Thursday, January 31, 2008

Listen: Roy, McMillan talk about All-Star

A HUGE congratulations to Brandon Roy for being voted by the coaches onto the All-Star team. It's hard to think of a guy who deserves it more than Brandon. It's a testament to hard work and going about the game the right way.

Here's the audio from today's press conference with Nate McMillan and Brandon Roy fielding questions about Roy's first All-Star selection. Give it a listen if you'd like to hear reaction from coach and player.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Watch: Nate McMillan talks postgame

As you might expect, Coach Nate McMillan was none too satisfied with the way things turned out on Wednesday night. Outside of the first three minutes and the last three minutes, the Trail Blazers basically controlled the game. Portland has been on the other end of these kinds of games, most recently Sunday against the Hawks, but it doesn't make tonight any easier to stomach.

You don't need to watch more than a few seconds of the following video to see how disappointed Nate McMillan was after the game, but I'd suggest watching the whole thing anyway.

Notes and Quotes: Cavaliers 84, Blazers 83

A total bummer. Letting this one slip away really hurts, especially considering that both Utah and Denver won tonight. Nuts.


Blazers first loss in seven games decided by three or fewer points this season . . . Cleveland now won six of last eight meetings with Portland . . . LeBron James’ 37 points matches the most points in regulation for the Cavs in the all-time Portland-Cleveland series (World B. Free had 37 on 11/10/83 – Bobby Phills scored 43 against the Blazers in a 2 OT game on 12/30/95) . . . The 37 points matches the third highest against Portland this season . . . Portland’s 35.3% shooting (30-85) a season low . . . Cleveland’s 39 defensive rebounds season high vs. Blazers . . . Portland’s 15 fourth quarter points matches its season low for the quarter.


Nate McMillan

“We played the game not to lose in the last few minutes while they played more aggressively to win. Our job was to keep the pressure on and we didn’t do it. In recent games down the stretch we’ve come down and got some stops. But tonight even though we did a pretty good job early in defending LeBron, he made the clutch threes and the winning drive to the basket just like great players do.

“On that winning play our first job was to keep LeBron in front of Brandon. But when he drove by, the second big mistake was we should have come over and given help and made it difficult for him to drive to the basket. That didn’t happen. Earlier they were running pick-and-rolls and often when we contained LeBron we were still able to get the ball back to him. Once we contained him the first time, we should have made sure he didn’t get the ball back.

“This one hurts because we had control over it for much of the game. But towards the end we just got outworked. They went on an 11-0 run. You’ve got to score. You’ve got to push the ball down the floor and get good shots. I thought LeBron did a nice job on Brandon. He stepped up when he had to. What I told the players tonight after the game is, ‘we gave up one.’ Tonight we had an opportunity to put the game away but we didn’t make baskets down the stretch.”

Jarrett Jack

“We messed up with some little things defensively. For the most part I thought we played well. We took them down to the wire. He (James) made a great play to win the ball game. Its not surprising (that LeBron made the big play). He’s the only one for them in double figures. It was only a matter of time he was going to start making open shots down the stretch. The loss is tough. Especially at home we really wanted to take care of our own court.”

Martell Webster

“He (LeBron) made some big shots. The ultimate of the game was when he showed his aggressiveness in going to the hoop and knocking down the reverse layup. It shows how patient and how poised he is in a real tight situation. People probably forgot he was on the Eastern Conference champions and was in the Finals last year. He knows what its like to be in a situation like that. He really showed why he is who he is and what he he does is what he does.”

Mike Brown

“Obviously Lebron was terrific. He put us on his back tonight. We couldn’t make a basket to save our lives tonight. But he put us on his back. He did what superstars do and he did was he’s capable of doing. That was fun to watch and that was fun to be a part of. The thing that impressed me that even though we couldn’t buy a basket, we tried defensively.

Portland is a great team, they’re well coached. They have a lot of nice young pieces. I thought defensively we tried to bring it the entire game. Even down the stretch I felt we tried to bring it. Lebron did a terrific job on Brandon Roy down the stretch. There were some things that helped us pull this out. The first one was how we closed the third quarter. The way we closed the quarter was extremely important. We took a 15 or 16 point game and made it six or seven. It gave us hope and opportunity. We 9 turnovers at halftime and we only had three in the second half.

This is a terrific three point shooting team and we continued to contest the entire night. We made their shots as difficult as possible. The last thing is we had contributions from everybody throughout the ball game.”

Lebron James

“They kept going behind the pick and roll. I was able to hit a three. I just wanted to be aggressive. We just go out and play hard. We haven’t have success on the road like this in a long time. We understand how to handle it. The coaching staff does a great of preparing us to go out every night. We have the number one (comebacks in the league) in the fourth quarter for a reason. We know the game is not over until there are zeros on the clock.”

“Przybilla is a good shot blocker. He came over and got me a couple of times. That’s not going to stop me from being aggressive and doing what I do best. They are very, very good. They execute very well on the offensive end. They do a great job on the defensive end. They know how to play the right way and have a bright future as a franchise.”

“I just wanted to take every possession like it was our last and be aggressive. My teammates did a good job at feeding off of me. I don’t know when the turning point happened but we were able to ride the wave and get a win.”

LeBron on Brandon Roy

“He’s a good player. He’s only going to get better. They’ve got a great franchise player here in Brandon Roy. I just do what I do. I prepare myself to be the best player on the floor every night no matter what building I’m in.”

Even more pregame notes with Nate McMillan

Nate McMillan said a few interesting things in his pregame press conference, much of it having to do with the recent trade rumors. Here's a snippet of what was said.

Rebecca Haarlow: Yesterday, LeBron said that he thinks you have more talent on this team than the Cavs do. Your thoughts?

Nate McMillan: I like our talent. I like what we’re doing. We feel we have a lot of potential and it’s starting to show. You have to prove that on the floor, but we like the group that we’ve put together, our combination of players and our youth. As far as rebuilding and everything, I think that’s hard to say, man for man, who’s the better club. We don’t have Greg; we haven’t seen Greg play with this team. I think these guys have done some things to earn respect from other teams and organizations this year.

Jason Quick: Has Kevin given you assurances that he’s going to stand pat, keep this roster intact this year?

Nate McMillan: We like what we have, but I think he will listen. I don’t think his plan is to go out and shop, but with us playing as well as we’re playing right now, and I tell our guys this, we’re going to start to hear all kinds of things for the next few weeks. We’ve got what a lot of people want and that is youth and some potential. And the fact that we’re playing well, that’s going to attract some people and, you know, I expect the phone to start ringing.

Jason Quick: Would you prefer to not make a deal?

Nate McMillan: I like our team. I like our team. I like what we’re doing. I like the direction, but in saying that, and I’ve never been a GM, you have to at that position, if an opportunity makes sense and fits your direction, I’ve said this all along, you look at that. You consider that. But yeah, I like our team. I like what we’re doing.

Katy Brown: Do you worry about the great chemistry going on here? Does a coach worry about even talk of that stuff upsetting that?

Nate McMillan: Yeah, but at this time of the year, it always comes. There’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing they can do about it. This time of the year, February, you’re going to hear it regardless. We weren’t as good the last two years or winning the last two years, but we had a number of guys who were thinking their address would change. Some wanted to. But there’s nothing they can do, there’s nothing we can do about that. That’s my message to the team. Come to me if you feel uncomfortable or if you’re thinking that something is true and I’ll talk to you and let you know as much as I can. But there’s nothing we can do about that.

Katy Brown: It’s almost a form of flattery you’re saying then that you guys are in the place were people are looking at your roster.

Nate McMillan: No question. No question. They’re looking at our roster. They’re looking at our young guys. We’ve have all young guys and they played well. We’ve got four point guards, you know? They know that Sergio and Green are not playing a lot of minutes. Jack is playing a back-up, so that will attract some people. So we’ve got some guys that people like. Again, unless it makes sense for us, we’re not doing anything.

Katy Brown: Are you apart of that conversation?

Nate McMillan: I hear what’s going on. I hear what’s going on.

Leapin' Larry loves the Blazers

You don't hear a lot about coaching vagabond Larry Brown these days, though he is still working for the 76ers as their vice president. Regardless, the guy still knows his basketball.

Today Brown breaks down tonight's matchup between the Cavaliers and the Trail Blazers and he's got nothing but nice things to say about our Red and Black.

On Brandon Roy:
When the game is on the line you have to have somebody that can get a shot for himself, get a shot for his teammate or get a free throw even though your opponent might be in a position to try to stop you from accomplishing those things... Brandon is one of those unique kids. He’s strong enough to take it inside, he can keep you honest because he can make an outside shot and he’s a very unselfish player. He can get other people a shot and I think he trusts his teammates in that regard.

On the Blazers depth:
You’ve got two emerging stars in Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. They have three kids that they play at point – sometimes they even play Roy there – with Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez. Then you’ve got James Jones and Martell Webster. You’ve got Outlaw, one of these 6-9 power forwards that is really long and athletic, who can create a mismatch and who they’ve gone to late in games. Joel Przybilla is very underrated and unselfish. He comes in and rebounds and defends every night and doesn’t need the ball to be effective. And I think Channing Frye is in a terrific situation. He’s getting more and more confidence and he can make a shot, rebound the ball and he is another young kid who is developing.

On Nate McMillan getting his team to compete:
This team has shown an ability to come back late in games and I think it starts with Nate McMillan. He doesn’t allow them to give up. They think they’re in every game. They’re phenomenal at home where they rarely get beat. Young teams have a tendency to play well at home and not on the road, but they’ve gotten better and better on the road, winning some really tough games.

That's high praise from a coaching legend like Larry Brown.

Talking with Daniel Gibson

I got a chance to talk to Daniel "Boobie" Gibson after shootaround today at the Rose Garden (little known fact: Lebron James, unlike almost every player in the NBA, doesn't talk to media after shootaround). Here's a bit of what he had to say.
Holdahl: Is there any extra motivation playing against LaMarcus Aldridge, your old college teammate?

Gibson: I wouldn’t say it’s motivation, but it’s going to be a lot of fun being on the same court with a former teammate. We’ve always competed against each other every time we play. I always want to beat him and he always wants to beat me, even when we play one-on-one. We’ve always been competitive and I know I want to end up with the upper hand and so does he.

Holdahl: What do the Cavs need to do to get a win at the Rose Garden?

Gibson: Portland has been playing great, playing as a team, shooting the ball well. I just think we have to, as a team, get to their shooters, contest, play well on the defensive end and continue to execute the way we have been on offense. If we continue to guard the three-point line and try to keep those guys out of the paint I think we’ll have a great chance of winning.

Holdahl: What do you view your role as coming off the bench?

Gibson: My role has been, you know, coach expects me to come into the game and bring a lot of energy, make shots at big times. It’s changed. Coach wants me to come in and score, play defense on the quicker guards, just be out there playing basketball. (Mike Brown) gives me the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want on the court, so it’s been a great transition for me.

A nice guy that Daniel. Case in point: While sitting on the sideline talking to Gibson, a ball careened off the rim, flying (unbeknownst to me) on a collision course for my head. Gibson was kind enough to reach out for the ball, saving me a Spalding square to the face. A few seats over, Lebron remarked to Daniel that he should have let the ball hit my head, noting that it would have been good for a laugh. Maybe for a fifth grader it would have been, but luckily for me and my face, Gibson is a bit more mature. Daniel might never be a "global icon" but at least he got a sense of decency.

Pregame notes

Courtesy of the Trail Blazers and Cavaliers PR staffs, I present to you some notes about tonight's game (just like the media get!), which is a 6 p.m. start time. Don't show up an hour late.

First, the Blazers notes:
• The two teams have split each of the last two season series, with the home team winning all four games.

• Cleveland and Portland each notched double-digit wins over each other last year, (Cavaliers won 100-87 on Nov. 15 2006; Trail Blazers won 94-76 on Jan. 17 2007).

• Brandon Roy faced the Cavs just once last season, notching a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with a career high six steals in the 94-76 win.

• Sergio Rodriguez averaged 8.5 assists vs. the Cavs last season, and led Portland in assists both meetings.

• The Trail Blazers held the Cavs to nine first quarter points the last time the two teams met, the lowest point total of any quarter for a Portland opponent last season.

• Only three current Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez and Martell Webster) played in both games vs. Cleveland last season, while 10 current Cavs played in the teams’ two meetings.

• LeBron James led Cleveland last year, averaging 27.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in two games vs. Portland.

• LaMarcus Aldridge and Daniel Gibson were teammates at the University of Texas for two seasons, and led the Longhorns to the most wins (30) in school history in 2005-06.

Now, the Cleveland side:
• Cleveland is 8-4 on the road this season against Western Conference foes. The Cavaliers have won four straight road games and with a win tonight would post five roads win in a row for the first time since March 17-April 1, 1998.

• Cleveland has won 12 of their last 15 games overall. Since December 25, Cleveland’s 12-3 record is the best record among Eastern Conference teams.

• Over his last 10 games, LeBron James has averaged 32.9 points on .496 shooting, 9.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. He posted his league-leading fifth 40+ point game of the season on Sunday afternoon at the Lakers.

• Zydrunas Ilgauskas has averaged 20.3 points on .625 shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his last three games. He has posted double-doubles in each of the last two outings.

• With two assists today, LeBron James would pass John Bagley for second place on the all-time Cavaliers assist list. Bagley finished his Cavs career with 2,311 assists in 375 games. James has 2,310 assists in 354 games.

• In his last two outings, Larry Hughes has averaged 20.5 points on .500 shooting, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. He has also connected on 5-9 (.556) shooting from three-point range during that stretch.

More second-year love

ESPN's Daily Dime TV rightly mentioned Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge as two of the top sophomores to watch in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge at All-Star weekend. I've embedded the video below (the part about Roy and Aldridge starts with about 2:30 left in the clip) but I've also transcribed what Rick Carlisle and Matt Winer had to say.

Carlisle: The two guys I’m going to pick are two Portland players that have had major impacts in their second year. LaMarcus Aldridge, a big guy that can not only shoot from the outside but can post-up from the inside, and Brandon Roy, the guy that has been the do-everything player. He can make plays from the perimeter, he can post-up, he can find players and dish out, they’ve got a bunch of players that can hit three-point shots. Kevin Pritchard right now is one of the big names in the presidents or GM category because of the deals he pulls of on draft night a year and a half ago to land these two guys in Portland.

Winer: Everything he's touched there has turned to gold.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nate notes

I had a chance to talk with Nate McMillan today at practice about tomorrow's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers which is a 6 p.m. start time. Here's some of what he had to say.

On LeBron James’ improvement:

“Down the stretch, I think he’s one of the top fourth quarter scorers, making decisions. He has the confidence now down the stretch to carry a team and understand what needs to be done and how he can take advantage of his skill. He drives to the basket but he’s not settling. If you look at that Lakers game, he got to the rim a few times. Smarter, mature, he’s stronger and more confident than he was a couple years ago.”

On how to slow LeBron James down:

“Just like any other guy like that, you try to limit their touches and not give him anything easy. He’s one of those guys that slashes and gets to the rim. We’ve got to keep him in front of us.”

On the problems that the Cavaliers pose for the Blazers:

“They’re a team that’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. They have guys who can shoot the ball and play off of (LeBron James). After making it to the Finals, they feel that now they’re getting their rhythm back this last month or so. Very confident team, a solid team with a strong bench also.”

On the importance of the home stand:

“Every game is important. I think that the standings are showing that this time of the year is when you know teams are starting to look at the standings and their position. But every game is important. A game in November is just as important as a game in January, February or March. The thing is to take it one game at a time. That’s all you can control.”

On paying closer attention to the record of other teams:

“I know where we are and I know where other teams are. I don’t watch (the scores of other games) than I did before. We just focus on the game in front of us.”

And for more quotes from Trail Blazers, don't miss James Jones on PrimeTime tonight at 5:30 PM on KFXX 1080 “The Fan” and Channing Frye on John Canzano’s Bald-Face Truth at 7:20 PM tonight on KXL AM 750.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Brandon Roy's unbelievable shot

Brandon Roy tries to recreate his legendary layin from the Toronto game at the Rose Garden. Click the play button to start the video.

Notes and Quotes: Blazers 94, Hawks 93

The stats and game night crews do a bang-up job of putting together interesting tidbits and quotes after games, so I thought I'd start posting those in the blog. Enjoy!


Portland now 6-0 in games decided by 3 points or less . . . Blazers trailed by 19 points with 10:58 remaining in the third quarter and were still down by 14 with 9:23 left in the game . . . Portland was outscored 52-37 in the first half then turned it around, outscoring the Hawks, 57-41 in the second half . . . The Blazers bench outscored the Hawks reserves, 45-19 . . . In the last three meetings, the Blazers have outscored the Hawks by five points in winning three straight games---102-100 in overtime, 111-109 in OT, and 94-93 tonight.


Coach Nate McMillan:

“In some ways this was our biggest win. It was similar to the game we gave away in Philly in that they had what seemed an insurmountable lead and we just never quit. We didn’t have any life at all in the first half and I told the team at halftime that everybody had to contribute something to get us back in.

“What can you say about Brandon Roy? We have a special guy here. We just hope he can stay healthy. He has the will and the heart to be a special player in this league and we’re still seeing him getting better and better. People wouldn’t know it but he might not have played today. He was running a fever, his eyes were watery and (trainer) Jay Jensen had to give him liquids during the game. The defensive hold he had on Joe Johnson (in the last minute) was a thing of beauty. He kept him in front of him and Joe just couldn’t go either way and had to settle for a desperation shot.

“We also did that fourth quarter rally with a different kind of lineup we’ve never used before with Sergio, Frye, James (Jones), Travis and Brandon. We also worked on a different play off the pick and role by telling Travis and Channing to slip away to open spots and rather than drive around a screen, Brandon just passed to them for some open shots. But everybody contributed. Travis made two huge threes. As I said, we need everybody for coming from 19 points down like this. At the end for me, it was just shock and relief in saying ‘how did we do it?’ The answer to that: ‘By not giving in.’”

Brandon Roy:

About missing the front end of the two-shot foul with 2.3 seconds remaining: “I was really upset because I knew they only needed a two-pointer to beat us. I told the guys to make it up for me, try to make a stop, and they did a great job. Travis did a great job on defending Joe on that last shot. We were able to pull out a gutsy win.

“(In the second half) I wanted to be more aggressive. I saw how some of the guys were down and tired. I said, ‘look you guys, just follow my lead. I’m going to step up. Channing stepped up, and a lot guys came in and showed a lot of heart tonight. I just wanted to be aggressive and get to the lane and I was able to make some tough shots. We needed this win really bad. We’ve got Cleveland coming in here. Its tough to beat a team twice in one week. We did a good job of outlasting them down the stretch.”

Channing Frye:

“It’s a long season and its hard to always come out with energy. It was a gutsy win. They tried to take away Brandon Roy but he was able to create plays. We were able to settle down in the second half. Sergio. Travis and James Jones did a great job.”

Coach Mike Woodson:

“It was just a matter of time before they started to make shots. We tried to switch up our coverages somewhat but they got a few threes that put them back where they needed to be. We just didn’t make plays down the stretch and we just didn’t finish the game. I saw that coming somewhat in the Seattle game. We had a good game and had a big lead up there but we got sloppy at the end. It cost us tonight big time.”

(On end of game and last shot)
“We only had 2.3 to get it off. He was just trying to get a shot, that’s what it was all about. We just made too many mistakes down the stretch. We had a foul to give and we didn’t give that up. Roy made the play and he got fouled and he makes one of two. It should have never come to that particular play. We just didn’t handle our business tonight down the stretch.”

(On Brandon Roy)
“He’s been great for them all year. He’s done all the necessary things on both ends of the floor. I thought he made a great defensive stop as well on Joe Johnson. He was able to get a 24 second violation and they got the ball back. He’s been fabulous for their team. He has a legitimate shot at making the all star team if he continues to play that way.”

“Sure, we are stunned. This is a game we thought we controlled until the last 3 or 4 minutes of the game. We had these kind of slippages in the Seattle game. We just have to go back to practice and try to regroup. As well as we played defense tonight and rebounded the ball, there’s no excuse why we don’t come out with a win.”

Anthony Johnson:

“It’s more than just the guy on the ball, it’s the rest of us not coming up to help. With that being said, we left the guys out there guarding Brandon Roy on an island. In this league when guys are being aggressive, with the defensive rules, it makes it tough to defend. At the same time, you just can’t afford to give up layup after layup after layup as a team defensively.”

Josh Smith:

“The only thing you’re going to do with a team that has the man power to score is to slow them down, but eventually they’re going to go on a streak and make some shots. They did it late….I wish they had done that early.”

(On Brandon Roy)
“He’s not one-dimensional at all. He does it all. He can run the point guard position if needed, passing the ball around, but he can put the ball in the hole when they need him. That was a big layup to tie the game.”

Marvin Williams:

(On Brandon Roy)
“The thing about Brandon that I’ve always known is that he does what he wants to do when he wants to do it. He’s never in a hurry, he’s always patient. He seems like he’s always waiting for someone else to mess up and he just takes advantage of it right there and that’s why he is so effective. He’s tough to guard and he’s going to be tough to guard for a long time.”

“It’s frustrating, we know we are better than that. That’s a very good Portland team, I’ll tell you that. Very well coached and very good players. But we were up 15-20 pretty much the whole game and we didn’t take advantage of it and they capitalized.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

James Jones wants to go

For some unknown reason the participants in the Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout at All-Star weekend are the last to be announced. I don't know if the NBA needs more time to decide who should be jacking up three's in New Orleans, but I know that the announcement isn't scheduled to be made until February 7. All of the three-point specialists are most certainly on pins and needles.

I'm not sure what the specific criteria is, but I know that whatever it is, James Jones fits it. At 51.9%, Jones leads the NBA in three-point percentage. And though it's probably a little too early to start talking about records, if James could improve his shooting by half a percent, he'd end up tying Steve Kerr for the best single-season three-point percentage. That should be enough for an invite.

But there's more! Jones is joined by last year's three-point shootout winner, Toronto's Jason Kapono, as the only eligible players in the league who hit more three's than they miss. That's crazy. What's more, if James Jones had shot nothing but three-pointers this year, his field goal percentage would be 18th-best in the NBA. Better than guys like Tim Duncan, Yao Ming and Chris Bosh; all of whom make their living getting points inside the paint. Again, that should be worthy of an invite.

But maybe most importantly, James Jones actually wants to participate. A lot of guys might prefer to simply get a few days of rest rather than head down to New Orleans, but Jones would rather represent his team than get some extra sleep.

"I definitely want to go. I would love to go," says Jones. "It’s just another opportunity to show you skills and represent your team and you city. It would be great for me and the rest of the guys, but I just have to continue to do what I do. If they do send me that invite, I’ll win it."

So while there are no plans to release an "iJones" with clips of James knocking down baseline three's, there's more than enough data out there to insist that Jones be invited to All-Star weekend. It wouldn't be a three-point shootout without him.

Everyone loves iRoy

The All-Star starters have been announced, but the reserves are still yet to be decided. The coaches picks don't come out until Janurary 31, meaning that we'll have to wait another week before we know whether or not the iRoy succeeded in it's goal: To get Brandon Roy into the All-Star game.

But even if Brandon is passed over, the iRoy has still been successful in drawing more attention to Roy and our sleepy little neck of the woods. Check out the buzz that the iRoy has created.

ESPN's Ric Bucher first introduced the iRoy to the nation.

Brian Berger, the authority on all things sports and business, calls the iRoy "pure genius."

Brian Hendrickson of the Columbian thinks the iRoy trumps the Roy Leatherman promotion from last year. I tend to agree, though I don't have an iRoy to compare to my Roy Leatherman.

Katy Brown at KATU notes, "Who wouldn't be excited to receive an iPod?"

TrueHoop's Henry Abbott likes his iRoy, but thinks there should have been more footage of Roy rebounding.
I got one today, and it's loaded up with highlights -- mostly him scoring. I feel they missed a key thing: he gets key rebounds in crunch time. I can remember several. That's what makes him different. All the coaches getting these ipod's know he can score. Roy just did that again. In a crowd of Hawks, tied late in overtime, he managed to get the ball out of bounds off a Hawk.

OregonLive Blazer blogger Sean Meagher wants one, so do the folks at Larry Brown Sports.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Super sophomores

The All-Star game is approaching fast and at the bare minimum, the Trail Blazers should be represented by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in the Rookie/Sophomore game. That's a no-brainer.

Trail Blazers fans and lowly bloggers are not alone in that opinion. ESPN's David Thorpe takes a break from grading this year's rookies to run down the successes and failures of the sophomore class. As you might expect, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are two of the three second-year players Thorpe tabs as "The Big Three."
1. Brandon Roy, Blazers
The reigning Rookie of the Year is still at the head of the class. He's not a special athlete, nor a dead-eye shooter, and he doesn't "Iverson" too many people with jaw-dropping ballhandling moves. What he is, though, is a great player, because he's good or very good at everything. He defies NBA scouts' creed of "have to be great at one thing" to be a legit NBA player. Literally, this is a player without a real weakness.

I'm most impressed by his pace. Roy plays at a unique tempo that makes him look slow. But as he goes past guys or creates open midrange jumpers with his handle and timing, we realize that everyone else is moving even slower because he is in total control of his game and the ballgame in general. He may not ever be a league MVP, but a Finals MVP seems like a strong possibility one day. Portland's young bigs and higher draft picks (LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden) are no more important to the franchise's future than Roy is -- that's how special he is.


3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers
Probably the second most talented sophomore and another can't-miss Portland prospect (along with Roy and Oden) who is an integral part of the Blazers' bright future. Except for some injury concerns, Aldridge leaves no question as to how he will be a dominant power forward in this league. He combines his dynamite turnaround jumper (with his high release) and his right-hand jump hook to form a simple but very effective low-post game. And I think he plays even better in open space; he has a great feel for pick and popping or flashing to open spots.

He's a good shooter, a good shot-blocker and a willing rebounder -- three keys to being more than an average power forward in the NBA. He's still thin, but that does not keep him from bashing inside -- a hint to what he'll be like when he naturally adds 20 pounds or so over the next few years.

Rudy Gay slips in at No. 2, by the way.

I wonder if there's ever been a player who's been lauded for his "pace" as much as Brandon Roy has. Every time someone breaks down B.Roy's game, they always mention pace. It's a great observation, one which seems to be almost exclusive to Roy.

Also high praise for Aldridge. I've always considered him a "can't miss prospect," but I think people outside of the Northwest are only now coming to that realization.

My main man Dave

Fellow blogger and personal friend Dave, who write the blog Blazer's Edge, has a super interview with Mike Born, our Director of NBA Scouting. It's a must-read for anybody interested in all the back-end work that goes into scouting, the draft and player development.

And if you missed it, Dave also conducted a Q&A with Mike Rice and Mike Barrett that is more than worth a read.

And finally, be sure to listen to Sports Saturday on 1080 The Fan to hear Dave talk Blazers with Gavin Dawson.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Still stinging from the '06 draft

On the last road trip, I walked among the crowd at the United Center in Chicago trying to gauge the opinion of Bulls fans regarding the 2006 draft night trade that sent Tyrus Thomas (the No. 4 pick) and Viktor Khryapa to Chicago for the LaMarcus Aldridge (the No. 2 pick). The plan was to write a feature similar to the piece I wrote the night before regarding the Timberwolves/Trail Blazers trade that ended with Brandon Roy playing in Portland and Randy Foye playing in Minnesota.

It seemed like a simple task. In Minnesota, every fan I talked to had some opinion of the Roy/Foye trade. I just assumed that Chicago fans, who have a reputation for being devoted if not knowledgeable, would have something to say about trading Thomas for Aldridge. Funny thing happened though: No one knew what I was talking about. I walked around the lower bowl of the United Center for 20 minutes asking fan after fan if they were familiar with the trade that brought Thomas to Chicago. Not a single person knew what I was talking about.

I tell Trail Blazers PR flack Collin Romer that I can't find anyone who knows anything about the trade. He comments that the hardcores sit up in the rafters and that I'd have a better chance getting a true fans opinion of the trade if I asked the common man in the nosebleeds. It seemed like a logical suggestion, so I took the stairs up to the top deck in search of some real Bulls fans so I can write my little story. What did I get for my trouble?

Nothing. I walked around the whole top level of the United Center, and not one of the 20 or so people I asked had the slightest idea what I was talking about. Some claimed they hadn't followed the team much since Jordan. Other gave a blank stare and returned to eating an $8 chili dog. One lady asked me if I could get her group better seats. But not a single, solitary person that that I asked who showed up that night knew of, let alone had an opinion of, the trade that changed the careers of LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas. I'll let you make the decision on what that says about the fans in Chi-town.

So why tell this long, drawn-out story? Today the Chicago-based Sam Smith answers a question, from a guy in San Diego no less, about whether the Bulls would have been better off taking a Trail Blazer:
It seems that the general consensus among the national media is that John Paxson should have drafted LaMarcus Aldridge instead of Tyrus Thomas. I couldn't disagree more. In hindsight, wouldn't Brandon Roy have been the better choice? It seems that a starting backcourt of Roy and Hinrich would have eliminated some major problems that the Bulls currently have, most notably, a big guard that can score as well as defend and an athlete that can take it to the hoop and get to the foul line on a consistent basis. --Tony M., San Diego

He was my choice then, but I have to admit Paxson gets more right than I do in the draft. The Bulls commitment then was to going big and it was hard to disagree. They desperately needed size. I recall the debate well. The fear was Aldridge was soft and too much a perimeter big man like Channing Frye. They decided to take a chance on talent and athleticism, which they hadn't before. I believe Paxson is kicking himself now for varying from his own formula and beliefs. I think he probably was influenced by people saying he'd been too conservative and you can't get a star like Stoudemire that way. That's who they hoped Thomas would be. We'll see if he gets more time, though now, yes, it does look like the wrong pick.

So I finally got the answer to my question, sort of.

Hollinger doesn't fear the fluke

Poke around a few newspapers and the Internet and you'll find that most people who follow the NBA are still a bit skeptical when it comes to Portland's playoff chances. The combination of a tough Western Conference and the Trail Blazers being the youngest squad in the league has given some the impression that the resurgence we're seeing in Portland is likely an anomaly. A little talent mixed with a lot of luck.

But now that we are at midseason, some people, including John Hollinger, have come to the conclusion that the Trail Blazers are for real.
A quick memo to those of you who thought those upstart Portland Trail blazers would soon fade out of the Western Conference race: They're not going away.


Usually in a club this young, there is a tension between the desire of the players to win games and their desire to further their individual accomplishments so they can establish their careers and earn a bigger contract.

With this group, at least so far, they've managed to keep that instinct buried. It helps that none of their players are habitual ball dominators, and that the two best players, Roy and Aldridge, are as comfortable in the catch-and-shoot game as any of their teammates.

Hollinger also notes that, should the Blazers avoid disastrous injury, they could be "a dominant force in the West for the next decade." I like the sound of that.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Greg Oden

Gregory Wayne Oden Jr. turns 20 today. Not a boy, but still not yet a man. I'm assuming Greg is spending his birthday in Atlanta doing all the fun things that 20 year-olds do, which as far as I can tell is the same thing an 18 year-old would do. Those years between 18 and 21 don't yield many new experiences. Maybe Greg can rent a car now in some states.

So while we blow out 20 candles for Greg, it's also worth saying a hearty thank you to Zoe Oden, Greg's mother. At 24 inches long and weighing 8 pounds and 10 ounces, Greg was necessarily the gargantuan baby you might expect when looking at him now, but I can imagine that he was more than enough for Zoe.

Happy birthday Greg. Way to go Zoe.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Greetings on MLK Day

Happy Monday, but more importantly, happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Make sure that you get a chance today to reflect on Dr. King's life and legacy as one of our greatest Americans.

The Blazers got a chance to do just that in Atlanta over the weekend. Jason Quick was there. So was J.A. Andande. When you're on the road, you don't have much time for anything other than practicing, sleeping and moving on to the next city, so it really says something that this team made time to visit some of the sites Dr. King frequented as a child.

And though it's a holiday, there's still work to do. The game today (11 a.m. to be exact) is a big one. A win assures the Blazers a record of no worse than 3-4 on this trip, which is a respectable feat for a young team on a long trip. Not to mention the Blazers has a nice streak going against the Hawks at Phillips Arena, having not lost there since January of 2002.

So enjoy the afternoon game if your at home, and if you're at work, take that little AM radio you stash in your desk and tune it in to Wheels and Antonio on KXL 750. And if you get a chance, go vote for the slew of mid-season awards that Dave at Blazer's Edge is facilitating.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vote for Nate McMillan during halftime

Trail Blazers playing well so far on national television. So much so that, on, Nate McMillan is dominating the "Who should win Coach of the Year?" poll. 40 of the 50 states agree with Blazers fans that, at least if the season ended today, that McMillan should be awarded for the job he's done steering the Trail Blazers ship.

If you haven't voted, go ahead and do so below. Don't fear democracy.

LaMarcus Aldridge is in Ian Thomsen's Five

LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the Top 10 All-Star vote-getters for Western Conference centers. Does he have a chance of making the team? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.

But how many guys, especially those with only one year of college experience, make the All-Star team in their second season? Outside of the LeBron's of the world, not many. But according to's Ian Thomsen, there are five reason why LaMarcus will be an All-Star by 2010. They are as follows (these are just snippets, click the link to read the totality of the article):
5. He's the second coming of Rasheed Wallace. Though the 6-foot-11 Aldridge is averaging a prodigious 17.9 points and 7.5 rebounds as a 22-year-old NBA sophomore with Portland, his future became sharply focused when he was matched up against former Trail Blazer Wallace in November. "We have the same turnaround shot, the same high release, we both can spread the defense,'' Aldridge said. "We do the same moves. When he played here he did a move, and back to back I did the same exact move.''

There's no shortage of people who already claim that LaMarcus Aldridge is like Rasheed Wallace without the crazy. That characterization might be a little unfair for both players, but it's more correct than not.

4. Hard work. When he learned while watching the NBA draft last June that the Blazers had traded power forward Zach Randolph to the Knicks to clear the starting spot for him, Aldridge headed to his high school gym in Texas for a midnight workout. "I stayed for about an hour, just got up shots,'' Aldridge said. "It was like a motivational workout, saying that I have opportunities now and I have to be ready for it.''

LaMarcus is always putting in work. I've never been to a practice when he wasn't one of the last guys to leave the court.

3. Speed. "We have a bunch of hard workers on this team,'' said small forward James Jones, who at 27 passes for an elder on what is the league's youngest team. "But for your big guy to be the hardest worker and probably your fastest guy ...''

A 6-11 power forward is the fastest player on the team? "I would say yeah,'' Jones said. "Pound for pound, he's the most athletic guy on this team, and to be 7 feet and to be as fast as he is and as well-conditioned as he is, you don't find that very often.''

There's no doubt that the L-Train can move. He's one of those bounders.

2. His relationship with McMillan. "Each of our coaches is assigned about three players for individual work,'' McMillan said. "After games they go into the film room with the coaches, and we talk about the things that they're not doing. We had to learn how to play, so we went into the film room and now our basketball IQ is higher.''

So which coach has been assigned to deal with Aldridge?

"Me,'' McMillan said, and he winked.

This is something that I was unaware of. I know the players work with assistant coaches after the organized part of practice is over, but I was ignorant to the one-one-one coaching that McMillan is putting in with Roy and Aldridge. You learn something new everyday.

1. The Twin Towers. "We'll try to be like David Robinson and Tim Duncan,'' Aldridge said of his awaited partnership with Oden. "That's what we wish for.''

Do they talk in those terms? "Not yet,'' Aldridge said. "Because he's not playing right now, so its hard.''

I think that's what we all wish for. Personally, I think they've got a chance to collectively be better than The Admiral and the Big Fundamental. When Robinson and Duncan hooked up, Robinson was already moving toward the end of his career. With any luck, Aldridge and Oden will be playing off each other for their whole careers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chad Ford likes the Blazers, but not their playoff chances

A couple of interesting opinions from Chad Ford today during an text chat.
Willie (Portland, OR): Chad, will Portland make the playoffs?

SportsNation Chad Ford:
It's tough with Utah and Houston behind them. I think both of those teams could play much better in the second half. But it's hard to argue with what the Blazers have been able to achieve. They've got a great young core and Nate McMillan, in my mind, should be the leading candidate for Coach of the Year.

That strikes me as a rather popular opinion outside of the Northwest. Young teams like the Blazers have been known to fade late in the season, but it seems like a significant leap of faith to assume that both Utah and Houston are going to miraculously play better in the second half. It could very well happen though.

As for the second Trail Blazers mention ...
George (Los Angeles, CA): Chad, I think Phil Jackson deserves coach of the year. ALL OF YOU were trashing the Lakers chances this year and despite the fact they've gone through a lot and have one of the youngest teams in the league, they're #1 in the west. How on earth can you overlook what he's done with this young team in the uber tough west, even though Portland is a feel good story? Typical ESPN. Typical ESPN - and you wonder why NBA fans question the biases over there.

SportsNation Chad Ford: The Lakers have won only 3 more games than the Blazers ... and they have Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Bynum. McMillan is doing it with two sophomores .. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge and a host of young role players. To me, Phil has MUCH MUCH more to work with.

So according to George, ESPN is biased against a team that plays in one of the biggest markets in the world? Now I've heard everything. ESPN doesn't love Kobe Bryant and constantly hype Bynum as the next super-center?

That strange opinion aside, there's no denying that Phil Jackson is a great coach. Easily one of the best in the history of the game, but a better candidate for Coach of the Year than Nate McMillan? That doesn't pass the smell test. As Ford aptly points out, for all the hoopla that's been made about the Lakers this season, they're exactly three games better than a team with the third-youngest roster in NBA history.

And by the way, the Lakers have a stretch coming up in which they play 12 of 13 games on the road. That's a tough road, even for KB24. If they make it through that trip and still hold the top spot in the West, then maybe you start taking about Jackson for COY.

Trash talk is garbage

The coaches and the players probably weren't satisfied with the performance last night, but I haven't read or heard anyone else complaining too much about the result. A road game against the team with the best record in the NBA? Most observers, even hardcore Blazer fans, would have guessed the outcome that ultimately came to fruition.

But today there's talk today about intimidation. John Canzano wrote that the Blazers were plagued last night by a lack of courage. I don't think I'd go that far. I think you could make a case that this young Trail Blazers squad was a bit nervous (the season-high in turnovers would point to that) but were they afraid? I just can't see that.

But I do agree with Canzano that Kevin Garnett talks, a lot. Non-stop even. KG will go down as one of the best power forwards to have every played the game, but is the constant verbal berating really necessary? To me, a pro lets his game do the talking. Garnett undoubtedly has game, so why not save the trash talk for the playground?

Which brings me back to courage. It doesn't take the slightest bit of toughness to run your mouth when there's no chance of repercussion. In fact, it's an act of cowardice. As Maurice Lucas, who's actually a real tough guy, lamented in Canzano's column, "Back then, it was only a $50 fine for punching a guy in the mouth." Mo is right.

Look how "tough" Garnett was here when Antonio McDyess put his fists up. Was it courageous for KG to elbow Fransisco Elson in the groin back in 2004? And who could forget Garnett's unbridled display of masculinity, also in 2004, when the "Big Ticket" (a millionaire since the age of 18, by the way) noted that he was "Loadin' up the pump. I'm loadin' up the Uzi. I got a couple M-16s, a couple 9s. I got a couple joints with some silencers on them. I'm just loading clips." If all of that is a sign of toughness and fortitude, then I've been severely misguided by all of the role models in my life.

To state once again so there's no misunderstanding, Kevin Garnett is one heck of a basketball player. If his career had ended three years ago, he'd still be a first ballot Hall of Famer. But he didn't teach the Blazers anything about courage or toughness last night. He simply provided a clinic in trash talking.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Today in links

  • Showdown in Beantown, Mike Barrett:
    Everyone back here in Boston is trying to figure out what is wrong with the Celtics. Clearly, when you're 30-6 there isn't much room for complaining. But, the way they have lost lately has many concerned. The Celtics have scored 83, 86, 78, and 83, in their last four games. Point guard Rajon Rondo has been injured, and has been playing hurt. They were already thin at the point-guard position, and many believe that's the reason for Boston's struggles.

    WED. MORNING UPDATE (11:42 AM ET)--- Rajon Rondo has been ruled OUT for tonight's game. Sore back, the reason why. He was listed as 50-50 last night, but following Celtics shootaround this morning, the announcement was made.

  • Here's a new Greg Oden rehab video that just posted last night.

  • There's nothing proper about 'LeMarcus' and 'Bo', John Canzano:
    Outlaw, for one, explained that a female fan in a visiting arena walked up to him after a game this season, held out a program and a pen for his autograph and said, "You're my favorite player, Charles."

    "Who's Charles?" Outlaw said.


    "My name's Travis."

    "Well, you're my favorite player, Travis."

    The same night, on the ESPN scroll, the worldwide leader made the same error. And now, it seems, everyone is busy mixing up LeBron and LaMarcus, creating "LeMarcus." And the Portland franchise is getting esteem, sure, but what we really have here is a classic difference between esteem and respect.

  • McMillan's Amazing Streak, Jason Fleming:
    But lost in Portland's fantastic achievement is one even more impressive than winning 13 games in a row, one which people who follow the Blazers closely may already know but many outside the City of Roses may not have realized. It's a rare feat, one that puts one member of the team in an exclusive company.

    So exclusive only six in the same position have ever done better, and only two have matched it. This exclusive company of nine has to do with the number 17 – as in, 17 games in a row.

    Who is it? Head coach Nate McMillan. It may be due simply to the way life goes and dealing with the cards dealt, but McMillan did win 17 straight games as the head coach of the Trail Blazers. The game ending the winning streak at 13, the loss in Utah, was one McMillan had to miss due to a death in the family. He returned the next game and Portland rattled off four more wins before falling in double-overtime to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

  • Dave at Blazer's Edge has a great game preview and a Q&A with a Boston Celtics Blogger.

  • A scouting report from the Boston Herald:
    The Celtics have become increasingly vulnerable to quick, athletic opponents, and the young Trail Blazers thrive on that kind of style. Should Rondo not play, the Celtics will be especially challenged to get into their offense.

  • Here's USA Today's preview of tonight's game:
    A matchup against a team in the West seems to give the Celtics a good chance to avoid their first three-game losing streak since a seven-game skid last April. They are 10-0 versus the West this season.

    Boston, though, will need to break out of its slump on offense, especially against a Portland team that allows 95.5 points per game. The Celtics are averaging 99.1 points per game on the season, but have posted just 82.5 over their last four contests.

    ``As much as we preach defense, offensively I think we've hit a little snag,'' Boston guard Ray Allen said. ``We do have to score more points. We're capable of scoring 100-plus points per night, and right now we're not doing that.''

  • Here's an interesting piece about teammates Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio from Sportingo.
  • Another Brandon Roy believer

    Portland fans are tough customers. Over a year ago,'s Charley Rosen off-handedly referred to Brandon Roy and Martell Webster as "flops." Seemingly every Blazers fans with a computer took Rosen to task. So overwhelming was the response that Chuck is still having to recant his previous "flop" statement in his article today entitled "I was wrong about Roy."
    Here's the deal: Last week I wrote a scouting report of the Blazers that extolled the virtues of Brandon Roy. A subsequent question was emailed to asking me to explain why I had previously called Roy a "flop" just about "a year ago" midway through his rookie season. Consulting my files, I found another appraisal of the Blazers that I had done in January 2006, in which Roy's potential was praised and his areas of weakness also cited. Nowhere in this particular article did I call him a flop.

    Subsequent bloggers pointed out that I had indeed used the phrase in describing Roy a few weeks later during my mid-term ratings. Upon checking this additional source, I realized that I had indeed dismissed Roy (as well as Martell Webster) as "flops." My thanks to all of you attentive readers out there!

    As everybody who reads my columns no doubt knows, I am very passionate about the game. That's why I express myself so strongly.

    To make up for the mistake, maybe Charley can ask his good buddy Phil Jackson to add Brandon Roy to his All-Star ballot.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Interesting stat of the day: January 15

    I know I'm not exactly an impartial observer, but these Blazers are awesome. Really, really awesome. No offense to the players who have since moved on, but if any of the teams from the last three years had lost in double-overtime, then had another game the next night, they would have been the one's getting blown out.

    At least that's what my hunch was. So I thought I'd go through the results from the last five years to see how the Blazers did in the next game after losing in overtime. Turns out my hunch was correct. So here's today's stat of the day:
    Between the 2006-2007 and 2002-2003 season, the Trail Blazers were 4-10 in games played after losing an overtime game.

    They've only lost one overtime game this season, but they did come back and win the next game (a back-to-back no less). Just another indicator of how this team is different from those of recent years past.

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Home is where the heckles are not

    It’s not easy playing on the road, for any number of reasons. The changes in time zones, the early departures and late arrivals, sleeping in a different bed every night. Not to mention being away from your family for an extended period of time. It might seem like fun at first, but ask anyone who works in the NBA what the worst part of the job is and invariably they’ll say the travel.

    But a lot of people travel for work. In fact, it seems like a lot of people hit the road on the company dime these days. Blame it on the global economy. But aside from having to handle the occasional grumpy flight attendant, most people don’t have to deal with being razzed while away on business. That’s not the case, however, for members of the Trail Blazers.

    “They usually aren’t that creative,” says Raef LaFrentz of the heckling found in most away games, “but every once in a while you’ll get someone who’s put some time and thought into it.”

    Such as …

    “One time when I was playing against Duke,” said Steve Blake, “and some kid found a paper of mine from a college class, and he sat there and he read the whole paper to me throughout the whole game. It wasn’t a very good paper so it kind of stung to hear it read back to me.”

    The internet age has undoubtedly increased the amount of material available to execute a solid heckle, but some times a more low-tech approach can have the same sting while also allowing for a certain level of flexibility.

    “There’s a guy in Philly,” said Jarrett Jack. “I don’t know who he is but he sits kind of right behind out bench. He has a little dry erase board, and he just writes messages on there and holds it up. Just subtle and just holds it up. Not trying to make a scene, just holds it up. And as you’re in a timeout or coming out of a timeout, you might catch the little messages and it’s always something funny.”

    That seems to be the consensus throughout the Trail Blazers locker room. Sure, there’s the occasional clown in the crowd, like the guy in Chicago who proceed to yell “You suck Aldridge!” every time LaMarcus touched the ball. But by-and-large, most of the players seem to enjoy a little light-hearted ribbing from the opposing fans.

    “I loved playing at Maryland,” says rookie Josh McRoberts. “They actually had some funny stuff. They’d have signs that are pretty funny or say clever stuff. That I can respect because if me and my friends went to a game, we’d probably be saying the same stuff.”

    And what players seem to enjoy even more is when that light-hearted ribbing is directed at one of their teammates.

    “It was my rookie year when D.Miles was playing,” explains Martell Webster. “We’re in Utah and there was a dude. It was dead silent and D.Miles was shooting a free-throw. Out of nowhere, some dude just yells out ‘Flavor Flav!’ That was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life.”

    So as it turns out, heckling might not be so much of an annoyance. After all, who doesn’t like a good joke carried out with impeccable timing? So while sometimes the interaction between fans and players can get out of hand, for the most part, it’s just another wrinkle of playing away from home.

    Interesting stat of the day: January 14

    In honor (for lack of a better word) of yesterday morning's double-overtime loss, we look to a stat that is sure annoy Jarrett Jack.
    The starting lineup of Webster, Aldridge, Przybilla, Jack and Roy is 0-4 this season. On the other hand, the lineup of Webster, Frye, Przybilla, Blake and Roy is 5-0.

    That's obviously a highly-situational statistic which probably says more about the quality of the opponents than it does about the starting five, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.

    Rank File: January 14

    The Trail Blazers are in a mini-holding pattern in this week's power rankings. How they perform on the road will decide whether they move up, down or not at all come this time next week. But first, this week's results. ranks the Blazers No. 7:
    Considering they were starting their seven-game trip at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time, you have to admire the Blazers taking the Raps to double OT. But playing a back-to-back after logging a career-high 52 minutes will be a good test for the young legs of Brandon Roy. ranks the Blazers No. 9:
    How will these kids hold up on the road after their remarkable 17-1 run? Take your curiosity one step further now, as in: How will they respond to a double-OT loss in Toronto in the opener of that seven-game trip?'s Marty Burns ranks the Blazers No. 8:
    Brandon Roy says he understands if he doesn't make the All-Star team. But if his team keeps going like it has been of late (17 victories in its last 19 games), he won't have to worry. Even in the crowded West backcourt, the coaches will find room for the second-year standout.

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Interesting stats of the day: January 10

    After most of us are long in bed, hardcore PR man Collin Romer is still up crunching numbers and compiling the most detailed game notes the NBA has ever seen. Last night was no exception. So here are your interesting stats from last night's 109-91 beatdown of the Golden State Warriors.
  • The Trail Blazers never trailed, going up 2-0 on Western Conference rival Golden State with a 109-91 win at the Rose Garden.

  • Portland pushed its lead to as many as 27 in the fourth quarter, which marked the team’s largest lead in a game to date this season.

  • The team dished a season-high 32 assists, with every player logging at least one dime.
  • Wednesday, January 9, 2008

    Watch: Post-game comments

    The world looks different when you're viewing it from atop of the Northwest Division. It's still early, but with the way this team is playing, it's getting harder and harder to imagine the Trail Blazers not making the playoffs. If only the season ended today.

    Then again, why not keep this sweeting thing going? Every night someone new is stepping up. Every, single, night. Tonight it was Steve Blake, who was simply unstoppable until Monta Ellis charlie-horsed him in the calf. 24 points in 22 minutes while shooting 80% from the field? It would be unbelievable if it didn't keep happening over and over again.

    Below are the post-game comments of Nate McMillan and James Jones. You can also watch the highlights of tonight's game here.

    Listen: Aldridge, Jack and Golub

    Lots of Trail Blazers making a lot of radio appearances over the last few days. If you missed any of the shows live, you've still got an opportunity to listen.

    Here's LaMarcus Aldridge on yesterday's Bald Faced Truth with John Canzano. Thanks to News Radio 750 KXL for the clip.

    Here's Jarrett Jack on yesterday's PrimeTime with Issac and Big Suke.

    Last but not least, here's Chief Operating Officer Mike Golub on Sunday's Sports Business Radio with Brian Berger.

    All are more than worth a listen.

    Entertaining ain't easy

    There's a whole lot that goes into getting the team ready to take the court. That's what we go to the Rose Garden to see. But there's also a ton of work that goes into all the other parts of your game night experience.

    Todd Bosma, Director of Game Operations, and his staff work their butts off to put on a show during the times when the Blazers are on the bench. KPTV followed Bosma around for a night to find out just what it takes to put together just one night (let alone 41 nights) of in-game entertainment.

    Tuesday, January 8, 2008

    Watch: McMillan talks after practice

    Good looking practice today in Tualatin. They ran a drill were the coaches passed the ball to each other at different spots on the court with the players having to react. Looked like a zone defense drill to me. Also got to see Darius Miles play two-on-two with Taurean Green, Sergio Rodriguez and Josh McRoberts. That was interesting. Speaking of which, McRoberts, as was earlier reported, is going to the D-League affiliate, but Green is not.

    For those of you interested, here's part of Nate McMillan's post-practice remarks, including his thoughts on the tomorrow's game against Golden State. Enjoy.

    Sports Illustrated loves the Blazers

    Not one, but two features on today about the Trail Blazers. How many times in the last few years could you say that?

    Chris Mannix writes about the Trail Blazers' revival after an early season malaise.
    The dramatic turnaround can be traced to early December, when the team nearly imploded in the aftermath of a 100-79 loss at San Antonio. Only one starter (Martell Webster) scored in double figures while the other four starters scored a combined 13 points. Afterward, second-year power forward LaMarcus Aldridge took the team to task in the locker room.

    "He was really upset," Roy said. "He said we can't quit like that. He said that we have been down by 25 points and won and we have been up by 25 and lost. We have to find a way to play together."

    The next night Portland played at Memphis, where the teams went back and forth until Blazers forward Travis Outlaw hit a six-foot runner at the buzzer to give Portland it's first road victory of the season.

    "The NBA season, it's too long," Roy said. "We didn't want to go through 82 games saying, 'Let's wait until Greg comes back.' " Instead, Roy said, "Let's prepare now so when Greg comes back, we'll be a year better. When he's back, we can try to mature. Good things can still happen for this team."

    Solid. Next up, Steve Aschburner writes that rebuilding teams like the Trail Blazers are showing other rebuilding teams like the Timberwolves that being young doesn't have to mean being uncompetitive.
    "We're young, but we weren't going to let them use that as an excuse,'' Blazers assistant coach Maurice Lucas said last week in Minneapolis, after helping some of the kids through pre-game warm-ups. "Same thing with Oden. Why should that stop these guys from getting better?''

    Farther down the court, Wolves coach Randy Wittman -- 16-59 since taking over for Dwane Casey last January, with the first loss coming at Portland last winter -- admired the Blazers' turnaround.

    "We need to really look at what they're doing,'' Wittman said. "They went through a period, the last couple of years, of trying to figure out which direction they were going to go in -- which young guys they were going to keep, which ones they were going to move.

    "That's kind of what we're doing. We're evaluating which guys we want to move forward with, where we need help, in the draft and in the offseason. We're still a long way away.''

    It's interesting that, before the season started, there probably wouldn't have been too many national media types who would have pointed to the Blazers and said "That's how you rebuild a team." Now everyone is saying it. That's the definition of "trail blazing."

    By the way, it was interesting on this last road trip to see Sports Illustrated guys in two consecutive cities (Aschburner in Minneapolis and Marty Burns in Chicago). Contrary to popular belief, those guys do actually work.

    Number One in the Northwest

    The Suns have done a couple of good deeds for the Trail Blazers this season. First they traded the best three-point shooter of the 2007-08 season, that being James Jones, for cap space. Thanks for that.

    More recently, as in last night, the Suns did the Blazers another good turn by defeating the Denver Nuggets 137-115. Why do we care? Because the loss drops Denver's record to 21-13, which puts the Blazers in a tie for first in the Northwest Division. And the way I see it, we own the tie-breaker with the Nuggets due to our 2-1 record against them this season, so by my rose-colored logic, we're in sole possession of first in the division. Huzzah!

    Of course the NBA doesn't hand out any trophies for being in first with 48 games to play, so it's going to be important for the Blazers to come out strong and get a win tomorrow night against a hot Golden State team before hitting the road. Tickets are still available. It'll be 16 days before you can see the Blazers again at the Rose Garden, so show up and give them a good send off.

    Legler says vote Roy

    The Brandon Roy for All-Star momentum has gradually started to increase, which tends to happen when you're the leader of a team that has won 16 of their last 17 games. Today ESPN's Tim Legler lists B.Roy (or the "Roy-bot" as I and other like to call him) as one of the five Western Conference guards who should be representing their teams in New Orleans.
    4. Brandon Roy, Portland Trail Blazers -- The reigning Rookie of the Year has blown up. It's important to note that the top 4 scorers on the Blazers are all 24 and under. To have that kind of chemistry, with young guys usually trying to get their own numbers for contracts, is a tribute to how well Roy handles the team.

    He handles the ball as well as any guard in the league. He's all about that team playing well, the perfect guy to lead these young guys. If he has to get 30 points for his team to win, he will, or if he needs to be a playmaker and get 10 assists, he can do that too. Very good in fourth-quarter situations.

    I still think it's going to be incredibly hard for Roy to make the squad in a Western Conference stacked with talented guards, but there's literally no argument you can make against his candidacy. He does everything.

    Make sure to do your part and vote for Brandon Roy. Tell your friends.

    Monday, January 7, 2008

    Good for Monty, bad for us

    Many are pointing to Monty Williams as the reason for the improved play of Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw and I'm certainly not going to argue with that sentiment. As a fan of the team and the coaches, you want to see them do well. So while it's great that Coach Williams is getting the praise he deserves, it's not-so-great, at least from a purely selfish perspective, that other teams might try to steal him away. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, that may indeed happen in the not-to-distant future.
    League executives are forever keeping tabs on the crop of assistant coaches that’ll someday be head coaches. Here are few names that keep coming up when you talk to general managers and coaches.


    Monty Williams (Portland): Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford rave over Williams, who was with them as a player and staffer. Williams works for one of the best minds in the game now, Nate McMillan, and the Blazers’ success could have this 10-year NBA veteran on the fast track to a head job.

    His work developing high school prospects, Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster, into solid Blazers contributors has been noticed. “He’s been fantastic for us,” Portland GM Kevin Pritchard said.

    Rank File: Janurary 7

    The new week brings a new crop of Power Rankings. Nothing but good news for the Blazers and their fans.

    Blazers ranked No. 6 by
    Do you believe yet? And they're winning on the road (five of their last six) now too. And Mo, it's time for Brandon Roy to crack the Top 10.

    Blazers ranked No. 8 by ESPN's Marc Stein:
    Don't be so sure that the Blazers' seven-game trip will ruin the fairy tale. Portland is 5-1 on the road during this astonishing 16-1 run. And its only road losses since Thanksgiving were at Dallas, San Antonio and Utah.

    Blazers ranked No. 8 by's Marty Burns:
    They downed the Jazz (for the third time in five weeks) on Saturday night for their 16th victory in 17 games as they continue to shock the world. Their bench, led by Travis Outlaw, James Jones, Jarrett Jack and Channing Frye, has outscored its counterparts in 15 of the last 17 games.

    What do you have to do to contend around here?

    There are some people out there who are undoubtedly waiting for the Blazers' other shoe to drop. Sitting at 21-13, Nate McMillan's squad has done just about everything they could to prove that they belong in the playoff discussion, yet I still get the sense that people outside of Portland don't believe what they're seeing.

    Case in point: Today's Daily Dime over at Andrew Ayres ranks ten teams that "have the best shot at bringing home an NBA title this year." Do I think that the Blazers are going to win a ring in '08? Honestly, I don't. But what I do think is that they've got as good or better a chance as Orlando, Utah and Cleveland, all of whom have worse records than the Blazers and all of whom were in Ayres' Top-10.

    So what do you have to do to be labeled a contender? How many games in a row do you have to win before you'll be taken seriously?

    That's why this upcoming road trip is so important, at least when it comes to public perception of the Trail Blazers. Does going .500 or better in those seven games make the Blazers a contender? Let's hear it.

    Thursday, January 3, 2008

    Watch: Nate McMillan talks prior to the Chicago game

    We're about 15 minutes from tip, so go ahead and watch Nate's pregame comments to get ready for the big game on TNT.

    Trip of the Trades: Brandon Roy

    The similarities are certainly there. Both stayed close to home to go to school. Both are slashing combo guards with an ability to get to the hoop. Both made the first-team all-rookie team. Even their names share a tongue-twisting similarity that has cause more than a few mix-ups of identity. But the tie that will forever bind Brandon Roy and Randy Foye occurred on June 28, 2006.

    History may very well judge that day as the turning point of the Trail Blazers franchise. In a draft day that included fifteen trades, none were more important or carefully orchestrated as the move to acquire Brandon Roy. In short, the Blazers traded Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a second-round pick in 2008 to Boston for Dan Dickau, Raef LaFrentz and Randy Foye, who Boston took with the seventh pick. Shortly thereafter, Foye was traded to Minnesota for Brandon Roy, who was taken by the Timberwolves with the sixth pick. In an organization that has occasionally found themselves on the short end of the trade stick, this move seemed like a proverbial slam dunk.

    And really, there would be no reason for either player to hold a grudge. After all, it was one of those trades where everyone got the guy they wanted, or at least it seemed that way at the time. Fast-forward a year and a half to last night’s game at the Target Center. The Blazers, led by Brandon Roy’s 24 points, five rebounds and three assists, defeat a slumping Minnesota team 90-79 in a game that never felt in doubt. In contrast, Randy Foye, considered by most to be the future figurehead of the franchise in the absence of the since traded Kevin Garnett, sits behind the Timberwolves bench in a finely pressed three-piece suit. Sidelined indefinitely with a bad knee, Foye can only watch and provide encouragement to his young teammates who could desperately use his ability to dribble penetrate. It’s enough to make some Timberwolves fans wonder if general manager Kevin McHale made the right move on that June night.

    “If you look at it for face value right now, I think you’d say we made the wrong decision, but we don’t quite have all the information yet because Foye’s has been injured and we don’t quite know what he can do right now.” said Rob Brewer, a Minnesota fan and co-author of the website “I just think right now if you look at it, it’s tough to think that the Wolves made the right decision.”

    Neil Olmstead, the other author of the afore-mentioned site, notes the bitter irony of Foye’s injury as it relates to one of the perceived reasons why the T-Wolves decided to ship off Roy rather than keep him.

    “The rap on Roy before he was drafted was ‘hey, this guy might be injury prone’ or possibly ‘hey, we’re kind of worried about the injury situation,’” Olmstead said, “and now Foye is the one who’s been out for our entire season so far. I just think that’s ironic how Roy’s having an incredible season and Foye’s the one who’s out with injury.”

    But in talking with Timberwolves fans at the Target Center, you don’t get the feeling that they’re necessarily ready to believe the trade was a mistake.

    “I think once (Foye) comes back from being injured, people are going to see that the trade wasn’t as bad as people are thinking right now,” said Timberwolves supporter Robbie Richards, still giddy after getting Corey Brewer to sign his Florida jersey. “I think the trade will end up good for both teams. Obviously Roy is the leader of the Blazers right now and he’s their best overall player, but Foye, I think, is going to be an all-star soon.”

    Incidentally, Brandon Roy agrees.

    “I remember when I was going through the draft process I was always hearing about Randy,” Roy said prior to the game, “and I had a chance to work out with him a couple of times and I always felt that he was a really good player. I fell like whichever team was to take either one of us was going to get a good pick. I mean, he’s injured for now but I think he’s going to bounce back and I think he’s going to be a terrific player for them.”

    So save a career-ending injury to either player, it’s probably safe to say that both teams added a high quality player to their franchise. No one knows what the future holds, but the success that Brandon Roy has already achieved along with the potential for what he’s capable of accomplishing makes one thing quite clear to Blazer fans: We got the guy who was best for us.

    Tomorrow: LaMarcus Aldridge and Tyrus Thomas.

    Watch: Nate McMillan discusses the win in Minnesota

    And a new streak is born. Any time you commit just four turnovers, you're more than likely to get a win. Eight assists in under six minutes by Sergio Rodriguez and white-hot shooting from James Jones gave the Blazers all the lift they needed to beat a struggling Timberwolves squad, even in their own house.

    Speaking of the Target Center, it was hard not to notice the similarities last night between Minnesota's home court this year and the Rose Garden last year. A lot of empty seats and not a whole lot of enthusiasm from those who were in attendance. If there's anything we've learned this year though, it's that things in the NBA can change in a hurry.

    But back to the Blazers. Nate McMillan had some interesting things to say after the win. Check it out. The chunk of blonde hair at the start of the video belongs to Rebecca Haarlow, by the way. Enjoy.

    Wednesday, January 2, 2008

    Watch: Nate McMillan wins Coach of the Month

    We're still waiting to start it up here in Minnesota. Apparently there's a piece of the floor missing, which is a pretty big deal when you're dribbling a basketball at full speed. In the interem, enjoy this video of Nate McMillan talking about winning Western Conference Coach of the Year.

    Coach of the month is just a start

    Congratulations to Nate McMillan on winning Western Conference Coach of the Month honors. All homerism aside, that was a one-man race in my opinion.

    And according to FoxSports' Mike Kahn, Nate McMillan is on the short list of possible coach of the year candidates.

    But how can you ignore what Nate McMillan has accomplished with his precocious Portland Trail Blazers? They dealt their lone inside threat – 20-and-10 power forward Zach Randolph with the understanding that top overall draft choice Greg Oden would be there to dominate inside. Instead, Oden’s out for the year following knee surgery and they have neither. It didn’t matter, he spurred the youngest team in the league to a 13-game winning streak.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: If the Blazers make the playoffs, Nate McMillan should win COY.

    Pritchard's secret is out

    Well, it's not really a secret to those of us who have been following the Blazers prior to their recent success, but the winning streak has openned the eyes of some the national types to what General Manager Kevin Pritchard is doing. KP's knack for finding a balance between talent, character and chemestry has not only translated to wins, it's lead ESPN's Bill Simmons to create a new word.
    Here's the new mantra for savvy NBA teams: "Chemacterility." Why haven't you heard the term before? Because I just made it up. But it's an amalgam of three concepts that have formed the foundation of the Duncan era in San Antonio: chemistry, character and (cap) flexibility.


    Although their initial rebuilding plan centered on creating cap space after 2009 and stockpiling enough assets to swing a KG-like deal, the Blazers sped things up this season by becoming the poster boys for chemacterility. They've also left the average NBA fan perplexed. After all, Boston's resurgence makes sense because they have three All-Stars; the Blazers have one emerging star (Roy) leading a mishmashed collection of youngsters and role players. They're a good raw team, but 13-in-a-row good? Without Oden? After they thumped a more talented Raptors team on Dec. 19, Jason Kapono told reporters, "Their chemistry is so good right now, and that's so hard to deal with."

    Have you ever heard anyone blame the other team's chemistry for a loss? Me neither. Clearly the Blazers have stumbled onto something.

    There's been no stumbling involved. Kevin Pritchard has carefully crafted this team with "chemacterility" in mind from the day he took over as GM. It might be working faster than anyone expected but it's nothing close to an accident.

    Nate McMillan from shoot around

    It's cold here in Minneapolis. Really, really cold. Even some locals noted that it's unusually cold. Cold I say!

    Keep your fingers crossed that the Blazers don't come out cold tonight against the Timberwolves. Despite the loss to Utah, coach Nate McMillan has his team playing with a lot of confidence. You can see it on the faces of the players during practice. They're focused but loose, and that's what you like to see before a game.

    Nate McMillan had some things to say about the Utah game as well as what they need to do to start another winning streak. You can listen to his comments here.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2008

    Jazz 111, Blazers 101: Post Game Audio

    Happy New Year. Tough loss last night to Utah. The streak had to end sometime, but getting another win against the Jazz sure would have been nice.

    Got some post game audio from last night's loss. Check it out on your day off:

    Dean Demopoulos, who filled in as head coach for Nate McMillan, talks about the end of the streak ("What streak?") and moving on.

    Jarrett Jack talks about the loss and where the team goes from here.

    Brandon Roy remarks on Utah's physical style of play and the game in general.

    LaMarcus Aldridge talks about scoring a career-high in a losing effort.

    Finally, Steve Blake give his post game thoughts.

    Our trip through the midwest continuies tomorrow with a game against the Timberwolves. I'm head off to practice, so check back a little later for some updates from Minnesota.