Wednesday, August 29, 2007

We May Have Something Here

Rudy Fernandez was named the FIBA European Player of the Year and he's still lighting it up for the Spanish National Team. It's entirely possible that he's the final piece of the puzzle at the small forward position and Pritchard knows it. Would it be all that surprising if they went into 2009 as the trendy pick to win the Title with this starting 5?

Chris Paul
Brandon Roy
Rudy Fernandez
LaMarcus Aldridge
Greg Oden

Considering their ages, their potential contract status at that time, and their games that appear to fit very well together, that could be a legitimate dynasty in the making.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm posting essentially on a weekly basis until camp starts and The Moderator is MIA at the moment. We'll be back to daily business here in about a month.

And yes, I've noticed how awesome Team USA looks. Carmelo is still awesome in that format, potentially the best player in the world at that sytle of game. Kobe's defense and Redd's snipering is the difference and could make them borderline unbeatable in China. I also still think Oden will be on this team when they head to the Far East.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tournament of the Americas

I'm bumping around the channel guide last night and to my surprise I found basketball, and real basketball at that. Needless to say I had to watch this incarnation of Team USA after their flop at the World Championship last year. They obliterated Venezuela, who should probably start Johan Santana at point guard, they'd certainly be better. The final was 112-69 and I did not make it to the end, they were up 44 in the third quarter and I figured that was that. I do have some thoughts on this version of the team (shocking).

  • Carmelo, LeBron, and Kobe do kind of look awkward on the floor together. I actually kind of wonder if LeBron is a good fit for this style of play. Carmelo clearly is, he's our best international player by a mile, and Kobe is just so dominant on both ends of the floor that he has to play. If LeBron can turn into the passer of the 3, then they could be almost unstoppable.
  • Kobe's defense is a serious upgrade, as is Tayshawn Prince coming off the bench.
  • I like Chris Paul as much as the next guy, but Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups are better for this style. They're much more in control and set up guys in the exact position to hit shots.
  • Michael Redd makes a huge difference, Team USA would be the world champions right now if they'd had him. You just simply can't sit back in a 2-3 zone with him on the floor. And when the back court is Billups, Kobe, Redd, they'll just destroy a 2-3 zone. Then when you come out of it Kobe just takes his guy for an easy bucket.
  • Greg Oden is going to be on this team next year. If Tyson Chandler is on it right now, then it's a no brainer Oden will be going to China. Plus they're going to need another athletic big man to play along side Howard against teams like Greece.

Some final scoring numbers: Carmelo had 17, Michael Redd 17, Kobe had 14, Amare 16, Dwight Howard 12, and LeBron had 11.

Update: How come nobody has told me about the sweetest bald spot in the league? Everyone knows Manu's is great, and it is, but apparently Michael Redd developed a great one over the summer. Wait till you see it, it's quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bring Out Your Dead

I assure you, we are sill alive. There's just not a lot going on right now, just kind of waiting for camp to start and things to pick up. Since we're all dying for some info, here's a few things I could find but none of it is really that shocking.

Ime Udoka is finalizing his deal with the Spurs. Should be a good fit, he's kind of a poor man's Bruce Bowen anyway.

Aldridge has left the Washington Generals portion of the US National Team scrimmages. Apparently he has some discomfort in his heel and is going to rest up for camp. I have a feeling Aldridge is going to lead the team in scoring and rebounding this season. I know Roy's the popular pick, but Aldridge could thrive with Oden getting all the attention. He's my pick to make The Leap this year.

Rudy Fernandez is tearing it up for the Spanish National Team over in Europe, putting up 16 and 7 in a 93-69 victory over Venezuela, which is odd because Venezuela is most definitely not in Europe. Sergio is also on that team, had a 6 points and an assist (hat tip to the Oregonian's Blazer Blog for that story).

And...that's about it. It's pretty dead around here. Football is on the TV again, baseball games are starting to feel a lot more tense, which means basketball season is right around the corner. Hang in there.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Western Conference Tier Trauma: Version 1.0

Below we have our first Western Conference Tier Trauma, pre-season edition.  As always, the teams are listed by grouping, and within the group in order.  We don't believe in true "rankings" around these parts, so we have teams set into four groups: Heavyweights (title contenders), Cruiserweights (very good teams who are still a player or some growth away), Middleweights (borderline playoff teams), and Lightweights (terrible teams).
Tier 1: The Heavyweights
San Antonio
All of last season, we assumed it would be a two-horse race to the finish: Dallas versus Phoenix.  But Dallas got upset in the first round, San Antonio beat Phoenix in the second round, and Utah ended up in the Western Conference Finals by default.  I still believe Phoenix and Dallas are the most talented teams, but until someone either knocks off San Antonio or they've shown themselves to take a big step backwards, they're still the favorites.
Tier 2: The Cruiserweights
I don't believe that Utah will repeat their performance from last year -- I don't even think they'll win the division -- but I've included them here because it's tough to deny how well they played at the end of last season.  They're a candidate for relegation so keep an eye on their first 20 games.  Houston and Denver on the other hand wouldn't surprise me to take "the leap" this year.  The Rockets stole Steve Francis, hired Rick Adelman, made a nifty little acquisition in Luis Scola, and are looking like a scary team this year.  I believe Bonzi Wells will do much better under Adelman than he did under Van Gundy, and with Yao's continued dominance (he was the best center in the NBA last year, and I can't believe this didn't get more pub) Houston could very well join the "big three".  Denver will probably win their division, and I don't think the loss of Steve Blake will hurt them that much.
Tier 3: The Middleweights
Golden State
LA Lakers
New Orleans
LA Clippers
One of the more interesting groups to watch.  Teams like Golden State, the Lakers, the Hornets, and the Blazers could win 45 games and contend for a 6-seed, or they could win 35 and be out of it by late February.  You'd be shocked how thin the line is between those two win totals. All of these teams are either extremely thin and carried by a few star players (Lakers, Hornets, Clippers) or young and blossoming teams who will be very strong in future years (Blazers, Grizz).  Frankly, I'm not quite sure what to make of the Warriors just yet.  I still like their team, but trading away Richardson was a huge mistake that I think will end up costing them big-time.  Two other quick notes: I created these rankings after the news that Elton Brand was going to be out at least 6 months, maybe 12, with an achilles tear, so the Clip got knocked severely for that.  Also, I'm not quite as high on the Blazers' win total for this coming year as many of you are.  I love this team in the future, but I think we've got one more year of non-playoffs before things really start looking sweet.  We'll obviously have more on that in the coming weeks.
Tier 4: The Lightweights
Three horrible teams.
That's it for now. 

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ho Ho Ho

If you had any doubts about what kind of impact Greg Oden has on the Blazers, look no further than the schedule in his rookie year. The schedule just came out this morning and the Blazers have a couple of marquee games on there.

They open the season in San Antonio on October 30th. That's right, the home of the Champs while they hang their banner and Oden's first game will be against Tim Duncan. Thanks for that.

They make their triumphant return to Christmas Day basketball. They will be the third game of the annual triple header, hosting the Sonics. You might notice that means Durant v Oden I will be quite the spectacle here in the Rose City.

Some other first impressions, San Antonio, Dallas twice, and a 4 team Eastern roadie in the first month of the season. Yikes. They have two 6 game home stands, one in December and one in late January/early February, and they have a monster roadie in January, 7 games in 10 days that goes Toronto, Jersey, Boston, Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, New Orleans.

If you're thinking playoff push in April, they got no favors handed to them. They play the Lakers twice, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix in 6 of their 8 April games.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dog Days

We've reached the down time portion of the off season, except in Boston apparently, where you just kind of sit around and wait for camp to open. Here are some notes from some various news sources that have been bouncing around in the last few days.

Oden will likely not play for Team USA this year. He's going to rest up and get ready for his rookie season. I think this is good for the Blazers obviously, Oden will have plenty of chances to play for Team USA down the road.

Kevin Pritchard recently told the Oregonian that the roster is set and us fans shouldn't expect any other major moves. That makes it all but certain that Outlaw or Jones will be the starting small forward on opening night, with Martell Webster being the long shot.

The Blazers are about one draft away from setting up their own team in Europe with all the players they've got stashed over there.

The Garnett deal is obviously good for the Blazers in the short term. They've moved to the third best team in their division, with the Sonics and Wolves being arguably the two worst teams in the Western Conference. I do kind of like the nucleus the Wolves are starting with, and with all their draft picks they kind of look like the Blazers two years ago.

As for the Celtics, in honor of The Donaghy, two days ago they were 100-1 to win the NBA Title, today they're 5-1. They were 75-1 to win the East and are now 5-2. That says about all you need to know about the deal from their end.