Friday, May 30, 2008

Second round picks: They want 'em, we got 'em

Kevin Pritchard is often talks about the importance of having "liquid assets," and in regards to the second round of the 2008 Draft, KP has one-tenth of the glass. Picks 33, 36 and 55 will technically be chosen by the Blazers, though it's hard to imagine a scenario where any of those second-rounders make the regular season roster.

So that leaves two options: stow the player away in Europe or trade the player away on draft night. I wouldn't be surprised to see both happen, and according to Jim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel, there's already a marked for Portland's second round picks.
The Magic are watching because they plan on trading into the second round, getting a pick from either the Portland Trail Blazers or the Seattle SuperSonics, who have a combined seven second-round picks. The Magic's pick is in Miami as part of the deal they needed to make to sign Coach Stan Van Gundy.

Here's my suggestion to the Magic: Trade your first round pick (No. 22) to the Blazers for all three of their second round picks (plus a point guard if necessary). Then the Blazers trade No. 22 and No. 13 to the Knicks (who are reportedly open to trading their pick) for No. 6 (plus another player if necessary). Blazers draft one of the many combo guards at the top of the draft with the No. 6. Everyone wins!

(Hat tip to Third Quarter Collapse, via Blazers Edge)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Point guard prices

You have to love Sam Smith, especially around this time of the year. There are few people in NBA writing circles that can spin a yarn like Mr. Smith. It's often not the most reliable information, but it's fun nonetheless.

Writing today for Sporting News (he writes for about three different sites since joining the growing number of established journos taking buyouts from their respective papers) Smith throws out a few possible destinations for Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, who might be available assuming Chicago takes Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick. Take it away Sam.
Other pieces would be required to match salaries, but here's some speculative possibilities for Hinrich:

• Miami for Shawn Marion
• Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal
• Golden State for Al Harrington
• Portland for expiring contracts, like that of Raef LaFrentz, so the Bulls can get into the free-agent market over the next few years for Brand or Wade
• Charlotte for Jason Richardson (he and Gerald Wallace play similar roles); perhaps the Bulls throw in a veteran like Andres Nocioni for new Bobcats coach Larry Brown
• Milwaukee (would Scott Skiles want to coach Hinrich again?) for a contract they want to dump, like Bobby Simmons', with Yi Jianlian thrown in
• New York. Actually, it seems they're saving cap space to make a run at LeBron James in two years.

I'm confused. I can only assume Smith has seen Hinrich play hundreds of times, seeing as both worked in the same city for the past four years, but some of these ideas seem so lopsided that it makes me wonder if Sam has watched Captain Kirk, at least in the last year or so.

Hinrich (plus salary filler) for Marion? That's crazy unlikely. Say what you will about Matrix's attitude, but he's still one of the best small forwards in basketball. If Marion was going to walk, then maybe the Heat trade for Hinrich to get at least something, but even that seems like a stretch of monumental proportions.

Jermaine O'Neal hasn't been at his best as of late, but neither has Hinrich. I'm about 95% sure that the Pacers could get more for O'Neal.

I guess I could see Hinrich for Al Harrington. It wouldn't be a bad move for the Bulls and it does make some sense for the Warriors. Brandan Wright is quickly becoming a better option at power forward than Harrington, and they'd be light at the guard position should Baron Davis decided to roll out. File this one in the maybe category.

Hinrich for Richardson? Charlotte just traded for Richardson! There's no way they'd move him for Kirk, especially when they've got Ray Felton at point. And since when do Richardson and Gerald Wallace play "similar roles"? One is a scoring guard, the other is a lanky, defensive-minded forward. If anything they compliment each other.

The Milwaukee scenario is a possibility, though I doubt the Bucks would consider trading Yi after all the trouble they went through to get him on the roster in the first place. But this is the kind of trade I think you're likely to see involving Hinrich.

Finally, we come to the Blazers tidbit: Raef LaFrentz for Hinrich. I'm not much of a Hinrich fan, but that's the kind of deal I could get on board with. It instantly erases any future cap space, but you get a starting-caliber point guard without giving up anyone who plays significant minutes. This is the only scenario Smith throws out that isn't skewed in Chicago's favor, but I think it best represents Hinrich's actual current value.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

05.28.08 Edition of the podcast

The podcast is back for a second week. Listen to 95.5 The Game's Gavin Dawson,'s Dave Deckard and's Casey Holdahl discuss the Orlando pre-draft camp with Mike Born, the Blazers' Director of NBA Scouting. You can use the player below or download the audio to your computer/mp3 player.

Click here to download the audio (14.9 MB).

If you've got any questions you want answered by Gavin, Dave or Casey, send those to

What Wheels had to say

You've no doubt heard that Brian Wheeler divulged some Blazers news you couldn't hear anywhere else on his show yesterday on 95.5 The Game. If you missed it, the audio is below.

You can download the audio here.

And for those of you who can't listen to mp3 audio for one reason or another, here's the transcript of what Wheels had to say.

"The Blazers news, as promised, that you can't get anywhere else. A few items to pass along to you.

"First of all, glad to report that Travis Outlaw has been back in town and working out at the Blazers practice facility. You might remember that last offseason, when Travis was a free-agent, he was very nervous about working out in the offseason for fear that he'd have an injury without having a new team to count on, or at least a new contract with a team to count on. Now that he knows that he has an ongoing contract he has been much more diligent about working out in the offseason. If you recall last year, he really didn't get into shape until about a third of the way into the season, and it cost him from having a terrific overall season even though he had a great year as it turns out. But he would have had an even better season had be been ready from the get-go. This is very encouraging. He is back in Mississippi, but is going to be making frequent trips back into Portland to continue to workout, continue his workout plan with strength and conditioning coach Bobby Medina. And so Travis, again, working out a very encouraging sign for those who like having him around.

"And for those who like having him around, you might be interested to know that the Memphis Grizzlies proposed a deal to the Blazers, one that would have asked for Travis Outlaw and the Blazers' number one selection, number 13 overall, in the first round, in exchange for Mike Miller. Now there might have been some filler on either side to make the deal work perfectly salary cap wise. The Blazers declined the offer from the Grizzlies feeling that that was too much to give up for Mike Miller. But even though they like Mike Miller, that they consider those two assets to be very, very valuable, and that that wasn't enough coming back for the Blazers to consider making that move.

"I can also tell you that a few of Travis' teammates spoke up on his behalf to Blazers management saying that they want Travis to continue to be a Trail Blazer. he's a very popular guy in that locker room and you may have seen an interview with Brandon Roy late in the season in which he said Travis was his best friend on the team. So you can bet there's a lot of support in that locker room for Travis to continue to be a Trail Blazer. Not saying that that's a guarantee he won't ever be moved, but that particular offer was not one that the Blazers were interested in pursuing any further.

"Now, we certainly have heard the name Jose Calderon brought up quite a bit in terms of the possibility of where the Blazers might like to go if they have the opportunity to improve their point guard situation. I can tell you now that through information I've been able to gather, Jose Calderon is not going to be an option for the Trail Blazers or any other team for that matter. The Toronto Raptors are not considering any offers for Calderon. The hope was -- for the teams that are interested in Calderon -- that the Raptors, who have determined that Calderon and TJ Ford can not continue to co-exist on the same team, the hope was that the Raptors would find no takers for TJ Ford. Unfortunately, they are finding takers for TJ Ford, so they're going to be able to do what they wanted to get done from the very beginning, that is hold on to Calderon and instead deal TJ Ford to remedy that problem with those two guys trying to co-exist on the same team in the future. So Calderon is an untouchable. You can take him out of any equation in terms of looking at where the Blazers might try to find some help in terms of the point guard situation. Calderon will not be coming to Portland or anywhere else for that matter.

"Now you may have heard some news that Rudy Fernandez apparently had suffered an injury during the playoffs in Spain. In fact, according to, the official website of Rudy's league in Spain, they gave an indication that he hurt his right hand and that they were going to do more tests over the next couple of weeks to get a better sense of how bad the injury is. I communicated with Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard today, who is at the NBA pre-draft camp in Orlando with the rest of the Blazers brass and every other team in the NBA for that matter, and KP said first off all, it's not his right hand. It's his left wrist that is the issue, but Kevin said he should be fine. So anybody who is concerned about the healthy of Rudy Fernandez from those earlier reports: first of all, incorrectly the report saying it's his right hand, apparently it's his left wrist. And according to Kevin Pritchard, who should probably know better than most, he says that Rudy will be fine.

"Now, I cannot give you any further official news on Rudy Fernandez. There's none to be had. But I can tell you this much, I think it would be an upset of mammoth proportions if Rudy Fernandez is not a Trail Blazer for next season. There won't be anything official regarding Rudy until after July 1, so want to make sure everybody cools their jets over the next month or so and isn't anxious about Rudy's future and where he's going to be. Baring something tremendously unforeseen, my gut feeling -- this particular part of this bit of news is my gut feeling -- is that Rudy Fernandez will be a member of the Trail Blazers next season."

Great stuff from Wheels. And a huge thanks to the soon-to-be-wed Jay Allen from 95.5 The Game for the audio.

So what are your thoughts on this news. Would you have turned down the trade for Mike Miller? Do you think it's simply a jumping off point for further negotiations? Could Travis Outlaw be add into any trade considering the support he has in the locker room?

If a team offers Calderon big money in restricted free agency, are the Raptors really going to match like they say they will? What kind of offers do you think teams are considering to acquire TJ Ford? Is Ford a viable option for the Blazers?

Are you worried at all about Rudy Fernandez's injury or his situation regarding jumping to the NBA?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Go support the Schonz'

The intersection of sports and politics often occurs in a negative context. When elected officials get in the middle of the problems of professional sports, be it the Major League Baseball steroid hearings to the more recent "Spygate" dust up, it's usually bad news for everyone involved.

But sometimes the power of the bully pulpit is used for good. Case in point: Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard will introduce a resolution urging the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to honor Bill Schonely with the with the Curt Gowdy Award for his outstanding contribution to the game of basketball as a member of the broadcast media.

From the City of Portland press release:
“Coining the term ‘Rip City’ is certainly something that most people identify with Mr. Schonely,” said Commissioner Randy Leonard, “But my favorite Bill Schonely-ism is when he described a slam dunk as ‘climbing the Golden Staircase.’ The imagery he used and his energy were a big part of truly experiencing a Blazers game.”

You can read Leonard's resolution here. And if you're interested in viewing the proceedings or even testifying on Bill’s behalf, the resolution will take place in the Council chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall (1221 SW Fourth Ave.). The resolution will be introduced no earlier than 9:45 a.m. The city council session begins at 9:30 a.m.

Draft Express approves of a Roy/Westbrook backcourt

Draft Express is easily my go-to source for draft news. Jonathan Givony (the sites proprietor) and his crew bring a real sense of professionalism and objectivity that's often times hard to find on the web. And their coverage of basketball beyond the borders of the United States is top-notch.

So whenever I read something from Draft Express that mentions the Blazers, I tend to take notice a little more, so it's no surprise that this little tidbit from an interview with Givony caught my attention. Best defender [in this year's draft]?

Givony: I would say Russell Westbrook. He's long, has huge hands, is tenacious, super athletic, and played under Ben Howland. NBA teams I've talked to think he can defend both guard positions effectively which will help him especially if he gets drafted by a team like Portland where he wouldn't have to play point guard next to Brandon Roy.

You could easily argue that whoever plays in the guard position opposite Roy will have to play point, at least some of the time, but I think you get the idea. Having Roy gives Nate McMillan options, but wouldn't you still like to draft a guy who's primary role is running the point?

Then again, would you trade traditional point guard skills for a player who could lockdown defend point and shooting guards? Is it easier to teach a player to be a point guard or a top-tier defender? There are so few of either in the NBA that it's a hard question, at least for me, to answer.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Keep that pick

We're only three days removed from the draft lottery and I've already changed my mind. If you had asked me a week ago what Kevin Pritchard and the Blazers Front Office All-Stars should do with their pick in the draft, I would have said trade it away. Bring in a savvy veteran. Lets make a playoff push in 2009. Don't get younger.

But now?

I think we should keep the pick.

Dwight Jaynes thinks the pick should be sent off. Wendell Maxley (though he'll alway be "Wendell Maxley Jr." to me) makes historical arguments for both options. Brian Hendrickson argues that it's a buyer's market for picks this year. All are rational conclusions to come to, but they don't really speak to the reason why I think No. 13 should be Blazer come the '08-'09 season.

I've come to the opinion that we should keep the pick by analyzing the reason others have put forth to trade the pick. It's been easy to do, as I was solidly in the "trade the pick" camp since making the playoffs in '07-'08 became an impossibility. So I'm going to run down what I figure are the most prevalent "trade the pick" arguments with my own rebuttal.

Argument: Trade the pick for a proven veteran.

Certainly not a bad idea, and it's rather hard to argue against if you could get a nice player, but I have doubts regarding what caliber of player could be obtained with the 13th pick, even with the addition of addition roster guys. And in practice, it doesn't seem to happen all that often. Vets Ray Allen and Jason Richardson were traded during last year's draft for picks and various filler, but those were for picks five (Jeff Green) and eight (Brendan Wright). Pick 13 doesn't have the same cache. And the only reason the Wright/Richardson deal happened was due to Charlotte being way under the cap, a luxury the Blazers don't have this year.

The Blazers need starters. I think we can all agree on that. Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, Joel Przybilla, Blake/Jack/Rodriguez, James Jones and Channing Frye make up one hellava bench unit. But does any combination of these guys along with the No. 13 get you a starting point guard? A starting small forward? Maybe, but it seems unlikely.

Can you get a player who will start right away in this year's draft? Probably not. But could that player be a starter in '09-'10? I think so.

Argument: A rookie won't help us make the playoffs this season.

Again, the crux of this argument is hard to refute. Expecting a rookie to impact the Blazers enough to push them into the playoffs is a stretch. That is something an acquired veteran might be able to do.

But here's the thing for me: I don't care about making the playoffs. I care about winning championships. Do I want the Blazers to get to the postseason in '09? Hells yeah! But I also want them to win big when they get there. Making the playoffs without having any real chance of winning the whole thing, in my opinion, is next to meaningless. Playoff experience helps build a foundation on which championships are won, but so does young talent cultivated through a franchise's system.

I don't think the Blazers are going to win a championship next year. Or the year after that. But three years from now? I think that's a real possibility. Very real. A rookie in '08-'09 is a third-year player in '10-'11 who is accustomed to Nate McMillan's system and his teammates. And in three years, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden are your veterans.

Argument: A rookie won't be able to help this team in the near future.

This argument is a degree of the argument above. It's true that there is often a significant transitional period for rookies, but I would argue that this has more to do with lottery picks often playing for bad teams than it does with the player. The Blazers are in a unique position in that they're already an average to good team that happens to be in the lottery. The following is a list of players drafted in 2007 who are performed well on good teams.

Thaddeus Young (12th pick)
Julian Wright (13th pick)
Rodney Stuckey (15th pick)
Carl Landry (31st pick)
Glen Davis (35th pick)

Now expand that list to similar players from the 2006 draft.

Ronnie Brewer (14th pick)
Rajon Rondo (21st pick)
Jordon Farmar (26th pick)
Daniel Gibson (42nd pick)
Paul Milsap (46th pick)
Leon Powe (49th pick)

Not exactly an all-star team, but guys who play specific roles who are not asked to save their respective franchises. These are the kind of players we need and could utilize right away.

Argument: There are no impact players left at No. 13.

I simply disagree. The history of the 13th pick might not be all that impressive, but every year players fall to the second round who end up being solid to great players in the NBA. Trust in the Blazers scouting staff to figure out who could help this team down the road at No. 13.

Not to mention that KP rocks the draft. Period. Trading our top pick is like taking the ball out of the hands of your best player in crunch time.

The Blazers could use good veterans. Who couldn't? But if you take the long view, it just seems to me that getting the right guy out of the draft is a far better option in the long run. Trade existing players for veteran help, but use the No. 13 pick to add a young piece who will be a part of the team that wins a championship, not just a postseason birth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The draft rumors begin

That certainly didn't take long. Less than two fulls days after the draft lottery, ESPN's Chad Ford already has a rumor that involves the Chicago, Portland and the No. 1 pick.
Paxson told ESPN Radio on Wednesday that he would be open to trade offers for the No. 1 pick. Within hours we had our first rumor. The Blazers were willing to send LaMarcus Aldridge to the Bulls for the chance to draft Rose.

Ummm … not so fast. I contacted a source inside the Blazers. They haven't made an offer, and while certainly interested in finding a way to get the No. 1 pick, don't sound inclined to give up Aldridge.

Still, the deal would've been interesting. Aldridge would be a good fit on the Bulls. But the irony of the whole thing would be thick. The Bulls traded the draft rights to Aldridge to the Blazers for the draft rights of Tyrus Thomas. Trading back for Aldridge would be tantamount to admitting they made the wrong choice two years ago.

I think the Bulls front office already knows trading Tyrus Thomas for LaMarcus Aldridge was "the wrong choice." Anyone with even a passing interest in the NBA knows that.

But back to the crux of this rumor. I have no doubt the KP and the rest of his staff would love to get their hands on Rose, but I don't think they're giving up on their "Twin Towers II" plan any time soon.

(Side note: Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' Director of College Scouting, said yesterday during our podcast that he knew who he would take between Rose and Beasley. He wouldn't say which player, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was Rose.)

There are other things about this rumor that don't make much sense. It would make the Blazers even younger, which I don't think anyone in the organization is clamoring for. That's not to say they won't add a young piece if they think it will improve the team, but I doubt they'd trade one of their team leaders to do it.

Rose is an unquestionable talent who would be a great addition to any team, but is he the kind of all-around point guard that you trade one of your best players for? You've got Roy and Oden who presumably need touches. Is Rose that kind of distributor ? Granted, he only played one year of college ball, but only twice (against Austin Peay and UAB) did he tally double-digits in assists. He's also not a great long-range shooter, which would be nice to have at the point guard position with teams presumably doubling Oden.

I really think Rose is a can't miss prospect, but I already know Aldridge is. He's proved his worth on the court in the NBA. Can you trade proven for potential?

What's more, some people think it would take more than Aldridge to get Chicago's No. 1. You want to give up our starting power forward for the next 10 years AND another talented guy for Rose? That's an easy one for me: No way.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Trail Blazers Podcast: Talking with Chad Buchanan

I've wanted to get back into podcasting for a while now, and the opportunity has finally presented itself. 95.5 The Game's Gavin Dawson joined me in the Rose Garden studios for an interview with Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' Director of College Scouting. We talked about the history of the 13th pick, how scouting changes when you know which pick you have and the importance of building a book on potential draftees. I also quizzed him on the strengths and and weakness of players who might be available when the 13th pick rolls around. Give it a listen.

You can also download the podcast here.

We're going to be doing one of these every Wednesday, so be on the lookout for another podcast last week. Along with Gavin, Dave from Blazer's Edge is going to be joining us to talk Blazers through the offseason and beyond. If you've got any suggestions, comments or questions you want answered, send those to

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One number short

Just got off of a conference call with Team President Larry Miller and General Manager Kevin Pritchard. Both were obviously hoping to move up, but neither was too upset about not getting the first, second or third pick.

But this little tidbit might make you wonder "what if?" According to Pritchard, the first three numbers out of the hopper for the first pick were 11, 9 and 13. The kicker? Those were the first three numbers of one of the Blazers' six possible sequences. If the hopper kicked out a 12 for the last number, the Blazers would have won the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.

Seven came up, giving the pick to the Chicago Bulls.

One ball away. Just one. That's going to keep me up tonight.

Second round picks to be determined

The majority of the focus (read: 99.999%) of tonight's draft lottery focuses on which team will get the first, second and third picks in the draft. After all, it's a system that awards the first three picks with the other 11 other spots filling in based on what happens at the top. Four balls are drawn out of hopper three times, not fourteen times. So if the Blazers end up with the 13th pick it won't be because one of their six, four number combinations came up. It will be because none of their six, four number combinations were drawn.

By the way, did you know there are 1,001 possible four number lottery outcomes, but only 1,000 four number combinations assigned to the 14 lottery teams? So in theory, one combination could be drawn that no team owns. In the unlikely case of that happening, they throw the balls back in the hopper and do it over again.

But what about the second round picks? The order of the picks in the second round are awarded by regular season record. So since Miami ended with the worst record in the league, they get the first pick in the second round (if they hadn't traded it to Boston, who in turn traded it to Minnesota), regardless of where they end up in the lottery.

But that's not to say that the lottery won't have a effect on all the teams picking in the second round. In fact, the position of two of the Blazers' three second round picks in this year's draft are still up in the air, pending the results of tonight's lottery.

This is how it breaks down. The Blazers own three second round picks in the 2008 Draft: one from Memphis Grizzlies, one from New York Knicks and one from the Phoenix Suns (via the Indiana Pacers). Confused yet? Well it gets more complicated. Since Memphis tied for the third-worst record with Minnesota, the order in which they'll select in the second round (or to say, where Portland will be selecting in the second round) is to be determined based on which team ends up with a higher pick in the first round. So if Memphis ends up with a higher pick than Minnesota, then Minnesota gets to pick before Memphis in the second round. The same is true with the Knicks and the Clippers.

Here's how the NBA describes it:
Teams that finished the regular season with identical records will select in the second round in the reverse of the order in which they select in the first round. With respect to the ties between Memphis and Minnesota (33 and 34) and the Los Angeles Clippers and New York (35 and 36): Since the order of selection in the first round for each set of teams may change based on the results of the Draft Lottery, the selection order in the second round cannot be determined until after the Draft Lottery is completed.

So what does this mean for Blazers fans? It means that, aside from hoping that the Blazers get the first, second or third pick, you should also be pulling for Minnesota to finish with a better pick than Memphis and for the Clippers to finish with a better pick than New York.

In the case of the Memphis pick, Portland ends up with the third pick in the second round if Memphis ends with a worse first round pick than Minnesota, and the fourth pick if the opposite happens. In the case of the New York pick, Portland ends up with the fifth pick in the second round if New York ends with a worse first round pick than the Clippers, and the six pick if the opposite happens.

The pick from Phoenix will be the 25th pick of the second round. No fuss, no muss.

The most ironic part of all of this? Despite having three second round picks, the Blazers won't actually be using their own pick. It was traded to the Celtics, who in turn traded it to the Sonics.

Monday, May 19, 2008

In the draft, there are no do-overs

Austin Burton at partakes in a fun exercise this morning, reworking the 2006 NBA Draft based on what we know now. The four rules Burton lays out regarding the re-do are as follows:
(1) The idea is that while each team has the same roster it had at the time of the Draft, they have the added benefit of knowing how each potential draftee will turn out as of today.


(2) You can’t predict injuries.


(3) Potential still matters.


(4) Lastly, you can’t predict how the rest of your roster will turn out.

So with those groundrules, Burton re-picks the '06 lottery selections. Try to guess who go 1,2,3,4 in the re-do, then read on.
1. Toronto — Brandon Roy, SG, Washington. A foundation of Roy and Bosh makes the Raptors relevant in the Eastern Conference for the next decade (or at least until one of them wants to leave Canada). A definite upgrade over Jalen Rose and Mo Pete.

2. Chicago — LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/C, Texas. Before the great implosion of ‘07-08, the Bulls’ one missing piece was a low-post scorer. It’s still an issue today, only now it’s just one of many.

3. Charlotte — Rudy Gay, SF, UConn. Coming off their second season as a franchise, the ‘Cats were in the mode of acquiring talent now and working out the rotation later.

4. Portland — Adam Morrison, SF, Gonzaga. After Z-Bo, their best offensive player was Darius Miles. Morrison’s local-kid appeal would also be good for marketing.

More proof, as if you needed it, that we made out like solid-gold bandits on draft day two years ago.

But even two years later, there's still that conventional wisdom out there the Blazers could have used Adam Morrison because he's a "local-kid" and "good for marketing." Both statements ring false to me. Spokane isn't local, and spindly jump shooters who smoke cigarettes don't sell tickets. No offense to Mr. Morrison, but it is what it is.

Knowing what we know now, there's simply no way that KP circa-2006 would pass on Rajon Rondo at the four spot. Burton has him going fifth to the Hawks in the re-do, but I'd bet me re-done life that, given the opportunity and knowing how he'd turn out, the Blazers would have grabbed Rondo in a second. He's already one of the games best point guards in his sophomore year. You don't pass on that for a guy like Morrison.

Hands off our Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge is spending his offseason in Texas working out. Turns out he's also mixing in charity events at bowling alleys with other world-class athletes.
I spotted Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson chatting with Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge last night.

Oh, how I wish this was evidence that there was a possibility that the Mavs could manage to pry Aldridge away from Portland. But it's not. Donnie and Aldridge, a Seagoville native and swell guy, were just shooting the bull at Cowboys tight end Jason Witten's SCORE Foundation 2008 All-Star Bowl.

"It was all spares and strikes," Aldridge said of the conversation.

I imagine the Mavericks would love to bring in a talented, homegrown guy like LaMarcus, but it ain't going to happen. The Blazers are in the position to get some serious payback against the Mavs, and Aldridge is a big part of that.

Monday speculation

The NBA rumor mill, which lies dormant for a few months after the trade deadline, gets going again with the Draft Lottery just a day away (don't miss the party at the Rose Garden. I'll be there!). Lets take a look at some of the speculation.

In regards to Jose Calderon's veiled trade request, Marcus Thompson II of the Contra Costa Times writes ...
This apparent rift between the two point guards puts the Raptors management in a tough spot. Ford is practically untradeable, with his injury history and the $24 million of guaranteed money remaining on his contract. But Calderon, they don't really want to trade him. Not only do they like him more than Ford (and would have no problem trading him), but Calderon is a restricted free agent, which means they could match any offer he receives without regard to the salary cap. And with more supply than demand, this offseason market isn't expected to be favorable for players, so the Raptors could keep Calderon for relatively cheap.

Trading Calderon may be the most feasible and profitable way to end the backcourt drama. Look for the Los Angeles Clippers, who need a point guard and can shop Corey Maggette, to be interested in Calderon. Ditto for Portland, who needs a proven point guard and has pieces to move.

The mentioning of Maggette to Toronto in exchange for Calderon came up last week in a column by Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun.
That is why a change in scenery for Calderon is best for all parties concerned.

People have been clamouring for a player such as Corey Maggette of the Los Angeles Clippers, an athletic wing who is capable of averaging 20 a night and attacking the rim.

The Clippers can use a point guard and Calderon's family probably wouldn't object to southern California's warm climate.

It's just one of many possibilities to ponder as July 1 approaches and as the Raptors try to solve their mess at the point position.

A few things here. Is a guy like Calderon worth giving up some of the talented young players the Blazers currently have? That's what it would take.

Secondly, even if the Blazers did decide to make an offer, could it possibly be better than a Clipper offer featuring Corey Maggette? I don't know the answer to either of those questions. Do you?

Next up, we have Tom Moore of (which is the online home for three Philadelphia-area newspapers) floating Channing Frye and James Jones as possible targets for the 76ers.
If Wilcox doesn't pan out, the Trail Blazers might be worth a long look. Assuming Greg Oden is healthy, Portland has a glut of big men. With the Blazers committed to LaMarcus Aldridge alongside Oden, could Stefanski land Channing Frye for the pick and a player?


If Stefanski has some money left, Portland small forward James Jones (44.4 percent 3-point shooting) would be a significant upgrade with his perimeter scoring and shouldn't be too costly. Jones holds a $3.2 million player option for next season.

Interesting proposals. As far as Frye for the 76ers pick (which would be the No. 16 pick in the first round) and a player, I guess it could happen. I'm skeptical of the notion that the Blazers would want to add another player from the draft on top of the pick they'll already have, but nothing is off the table when it comes to Kevin Pritchard and the draft.

In regards to the player, the 76ers certainly have some intriguing young guys, but I'm not sure they'd be willing to part with the players Portland would want. And again, you have to wonder if bringing in another second or third year player is something Nate McMillan or the shot callers in the front office are willing to do.

In regards to James Jones, I agree that he probably wouldn't be "too costly," but if that truly is the case, I'd figure KP would want to keep him around.

So what are you opinions/thoughts on these trade ideas? Is Calderon worth giving up what it might take to get him? Is Channing Frye a keeper? Can you let a guy like James Jones walk? Lets get a little conversation going in the comments.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Video: Interview with Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy talks to Antonio Harvey about expectations for next season, highlights from the 2007-2008 season, the post players on the roster and who long it might be before the Blazers in a championship.

Talkin' Martell

The Trail Blazers Courtside crew had a great interview with Martell Webster during yesterday's show. You can listen to the interview with Webster over at Mike Barrett's blog, or you can download the entire show here.

In the event that you can't listen to the audio, fear not. I enjoyed the segment so much that I decided to transcribe the interview for your reading pleasure. I found Webster's thoughts on the current roster and Rudy Fernandez to be the most intriguing parts of the Q&A. If you've got any insights, lets see those in the comments section.

And now, the interview ...

Barrett: So I take it you’re in the Portland area. We were just asking ‘I wonder if he’s in Portland or Seattle?’ but if you’re listening to The Game, then you must be in Portland.

Webster: I am in Portland, but it’s kind of funny. I’m actually on my way to the airport right now. I’m actually at the airport ‘cause I’m going to L.A. As you, that’s where I train.

Rice: Is that right? Is this the start of it, you’re just going into your training session starting this week?

Webster: Starting tomorrow actually. I just got my place down in L.A. and I’m moving in tonight, to tell you the truth. Tomorrow I’ll be back at it.

Rice: Now give us some idea of what you have planned for the upcoming workouts in L.A. What’s a day consist of?

Webster: Tomorrow is going to consist of just getting into the gym and just kind of getting the feel back. You know, picking up the ball, getting some shots up. As the week progresses, just getting into some of the normal drills. You know, cone drills, coming off screens and shooting jump shots. Just kind of get my rhythm back. It’s not going to get too intense until about June. The middle of June is when I really start getting into it. So I’m going to go down there and just kind of get my rhythm back.

Wheeler: ‘Tell, you made such great strides last offseason. What is your goal for this offseason? What do you want to improve on? What do you want to refine in terms of your game getting ready for next year?

Webster: You know, this last offseason that I went through was more focused on me dropping the weight. I felt that I succeeded in that area. I felt good, my body felt good. It’s a little bit more than just losing weight, so this year I’m actually going to drop the weight again. So I’m going to get back down to 225, but I’m going to put on 10 pounds of lean muscle. It won’t be fat, it will be muscle. And then doing a lot of yoga this summer is going to be very key for my body. Thankfully I’m learning. I’m just taking another step now in this offseason. Just kind of being a little bit more cautious with my body and making sure I get all the right things in it.

Rice: Your improvement came about so … your confidence level was so high last year. You could see that other teams knew who Martell Webster was. ‘Get out on him. Make him put it on the floor.’ Things like that. Now, are you going to work on your dribble drive? You were getting to the rim late in the season. Are you going to start working on that a little bit more? And is your expectation to play the two guard sometime?

Webster: Oh yeah. That’ll definitely be something that I’m looking forward to doing. Actually, in our exit meetings I was talking to Coach McMillan, and he was telling me, you know, he wants me to come into September when we get back handling the ball, kind of like being a point guard, being able to be the maestro of the offense. That’s something that I definitely want to do, especially when it comes to be running plays, not only for myself, but getting some of the other guys open to be able to handle the ball and orchestrate things like that. So I’m definitely going to be down there working on my handles.

Barrett: Martell, I know it felt so good to get to the 41-win mark, .500 last season when certainly that was not expected. Expectations now in your mind and in fans’ minds--we talk about it a lot-- should we really try to manage expectations? Is it going to be too much pressure on this young team and on Coach McMillan? How do you approach that? Are you guys ready to handle the pressure of expectations?

Webster: You know what-- and I can say this with confidence-- I say yes. The big pressure this year was us playing the amount of nationally televised games that we played and for us to come out successful in that area. You know, that’s pressure; being able to perform when the whole nation is watching you. So as far as having a chip on our shoulder, we all have that. Just with Greg coming back-- hopefully he’s 100 percent-- that’ll be great. I think that puts an even bigger chip on our shoulder. So we’re walking with confidence but we know that everything is about actions, not words, and we want to come out and show it. So enough talking about it.

Rice: You’re thoughts on-- a lot of people are talking about-- Rudy Fernandez. What have you heard about him and how will he fit into the picture with the Blazers?

Webster: I heard ... from what I’ve heard, he’s a great player. I haven’t really seen much footage of him. I can’t really tell you much about him, but if we do get him, I’m sure he’ll play summer league. I told coach that I was going to go down and practice with him a little bit, maybe get one or two games in. Hopefully I can meet him. But I heard he’s a good player. He’s bringing some more to the table. If I’m not mistaken, he’s a point guard? Shooting guard? What is he?

Barrett: They say he can play the point, but I think he’s mostly at home at the two.

Webster: At the two. Well if he can play guard, I think Brandon’s pretty much got that two position locked down. So, I mean if he’s a guard, I heard he’s pretty good, so I’m definitely looking forward to meeting all the new contributors and players on our team. Whatever happens happens. I’m going to be down there in L.A., so if he’s with us, I hope he comes. I’ll tell you more about him.

Wheeler: ‘Tell we were talking at the start of the program about Blazers fans discussing what, if any, changes might take place within this basketball team between now and the start of next season. If Kevin Pritchard came to you and asked you, would you be satisfied with just adding Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez to the mix of guys you already have, would you feel that’s enough to carry this team to the next level? Do you think that a trade even needs to be considered in terms of trying to improve this team?

Webster: Um… I think our team is great right now, to tell you the truth. I was actually --it’s kind of funny-- I was reading an article in The Sporting News magazine today about the whole Kobe situation about how a year ago he wanted to be traded and how now he just loves his team and how they’ve got all the right components to the teams. I feel like we’re not in that situation. I feel we already have all the right components on our team that we don’t need to make anymore trades. We have Greg. We have LaMarcus. Me, Brandon, great point guard and talent in Sergio, as in point guard wise. Rudy, and if he comes in and he’s capable of doing of what we all believe he can, I don’t think we really need to add anything to that to tell you the truth. I think what we have and the chemistry that we have now is great. I think we as a team can only get better with that. So, but that’s the whole business side, you know, management, but I’m not really in that. But I feel that we have everything that we need.

Rice: Have you talked to Travis Outlaw and Greg Oden? What have they done so far? What do you know about Greg Oden’s progress?

Webster: Well, I heard that he had a great workout down in Hawaii. I haven’t talked to Travis. He’s in Mississippi somewhere right now. I’ll get a hold of him within the next couple of weeks. I don’t really bug the players, my teammates in this first month and a half or so of the offseason. About June, end of June and July I’ll start talking to them and getting into contact with them a lot more. I definitely heard that Greg had a great workout down in Hawaii.

Wheeler: What other NBA guys will be down there in L.A. with you that you’ll be working out with?

Webster: Last year I was working… Desmond Mason was down there, Andre Miller was done there. Baron Davis, Paul Peirce definitely comes down there. Kevin Garnett came there last year, but you know, he’s in the playoffs now. Kobe was down there a couple of times, but they’re in the playoffs so I probably won’t see them. But there’s a lot of talent and a lot of the UCLA guys are down there, a lot of the USC guys are down there. So it’s a chance go get in there to play against some great competition and, you know, get some repetition in. Also some of the guys that are coming out are hooking up with some of the agencies and agents down there so I get to play against some of them too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lottery luck: Stuck at 13

The ping-pong balls will be flying on May 20th in Seacaucus, NJ. The Trail Blazers don't have a great chance of getting one of the first three picks, but it's a chance nonetheless. 0.60% chance of getting the first pick, 0.71% chance of getting the second pick and 0.87% chance of getting the third pick. Long odds, but it's better than nothing.

In an attempt to get a more real world, probability-free idea of the Blazers' chances of landing one of the first three picks in the draft, I decided to go back through the last 13 years of the draft lottery to see how teams in Portland's position fared. Since the lottery was expanded from 13 teams ('95. '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03) to it's current incarnation of 14 teams (since '04), I figured the best way to even out the discrepancies was to equate the team with the second-worst chance in their respective draft to the Blazers this season, seeing as Portland has the second-worst chance of winning this year's lottery. For example, since there were only 13 teams in the 1996 draft, I'm using the team that finished with the 12th worst record as the 2008 equivalent. This isn't exactly a scientific way to look at it, but I think it'll give you a good idea of the history of the teams picking near the end of the draft lottery. If you've got a better idea, lets here it in the comments. Here goes ...


We all remember how things turned out at the top of last year's lottery, but the lower half of the lotto yielded few surprises. The New Orleans Hornets finished with the 13th worst record, and ended up with the 13th pick. They selected Julian Wright, which is looking like a nice pick right about now.


The year we scored LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy (by trade, of course) ended up playing out very much like '07. The Philadelphia 76ers end the season with the 13th worst record, and end up with the 13th pick. They took Thabo Sefalosha, then subsequently traded him to Chicago for Rodney Carney (who was the 16th pick) and cash.

Not so interesting fact: Sefalosha and I have the same birthday.

(By the way, who knows how things would have turned out, but in hindsight, it looks like the Blazers actually got lucky when they ended up with the 4th pick despite having the best shot at the 1st pick. That's maybe the all-time best example of turning lemons into lemonade.)


Once again, the team with the 13th worst record (Cleveland in this case) ended with the 13th pick in the '05 draft. Charlotte ended up with the pick (from Cleveland, via Phoenix) and took Sean May. May has played in just 58 games in three seasons.

Another not so interesting fact: Sean May is exactly one month older than Thabo Sefalosha.


Blazers fans should already know how this one turned out. Utah had the 13th worst record in '04, but ended up with the 14th pick (which is actually where they were most likely to land considering Charlotte was awarded the 4th pick as per the expansion agreement). Portland ended up picking 13th, taking Sebastian Telfair. The Jazz took Kris Humpries with No. 14.


Ah '03, the last time we weren't in the lottery. It would have been a pretty good year to be really bad though. Just ask Cleveland.

That year, Seattle finished with the 12th worst record (remember, second-to-last in the draft lottery) and ended up with the 12th pick. Sonics took Nick Collison, which has turned out alright.

Not so interesting fact: The 2003 lottery had two players who would later go on to have the nickname "Caveman." Collison was one, I'll let you figure out who the other is.


Same old song. The Clippers ended with the 12th pick in the draft after ending the season with the 12th worst record. They took Melvin Ely, but in L.A.'s defense, that was a stupendously horrible draft. Nine (!!!) of the players taken in the first round are no longer in the NBA.


Try to guess what happened in 2001. Give up? If you answered "Exactly the same thing that happened in the aforementioned years," then give yourself a pat on the back.

Seattle has the 12th worst record in '01, and they ended up with the 12th pick. Welcome to the NBA Vladimir Radmanovic.


I've ran out of new ways to say the same thing happened. In '00, the Mavericks finished with the 12th worst record and ended up with the 12th pick. Etan Thomas was Big D's pick. That draft was rubbish as well.

Not so interesting fact: The real first name of Jake Tsakalidis, who was taken by the Suns with the 25th pick, is Iakovos. I don't know how you get "Jake" from that. Then again, I don't know why people named "Richard" are also known as "Dick."


This keeps getting worse and worse for those of us holding out hope that the Blazers can somehow beat the odds on Tuesday. Once again, Seattle had the 12th worst record in '99, but this time they ended up with the 13th pick, eventually taking Corey Maggette and then trading him to Orlando. I can't find who the Sonics trade for Maggette, but I know for sure that whoever they got was more valuable than Aleksander Radojevic out of Barton County Community College. He's the player Toronto took with the 12th pick. What is it with the Raptors and guys from community colleges?


The averages play out again in the year I graduated from high school. Orlando finished with the 12th worst record, and they ended up with the 12th pick, taking Central Catholic's own Michael Doleac. Orlando also got the 13th pick as well through a trade with Washington. They took Keon Clark with that pick. Probably not the finest hour for the Magic.


Holding steady in '97. Indiana ended with the 12th worst record; ended up with the 12th pick. The Pacers took Austin Croshere, who at that time still had a full head of hair. I'm allowed to say that about Croshere, as I'm also balding. I feel his pain, though I'm not sitting on millions like AC is.


Ugh. No bucking the odds in '96. The Washington Wizards (who I believe were the Bullets at the time) finished with the 12th worst record and ended up with the 12th pick. They traded the pick to Cleveland, who took Vitaly Potapenko, which is one of my all-time favorite basketball names. Maybe I'll name my next dog Potapenko.


'95 was another draft re-tooled due to expansion teams. Vancouver and Toronto were assigned the 6th and 7th picks as per the expansion agreement. Long story short; the odds held at the bottom of the lottery. Dallas finished with the 10th worst record in the league and ended up getting the 12th pick, which is exactly what you would expect. Mavs took Cherokee Parks that year.


For our purposes, this is the last year worth looking at. After Orlando won the lottery in 1993 (despite having the best record of all lottery teams that season) and 1992, the NBA Board of Governors changed the percentage chances of the teams at the top and bottom of the lottery. The change to the system (which is the same system currently in place) increased the chances of the team with the worst record drawing the first pick in the draft from 16.7 percent to 25 percent, while decreasing the chances of the team with the best record among the lottery teams from 1.5 percent to 0.5 percent.

So how did it shake out in 1994? Predictably. The Lakers finished the season with the 10th worst record, and ended up with the 10th pick in the draft. They took Eddie Jones, who had a nice career.

So what have we learned? That the team with the second worst chance of winning the lottery has never moved up since the draft odds were re-weighted in 1994. And twice, the team with the second worst chance of winning the lottery has dropped to the last pick of the lottery.

I guess there are two ways to look at it. The pessimist would say the fact that no team has every moved up from the second-to-last lottery spot means the Blazers are unlikely to buck the trend. The optimist would say the team with the second worst chance of winning the lottery is due. I'll let you decide which mindset to take.

Podcast: Kevin Pritchard on 95.5 The Game

If you were still asleep or already at work, you can still listen to Kevin Pritchard's appearance this morning on "Morning Sports Page with Kenny and Katy." KP talks a little bit about the draft and the recent trip to Europe.

You can also download the audio by clicking here.

(Thanks to Jay Allen and 95.5 The Game for the audio)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Today in links: May 14

Blazers news is still a bit thin with most of the national attention going to the playoffs, but there are still a few links here and there that you might be interested in.

Greg Oden is back in Indiana, and he's brought his workout regiment with him.
What he craves is to get back on the court. Surgery on his right knee that wiped out what would have been his rookie season is now eight months in the rearview mirror.

"I've got a long summer ahead of me. I've got to take it slow to make sure nothing happens so I'm ready for next season," he said.

"Portland's been awesome with the support they've shown me. Even knowing I wasn't going to play this year, they've been there for me every step of the way."

Oden was visibly bigger and stronger from his college days, partly because he became addicted to lifting weights, one of the few things he could do. Every time his teammates practiced, he hit the weights, eventually being told by the Blazers to back off for fear of bulking up too much.

"I was doing it just to do it. It got to a point I'd be in the weight room doing hard lifts five days a week. That's where I had a chance to get some of the stress out of me," he said.

Here's a slideshow of some locals who won the chance to spend some court time with Greg. Insert 24-Hour Fitness joke here.

Mike Barrett is back to blogging.

• The Columbian's Brian Hendrickson catches up with James Jones regarding his impending player option. Long story short: nothing new to report.

• More Jones. James gives his opinion on what New York Knicks fans (assuming they still exist) can expect from Mike D'Antoni.
Blazers forward James Jones, who played for D'Antoni in Phoenix (2005-07), thinks his ex-coach can make it work.

"Mike should be able to make them a much faster team," said Jones. "He's going to let the players play and let those guys dictate play on the floor. Players like to play like that."


Team president Donnie Walsh, who chose D'Antoni to rebuild the Knicks, will play a role in personnel moves.

"I know that they'll be able to co-exist and work well together," said Jones, who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers when Walsh was president. "Donnie has a history of being successful and putting together great teams and getting an organization back on the right track."


Jones said D'Antoni's coaching experience in Europe (D'Antoni coached in Italy for eight seasons) will serve him well in dealing with the fickle New York media and fans.

"Some of the European fans and the situations that he has been in -- those fans can be really tough," Jones said. "Knowing his philosophy and personality, I think he'll be able to cope."

• Ben at Blazer's Edge, who has taken up the cause of having Terry Porter's number retired, has come up with a formula for determining which players should have their numbers in the rafters.

• Speaking of players whose numbers reside in the Rose Garden, Lionel Hollins has accepted an assistant coaching job on Scott Skiles' staff in Milwaukee. Jim Boylan, Kelvin Sampson and Joe Wolf will also be on the Bucks' bench.

• Usually people compare LaMarcus Aldridge to Rasheed Wallace. Dime flips it a bit, comparing Rasheed to LaMarcus.
But like Prince, (Rasheed Wallace) realistically tops out as the second-best scorer on an on-the-cusp team; like David West with the Hornets or LaMarcus Aldridge with the Blazers.

Here's the audio from Jack Ramsay's appearance yesterday on The Bald Faced Truth.

• Chris Reina at RealGM audits the Portland's 2007-2008 season.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Podcasts: Kevin Pritchard and Greg Oden on 95.5 The Game

Lots of great interviews from 95.5 The Game, the new all sports FM station here in town. I'm not much of a sports talk radio fan, but I've throughly enjoyed listening the past two days.

And courtesy of 95.5 The Game, we've got a few interviews from Trail Blazers personnel who have appeared on the station since its inception.

Here's Kevin Pritchard on "Wheels After Work" with Brian Wheeler.

You can download that audio here if for some reason you don't want to use the player above.

Greg Oden was the first guest ever on "Morning Sports Page with Katy and Kenny." Here's the clip from that interview.

You can download that audio as well by clicking here.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Blaze, Blazers raise money for the Oregon Humane Society

Last Saturday, members of the Trail Blazers staff and Blaze the Trail Cat participated in the Doggie Dash at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Over $150,000 was raised, with the proceeds going to the Oregon Humane Society.

Video: Interview with Kevin Pritchard

Radio play-by-play announcer Brian Wheeler talks with Trail Blazers' General Manager Kevin Pritchard about the 2007-2008 season and the future of the franchise.

Season timeline: November and December

We put together a Top 10 Moments of the Season segment here at last week. Check it out if you haven't already. And after you go through the top plays, consider sending us your thoughts on the moments we picked or didn't pick.

I was aided in putting together the top moments by a season timeline Trail Blazers PR flack Collin Romer put together, and I found his work so thorough and intriguing that I thought I'd share it. So here are some of the more noteworthy events from November and December 2007.

November 13: A 102-94 victory over the Detroit Pistons gives the Trail Blazers a perfect 4-0 record on their season-opening homestand, the best start at the Rose Garden since 1999-2000 when Portland began the season 5-0 at home. The 4-0 home start is tied for the franchise's 11th best in 38 seasons.

December 3: Travis Outlaw takes an inbounds pass with 2.8 seconds left and scores his 21st point of the night on a running bank shot as time expires to give Portland a 106-105 victory at Memphis. Outlaw scores the Trail Blazers' last seven points in the game's final 56 seconds, and the game-winning basket marks Outlaw's first game-winner as an NBA player. His clutch shot proves to be the catalyst for the team's 13-game winning streak.

December 10: Second-year guard Brandon Roy is named Western Conference Player of the Week, becoming the first Trail Blazer since Rasheed Wallace in 2001-02 to receive that honor. Roy is awarded for averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists while shooting 59.2 percent from the floor during wins over Memphis, Miami and Milwaukee during the week of Dec. 3-9.

December 11: Portland gains its first win at Utah in four seasons, and only its sixth since 1991, with a 97-89 victory over the Jazz. Playing without LaMarcus Aldridge, the Trail Blazers are boosted by Martell Webster's 25 points on five 3-pointers.

December 17: Brandon Roy earns Western Conference Player of the Week honors for the second time in as many weeks, becoming only the second Trail Blazer (Clyde Drexler, 1987-88) to earn the honor in back-to-back weeks. The reigning Rookie of the Year averages 23.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.0 steals in wins over Utah, Golden State, Utah and Denver for the week of Dec. 10-16.

December 21: The Rose Garden erupts when a 99-96 win over the Denver Nuggets pushes the team's winning streak to 10 games. Trailing by seven points entering the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers start the final period with a 16-2 run, eventually outscoring their divisional rivals 30-20 in the period. Travis Outlaw tallies 11 fourth quarter points and blocks a 3-point attempt by Linas Kleiza at the buzzer that could have sent the game to overtime.

December 25: Playing on Christmas Day for the first time since 2000, and the first time at home since 1985, the Trail Blazers upend Seattle 89-79 to earn their 11th straight win. The victory extends an impressive Christmas Day streak to 13 straight wins dating back to 1972. The Trail Blazers are 13-1 all-time on Christmas Day.

December 30: Portland's 97-72 come-from-behind win over Philadelphia stretches the team's winning streak to 13 games, the second longest streak in franchise history. The streak is the second longest in the NBA in 2007-08 and includes eight wins against teams that would advance to the 2007-08 NBA Playoffs.

December 31: LaMarcus Aldridge closes out 2007 with a career-high 36 points at Utah, going 12-for-17 from the floor in a 111-101 loss to the Jazz that snaps Portland's winning streak at 13 games.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Back in the States: A follow up interview with Mike Born

I had a chance to catch up with Mike Born, Trail Blazers' Director of NBA Scouting, after he got back from the Rudy Fernandez fact finding mission with Kevin Pritchard, Tom Penn and Chad Buchanan. Here's what he had to say after returning from the other side of the pond

What did you see since last I talked to you?

Born: Overall the trip was terrific. We had a chance to see numerous guys who will be in this year’s draft. I had a chance to see Rudy and say hi to him. And then we had a chance to see the Euroleague final four and kind of lock in on some guys that we’ve talked about in reference to summer league guys, American vets playing overseas, European vets, numerous guys over there like David Andersen, Eliyahu from Houston, David Lewis -- guys that have their rights owned by NBA teams. It gave us the chance to see a lot of different guys. There were also a couple of kids in the draft at the final four. One kid played a little bit and the other one didn’t play at all. But overall the final four was terrific. The entire trip was great.

What did you comeback with from this trip that you didn’t have when you left?

Born: I think the main thing for us was going over there for Rudy. Just to have a chance to see him and get bearings on where that was at. But we also did our work on a few European players that are in the draft that we think have a chance of being pretty high picks. So we had a chance to see those guys again in person.

For me personally, I wasn’t over in Europe a lot because I was so locked in with the NBA this season and especially right up until trade deadline. Then once trade deadline passed at the end of February, then I was locked in on trying to do my due diligence and catch up a little bit on the college scene. So I spent a lot of March and April locked in on the college conference tournaments, the NCAA tournament, trying to kind of get my thumb back on that. For me it was nice to be able to go over there and lock in on some of the international kids. Again, for what I’m trying to do, I’m sure Chad Buchanan would give you a different answer than maybe Kevin or Tom would just because I’m the one putting the summer league team together. I’m also the one that tracks the D-League, so it’s good for me to get a barometer of how I can compare guys in the minor leagues to some of the super high-level European players.

There’s plenty of players that are good enough over there that are European professionals (the top ones at least) that could very easily be playing in the NBA. It’s good to go see those guys and how they’re progressing and getting the draft rights and all that stuff. I don’t know if I could pinpoint one particular thing. Obviously the main thing for us was to see Rudy and catch up with some of the draft guys. So it was draft preparation as much as anything. It was really beneficial for all of us to go over there and see those guys.

What’s next for you between now and the draft?

Born: There’s a couple of things. Obviously following the NBA playoffs series, being that I’m in charge of a lot of the NBA stuff, it’s always good to see, whether it’s a free agent player this summer, a free agent player the following summer and just players in general. The more you can see them the better feel you have for them and the book you’re trying to build. So I still watch a lot of the NBA playoffs.

But the secondary duty is to keep preparing for the NBA draft. Chad Buchanan, our Director of College Scouting, does a terrific job in making sure that not only is he prepared, but making sure that we’re prepared. So kind of just following his lead a little bit there on what he’s got going. He’s doing a lot of work so he’s passing that information along to us to kind of help us collectively form an opinion individually on guys who we like and then come together on a particular player that we might look at picking. Doing that and also getting ready for summer league. I put our summer league team together so, just trying to basically touch base with a lot of agents right now. Making phone calls on guys that we’ve like or I’ve liked over the last couple of years. Maybe guys from last year’s draft who are playing overseas.

So you’re trying to add in guys to your summer league team that you’d like to take a look at and put your coaches around and the management team around so we can see not only what they’re like as players on the floor and how they perform but also what kind of practice habits they have. Are they coachable? Are they on time? Those things that we get to see when we put them under our roof for a couple of weeks.

There’s never really a down time. I think there’s times when it’s slower than others but the one thing that Kevin is great about doing is that, even though I’m Director of NBA Scouting, it’s not like that’s all I do. He allows us to be involved in all the different facets so you never really get a chance to say ‘Oh man, the trade deadline has passed and now the draft is coming up and I don’t have to worry about that’ because he wants the opinion of all the guys at all times. You’re always trying to be prepared for the next event happening to help our team become even better.

Has a decision been made regarding who is going to coach the summer league team yet?

Born: I don’t know what they decided. I think Billy Bayno was going to do it, but I think it might be Dean. I know he’s coached it in the past so I don’t know if he’ll coach it. Monty took it last year so I don’t know if they’ll give it to Dean or Luc. But I would think maybe Dean will do it this summer.

Did you get to see the junior game you mentioned last time we talked?

Born: I did. It’s a junior tournament that coincides with the Euroleague final four. Essentially it’s eight of the top junior teams, not necessary tied directly to the Euroleague teams. They basically just collect the top eight teams. I think this year they had qualifying tournaments to get in. I don’t think it was a selections process, so teams had to play well in junior qualifying tournaments to be able to play in the main tournament.

I actually saw about a game and a half while I was there but I had a chance to see basically the top – and this is just coming from an international scout – but the two teams I saw player were probably the two top teams. It was a chance to see a couple of teams that had some pretty good young talent. Again, it’s a chance to start building a book on some of those guys. Instead of seeing them on DVD or hearing about what somebody else thought of him or reading about something on the internet, you get a chance to go in there an see them on your own merits. So it was good. Like I said, I only saw the one full game but if I had to pick a day where I could go watch two team specifically, those are the two teams that I probably would have picked. It’s an added bonus that I had a chance to see that game.

For you, what are the benefits of seeing guys in person?

Born: I think if you talked to most people, you always want to have a combination of seeing both. There are certain things you can pick up by watching guys on DVD and there are other things you can pick up by watching them in person. Just being there in person, you get a chance to get a good feel for their size, their weight, their body, their body shape, their body definition, those kinds of things. A lot of times if you up and your shooting from the second level you don’t have a great feel for individuals because you kind of get a broad perspective of the floor and guy’s spacing and their basketball feel.

But when you’re there in person, I’ll go down 90 minutes to two hours before the game and sit right on the floor and watch guys shoot and handle the ball. You get a chance to compare this guy and that guy on the floor because sometimes listed heights can be misleading. When you’re there in person you can get a really good feel. I’ll stand right up on the sideline. If there’s a guard that’s over there who might be listed at 6-3 and he comes over, I might just stand up to get a gauge. There are little things like that. I think once you get into the course of the game, we can watch a guy on TV or DVD, but it’s nice for us to go to a game in person, there may be a couple of guys that I want to see matched up, like two small forwards against each other. If the camera is following the ball or maybe there’s a press going on in the front and two small forwards are farther down the floor.

It’s the same thing when you get to timeouts. I can watch a guy go to the huddle. They break away for a commercial and I can see how the coaches and the player talk. Maybe free throw is going on and I can watch a player go over and talk to a head coach to see what kind of body language he has. Does he look coachable? Does he look receptive to what the coach is giving him? Is he giving him bad body language? So I think there’s a lot of things that go on that allow you in person to refocus. But we also have to use video, DVD, ect. simply because we can’t be in Europe and see every single game or see a particular guy play like you can do in the NBA or college. I can sit down and watch a particular kid in the states for the draft six or seven times. If the kid plays in Europe, maybe I saw him last summer and then I’ll go over and see him in May so you still get a chance to follow his progress. Even though I’ve only seen him live back in the summer – maybe I haven’t seen him live in seven, eight, nine months – I can still watch him play six to ten games here and still watch his progress and feel. Then maybe when I go there I can specifically be looking for particular areas of his game. I imagine it’s probably a little different with everybody but I know for me I like having the combination of being able to see guys in person and also being able to watch on DVD.

If I had to pick one or the other I’d probably say it’s better to see games in person. In our time here, where we’re at with technology, it’s great because you get a chance to sit down and watch almost every game their playing now. Whether it’s college or NBA or even international, we can get a lot of access to that stuff. I know I go back to this a lot, but you’re constantly trying to build that book and add pages to that book so you feel really comfortable for who guys are as players.

Do you think there are some players who have the talent to play in the NBA but just choose to stay in Europe?

Born: No doubt. There are numerous guys who are definitely good enough to be in the states playing in the NBA but for a lot of those guys, they’re leaving their country, their families, their friends, they might be leaving a team that they wanted to play for all their lives to play in the NBA. For some of those guys, they’re making one to three million Euros net a year, so they might end up making more money playing for CSKA for Sienna or Real Madrid or Maccabi, some of those elite teams. Those guys may not be making quite as much money as they could here, but some of them probably are, and they’re getting to stay in their home country.

For some of those guys maybe it’s not about the NBA. Maybe the NBA isn’t where they wanted to be at. They may just enjoy being in their home country. If you’re making $3 million dollars in the United States or $3 million dollars in Moscow and you’re from there and your family is over there, you’re taking a chance of giving up a lot of things to come to the state just to be in the NBA. I think for some of those guys, with the success that some of the international teams have had, it may not be as important to come to the NBA and prove something as it is for some guys who view the NBA as the best league.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan's thoughts on the season

Nate McMillan talks with Mike Rice about what was accomplished during the 2007-08 season, developing young talent while still winning, what it will take to make it to the playoffs next season and the importance of the Rose Garden crowd.

A big thanks to video guru Albert for the footage.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Here's hoping Larry Miller is lucky

The 2008 NBA Draft Lottery goes down on May 20 at the fabulous league headquarters in bucolic Secaucus, New Jersey. The hopes and dreams of 14 franchises will be fulfilled, crushed or something in between. Odds, most likely, will be bucked.

Last year, Brandon Roy represented the Trail Blazers when whatever entity that rules the universe decided to cut Portland a break by bestowing upon us the first pick. This year, Trail Blazers Team President Larry Miller has the honor of traveling to Secaucus on the team's behalf in hopes of striking it rich for the second time in two seasons. The odds of the Blazers getting the first pick are significantly worse this time around, but Larry strikes me as a lucky guy, so hopefully lightning will strike twice. Not literally of course.

Hopefully this will be the last time we'll be in the lottery for some time (that's a guarantee if we could someone get No. 1 this year), so Mr. Miller better make this one count.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Video: Trail Blazers Homecourt roundtable

Here's the second segment of the Trail Blazers Homecourt Postseason Report that features a roundtable discussion with Mike Barrett, Mike Rice, Tony Luftman and Michael Holton. Make sure to write down their 2008-2009 season predictions.

Video: Trail Blazers Homecourt

Over the next week or so, I'll be posting video from the Trail Blazers Homecourt Postseason Report that previously aired on Comcast. Here's the first segment.

A big thanks to video guru Albert for the footage.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Building the book: An interview with Mike Born

I talked to Mike Born, the Trail Blazers' Director of NBA Scouting, right after he and the rest of the management team got done watching Rudy Fernandez and DKV Joventut dismantle Granada 118-68 on Thursday, but we didn't talk much about Fernandez out of respect to his team and their staff. They're still in the thick of their season, so talking about Rudy's potential departure, while certainly interesting to Blazer fans, isn't necessarily fair to Joventut's players, management or fans.

Nonetheless, Born did have some interesting things to say about what they've seen so far, the Euroleague final four, the importance of scouting all players, Petterri Koponen and Joel Freeland. If you've got any questions, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments.

What else do you plan on seeing, and what have your general thoughts been of the trip so far?

Born: We’re heading to the Euroleague final four tomorrow to see two really good games. I think we’re also going catch a junior tournament that has a young prospect that could be in the 2009 or 2010 draft. So we’re going to go and start doing our homework on him, trying to start building a book on him. Jason has seen him, but I’m not sure Kevin has and I know I haven’t seen him so it’s a good opportunity for us to check out one or two junior games and start getting a feel for some of these young prospects that, two or three years from now, could potentially be pretty good players and maybe first round picks. So you start building the book on them.

How much scouting are you doing for the future? Are you looking more down the road right now?

Born: I mean, it’s not like it’s a focus for us or that we’re targeting those players right now. It’s just like anything else: if you can go and see multiple players that are playing in the same city at the same time obviously we want to try to do that just to be resourceful. We’re here, we’re going to be in Madrid, so if some kid is playing and we don’t have a game at the same time, we’ll do everything in our power to try and get to the game. I think there’s a junior game at 1 p.m. and one at 3 and then the final four games are at 6 and 9, so we’ll probably go and potentially see both the junior games and then see the two final four games at night. It makes for some long days sometimes, but we all love what we’re doing.

Anytime you can see multiple players, and obviously we’re going to do that whether it’s in the states or in Europe. Anytime you can get a chance to see even one guy, you can start building a book on a particular player, especially when they’re young. It’s a little bit easier over here because we can watch them at a little bit younger age than we could in the states just because we can’t see the high school kids unless it’s some sort of all-star format.

Are you expecting to see guys who will eventually be in the NBA at the Euroleague final four?

Born: For me personally it’s a really good event to see because it’s a mix of different players. Now there won’t be a lot of high-profile draft guys in the final four because it’s the best four teams in Europe. So what you get is a mix of some really good foreign players and you also get a mix of some really good players from the United States.

So for me it’s nice because you’re looking at the four best teams, so there might be potentially five to seven guys from every team that I can watch who we might consider for summer league. And also for some of these European players who the next year, the following year, three years from now, four years from now where we might be looking to add in a European vet or a European kid that’s maybe not considered a vet but who has played four or five years in Europe that might be 25. If we’ve seen these guys play for Maccabi or Sienna, again, you’re building the book. The final four here in Europe is really no different than if you were going to the Final Four in college. You’re going to watch Florida play UCLA, and there are so many different prospects in those games and you get to seem them play at a high level. It’s a great chance to evaluate them and (again) start building a book on some of these guys.

I’m not over here like Jason Filippi is; he sees these guys a lot more often than I do. For my purpose being the Director of NBA Scouting, even though I’m not in charge of the international stuff, we still may look at adding some of these guys to a summer league team so we can get a look at them under our roof. So I’m excited to go see this because it’s going to be really good basketball played at a high level. You get to see guys react in real pressure situations. It should be a really good two games.

You mentioned that a lot of the best teams have lifelong European players, so I’m wondering if it’s hard to get a sense of the younger European players that you might be interested in considering that they don’t get as much playing time?

Born: I think it’s a good point, but what you have to try to read through as well is, let’s say that Maccabi has a mix of different players. They’ve got Yotom Halperin who actually has his right owned by the Seattle SuperSonics. So there are actually some guys that are even on these teams that have their rights owned by NBA teams. David Andersen, who plays for CSKA, has his rights owned by Atlanta. So there are so many different guys that you’re getting a chance to keep track. Using those guys for example, if we were to make a trade and you’re looking at moving players or pieces or picks or whatever, you can also have the rights of those players included. So if we were to make a trade, if we know a team has rights to a particular player, and maybe we like the deal, but to equal things up we’d ask for that player to be included in the trade as well. So the fact that we’ve been over here and seen those guys, there’s little things like that can help you add another piece to your team.

But in reference to your question, we try to judge when we’re looking at a player -- especially a young player -- if a kid is 21 or 22 or 23 and he’s playing at a high level and he’s playing for Maccabi or CSKA or whatever, we understand that if he is a young player, just that fact that he’s on a CSKA team and he’s playing against those guys everyday and even if he’s getting six, eight, ten minutes a game, that’s still important to us because just the fact that he’s on that team. Even getting ten minutes is impressive for a young player. And especially in Europe, it’s really tough over here with the really good teams because they want to play their veterans. That’s how they feel like they win, so it’s very rare that we see a guy even like Rudy Fernandez get a chance to play just because you usually don’t see young guys get a chance to play with veteran teams very often.

It’s part of what we have to judge. But again, just the fact that those guys are on teams and they’ve made that team and if they’re getting six to 12 minutes a game, maybe we can’t evaluate them like we could if they were playing 30, but those guys have figured out how to be a part of a winning team and they can play a role and be a piece of a team. Obviously as they get older their responsibilities grow, and we track that as well.

I see that Maccabi has two players who have declared themselves eligible for this year’s draft.

Born: Exactly. So now there’s a chance for us to watch those guys for this years draft. So again, now we’re getting to watch guys for the draft, we’re watching guys for summer league, we’re watching guys that we may try to add two or three years down the road that would be European veterans or even American veterans. There are some really good American’s that are playing. And then you’re looking at guys like Halperin or David Andersen that have their rights owned by NBA teams. So when you’re going into it, I think you can see that there’s all sort of different dynamics that you get to evaluate guys under to add them to your team. One guy we may try to add through a summer league. One guy we may try to add through a draft. We may try to get the rights to another guy and it may be five years before he’s even a part of the picture. It’s a constant rotation of players that you’re trying to build a book on.

Have you guys had a chance to see Joel Freeland or Petteri Koponen since you’ve been in Europe? And do you think leaving players to mature in Europe has worked for the Blazers?

Born: How we kind of evaluate those guys -- and I think this comes from Kevin -- is after every season, we’re going to sit back and evaluate the progress that those guys have made to see if they’re ready to come and play for us. I think the way Kevin leaves it with the players and their agents is when your season is done, we’re not going to guarantee that we’re bringing you to the team this year. If we feel like you’re ready or maybe there’s a certain spot on our roster that’s open, that’s something that we’re constantly looking at.

I’ve seen video of both guys this year but I have not seen either one in person. But I think both of them have had good seasons. Koponen has had a really good season. The league that he’s playing in isn’t as strong as the league that Rudy Fernandez plays in. He’s not playing in Italy or Spain or Russia or some of those countries, but he’s with a good team and a terrific coach and that was part of the reason that we left him with Honka. We just felt like he was going to have the chance to prove and get better under his coach because he really takes care of him and he’s a good coach and he’s a hard worker. So we knew Koponen was going to improve under him. And we also knew that he was going to get minutes with this team, so he’s probably playing 30 to 35 minutes a night, he’s starting. He’s having a chance to play.

Joel’s in a different situation where he’s not … he’s playing for a different team and he’s just not getting the kind of minutes that Koponen is right now, but he’s also playing in a league with better teams. It almost goes back a little bit to what you said about trying to evaluate guys who don’t get playing time. Joel’s playing for a better team that’s playing against better teams, so the minutes for him just aren’t available like they are for Koponen, and part of that is, again, the team that he’s on is a bit better. They’ve got more money so they had an American come in this year. I think early on Joel was playing some decent minutes then they signed an American that came in playing in his spot so it cut into his minutes. He hasn’t had the chance, the opportunity that Koponen has.

We knew when we drafted those guys that both kids were hard workers and good team players. We’re hoping those guys can just continue to make progress. We drafted both of them really young and we liked what we saw as far as the type of talent they had, the fact we knew they were good workers and good people so you’re just hoping those guys continue to make progress with the particular teams they’re playing with.

Without speaking about specific players or teams, have you seen anyone since you’ve been there who wasn’t on your radar?

Born: Not really. We’ve only seen three games and we’ve been kind of locking in on particular guys we’re looking at for the draft. In the particular games that we’ve happened to see the guys we’re going to see have been the best players there. No there are some other guys who are pretty comparable, but it’s not like you’re going to see one guy and all the sudden two other guys from another team jump out at you and you’re amazed that they slipped through the cracks. We haven’t seen that.

I think when you’re looking at the European final four, obviously there are going to be more guys per team to track, but part of this is just us doing our due diligence with these teams. I sat down with Jason Filippi just yesterday. He and I do a European ranking for guys for summer league, guys that we want to look at potentially adding to our team down the road, so you’re constantly talking about players. We virtually talked about every player in Europe, American and European. We’ve talked about summer league guys. We’ve talked about guys that we need to keep track of who are young guys right now. European vets that are from Europe.

One of the things that I would say most scouts try to pride themselves on is you try to never be surprised. We went through every guy that we felt was a halfway decent player in Europe, whether it was an American player or a European player, whether he was young or old. So when you go into these games it’s not like we’re shocked, and part of that is because Jason Filippi does a really good job of making sure we’re always prepared. So if we go to a game tonight or two days ago, he’s seen these teams. He knows who can play on these teams. If we don’t necessarily know he’ll say ‘Hey, keep an eye on this kid.’ This is only my fourth year, but Kevin has been doing it longer than I have and Tom Penn’s been doing it a long time. As you get out there and you start doing it, a lot of the same guys are just moving from one team to the next or playing on the same teams. You get some new guys that add in every year, but there are a lot of these guys that we’ve seen plenty of times. We try not to be too surprised. But this game tomorrow at this junior tournament, there will be a bunch of guys there that we’ve never seen but Jason will know who the elite guys are. We try to make this a team effort where everybody is trying to help each other be prepared. We as a management team want to make sure we’re doing the right thing: being prepared, being ready to look at everybody.

Have you cemented your thoughts on the guys you’ve seen since you’ve been in Europe?

Born: I don’t know if it’s say cemented because we still go through the process, and I think that’s something that Kevin always stresses to us. Obviously every time you see a player you get a better feel for that particular player and you start to form a better opinion on him. So by seeing these guys it definitely helps us continue to form our opinion but the practice still needs to continue to play. We’ll try to bring in these guys to see them in a workout. We’ll continue to do our intel on these guys, so I don’t know if cemented would be the proper word. I think we’re further along in the process by seeing those guys but yet we still feel like we’ve still got more work to do because we’re going to do our work on anybody that we’re looking at potentially drafting. We’re going to do our work all the way up until draft night to try and be prepared. By us being here and seeing these guys play and talking to people in the gym, you start to build a book on a player and you get more comfortable with who they are, whether you like them or don’t like them, whether they sway you one way or another. Maybe we’ll bring him in for a workout and maybe that adds a little too it as well. You get a chance to sit and talk with him at a workout and that adds a little bit too it. There are still things that we need to continue to do before we get to the conclusion. It’s definitely been a good trip so far. I would say that, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to see these two final four games and see this young kid play. All in all when everything is said and done, I think this will have been a very good trip for us.