Monday, June 30, 2008

The next great 88

What do Michael Irvin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Eric Lindros, Marvin Harrison and Nicolas Batum have in common? The number 88. The double snowman. One of only two jersey numbers that reads the same forwards, backwards, right-side up and up-side down. The atomic number of radium. The number of keys on a piano (thank you Wikipedia). The speed Doc Brown's DeLorean must reach in order to kick the flux capacitor into gear and thus, achieve time travel.

Nicolas Batum will wear No. 88 next season (assuming he makes the roster). It's a bit of a strange number for a basketball player to choose (or to at least have assigned to you). He has worn No. 8 before (though he currently wears No. 5 for Le Mans), so maybe No. 88 is a takeoff of that. It's a common number for a tight end, but for a basketballer? In fact, according to Basketball Reference.com, Antoine Walker is the only NBA player to have ever worn No. 88, and that was only for one season. So if nothing else, Nic Batum will be an original.

And thanks to the scarcity of the number and the French fanbase, Batum will most likely have the best selling No. 88 jersey in the history of the NBA. There's a feather for your cap.

Hair comes Summer League

The official roster for the Trail Blazers Las Vegas Summer League team has yet to be announced, but there are a few players who you can expect to see. Petteri Koponen and Joel Freeland are almost guaranteed to play. Nicholas Batum's involvement is still up in the air, but I think there's a fairly good chance that he'll be on the squad. Same goes for any other player who might be a Blazers rookie (aside from those playing in international competition or rehabbing from knee surgery) in '08-'09. The rest of the Summer League roster is filled out with undrafted rookies and veteran free agents.

According to the Springfield News-Leader, (that's the Missouri version of Springfield, by the way) one of those undrafted rookies who will be suiting up for the Blazers in Las Vegas is Steven Hill, a 7-0 center out of Arkansas.
Former Branson High School and University of Arkansas center Steven Hill has signed to play for the Portland Trail Blazers in the upcoming NBA summer league, his father Troy Hill said Saturday.

Despite going undrafted, the 7-foot Hill will have a chance to make the team if he can impress during Portland’s run in the summer league, which begins July 11-20 at the Thomas and Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion, both on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Hill averaged a pedestrian 4.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in his senior season, though he did make the SEC All-Defensive Team in his final year. And he was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in his junior season, so there's some talent there.

And as you can see from the picture, he's got one of the meanest heads of hair you're going to find in professional sports.

UPDATE: According to executive producer Scott Zachary, Hill was sans flowing mane during his pre-draft workout in Portland. Bummer.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The new Batum

Upon hearing the Trail Blazers had traded the draft rights to Kansas’ Darrell Arthur and Memphis’ Joey Dorsey to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Nicolas Batum, most assumed it was another case of Portland taking a European player with intentions of stashing him away overseas. After all, letting a player season outside of the ultra-competitive confines of the NBA is a common practice for general manager Kevin Pritchard. Couple that with a nearly full roster and Batum’s relative inexperience and it’s easy to see why so many don’t expect to see the 25th pick wearing red and black come the start of the ’08-’09 season. At this point though, Batum’s return to France and his club team, Le Mans, is hardly a foregone conclusion.

“I don’t think it’s been determined,” Kevin Pritchard said of Batum’s plans for next season, “so we are going to wait and see how it shakes out. I think there’s a chance either way.”

“Whether he’s playing over there in games or playing here, we’re hoping he improves,” said Mike Born, the Trail Blazers’ Director of NBA Scouting. “It’s going to take some time for him, but we really like him as a guy we can bring over this year and start working with him to try to develop his game and see how he fits in with our team.”

Batum is tentatively scheduled to play on the Blazers Summer League team, so the decision regarding whether to add him to the regular season roster could be determined by his performance in Las Vegas.

“He’s becoming a better shooter. He’s working on his defense, and I think he could be a really good NBA defender. That will get him on the floor quicker than later,” says Pritchard. “As our team progresses we’ll need a defensive wing. So if he could become a gritty defender, he’s going to get on the court a lot quicker.”

Batum’s length and athleticism allowed Pritchard and his staff to overlook some of the inexperience and flaws that may have scared off other teams from taking the Frenchman with a first round pick.

“At that part of the draft it’s important for us to take a chance on a kid that has upside,” said Pritchard. “Nicolas has got great length and a great body for a prototypical ‘3’ man. He’s learning the game and we think he could become a nice player in a couple of years.”

There were also questions regarding a potential heart condition, though Pritchard noted team doctors gave Batum’s health a “full clearance.”

Born, who has followed Batum’s progression in Europe for the past three years, said he envisions the 19 year-old crafting his game after another slight-framed small forward.

“When you look at his size, his length -- he’s almost 6-9 with a 7-2 wingspan -- when you look at that stuff and start projecting him as a straight small forward,” said Born. “Now granted, he’s still young and he’s still got a long ways to go as far as being a finished product, but you look at guys like Tayshaun Prince and some of those long, kind of versatile small forwards. He could be a really nice fit for our team. He’s always been a pretty good defender in Europe, always been a good team player.”

Some have called into question Batum’s performances in the French and Euro leagues, though Born thinks those concerns might have more to do with the differences in which young players are treated by club teams overseas.

“He’s been considered at some level a passive player at times,” said Born. “I’ve seen it myself. But he is an unselfish player; he doesn’t mind deferring to his teammates. There’s a fine line there.

“But part of it just may be what the coach wants. He’s 19 years old playing in the French league and Euro league. If you track European teams, there are very few young players that get a chance to play at the top level because European coaches, for the most part, don’t play young kids. They’re going to go with the veteran, the guys that have the experience. So just the fact that he got on the floor says something.”

06.27.08 Post-draft Podcast

Another NBA Draft is in the books and another Trailblazers.com Podcast is in the can. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com discuss all of the events surrounding Thursday's draft, from the picks to the trades to the effect the night had on the rest of the Blazers' "off season."









Download the podcast (16.0 MB).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

06.25.08 Edition of Trailblazers.com Podcast

No shortage of topics to talk about today. For as busy as the last two drafts have been, tomorrow might even be busier. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com discuss the latest rumors, the report that the Blazers are acquiring New Orleans' pick and who may or may not be on the roster by the end of the day tomorrow.









Download the podcast (20.7 MB).

NBA Draft pronunciation guide

With the draft just a day away, it's time to start familiarizing yourself with some of the names of players both domestic and foreign who may or may not be new Blazers come Thursday. In an effort to improve your fan-dom, here's the NBA's name pronunciation guide. Be the first kid on your block to correctly pronounce names like "Manuchar Markoishvili" and "Predrag Samardziski."

Alexis Ajin├ža: ah-LEX-ee A-GIN-za

Darrell Arthur: dur-RELL

Omer Asik: O-mair A-sheek

DJ Augustin: AU-ga-STEEN

Nicolas Batum: Nick-O-las Ba-TOOM

Jerryd Bayless: JE-rid

Ramel Bradley: ra-mel

Tyrone Brazelton: BRAY-zul-ten

Keith Brumbaugh: brom-BAW

Takais Brown: ta-KAY-is

Stanley Burrell: bu-RELL

Pat Calathes: KA-lay-THISS

Mario Chalmers: mar-ee-o chawl-mers

Hakan Demirel: HAK-on

Joey Dorsey: door-see

Goran Dragic: GORE-on DRAG-ich

Frank Elegar: E-le-GAR

Semih Erden: SEM-ee Err-DEN

Gary Forbes: Gary Forbes

Shan Foster: shane

Danilo Gallinari: Don-NEAL-o Gal-IN-naree

James Gist: gist

Vladimir Golubovic: Vla-DEE-meer Go-LOU-bo-vich

Kentrell Gransberry: KEN-trell

Malik Hairston: mah-leek hair-stun

DeVon Hardin: de-Von har-DIN

Rafael Hettsheimeir: Raf-A-el Het-SHY-mer

Jiri Hubalek: yee-ree oo-BAHL-lek

Serge Ibaka: Ee-BAK-a

Nathan Jawai: Nathan JA-why

Davon Jefferson: DAY-von

DeAndre Jordan: DEE-andre

Mantas Kalnietis: MAHN-tahs Kal-NYET-tis

Sasha Kaun: con

Marcelus Kemp: mar–SELL–us

Kosta Koufos: COAST-tah KOO-fuss

Nikita Kurbanov: Ni-KEE-ta Kur-BA-noff

Maarty Leunen: Marty loo-nen

Longar Longar: lawn-gar lawn-gar

Aleks Maric: AL-ex Mar-ICH

Manuchar Markoishvili: Ma-new-HAR Marko-ish-VEAL-ee

O.J. Mayo: OJ May-YO

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: Ba ah MUTE-ay

JaVale McGee: JA-vell

Igor Milosevic: ee-gore milo-sheh-vich

Drew Neitzel: night-zill

DeMarcus Nelson: de-MARK-us

David Padgett: padge-et

Nikola Pekovic: NEE-kola PECK-o-vich

Trent Plaisted: play-sted

Anton Ponkrashov: An-TON Pon-KRASH-off

Quan Prowell: quan PROU-well

Mykal Riley: mick-kale

Richard Roby: robe-ee

Damjan Rudez: Dom-YON RUE-dez

Dusan Sakota: DUSH-on SHOCK-o-tah

Predrag Samardziski: PRAY-drug Sam-are-JIS-key

Nikita Shabalkin: Ni-KEE-ta Sha-BAL-kin

Sean Singletary: single-terry

Marreese Speights: Ma-REESE SPATES

Andrija Stipanovic: An-DREE-ya Stee-PAN-o-vich

Ante Tomic: ON-tay TOE-mich

Uros Tripkovic: YU-rosh TRIP-ko-vich

Giorgi Tsintsadze: Gee-OR-gee Tsin-TSA-zay

Mark Tyndale: tin-DALE

Sam Van Rossom: ross-some

Novica Velickovic: NO-vit-za Va-LEECH-ko-vich

Deron Washington: de-RON

Pre-draft links

So many interesting stories and rumors on the eve of the NBA draft that I feel compelled to put together a list. Tomorrow is going to be crazy, I can feel it.

• First the biggie. Chad Ford is reporting the Blazers are acquiring the 27th pick from the Hornets in exchange for cash. The Columbian's Brian Hendrickson says it's confirmed. The timing and the way in which this news was reported makes me wonder.

• Chad Ford has also updated his mock draft, with the Blazers taking Nicolas Batum with No. 27. I could see that, but only if Batum would be willing to go back to Europe. Pritchard told me Batum doesn't want to go back to Europe, but maybe he can be persuaded. I heard a few people on the radio this morning saying J.J. Hickson was the target (those people are reading too much into his second workout if you ask me), but I doubt he makes it that late in the first round.

• Jason Quick dropped some rumors on 1080 yesterday. Issac Ropp has the scoop second hand in his blog.
Blazers in serious talks with 4 teams about trading out of the #13 pick
The four teams: Phoenix, NY Knicks, Toronto, New Jersey.
Players targeted: Barbosa, Malik Rose or David Lee?, TJ Ford, Devin Harris.
Offer on the table from one of the above or another East team.
The deal involves the #13 and a Blazers reserve for an unnamed veteran.
Potential exists for the Blazers to trade down targeting Brandon Rush @ #21.
The players garnering the most interest: Frye, Webster & Outlaw.
The players garnering very little interest: Rodriguez, Jack.
Significant news: Nate has decided to play Travis Outlaw exclusively at SF.
McMillan also committed to more Brandon Roy at PG.
No word from James Jones on his player option.

• There are a couple of rumors out there involving Portland and New Jersey. Peter Vescey (who swears he doesn't deal in "rumors") spins this little yarn ...
Look for the Nets New Jersey Nets to go out of their way to acquire Marcus Camby; they have one team to beat. As part of that deal or independent of it, I expect them to trade back to No. 13 (the Blazers are primed to deal the slot, that's for sure) perhaps to snare West Virginia's Joe Alexander - the league's looming lone American capable of trash talking Yao Ming in Mandarin.
Two things about that little salvo. First, I don't think anybody aside from Vescey thinks Alexander will be available at No. 13. And secondly, if Alexander did somehow slip to No. 13, I'm fairly certain the Blazers would take and keep him.

• Not to be outdone by their friends to the north, the Bergen Record's Al Iannazzone counters with a more plausible rumor.
Thorn wodn’t rule out a trade either. He said he received four calls Tuesday in a 2½-hour span from teams interesting in either the No. 10 or the No. 21 pick. Thorn said the No. 21 is especially in demand.

League sources said the Blazers called the Nets about a possible deal. The Nets would send a package that includes the No. 10 to Portland for No. 13, 33 and either Steve Blake or Jarrett Jack.

The Nets probably wouldn’t do that unless none of the players on their list was there, which is nearly impossible, and then they would use 13 on Brook’s twin brother Robin Lopez or Ohio State center Kosta Koufos.
That seems like a steep price to move up three spots, though if there's a player available at No. 10 that KP likes, a deal like this wouldn't surprise me in the least.

• Jason Quick has a solid recap of what the Trail Blazers front office all-stars are saying about tomorrow's draft. I talked to Mike Born for a few minutes yesterday at the practice facility, and I can say with a certain degree of certainty that he's totally amped for tomorrow.

• Casey Jarman at the Willamette Week doesn't exactly get Kevin Pritchard to tip his hand, but he does get KP's opinions on some of the better late round draft picks of the last five years.

That's all I have for now, though you should throw any other interesting links in the comments. And don't forget that Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard from Blazer's Edge and I, Casey Holdahl, will be posting a podcast today about tomorrow's draft. Expect that to be available around 1 p.m. today.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Prepare for unprecedented Summer League coverage

The NBA's Las Vegas Summer League is just around the corner. Starting July 11, 21 NBA teams show up in Sin City with teams full of draft picks, free agents, D-Leaguers and Europeans for 10 days of scrimmages at UNLV. It's a great way to check out the newest talent in the NBA while spending a few days in the scorching Las Vegas sun. If you have the means I, highly recommend attending for at least a couple of games.

Today the NBA released the official summer league schedule. Here are the dates and times as they pertain to us Blazers fans.

Monday, July 14 – Portland vs. Washington (Cox Pavilion, 5 PM)

Tuesday, July 15 – Portland vs. Sacramento (Cox Pavilion, 7 PM)

Thursday, July 17 – Portland vs. Minnesota (Cox Pavilion, 7 PM)

Saturday, July 19 – Portland vs. Phoenix (Cox Pavilion, 7 PM)

Sunday, July 20 – Portland vs. New Orleans (Cox Pavilion, 5 PM)

Should be a good time. I'll be down there for the first part of the run, so be sure to come say hello if you plan on attending.

But those of you who can't make it to Vegas won't be left out in the cold. This year, Comcast Sportnet is going to air every Blazers game live. They'll also replay each game twice, which is mighty kind of them. The games will also air on NBA TV for those of you without Comcast.

(Thanks to reader Illuminate for the proofreading. Much appreciated)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday workout report

The action got started an hour earlier than usual on Saturday which is a heck of a thing to do to a guy on the weekend. Then again, it's quite the privilege to have the opportunity to watch guys like Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, Pat Ewing Jr., Luc Mbah a Moute and Mark Tyndale take to the court at the Trail Blazers practice facility.

We're getting down to the last days before the draft and the players know it. The schedule these guys are keeping, travel followed by workouts followed by more travel and more workouts, is almost certainly taking its toll, but the prospect of having your name called on draft day makes it worth the while.

So here are the notes I took from the workout featuring Rush, Chalmers, Ewing Jr., Mbah a Moute and Tyndale. I didn't get a chance to stick around to watch Anthony Randolph's solo workout, but Mike Barrett has a nice writeup covering that audition.

I noticed something strange during Brandon Rush's workout: perspiration, or in this case, lack thereof. Rush was going just as hard as his contemporaries on the court, but unlike his workout partners, he wasn't drenched in sweat. Every other player soaked their shirt, but Rush, for one reason or another, remained relatively dry. I don't know what to make of that, but I thought I'd pass along the observation.

As far as his performance goes, Rush looked much as advertised. He charged super-hard during the drills, particularly when curling off of screens. High intensity from start to finish. Nice elevation and hangtime on jumper. Has a slight bit of lateral motion when shooting. Finished at the rim numerous times despite being fouled. Like to pull up and fade away. Quick getting off the ground. Does a nice job of following his own shot. At one point collected numerous offensive rebounds after his own misses.

Rush really shined on defense. Takes a textbook low stance while defending. Quick from side to side. Contests every shot. Fast hands and feet. Has the potential to be a very good defender at the next level. Capable of guarding guards and small forwards.

Mario Chalmers seems to be making he transition from combo guard to point guard. Possesses a nice handle, though by his own admission still working on being a "pure point guard." A decent shooter from range and capable of hitting the mid-range jumper in traffic. Quick and athletic. Nice strength, with really showed on the defensive end. Body-type similar to Jarrett Jack's, who also happens to be a close friend of Chalmers.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was working out for the second time in as many days, and I thought he looked great. I missed his first workout, but I was impressed by his second. He displayed a nice midrange game on offense and played incredibly well on defense. Looked very comfortable on both sides of the ball. Seemed confident shooting everywhere within the three point line. Had at least one great block and contested every single shot intelligently. He bit hard on a move at one point but had the speed and smarts to quickly recover, preventing an easy bucket. Made an athletic play to save the ball from going out of bounds, resulting in an open shot for a teammate. Dogged working under the basket for rebounds. Long arms. A solid all-around workout.

Patrick Ewing Jr. shoots in a fashion similar to his father, releasing the ball above his head and sometimes off of one leg. Shot pretty well. Uses the pump fake well. Hit numerous tough shots despite being adequately defended. Shows a lot of emotion, even in a workout setting. A nice ball handler, especially for a guy his size.

Mark Tyndale out of Temple might not have the profile of the others he workout out with, but he more than held his own. Used his body really well to create space on offense and disruption on defense. Likes the pull up jumper. Adept at getting to the rim.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

06.19.08 Edition of Trailblazers.com Podcast

We're back with another Thursday edition (blame it on the workouts) of the Trailblazer.com Podcast with Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com. This week we discuss D.J. Augustin, Joe Alexander, what to do with the 13th pick and Gavin calls the Ducks "soft." Give it a listen or a download.









Download the podcast (20.5 MB).

Pritchard and Buchanan on 95.5 The Game

More and more requests of the Blazers front office with the draft rapidly approaching, and today I've got a few peices of archived audio from 95.5 The Game that you might have missed.

First up is Kevin Pritchard on The Morning Sports Page. KP talks draft, Oden, and sleep deprivation.








Download the audio (10.4 MB)

Next up, we've got Chad Buchanan, Blazers' Director of College Scouting, on The Bald-Faced Truth with John Canzano. I feel kind of bad for telling everyone what a great interview Chad is. Now everyone wants a piece of him.








Download the audio (4.7 MB).

And if that doesn't fill your need for Blazers audio, I'll also have this week's edition of the Trailblazers.com podcast with Gavin Dawson and Dave Deckard up shortly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Workout report: Augustin, Burrell, Duncan, Hairston, Longar and Rich

Another solid workout today at the practice facility. D.J. Augustin, Stanley Burrell, Josh Duncan, Malik Hairston, Longar Longar and Jason Rich were put through the paces today by the Trail Blazers' coaching staff. Here are some of the things that I noticed.

D.J. Augustin looked great. He had his game going today, showing off just about everything that you'd like to see from an NBA point guard. He's 6-foot, but he's got good length and decent size in general. He shot the ball extremely well, going 38-of-50 during the 3-point shooting drill. His jumper is about as pretty as they come: smooth, compact and fluid. He went 9-for-10, 8-for-10 and 10-for-10 on the first three 3-point stations. He faded a little at the end, but that's to be expected after going full speed for an hour.

Augustin ran the pick and roll to near perfection. Super quick off the dribble. Displays a great pump fake that defenders bought just about every time. Pull up jumper was on the money (which obviously helps the pump fake). Knows what to do when he gets into the paint, be it finishing or finding the open man after drawing a defender. Likes to drive the lane and kick out to the open man on the perimeter. He also likes to cut and move without the ball. Adept at splitting double teams. He got to the basket numerous times by cutting in between two defenders.

The first thing you notice about Malik Hairston is that he's in really good shape. He looks like he's lost at least 15 pounds since college while adding muscle, especially in his arms. He looks much quicker, probably due to the weight loss, which helped him play great defense against the guards and forwards in the workout. It looks like he also changed up the mechanics on his shot a little bit.

Hairston seemed upset by his shooting, but managed to get involved in other ways. He displayed a nice handle and seemed comfortable dribbling the ball at all points on the floor. He opted a couple of times to dish to open players rather than forcing the issue in traffic. Seemed capable of getting to the hole whenever he put his mind too it. He didn't shoot all that well during the drills, but he displayed a nice mid-range shot during the three-on-three portions of the workout. Looked good passing in general. On defense, he guarded just about everyone on the floor at one time or another, with great results. He really fought hard through screens. Also quick to close in on his man when going under screens.

Longar Longar was probably the most physical player on the floor. He's a tough defender who's also not afraid to shoot the ball. Especially willing to go up with it when in the post. High release on his shot. Displayed a fairly reliable jumper during the shooting drills. He actually wanted to shoot from the NBA 3-point range, though Maurice Lucas convinced him to move a little closer to the hoop in order to better display his skills. You have to like a guy who challenges himself.

Josh Duncan held his own during this workout. He uses some crafty moves to get to the basket. Finishes around the hoop very well. Capable of putting the ball on the floor and able to throw a couple of moves at his defender with his back to the basket. A solid athlete. Quick with or without the ball. Very solid defensively.

Now here's where it gets a bit embarrassing: I couldn't tell Stanley Burrell and Jason Rich apart. We're watching from across one court, with people sitting in between and without a great picture to reference. And since I'm not up on my Xavier or Florida State basketball, and since both guys are about the same size and were wearing the exact same t-shirt and shorts, I was incapable of distinguishing between the two. I did take notes, though I referred to one as "gray shoes" and the other as "arm brace." Since I'm not sure which is which, I don't feel comfortable giving my impression of either, whomever they may be. Sorry.

Listen: Kevin Pritchard on ESPN.com

General Manager Kevin Pritchard talks, as he often does, with ESPN's Chad Ford about the upcoming draft, Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez. Give it a listen.







Tuesday workout report: small forwards.

To be honest, I didn't get to see much of this workout. In fact, no one outside of team officials (and Mike Barrett) got to see much of Joe Alexander, Donte Green, Nicholas Batum or Deron Washington, so keep that in mind when reading any of the reports from yesterday's workouts, including this one.

I did get to see some shooting, and from what I can tell, all of these prospects fit the mold of the new NBA small forward: tall, athletic and capable of hitting the outside shot.

Joe Alexander created the most buzz, at least among the members of the media. The guy can flat out get up. We didn't get to see him finish around the rim, but if he elevates on his dunks as much as he does on his jumpers, then I'm sure the stories of his acrobatics are true. He displayed range from all over the floor. He's a hustle guy. Both Nate McMillan and Kevin Pritchard made note of his "work ethic," which is high praise considering the workouts only last for about an hour. Imparting a characteristic like work ethic in that time frame is a impressive.

The coaches and staff had nothing but good things to say about Donte Green, but by his own admission, his workout was "One of the worst workouts I've had during this process. I just didn't come out ready today." Green might be a bit hard on himself. He shot the ball well, showed some nice handles and seemed to go hard on every play.

Fatigue might be an issue for Green, who has already worked out for Phoenix, Miami, Milwaukee, Charlotte, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Sacramento. He also has workouts scheduled with Toronto, Golden State and the Clippers. The fact that Green has worked out or is scheduled to workout for 11 teams says good things about the quality of his game.

Nicholas Batum, at just 20 years of age, is an intriguing prospect. Kevin Pritchard noted a few times that Batum's got a load of untapped potential. Nate McMillan described Batum as ...
Long, athletic, pretty smooth. He’s got a silky smooth-type game. He can shoot it. As I just mentioned, very athletic. Wasn’t bad in the post. Does a nice job of facing you up and putting the ball on the floor.
According to Pritchard, Batum wants to play in the NBA now, so the idea of drafting him and leaving him over in Europe, at least initially, seems unlikely. Pritchard also noted that he had the tools to be a starter in the NBA.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Pre-workout links

I'm fixing to head out to the practice facility to watch the workouts with Joe Alexander, Donte Green and Nicolas Batum. I'll have a report for you from the workouts this afternoon. Here are some links to peruse in the interim.
• As previously stated, Joe Alexander is in town today. And as fate would have it, he has some familiarity with at least one current Trail Blazer.
Coach John Beilein opted for Alexander hoping he could provide a spark. Showing none of the fear that normally might accompany a kid in that spot, he drew a foul and made two free throws and then posted up eventual All-American LaMarcus Aldridge for a turnaround jumper.

He grabbed an offensive and defensive rebound and by the time he handed out an assist to Mike Gansey, it was a 37-31 lead and Texas needed a timeout to recuperate.

If at that very moment the Mountaineers were still looking for someone to replace D'or Fischer or Tyrone Sally and provide a backbone under basket on the way back to the NCAA Tournament, it was Alexander.

Yet Alexander played just 10 games that season and was a total non-factor late in his sophomore year.

• Here's a little extra info about Donte Green courtesy of a local Syracuse television station.

• A Toronto Raptors blogger throws out a Przybilla for TJ Ford trade scenario.
Portland- This is a team that is looking for a veteran point guard, and Ford certainly fits into that mold. They also have a glutton of picks (13th, 33rd, 36th, and 55th) in the upcoming draft and the Raptors could certainly use one of those picks, especially seeing as they don’t have a second round pick this season.

Maybe a package that centered around Joel Przybilla, who the Blazers don’t need with a healthy Greg Oden coming back next season. Add this to go with the fact that Rasho Nesterovic is only under contract for one more season and it could set the Raptors up at the center position for a few more years and give them an excellent center combination this season with Rasho and Przybilla.

The Raptors could also potentially get either the 33rd or 36th pick in this season’s draft or a solid bench player like Jarrett Jack or Sergio Rodriguez.

Either way, I think the Raptors and Trail Blazers are good trade partners, as Portland wants a veteran point guard and have a lot of trade assets with their number of solid young players to go along with several draft picks.
The Blazers definitely still need Joel Przybilla.

Draft rumors coming out of Phoenix.
New York (No. 6) and Portland (No. 13) are believed to be among the teams that would be willing to trade down or out of the first round. The Knicks, who have a payroll of just less than $91 million next season, may be looking to cut costs while the Trail Blazers, who are already loaded with young talent, may be willing to give up their first-round pick to add experience.

The Suns are also exploring the idea of acquiring a second first-round choice. Doing so might cost them Leandro Barbosa or Boris Diaw. "If we could capitalize on (the depth of the draft) and get more than one (first-round pick), we would," Griffin said. "If that's below us or above us, either way that's fine. It's just a potentially good opportunity to fill a few needs and address our need for youth."

A second pick would make a player like French forward Nicolas Batum more attractive. The 6-foot-8, 214-pound 19-year-old has huge upside but still needs time to develop physically and is at least a year away from being NBA ready. Chances are he will play another year in Europe.
Any team other than those holding the top two picks have been "rumored" to be willing to trade down, so take this with a salt lick.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Draft withdrawl

It's past 5 p.m. on the East coast, meaning those college underclassmen and underage Europeans who have been testing the waters for the last month are either in or out of the 2008 NBA Draft. I've noted a few surprises looking over the unofficial list at Draft Express.

North Carlina guard Ty Lawson going back to school (ESPN has confirmed this), along with fellow teammates Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. Lawson said last Thursday that he was "60/40" in favor of staying in the draft, so I guess that qualifies as a slight surprise. He had a good workout with the Blazers from what I could tell, but he is probably one of those guys who could end up being a lottery lock by staying another year.

Chase Budinger has decided to give it another go at Arizona. A lot of draft prognosticators seemed to think he would have fit well here in Portland, but he probably fits in better with the Wildcats, at least next year.

Two Europeans who worked out for the Blazers, Rodrigue Beaubois and Giorgi Shermadini, have withdrawn. I thought both (though especially Beaubois) were legitimate options to be picked with one of the Blazers' three second rounders, though both would have almost certainly have been asked to continue working on their crafts overseas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Listen: Pritchard and Buchanan on Trail Blazers Courtside

If you missed last night's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside, then you missed one heck of a show. Luckily for you, the audio from last night's show is now available for download.

For those of you with a shorter attention span, I've singled out the interviews with Blazers' Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan and General Manager Kevin Pritchard. Both talk about the upcoming draft and the ongoing workouts.

Here's the interview with Chad Buchanan.







Download the audio (4.65 MB)

Here's the interview the Kevin Pritchard.







Download the audio (5.47 MB).

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Draft workout report: Beaubois, Lawson, Nelson and Westbrook

I finally had the opportunity to make it down to the practice facility for a pre-draft workout. General Manager Kevin Pritchard thought today's run featuring French point guard Rodrigue Beaubois, North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson, Duke guard DeMarcus Nelson and UCLA point guard Russell Westbrook was the most talented group that had come through Portland so far. Team owner Paul Allen was also in attendance today, which always adds a little extra excitement.

Here's are some of the notes that I took from today's workout. Keep in mind that we're only allowed to watch about the last 20 minutes.

This was Rodrigue Beaubois' second workout in Portland this offseason and his third in the last two years, and it's not hard to tell why. He's got incredibly long arms and large hands for a guy listed at 6-0. His length is especially evident when he shoots, as he flicks his wrist in a way that makes his hands look freakishly elongated. He's listed at 170 lbs. which sounds about right. He just recently turned 20, so it wouldn't be hard to imagine him filling out a bit before he's done growing.

Beaubois seemed to be adept at ball handling and willing to get into his man on defense. He shot decently during the three point shooting drills.

Ty Lawson is one thick kid, which makes his speed and quickness all the more amazing. Standing next to him, it's easy to see why getting to the rim is one of his strengths. Super solid. He's definitely 5-11 (we were about eye-to-eye), but he's got the kind of build that taller guards would have a hard time posting up. Pritchard noted that Lawson "showed some big-time quickness... Ty is just a power guard. He’s got amazing speed and he can get to the rim, I think, in our league against just about anybody."

Lawson really snaps his wrist when shooting from long range. The release on his jumper is a bit lower than what you usually see, though he shot relatively well during the drills. He releases the ball seemingly right in front of his face. He jumps forward a little bit when shooting, which one of the media member in attendance noted reminded him of Martell Webster.

DeMarcus Nelson really got after it on defense, stripping the ball away a couple of times during the one-on-one drills. Very aggressive but in control. Very skilled at denying the ball. No surprise considering Nelson won ACC Defensive Player of the Year in '07-'08. He used his body well during the offensive and defensive drills. In one instance, he hit a three from the corner over a defender who was draped all over him (I don't recall who it was now).

I think he shot around 50% during the three point shooting drills, which is fairly impressive. His shot was a little flat from distance. His shooting motion reminded me a little of Kevin Martin's, though not nearly as kinetic and unorthodox.

Russell Westbrook looked great. He seems a lot taller and thicker in person than he does on tape. I assume he's put on some muscle since the end of the collegiate season and it really shows, especially in his arms. He's got some seriously long, wire-like arms. His body looks like it was made for playing perimeter defense in the NBA.

Westbrook did everything that you would expect from a Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He's fast, active, instinctive and crazy athletic. Pritchard commented after the workout that "Russell does a great job of getting into that midrange and shooting it, jumping over people. He’s so athletic that way."

Really quick at getting off his feet. Vocal on defense. What I found the most interesting was that while on defense, he would call out "ball" and "shot" despite it being a one-on-one drill. That's a sign of a well-drilled, instictive defender. He also really seemed to enjoy working out.

Here's a bit more of what KP had to say about Westbrook's performance:
"Russell did great. He’s a talented young kid. He’s a great kid. He works hard and he did some good things. He shot the ball really well in the shooting drills and, you know, that’s kind of been his knock that he won’t be able to knock down shots. Obviously with us having Brandon, LaMarcus and Oden, shooting is of paramount importance for us."
Maybe the most surprising part of Westbrook's workout was his outside shooting. He knocked down a lot of long-range shots. By my count (I think I missed one of his stations), he went 30-for-40 during the three point drills. As Pritchard said, long-range shooting has been a facet of Westbrook's game that some have called into question, but he looked like a dead-eye shooter today.

All four player had solid workouts from what I could tell. Pritchard stated afterwards that "... it was a great workout. All four of these guys had there moments today, there’s no doubt about it." Pritchard even went so far as to say that he thought three of the players were first-rounders

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

06.11.08 Edition of Trailblazers.com Podcast

After a brief switch to Thursday, we're back to the regularly scheduled Wednesday edition of the Trailblazer.com Podcast with Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and myself, Casey Holdahl, of trailblazers.com. This week we discussed the upcoming pre-draft workouts, The Suns' hiring of Terry Porter, reluctantly rooting for the Lakers and much more. Give it a listen or a download.









Download the podcast (23.9 MB).

Blazers stick with the Stampede

We all know that the Portland Trail Blazers were the youngest team in the NBA last season, and there's a decent chance they'll own that distinction again come the start of the 2008-2009 campaign. That being the case, there's a strong possibility that some of the young talent on the Blazers' roster could be pulling a stint in the D-League next year, and when they do, they'll be enjoying everything that Boise, Idaho has to offer.

It was announced today that the Trail Blazers would again renew their relationship with the Idaho Stampede for the '08-'09 season. The one change being that Portland will share the Idaho affiliate with the Toronto Raptors rather than the Seattle SuperSonics, as was the case last year. The Raptors, by the way, ended up mining the highly useful Jamario Moon from the D-League.

Playing time is going to be at a premium this year with the addition of Greg Oden, a draft pick (or two) and possibly Rudy Fernandez, so a stable working relationship with the D-League is more important than ever. Luckily for the Blazers, Boise is relatively close and Stampede are one of the better teams in the D-League.

By the way, the SuperSonics new affiliate? The Tulsa 66ers. Probably not exactly what Sonics fans in Seattle would like to hear.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rudy says he's coming to America

I think most people were confident Spanish superstar Rudy Fernandez would join the Trail Blazers in the 2008-2009 season, and though there are still hurdles to overcome, one significant obstacle looks to be taken care of. Rudy held a press conference today in Spain where he announced his intention of leaving DKV Joventut to join up with the Trail Blazers.
Spain shooting guard Rudy Fernandez said he was leaving local side DKV Joventut to join the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.

"They have pushed hard for me to join them and have assured me I will be an important figure for them," Fernandez told a news conference.

"It wasn't an easy decision to take but it is the time for a new challenge after a fantastic year with Joventut."

Regardless of Fernandez's announcement, we won’t know for certain until at least July 1, which the earliest date that the Trail Blazers could sign him.

If you're one of those multi-lingual types, there's more information on Rudy's departure over at the ACB League website.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

06.05.08 Edition of the Trailblazers.com podcast

We had to push the podcast back a day, but I think you'll agree that it was well worth the wait. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge and I, Casey Holdahl, of Trailblazers.com, discuss the Ben Gordon trade rumor, the benefits of acquiring Chauncey Billups, what the Blazers should do with the 13th pick, Travis Outlaw's intelligence and a whole lot more. Give it a listen









Click here to download the podcast (13.2 MB).

Nate McMillan talks NBA Finals

In case, like me, you missed Nate McMillan discussing the Lakers v. Celtics matchup with Doug Gottlieb on ESPN Radio, fear not. Thanks to the folks at ESPN, you can listen to Coach McMillan break down the impending throwdown between Kobe, KG, the Zen Master and the Doc.









You can also download the audio by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Measuring the draftees

In case you missed it, Draft Express has the official measurables from the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp. I didn't notice anything too awful surprising, though Derek Rose looks much taller on television than 6'2.5" (with shoes!).

Anything jump out at your regarding your favorites for the 13th pick? DJ Augustin is tied for shortest guy in Orlando. My boy Bryce Taylor can really get up. His 41 inch max vert was tied for second among all those who participated. Kevin Love must have been happy with his vert, as he equaled Mike Beasley and Anthony Randolph, whom most would consider athletically superior.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The workouts are upon us

We've been waiting for the official word and now it's finally here. The workout schedule for draft prospects is as close to finalized as it's going to get. Here's the list of players from around the world who'll be making stops in Portland for pre-draft workouts and interviews.

June 3
Rodrigue Beaubois (France/PG) *underclassman
Rudy Mbemba (Congo/PG)
Mike Green (Butler/PG)

June 4
Giorgi Shermadini (Rep of Georgia/PF)
C.J. Giles (Oregon State/PF)

June 7
Sasha Kaun (Kansas/C)
Steven Hill (Arkansas/C)
Gary Forbes (UMASS/SG)
Stanley Burrell (Xavier/SG-PG)
Victor Claver (Spain/SF) *underclassman

June 9
Lester Hudson (Tenn-Martin SG-PG)
Jaycee Carroll (Utah State/SG)
J.J. Hickson (NC State/PF) *underclassman
James Gist (Maryland/PF)

June 10
Bryce Taylor (Oregon/SG)
JaJuan Smith (Tennessee/SG)
Marcus Dove (Oklahoma State/SF)
David Padgett (Louisville/C)
Darian Townes (Arkansas/PF-C)

June 12
Russell Westbrook (UCLA/PG)
Tywon Lawson (North Carolina/PG) *underclassman

June 15
Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga/PG) *underclassman
Bo McCalebb (New Orleans/PG)
Luc Louves (France/SF) *underclassman
Pat Calathes (St. Joseph’s/SF)

June 16
Davon Jefferson (USC/SF-PF)
Shawn James (Duquesne/PF)

June 17
Joe Alexander (West Virginia/PF-SF) *underclassman
Donte Greene (Syracuse/SF)
Marreese Speights (Florida/PF) *underclassman
Deron Washington (Virginia Tech/SF)

June 18
DJ Augustin (Texas/PG)

June 19
Robin Lopez (Stanford/C)
Javale McGee (Nevada/C)
Kosta Koufos (Ohio State/PF-C)
Malik Hairston (Oregon/SG)
Darnell Jackson (Kansas/PF)
Richard Hendrix (Alabama/PF) *underclassman

June 20
Luc Mbah a Moute (UCLA/SF) *underclassman
Will Daniels (Rhode Island/SF)

June 21
Brandon Rush (Kansas/SF-SG)
Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky/SG)
Mark Tyndale (Temple/SG)

June 22
Maarty Leunen (Oregon/PF)
Juan Palacios (Louisville/PF)

June 23
Darrell Arthur (Kansas/PF)
Anthony Randolph (LSU/PF-SF) *tentative

June 24
Nicolas Batum (France/SF)
Sonny Weems (Arkansas/SF-SG)
Marcellus Kemp (Nevada/SG)
Shan Foster (Vanderbilt/SG)

Players noted as “underclassman” currently have not signed with an agent and have until June 16th to withdraw from the draft.

So what do you think? Who do you like out of this group? Any notable names missing (I was surprised Chase Budinger and Chris Douglas-Roberts not on the list)? Which day do you think will have the biggest impact on who we take? Which day would you most like to be a fly on the wall?

Back to the future

A lot of people are talking about history in regards to the matchup between the Lakers and Celtics in the NBA Finals (by the way, why is the league waiting until Thursday to get this show started?). Personally, I care not for history. I'm looking toward the future, and the future is the Trail Blazers. But don't take my word for it. Instead, read what Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks of Portland's prospects.
The king is dead. Time to pick over the remains of the king.

Last time I sorted out the future of the Western Conference, it was Feb. 18, and Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber had all arrived with new West teams. (Oops: Forgot to add Pau Gasol as a newly-acquired guy, too. He’s doing all right.)

Since then… O’Neal and Kidd couldn’t help Phoenix and Dallas get out of the first round (which helped push Mike D’Antoni and Avery Johnson out the door), Webber couldn’t get through 11 games for the Warriors and the Lakers won and won.

And the defending champion Spurs just lost to LA in the Western Conference finals.

Now, the Spurs have been written off before, only to rise back up for another title run time and again.

I don’t think they have it in them this time. I think it’s over–four titles, lots of Tim Duncan greatness, always respect Gregg Popovich… But I think the Spurs are done for now and for a long time.

So this is as good a time as any to… Re-rank the Western Conference for the future:

[snip]

2. Portland Trail Blazers.

-Feb. 18 rank: 1. (Net loss -1.)

-Why it changed: They could be the New Spurs… and still not be good enough to knock off the Lakers for two or three years.

-Assets: Greg Oden 20, Brandon Roy 23, LaMarcus Aldridge 22, Martell Webster 21, Travis Outlaw 23, and they have the 13th pick in the June 26 draft.

-Possible problems: You don’t know about Oden’s knee and they’ve got to get a quality point guard.

-Potential solutions: Management has already put together a ton of talent and has the will to wheel and deal for more.

-New crystal ball: Some great playoff battles with Kobe are coming up. But who guards him?

As you can probably guess, Kawakami ranks the Lakers as the No. 1 team of the future. It's hard to argue considering Kobe is still the best player in the NBA and Gasol is a perfect fit for the Triangle. Time will be the true test though.

Kawakami has the Blazers pegged pretty well, though I don't think the concern about guarding Kobe is all that valid. You have to figure KB24 slows down a bit right as the Blazers really get things going, but even if that's not the case, you can't worry about Kobe. Kobe gets his. Nobody has an answer for Kobe when he's on. You try to slow him down as much as possible while making sure everyone else is locked down.

You hope that in two years, Greg Oden is better than Andrew Bynum, LaMarcus Aldridge is better than Pau Gasol, whoever is playing the point is at least as good as Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw improve enough to be in the same conversation as Lamar Odom, and Brandon Roy becomes an offensive and defensive force adequate enough to partially offset Kobe's play.

Does that get you four wins in a best of seven series against the Lake Show? It's hard to say, but I think the Blazers will have the best chance of any other team in the league.