the 3 and hopefully we see his minutes increase north of 30 per night. Webster appears destined to one of the following fates here in Portland.

1. Traded. He's very young still, could turn into a Steve Smith, Glen Rice type, which was his ceiling in the first place and he'd probably look just like they looked in college if he was playing for the Huskies. He has a ton of value, and if you attached him to The All Star's expiring contract or LaFrentz's big contract, you could get a good player in return.

2. Bench Sniper. He backs up Roy, plays 15-20 a night overall and rains down 3's when he gets on the floor. He'd have to get far more aggressive with his jumpers if he's to be this player.

3. Starting Small Forward. This option takes playing time away from Outlaw, but with Jack, Roy, and Z-bo on the floor, he'd get countless open looks at 3's and could help the team get off to quick starts. It also adds a lot more explosiveness to the second unit with Outlaw out there.

4. Benched, they sit on him and hope he's just too young to be useful right now and busts ass at practice and gets better.

Personally, I see 1 or 2 happening. He looks like a young Wes Person in training. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and I could see him in 2011 knocking down dagger 3 after dagger 3 in a playoff series for whoever LaBron is playing for by then. I'm not in favor of giving up a kid that's 19 years old and trading him, but it depends on what's available. Let's say Portland plays well the rest of the year, finishes with 35-37 wins and is in the 10 range in the Lottery. That's probably too low to get an impact 3, so why not a sign and trade of Martell, Miles, LaFrentz, and your #1 for Vince Carter? Next year a starting 5 of Jack, Roy, Vince, Z-bo, and Aldridge can be a 45-50 win team and in the playoffs again. What I'm saying is he's not untradeable, just don't trade him for trading's sake, that's all.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Digging Deeper

Yep, I thought I had reached the bottom of The Abyss, then the Blazers went out and lost 3 games in a row. They were the lone bright spot, but they apparently didn't want to be different than all my other teams so they went into the dumper for a week as well. Thanks guys. 6-10, yuck. Anyway, one month is in the books, let's take a PER check throughout the roster, remember 15 is league average:

The Marcus: 17.76. I admit I may have been wrong about him. He looks pretty good so far, although I worry about Nate forgetting he's on the bench at times during the middle of the games. With Joel back they should be parking The All Star on the end of the bench and not letting him anywhere near the floor.

Dickau: 9.10. He stinks.

Juan Dixon: 11.98. Dixon isn't very good, although Nate likes him. When he's hot (not often) he's a useful 2 guard off the bench, when he's not, he's terrible.

Stephen Graham: 5.64. Hey Nate, he's not an NBA player, stop playing him.

Jarrett Jack: 15.88. A bright spot. He's been better than expected so far, despite what a couple afternoon radio hosts might say. Jack's held his own and has been above average in his first year as a starter, what more can you ask?

The All Star: 6.96. Awful, just...Awful.

Outlaw: 15.52. Bright spot #2, he simply needs more playing time. I don't know what they're doing playing some of their worst players as much as they play Outlaw, but this is hot button issue #1 with me right now. Get him out there, he brings a ton to the table and takes very little off.

Randolph: 27.46. Folks, that's not just an All Star, that's an All NBA type season if he keeps it up. As much crap as he takes, and deserves to take, he's been a bad ass on the floor so far.

Sergio: 10.89. His shooting is so craptastic that it undoes all the good from his 13 assists per 40 minutes. Still, an interesting player.

Brandon Roy: 15.52. Hurry back, we need you, badly.

Ime Udoka: 12.30. I go back and forth on Udoka, he's been better lately and if he was the 15 minute a night energy guy off the bench behind Outlaw he could be very useful. He's not a starting small forward in the NBA though.

Martell Webster: 9.77. Ugh.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Abyss

I promised periodic updates over the long holiday weekend, so this will have to suffice for now. I've entered the Sports Fan Abyss and I'm trying to find a way out of it, any light at the end of the tunnel will do (more on this in a minute), observe the following I've had to live through in the last week, in bullet form just for some added fun...

  • The Ducks mail one in so bad at home against Arizona that they cause me to leave a Duck game earlier than ever before (even earlier than the Oklahoma game, which ended with surprisingly better results). They lost by 4 touchdowns at home to Arizona, they might as well have replaced the "O" on the helmet with a stamp.
  • The Broncos blow a 24-7 lead in Denver, Jake Plummer implodes, and they all but end all Super Bowl aspirations due to there being no chance at all for home field advantage.
  • I screwed up the stuffing (too much chicken broth, hence too soggy)
  • The Broncos lose in Kansas City, Jake Plummer implodes, and I consider climbing in the oven with the turkey.
  • The Ducks lose the Civil War in horrific fashion. It's still Friday evening, I'm not over it, I can't discuss it, let's move on.
  • My baseball team is paying 45 million dollars over 5 years for Juan Pierre.
  • Ernie Kent is still the coach of the Duck hoop team, so they still do things like struggle at Rice.

I'm dealing with a lot of shit. Thankfully, there are two lights at the end of the tunnel, one being Jay Cutler, but we don't need to talk about him. The second, this being the point of the whole post, is I'm very happy with the current state of our Trailblazers. 6-7, and if they can get a win tomorrow night in Sacramento they'll be looking at finishing a brutal November considerably better than I thought they would. Brandon Roy's been great, and as long as it's not a long term problem in his foot, he should avoid the rookie wall. The Marcus has been FAR better than I thought he would be. Basically, the Blazers are the high point for me right now, and as horrifying as that sounds, the future is bright. And now, back to the Abyss...

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, back on Monday with some all new rants and raves.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Tier Trauma Volume 2: Updated Rankings

Now that we’re ten games into the regular season, I thought it might be appropriate to release Volume 2 of this season’s Tier Trauma. We know a little bit more about most teams, and I think the first 10 games have probably created more questions than answered them. Nonetheless, let’s take a peek at how the teams fit in so far.

First, a reminder of how the tiers work:

Tier 1: Heavyweights. Teams who have a legitimate shot at winning the whole shebang.

Tier 2: Cruiserweights. Not quite ready to be considered in the league's upper echelon, but close and very talented.

Tier 3: Middleweights. Teams are a few steps away from contention, but have enough to challenge for a playoff spot.

Tier 4: Lightweights. Bad teams who don't have a chance.*

*when we say "don't have a chance", that refers to the championship, not the playoffs. The reason for this caveat is that because the Eastern Conference is so weak, there will inevitably be a lightweight team or two who challenges for a playoff spot.


Note: a “+” in front of a team notes that they have been promoted a tier, “-“ signifies a demotion.

Tier 1 - Heavyweights

The Clippers’ hot start – despite Chris Kaman looking like garbage – elevates them to top-tier status. Phoenix has looked ugly so far this season – a few big wins, and a few horrendous losses – but I expect them to rebound. Another sub-par two weeks though, and we could see a drop. Dallas is back on track, and the Spurs just look great.

Tier 2 - Cruiserweights

The Cavaliers have looked great this year; and they’ve done it without Hughes. The fact that they’re playing the best basketball in the East but aren’t in Tier 1 says more about the East than it does the Cavs. The Heat drop down to this tier (and could drop further) thanks to some mediocre play and Shaq’s knee surgery. OKC gets a promotion because they’ve looked very good this season (second-half implosion against Portland notwithstanding), and Stojakovic is just starting to heat up.

Tier 3 - Middleweights

Overtakes Tier 4 as now the biggest Tier, which I think more properly reflects the state of the NBA. Portland gets the official promotion. They’ve looked great with Roy in the lineup, and they’ve looked scrappy without him. Nice rebound from a tough four-game losing streak to play some great defense and get a win in New Jersey. The Bulls drop down to this tier as they’ve looked awful this year; I’m just not sure where they’re going to find enough scoring to win. Utah, Orlando, and LA have all been very pleasant surprises this season and are a few big wins away from promotion into Tier 2. And of course the Kings, who can’t seem to get a big win but beat the teams they should, have looked good.

Tier 4 - Lightweights

I might be a little harsh on Milwaukee, demoting them down to Tier 4. But have you seen them play? They lost to the Raptors in what was one of the ugliest games of the year. I will say this: they have potential to play much better, which is more than I can say for Philly, New York, and Minnesota, all of whom are completely stuck in the mud right now.

So there you have it. You’ll see another one of these at the 20-game mark – have a great week everyone.

The Sheridan Article

I was unavoidably detained on Friday and missed the big article from Chris Sheridan on (link at the bottom of this post). It warrants mentioning due to the extent of the article. Here's how I stand on these issues, some of which are well known, some others are a little behind the curtain over at 1 Center Court:

I like Paul Allen, I think he's got some bad advise, but he genuinely wants to win.

I don't like Steve Patterson, this should shock people if they're also shocked by the sun coming up in the morning.

I side with the Oregonian, which I'm usually not a fan of, in their feud with the front office. If you want to be seen in a positive way in the community, maybe you should do something positive and not take a title contender to the worst record in the league in 5 years, and that's on top of the jackass factor. Maybe Canzano takes pot shots from time to time, but what sports columnist worth a damn doesn't call them like he sees them? I think Quick is a terrific beat writer who simply reports what happens, if it's bad, the responsibility lies with the team, not Jason Quick. If it's good, we aren't going to give him the credit.

I think the Blazers complaining about the arena situation is a little bit like complaining about a hangover if you knocked back a bottle of Jack Daniels the night before.

The link to Sheridan's story if you haven't read it already:

Slippery Slope

The Western Conference is very tough, this has been established. The goal for the Blazers in this first month is to somehow stay at .500, and they did grab a huge road win over the weekend against a pretty good team out in Jersey. 5-6 is better than I expected, but they are in dangerous territory early in this young season. Consider the slippery slope they are on:

At 5-6, there are only 2 teams in the West that have more losses, Seattle at 4-7, and Memphis at 1-8.

Brandon Roy is out at least a couple more weeks in the boot, starting to look like a season long issue and the Blazers simply can't afford that.

Nate McMillan has decided to start a dreadful player in Graham because he wants his second unit to perform better, then tries to figure out why they start slowly.

The All Star is still holding steady at a 3.88 PER. Good times. Hey Steve, when you do interviews and say that "he's an All Star center"...well...let's just say that's a pretty high level of subterfuge.

Their upcoming games are the Spurs, Nets, Kings, Suns, and Pacers. Yikes. At 5-6, with those games coming up, this is a major danger zone. Somehow they have to win 2 or 3 of these games. If they can go 3-2 in that span and get out of this month 8-8 and get Roy and Joel back, then maybe we can raise the expectation level for this team officially.

Posting could be a bit spotty this week with the Holiday, but I'll try to get some stuff up randomly. I know the Fearless Moderator will be out of town, although we might be in the same place on a few occasions this week, which usually is not good news for the Blazer front office. The two of us, plus booze, usually results in an angry diatribe or two on the state of our once proud franchise.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

O-Live Chat: Quick and Patterson

Jason Quick held another one of his 2:00 Thursday chats today, hosted as always by the upward-voice-inflected “uh/you know” vocal stylings of Casey Holdahl. They had a special guest today, as Steve Patterson of all people joined in on the fray. You can listen to the full chat here, and following are the highlights – in a hail of bullets:

  • Breaking news from today: Aldridge will be starting tomorrow against the Celtics. Nate still has concerns about Lamarcus getting in to foul trouble, but they’re going to give him the spot, the minutes and see what he can do.
  • Stephen Graham will continue to start, and Webster will come off the bench.
  • Another note that Quick pointed out was that with Aldridge and Pryzbilla, along with Roy and Udoka and Jack, they could have a VERY tough end-of-game defensive lineup.
  • Regarding Sergio Rodriguez: The main reason he’s excelled has been because Brandon Roy is injured and he’s getting playing time. His past two games, he’s got 16 assists and 2 turnovers (Ed. Note: in less than 30 minutes in both games) and is making a big argument for more playing time. Eventually, he’s going to have to score/shoot a little bit more to be fully effective.
  • Again, the language barrier came up with Sergio. He’s having trouble processing the in-game calls from the bench.
  • Dan Dickau: really has no role with the team at this point. Nate has lost confidence in him, and Dan didn’t take advantage of the PT he was given when Roy went down.
  • Quick’s preview of the game tomorrow against Boston: The highlight will be Telfair going against his old team. Telfair himself isn’t saying much other than he’s happy for a few of the guys he’s kept in contact with.

  • When asked to pick out one thing that has been particularly happy with this season: the play of Zach Randolph.
  • He mentioned the team’s consistently slow starts in the first quarter as his disappointing item thus far, identifying a combination of new players and injuries causing lineup changes as the main culprits.
  • On Darius Miles: He does expect Miles to come back and play next year. He identified the range of success that’s been had with microfracture surgery … from the good (Zach Randolph and Jason Kidd) to the mediocre (Chris Webber) to the bad (Allan Houston).
  • A bizarre question popped up regarding Joel Freeland. What are the team’s hopes next year? “He’s a young player, 19 years old, he needs to gain strength and work on his game but we’re very pleased with the way he’s played at the junior level over there, which is like college over here.”
  • Patterson addressed the “Aldridge over Morrison” question, and broke it down like this: they essentially identified the four best players in the draft as two bigs – Bargnani and Aldridge – and two wings, Roy and Morrison. They wanted to get two of those four players, and when one of the big men went first, they went big man second so if they did get two they could get one big and one wing. Then Morrison went third, but the club was very excited to have a chance to acquire Roy and get a second top tier player.
  • On Magloire’s performance, and how the trade has panned out: He’s fine with it. Blake’s not getting a lot of PT in Milwaukee (Editor’s note: and he wouldn’t be getting any here either), and Magloire needs to adjust to having some new teammates. He also mentioned how having Magloire has come in very handy with the injuries to Portland’s other front-court players.
  • When asked about his own contract situation, he declined to respond to his specific situation, but he did say that they've been rebuilding the ballclub, season tickets have gone up, the community is responding to the new team, and overall he's very happy with the direction of the franchise.

Nate's 1st Bad Game

Players have bad games all the time, so do coaches, and Nate's first really horrific performance was last night in Cleveland. I'm sure it sounded good at the time, but with a hat tip to The Sports Guy, where was the GM of Common Sense when they got together and put Graham, Udoka, and The All Star in the starting lineup last night? The All Star is beyond dreadful, currently sporting the lowest PER I have ever seen at 3.34 (15 is league average). Graham is at 6.66 and Udoka is at 10.50. Folks, there's just no way in hell you are winning an NBA game with those three guys starting and playing like that. You could have Kobe and LaBron as your other 2 starters and you'd still suck. This should be obvious however since Zach is third in the entire NBA at 27.71 PER and Jack's better than average at 16.94 and they were still in a big hole early again last night.

Enough is enough, I know there's a learning curve and Nate's trying to develop his young guys, but Outlaw and Aldridge have to start. The starting 5 clearly should be Jack, Dixon, Outlaw, Z-bo, and Aldridge. This team has a chance to exceed expectations by a fairly wide margin, but they have to tread water until they get Roy and Joel back.

One last note about The Marcus, um, yeah, he's a lot better than I gave him credit for. His sample size is still too small to make a lot of use out of his PER (it's in Z-bo territory at 27.37), but it doesn't take any advanced stat matrix to see that the guy's pulling down 10 points and 7 boards in 20 minutes a night early in his career and is definitely a big piece of the future in Rip City.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Blazer Rotation

We’re 8 games into the season, or just a tad under 10%. My how time flies. What have we learned about Portland’s roster so far? There has been an abundance of speculation, given some of the recent developments, regarding the rotation.

A couple of facts seem to have presented themselves:

1. Ime Udoka is a nice story, and he’s a good filler for now -- but he’s nowhere near a starting-caliber NBA player.

2. Same goes for Stephen Graham. Both these guys are needed due to the team’s lack of small forwards, but neither can be counted on for heavy productive minutes.

3. Martell Webster is ready to play significant minutes; but not starter minutes. He’s a good shooter off the bench, he can score, and he’s starting to put it together, but he hasn’t yet developed the all-around skills to play 30+ per night.

4. Brandon Roy is certainly ready to start, and in four games has already established himself as one of the keys to the team.

5. LaMarcus Aldridge appears to be ready to contribute this season and play significant minutes at both the PF and C positions..

6. Travis Outlaw’s light appears to have turned on.

Given all of this, what will Portland’s rotation look like once they get healthy? We know that Miles is done for the year, and speculation is that all of Pryzbilla, Roy and LaFrentz will be back within the next few weeks. How will the playing time shake out? Let’s take a look.

Post Players. Suppose for a minute that Aldridge is a serviceable big man backup this year. You've got Zbo, Pryz, LaFrentz, Aldridge, Outlaw and Magloire who all need playing time at the PF or C spots. Yes, some are better than others, but given that all are either established veterans or promising young guys, I don’t see how you can give anyone on that list consistent DNP’s. Between the two post positions there are 96 minutes per game to be played. 38 of those will go to Zbo and 25 will go to Joel. Leaving 33 minutes for Aldrdige, Outlaw, LaFrentz, and the Magloire.

Clearly, that's too crowded. What this says to me is that you have to play Outlaw at SF and not PF.

The backcourt and wings. At the point, there are 48 minutes per night. You've got Jack playing 30 per night, maybe more- let's call it 33. That leaves 15 minutes that Roy and Spanish Chocolate can take. At the two wing spots ... SF and SG ... you've got another 96 minutes per night. Roy gets 25 (gotta remember the 10+ per night he's logging at PG), Outlaw gets 25, leaving 46 minutes for Webster, Dixon, Udoka, and Graham. A little bit of a stretch, but I think you can make that happen. Give Webster 20, give Dixon 20, and you're getting close.


PG – Jack 33, Roy 10, Spanish Chocolate 5
SG – Roy 25, Dixon 18, Webster 5
SF – Outlaw 25, Webster 17, Udoka or Graham: 6
PF – Zbo 35, Aldridge 7, LaFrentz 6
C – Pryzbilla 25, Magloire 15, Aldridge 8

That's an 11-man rotation, which is too big. How do we pare it down? I would suggest that the solution to this quagmire is a two-pringed attack: 1. Trade one of your big men – clearly either LaFrentz or Magloire – for an expiring contract that you can stash on the bench. Some might say you already have this in Magloire, but he’s too experienced to treat him that way. 2. Give those Udoka/Graham minutes to either Webster or Outlaw, once they show they can fill out their game a little more. Then you’re looking at a very nice 9-man rotation of Jack, Roy, Outlaw, Randolph, and Pryzbilla starting, with Dixon, Webster, Aldridge, and whichever is left of Magloire or LaFrentz coming off the bench.

I think it’s exciting times for Portland, and I’m not even talking about their fast start. Even if the team goes “thud” over these next two weeks (they’ve got a very tough schedule, and going 2-6 wouldn’t be a shock), they’ve got a direction, they’ve got a rotation starting to fill itself out, and they’ve got a nice young group of guys. There’s a lot to like in Blazerland right now.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Darius Miles Out For Season; Zbo Sued By Woman; The Sky Is Blue

A bit of a disappointing afternoon today in Blazerland.

First, the not-so-bad: Darius Miles is out for the year.

Not that this is necessarily a bad thing -- as mentioned in my last post, I'm not entirely convinced we really want D-Miles anywhere near this team. I'm just disappoined we won't have a chance to trade him. As you all may or may not know, the initial plan had been to perform arthroscopic surgery on Miles' knee, give him a month or so to heal, and take it from there. However, during the arthroscopic procedure, doctors apparently found a few things they didn't like and ended up performing microfracture surgery which will now keep Miles out for the remainder of the season. From a cash perspective, this is a good thing for Portland, as they'll be getting a significant amount of his salary back in the form of insurance payments. From a cap perspective, it's a bad thing, as they're still on the hook for his full salary and now most certainly will not be able to trade Miles until next year.

Personally, I'm making the prediction right now that the club will negotiate some sort of a buyout between now and next October when the season begins; it's just impossible to see Darius rejoining the team in any sort of functioning role at this point. Although I'm not sure you can buy a player out when he's physically unable to play.

Secondly, the Zbo thing. Apparently -- and you can get all this information over at O-Live -- this goes back to the 2-man bachelor party. A woman was allegedly paid by Zach to perform a "simulated sex act" on another woman at his hotel room. She got drunk, passed out, and found Zbo on top of her. I downloaded the seven-page formal PDF complaint that was filed, and without reviewing the details here (there is some truly nasty stuff there), let me assure you that what this woman is alleging is very dirty and very wrong.

None of this is funny, and I'm just not quite sure what to say other than I hope this is simply a ploy by a greedy golddigger to get into Zach's pockets and coerce a settlement. If it's anything more -- which I can't say would be a huge surprise -- I think we're all in for a tremendous disappointment.

The First Roadie

The first extended road trip of the season begins tonight in Minneapolis against the 2-4 Timberwolves, a division rival that appears to be somewhat growing in stature thanks to Ricky Davis. Ricky being Scott Farkas from a previous post, calling the team a bunch of roaches and then going a little farther after the game the other night. He said he was planning on bringing RAID to the game tonight. Every good story needs a villain, and rather than look at the game tonight as a couple teams that will have their GM's sitting on that weird podium during the playoffs waiting to see if they won the lottery, we might as well use it as a good rivalry and building point for this young team. Unlike their previous games this year, it actually looks like the opposing team is gunning for the Blazers. The matchup tonight:

Jarrett Jack
Martell Webster
Ime Udoka
Zach Randolph
The All Star (now Joel has a "lower abdominal hemotoma", let's just say that a hemotoma in the area where he got hit is one of the most unpleasant things imaginable)

At the T-wolves:
Mike James (a Kevin McHale Special)
Ricky Davis
Kevin Garnett
Trenton Hassell
Mark Blount

Seriously, the Wolves have a dreadful roster outside of KG, although they do have a player named "blunt", good times. I'm not even going to mock Eddie Griffin, he's done plenty to himself already.

The Blazers have a very interesting trip ahead of them against 2 teams they certainly can beat (Minnesota and Boston) and two against teams they really shouldn't (Cleveland and New Jersey). If they get a split and come home 6-5 I'll be very happy. Portland is getting 8.5 half tonight, Vegas still not sure about our boys, I'd take the points tonight.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Some musings and other bullety stuff from the loss that dropped the Blazers to 4-3 heading into an interesting road trip.

- The Mavericks are a better team. I still don't want to hear anything about moral victories or how they put up a good fight or how they gave it a good try. This isn't Yale, I don't care about the old college try, words to live by in major sports: a good fight is one you win.

- The Marcus might be pretty good. I'm honest, I sent a text message in the second quarter tonight to the Blazers Blog Moderator (who for some reason still goes nameless to our readers) that read "I don't want to say The Marcus is a stiff, but he's a stiff." It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong, I am not a big man. Still, he's got some interesting potential.

- Jarrett Jack, quality NBA Point Guard.

- The officiating in the NBA is a debacle. I know this is news right up there with "Lochi likes alcohol" but this game was especially horrific, both ways. I suppose if there's one positive from their overwhelming dogshit officiating it's that it's not one sided. They call it straight up, crappy for each team.

- Every time I see the Blazer Dancers I think to myself "self, I wonder if they know they've been pimped out as part of a ticket package".

- The bottom line here is that the Blazers without Brandon Roy need Z-bo to play above and beyond a normal player to beat good teams. He did against the Lakers and Hornets, he was merely good tonight. We're all going to hold our breath and wait until Roy gets back, but this is most definitely a different team than the past couple years. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Mavericks at Blazers

The 4-2 Blazers face the bottom feeding, 1-5 Dallas Mavericks tonight in The Garden. This should be an easy win, when you're an upper tier team facing a cellar dweller like Dallas, well, it's just a game you have to win. (insert the most sarcastic tone possible here). There are two ways to look at this game tonight, first, you get the best team in the NBA when they're playing like garbage and maybe you can actually get a win against a team that's vastly superior. The other is that you're catching them as they're regressing to the mean, obviously they're going to end up in the 60 win range and they have to start playing like the team they are eventually. I prefer to go with the former, the matchup is as follows:

Jason Terry
Devin Harris
Jerry Stackhouse
Dirk Nowitzki
Eric Dampier

Jarrett Jack
Martell Webster
Ime Udoka
Zach Randolph
The All Star

Just typing the lineups makes me cringe, but, they're 1-5 and playing like crap and the Blazers are playing terrific. Tonight also marks the return/debut of The Marcus. I'd expect him to make his first appearance sometime late in the first quarter, and frankly, this isn't a good game for him to get his feet wet. Eric Dampier is a hoss, Dirk is arguably the best player in the world, so other than that, have a good time, welcome to the NBA.

The Blazers are getting 5.5 tonight, currently sitting at 5-1 on the year, I will be taking the Blazers to cover. At this point, why the hell not?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Christmas Story

I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what the hell is going on with this team. They've beat two pretty good teams in a row, one in convincing fashion, and then last night's bit of absurdity. They came from 27 points down against the Hornets to win on a late free throw from Z-bo, who continues to do his Superman routine out there. 20 & 10 guys are hard to find, but 30 & 10 guys are MVP's.

Anyway, I finally came up with an answer to what's been going on. Looking at the roster as it's currently constructed you have Jarrett Jack, who led his team to the national title game and played in the quality ACC. Juan Dixon played in the ACC as well and won a national championship. The All Star played at Kentucky, also making deep runs in the NCAA tournament. We all know about Brandon Roy. These guys are players that have been in tough spots and won a lot of high profile games. Add to that a couple very talented young players in Webster and Outlaw, plus Z-bo, who did play for Tom Izzo for a year but it a lot more of a young guy than a battle tested NCAA tournament guy. All they needed was a spark, and then it happened.

Ricky Davis was mocking all of them, mocking the crowd, the Wolves were pulling away in a scene that looked all too familiar to Blazer fans. Then they snapped. It was like when Ralphie finally snaps and beats up Scott Farkas. All those players that had won all those games in college finally reached the breaking point. Now they've seemingly put the idea in all the young guys that if you fight and scratch and claw you can win a lot of games in the NBA. If they continue to bust ass every night then yes, they can win 35-40 games, maybe more.

Unfortunately, there is the news that Brandon Roy could be out a while. He's out at least a week or two, and if he has surgery the expected down time is 4-6 weeks. They do get The Marcus back, hopefully he can give them something worthy of a #2 pick in the draft. The key now though is going to be Martell. He's got to score. Jack's going to do his thing, and if Z-bo is going to keep playing like this, all they need is that perimeter gunner to keep it going. They're 4-2, and if they can get through this brutal month of games without Roy at 8-8 or better, watch out.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"It's Floodin' Down In Texas"

"...all the telephone lines are down." With a nod to Stevie Ray Vaughn, a bottle of Vitamin Water and a crappy cup of office coffee, a quick look around the league:

What is wrong with the Dallas Mavericks?

Or for that matter, the Suns and Nuggets? Three teams we all thought would contend in West are sporting a combined 2-12 record. That's a .142 win% between the three. I'll give some credit to the Suns and Mavericks, they've both played awfully tough schedules for the first week and a half of the season. But the Nuggets ... losing to Minnesota and New York at home? Come on fellas. It's far too early to make any judgements, but I do think there are minor reasons for concern. Phoenix is clearly still adjusting to having Amare Stoudemire back, and Mike D'Antoni has been jerking around with the starting lineup, switching around Boris Diaw, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa. Denver got some bad news about Kenyon Martin, and despite strong starts from Carmelo and Camby they simply need more production from the backcourt. As for the Mavs, I'm sure they'll be fine, but it's been a bizarre start for a few of the Western Conference heavyweights.

Darius Miles' knee: insurance ploy?

Three things occurred to me as the news came down yesterday that Darius Miles would be undergoing another knee surgery.

1. Why didn't they figure this out sooner?
The team had the entire offseason so get his knee looked at; what exactly took so long? Did they simply assume he'd be okay and when he showed up with swelling and pain it was a big shock? We've all heard the "he might have played his last game ever for Portland" rumors -- which are just weird -- and all of this just doesn't make a ton of sense right now.

2. Do we really want him back?
I don't think we do. He's supposedly a clubhouse cancer; he'd be taking minutes away from Udoka, Martell, and Outlaw; Nate doesn't like him; the team is doing well without him, and he doesn't try very hard. It's not like Portland is winning a championship this year and his contributions will help push them over the edge. I see more negative than positive to Darius' rejoining the team.

3. Could this be an insurance play by Portland?
You can't help but wonder. Why delay this second surgery until the season has already started? Some of the quotes from Darius ... "the team knows whats going on, it's up to them" ... "I'm just waiting on their decision" ...etc, imply that the Blazers took their sweet time with addressing this situation. Now clearly the players' union would file a grievance if Portland were deliberately doing anything to prevent Darius from playing or from getting the medical attention he needs, but I'm merely pointing out that if Darius doesn't play at all this season, the it's possible that Portland could get an insurance cash windfall to cover part or most of his salary. And given that they may not want him back that badly anyway, it's certainly possible that they'd rather just collect the insurance payout and keep him away from the team.

What a bizarre situation this whole Darius thing is. Stay tuned.

The Thomas Watch

Isaiah's Knicks are 2-3, with wins over Memphis and Denver, and losses to Atlanta, Indiana and San Antonio. And let me say this: they're in for a huge downturn. Not because of anything that Isaih is specifically doing, but rather because of their schedule. They've got games @ Houston, @ San Antonio and @ Miami, with home games against Cleveland, Washington and Houston again -- all in the next 11 days. Following this recent 1-6 stretch I expect they'll be something like 3-9 and not looking good, and we'll see the real heat start to come down on Isaiah.

The Pacers Watch

You all know that Indiana is my big sleeper pick this year to make it out of the East. How are they doing so far? Let's take a look. They're 3-2, with wins over New York, Charlotte and Philly, and losses to NO/OKC and Washington. So they've essentially beaten up on the crappy teams and lost to the decent teams. We'll check back in in a few weeks.

The Bargnani Watch

How's the #1 overall pick doing? He's played in all four games for Toronto thus far, averaging 3.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 9 minutes of play. I know it doesn't work this way, but at that rate if you give him 30 minutes per game he's a 10-and-7 player. Not too shabby for a rookie. He's a project, and Toronto acknowledged this when they drafted him. Going further down the draft list, we all know how LaMarcus Aldridge is doing ... move along, nothing to see here ... how about Adam Morrison? 15 points, 2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 33 minutes per game -- or, exactly what we thought he'd do. He's not really rebounding or defending or distributing, but he is scoring. I can't say I'm terribly impressed with the 37% FG shooting, or 1.18 points-per-shot, but he's stroking it okay from 3pt (35%) and he's delivering some much-needed offense to the Bobcats.

Two other quick check-ins: Tyrus Thomas is averaging 5 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes per game for the Bulls, and Shelden Williams is averaging 3 points and 4.5 rebounds in nearly 20 minutes per game. Thomas is a project (he's the guy we should be watching compared to Aldridge, not Morrison) and I think Williams is commonly regarded as a disappointment so far -- but clearly too early to tell on both.

That's all for now. Fantastic post by The Lochi on forgiving Brandon Roy; pultizer material there. Any of us who grew up as Blazer and Duck fans -- and there are a lot of us -- can certainly relate to that. Two more tests for Portland this weekend as the Hornets and Mavs come to town. Enjoy the weekend, and Go Blazers.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Forgiving Brandon Roy

I hate the Washington Huskies, this is not a new story. Then the Blazers drafted super rookie Brandon Roy and hopefully forever altered the franchise. This created somewhat of a dilemma for me, avid Husky hater, cheering on arguably the best basketball player ever for Washington. I don't hate their basketball team nearly as much as the football team, in fact it's given berth to a new remarkable turn of events in which you can be heckling a Husky and they bust out "we're a basketball school now anyway" and they're dead serious. Oh how the mighty have fallen. I promise we'll get to the big win last night shortly, but I need get this out in the open of how I have come to forgive Brandon Roy and that I no longer see a Husky when he's on the floor.

First a little background, my freshmen year in school and one of the first Duck games I saw live was the Kenny Wheaton game. I saw the Pat Johnson corner of the end zone game in Husky Stadium. I've got a picture on my fridge of when I turned my chair around in the middle of a party and refused to watch the game until they put Clemens back in (The Fife Debacle). I even attended the Husky win over Miami in Husky Stadium with the Dorsey family, the wife's family is family friends with the Dorseys. Husky Stadium was every bit as nasty that day as it always has been for us up there. I lived through Skippys Reign of Terror as well, and my fantasy football league's divisions are the Brock, Damon, and Skippy, because no 3 people did more for Oregon football than the Huard Brothers and Skippy, seeing as how he systematically destroyed their program.

Now, Brandon Roy is on one of those promos they run where you're supposed to get to know him better. He's very well spoken, friendly, confident, a marketing dream. On the promo I saw the other night there was this exchange:

Interviewer: What's your favorite sport other than basketball?
Roy: College football. I love college football.
Interviewer: And your favorite team?
(Lochi picks up magazine and prepares to deposit it against the wall with extreme prejudice)
Roy: The Miami Hurricanes.
(Lochi falls off the chair laughing his ass off)

Yep, that's a kid who grew up in Seattle, spent 4 years at Washington, and his favorite football team is the Miami Hurricanes? Nothing I can say or do to mock the Husky football program could possibly have a bigger effect. Thank you Brandon, you are no longer a Husky to me.


The Blazers simply crushed the Lakers last night. They led by 8-15 points most of the second half, with only one dicey section. It was just a domination by Z-bo, who's been nothing short of an animal inside this year. He went for 36 and 11 but it felt like about 50 and 25. All of his points were of the physically dominating variety, the demoralizing low block easy bucket.

The Mamba is clearly not right, he's not nearly as explosive as he will be in a few months.

My streak has ended, I'm now 4-1 picking Blazer games, the board Moderator is 2-3 however. I'm not terribly sure where the team goes from here. I can't really believe they're 3-2 with New Orleans and Dallas coming to town. They have a very rough November, this was covered in our season preview, but I'm starting to think if they can get out of this month at .500, well, we might have to start talking about some crazy things. None of that talk now though, just enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Brandon Roy has an impingement on a bone in his heel, not his ankle, not his achilles, and I can un-fetal position myself. He will be gellin' with one of those shoe insert things, and he's going to miss tonight's game with the Lakers, but he'll likely be back on Friday against the Hornets. This is a tough week for our boys, I'd be thrilled if they took one of out of the next three, Dallas is the third on this first little home stand of the year. In other Blazer news, The Marcus has started practicing and is possibly going to make his debut this weekend. Zach clearly needs some help down on the low block, hopefully Aldridge can provide something over there. That's getting ahead of ourselves though, there is a game tonight in which they'll be drastically short handed. The matchup tonight:

Jarrett Jack
Martell Webster
Ime Udoka
Zach Randolph
The All Star (how long can a guy be out with a shot to the jewels?)

Smush Parker (seriously?)
The Black Mamba
Luke Walton
Lamar Odom
Andrew Bynum

The Lakers come roaring into this game at 4-1 on the season and just got 20 & 14 from their young center last night. Bynum looked tremendous, according to the LA Times, but Odom has done his disappearing act recently since Kobe's return. The Zen Master called him out apparently the other night for vanishing when Kobe's on the floor. The Mamba himself is still injured and not going off on any 50 point barrages as of yet. In fact, he's been a team player so far, he only took 7 shots last night, and has only taken 32 in three games. He's taken 32 shots in a half on more than one occasion. All that being said, when I read in the Oregonian that "Webster and Udoka will share defensive duties on Bryant" that leads me to believe The Mamba will be out in full effect tonight.

When the Lakers come to town it's always a show. They're still the Lakers, they still have Kobe, Phil, and the purple uniforms. I'm on a personal quest to go 82-0 against the spread this year picking Blazer games, I'm 4-0, the other guy is 2-2. They're getting 4 tonight in the Rose Garden, and if they had Brandon Roy I'd certainly take that. He won't be playing tonight though, and they're extremely short handed all over the floor. Reluctantly, I have to take the Lakers and give the 4 tonight.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's a fair question, is the franchise cursed? In case you haven't heard yet, Brandon Roy is having an MRI today on his achillies, saying after being taken out after 14 minutes last night that he has a bone issue down there. The only bone that's going to rub that part of the body would be the ankle, and if it's a bone issue that leads to all sorts of other problems.

In case you were keeping track, and you know I was, that would be 8 first round draft picks in the last 3 years, and one is going to be in the starting lineup tomorrow night against the Lakers, Jarrett Jack. Sebastian Telfair, Surge Monia, Viktor the Krapper, Martell Webster, Jack, The Marcus, Roy, and Rodriguez. That's it folks, The Elite 8, 1 starter. I know Steve, I know, that's just a bunch of subterfuge.

The Blazers lost a game last night, but it certainly appears that they may have lost a hell of a lot more. From Jordan's 6 rings, including one over the Blazers, to Elliot's shot, to The Meltdown, to the Elite 8, it's certainly worth a deeper look to see if there is some kind of curse. I'll see if Jobu has anything to say on the matter, I'll offer him cigar and rum, he will come.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Playoff Preview

The 2-1 Trailblazers face the 2-1 LA Clippers in a preview of a potential first round playoff series. Just kidding. Funny how the ridiculous nature of that sentence used to be the other way around. It's certainly the Bizarro World when the Clip are a virtual lock to make the playoffs and a legit contender for the Title if they make a savvy move here or there and the Blazers are looking at another lottery pick. That being said, it is happy times in Portland right now, although early, everyone seems to be pumped up about the team. In true Blazer fashion, just when they get everyone fired up, they have a game against a Western Conference playoff team that isn't on tv. I love the Blazer front office. Anyway, the matchup:

Jarrett Jack
Brandon Roy
Ime Udoka
Zach Randolph
The All Star - presumably starting in place of Joel again.

The Clip:
Sam Cassell
Cuttino Mobley
Quinton Ross (I know, I don't get it either)
Elton Brand
Chris Kaman

Tim Thomas did start over Kaman on Saturday night against the Suns and I'm not sure why. The goofy starter is Quinton Ross over Maggette, his dog house status has been talked about at great length on major websites. On Saturday Ross had a stellar 19 minutes where he scored 2 points, pulled down 2 boards, had 0 assists, 0 steals, and 0 blocks to go along with his 4 fouls while Maggette went for 23 points and 12 boards off the bench. Seems perfectly reasonable that Ross would be the starter.

The Blazers are getting 11 tonight down in the Staples Center, The Loch is currently 3-0 against the spread vs 1-2 for this board's fearless Moderator. No word yet on what he's picking tonight, but I'm afraid I'm laying the 11 and taking the Clip. They're just a more advanced team than ours, playing at home, and I'm not overly optimistic about this one. The home games this week though, that's another story. Until then, enjoy watching the game tonight...or not.

UPDATE: The Blazers Blog Moderator will also be laying the 11 tonight and taking The Clip.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"It's a different team this year man, with a different attitude"

-Juan Dixon, following Portland's come-from-behind win over Minnesota.

The Blazers are 2-1, and looking like they might have a respectable basketball team this year. Following a disappointing performance by the team on Friday night in the Bay Area, they rebounded to come back from a 16-point deficit and beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on a Dixon three-pointer with six seconds left.

Travis Outlaw and Brandon Roy were the stars of the game, with Zach Randolph doing his "good Zach" thing down-low in the second half. But THE story for Portland this year is Brandon Roy. I think most of us expected him to be a very solid player who would grow into a leadership role, but this is already his team. I've never seen a rookie energize and change a Portland team like Roy has. He's quick enough to drive by even very good perimeter defenders (as Mike Barrett correctly pointed out during the broadcast on Saturday night), smart enough to know how to use the pick-and-roll to get himself an open jumper, and sees the floor well enough to find the open teammate when he draws the open team. He didn't have a great shooting night on Saturday, but you really can't ask anything more of him than what he's done so far.

I also thought it was interesting that Portland's crunch-time lineup was Roy, Dixon, Webster, Outlaw, Zbo. That's an incredibly small lineup, and interestingly I think you can make the argument that it's one of Portland's worst defensive lineups. With Joel having missed the game due to a "lower abdominal injury" (read: he got kneed in the balls by Troy Murphy), Portland had to make adjustments, but it was a curious decision by Nate. Clearly he wanted speed and shooting, and both paid off despite a few defensive lapses.

And speaking of Nate, I have to give him major credit. First, on Dixon's game winner Nate set up a play where Roy attacked the rim, with shooters on each corner (Dixon on the left and Martell on the right). Sure enough, Roy goes right by Trenton Hassell, draws the wing defenders in, and kicks to Dixon. Great setup there; it's like a triple-option play for a QB.

A few additional thoughts on the past two nights:
  • This whole "Outlaw at the 4" thing is an interesting experiment, and it seems to be working. Following Portland's first two games against teams without dominant post players (although Seattle's Chris Wilcox is getting there), you would think if that strategy was ever going to blow up in Portland's face it would be against Minnesota and KG. But Outlaw was fantastic on Saturday -- he's got the quicks and the hops to always have an offensive option no matter what type of defender is guarding him. 18 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes in what was in my mind his best game to-date as a Blazer.
  • Not living in the pacific northwest, Saturday's game was my first chance to see Portland's home-town broadcast. And I have to come clean: I'm okay with Mike Barrett -- even enjoy him. But I cannot stand Mike Rice. He's like a poor-man's Joe Theisman -- gets way too excited about certain players, is a blatant homer to the point of annoyance, and says foolish things at inopportune times. A painful color-man to listen to.
  • Another positive from this season that's gotten lost in all of the Roy hullabaloo is the growth of Martell Webster. He looks to have taken the first major step: going from a relatively lost rookie to a valuable asset off the bench. He's finally learned how to use his shooting skills as an asset without forcing shots of screwing up the offensive flow, and I thought his game on Saturday -- 16 points on 6-8 shooting (4-5 from 3pt) was EXACTLY what this team needs from him.
  • One of the most encouraging things to me about Saturday's game (and despite the sluggish-at-times offensive performance, there was a lot to like) was that Roy and Zbo shot a combined 12-of-34, yet Portland still had enough to win thanks to Outlaw and Webster.
  • A quick note about minutes played. Brandon Roy (38.3), Jarrett Jack (35.7), and Ime Udoka (25.7) are first, third, and fourth respectively in minutes played on the team. This is a little concerning, as Roy will inevitably hit the rookie wall around late February-early March that every rookie hits, it's Jack's second year and first as a full-time player as well as Udoka's. We know these guys are going to slow down at some point, I'd like to see Nate ease back a little bit so we might at least be able to prolong their "good production time" a bit.
  • And finally, what a great sign that the team was able to come back from a bad performance on Friday and play much better on the back end of a back-to-back. One thing you frequently see with young teams is disappointing play on those back ends, but you have to give Nate credit for keeping them up and fresh.

The Blazers put on the Big-Boy Pants this week, as they start to play a few of the teams in the upper-half of the league. The've got games against the Clippers, Hornets, Lakers and Mavericks in the next seven days so we'll get a chance to see if Portland truly is a Tier-3 "Middleweight" team as they've looked for these first few games.

Enjoy your football today, and Go Blazers!