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.

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