Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photos: Media Day by Mike Barrett

Mike Barrett isn't just a broadcaster and a blogger: he's also a photographer. The photos in this gallery were all taken by MB. You can click any picture for a larger image.

Photos: Media Day Studio Pictures

You can click all of these images to see larger pictures. All photos provided by Getty Images.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Duckworth honored with memorial jersey stripe

At media day this afternoon, the Portland Trail Blazers will introduce a memorial stripe on their jerseys which will be worn during the 2008-09 season in honor of the late Kevin Duckworth. The team will also wear a patch on its warm-ups and shooting shirts.

All three uniforms (home, road, alternative) will feature a black stripe with a white “00” stitched into the upper left shoulder of the jersey. The black patch on the warm-ups and shooting shirts will read “DUCK” in red and “00” below it in white. (See example above. Click image for larger version.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Catching up with Joel Przybilla

With training camp just a few days away, players have already started to filter into the practice facility in preparation for the coming season. Joel Przybilla, who averaged averaged 4.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks during the 2007-2008 season, is just one of those players who have returned from their offseason break to get in a little extra run before camp officially begins.

Casey Holdahl of trailblazers.com spoke with Przybilla after a recent pickup game about his offseason, the new players on the team, and how he fits in with Greg Oden.

CH: What have you been doing in the offseason?

JP: Working out and spending time with the family. Nothing exciting. Pretty boring in Milwaukee, WI.

CH: So you have been working out?

JP: Oh yeah. I’ve got a personal trainer, the same guy I worked out with last summer. I work out with him four days a week, a couple hours in the morning.

Then I’ve got a guy I go with about three nights a week to get up shots at a local gym. Playing here and there at Marquette, University of Wisconsin, places like that. Just stuff to stay in shape and get ready for the season. Nothing major, nothing strenuous, just stuff I did last year. Aside from my broken hand I thought I had a good year, so I tried to do the same things this summer as I did last summer.

CH: How is the hand?

JP: It’s fine. Not a problem.

CH: How have you felt during these pickup games?

JP: Guys look good. The thing that impressed me is that guys look like they’re in shape which is a big plus because you don’t have to worry about getting guys in shape during camp. It allows you to worry less about conditioning. You have such a short time before games start that you can focus on plays and schemes, things like that.

CH: I assume this is your first time playing with Bayless. How do you think he looks?

JP: Jerryd looks great. I was telling Mike Rice, his demeanor reminds me a lot of how Brandon (Roy) was when he first came in as a rookie. I think he’s only 19 years old (ed. note: Bayless turned 20 on August 20), but he doesn’t seem that young. It’s the way he handles himself, not only on the court, but off the court as well. I don’t really know him that well, but you can get a feel from people. He’s very calm with the ball, he doesn’t rush anything. His shot ... he may have one of the best shots on the team.

CH: A lot of people are talking about Greg Oden being the starter at center, but you played well last season in the starting role. What are your expectations for yourself this season?

JP: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I know it’s a long year, a long season. Greg could start at the beginning of the year -- and I’ve had that happen before -- then maybe I come at start at the end.

All I know is it’s going to make us better as a team because we’re going to be stronger, not only in the first unit but in the second unit because we have so many guys at every position that can play. Practices are going to be very competitive because guys are going to want those minutes. It’s going to make us better in the long run. It’s going to be an interesting year.

The thing with this team, guys aren’t that selfish, guys are going to sacrifice things because we want to win. Winning cures everything. I’ve been here -- this is my fifth year being here -- and when I first started here, losing sucked. Last year we were .500 and even though we had a good year it still feels like we have a lot to prove. As long as we keep on getting better throughout the year we’ll be in a good situation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

09.22.08 Rudy Fernandez press conference audio

Sorry for the delay, but better late than never, no? Here is the complete audio from Monday's press conference introducing Rudy Fernandez to the city of Portland. Thanks to Jay Allen, John Strong, and the rest of the gang at 95.5 The Game for the audio.

Download the podcast (15.2 MB).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Video: Rudy answers English questions in Spanish

For all of Rudy's Spanish speaking fans out there, here's footage of the man himself answering my English questions in his native tongue. I have no idea was he's saying, but I'm sure one of you kind multilinguals out there can fill me in.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

09.17.08 Edition of the Trailblazers.com Podcast

Wednesday's breed podcasts, and this Wednesday is no different. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com, bring to you yet another edition of the Official Trailblazers.com Podcast. Very official

This week we discuss Dave's background as a blogger, my Jerryd Bayless excitement, the connection between Sergio and Rudy, whether or not Shaun Livingston is worth the last roster spot and how I'll be getting around during media day. It's a grab bag of a podcast. Listen below

Download the podcast (38.9 MB).

Also be sure to check out the Quick Chat today over at OregonLive featuring Jason Quick (hence the name "Quick Chat") and Sean Meagher.

By the way, posting will be light the next three or four days, as I'm recovering from ACL replacement surgery. Who says that blogging isn't dangerous?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Look out for LaMarcus Aldridge

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we? Think back to my recap of the workouts at the practice facility (or if you can't remember that far back, just read the post below). Remember this little passage?
Aldridge looks to have added some muscle, but not much. And really, how much bigger can a guy like LaMarcus get?
Good stuff, though after watching LA play full-court yesterday for the second time this offseason, I realized I was wrong. Surprised? Yeah, me too.

LaMarcus is undoubtedly thicker, especially in the chest and shoulders, than he was last season. He's not going to be mistaken for Dwight Howard any time soon, but the added mass is noticeable, at least if you pay attention, which I obviously hadn't when I made the statement above. That's what happens when you draw conclusions based on a single viewing.

One thing that I did get right in my recap is that LaMarcus, when on the court at the PF, is the best player on the floor. He proved it again yesterday during a workout I would classify as the best I've seen so far this offseason. Games were close at the end, so guys were really focusing on playing tough defense. One-on-one play was kept to a minimum. Fouls were called and subsequently argued. Rebounds were fought over. I think guys are starting to feel the season is getting closer, and that realization is being reflected in the play on the court.

And LaMarcus owned it. With Steven Hill out of town, Aldridge was the only big available to go up against Greg Oden. No offense to GO, but LA took him to school, at least out on the perimeter.

Aldridge, knowing he'd have a tough time going blow-for-blow and toe-to-toe with Oden in the block, took the rook out to the three-point line and started displaying some skills that I had never seen before, namely the cross-over dribble. You ever see Aldridge dance at the three-point line before shaking his man? Me neither, but I saw it yesterday.

Aldridge, with the clear advantage in foot speed, beat Oden in a variety of ways by showing off a handle that I didn't even know he possessed. He'd go between the legs over and over, just getting in that cross-over rhythm, before eventually throwing a jab step to get Oden off-balance. Once that was accomplished, Aldridge would either pull up for the long-range jumper (which he hit over and over again) or drive baseline. Think And1 mix-tape, but without the extreme ankle-breaking, and with 6-11 versus 7-0. It's not like Oden was getting embarrassed, but you could tell Aldridge was just feeling it.

The highlight of the run was Aldridge crossing over Oden near the baseline, driving to the hoop, avoiding Travis Outlaw's block attempt, then finishing with the reverse layup. So pretty.

I don't know if Aldridge is comfortable enough in his handle to break out these kind of moves during the regular season, but if he gets to that point, the rest of the league is going to be in a whole lot of trouble. I don't think Aldridge is going to be rising up off the dribble and canning fadeaway three's like Dirk Nowitzki any time in the near future, but he showed glimpses of that ability yesterday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trail Blazers back in town

I find it difficult to discuss player performances during pick-up games. On one hand, these are professional athletes trying to perfect their craft, so some skills, tenancies and deficiencies are noticeable. But on the other hand, it's an informal run, in many ways no different than any pickup game taking place in any part of the city, sans the world class athletes.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is I'm loath, for various reasons, to put much significance in the positive or negative things that I've seen in Tualatin over the past few weeks. It's not fair to the players or to you. The players need to be able to practice, which includes making mistakes, without being overly scrutinized. Even Nate McMillan has said he doesn't watch the practices because he doesn't want anyone to feel like they're being evaluated. And the flip of that is they shouldn't have too many expectations placed upon their shoulders just because they look good in pick-up games.

Having stated that, I know there's a lot of interest in this team and these players. Realizing that, I'm confident that I can derive and share some conclusions from what I've seen at the practice facility without compromising a players' right to the relative privacy that a closed practice supposedly provides. So here goes.

-- Steve Blake looks like he's in the best shape of his life. Outside of Steven Hill (who lives in a hotel and is thousands of miles away from his friends and family, hence he's got nothing better to do), Blake is the most consistent presence at the practice facility. As Jason Quick has reported, Blake has been working on his vert, and it shows. He's not playing above the rim, but he definitely looks more explosive. A bit more muscular too.

Every day when the teams divvy up players, Blake always ends up on Oden's team (or to be fair to the veteran, Oden plays on Blake's team). I'm sure that's done with a purpose.

It should also be noted that Steve Blake hates to lose. I mean, he really hates it. I've heard Steve drop the f-bomb on more than a few occasions after ending up on the losing side. He also doesn't mind arguing foul calls should the mood strike him.

-- I've only had the chance to see LaMarcus Aldridge play once at the practice facility, though he did look like the best player on the court. I watched him play three or four games and during that time he handled the ball outside of the post more often than I've seen in his first two years in the league. I don't know if that speaks more to the informal nature of the game or an effort on LaMarcus' part to improve his handle. Either way, he looked comfortable.

Aldridge looks to have added some muscle, but not much. And really, how much bigger can a guy like LaMarcus get?

-- Jerryd Bayless is going to be fun to watch this season. Like I mentioned in the Q&A, he's shooting the ball a little more and driving a little less than he did in summer league. The good news on that front is the shots are falling regularly. When he does take it to the rack, he's finishing consistently with the finger roll. Numerous times I've seen him initially prepare for a dunk before deciding (correctly I might add) to finish with a layin.

I'm still surprised by Bayless' ups every time I watch him play. His ability to elevate, especially in terms of quickness and distance off the floor, is phenomenal. I may be speaking too soon, but Bayless might rival Outlaw when it comes to vertical, at least relative to their respective statures.

Bayless actually seems interested in playing defense, which is more than you can say for a few of the guys out there.

-- Sergio Rodriguez has made obvious strides in the offseason. He looks bigger without having lost any quickness. He's also one of the guys who is almost always a the practice facility when I roll in. I'm not sure that would have been the case in years prior.

As others have mentioned, Sergio's shot does have more arc, though I think he's still working on making that new release instinctual. It seems to me that sometimes he has to remind himself to put more air under the ball, which is causing a slight hesitation. I know he worked out hard with shooting coach John Townsend this summer in Spain (tough gig I'm sure!), so I'm confident that, with a bit more repetition, Sergio's shot will be far more reliable this season.

Sergio seems more intent on taking the ball to the basket during these runs as well. His finishing is better, but probably not where he'd like it just yet.

Just as Blake always plays with Oden, Rodriguez almost always plays alongside Martell Webster.

-- Speaking of Martell: the guy's body is transformed, far more than any other player on the team. Much leaner. I don't know if it's all the workouts in L.A. or a new diet, but whatever he's doing, it's working. The change is really noticeable in his legs; all lean muscle. Martell has always been a little thick, but no more. He looks more like a prototypical small forward.

Martell told me at the end of the season that he was going to work on his ball handling, and from what little I've seen, an improvement has been made. He also continues to gain confidence in his ability to put the ball on the floor. This might be the year everything comes together for Marty, and not a moment too soon.

Any by the way, he still automatic from beyond the arc. If he's got the slightest bit of daylight, that's buckets.

-- And then there's Greg Oden. Greg plays 5-on-5 every other day, and he seems to get better every time I see him. I've noticed he doesn't dunk the ball as often as I'd like, opting to throw the ball through the hoop or simply drop it above the basket, but it all scores the same.

These kinds of games are a bit hard offensively for a guy like Greg, as dumping the ball into the post and letting the big man work tends to slow the game down. That's great in a real game with real stakes, but that ain't what they're playing in Tualatin. There's a reason why you don't see much back to the basket play on the playground. It's no different on the courts at the PF (that's what we call the practice facility, by the way).

Greg does get to try out some of the moves he works on during his off-days, primarily the jump hook, but it's still a work in progress. He's got a nice mid-range jumper, which surprised me, but he doesn't use it often during games. That would require being more than five feet away from the basket.

Defense is where Greg shines in these runs. On numerous occasions I've seen GO block back-to-back shots with ease. His rebounding is more than sufficient. He's the immovable object in the post.

His stamina is improving. Greg plays game after game and seems no more or less winded that anyone else out there. The explosiveness we saw from pre-surgery Oden isn't there yet, but he's getting close. And what he's lacking right now in lift is being made up for with raw power.

-- Steven Hill, the guy who has had the "honor" of going toe-to-toe with Oden on the court, has been playing well. He's working out every day but Sunday. Every time you talk to anyone at the PF about Hill, the discussion always turns to his great attitude, his outstanding work ethic or his epic beard (hence the nickname "Steven of Nazareth").

The thing with a guy like Steven is that he's already better than other big men who are under contract in the league. He's better than Jamaal Magloire. He's better than Jerome James. I'm sure there are others.

You always know what you're going to get with Steven Hill. He's going to block shots, get rebounds and avoid shooting like the plague. He's also going to give you maximum effort whenever he's on the court. Is that enough to get signed? I have no idea.

-- Last but not least, there's Luke Jackson. Another guy who is always in the gym; always going hard. It's hard to tell who has the leg up for that last spot at this point.

Luke has said that he's working on perfecting what he does best, which is shooting the deep ball. If he wants to make the roster based on that skill, he needs to continue to improve. He's not to the point where he's automatic from three when he's open, and for a guy trying to claw back into the league, he has to be. He's nothing if not steady, but you've got to have that little something extra to make this roster.

Greg goes Coliseum

The big college football match-up this weekend, dubbed as the "Collision in the Coliseum" (wow ESPN, that's very clever) pits the Ohio State Buckeyes against the USC Trojans. I think the Trojans win easily in this one, but since my man Greg Oden will reportedly be roaming the sidelines supporting tOSU, maybe the Buckeyes manage to make a game out of it. Maybe.

So here's my question to you. Who is/was more important to the success of their respective Ohio State squad: Greg Oden ('06-'07 Buckeyes basketball) or Beanie Wells ('08-'09 Buckeyes football)?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jerryd Bayless welcomes all challengers

Nothing too exciting to report from today's games at the practice facility. Guys either had off days or are headed out of town for long weekends, so the numbers were pretty sparse. In fact, there were so few players that Mike Born, the Director of NBA Scouting, had to lace 'em up just so they could play 4-on-4. Born played college ball at Iowa State, so he's not exactly a scrub, but even he would admit that his best days on the court are well behind him.

I did have a couple of minutes to catch up with Jerryd Bayless after today's run. Here's a bit of what he had to say

Center Court: What have you been up to since the end of summer league?

Bayless: I’ve been working out; getting ready for the season. Just trying to get ready for this long haul.

Center Court: Where have you been working out?

Bayless: Here in Portland and in Phoenix. I’ve been in Phoenix most of the time. I just got out here a couple weeks ago, getting started out here.

Center Court: Working out with anyone else?

Bayless: No, just by myself.

Center Court: Trying to work on anything in particular?

Bayless: All around. Just trying to keep up with everything. Trying to get better and get ready for the season.

Center Court: Now that you’ve had a chance to play against both Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez, how do you feel about your chances of starting at point guard?

Bayless: They’re both good, but I think my chances are still as good as anyone else. Obviously I need to keep getting better but I think the opportunity is there and if I take advantage of it, I can do it.

Center Court: Who’s the hardest guy to guard out here?

Bayless: Salim (Stoudamire) is the hardest guy to guard because he can pretty much score from anywhere on the court. I think he’s the hardest one to guard.

Center Court: What about you?

Bayless: You mean, am I hard to guard?

Center Court: Yeah, in your opinion.

Bayless: Yeah, I think I’m pretty good! I think I’m kind of hard to guard, but I don’t know. I think I’m doing well in these runs, so …

Center Court: You seem to be driving less and shooting from outside more than you did during summer league. Are you trying to take it easy out there?

Bayless: I’m not taking it easy; I’m just shooting more. I’ve been shooting the ball really well, so I’m just trying to do what I do well. It’s going good right now.

Center Court: You seem like you’re one of those guys who is always serious on the court. Is that hard sometimes during these informal runs?

Bayless: No, that’s just basketball. I take the game seriously. On the court it’s all business, but off the court I’m an easy-going guy. I like to hang out and chill.

Center Court: I hear you’re quite the ping pong player.

Bayless: I’m trying to find a challenge! I’m trying to find a challenge. No one can beat me so I’m trying to find a challenge out here.

Center Court: Who have you played so far?

Bayless: Everybody. I’ve played everybody in this place. All their names are on my paddle. (Laughs)

Center Court: I hear there are some guys in the local media who can play.

They can come in and try me out too if they want. I welcome all challengers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

09.10.08 Edition of the Trailblazers.com Podcast

And ... we're back. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com are all up in your favorite almost-weekly-except-when-it's-not Blazers-themed podcast.

This week we discuss best-case scenarios, the impact of Channing Frye's injury, Travis Outlaw's future in Portland and Dave runs down a laundry list of people and things Gavin has declared "soft." Basically it's just three guys talking Trail Blazers. Give it a listen, won't you?

Download the podcast (42.3 MB).

Honor the Duck, vote for Duc

You're probably aware that there is a new baby elephant at the Portland Zoo (if you're not aware of that fact, consider leaving the cave every now and then). He's also currently nameless. To rectify that problem the zoo is allowing internet users to vote for what they'd like the little guy to be called for the rest of his days. One of the options is "Duc", which, according to the zoo's website, is a mini tribute to the recently departed Kevin Duckworth.
Duc: (rhymes with hook or look): Vietnamese for "good, moral, desire." (Also is a portion of former Trail Blazer Kevin Duckworth's name, honoring the late basketball player.)
And a fitting tribute at that considering how much Duckworth loved animals.

You can vote for the names (including Duc!) by going here. The voting is open until Thursday at 5 pm. I'm not here to tell you what name to vote for; I'm just passing the information along.

Video: Steven Hill, Greg Oden talk practice

Fear not for Roy

Mike Barrett has a nice update on some of the offseason workouts going on at the practice facility. We'll have a little more from Tualatin later in the week (possibly as early as today), but in the meantime, I thought I'd give a short update on Brandon Roy's post-meniscusectomy rehab. Bottom line: He looks great.

You literally can't tell Brandon had surgery less than a month ago, which speaks to the minor nature of the procedure as well as Roy's ability to heal. Initially it was hard to tell Brandon had even undergone arthroscopic surgery, but now, as far as I can tell, there are no lingering effects of the procedure.

That's not to say that he'll be playing full-court, 5-on-5 any time soon, but he is shooting jumpers and making some very light cuts, seemingly pain-free. On Monday he put up shots for about 30 minutes or so with Kaleb Canales and John Townsend, and he was straight draining bucket after bucket. His shot, while already relatively dependable, looks improved. It wasn't anywhere close to game speed, but it was still nice to see. He looks to me like he'll be ready to go well within the 4-8 week timeline.

By the way, Tom Ziller of the AOL Fanhouse is counting down the top 50 players in the NBA. He lists Roy at No. 31. Seems fair to me, at least for now.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Video: McMillan, Jackson from the practice facility

Nate McMillan addressed the media today regarding his experience in Beijing, getting ready for the upcoming season and Greg Oden's freedom to play point guard in summer pickup games.

Luke Jackson discusses his invitation to training camp, growing up a Trail Blazers fan and what he thinks he can bring to an NBA team.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A brave new diet

When Channing Frye started his career with the New York Knicks, then coach Isaiah Thomas envisioned his young power forward as a banger; someone who could take up space in the block while also being able to step out and hit the mid-range jumper. Frye, doing what any good player does, followed the instructions of his coach: he added weight; tried to be a banger.

The style of play didn’t take. The weight did.

Then Channing got lucky. First, he was traded to Portland, getting out from under the expectations of Thomas and the New York media. Second, the NBA trended toward a league that featured more up-and-down play, deemphasizing the need for lead-footed post play. Channing could go back to being Channing.

But the weight he added also made the trip from New York to Portland. The extra baggage served Frye well for a bit, allowing him play center in the second unit while the thin-framed Travis Outlaw played power forward. And when Joel Przybilla went down toward the end of the season, Channing and his extra lb’s proved valuable in the starting lineup. But Frye knew his role would change in ’08-’09. With Przybilla and Greg Oden returning from injury, all 48 minutes at center would be taken. And with Nate McMillan stating that Outlaw would play the majority of his minutes at small forward, the back-up power forward spot became available.

In slides a new-old look Channing Frye. With the need for horizontal size no longer necessary, Frye hit the gym hard in the offseason, changing his game while also changing his diet.

“What I try to do -- I got it from our nutritionist -- I just try to cut back on a lot of cheeses, eating right, and it’s helping me sustain energy with all the workouts I have,” said Frye. “I really want to take care of myself and my body. Changing my diet was just the next step. And I wanted to get my weight down so I could be a little more athletic. As you see, I’m trying to work on moves, just dropping to the hole, making moves like that. For me, the lighter I am on my feet the better I think we’ll be off.”

So what does an average day of Frye’s diet taste like?

“Today I woke up, had one glass of low-fat milk, two English muffins -- whole wheat English muffins -- with peanut butter, a bowl of oatmeal and a banana or a bowl of mixed berries or something like that. And then after that, a lot of water, of course. Then after that -- after a workout like we had today -- a Gatorade, just one Gatorade, then even more water. Then for lunch I’ll have 18 pieces of sushi and a cucumber salad and then some snacks, like granola or yogurt with granola.

“For dinner, I’ll have 5 ounces of salmon, steamed rice, vegetables and another glass of, not so much milk with fish, but like, a water or whatever you want to drink. Then maybe for desert or a snack, almonds or something like that. You can mix it up.”

A diet like that might be fine for the average person (maybe), but is it really enough to sustain a professional athlete through two-a-day workouts? Could a few English muffins, some peanut butter and less than a third of a pound of fish really carry a 6-11 guy like Channing through the day without feeling hungry all the time?

“I thought I would be hungry, but once you do it for a week and you eat what they say on the chart that I have, amazingly, you’re full. Most the time I can’t eat half that stuff. It’s crazy, proportion wise, if you eat the right proportions of stuff and the right foods how amazingly full you get. After breakfast I can barely eat half that stuff, but I still have the energy to do what I’m doing. I feel like I’m leaning up and getting better.”

It’s obvious when you see Channing that whatever he’s doing is working. The quickness and definition that Frye had when he came into the league is back, maybe even more so than before. But that’s not to say Channing doesn’t let loose every now and then.

“The thing about my diet,” says Frye, “is that I still have my one day a week, maybe two, were I completely break it and just go and have a burger with gobs of cheese and all types of stuff. You’ve just got to do that sometimes.”

This is the third of a three-part blog series (read part one and part two)To read more about Channing Frye's offseason, click here.

It's tough being a Trail Blazer

There’s a notion out there that the Trail Blazers, while loaded with youth and talent, lack toughness. Some would say when other teams push, the Blazers don’t necessarily push back. Right or wrong, it’s a perception that exists.

So I asked Channing Frye, a guy whose style of play doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of the rugged old-school NBA power forward, how he defines toughness, the perception of Portland as a “soft” team and whether or not he feels the Trail Blazers lack that dog mentality championship-caliber teams need to succeed.

Center Court: What is toughness on the court?

Channing Frye: Toughness is your ability to get your job done regardless of situations. I think toughness isn’t a matter of being the guy that’s always trying to fight everybody. It’s a matter of, what is your job on the basketball court? Are you going to let other people dictate what you do? You know what I’m saying? That’s being mentally tough.

[At this time, Brandon Roy walks by and mutters something about Channing being “the goon.”]

Or if you’re tired, are you not going to be able to run as hard or make mental plays? I think that’s toughness. Or if something is going on in your life, are you going to come out and still play and get your job done and not complain? That’s toughness to me. It’s not the biggest dude who always wants to fight everybody. That’s not toughness, that’s idiotic really. We’re out here to play basketball, not fight.

Center Court: Would you consider yourself a tough player?

Channing Frye: Toughness comes from situations, so yeah, I think I would say I’m pretty tough. My job is to go out there and not only put the ball in the hoop but to be productive for our team, and I think I continue to try and do that.

I think overall our team is pretty tough. There’s not many guys that, when you see them on the court, are just not tough on our team. I’m not saying we’re the most dominant physical players but I still think we’re tough as a collective group.

Center Court: A lot of people don’t consider this team tough at all.

Channing Frye: If you look at the people that are giving you those opinions those are guys that grew up watching the Detroit Pistons, where fights were once every two days. You can’t fight anymore in the league, so toughness is a matter of: Are you going to get your job done regardless?

Any time anybody does something to one of our teammates you see all five stand up, and maybe six or seven on the bench stand up. We have a team unity and a team-type of toughness. We’re not going to sit here and get punked by other teams and let them deter us from what we need to do. They may outplay us, but they’re not going to out-tough us.

Center Court: Roy just mentioned you as a goon. What’s that about?

Channing Frye: The goon is a type of dude that’s just tough down there. Like if you’re going to the hoop, the guy who is going to take the tough foul; who’s going to take one for the team. I think last year that was kind of my role at the beginning and they just joked around because they know that’s not really what I do. But I’m glad I got that opportunity to see how it was, but I’m leaning up so I’m not sure I can go down there and wrestle with all the big heathens.

Center Court: Now who’s going to commit the hard foul?

Channing Frye: Greg and Joel? I think everybody has opportunities during the game when you have to take that hard foul. Not only to send a message to your own team but to let the other team know that we’re here and we’re ready to play. Anybody just isn’t going to get a layup.

Center Court: Which teams would you consider “tough” in the NBA?

Channing Frye: The Celtics were extremely tough, extremely. And San Antonio is tough. The veteran teams are tough. If you look, everybody knows what systems they run. Everybody knows how they play, but they continually grind the game out. They continually do what they have to do to win those games. And that’s toughness.

This is the second of a three-part blog series (read part one and part three)To read more about Channing Frye's offseason, click here.

The contract catch-22

Fans tend to get a little nervous when a player has their best season in a contract year. While everyone likes to see one of their favorite players perform, there’s a suspicion that maybe they’re only putting out the extra effort in order to get that new contract. And once their name is inked on the dotted line, the motivation is gone. Goodbye hustle guy, hello dead weight.

I asked Channing Frye, a guy who is coming up on restricted free-agency, about his contract situation. I wanted to know if he ever felt like people thought he was putting in extra work in the offseason just to get a contract.

Center Court: Why does it seem like some guys don’t start putting in work or performing to their potential until their rookie contracts come due?

Channing Frye: I think that, for a lot of people, you’ve got to figure it depends on the situation. For me when I came into the league, I was a center in college, alright? I played center my whole. Then my first year (in the NBA) I was still playing center but I was shooting the ball but I was at the center position doing center things. Then my next year they moved me to the four, which was my natural position in the NBA. So now I’m learning how to face-up, how to guard bigger three men and there are so many things that I had to learn, not only two years ago but last year. And last year they’re trying to find out -- because I got traded -- the limbo between being a five and a four.

So finally this summer I’m like, this is what I do well. This is where I feel like I’m comfortable, you know? And I understand my diet; I understand my body. I understand what position I’m going to play; where I’m at. I found out this works for me, this doesn’t. For me it took me this many years. Regardless if this is a contract year or not; I would have still done the same thing and I continue to do what I’m doing and push myself because this is just who I am and this is what I do.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I think that’s one of the craziest things to say is that somebody is waiting the year before their biggest year to start hooping. I think if everybody had their wish they would have got their contracts done as early as they can, you know? They’d have nothing to worry about. The fact that it took me this long and it just happens to be a contract year is just how life is. It took me two years to figure out what position I was, a year to get traded, to figure out the city, figure out my team and everything, and now I’ve got the summer to work on something that’s almost etched in stone. This is what you do well, work from this, and go there.

Center Court: Do you think there are players out there that don’t start putting in work until their contract years?

Channing Frye: I think there are but I don’t think those are the smart ones! Those aren’t the smart ones. If you’re going to just chill out and wait until your contract year to really push yourself and find out all those things you’re crazy. I think this summer I’ve worked hard but this summer I’ve worked hard on everything because I didn’t really know. Some players, I don’t even know how to explain it. Maybe some players say, “Well, this is my position and all I need to work on is ball handling. That’s what I’m going to work on.” They finally work on it and then they’re balling.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this team. It’s not like my position or my time is etched in stone. I got to earn it like everybody else. So for me to wait until this year to start working on stuff would be stupid.

Center Court: We talked about some of the guys from your draft class. Andrew Bogut got a new contract. Deron Williams and Chris Paul got contracts. Other than that, most of the players from 2005 haven’t been locked up. Why do you think that is?

Channing Frye: Those guys were in the right positions. Andrew Bogut’s been in Milwaukee three years. They’ve been terrible for three years, right? Terrible for three and now they’ve just changed because they want to rebuild. Deron Williams went into a great system in Utah. He fit in. He’s a perfect match three years in. Chris Paul: three years, took over and got his stuff done. You can even look at Andre Iguodala: four years he’s been in Philadelphia. They’ve all gotten better each of their years. Their positions haven’t changed. What their role is on their teams haven’t changed.

But you look at the guys like me, Charlie Villanueva, Ike Diogu, Marvin Williams, Martell. Our positions are constantly changing depending on our team and what roles we have and what niches we have. If you look at those guys other than Martell and Marvin Williams, everybody has been traded at least once in the top 10 (except Andrew Bynum, but he’s been hurt).

This is the first of a three-part blog series (read part two and part three). To read more about Channing Frye's offseason, click here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Photos: Rudy Fernandez photo shoot

All of the rookies are in Ryebrook, NY for the yearly Rookie Transition Program. Basically the NBA gathers up all the first-year guys with the hopes of keeping them from doing the stupid things that rookies sometimes do.

Rudy Fernandez is there and he's having his picture taken. Here's the gallery of those images. You've got the action shots, the glamor shots, and the weird image of Rudy wearing a jersey that says "Fernandez" above the number and then "Rudy Fernandez" under the number. I don't know what the deal with that is.

You can click all of these images to see larger pictures.

Video: Kevin Duckworth Memorial Service

Read and React: SI.com's NW Division Report Card

A couple solid previews about the Trail Blazers were lost in the shuffle last week due to the unfortunate passing of Kevin Duckworth. Now that we have some closure I think it's time we get back to talking about basketball.

Steve Aschburner of SI.com overviewed the offseasons of teams in the Northwest Division. Utah is still good, Denver isn't, the Timberwolves are getting better and OK City is an unknown.

And then there's the Trail Blazers. According to Aschburner, Brandon Roy continues to improve (true) and we've got tons of new talent joining an already decent club (double true). And that's not even factoring in Greg Oden. Good news abounds.

Aschburner really has to hunt to come up a "What went wrong" scenario, though his declaration that "Expectations are way out of wack" is on the money.
Given the obvious talent and the team's history -- it won an NBA championship during its first taste of the playoffs back in 1977 -- it's understandable that fans see big things in store for the Blazers. But this team is not ready yet. It remains the youngest in the NBA and Portland's players are all still growing, on the floor and off, and learning what it takes to win. Better that the Blazers take a modest step this season and keep advancing beyond that, than to soar too high and fall back.
True enough, though it's a bit difficult at this point to gauge expectations.

Me? My expectation is that we make the playoffs this season. I think that's a realistic goal given the additions to the roster and the possibility that Denver, Golden State, Sacramento, Dallas and Phoenix will have worse records this season.

So are your thoughts on Ashburner's report? Too optimistic? Not optimistic enough? Let's hear it.