Thursday, December 21, 2006

All I want for Christmas is a six-game win-streak

I forgot to add the bullet points when I first published this, so this is what it should have looked like.

Last night I was in attendance as the Blazers won a fifth straight game for the first time since the 2003-2004 season. That streak was in February, and we beat a bunch of teams that weren't very good that year. Those five games consisted of the Clippers at home, the Warriors down there, the Celtics at home, the Heat in Miami, and the Magic in Orlando. We did win four straight last year, all at home, against the Lakers, Magic, Cavaliers, and Raptors. But for us to win five straight this early in a season that most "experts" thought would find us at the bottom of the league again is pretty exciting. And exciting is one of the best words I can use to describe the game last night. Another important aspect of this streak is that it equals our longest losing streak of the season, and if we can beat the Raptors at home tomorrow we will have a longer longest-winning-streak than our longest-losing-streak. For a bad team that's a good thing.
  • The first thing I noticed was how empty the Rose Garden was. The saddest part of that was how happy my friend Josh was to see the stands filled up. Yeah, it's been that bad. But we produced a good amount of noise when Przybilla got the tip-off, beating Yao to the ball. The first quarter was pretty ugly at the start, but the Blazers picked it up a bit. Here are the most important things that I noticed in the first quarter:

  • Zach wasn't getting quick double-teams, so he scored 11 in the quarter. He was also rebounding well, with all four of his first-quarter boards coming off the defensive glass. Most importantly, he was running back on defense and showing good energy on both sides of the court.

  • Martell Webster, although he didn't score, was doing exactly what I want him to do: putting shots up as soon as he got the ball. And man, his shot looks so good. He didn't hit that many of his shots during the whole game--he finished with seven points--but it was great to see him taking quick shots when he was open.

  • Brandon R-O-Y brought the house down simply by going into the game. He also brought it down by looking pretty good immediately. I'm not much of a basketball connoisseur, but I had to remind myself that he's a rookie and that he's missed twenty games. This kid is good. This kid is mature.

  • What I said a few posts ago, that Zach has confidence in R-O-Y, was evident even in the first quarter. But the other thing that was evident was that Randolph has developed more confidence in his other teammates as well. Good to see.

  • Przybilla certainly didn't stop Yao, but he made the big guy work really hard for everything. It was great to see. Actually, for the most part the whole team did pretty well on the defensive end.
The second quarter was perhaps the best one of the game for Portland. A lot of players got involved during this period, and it looked like the team was playing with great cohesion. This was even more impressive than it might have been because Jack wasn't having a very good game at this point. This quarter may have been the first time McMillan used the three-shooting-guard lineup, playing R-O-Y at the one, Dixon at the two, and Webster at the three. I liked watching this lineup, especially because of the energy Dixon was bringing. Have I mentioned how much confidence the city of Portland has in R-O-Y? He was playing point in his first game back after missing twenty from injury. And he's a rookie. And he's a shooting guard.
The other main observations from the second quarter:
  • Travis Outlaw has really grown into his role. He followed his one block first quarter with four points, one rebound, and one block in the second. But the second quarter block brought the crowd to its feet. The Rockets ran a play that had Yao moving well, and he caught the lob on his way to the hoop. He pulled up from five feet and shot an easy jumper, only to have Outlaw fly in and send the ball five or six rows into the crowd. It was beautiful. Outlaw played well the rest of the game, too.

  • I love watching Sergio Rodriguez. He wasn't even in for a full minute, just the last five seconds of the half. But I got so excited to see what he could do with the ball. I look forward to seeing him develop into a good NBA player.

  • Przybilla had to leave the game because of foul trouble, as the officials were calling anything on him that they could. That brought Jamaal Magloire into the game, and even though Yao made him look like a little boy, Magloire kept running up and down, putting energy in, and trying to prove that he's worth it to somebody. Maybe even Portland. In fact, Magloire decided that he could do what Zach does on offense, which was pretty good. The main problem is that he can't do exactly what Zach does, because he doesn't have the same nose-for-the-ball, the same arsenal of moves, the same touch on his shot, or the same free throw ability. But his confidence and energy were good enough to get him a few points and rebounds and help while Zach was out of the game.
  • Ime Udoka is such an important player on this team. There was one play, either in this quarter or the third, in which it looked like he and Webster got confused on defense. Well, I have no doubt that Martell was the confused one, and that Udoka nearly covered both men. As they went off the floor for a timeout Ime pulled Martell aside and coached him a little bit. He plays and acts like a veteran, and he's a journeyman getting his first real shot in the league. That is huge. He also does little things, like pulling down a defensive rebound and running the floor. He had one defensive board, four points, and an offensive rebound and assist on the same possession during the second quarter. I hope that he's a part of this team for a long time, even if that should be in a bench role as the young guys progress.*
The third quarter was another good period of basketball for the Blazers. They started slowly, but then picked it up and kept the ten point lead they brought into the second half. Some of the things from the third quarter:
  • Jarrett got into a better rhythm and had a good third quarter. He had two assists and seven points. At one point he made a ridiculous three-pointer. The ball had gone out of bounds with only a few seconds left on the shot clock. After the inbounds pass it looked like the Blazers didn't know they needed to shoot. With four on the clock Zach passed it to R-O-Y, who held it a second and then got it to JJ a few feet beyond the arc. Jack realized that the clock was winding down, set his feet and released an ugly leaning three-pointer right before the buzzer went off. He hardly even hit net it was so pure. As he ran down court he nearly did the Michael Jordan shrug. Jack's confidence and awareness are two things that get me excited about his future with this team.

  • This quarter was characterized by the numerous contributors on the offensive end. Randolph had eight points this quarter, JJ had seven, Outlaw had four, Udoka had three, Przbyilla had two, and Webster had two. Most of the shots were good shots, too, with the exception of Jack's expiring three. One of the prettiest plays in the quarter was on Udoka's three-pointer. Randolph established deep position and got the ball on the right side. He quickly wrapped a skip pass around his defender to Udoka in the left corner, who drained the open shot from range. It was pretty basketball, and exemplifies what has been going well for the Blazers in this winning streak: team play.

The fourth quarter wasn't pretty, but it was telling. I would have had Udoka in the entire quarter. Instead, McMillan showed that his confidence in R-O-Y didn't wain while the rookie was hurt. Randolph got his usual rest at the beginning of the quarter, when Magloire was in, and Przybilla was kept out until the last three minutes because of his foul situation. Otherwise, the core during the fourth quarter was JJ, Dixon, R-O-Y, Outlaw, and Randolph. Przybilla came in for the last three minutes, Udoka came in at the very end, and Magloire started the period. The team did enough to win the game. Randolph, who struggled with his shot the whole game, made one from the floor, and then was one-for-two from the line (right at the end of the game, when McMillan had him intentionally miss the second). So the offense in the fourth came mainly from Jack (6 points), Outlaw (4 points), and R-O-Y (4 points). Outlaw made several huge jumpers in space he created with the dribble. Brandon drove for both of his field goals, and the second shot he made in the quarter deserves its own sentence. R-O-Y drove the lane, got pushed left, and made a left-handed hook over Battier and Yao. McMillan said that the play broke down and Brandon just created with the ball. The play came after a timeout, with Portland only up by two and 30 seconds left in the game. The confidence that R-O-Y displayed in himself, and that the team and coach were willing to put in him, really made me believe all the fantasies I have about him being the savior of this franchise. I know that my ideas are unfair to him as a player, but I have them anyway.

It really was a great game to watch. The Blazers out-rebounded the best rebounding team in the league, got a bunch of hustle plays from everyone on the floor, and played like winners. I'm hoping they can continue this and take care of the Raptors tomorrow. If they do, it would be their first six game winning streak since they won eight straight in December of 2002. Who all was on that team? Rasheed Wallace (18.1 pts, 7.4 rbs, and 1.0 block), Bonzi Wells (15.2 pts, 5.3 rbs, 3.3 ast, 1.6 stls), Derek Anderson (13.9 pts, 3.5 rbs, 4.3 ast, and 1.2 stls), Scottie Pippen (10.8 pts, 4.3 rbs, 4.5 ast, 1.6 stls), a young Zach Randolph (8.4 pts and 4.5 rbs in 16.9 minutes per game), an old Arvidas Sabonis (6.1 pts, 4.3 rbs, and 1.8 ast in 15.5 minutes per game), and role players like Ruben Patterson, Damon Stoudamire, Dale Davis, and Jeff McInnis. Yeah, getting the longest winning streak since that team would be a pretty good birthday present.

*I was a little off. Those stats were actually from the first quarter. In the second Udoka had two points, two defensive rebounds, one offensive board, and two steals. Did I mention that he's really important to this team?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NBA Executive of the year

This week I’ve had very little access to the internet. My brother’s apartment is surrounded by people who have passwords on their wireless networks, and I didn’t make it to coffee shops to connect more than twice. So I’ve been unable to post much. Mainly I spent the week playing video games and hanging out. My brother’s roommate Bradley and I played NCAA 2007 for a few days. I started as the coach as Northern Colorado, went to Wisconsin (accidentally), then took the job at Indiana State. After turning the Sycamores into a better team than they’d ever been—even with Larry Legend—I jumped ship to UConn, which allowed me to get my dream job at Oregon. We played until 2040, and if the game is any indication, the Ducks will be a powerhouse in basketball by the middle of this century. I also played some NBA 2K7, and turned the Blazers into the NBA champions by the 2009 season, which is what I’ve been proclaiming would happen in real life. And I did it by trading Zach and Darius for expiring deals and developing my young players. The biggest acquisitions? I drafted a small forward from Mississippi State who became the finals MVP three years in a row, and I traded for T.J. Ford. (Don’t worry, J-Lew, I only did that because the game didn’t respect Jack, but by 2010 JJ had developed enough that I didn’t renew Ford’s contract.) And of course, because my owner--a fictional owner, not Paul Allen--was most concerned with making money, I managed to cut my pay-roll and win championships, so that I was executive of the year several times in a row. I also played both Guitar Hero games, which was a lot of fun and made me feel like a rocker.

One of the few outings that my brother and I went on was to a youth basketball tournament in which two of his roommates were coaching. That would have been fun enough, but watching Stephen’s roommate Jeff coach against Kenny Smith was fantastic. I kept trying to figure out which kid was Smith’s, and I also kept trying to see if he had his championship rings on. I never figured out either. I’ll only say these two things about Kenny Smith’s team: they were shooting the lights out, and his guards could beat anyone off the dribble. It was pretty crazy to watch. I was wishing a little that I’d worn my Zach Randolph jersey to the tournament so that I could try to elicit a comment from Smith on the Blazers’ MVP.

Speaking of Portland’s MVP, he played pretty well in the team’s fourth straight win Friday night against the Clippers. I’ll be there in person to see the game against the T-Mac-less Rockets. I’m looking forwards to it, especially because it sounds like R-O-Y is as close to being a for-sure as one can get after being injured. Also, I’m more excited for that than I was before because the Oregonian reported that Randolph talks about R-O-Y ten times a day, and that he can’t wait to get Brandon back in the line-up. That adds even more credence to my brother’s theory that Portland needs to see how well the two play together for a while before they ship Randolph off for the best deal they can find. If a guy is that excited to get a player back, and especially if that guy is one that some people think only cares about himself, I think that means good things are in store when the two get the chance to pair up again. If you remember, Randolph went those three or four games in a row with 30-plus points while R-O-Y was in the lineup, and Brandon was averaging near 20 a game, so he was still getting his shots. In addition, Randolph has been playing on the move really well in the last few games, passing out of double-teams with good consistency, and generally being a mature team player (minus one bird incident). If he’s like that now, I can hardly imagine what he might be like when R-O-Y is back in the rotation.

That’s all for now, I’m writing this in LAX as I wait for my connecting flight to Oakland before I land in Portland. Hopefully I can get bumped so I can finagle a plane ticket to Chicago in my near future.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two turtle doves, or a partridge in a pear tree

I wrote the first part of this post on Saturday, December 9, while I was flying from Portland to Los Angeles.

This morning when I woke up I put my on my Zach Randolph jersey. I knew that I was running a risk, because the Blazers played the Pacers last night and I didn’t know how the game turned out. I figured that the risk was worth it, since Zach has played consistantly well so far this season.

I changed out of the jersey after coming downstairs and getting this greeting from my friend Kirk, who I was staying with:

“Wow, that’s gutsy.”

Apparently Randolph pulled a Michael Vick on his hometown crowd last night. I don’t hold it against him too much. He was frustrated, he was at home, he had just fouled out, and some guy had just told him he sucked. But his actions, and my subsequent removal of the jersey, are a good lead-in to something I wanted to write about yesterday: I finally believe that trading Randolph could be the best move this franchise could make.

I know, I just invested in a jersey, and I’m the one who said the most important thing was giving a team time to work together and gel and all of those things. And Zach may be, as the Sports Guy insinuated, the best offensive post player in the NBA. But, as Dwight Jaynes of the Portland Tribune said a few days ago:
It’s becoming increasingly clear that for the young players to fully develop, Randolph probably has to leave.

Not every game, but many nights he dominates the ball so much that I don’t think anyone else has the opportunity to find a game. It’s pretty much the same thing every time down the court—dump it into Randolph, spread the floor and watch Zach play one-on-one.

Sometimes he will pass out of the post—he’s much better at this than in previous seasons—but other times he just heads to the basket against whatever coverage he sees. He’s successful a good portion of the time, but that isn’t doing a lot for the development of his teammates.

I pondered this as I tried to figure out why Martell Webster seems to do better off the bench than when he starts. Well, part of it is that he’s not on the floor with Randolph as often. He gets a chance to get into some sort of rhythm.

For another team with a lot of outside shooters and not much of an inside game, he’d be just the ticket. But I think Portland wants LaMarcus Aldridge to develop an all-around game. I think the coaches probably want to do more on offense to get all the young players involved.
I was so excited during the off-season because of what the future holds for this team. This year they have surprised me with some wins, and that’s clouded my judgment a bit. We are not winning this year. Yeah, we’ll get some games like the Nets sweep and the victory in Detroit, but we’ll have plenty of losses at home to the Hawks and give-up-the-leads to the Bucks and Pacers. We have the best young talent in the league. Yes, I really believe that. Jack and Rodriguez are very good point guards. Of course, they also proved last night that they are young and fresh. Martell Webster has shown glimpses of his ridiculous ability in the last few games, scoring a career high in Detroit and making five three-pointers in Milwaukee. Brandon R-O-Y is getting healthy at home, and he has already convinced me that he’s the future of the Blazers. Aldridge has been really good for a skinny rookie forward playing center. Outlaw shows glimpses of great play every once in a while. Those are six young guys who I could build around. Add in the veteran presence of Joel Przybilla, a proven leader on this team. Add to that the great effort and team play of Ime Udoka, the hometown kid who is proving his worth. *

In a conversation with Casey Holdahl, the Oregonian’s resident Blazer blogger, the Blazer beat writer Jason Quick revealed a story about talking to Nate McMillan. Quick said that McMillan doesn’t plan on playing LaFrentz. Yep, a guy that’s getting $11 million, a guy they traded for during the off-season, that guy isn’t going to get playing time. Why? McMillan wants Aldridge to get as much time as he can, because he’s earned it and because it’s important that Aldridge gets as much experience as he can. A similar statement was made about Webster. McMillan has been beside himself trying to find the best line-up, and has sometimes started Webster and sometimes not. He does a lot better off the bench, but Jaynes already addressed one theory for that in the quote I included. Even with all that, McMillan says he is going to start Webster. Why? For similar reasons to the ones given for starting Aldridge.

So if this team will probably be one of the worst teams in the NBA this year with Zach, why not move him now? His contract is too long. He is a liability on defense and might be the reason that no one else can get into the offense. I don’t even know if I want comparable talent back, or if I just want a first round pick and cap relief. I’m still convinced that I want Oden. If we have two first round picks, we might be able to trade them for the first overall, since this draft is considered to be so deep.

This part was written on Tuesday, December 12.

My brother brought up a great point while he was driving me from LAX to his apartment in Orange County. As I told him what I was going to write in this post, he reminded me that R-O-Y had no problem scoring with Randolph in the offense, and he did a lot to get the other players involved. So it would make sense to wait until we see how R-O-Y and Randolph play together, because if the two of them work well and the rookie shooting guard gets everyone else involved, then keeping Randolph makes more sense. Especially since, in the days after I wrote the first part of this post, the Blazers have won two in a row on the road. Plus, they’ve been in every game during this road trip, losing several in typical young-team ways.

Here’s the complication: after Randolph’s incident he was suspended for a game. What did the team do without him? They won without him or R-O-Y. Sure, they were playing against a poor Toronto team, but road wins are tough for a young team, and even tougher without your top two players. So just as I was rethinking my conversion to the trade Randolph bandwagon, the Blazers go and win without him on the road. I don’t know what to think anymore.

So I haven’t come to any good decisions about what we should do with Randolph. Hopefully the team does come to a good decision, and hopefully they stick with it. I may be coming up with some more trade scenarios, if I can get online this week, to see some more options with Randolph. These would be different from the last ones I did because I would be looking mainly for cap relief in the form of expiring contracts.

My brother came up with the title for this post, as it is now Thursday and I still hadn't gotten it online yet. So we're sitting in a Starbucks in Costa Mesa getting internet that isn't from T-Mobile. Anyway, the title is a seasonal reference, and I thought he used it to capture the idea that trading our partridge might allow the turtle doves to develop. No? I like it, but then again, I need something to remind me that it's almost Christmas. Oh yeah, I guess no school works too. I'll have more for sure after I attend the Blazers/Rockets game in Portland on Wednesday.

*Udoka has started every game this year. He doesn’t have a guaranteed contract, and was only invited to camp because Aaron Miles, the guy Portland wanted, couldn’t pass his physical. I’m serious; Udoka is one of the most important guys on this team.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What a ridiculous young team

Beat the Pistons last night, lose to the Bucks tonight. I-N-C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-T. That spells Blazers. I'm going to adress some comments.

  1. RE: The Bulls SF "logjam"
    Somewhere this offseason I read about this. Maybe the writer made it up, or maybe I'm making it up now, I'm not sure. Regardless, I had trouble figuring out where, exactly, this overpopulation was when I looked at the roster.

  2. RE: The rumors about Zach
    A lot of people in Portland still think that Zach will regress. They're worried about his knee and his head. Also, he's the last guy on this team that is frequently mentioned for doing stupid things off the court. Some fans would like to see him moved because of his "questionable character" and high salary, and they think that now is the best time to do it. They're right, of course. If he's going to be traded it should be at this very moment, when his value is huge. But I don't understand where they're coming from. We just shipped off a guy who was supposed to be part of our future plans because he didn't fit with Zach. Now we want to trade the guy we just decided--finally and totally--to build around? Doesn't make sense to me. But if it did make sense, those are two possible deals based on ridiculous rumors.

  3. RE: A Hawks/Blazers trade
    We really do have very similar teams right now. You guys throttle us at home, lose to Seattle, come back to beat Denver. We lose five straight, including four at home, then go to Detroit and beat them, then hop to Milwaukie and lose in overtime. At least Jack was fantastic in that game. What a good fantasy pickup for me. Oh, and here's the trade I'm trying for our two teams:

Here is the ESPN trade machine version, and here is the RealGM version. I was going to try a straight-up trade at first, which would have probably been Randolph for Williams and Stoudamire, with a pick thrown in. But I gave up on that because it didn't do much for Portland. I know this trade is very unlikely for New Jersey. I was trying to get them Stoudamire, who from my understanding is a better shooter than Childress, but to make salaries and the other personnel work I went this route. The Nets would probably need a pick here, and that would probably have to be from the Blazers, since they get Vinsanity. Maybe not though, the Hawks would get another huge scoring threat (who might not mesh with Joe Johnson) and another big body to "help" play defense. The Blazers give up the man they've been building around, but bring in another exciting young guy in Williams and a proven quitter, I mean, scorer/athlete in Carter. The Nets get their help up front with Magloire and Pachulia, which would actually be a tough fit since they already have Krstic, and they bring in Childress to pretend he's Carter. What's funny about this trade is that if you look on the ESPN version and compare the PER that each player has, the Nets are actually getting the better end of the deal in Hollinger's world.

Anyway, there it is, just for J-Lew. If I actually knew what Atlanta needed, or had knowledge of some of the rumors regarding their players, this could have been even better.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

My take on the rumors

I don't want to trade Zach Randolph. I've said that for a while. But during a break from working today I came up with two different scenarios that, while maybe not great, would be possible with some picks thrown in. These are based on what teams have been rumored to be interested in Randolph, what Portland wants/needs, and the cap situation. I used two different trade generators to figure them out, each of which has some cool features.

Here is the first trade I came up with at RealGM, and here it is with ESPN's trade machine. Rumors have been swirling that New Jersey might want Magloire and that Detroit could want Randolph, so I packaged them and ended up helping the Pistons...maybe. Team chemistry gets shot to hell here for the Pistons, and for the Nets, actually. This trade would never fly unless the Nets and Blazers both got first round picks from Detroit, which they do have. Even so, as much as this trade "works," there's no way it would happen. But it was fun to put together.

But think about this: the Pistons would be getting two players who want the offense to be about them, while giving up two guys who play their roles very well, even if the roles look different with Saunders than they did with Brown. The Nets would be getting tons of front court help, but giving up their best player to do so. They would most certainly insist on having the higher of the two first round picks, how ever that turns out. The Blazers would be handing the reigns over to LaMarcus and trading two guys starting big men for two back-up big men, but they bring in a clutch shooter who can help bring along that bevy of young guards. They would definitely need a that other first round pick. Again, I'm not saying this could ever go, but it was fun to think about. And I want to keep Zach, let me say that again.

The other one seemed more likely to me, but still not likely. Rumors have said that the Bulls would like to have Randolph if they can't get KG. Other rumors have Ray Allen wanting out of Seattle. Much talk has been made about the glut of small forwards in Chicago. I deal with all of those things in this trade, and get a different clutch shooter in Portland. Here is the RealGM version, and here is the ESPN trade machine version. In lots of ways this trade makes more sense to me. Seattle gets some front court help, at least in the short-run, in P.J. Brown, they get rid of Allen--if he does want out--but replace his contribution with a potential star in Deng and a proven bench scorer in Dixon. The Blazers end up with a great scorer in Allen and bring back a glue guy from last year's team, Kharapa, who might help with the weird small forward situation. The worst of this is really for Chicago, who would deserve a first round pick from Seattle in this deal. They would be handing the starting job to Nocioni, sticking with Hinrich-Gordon-Duhon in the back court, and relying on Zach for a lot of offense. I would not make this move if I were them. Then again, if they thought they were getting Seattle's high pick, and they believe that Nocioni can do the job...NO. Sorry, but if my friend Ek sees this he might throw up. Maybe I should work in a trade with the Hawks just so J-Lew doesn't feel left out.

Alright, I really do need to get to sleep now. And at the beginning I said something about these trades being "possible." I'm an idiot.

Too many good things

I should be in bed right now, but instead I'm going to at least start this post. My final week of the term is shaping up nicely. I have a few things to do during the day on Wednesday, but they're not too big and then I'm done. So that's nice. I'm leave Saturday to spend a week with my brother in Los Angeles, so that's nice. The Blazers are getting everyone back healthy, so that's nice. And best of all, they won the game tonight in Detroit, which is awesome. They now have half as many road victories as they had all of last year.

Because people are coming back, I started kicking around some line-up ideas. Here they are, with aprropriate titles.

Starting Unit

PG-Jarrett Jack
SG-Brandon R-O-Y
SF-Ime Udoka
PF-Zach Randolph
C-Joel Przybilla

2nd Unit

PG-Sergio Rodriguez
SG-Martell Webster or Juan Dixon
SF-Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster
PF-LaMarcus Aldridge
C-Jamaal Magloire

Big Unit

PG-Brandon R-O-Y or Jarrett Jack
SG-Martell Webster or Brandon R-O-Y
SF-Travis Outlaw
PF-Jamaal Magloire or Zach Randolph
C-Joel Przybilla or Raef LaFrentz

Running (small)Unit
PG-Sergio Rodriguez
SG-Jarrett Jack or Juan Dixon
SF-Brandon R-O-Y
PF-Travis Outlaw
C-LaMarcus Aldridge or Joel Przybilla

Shooting Unit

PG-Brandon R-O-Y or Jarrett Jack
SG-Juan Dixon
SF-Martell Webster or Brandon R-O-Y
PF-Zach Randolph
C-Raef LaFrentz

Defensive Unit

PG-Brandon R-O-Y
SG-Ime Udoka
SF-Travis Outlaw
PF-Raef LaFrentz or LaMarcus Aldridge
C-Joel Przybilla

This leaves a few players out of the rotation completely, namely Dan Dickau and Steven Graham. Perhaps Dickau could be included on the shooting unit, and maybe Graham could be on the defensive unit. But this would still use a ton of players, even without those two. Some depends on how units work together, who is hot, who stays healthy, and if some players meet their potential. After the win tonight, it's anybody's guess how things will look in the next few weeks. I hope this team can get healthy and stay that way.

Here are three Brandon R-O-Y clips to get you as excited as I am about his return to the line-up.

The first one is an interview he gave recently about his status. Good news, basically.

This second one is a little montage from the summer league in Vegas, when he tore people to shreds. It starts getting me excited for his return.

The last one is long, and includes the end to the seasn opening win in Seattle. If you don't care, skip ahead to the end, when Mike Barrett interviews R-O-Y and then they show highlights from his first NBA game. I cannot wait until he's back.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A great site

I've been reading this blog for a while now, but I need to share it with anyone who reads mine. It's really good. I thought of it because of how much I enjoyed reading the preview for the Blazers-Hawks game Sunday night. Once again I'm quoting someone who says things far better than me. And once again, this is for J-Lew. After Dave says how similar Portland and Atlanta are, then a bit about Joe Johnson, he says this:
"So Dave," you say, "Tell me who ELSE Atlanta has to be bearers of such a fine 6-8 record." That's a very good question. Their second leading scorer is...Tyronn Lue. Yes, THAT Tyronn Lue. He's averaging almost 31 minutes a game and you know that ain't good. He's hitting his shots better than ever before, but he still carries all the same liabilities that made five other teams give up on him: he's short and couldn't defend a handcuffed marshmallow if you gave him a tazer. Zaza Pachulia is a European-type center with a nice scoring touch and he's managing to grab a fair number of rebounds this year, especially on the offensive end. But he couldn't guard a napping slug if you gave him a salt shaker. Bench guard Salim Stoudamire is a deadeye shooter from long range and the free throw line but he can't hit anything in between. He couldn't guard a bolted-down gas can if you gave him a flamethrower. Point man Speedy Claxton lives up to his nickname but he's been in and out all season, is producing nearly as many turnovers as assists and can't hit the broad side of a barn with his jumper. He couldn't guard your grandmother's Christmas Cactus if you gave him a weed whacker. Are you starting to sense a pattern yet?
I don't know how true it is, but I do know that it's said pretty well. Even if you're not a Blazers fan, you should check out his blog. He posts two, sometimes three times a day. And it's usually really good stuff.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The backcourt situation

Let me set up my own comments with this quote from Brian Meehan at The Oregonian:
Look for McMillan to play Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez together more often. Rodriguez gave Portland a boost again in the fourth quarter against Orlando. The rookie Spaniard is clever with the ball and beats just about anybody off the dribble.

His playing time has soared with Roy out -- from two minutes a game in the first five games to 13.3 in the last 11. And Rodriguez had recorded all 43 of his assists in the last 12 games.
This afternoon I drove down to Roseburg to find some paperwork I need to turn in on Monday. I didn't find it. But on my way back I was thinking about fantasy basketball. I recently added Jarrett Jack to two of my teams, because he's playing pretty well and I could use the assists and steals he's putting up. He's doing better than Telfair, I think, and I'm glad that we chose Jack over Bassy. That got me to thinking about our backcourt situation, and the Meehan quote is good for setting this up.

This update--which is also important for understanding our backcourt situation--was in The Oregonian today:
Rookie guard Brandon Roy will not make the Trail Blazers' six-game trip that begins next week, the team decided Friday. That was the bad news for the Blazers.

The good news was that Roy, who had a magnetic resonance imaging Friday, removed the boot he has been wearing for more than three weeks and said he hopes to play when the Blazers return from the stretch of road games.

"The scan showed improvement from the last one," said Roy, who missed his 12th game Friday because of pain in his left heel.

Roy said he hopes to be in the lineup Dec. 15, when the Blazers, who play Atlanta at home Sunday, will have returned from the nine-day trip and will play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. By that point, he will have missed 19 games.

While his teammates are gone, Roy said, he will try to strengthen his ankle and try to get back into basketball shape, conditioning in a pool before graduating to a stationary bike, then a treadmill.

"We're still trying to take this as slow as possible because right now we don't want to do the surgery," he said.

Coach Nate McMillan said the Blazers will continue to be cautious with their prized rookie.

"The doctors don't feel like we have to do anything, but we have to give him time," McMillan said. "How much time, no one knows."
Coming into this season the Blazers didn't know for sure who would play guard when and how much. There was a lot of speculation that Sergio Rodriguez would be sent to the D-league because he wasn't ready to play in the NBA. He is certainly still rough, but has proven that he knows how to run an offense and what to do with the ball. He gets all the minutes that many thought would go to Dickau at the beginning of the season. This might have to do with R-O-Y being out, as Meehan suggested, but I think we may get to see him play some even when R-O-Y gets back.

Jack has done a pretty good job of running the offense, and has put up impressive numbers so far. He is averaging 12.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.5 rpg, 1.47 spg, and 2.41 topg, to give him an assist/turnover ratio of 2.44. Sure, that's 22nd in the league, behind Telfair and our boy Damon Stoudamire, but it's not too bad for what he's working with: a young team that's still reeling from some big injuries. Also, he's averaging 8.1 assists per 48 minutes. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is averaging 14.7 assists per 48 minutes. He's only playing 12.7 mpg, but he's the only person to play more than one game who has a higher ap48 than Nash, who has 14.* Rodriguez is also third in the NBA with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.91. The only two players ahead of him are Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups. Rodriguez is only averaging 2.5 ppg, but 1.3 rpg, which is not too bad considering his small mpg number. What's the point of all these numbers? My point is that playing Jack and Rodriguez together might be really smart. Jack has done a much better job of picking his spots and making good shots. That was very clear in the New Jersey game I watched last week. And his points are showing it. Neither of them is great on defense, even though Jack gets the steals, so that will hurt us. But they both create well and free up their teammates. Outlaw plays better when Rodriguez is in there. Aldridge plays well with him too. The two did a good job at the same time last night against Orlando.

It may sound like I'm not saying anything new, but wait for it.

R-O-Y could be coming back soon. As much as the organization talked about him as a possible PG, they also mentioned that he could perhaps play SF. He might take a while to get back in the swing of things, but he's a good player on the both ends and makes his teammates better on offense and defense (something someone like Steve Nash knows nothing about).

Here's the new:

Play all three at the same time.

It probably won't be a good idea to play all three at the same time, but early in the season we tried small ball a little bit. Zach played center and Outlaw played power forward. If we played with Sergio at PG, JJ at SG, R-O-Y at SF, Travis at PF, and Z-Bo at C, we would get burned on defense. But we would also score a lot of points. Here's another way to run that lineup, since it would be for short spurts anyway: instead of having Zach play center, put LaMarcus there. That team would be able to run, and Aldridge is a better defender than Randolph, even if he doesn't get the same respect from the refs or have the body to do damage down there. Also, we could change it up by switching out JJ, putting R-O-Y at the SG spot and either putting Ime Udoka in at SF, or sliding Zach and Travis down and playing LaMarcus at center. Or we could just keep mixing it up.

My point is that our backcourt, which seemed so shaky before the season started, has probably developed more than it could have if R-O-Y hadn't hurt his heal. I'm still not happy that he got hurt, because we've missed him a lot. But this could turn out to be better in the long as it doesn't affect him negatively past his imminent return to the court. Before the season I thought that the potential of those three guards was really high, and that they would eventually become a very good trio. Now I think they could end up getting closer to that potential sooner than I had imagined.

The biggest thing that could keep that from happening is that none of the three are great outside shooters, so the defense can just play the lane. But maybe if Martell Webster starts getting some confidence and Raef LaFrentz comes back healthy, then they could be in the mix to pull defenders out to the perimeter.

I guess I just want to see Rodriguez continue to get playing time, even when R-O-Y gets back. Once again I'm convinced that the Blazers did a great job in the draft this year. All we have to do is wait to see how Joel Freeland turns out. As Ian Whittell, of The (London) Times, told ESPN back in September:
But enough of the semantics. Who is the next great international player out there? I could go for Britain's very own Joel Freeland, taken 30th by the Blazers in this year's draft, but even though one NBA European scout has told me he's convinced he could be as good as Nowitzki, Freeland's best is still more than a decade away.
We still have the potential to get Oden in the next draft. Put him together with those young guards, Aldridge, "the next Nowitzki," and maybe even Travis Outlaw, and we could develop into a great team in the next decade. I'm not going to be able to sleep now, because I'm so excited for the future of the Blazers.

*I apologize for using statistics in a dishonest way. Rodriguez hasn't played enough to be considered in the qualified version of ap48 on, but he has enough assists to be considered in the qualified version of ast/to. So I used one qualified version, when it made Rodriguez look good, and one unqualified version, also when it made Rodriguez look good. Although I don't think I skewed the truth too much.

Another audio clip

Here is the message that Jeff Griffin left on my voicemail last weekend. I think it's worth sharing with the world. It's pretty quiet, so listen closely, and there's no video, even though it's a YouTube clip.

Two videos and some audio

The Blazers lost a heartbreaker last night. I have a ton of work to do. My fantasy teams--all four of them--are floundering at the moment. What better way to get happy than by posting two videos and an audio clip. Well, except that one of the video clips is one of the worst sports moments of my life. I had never seen the downfall of the Blazers, because that was the day of my high school graduation. But thanks to YouTube, I now know what triggered our 21st century mediocrity. Sorry, mediocrity is too generous, but you get the point. This team was so loaded. Here's the starting lineup: PG Damon Stoudamire, SG Steve Smith, SF Scottie Pippen, PF Rasheed Wallace, and C Arvydas Sabonis. The second unit is here: PG Greg Anthony, SG Bonzi Wells, SF Detlef Schrempf, PF Brian Grant, and C Jermaine O'Neal. We also had Stacey Augmen contributing as the 11th guy. Sure, most of those players were either past their prime or not quite there, but come on! Ugh. We've got to exorcise those demons. Here it is, thanks to TrueHoop for putting it up first.

Alright, the second video was shared by my friend Bob on Facebook. It's a really good stop-motion short film. After the Blazers collapse, this brings me some happiness.

And lastly, here is a radio message that Jim Wallis gave a few days ago. As someone who cares about politics, what he says gets me excited for the impact Christians could have in the next few years. Even if you don't care about politics you should give it a listen. It's not very long.

There you have it, some media to make you feel like I feel right now. Hopefully, if getting paperwork done hasn't taken all of the feeling out of me.