Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things are looking up

It's been a pretty good few days. Even though I didn't get any work done over the weekend, being at the coast and seeing family turned out to be a great use of time. Then last night I got fairly caught up on my school stuff. Yesterday was the first time in a while I've been genuinely excited about the prospect of teaching next year, which is fantastic. I realized recently that the things I need done for this term are actually going pretty well. And with the exception of Oregon getting demolished at USC, the last few days have been pretty good for my teams. I've said enough about the Blazers, but I want to include a snippet from Hoopsworld.

Can we say enough about the turnaround of Zach Randolph? Yes, he has been an absolute beast on the block and on the glass, but that's not new - everyone knew and expected that Randolph would return. What really has people turning heads - fans, teammates, and opposing scouts alike - is Randolph making the extra pass and playing defense. His preferred place to get the ball is about 12-15 feet from the hoop, roughly a 45 degree angle from the basket. Often he will get the ball in post-up position, but then turn and face up his defender. When that happens teams are starting to send an extra defender his way.

In the past Randolph would take that as a challenge and try to score over two or sometimes three players. Now Randolph calmly holds the ball away from the defenders - much like Shaq does when double-teamed - and waits for a cutter to go to the hoop. Many times this season that cutter has found themselves with some extremely easy points since Randolph is looking to make that pass.

The defense is another improvement, too. Never much known as a guy who gets in the air and blocks shots, Randolph is changing people's minds. He is averaging 0.6 blocks a game so far this season. That may not sound like much, but consider that's triple his career average. His steals are also up to 1.1 a game, over 50% better than his 0.7 career average.

And no, it doesn't hurt that he's scoring 27.3, grabbing 10.3 rebounds, and hitting 91% of his foul shots either.

How about the OTHER rookie? LaMarcus Aldridge had a fabulous NBA debut on Sunday, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds. This had been discussed in the days leading up to the draft and also during his play in Las Vegas this summer, but Aldridge really does remind a lot of people of Rasheed Wallace with his wiry build, his high jump shot on the block with nice touch, and his ability to run the floor. Think Coach Nate McMillan is excited to have him back? Look for Aldridge to get even more playing time, at least until Joel Przybilla and Raef LaFrentz come back from injuries. Actually, if he continues to play as well as he did Sunday, those players coming back may not matter.

That's the sort of thing that gets me excited, which is good, because I was not on the Aldridge bandwagon coming into the season. The other good sports news for me was Seattle pulling off the win over St. Louis. It looks like Alexander and Hasselbeck could finally be back this weekend, and perhaps Bobby Engram, Sean Locklear, and Robbie Tobeck could be following them. Yeah, those are five offensive starters. Pretty impressive stuff, this winning without them. Here at the University of Oregon we had some fun on Sunday night, as a Tajuan Porter set a freshman record with 38 points against Portland State. Oh yeah, and he made ten three-pointers. Also I should point out that the women's basketball team from my brother's alma mater, Vanguard University, beat the Oregon women in an exhibition last night here at McArthur Court.

I'm having a harder time finding an exhaustive list of Oregon players who went on to the NBA, but it's coming. And the QB post is coming too.

I decided to put up a little photo comparison of Aldridge and Wallace. If LaMarcus does turn out like Rasheed, I'll be really happy, since I love 'Sheed's game. Especially in tandem with someone like Zach.

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