Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Reason For the Offseason

The first thing Rudy Fernandez said to me when I arrived at his camp assuaged any concerns I had regarding how I might have been received by someone who, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know all that well.

“Welcome to my home,” he said, stretching out his arms in an attempt to present the landscape of Campanet as if it were a painting hanging in a museum.

But Rudy did not grow up in the small town of Campanet, the location of his youth camp. He spent his first twelve years in Palma, the largest city on the island of Mallorca, before moving to Barcelona to begin his professional basketball career with Joventut’s junior team. But to Rudy, home is more than the place where he lays his head at night. It’s a feeling determined more by the kinship of a people who share a common history than it is an address. And maybe most importantly, home is a place where he can finally get some respite.

“My family is here, my friends are here,” said Rudy. “I need to rest from basketball. No rest a lot because the camp is basketball, but be with my friends because in Portland, the first year, I stay in the USA. It was a big change for me, but right now I think I need to relax in my country with my food, with my friends. I think it’s very important.”

He couldn’t be more correct. Everyone was tired after the end of last season, but in regards to fatigue, no one had more to overcome than Rudy. Getting acclimated to the physical style of play, not to mention the schedule employed by the NBA, is tough for a rookie. So is leaving your family and friends for a foreign land. Denying yourself a midseason break so you can participate in All-Star weekend and playing an extra month or so worth of games so you can represent your country at the Olympics is difficult as well. And when you consider those singular circumstances as pieces of a whole season, it’s hard to imagine a more exhausting set of circumstances.

Which is why returning home after the end of the season was such a significant event for Rudy. Fans often lament that players don’t stick around to take in the wonders of an offseason in Oregon, but in many cases, such as Rudy’s, there’s good reason for that yearly exodus.

“I think it’s difficult the first year,” said Rudy. “Probably the people don’t see me in my house sometimes. I think all the time about my family when with the Portland Trail Blazers. I think it is important right now for me is to stay with my family. In Portland sometimes I stay with my friends, with my family, but not everyday. And this is difficult for me because I need the help of family, the help of friends.”

That shouldn’t be read as a declaration of discontent. Far from it. Rudy is quick to point out how satisfied he is with Portland, especially when it comes to the support of the fans in the Rose City and beyond, but the transition was understandably difficult for a man so family oriented and with such deep Iberian roots.

“Every day I think about Mallorca,” said Rudy, “I think about Barcelona. But my dream is to play in the NBA. You can see behind you, you can see in front of you. Right now my new goal is to play a lot of yesrs in the NBA. Sure I think of Mallorca, for sure I think about my friends, but right now I focus on my dream, I focus on my work. That’s playing basketball.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Camp Out, Workout

Rudy Fernandez isn't one those guys who uses his name to attract kids to a camp, only to show up for a few abbreviated appearances. He's working all the time. He's giving instruction and breaking up scuffles. He's doing his best to enforce peace and quiet at night, going so far as bunking down on a dormitory cot (while lowly bloggers stay at artisan hotels). He's throwing kids in the pool and conducting interviews with local politicians and posing for pictures with anyone who asks. This is el campo de Rudy Fernandez, whose namesake is dead set on giving these kids their money's worth.

But while Rudy is one heck of a camp counselor, he's also an NBA basketball player, and that means nary a day goes by when he's not working on his game. Playing a little pickup ball with a bunch of preteens can help work up a sweat, but it's not going to get you ready for the rigors of an 82-game season.

So that's why Rudy was in a stuffy one court gym with a rubber floor in Campanet today working out with assistant coach Kaleb Canales. For over an hour Rudy worked on a series of shooting drills designed to keep his skills sharp for the upcoming season. Pump fakes, one-dribble pullups, floaters in the lane, baseline shots from behind the backboard, jumpers off of screens, jumpers off dribble hand offs, three's from every part of the floor. Rudy, with the help of Coach Kaleb, pushed himself through the workout despite being in a gym with no ventilation (my guess would be the temperature was somewhere in the mid 90's).

I assumed Rudy would take a little time off afterward, but I saw him head back to where the kids were at as Coach Kaleb and I left for the hotel. That's dedication, both to his kids and the Trail Blazers.

Horseplay Is Permitted In Mallorca

Quite a bit of Rudy's camp is conducted in the pool. They spend a lot of time working on basketball skills, but it's well over 90 degrees here in Campanet, so frequent dunks in the pool are necessary and welcomed by all, including Mr. Fernandez.

As you can see in the picture, many of the rules we Americans are accustomed to when it comes to hanging out the municipal pool fly by the wayside here in Spain.

Off to a workout. More later today!

Rudy At Camp

Twenty four hours and one temporarily missing bag later, I am finally in Campanet, Spain for Rudy’s camp, or “campo” as they say here. As you can see, my grasp of Spanish grows by the minute. Que bueno, no?

All of the frustration of getting from Portland to Mallorca melted away as Coach Kaleb and I drove into Campanet. I can’t say for sure just what I was expecting, but I know it wasn’t this, and I say that in the best way possible. The city is like something out of a postcard. Narrow streets, old sun baked women in scarves waving from screenless windows, goats, sheep, centuries old olive groves, cobblestone streets. The whole old-world vibe. It’s not exactly the place you would expect an NBA player to conduct a camp, but that’s a testament to how much Rudy identifies with his homeland.

Life moves at a slower pace out here, which I suspect is one of the reasons Rudy has chosen to hold camp here. After doing nothing but playing basketball for almost a whole calendar year, it must be nice for Rudy to relax in a place where he’s almost completely anonymous.

That’s not to say the people here don’t know who he is. Far from it, but aside from the occasional handshake or friendly pat on the back, people let Rudy be. He sits by the side of the public pool like any other local. He eats what the campers eat and sleeps where the campers sleep. Here, he’s not Rudy Fernandez the NBA player. He’s just plain old Rudy.

You can see the difference in his appearance. He seems looser, freer. He speaks freely with anyone who comes within earshot. He’s animated as he tells stories and jokes. And he’s having a great time doing it.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Of Legroom, Luis And Luggage

(This is Luis, who, as far as I know, is still due a lunch break)

Seventeen hours into my western European barnstorming tour and I’ve already experienced the highs and lows of international travel.

The trip started out better than I could have expected. The itinerary is Portland to Philadelphia to Madrid to Mallorca, with plenty of time between stops to transfer. I arrived at PDX a little later than intended, but with plenty of time to take care of all the necessary tasks associated with air travel. When you travel as much as I do, you learn the paranoia which drives people to arrive in upwards of two hours before their departure time, is completely unwarranted. You should leave a cushion, but an hour is plenty, at least that’s what I’ve found.

And I know I’m not alone in this opinion, as when I arrived in line I recognized a familiar face. Kaleb Canales, one of our assistant coaches, was pushing a luggage cart through the same line. It was at this time that I discovered Kaleb was also going to Mallorca to put Rudy through a week’s worth of workouts. This was unexpected, but incredibly exciting, as not only is Kaleb an all-around great guy who I look forward to hanging out with over the next four days, but he also speaks fluent Spanish. Granted, they primarily speak Catalan in Mallorca, but Spanish is a lot closer to that dialect than English.

So I say goodbye to my girlfriend and shuffle off through security. There’s still about 40 minutes until the flight to Philadelphia, so I decided to order a breakfast sandwich from one of the delis in the concourse. I figure I’ve still got plenty of time to spare, but that's assuming the woman in the kitchen, who I could clearly see from the dinning area, would actually commence cooking food.

My mistake.

Said cook proceeds to strike up conversation with any and anyone passing by, be they interested or not, while I and three other customers wait patiently for simple orders to be prepared. I wait, and wait, and pace, and wait, and check the time and wait some more. With 10 minutes left before my flight is scheduled to depart, I inform the fellow at the counter that, as much as I enjoy fried egg sandwiches, I can’t justify missing my flight for one. I tell him to enjoy my breakfast and walk down the concourse with nothing but a Snapple, which I purchased for the sole purpose of washing down the sandwich. As I’m hurry away, I wonder if I’m allowed to expense meals I don’t ever get a chance to eat.

Side bar: Lately I seem to be on a streak where all of my flights are at the last possible gate in the terminal. This happened numerous times during my trips to and from Houston during the playoffs, and it’s happened again today, twice. End sidebar.

The flight is scheduled to depart from the last gate in terminal. I make it in time, thanks in part to a large tour group that is taking a bit of extra time to work through the line. I notice that Kaleb is sitting at the gate waiting for everyone else to board before doing so himself. This is another trick that those who travel regularly eventually learn: there’s no reason to wait in line at the gate. You’re going to be sitting in that seat for the next however many hours, so what’s the rush to plop down with expediency? You’ve got an assigned seat and they’re not going to leave without you, so chillax for Pete’s sake.

As far as seats on a plane go, I’ve hit the jackpot on the first flight. Window seat, exit row with no one sitting in the seat next to mine. That’s mad legroom, on a cross-country flight no less. And as it turns out, extra legroom really takes the sting out of forgoing an already purchased breakfast sandwich.

The flight to Philly is easily the most comfortable trip I’ve ever taken on a commercial airline. I read, take a nap, read some more, enjoy a couple cups of ginger ale, and before I know it, I’m in the City Of Brotherly Love, or at least in the airport which serves the City of Brotherly Love.

Kaleb and I de-board. We’ve got different itineraries from Philly, as he’s connecting through Barcelona. I find it somewhat curious that we’d be taking different routes but pay it little mind. Since we’ve both got a little more than an hour before our flights we decide to grab a bit to eat.

Interesting fact about Kaleb: The guy loves Chick-fil-a. Loves it. I eaten alone twice with Kaleb, once in Houston and once today at the Philadelphia airport, and both times we’ve dined at Chick-fil-a. And both times Kaleb ordered and gleefully consumed quantities of chicken sufficient to feed two grown men. I don’t know if the fact that we don’t have Chick-fil-a in Oregon which compels Kaleb to gorge on it whenever he gets the chance or if that’s just how much chicken it takes to fill the guy up, but either way, the man can down some fried bird.

We discuss our plans to meet up at the airport in Mallorca before heading to our respective flights for destinations in Spain. My flight from Madrid to Mallorca is scheduled to get in about an hour before Kaleb’s, but I figure I’ll wait for him to arrive so we can head to Rudy’s camp together. Best laid plans.

While haggling at the ticket counter over whether or not I paid extra for a window seat (which I did), I overhear some discussion regarding one of the cardinal sins as it pertains to the airport, that of leaving a bag unattended. A guy who definitely works for the airline is talking to someone at the counter about a bag, which was seemingly without owner and had since disappeared. Evidently the police had been called, and I heard mention of a bomb-sniffing dog, but again, I paid it little mind. I boarded the plane after sorting out with window seat situation.

But the plane sits on the tarmac. Supposedly the pilot is waiting for some maintenance to be completed, but I notice numerous airline officials are walking through the plane opening up all of the overhead compartments. It’s at this point that I figure they’re looking for the unattended bag. I guess maybe I should worry about these sort of things, but I don’t. We wait for about 45 minutes; the pilot comes on the PA again, swearing he’s just waiting for paperwork to be delivered. I figure this is a cock and bull story to keep people from freaking out, but maybe that’s just my imagination. Then again, you don’t want to tell a plane full of people who are about to fly over the Atlantic that there may be suspicious luggage on board.

Regardless, the flight goes off without a hitch. I have the chicken dish, watch Gran Torino, an episode of Flight Of The Concords and two episodes of Entourage before getting some shuteye. I awake as they’re handing out something that resembles cheese Danish for breakfast, and about an hour later we’re on the ground in Madrid.

I wasn’t able to get my boarding pass in Portland for the flight from Madrid to Mallorca. I was told this was no big deal, as all I would have to do is go to the Spanair ticket counter, show my documents and collect my boarding pass. I only had about an hour between flights, but I was assured it would be plenty of time.

And it was, but the only problem is that Spanair flight 5538 from Madrid to Mallorca doesn’t exist. The man at the Spanair counter, Luis, is on the phone as I walk up to the desk. He’s agitated. I don’t know much Spanish, but I hear the word “comida” and can tell he’s pissed, so I figure he’s probably due for a lunch break which I surmise by the end of the call, isn’t coming. I show him my travel itinerary, which he goes over for a few minutes before informing me that my flight is actually on AirEuropa, a few gates down the line. I set off for AirEuropa’s gate with the clock ticking.

There is a 10:15 flight to Mallorca on AirEuropa, but I ain’t getting on it. They don’t know who I am, don’t have a seat for me, and are quite perplexed why Luis would direct me to their airline when my documentation clearly states my flight is booked on Spanair. At this point it’s becoming quite clear that something is amiss.

So I head back to Luis with more determination. I explain that, while AirEuropa might indeed have a 10:15 to Mallorca, it’s not my flight. Luis is more focused this time around. He puts in my name again, nothing. Passport number, nothing. Rechecks the flight number, nothing. I don’t exist, at least not according to Spanair. Luckily for me, my luggage does.

My luggage has a number. It can be tracked, and in this instance, it’s proof that I am supposed to be on my way from Madrid to Mallorca on Spanair. I’m just along for the ride; my black suitcase is now calling the shots. I’m the accessory to its travel plans.

Luis, hungry as he is, spends another 15 minutes on the phone sorting things out. As it happens, my connecting flight, while paid for, was never booked by the airline. I won’t say which airline dropped the ball, but suffice to say, someone will be listening to the agitated and possibly curse-filled rantings of yours truly before the day is done.

So now it’s noon in Spain, 2:58 AM in Portland, and I’m waiting for the 1:30 Spanair to Mallorca. It could have turned out a lot worse, all things considered, but then again, I’m not yet on that plane.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Transcript: KP, McMillan Address The Media

The following is a transcript of Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan's remarks to the media after the 2009 NBA Draft. The podcast of this interview is available here.

Kevin Pritchard: It’s getting a little busier around here! Thanks for coming out. We feel really good about what we did today, and a lot of credit goes to Tom (Penn), Chad (Buchanan), Mike (Born), but specifically to Jason Fillipi, our international scout. Doc (Martin) Joe Cronin - you know, they really get us to this point and I’m really proud because sometimes at the draft, it’s not just about what happens in the draft, it’s your preparation before. We felt like going in today, we had a good handle on some things.

We always have a pre-dinner the night before, and Mr. Allen comes in, Nate, myself, and the things we thought were going to happen happened today, which is a little unusual. Usually, there’s a little more audible-calling as we call it. Very happy with the draft.

Q: How did the pick for Victor Claver come about?

Pritchard: Victor Claver is a guy we’ve targeted for a long time. 6-10, athletic swing guy, can really shoot it. Really skilled. High talent guy. I really thought that he had a chance to go pretty high in this draft and as we were looking at it, him falling back to where we were at we were really happy to get him.

Overall, with Pendergraph and Cunningham, four year college players, guys that know how to play, but also bring a whole lot of toughness. As we saw in the playoffs last year, you’ve got to have some toughness. I would expect those guys battling for minutes. Now, whether they can crack it, I don’t know, but they’ve been through the wars in college, successful programs, I think that they can help us. And then, Patty Mills, Nate and I talked a little bit about it, talked a lot about it, his experience in the Olympics with the Australian team was a factor in us drafting him. He’s played against the best, he’s a tough kid. He’s really quick north and south and he can shoot it, so he’s got a chance for the 55th pick, he’s got a chance in our league.

Q: What is the plan for Claver in regards to coming to the NBA?

Pritchard: I expect Victor to stay overseas for a couple of years. I don’t want to put a timetable on it, what I will tell you is that he’s going to improve. We hope that he makes the Spanish national team. He was the last cut the previous year going into the Olympics. We think that experience will be great for him. You know, he’s 6-10, he can shoot it. We like size. We think that makes a difference in our league. He’s athletic. In a couple of years we hope to have him over.

Q: Do you expect the other draftees to make the team this season?

Pritchard: On Pendergraph and Cunningham, I certainly do (expect them in camp) and it’s gonna be – we were just talking about practices. Pendergraph and Cunningham, in our workout here, they were both at the same workout along with a couple of other kids. It was war. It was at the tail end of the workouts, and those guys get tired during those times, it was all-out war. We need to bring that to our team, we need to bring that toughness. Guys that aren’t scared to play, they’re not scared to play in big games, they’ve been part of successful programs. Then Patty Mills, he’s got a chance. He does have an international passport, we hope to have him on the summer league team. Then we will see.

Q: How have the events during the draft set you up for free agency?

Pritchard: We’re going to be active in free agency, no doubt about it. We want to add the right pieces, not just be out there. We’ve talked a lot about it, we’re going to target some guys, we’re going to talk to people and we’re going to try to help our team with free agents, but we do feel that we’ve helped ourselves today in the draft.

Nate does a great job of developing, but with this group of draftees – Victor going overseas, Pendergraph and Cunningham having four years of college experience, there’s not that teaching curve. Those guys can step in and contribute. Now whether they do, we don’t know, but they certainly have a chance.

Q: Talk about trading Sergio Rodriguez.

Pritchard: First of all, Sergio is a great kid and we appreciate everything he has done. He’s been an amazing part of this turnaround, so I want to compliment him and honor that. That’s the biggest thing. But I felt like, and we all felt like, it was Sergio’s time. He struggled with his role. I don’t think there’s a doubt about that. We never faulted Sergio for wanting to play more, we want guys to play. We had a lot of conversations, Nate and I had conversations with him at the end of the year. It was just his time.

Q: Does shedding some salary in this draft help when it comes to free agency?

Pritchard: It helps, especially this summer when you don’t know where the cap will come in. It could come in lower, it could come in the same, it could come in higher. We don’t know is my point. We want that flexibility for sure.

Q: What is the status of Claver’s buyout?

Pritchard: It’s significant, but it also decreases. As he plays overseas, he’ll have a better opportunity to come over. I can’t really say right now, but we expect him to be over in a couple of years. I don’t want to put a time frame on when he comes. That’s not what we like to do. He won’t play in the summer (league). He’s going to be trying to probably play in the European Championships this summer.

Q: Nate, talk about Sergio’s situation

Nate McMillan: The one thing, he wanted a larger role. I thought he did some good things for us. I tried to put him in a situation where he could help us. And I thought he did some good things for us. When he came in, he backed up Blake. We wanted a spread offense and allow him to create. I thought he did that when Blake was out. He did a nice job of filling in that starting role, but he wanted a larger role on this team and it just wasn’t possible. He talked about wanting to be moved and having an opportunity to have a larger role. I thought he did some good things for us, now Bayless will slot into that position and we’ll look to give him a ton of minutes at the point guard position in summer league and develop him and get him ready for this season.

Q: Did you try to move up farther in the draft?

Pritchard: Anytime you make a trade and you’re looking to move up, you have to give away, or give up pieces. We’ve worked so hard to get where we’re at and we don’t feel like that’s the right thing to do. If there’s a good one available, we’d have done it. We have no problem picking. We like adding talent, but we like this team. This team, although being young, they did an unbelievable job. They won 54 games, they can still grow and now we have some cap space. It wasn’t as important as it has been in the past to be aggressive to move up, but we moved up because Victor was being talked about in that area. If we see a player we’re not afraid to do it, we did it with Victor and we did it with Jeff and Cunningham.

We wanted Victor. We think very highly of Victor. He fits into that Rudy, Nicolas, best European player we could get at that time. Jason Fillipi has done an amazing job of identifying talent over there. Those guys seem to be more ready than you think too. He’s young, but he has a very high ceiling.

Q: Where you surprised Mills was still available that late in the second round?

Pritchard: We didn’t think Mills would be there at 55. It got to be in the late 30s and 40s and he was pretty high on our board and we were really hoping he would get there because as we go through our process, he was the highest watermark for us. We feel pretty lucky to get him.

I don’t want to get too excited about the 55th pick in the draft, but it’s really not where you get picked, it’s how you feel about a kid. This kid is going to come in and compete. We know that. He’s competed at an international level; he had success at the Olympics. He broke his hand and that probably hurt him in the draft. Nate knows him as well as anybody. Nate had a lot of input on him.

Q: Nate, you must be familiar with Pendergraph considering he played with your son at ASU.

McMillan: I think Kevin and Mike and Chad and our scouting team do a great job. They prepare themselves for any scenario possible. As Kevin mentioned, last night we went into our meeting and we had guys that we targeted that we wanted in this draft and it pretty much unfolded the way that it would for us. Pendergraph was a big guy that was available in the second round that filled a need. I have seen him. He played with my son. I think he’s a solid player. I think he’ll be a guy that will come in and work to get out on the floor. He’s a big body that can play the 4 position and, as Kevin mentioned, has been in school for four years. This draft was about taking the best talent at the position we were drafting in, and I felt like we did that. I felt like our guys were ready again this year, and what we set out to do.

Q: Talk about how satisfied you are with the results of the draft.

McMillan: I think as far as this draft and what we got out of the draft, I think we got some very tough guys in Cunningham and Pendergraph. Both of those guys, as Kevin mentioned, worked out with Hansbrough. It was our best workout of the summer when they came in. Dante is a guy that can play the three and the four, very physical at that position. Pendergraph at the 4 position, doesn’t mind giving up his body, banging and getting on the boards. I like what we did today.

Q: Have you decided who you’re going to target in free agency?

Pritchard: Obviously, we can’t comment specifically on players. We’re going to talk to a lot of people. We’re one of multiple teams with cap space, and were a desired team now because of that, but also because free agents want to play with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus, Oden, Blake, Przybilla. We’re starting to become a good destination for free agents. If the right situation is there for both sides, we’ll pull the trigger.

Q: Now that Sergio is gone, Bayless slides into the backup point guard position?

McMillan: That’s the way we’re going for right now. Those are the two guys at the guard position.

Q: Are you worried at all about Claver’s injuries?

Pritchard: The one thing we’ve always been very lucky with, Dr. Roberts and Dr. Reis, our two team doctors have been spot on everything, including our own guys and evaluating the rest of the league. We feel very comfortable with that.

Q: Where you surprised by the way the draft played out? Did it go the way you expected?

Pritchard: There’s always surprises in every draft. I guess what I was trying to say is that we targeted guys and we got the guys we were looking for. We were active we got to where we need to go and we got those guys.

Q: Talk about some of the trades for veterans that have taken place over the last few days.

Pritchard: It’s an arms race. It always is an arms race. It feels like now that it’s moved a little to the East. Hopefully it continues that way. But we know what we have, we know that we need to make some improvements, but we know our guys internally have to improve. We’ll look to improve our team. We’re not afraid to do that. We’ll sit down this summer, be active in those talks and also in free agency.

Q: Nate, What do you think about the Shaq trade?

McMillan: Good. Get him to the East. I was happy about that. It’s a good move.

Q: Are you contemplating any trades?

Pritchard: There’s nothing. We have our guys. That doesn’t mean something can’t happen in the future, but there’s not going to be a major surprise right now.

Q: Can you start targeting free agents before you know what the salary cap is going to be set at?

Pritchard: Well, What you can do is start talking to free agents on the first. The moratorium begins on the 7th and you can sign guys on the 8th so … no, it’s too tough. You gotta know what that number is first before you know what you can offer free agents.

Q: Nate, what are your thoughts on Claver?

McMillan: He worked out last year. On tape, I’ve seen him. Our guys, again, I think they’ve done a great job over the years, you just learn to trust their feel on guys. They were really high on him, so I really feel good about him.

Pritchard: You can tell that too. Nate’s first draft, I think he asked 5 million questions. He’s down to about 2 million. I really have to give credit to Jason Filippi. He’s finding these Euro gems. We feel great about it. We feel we have a high talented kid in Claver and we feel we got some toughness.

Q: Do you integrate advanced statistics in your talent evaluation or is it more of a decision based on scouting?

Pritchard: I would say it’s a blend. A lot of teams are using it more and more. Everybody feels like they have a secret sauce, so it’s more important. It’s not the whole thing. It is a part of the process and what it allows you to do is identify players you need to look deeper at, or you need to eliminate. It’s part of the process.

Q: This wasn’t as busy a night trade wise as we’re used to seeing over the last few years.

Pritchard: You know what’s funny is we have an owner who is ready to go. Combine that with my eagerness to do things, sometimes it’s great; sometimes it needs to be controlled a little bit. That’s where Tom, Nate, the rest of our scouts control us a little bit. We’re not afraid if we see a guy out there, If Mr. Allen feels like it’s the right thing, he’s willing to go for it. That is as unique as it gets. In this cost-cutting time, he’s willing to figure out how to make this team better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

06.24.09 Trailblazers.com Podcast

The draft is almost exactly a day away and Kevin Pritchard has already pulled off his first trade, meaning we might be in for quite a show over the next 24 hours. But we've already got a show for you, or to be more specific, a podcast. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge.com and I, Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com record a day early in anticipation of the 2009 NBA Draft.

As you might expect, this week's show is draft heavy. We each give our predictions as to what we expect will happen tomorrow (fyi: no one pegged the Dallas pick trade), who might be a Trail Blazer before the weekend, whether Richard Jefferson makes the Spurs a contender, if trading up for a point guard makes sense, discuss Twitter pros and cons, find out what Dave eats for breakfast and briefly discuss my upcoming trip to Europe. Dig that!

Download the podcast (54.9 MB)

(And before you ask, Courtside didn't air on Monday due to the draft on Thursday, so that's why there's no podcast.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buchanan Pre-Draft Quotes: June 23

The Trail Blazers held their final pre-draft workout Tuesday at the practice featuring Nando De Colo (Cholet, France), Paul Delaney (Alabama-Birmingham), Tywon Lawson (North Carolina), Taylor Griffin (Oklahoma) and Goran Suton (Michigan State). Three guards and two forwards, all of whom are probably about sick of running three-man weave and defensive recovery drills. But that's life when you're trying to make it in the pros.

And while the players are tired, at least they get to take a breather. Same can't be said for the front office staff, who have their work cut out for them over the course of the next 48 hours. Now the debates and the bartering really begin, and in this draft, with seemingly no consensus after the first pick, anything can happen.

"I feel like this draft is like an audible," said Kevin Pritchard. "You have to be prepared for everything. You’ve got to be thinking on your feet, ready for anything. So we’ll prepare and do the best we can do look at every option."

Those options run from standing pat with the No. 24 pick to trading completely out of the draft. Everything is on the table at this point, which makes the task of deciphering what Pritchard characterized today as the "truly real" all the more important.

So even though the workouts have now concluded, the real work has only just begun.

"You just got to be prepared for anything that comes your way up until when you’re on the clock to draft," said Chad Buchanan. "It’s our job to be prepared for every possible scenario and that’s what we’re trying to do right now."

So for the skinny on each players workout we turn one final time to Buchanan, Trail Blazers Director of College Scouting.

Nando De Colo, 6-5, Guard, Cholet Basket (France)
Buchanan: "Creative kind of combo guard. Played a lot off the ball with Cholet over in France. Was a teammate of Rodrigue Beaubois. Saw him over in the Eurocamp, Mike, Jason and I did and Coach Bayno. Very creative. He’s got some flair to his game. He’s got good size. Probably going to have to be a point at our level. He needs to get stronger, but he’s got a really good feel for the game and can make some plays for other people around him, which is appealing, especially for a guy his size.

"I think he gets drafted. I don’t know, depending on what you want from him, if you feel like he’s ready or not. I would say physically he’s probably not quite ready, but basketball feel, IQ, skill level, he’s probably pretty close. It’s just going to depend on what you want from him. If you’ve got a spot for him maybe you consider bringing him over. But most teams would probably leave him overseas, if I had to guess."

Paul Delaney, 6-2, Guard, University of Alabama-Birmingham
Buchanan: "Paul had a rough trip getting here. He had an emergency landing last night in Montana in the middle of the night last night, so he ended up getting to his hotel after 3 AM. He’s coming off an injury too.

"Great on-ball defender. He’s got good length. Plays with a lot of emotion and passion. Offensively is the area of his game where he’s going to have to sharpen up if he’s ever going to play in this league. But he could guard a lot of players in our league right now today with his feet and his length and his toughness. He’s got to sharpen up himself on the other end."

Taylor Griffin, 6-7, Forward, Oklahoma
Buchanan: "Very physical, as you can see. Powerful, explosive athlete. He’s got a good feel for the game. He knows what he is as a player, which you like and respect from a kid. That’s the sign of a guy who has some good basketball IQ. Defends, plays physical, plays winning basketball. A little undersized height-wise, but he’s got some toughness and grit to him that’s pretty admirable.

"He’s got to be a 4 because I don’t think he’s got small forward ball skills and shooting the ball from any sort of range, he’ll have to improve that if he’s going to move away from the power forward spot."

Ty Lawson, 5-11, Guard, North Carolina
Buchanan: "Obviously he’s got great speed. He’s got some physicality despite being kind of undersized height-wise. Obviously had a tremendous season. He’s improved his shooting, improved his decision-making, really matured as a player over the last year. And it shows out here in setting like this. Definitely an NBA player for sure.

"I think he went back for the right reasons. He knew he had some areas of his game he wanted to shore up and I think he did that. Definitely a good move for him.

"All these point guards in the first round are a little different in their own little way. He’s got as much speed, if not more speed, north/south than any of the other point guards. That’s kind of what his niche is amongst those point guards. Improved shooter, decent defender. I think for me his speed, if you want to play fast, he’s going to be pretty effective in our league."

Goran Suton, 6-10, Forward, Michigan State
Buchanan: "Really likable kid; loves to play. You can tell he loves to play. He’s got typical European power forward game: he faces up, can shoot it, can really pass. He’s got a little bit of offense around the hole. Very below average athlete for his position in the NBA, but basketball IQ and smarts get him onto a floor probably someday. Whether it’s our level? Probably a high-league Euro level for sure.

"But definitely comes from a great program, a great coach obviously. He’s had a lot of success. Four-year guy. Those guys usually have a chance. I would think that he probably has a good shot of being picked somewhere in the second round."

What Do We Need?

With the draft only a few days away, members of the media are starting to solidify their opinions on what the Trail Blazers should do in the draft and beyond. I don't know if you, as intelligent Blazers fans, have come up with what you feel is Kevin Pritchard's best course of action, but maybe the ideas of these three writers will help you better understand your own opinions.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com
Team Needs: Point guard, small forward

The Skinny: The Blazers come into the summer still searching for their point guard of the future. Steve Blake is good. Sergio Rodriguez is OK. Last year's lottery pick, Jerryd Bayless, might be able to play the point someday. But they really lack that guy who can pull everything together.

The team also could use more help at the 3. Travis Outlaw is still getting better and Martell Webster is coming back from injury. But if the Blazers could land a solid 3 who could also play some 4, I think they'd grab him.
I'm a bit perplexed by the second part. Nicolas Batum is the "help" at the 3 and Travis Outlaw is a solid 3 who can play some 4. There are legitimate arguments to be made regarding our situation at small forward, but I don't think Ford's qualify.

Kyle Nelson, Draft Express
There are some question marks, however, most notably in terms of their perimeter depth, as they lack a set rotation at the point guard and small forward positions, and could still stand to get tougher in the post. Brandon Roy desperately needs some help on the perimeter, as he is the focal point of the Blazers offense and was exposed at times by opposing defenses who took advantage of how heavy a role he’s forced to shoulder in one on one situations at the end of games.
If Webster gets healthy and Batum gets a year older, both of which are solid assumptions, depth at the 3 is squared away.

Now perimeter defense? That's another story.

Jason Fleming, HoopsWorld
Immediate Needs in the Draft
Since we don't know yet what General Manager Kevin Pritchard is going to pull off, let's assume Portland keeps the picks. Can they address a reserve big man, perhaps another swing scorer/defender, and another center?

The only player that looks remotely like a fit at #24 is Taj Gibson from USC – all the other top big men are off the board by then and none of the remaining scorers look like they could crack the rotation. When you make the commitment to a first-round pick, you better hope he can be in the group that gets regular run, otherwise why bother?


Immediate Needs in Free Agency
There are two places Portland could address in free agency: power forward (reserve) and point guard. Why say "could"? Because this writer thinks you need to be patient and let Jerryd Bayless grow. There has been no indication Portland is willing to move him, so if they bring in someone like Andre Miller (who is reportedly tops on their free agent wish list), what does that mean? Miller will likely command at least a three-year contract at decent money and Bayless not only won't be content to sit back and wait, his growth will be stunted.
Jason takes a different approach to the "What do they need?" argument, which, in my opinion, does a better job of addressing the reality of the situation. That said, whoever gets picked at No. 24 doesn't seem likely to end up a Trail Blazer. And I've started to lose count of all the point guards KP is supposedly targeting.

But back to you. I'd really like to know what it is you think the Trail Blazers should do throughout the course of the offseason, starting with Thursday's draft. Trade up? Trade out? Save cash for free agency? Go the trade route? Plenty of options, so let's hear 'em.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Buchanan Pre-Draft Quotes: June 19

The Trail Blazers held another workout today at the practice facility to put an end to the week. They're scheduled to hold two more workouts, one on Monday and the other on Tuesday, before going into draft lockdown mode. The end of pre-draft workouts are definitely near.

Nate McMillan, who has been on hand for nearly every workout, has been tight-lipped in regards to his opinions individual players, but he did talk a bit today about what they're trying to accomplish when deciding how the workout will play out.

"We try to put them situations to get a read, a feel for what they know," said McMillan. "We don’t tell them a lot to start off with. We want to see what they know so we just put them in different situations and see what they do out there, see how much they know as far as a pin down, a pick and roll, how they defend it, how they use the screen."

Coach McMillan wouldn't say how well today's players adapted to those situations, but at least you now know what he's looking for should you ever get an opportunity to try out for a roster spot.

Today's workout featured A.J. Abrams (Texas), Jimmy Baron (Rhode Island), Michael Bramos (Miami-Ohio), Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga), Bamba Fall (Southern Methodist) and Ahmad Nivins (Saint Joseph’s). And for more information on how they did, we once again turn to resident expert Chad Buchanan, who serves as Director of College Scouting for the team.

A.J. Abrams, 5-11, Guard, Texas

Buchanan: "Obviously a high-level college program, great coach. Great catch and shoot kid. A little small, as you can see. He’s played all off the ball in college; he’ll have to convert himself to a point guard at our level. Thought he was OK today. Probably second round to undrafted."

Jimmy Baron, 6-3, Guard, Rhode Island

Buchanan: "About as good a shooter as you’re going to see in the college game. He’s got some limitations but you give him an open look and he’s going to bury a lot of shots for you. Coach’s son, so he comes from a good pedigree, understands the game. Has good college stats. He’s got a chance just because he can shoot it."

Michael Bramos, 6-6, Guard, Miami (Ohio)

Buchanan: "High basketball IQ. Tough kid. He’s a gritty, kind of undersized power forward at the college level but has some perimeter skills. I think he can be a three. He’s got some limitations with the ball a little bit and laterally, but his smarts and his toughness. I think he’ll end up on a summer league roster if he goes undrafted."

Bamba Fall, 7-1, Forward, Southern Methodist

Buchanan: "Long, lean, raw. We saw him, it’s been about five years ago when we first saw him. He hasn’t filled out physically a ton, but he’s got length and he can block shots. His feel for the game is still kind of a work in progress. But he measured out over 7-1. His best trait is his length right now, but skill wise he’s got a ways to go."

Ahmad Nivins, 6-9, Forward, St. Joseph's

Buchanan: "Good size. He’ll bang, plays hard, like his motor. Can shoot it a little bit. Probably a second round type kid. I think somebody would take a chance on him in the second round. Really nice kid, like his high character. He has a chance to maybe be a backup in our league someday."

Jeremy Pargo, 6-2, Guard, Gonzaga

Buchanan: "Powerful little guard. Great personality. He’s a leader, loves to play. You can tell his vibe raises the level of everybody in the gym. He’s got to sharpen up in some areas to be an NBA point guard. He’s getting better at defending the ball. I can tell just from the progress he’s made from our first workout to today. He’s done a bunch of workouts , he told us, so you can see that he’s progressed a little bit in his on ball defense just in the last month. I would think somebody might take a chance on him in the second round. Really like him as a kid, though."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

06.18.09 Trailblazers.com Podcast (And Courtside Podcasts)

Just a week away from the draft, so as you might expect, we go pretty heavy on that topic in this week's podcast. Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge.com and I, Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com once again deliver almost an hour of talk-talk to your ears. Oh, and Jeff Pendergraph (pictured) approves.

Aside from the draft, we discuss Brandon Roy's offseason, Martell Webster's foot, the ever-interesting small forward situation, whether the Lakers would have won a championship with LeBron instead of Kobe, Dave's contract negotiations with Ben Golliver and a name change for Gavin's morning show. It sounds meandering, but I swear it all comes together.

Download the podcast (52 MB)

If that hour of audio isn't enough, check out this week's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside with Mike Rice, Antonio Harvey and Jay Allen. Guests this week include Kevin Pritchard, John Hollinger and Chris Monter.

Download hour one of Trail Blazers Courtside

Download hour two of Trail Blazers Courtside

June 19 Pre-Draft Workout Schedule

The beat goes on down at the practice facility in Tualatin with another round of pre-draft workouts this Friday. More point guards and a few forwards, which seems to be the way this draft is shaking out. The participants are ...

A.J. Abrams, Guard (Texas); Jimmy Baron, Guard (Rhode Island); Michael Bramos, Guard (Miami-Ohio); Jeremy Pargo, Guard (Gonzaga); Bamba Fall, Forward (Southern Methodist); Ahmad Nivins, Forward (Saint Joseph’s)

We'll have coverage from the workouts asap on Friday, so be on the lookout for that. We'll also have video from yesterday's workout sometime today, so keep you're eyes peeled.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pritchard And Buchanan Pre-Draft Quotes: June 17

It should come as no surprise that much of the interest from the media today revolved around Tyler Hansbrough's workout. Being a National Champion and the National Player of the Year will do that. But Kevin Pritchard and the rest of the staff in attendance today in Tualatin wanted to make sure everyone knew that the workout was hardly a one-man show.

"You like (Hansbrough) and he would fit us, but there was a lot of guys out there that would fit us," said Pritchard. "We had a great workout today. I think the difference in today than what we’ve had in the past is when you’re looking at lottery picks, potentially, it’s all on potential. Today was legitimate NBA guys who could be put on the floor. Maybe not have a higher ceiling as some of the other ones, but definitely an NBA-caliber workout today."

The consensus seemed to be that the age and maturity of players workout today made for a better run than we've seen in previous workouts. Pritchard went so far as to call it a "workout of men." All of the participants aside from Derrick Brown played four years of college ball, which seems to be a rarity these days.

"You look at Jeff (Pendergraph) and Dante (Cunningham) and Tyler, those guys are physically ready to play in an NBA game," said Chad Buchanan. "All three of those guys, all four year guys, which makes a difference obviously in the maturity both physically and in their skill sets. It was a great group today. I thought from top to bottom it was about the best workout that we’ve had come through here."

So for more on today's workouts, we once again look to the opinions of Pritchard and Buchanan.

Derrick Brown, 6-8, Forward, Xavier

Buchanan: "He’s gotten stronger over his career at Xavier. He’s defiantly drafted. I’m not sure quite where yet."

Pritchard: "Derek was really good today. He can shoot it. He spreads the floor. Has a little bit of Travis Outlaw in him because he can put it down and he creates mismatches because of his size. He was terrific today."

Darren Collison, 6-0, Guard, UCLA

Buchanan: "This kid is an NBA player. Thought he was very good today. He’s got great command of the ball. Very poised, makes good decisions. Shoots a really soft ball. Got good quicks, handles it. He’s a pretty complete player.

"I think he’s getting there (defensively). He’s got the feet to do it. I wouldn’t call him a great defender at this point but I think he can be. He was asked to do so much offensively. That can kind of take away a kids mindset of wanting to guard people. But he’s going to be fine guarding our league."

Pritchard: "Darren Collison is about as tough as they get. He was feisty, he was tough. He was setting big screens and he competed out there with the big boys today too."

Dante Cunningham, 6-8, Forward, Villanova

Buchanan: "Just a sold role guy. He’s physical and can shoot a little bit. Tough kid. Comes from a great coach, great program. Very solid player."

Justin Dentmon, 5-11, Guard, Washington

Buchanan: "We had a guy cancel on us and we brought in Justin to replace him and I thought Justin held his own today. He’s quick. He can match up a little bit with Darren’s quickness. He’s obviously small. Needs to get a little better with the ball, I think. Guys that little have to have a special trait."

Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, Forward, North Carolina

Buchanan: "He is what he is. You see him at Carolina, you see him in the gym, you meet him, he’s exactly what you think. Great kid. We really like him as a kid. He’s blue-collar, he’s going to come in and play his butt off. He’s not going to say a word. He’s going to play the right way.

"He’s improved his skill set over the four years at Carolina. He’s stepping out and shooting it a little bit now. His body looks great. He’s going to come in and he’s going to impact NBA games just because of how hard he plays. He’s a low risk guys because you know he can help you. He’s probably not a starter but he can come in off your bench and give you some energy, some toughness. 82 games, he’s going to play 100 percent 82 games. He doesn’t know any other way to play."

Pritchard: "The thing about Tyler is he comes in for a workout, you already know what you’re going to get before he walks into the building, right? He’s high intensity, he’s a tough kid, he’s won at a high level. There’s a lot of teams that are going to be interested in him."

Jeff Pendergraph, 6-9, Forward, Arizona State

Buchanan: "He’s got good size. He knows what he is as a player. You know he’s not going to give you a ton of offense but he’s going to play the right way, he’s going to set screens, he’s going to finish easy plays that more talented guys create for him. He’s going to play good position defense. Really an intelligent kid. Been well coached. He doesn’t have star potential but I think you can put him on an NBA floor."

Pritchard: "He shot the ball really well during shooting drills. He’s going to be a good defender in our league. He’s a great runner. If you’re going to run he’s going to really look good."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pritchard, Buchanan Pre-Draft Quotes: June 16

An interesting mix of prospects at the practice facility today, which speaks to the situation the Trail Blazers are at the 24th pick.

"Being the 24th pick, you don’t know who is going to fall to you so your focus is on a larger range of guys as far as who will be available," said Nate McMillan. "We know its going to be a ton of guards that go early in this draft, but between 15 and 30, that’s up in the air. A very difficult draft to prepare for in our position, but Kevin and those guys, they’ll be ready."

Which is we were treated to a little bit of everything today in Tualatin. You had a point-forward from Australia, a quick trigger from LSU, a physical specimen from Sweden, a complete guard from Oklahoma State, a defensive stopper on his second workout from LSU and conference player of the year who continued to gutted out the workout despite a rolling his ankle.

For more information on Terrel Harris, Joe Ingles, Jonas Jerebko, Jermaine Taylor, Garrett Temple and Marcus Thornton we turn to General Manager Kevin Pritchard and Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan.

Terrel Harris, 6-4, Guard, Oklahoma State

Pritchard: "I’ve seen him play at Oklahoma State. Good defender. He needs to get a little stronger, needs to improve his shot, but there’s a chance down the road that he can be an NBA player."

Buchanan: "Very kind of complete guard. Good on the defensive end. I think his question mark will be can he tighten up his handle and become a true point because he’s small to play the two.

"Decent catch and shoot guy. He’s got to get better doing that. But I like him defensively. He’s got some toughness to him. Kind of rangy build. Likely undrafted I would guess, but will end up somewhere on a summer league team. I was telling him that if he can tighten up his ball skills he’s got a chance to someday sneak into our league."

Joe Ingles, 6-8, Guard/Forward, Australia

Pritchard: "He played on the Australian National team, that’s kind of where he got on the radar. Shot the ball really well. He’s like a point forward; he’s got that ball handling and a good feel for the game. I think he’d be a really good blend player with other good players."

Buchanan: "He’s got a lot of international experience. Played on the Australian Olympic team. He’s very good with the ball, versatile. He can pass it, which is kind of hard so see in a halfcourt setting. I think you get him going up and down and making some plays with the ball is where you can really see what he is as a player.

"He shot it well today. He was kind of streaky shooting the ball during the season but he shot it well today. Just got a good feel for the game. He’s got good ball skills for a guy his size."

Jonas Jerebko, 6-8, Forward, Sweden

Pritchard: "Tough kid, works hard. Can defend multiple positions. He probably needs some time overseas, but he’s an intriguing talent because he’s big and can defend."

Buchanan: "Obviously you can see physically that he’s quite the specimen for the young, defensive minded four/three. I like his versatility on the defensive end. I think he can guard multiple positions. He’s got to get better with his ball skills, shooting the ball, handling the ball, although he’s never really been asked to be that offensive go-to guy. Very tough kid, good athlete. Definitely an NBA player."

Jermaine Taylor, 6-4, Guard, Central Florida

Pritchard: "He turned his ankle today so I don’t want to really give an evaluation other than that he was playing hard and he can really put the ball in the hole. He can score and has a chance to be a scorer at our level."

Buchanan: "Physical. I like how rugged and tough he is from the wing position. He can shoot it, he’s athletic. He was asked to do a ton of stuff for his team offensively so he’s become offensive minded. He’s got to get better guarding the ball. He sprained his ankle today so when you guys came in you didn’t really get a good look. He gutted it out today. Give the kid a lot of respect because he rolled his ankle pretty good and then came back.

"Just a guy who’s that physically gifted that plays on the wing will draw some attention to him. I think he’s probably a mid to late second round type guy."

Garrett Temple, 6-6, Guard, LSU

Pritchard: "Great defender. Impressed with his defense. A reluctant offensive player, will have to become a better shooter. But he never gives up on a play and is really a competitor."

Buchanan: "We had Garrett in back in May. Brought him back. Like his length, like his defensive basketball IQ. Not going to give you a ton of stuff offensively. I think that will probably be his hurdle to our league. But high character kid. Can guard about every position on the perimeter.

"Like his length, like his athleticism and like his feel for the game. Obviously we liked him the first time and wanted to see him against some different kids the second time through. He’s definitely a kid we’ll have discussions about. Probably undrafted though, I would say."

Marcus Thornton, 6-4, Guard, LSU

Pritchard: "Quick trigger. Can really shoot the ball, score. Will be a good catch and shoot guy but also I think he’ll be pretty good in the pick and roll. I think he may be moving up in the draft. He’s played well enough in these workouts. He’s helping himself."

Buchanan: "He’s definitely an NBA player. Quick trigger. As quick a trigger as there probably is in this draft. Good with the ball, really compact quicks with the ball. Defensively, quick hands. Probably an average athlete for his position and a little small for a two guard, but he gets his shot off so quickly that he can make up for being an inch or two too small. I think teams will be looking at him late in the first round I would guess. Good player."

June 17 Workout Schedule

The closer we get to the draft, the bigger these workouts get, and Wednesday's workout is easy the biggest yet. We've got Pac-10 guys and national champions. First-rounders. This is the when it gets real interesting. The names are ...

Darren Collison, Guard (UCLA); Justin Dentmon, Guard (Washington); Derrick Brown, Forward (Xavier); Dante Cunningham, Forward (Villanova); Tyler Hansbrough, Forward (North Carolina); Jeff Pendergraph, Forward (Arizona State)

That's a nice group all the way around. We'll have coverage of today's workout up soon. And tomorrow we'll have even more. Once again, be sure to keep tabs on all of it through our Draft Central page.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 16 Workouts Participants

Pre-draft workouts kick into gear tomorrow, as today at 3 p.m. is the last chance for underclassmen to pull their names out from draft consideration. Either you're in, or you're out.

Things start up again on Tuesday with six more workouts. The players are ...

Terrel Harris, Guard (Oklahoma State); Jermaine Taylor, Guard (Central Florida); Garrett Temple, Guard (LSU); Marcus Thornton, Guard (LSU); Joe Ingles, Forward (Australia); Jonas Jerebko, Forward (Sweden)

Guards and some international forwards. Should be an interesting mix. We'll have coverage of the workouts, which you can find over at our Draft Central page. Bookmark it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Brandon Roy's Restful Offseason

There’s nothing like a relaxing summer to cure the aches and pains of an 82 game season. It’s important to take some time after the end of a long year to heal after subjecting your body to countless collisions on the court.

That’s exactly how Brandon Roy is approaching his offseason. Roy, anxious to begin working on his game after a 32 win rookie season, all but ran back to the gym after the buzzer sounded for the final time in 06-07. He took a little more time off last offseason, but he still pushed himself a bit too hard, which resulted in Roy need minor knee surgery before the start of training camp.

But now he’s learned his lesson. After 54 wins and a first round exit from the playoffs, B.Roy is taking an extended sabbatical from basketball.

“I’ve beginning to come out of my rest phase,” said Roy, “but not really playing basketball. Just exercising. I’ll start biking again this month, lifting some weights. I feel like I’ve taken a good month, but I’m still a month away from playing basketball on court and shooting and things like that.”

Roy only played 111 more regular season minutes in ’08-’09 than he did in ’07-’08, but playing six extra games (and playoff games at that) left the third-year guard ready to leave basketball in the rearview for a bit longer than usual. And he’s feeling the results.

“My body feels great,” said Roy. “This is the best I’ve felt since the season started because you play so many games. I want to go play now, you know?”

But he’s fighting the temptation to lace up the sneakers, at least for a few more weeks, with the plan being that an extended rest will be more beneficial in the long run than extra workouts.

“I’m ready to go now,” said Roy. “My body feels like it’s all healed up. All the little nicks are gone. I talked to Coach Nate and he said to just be patient. He said he thinks it’s a good idea to start riding the bike and exercising, but as far as basketball, stay away from it just a little bit longer.

“But the body feels great. I’m excited about that more than anything.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

06.11.09 Trailblazers.com Podcast

We realized during recording today that Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge.com and I, Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com have been podcasting for over a year now. So happy anniversary to us.

This week talk more about the draft, throw out a few names, briefly discuss Travis Outlaw's twitter account, Kobe Bryant's place in history and how many championships is enough.

Download (36.8 MB)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Buchanan Pre-Draft Quotes: June 9

Shooting guards and power forwards turned small forwards were on display today for yet another pre-draft workout in Tualatin. Shooting guards Osiris Eldridge (Illinois State), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Danny Green (North Carolina), and Josh Shipp (UCLA) took turns on the wing while Damion James (Texas) and Dior Lowhorn (San Francisco) added a little post presence to what was a most perimeter oriented workout. And the marks were generally positive.

"It was good having a bunch of guys kind of all in at the same position," said Chad Buchanan, Trail Blazers director of college scouting. "You don’t get to see as much pick and roll stuff from a big and a little like you do in the past couple workouts we’ve had, but you get to compare guys who are all kind of the same."

And there was much similarity. All four of the shooting guards brought something unique to the table, be it athleticism from Eldridge, shooting from Ellington, defense from Green and versatility from Shipp, but for the most part, all were fairly similar. Same goes from James and Lowhorn, who were both described by Buchanan as "rugged" and "blue-collar."

The lack of a true floor general might have hindered the workout just a bit, but according to Buchanan, the coaches and scouts, along with team owner Paul Allen, saw what they needed to see.

"I thought it was a pretty high caliber workout today," said Buchanan. "It’s always nice to have a point guard in the workout though to really get a gauge for guys. Today that wasn’t the case, but I thought the caliber of play was pretty good."

As for each induvidual player, here's what Buchanan had to say ...

Osiris Eldridge, 6-3, Guard, Illinois State

"I thought he was obviously very gifted athletically. He can run, he can jump, he’s got great speed. He’s kind of a powerful little two guard. He’s a little undersized, a little streaky shooting the ball today, which is kind of reflective of what he did during the season as well. But he’s got NBA athletic tools.

"I’d expect him to go back to school. He put himself on the radar this year a little bit and I think he’ll be seen quite a bit next year."

Wayne Ellington, 6-4, Guard, North Carolina

"Very polished. If he gets a good look he feel like every shot he takes is probably going to go in. He’s got great footwork scoring the ball. Very poised, under control. Good basketball IQ. He can pass a little bit. Decent athlete, but I wouldn’t call him a great NBA athlete, but he just knows how to play. Comes from a great pedigree: McDonalds All American, National Championship."

Danny Green, 6-6, Guard, North Carolina

"Kind of the same thing as (Wayne). He comes from a great background, McDonald’s All American. He and Wayne are kind of similar in that they’re catch and shoot wings. Danny is probably a little better defender than Wayne, a little bigger obviously. He’s not quite as consistent a shooter, although he shot it better this year than he has in the past. I think both Wayne and Danny are late first, early second round type candidates. Smart defender."

Josh Shipp, 6-5, Guard, UCLA

"Josh seems like he’s been around for years. A very smart, intelligent player. He’s got great shooting mechanics. More athletic than you would think from a guy who’s battled a lot of hip and leg injuries. He had a bad back there for a little bit but he’s bounced back physically and looks really good.

"Trying to figure out where he fits in to our league. Is he a two? Is he a three? He’s probably a second round type candidate. He could go undrafted possibly, but he’s got size for his position and he can shoot a little bit. If he doesn’t get drafted he’ll end up on a summer league team somewhere."

Damion James, 6-7, Forward, Texas

"I would guess he’s probably on the bubble whether he stays in or goes back. He’s always been kind of a blue-collar rebounder, hustle energy guy for Texas. They moved him from four to three this year, which I think is going to have to be his position at our level. It’s still kind of a work in progress for him with his handle, creating his own shot.

"He’s improved defensively, especially this year. I thought he made great strides in guarding the ball. Plays for an unbelievable coach. Coach Barnes is great at developing players. Whether he stays in or goes back, I think he’d like to be a first round pick. It’s going to be down to the wire."

Dior Lowhord, Forward, 6-7, San Fransisco

"Brought him in, kind of a west coast kid that we saw a little bit during the season. Like his ruggedness, his toughness, his ability to defend. Played the four in college. He and Damien are similar in that they were fours in college and kind of rugged. They’re not slow of foot, but they need to improve their lateral quicks if they’re going to play outside the paint at our level.

"Blue-collar guy. I thought he played well today. He’s pretty athletic. I think he’ll go back to school. He plays in a pretty good league and we’ll get to see him a little bit next year. He’s probably maybe a second round type guy next year."

B.Roy On The Draft: In KP He Trusts

I noticed a fanshot over at Blazer's Edge on the topic of which player Brandon Roy would like the Kevin Pritchard to draft. The rumor goes (and I'm only calling it a rumor because I didn't hear it myself) that Roy told Brian Wheeler who he'd like to see the Trail Blazers target, and that maybe it was someone in the draft. It's a story tailor made for the internet: short on facts, long on speculation.

I don't have much insight into the mind of Brandon Roy, but I can report what he has told me, which is that he doesn't have the slightest idea what Kevin Pritchard and his staff are going to do on draft night.

"I don’t have any thoughts (on the draft)!," said Roy. "I don’t know what’s going on. I know we’re picking, what, 24th? I don’t even know."

Now that's not to say Roy doesn't like particular players in this draft. As far as I know he hasn't endorsed a specific player in the draft, but he has endorse a tactic: taking the best player available.

"I know those guys will do a great job analyzing and getting the best player possible with that pick," said Roy. "We were able to get Rudy around that range, Nicolas around that range, so we’ve gotten a lot of good players in the twenties."

That's what it comes down to for Roy; getting the best player for the Portland Trail Blazers. Brandon's not a personnel guy. He's a helluva ball player, but he's not investing the time and energy trying to come up with a draft plan. And like most anyone who has followed Kevin Pritchard's tenure in Portland, Roy has faith in the management team making the right decision.

"I’m sure they’ll do a good job," said Roy, "but I don’t have any idea what they'll do."

Which means we've all got at least one thing in common with Brandon.

Monday, June 8, 2009

June 9 Pre-Draft Workout Participants

The second round of pre-draft workouts has looks to have a bit more name recognition. Should be an interesting day at the practice facility. The participants are ...

Osiris Eldridge, Guard (Illinois State); Wayne Ellington, Guard (North Carolina); Danny Green, Guard (North Carolina); Josh Shipp, Guard (UCLA); Damion James, Forward (Texas); Dior Lowhorn, Forward (San Francisco)

Friday, June 5, 2009

KP Pre-Draft Quotes: June 5

The varsity staff was on hand today at the practice facility to watch the first full blown workout of the pre-draft season. Kevin Pritchard, Tom Penn, Nate McMillan, Dean Demopoulis, Monty Williams, Chad Buchanan, Steve Blake (with shoulder sling) and the training staff were in attendance to watch six players go through about an hour worth of drills and scrimmages. Nothing incredibly exciting, but worthwhile nonetheless.

"We feel like there’s great value in these workouts," said Pritchard. To see them out on the floor, to see comparables but also to take them to lunch and see how you feel about them. Part of what we do is the intel process and see if they fit with us organizationally."

You probably wouldn't recognize too many of the attendees at today's workout unless you're a serious college basketball fan, which in part speaks to the difficulty of getting players in your gym when you're picking at No. 24.

"It’s a little bit more challenging because of where we’re picking," said Pritchard when asked about scheduling workouts. "We’re getting more of the second round guys, but we’re seeing the guys we need to see.

"The real truth is that if we haven’t done most of the work by now then we’re behind the curve. Chad (Buchanan) and our scouts have done such a good job of getting us prepared for right now. Now is just the icing."

The participants in today's "icing" were Jerel McNeal, Greivis Vasquez, Omri Casspi, Micah Downs, Chinemelu Elonu and Chris Johnson. Here's what Pritchard had to say about each guy.

Jerel McNeal, 6-3, Guard, Marquette

"Scoring guard. Had a great career at Marquette. Really can get to the basket. He’s working on his shot. He needs to become a pure point guard, but has some attributes that will get him to the NBA. I definitely think he’s in the NBA."

Greivis Vasquez, 6-6, Guard, Maryland

"Love his height, love his size. He’s got great basketball IQ. He knows how to run a pick and roll. Will need to get a little bit better on defense, but he’ll be interesting in the NBA. He’s a point guard. He’s got tremendous size for the position."

Omri Casspi, 6-9, Forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv

"Tough kid. Shot the ball well today. He’ll make the NBA and he’s got a chance to be a first round pick."

Micah Downs, 6-8, Guard, Gonzaga

"Micah had a good day today. I’ve seen him at Kansas, I’ve seen him at Gonzaga. He can shoot the ball. In a league that needs shooters and size, he’s fits the bill. He reminds me a little bit of (Vladimir) Radmanovic."

Chinemelu Elonu, 6-10, Forward, Texas A&M

"He did a good job. He’s a physical presence. Tough, can finish around the basket. He’ll need to improve his perimeter shot, but he had a good day today."

Chris Johnson, 6-11, Forward, LSU

"Great length. Can block some shots. He gets off the floor quick, both on his first and second jump. He will have to become a better rebounder. He needs to gain some weight, get stronger. But he’s got a chance."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Roy, Webster Make Finals Predictions

I don't know about you, but I'm over trying to figure out how the 2008-09 season is going to play out. I certainly didn't expect the Magic to dispatch of the Cavs with relative ease, and I thought the Lakers run at the top of the Western Conference would come to a merciful end. But I was wrong. Part of that probably has something to do with the fact that I'm wrong more often than not, but I'll also chalk it up to this season's playoffs being more unpredictable than usual. And more exciting, for that matter.

So not that you really care, but I'm not going to venture a Finals prediction. Nothing, outside of a sweep by either team, would surprise me.

What you might care about though, is that Brandon Roy and Martell Webster are courageous enough to make their championship picks, and are willing to provide some thoughts on the playoffs in general.

"The playoffs have been great," said Roy. "It’s showing how much talent the NBA has, how deep a lot of the teams are. Every series could have gone either way, even with Houston taking the Lakers to Game 7."

Rick Adelman getting the Rockets to a Game 7 without the services of Yao Ming has to go down as one of the great coaching accomplishments of the '08-'09 season.

And as for the result of the Eastern Conference Finals?

"Before the series I said Orlando gives Cleveland problems," said Roy. "I thought, maybe in a seven-game series that Cleveland would overcome them, but once the series started, I said ‘Wow, Orlando is just the better team.’ That the good thing about seven-game series: there’s no upsets. Whoever wins was the team that was the better team. I think Orlando winning that series was big for them, but I can’t say I was surprised. They looked really good."

So no surprises in the ECF for Roy. But what about that Finals prediction ...

Said Roy: "It’s a tough one. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Lakers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Orlando wins the championship because I think they’re talented. They change the game a little bit with spreading the ball around Dwight and knocking down three-pointers. They’re definitely a tough team."

So Roy represents the Western Conference and picks the Lake Show.

Martell Webster wasn't as definitive in his pick, but he's definitively got a preference, one that may surprise you.

"These playoff series hasn't had just a couple great teams," said Webster, "all the teams are really good. There was hope for all the teams in these playoff series. But the shakeout, I think it’s a great matchup and I can’t wait to see what happens."

So what's the pick?

Said Webster: "I want Orlando."

Hold up. Martell, the guy who draws criticism for being a Kobe Bryant fan, is rooting for the Magic? Who'd a thunk it?

"But I thought you were a Kobe guy," says I.

"Nope," replied Webster. "I respect him. I love his game, but I want Orlando."

06.04.09 Trailblazers.com Podcast

Summer looks to be here, and so to is this week's podcast with Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of Blazer's Edge.com and I, Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com.

This week we delve into Brandon Roy's summertime parenting, draft trade rumors, the Jerryd Bayless/Greg Oden Ohio workouts, Dave, once again, breaks down the summer salary cap situation, and some other stuff that you'll be interested in. Promise.

Download (40.9 MB)

Updated: Friday Pre-Draft Workout Participants

I know you've all been waiting anxiously for the list of players who are coming to work out for the Trail Blazers. The entire list isn't available, and things are always subject to change, but the following are the six players who will be in town Friday for workouts.

Jerel McNeal, Guard (Marquette); Greivis Vasquez, Guard (Maryland); Omri Casspi, Forward (Israel); Tasmin Mitchell, Forward (LSU); Chinemelu Elonu, Forward (Texas A&M); Chris Johnson, Forward (LSU); Micah Downs, Forward (Gonzaga)

UPDATE: As I noted, these workouts are subject to change, and change we have. Tasmin Mitchell has been replaced by Micah Downs, a forward out of Gonzaga.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Origins Of Schonz's Finest Phrases

During his 80th birthday celebration here at Trail Blazers HQ, Bill Schonely regaled the staff with stories about the origins of three of his most famous catch phrases. The Schonz, never one to shy away from telling a story, recounted the histories of "bingo, bango, bongo," "lickety brindle up the middle," and, of course, "Rip City!" I had never heard any of these stories, so I thought it was only fair to share Schonely's comments with you as well.

The following are direct quotes from The Schonz. Enjoy.

Bingo, Bango, Bongo

"Bingo bango bongo is really an old golf phrase. You hit the ball out there, you put it on the green, and it’s in. It’s three shots: bingo, bango, bongo.

"Dave Twardzik in our championship year was a guy who used to go up the middle all the time and also Bobby Gross in those days. Let’s say Bobby inbounded the ball in the end zone to Twardzik, who threw it down to Maurice Lucas and he layed it up and in. That was bingo, bango, bongo."

Licktey Brindle Up The Middle

"As far as Dave Twardzik was concerned, he was nicknamed “Pinball”, and I used to say a lot of times I would call him that. But when he would drive up the lane, as some of these young kids are still doing today, I would say 'lickety brindle up the middle.'

"Where did lickety brindle come from? Well, when I was a little tyke back in Pennsylvania up in the Dutch Country my uncle had two little brindled dogs. We’d walk there on the weekends after church and spend Sunday afternoon with him and at other times. His dogs would be very quick and he would always say, ‘They’re lickety brindle. Look how quick they are.’ That came to me during a Trail Blazers game. Lickety brindle up the middle, and it worked."

Rip City!

"In 1970 I was trying to come up with a phrase that would be synonymous with my broadcast as well as the team, and I couldn’t figure out anything at all. Normally when you call a basketball game, all the clich├ęs that you use, that was used. I wanted to try and upgrade that a little bit.

"The mighty Lakers came to town one time, actually for the first time in Memorial Coliseum, and we had our first 10,000 crowd. A typical Trail Blazer night: they were down by 25 or 26 points in those days. But all the sudden the game was changed.

"They’re playing Wilt Chamberlain and West and Rudy LaRusso, Gail Goodrich and all of the mighty Lakers in those days. And our group, Geoff Petrie, Rick Adelman, all the rest of those guys, they made a comeback. Jimmy Barnett was playing with us, former University of Oregon player, now one of the broadcasters for the Golden State Warriors. A longtime Oregonian and a good Blazers guy, a good NBA guy. He was a flake. He had all sorts of, not problems, but he was always doing some crazy things, not only here at home but on our travels.

"He came over the midcourt line, and in those days I was sitting right at midcourt. Not too many press people, Chuck Charnquist had his stat crew down here. Very small, maybe you’ve seen some of the old pictures. But Barney came over the midcourt line and for whatever reason -it would have been a three-point play in this day- he let it fly. I brought him out of the backcourt, he came over the midcourt line right in front of me -I’ll never forget it- and let it go. And I’m thinking why did he ever do that? Well lo and behold, in it went. At the end of my description, out came, ‘Rip City! All right!’ The crowd at the Coliseum was going crazy, the Lakers immediately called for a timeout.

"I sat back after the commercial cue and the guys were saying, ‘Rip City? Yeah, leave that in.’ So the rest is history. T shirts and signs and everything. It means something good, and we have something good going on right now. And Rip City is back."