New feature. Links without comment. Blatant TrueHoop ripoff. Call it what you will.
• Wendell Maxey Jr., Hoopsworld: When the Portland Trail Blazers open their regular season against the Los Angeles at the Staples Center on Tuesday night, rookie small forward Nicolas Batum will have more on his mind than either starting or coming off the bench for Portland.
He'll surely be thinking of his Dad.
Henry Batum had a dream for his son – to play in the NBA. A 6-7 forward, Henry played 10 years professionally in France until a tragic event on the court took his life in his early thirties. Henry died at the free-throw line of a massive heart attack. Nicolas was only two years old. Now 19-years-old and a day before his first professional game, Batum's journey to the NBA – along with his father's dream – has always been at the heart of Nicolas' story.
Joe Freeman, The Oregonian: Jerryd Bayless' confidence has not wavered, his work ethic has not waned and his focus has not wilted. But one personality trait has been pushed to the max for the Trail Blazers' touted rookie point guard as the reality of the NBA has set in: Patience.
"It's tough," Bayless said. "I've always been in a position where I'm The Guy on the team. And now I'm in a position where I'm taking a back seat to a lot of guys. I'm totally fine with it. I've talked to Coach about this; I'm totally fine with it. It's just a different situation. I'm up to the challenge and I'm going to keep on working, keep on getting better and hopefully be a part of this team and help us win."
• Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune: Starting center Greg Oden says he is trying not to get too geeked up for the opener.
“I’m pretty calm,” he says. “Talk to me five minutes before I go out there Tuesday night, it might be a different story. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be exciting. But I’m trying to keep myself composed.”
• Art Thompson III, Orange County Register: Oden, who looks much older but actually is three months younger than Bynum, 21, graduated from Lawrence North in Indianapolis in 2006.
Oden's was the first high school class affected by the NBA rule that required graduates to wait at least a year before being declared eligible for the NBA draft. So he spent one year at Ohio State before being drafted first overall in 2007 by the Trail Blazers.
Microfracture knee surgery forced Oden to miss the entire 2007-08 season, so Tuesday's opening-night game at Staples Center between the Lakers and Trail Blazers will be their first meeting since …
”Sixth grade in AAU,” said Bynum, who recalled that although they both are listed as 7-footers now, Bynum recalls Oden being 4 inches taller back in the day. The mature-looking Oden, who was sporting facial hair as a college freshman, wasn't shaving back then, though.
Although there promises to be a lot of interest surrounding their first meeting as professionals, Bynum downplayed the significance of it, citing the talent, including All-Star guard Brandon Roy, surrounding Oden.
“It's definitely going to be more than just Greg Oden and me,” Bynum said.
• Greg Oden responding to a question about his beard: "I'm going to hold it up. I've got enough (beard) for everybody. Keep it lined up and it's all good."
• Brian Hendrickson, The Columbian: The Blazers never expected the transition to be that easy, but Fernandez has certainly made it look that way. He led the Blazers in steals (2.6 a game) during the preseason, and ranked third in assists (4.0 average) and fourth in scoring (12.0 average). And if Fernandez continues to play with that level of comfort, then his quick, smooth transition could pay big dividends.
Fernandez holds the potential to do for the Blazers’ reserve unit what rookie center Greg Oden is expected to do for the starters, adding a new dimension to an already effective lineup.
He provides a dynamic threat as a scorer and passer to a unit that was viewed as a key to last season’s success.
With Fernandez, the reserves could be explosive on fast breaks. But they could also attack with kickouts to Channing Frye or Sergio Rodriguez in half-court sets, set up one-on-one plays to Travis Outlaw, or run Fernandez off pick and rolls to capitalize on his exceptional court vision and passing skills.
“He’s a playmaker,” Outlaw said of Fernandez’s affect on the bench. “He picks up the tempo. When he comes in there’s going to be energy. He can spread the floor and shoot the three very well. And his passing game is crazy.”
• Dwight Jaynes, DwightJaynes.com: The most interesting aspect of the season will be Oden’s rate of improvement. It’s hard to predict how fast he’ll pick things up and how quickly he’ll regain his explosiveness. The fortunate thing for him is that his teammates are talented enough that the team will win a lot of games without needing a huge contribution from Oden. They’ll need him to stay on the floor (not get hurt and not constantly foul out), grab some rebounds, be a defensive presence and score once in a while.
Even though the most undeveloped part of Oden’s game is his offense, he’s going to be a factor because — unlike a lot of big men who aren’t natural scorers — he is so powerful you just have to double team him. In only very rare cases is one man going to keep him from bulling his way to the basket. Double teams on Oden mean open shots for others.
• Jeff Rabjohns, Indy Star: They were friends. They were rivals. They battled on playgrounds and in state playoffs. They ended each other's seasons and created moments they'll remember forever. Sometimes they had to beat a future NBA player -- or two -- to get through the second round of the postseason.
Indy's own Magnificent Seven.
"It's crazy," Greg Oden said. "I was thinking about that when the draft was going on. There were a lot of us in that little area that are here now."
Rodney Carney started the run. He arrived in the NBA in 2006. Oden, Mike Conley and Josh McRoberts followed last year. Eric Gordon, Courtney Lee and George Hill joined the league this year. All seven were selected in the past three NBA drafts, six in the first round. Only 12 cities have produced more current NBA players; only Los Angeles has produced more recently.
• Mike Kahn, FoxSports.com: Best rookie: Greg Oden, Portland Trail Blazers
As long as Oden stays healthy, there will be so much focus and he'll have so much help from his talented young teammates, he'll be the guy that everyone falls in love with — particularly if they make the playoffs. The irony is, the second-best rookie may very well be his teammate Rudy Fernandez, the 23-year-old star from Spain the Blazers bought.
Most improved player: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
With all the attention Greg Oden is getting and will continue to get on and off the court, it will open up the entire floor for Aldridge. He averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks last season, and his numbers may not get much better. But at 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, he has dominating capabilities with the ball that will be apparent in every game.
• Marc Spears, Boston Globe: The team of the future. After years of "Jail Blazer" turmoil and disappointing seasons, that's what the Portland Trail Blazers are being called since they now have one of the greatest collections of young talent the NBA has ever seen. With an All-Star guard, a projected All-Star forward, the most heralded rookie since LeBron James, and much more on the roster, the excitement in Portland is reminiscent of the days of Clyde Drexler or Bill Walton.
Coach Nate McMillan, however, isn't quite ready to take a deep gulp of this red Blazers Kool-Aid just yet.
"All this potential," McMillan said. "That's what it is. We don't know. It's just potential. No one has seen it. You're taking guys that [need] two or three years to get a feel for this league."