Friday, October 30, 2009

10.30.09 Podcast

It's risky drawing conclusions based two games into the season, so neither Dave Deckard of nor I, Casey Holdahl of, go too far in declaring the 2009-10 Trail Blazers the best or worst team in the history of sports. But we do look at the performances Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Martell Webster and basically every other member of the team who has seen significant PT through the first 1/41sts of the season.

We also delve briefly into the streaming of KGW games and whether pursing a point-forward is worth the trouble. And I didn't even get a chance to touch on the candy preferences of each member of the team. It doesn't seem like an hour worth of material, but file size don't lie.

Download Podcast (54.6 MB)

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Brush It Off Big Fella'

I knew exactly what the locker room would look like tonight before stepping through the heavy double doors that separate the team's sanctuary from the outside world. There would be a crowd of reporters in a semi-circle watching Greg Oden get dressed, recorders, cameras and microphones at the ready. Dante Cunningham, who inhabits the locker next to Oden, would be pushed aside while trying to get dressed by people half his size and infinitely less athletic. Sure enough, that's exactly what I saw.

I had no interest in joining the scrum. I was pretty sure I knew what he was going to say, and I'm positive he didn't need another camera shoved in his face, so I stood on the opposite side of the locker room waiting for it all to unfold.

And I wasn't alone. As the media horde stood quietly around Oden, head hung as he slipped a suit jacket over his shoulders, Brandon Roy, Jerryd Bayless, Juwan Howard, Rudy Fernandez and Joel Przybilla were all watching as well. I don't know if they were curious about how he would react to the moment, what he would say or what the media would ask, but they briefly stopped their own postgame rituals to take it in. All eyes were once again on Oden, just as they were when he missed two free throws that could have tied the game with 4.6 seconds to play.

He said the things you would expect him to say, though I doubt his teammates would agree with his conclusions. He put the loss on himself, talking about need to "step up" in pressure situations. While the later statement might be true, the former is not. Missing those free throws didn't loose that game. Shooting 34.6 percent from the field as a team took care of that.

The Blazers had 20 more attempts but the same number of makes as the Nuggets. Portland had more rebounds, more assists, fewer turnovers, more second chance points and only four fewer points in the paint while holding Denver to nine fastbreak points, but none of that mattered, just as missing two free throws didn't really matter. If the Blazers shoot even 40 percent from the field, which would still be a lackluster performance, they win going away. Instead, they head off to Houston 1-1.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Looking Back

Last time this season the Trail Blazers were excited, full of youthful exuberance, ready to take on the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center on national television. Ready to turn promise into production. Plant a red and black flag in the backyard of a Western Conference powerhouse.

Then they played the game.

In case you've wiped it completely out of your memory banks, the Trail Blazers did not play well in last season's opener in L.A. No reason going into any more detail than that. But with just hours to go before the start of the 2009-10 season, thoughts might drift back to the unpleasantness that occurred 364 days ago.

But they shouldn't.

"We're a different team," said Nate McMillan," different year, different opponent. Last year we started out with the Lakers on the road. We're starting out with a different team this year. It's about now and not the past and what we want to do starting (Tuesday) on our court against Houston."

This Trail Blazers team is a year older and wiser. They've added veterans. They're in better shape. Contracts have been negotiated and signed. And maybe most importantly, Greg Oden is healthy, confident and playing his 62nd professional game, rather than his first.

"My body feels a lot better (than last year)," said Oden. "Not as much of a grind as it was on my knee with that extra weight . Body feels good, I feel in shape. Guys are playing real aggressive and with a lot of energy, a lot of talking out there. Just hoping we can bring that to (Tuesday's) game."

Friday, October 23, 2009

When Families Negotiate

There’s something that gets missed when discussing contract negotiations in the NBA. The focus is on the money, the respect. There’s talk of salary cap implications and “basketball-related income.” And people know things can get contentious, feeling can get hurt, pride can be wounded, but for Kevin Pritchard and LaMarcus Aldridge, those notions of negotiations don’t get to where the real difficulty resided during the process of locking LA up for the next five seasons in Portland.

The NBA is a business. Everyone knows that. But sport, especially basketball, is a business unlike most. There aren’t huge rosters like in football and baseball. You’re talking about 15 guys, guys you see every day during the season. And when you’re talking about the Trail Blazers, a team and an organization that is more tight-knit than most, you’re talking about relationships that are close and important. So when something changes those relationships, even temporarily, people feel it.

That was the case when it came to Aldridge’s contract negotiations. It wasn’t that the respect LA and KP had for each other changed, because it didn’t. Both have a sincere appreciation for the other, personally and professionally, but the fact is when it comes to hammering out a contract, each side has to approach each other differently. You have to give the other space so as to not give the impression that you’re trying to use that respect and those relationships you’ve cultivated to your own advantage. To do so would cheapen that bond. So you pull back, put your personal feelings aside as much as possible and conduct yourself in a professional manner befitting the importance of the moment.

“The hardest part for me is you grow close to these players and then you start the negotiations and all the sudden you have to step back and make it more professional, and I have a hard time with that,” said Pritchard. “I like talking to the players. I like helping them as much as I can in any way. But LaMarcus has been terrific in knowing we had good faith.”

It’s difficult, even when you know everyone is acting the way they should. There’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in this team, in this goal of winning a championship. The hugs, the handshakes, the high-fives, these things are like breathing for the guys in the clubhouse that is the practice facility. And when you have to put those things aside, even for a short period of time, it adds a complexity to the negotiations that people who are never involved in the process can’t realize. Teams are supposed to bring people together, and they do, but when you have to keep your distance for the sake of the team, it breeds a sort of mock conflict.

“I would see (Pritchard) but I would kind of be distant too because you just want to keep it professional,” said Aldridge. “You don’t want to make it like you’re talking to him to try and get information or you’re trying to butter him up, so you try to keep it professional on both ends. We would speak but it wasn’t like it used to be because it was just professional and we didn’t want to give each other mixed signals.”

“It’s a little bit like a Chinese water torture for me cause I’m a basketball guy,” said Pritchard. “I love smelling the gym and being in here and when you’re doing a negotiation, both sides, there are struggles. You’ve got to get to a fair point. But … we always felt good about it.”

It helps that KP has been a player. He knows the mind of an athlete and he knows LaMarcus. And this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to negotiating. But KP is as connected to his players as any GM in sports. He’s not locked up in an office making decisions from on high. Everyday he’s feeling the pulse of the team. Part of that is being a good executive, but that’s just an ancillary bonus. The reality is with the players is where he wants, almost needs, to be. And when you take that away, it’s challenging. Some could take that forced distance the wrong way.

“I think he understood and I understood that it’s a business,” said Aldridge “It was being professional. I never took it personal that he didn’t talk to me as much and I don’t think he took it personal because we know at the end of the day we get along pretty well. We know it was circumstances that put us in that position, but that’s over with now.”

Indeed it is. Now they can go back to where they were before, hopefully better for the experience.

Check The New Billboard

Trail Blazers get a win in Vancouver, BC. LaMarcus Aldridge gets five-years of stability. And we here at Trail Blazers HQ get a new billboard to look at everyday as we walk into the office. Everybody is happy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

10.22.09 Podcast

There's been a ton of reported news regarding the Trail Blazers over the last few days, though nothing has gone official. So while Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game and Dave Deckard of speak on LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills with an air of definitiveness, I, Casey Holdahl of, tread a bit more lightly. Dance blogger, dance!

Also in this podcast: chemistry issues, Gavin and I argue about whether a trade needs to be made, a brief conversation on live streaming, predictions on the first week of the season and whether I can watch college football and play poker at the same time. Count you're money while you listen.

Download Podcast (41.9 MB)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From A Distance

Last season the Trail Blazers shot 38 percent from three for the season, good for fourth best in the NBA. The ability to stroke from three played a huge role on last season's successes. Aside from the obvious benefits of being worth more than a two-point shot, Portland's high-percentage from three forced opposing teams to pay close attention to the perimeter, helping free up the paint for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. And this season, with Greg Oden looking much more polished and comfortable on the offensive end, outside shooting is going to be even more important. But through the first six games of the preseason, the Blazers have failed to consistently find the mark from long range.

The Trail Blazers shot well from three in the 2008-09 preseason, 40 percent (51 of 126) well to be exact. But through the first six games of the 2009-10 exhibition season the Trail Blazers are shooting just 31 percent (25 of 81) from long range. They're shooting fewer three's as well, 13.5 per game this preseason as opposed to 18 per this time last year. Hard to tell if they're taking fewer triples because they're not shooting as well or if other factors are in play.

Tuesday night's game was no better. Portland shot 2 for 15 from three, which pencils out to 13.3 percent. The absence of Aldridge and Oden from the lineup made it that much harder for shooters on the perimeter to get open, but you'd think at least they'd get luck more than twice in fifteen tries.

There's a number of things you can point to that explain the problem. The team has been without Rudy Fernandez, one of the best if not the best shooter on the team, for most of the preseason. Martell Webster, who challenges Rudy as the team's best three-point specialist, is still getting back into game shape, both from a fitness and tempo perspective. Those two can straight make it rain when healthy and in rhythm, but neither are there yet.

"You’ve got to get your rhythm," said Nate McMillan. "Normally you start out slow and that percentage goes up. A lot of that, I would say, probably are guys legs, they don’t have their legs right now. Rudy is not with us. Martell is a back shooting some three’s. A lot of guys are shooting some three’s. It’s early, but we want to take ‘em if we’re open and I think that percentage will go up."

Then there's Andre Miller. Dre brings a bevy of skills to the point guard position, but three-point shooting isn't one of them. The issue isn't so much that he's missing three's, because he's really not taking all that many, but he is taking away court time from Steve Blake, who was absolutely nails last year from deep. So when you've got one of your best perimeter shooters playing less, it's logical to see a drop off in both attempts and percentage. Also probably worth noting that Blake got a lot of open three's last season thanks to Roy's ability to penetrate then pass out to the perimeter. That SG-to-PG-for-three connection seems less likely with Roy working with Miller in the backcourt.

It's possible that there are some flow issues at play with Miller as well. He's still learning where his teammates like to receive the ball, where they like to spot up. When these kinds of things become second nature, there's a good chance the three-point percentages will improve. Miller's ability to penetrate and kick will eventually help those shooters as well.

But more than anything, guys just aren't making shots, and that's the way it goes sometimes. For every hot streak where the hoop looks like the size of a manhole cover there's a corresponding slump where nothing comes easy. Believe it or not, that's actually good news. Much better to get those cold spells out in preseason. So don't expect shooters to stop shooting any time soon.

"I think we have had some open three’s and we just missed ‘em," said McMillan. "We want to take those. We’ve got guys that can shoot the ball from three so we want to take those shots."

10.19.09 Trail Blazers Courtside

Kudos to the Trail Blazers Courtside crew for putting together a top-notch show just a week before the start of the regular season. Great guests, great hosts, great show. Next week's prediction show should be fun as well.

But back to this week. Mike Barrett, Mike Rice and Brian Wheeler take care of hosting duties for both hours. In Hour One, both Kevin Pritchard and Joel Przybilla call in.

Download Trail Blazers Courtside (Hour One) (38.6 MB)

In the second hour, shooting coach John Townsend calls in to talk shop and Merlin swoops in to do ... whatever it is that he does.

Download the Trail Blazers Courtside (Hour Two) (38.8 MB)

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Notes From A Shootaround: Taking It Easy

A sleepy shootaround out yonder in Tualatin today. Jason Quick, Brian T. Smith and I were the only media folks in attendance. Those who didn't show didn't miss much.

A few things ...

• As you've already heard if you subscribe to our Twitter feed, Greg Oden, coming off one of the best six minutes stretches that anyone has had so far this preseason, will not play due to a sore thigh adductor. For those of you not sure where the adductor is at, it's apparently in the upper thigh area where the leg connects to the torso. A sensitive area, to be sure. The injury, as Oden remembers, stems from being kicked by Arron Afflalo in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against the Nuggets.

"It's sore from the kick, still," said Oden. "But Jay (Jensen) really didn't want to chance it. I can tell you it's feeling a lot better than what it did yesterday. But it's still a little sore and I feel it a little bit, so Jay didn't want to chance it."

Joel Przybilla, who sat out yesterday's practice with a sore back, will play and start. LaMarcus Aldridge returns to the starting lineup after sitting out Sunday's game with a knee contusion. Jerryd Bayless, who also missed practice yesterday after spraining his ankle in the first quarter of the Nuggets game, is expect to play. Rudy Fernandez, still battling back spasms, is listed as out. Now you know.

• As for the starting lineup, Nate McMillan is going with Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla. McMillan has given the impression that he's fairly certain of who he's going to start on opening night, but he's keeping that news to himself at this point.

"The thing is I'm treating this like it were a regular season game in the sense that is these guys were out (in the regular season) we make our adjustments," said McMillan. "We approach it like that."

• Brandon Roy is looking forward to the start of the NBA regular season and Saturday's game between the Oregon Ducks and the Washington Huskies. Is Cuckoo For Preview

I've always been a little lukewarm when it comes to NBA team previews. Back before this whole internet thing took off (who would have figured that?) it made sense for newspapers and magazines to write lengthy season previews since there were few ways to follow the team throughout the offseason. But with the changes in the media landscape, previews just don't seem all necessary anymore. The Oregonian,, (here's Ben's preview, btw), The Columbian and a host of others follow the Trail Blazers 365 days a year. If there's something you still don't know about this team and the upcoming season, then you're probably not paying very close attention.

That being said, if you're going to put out a Trail Blazers preview, I'm more than likely going to read/watch it. The folks over at the mothership obviously put a lot of time end effort into their previews, so I'm more than happy to do my part to get the word out.

Here's Eric Snow, Brent Barry and Andre Aldridge's (no relation) video preview.

Here's the interesting-yet-creepy "secret scout" breakdown.

On the written side, Howard Scott-Cooper writes that the new svelte edition of Greg Oden is ready to turn the page on the last two seasons:
This is the perfect time and place for him, it turns out, not the center of his crumbling universe. Among the many things that went right for the resurgent Trail Blazers last season, tying for the second-best record in the Western Conference alleviated an incalculable amount of pressure on Oden to be great already. Being good enough to start and put a lid on the basket makes him a difference maker and a potential hero. Strange given the '07 perspective, but true.

Sean Powell, also writing for, lists GO as one of the "make-or-break" players of the 2009-10 season:
Can you imagine that, two years removed from a no-brainer draft decision, there are rumblings the Trail Blazers should've taken Kevin Durant instead? That says plenty about Durant, but also something about Oden, raw and hardly the impact player many expected him to be. Big men develop slowly, and Oden did suffer leg injuries, so patience, please. Still, Oden can make everyone in Portland exhale if he learns a pet move, elevates himself to third option on offense and grabs more than seven rebounds a game. Is that asking too much too soon? No, it isn't.
I'm going to use "pet move" in place of "go-to" move from here on out. It sounds much friendlier.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oden Unfazed By Foul Calls

Greg Oden had a heck of a time staying on the court Sunday night, but at this point, he's used to it. He picked up his first foul 14 second into the game. A little less than three minutes later he got called for his second. Off to the bench he went. He checked back in with 8:46 to play in the second quarter, and proceeded to pick up his third foul a minute later. The first half of the game could serve as exhibit 1A for those making the case that Oden was and is foul-prone.

The second half didn't get much better. Oden made it four minutes into the third quarter before picking up his fourth foul. He got back into the game at the 10:23 mark in the fourth and, you guessed it, picked up his fifth foul a little less than two minutes later. At the time he had scored 4 points and grabbed 2 rebounds. Not exactly the kind of production you look for from your starting center.

Last season, Oden might have gotten frustrated with all the calls, but on Sunday night, he took it in stride. If nothing else there was solace in knowing that, in a game where the team combined for 77 fouls, at least he wasn't alone.

"I look at it like I wasn’t the only one getting called this time. B.Roy got a little taste of what I had last year sitting on the bench."

Knowing he probably didn't have much time before the inevitable foul-out, Oden got down to the business of dominating.

"I would like to say that at that point I really didn’t care," said Oden. "At that point you want to stay in the game. Through the whole entire three quarters I think the most I played was three and a half minutes in a row. At that point I was like, let me do whatever I can to stay out there on the floor."

He converted an And1 to pull the Blazers within five. He put back a Brandon Roy miss. He rocked the basket standard with a two-handed jam. He made all his free-throws. GO had scored 12 points and pulled down 5 boards in the six and a half minutes before collecting an offensive foul, his sixth and final of the night, that could be most diplomatically described as debatable. But by that point, the damage was done. Portland had taken the lead, which they wouldn't relinquish.

“(Oden) remained aggressive and played smart down the stretch with five fouls," said Nate McMillan. "That last foul could have gone either way but he got us going. He got us in the penalty. They were killing us at the free throw line and we were able to get back in the ball game as far as getting to the free throw line. A lot of that was due to going inside to Greg and attacking the basket.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Podcast: Bill Walton Speaks

I learned more than a few things today about Bill Walton. Things I never would have expected. I learned that for all he did for the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland, he still feels a great deal of shame and regret for the way things ultimately turned out. I learned that he suffered through such intense physical pain that at one point he was more afraid of living than dying. I learned that in 1990 he still had serious aspirations of playing in the NBA.

But this wasn't my first time talking to Bill Walton, so I was already aware of something other members of the media probably weren't, which is this: You don't interview Bill Walton. Oh sure, you can ask questions, but Bill is going to talk on his own terms. He's got stories on top of stories, and he's going to tell those stories. He'll talk about lifting weights in his garage with The Grateful Dead blaring through the speakers or about getting thrown from his bike thanks to a wayward skateboarder. He'll liken Maurice Lucas to Mt. Hood. He'll call the Lakers the "Fakers." He'll talk about a father's pride and of the weather in San Diego. If what he says pertains to your inquiry, great. If not, oh well. He's Bill Walton.

Below is the totality of Walton's remarks to the media today. You can't hear the questions that are being asked, but don't worry, those questions are quite inconsequential to what Bill says.

Download the interview (43 MB)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

'Thunder Dan' Is An MC Fan

After the way things turns out last night, Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle might petition the league to make the Trail Blazers play ever game at the Memorial Coliseum. After all, he’s 7-0 in that building over the last 14 years. Majerle was a member of the ’95-’95 Phoenix team that swept the Blazers at the Coliseum, both in the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs, so it’s no wonder he’s got such fond memories of the “Glass Palace.”

“Loved playing here,” said Majerle. “Just a classic old building. Not very big but fans are right on top of you, extremely loud. It’s a lot like the building in Phoenix, the old Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. A lot of similarities. These are the types of buildings that were always fun to play in because the atmosphere really set the game off.”

It’s usually assumed that a loud and rowdy crowd benefits the home side, and it probably does, but according to “Thunder Dan”, playing in a hostile road enviroment is almost as good as playing in front of the home crowd.

“There’s something about playing in an arena like (the Memorial Coliseum) where it’s more intimate, the fans are closer, there are no boxes. Just seats and it seems like the fans are right on top of you. As a player that’s a fun atmosphere to play in.”

The teams that Majerle played against in the MC were some of the best in Trail Blazers history, so much so that teams like the Suns had to make personnel moves to keep up.

“The reason why we traded for Charles Barkley in ’92 because we couldn’t get past those Portland teams with Terry Porter, Buck Williams, Duckworth, Drexler and Kersey,” said Majerle. “Just a very talented, hardnosed team that could score, play defense. Just a very hard team to get by. That’s the main reason why we went out and got a guy like Charles, to see if we could beat this Portland team.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rumors Of The MC's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

I don't know that I've ever had as much fun at a losing game as I did tonight at Memorial Coliseum. Maybe I don't leave feeling that way if Wednesday's loss to the Suns was a regular season game, but would I trade a preseason win in the Rose Garden for the experience of playing again at Memorial Coliseum, even in a losing effort? I don't think so.

Like I said in the live blog, that building still has some life left in it. It's not a perfect venue by any definition, but I was expecting worse after hearing some of the things people were saying about the MC during the debate this summer over what to do with the building. To hear some people tell it you'd think the place was a strong gust of wind away from collapsing on itself.

Maybe I've got low standards, but I thought the joint looked pretty cool. Dropping the curtains that surround the bowl is definitely the way to go. You don't get the full effect at night, but when the sun is up and natural light is streaming into the building from all directions, it's a rather unique setting. And even at night it's a nice change of pace from the enclosure of the Rose Garden. The MC is like a small office with a window; it's not nearly as nice as the big corner suite, but at least it's got a nice view.

Not that I'd want to play 41 games a season there. The lack of a legit scoreboard is a killer, especially for someone like myself who often misses plays the first time around. Besides being small, I guess the locker rooms don't have showers, as the team had to walk back to the Rose Garden to hose off postgame. But other than that, it seemed alright to me. But then again, I'm not participating in the halftime rush to the bathroom with 12,000 people or having to wait in line for an elephant ear on the concourse, so I'm probably not the best judge of the building's public amenities.

And that's too say nothing of the game. Coach McMillan joked a few days ago that if the team played well at the MC, maybe he'd consider playing a few more games in the building. After Wednesdays game, I'm guessing he's never going to allow the team to step foot in the "Glass Palace" again. Not a whole lot of positives to take away from that one. Greg Oden looked good and Martell Webster is deadset on posterizing someone eventually, but after that, a mixed bag at best.

So forget about what you saw in the building and focus on the building itself. A bit of an oldie, but kind of a goodie.

Suns looking to return to the Western Conference elite

By Max Mandel,

When the Portland Trail Blazers host Phoenix tonight at the Memorial Coliseum, they will see a team that is trying to regain the swagger and confidence that made it one of the elite teams in the Western Conference. With Steve Nash running the point, the Suns continue to have arguably the best point guard in the league. However, in order for this team to return to the playoffs the supporting cast must be healthy and find the consistency that was missing last year.

Having been a key piece in the memorable playoff run with the Golden State Warriors during the 2006/2007 season, Jason Richardson certainly knows something about being part of an explosive offense. Now that he has had the chance to get comfortable with his Suns teammates, Richardson thinks this team is close to replicating the great offensive teams that fans became accustomed to in Phoenix.

“ I think we are real close. We just got to get adjusted to things that we normally do as far as running and being organized,” Richardson said. “ That’s why the preseason is important for us.”

In Golden State, Richardson played some of the best basketball of his career playing alongside Baron Davis. It’s pretty clear that Richardson thinks he can return to that form playing with Nash.

“ It’s very similar. Both of them are great point guards. They both understand the game and how to get guys the ball, and they can score. It’s definitely reminiscent of the days back in Golden State, where we were up and down the court and running, and that will make the game a lot easier for myself.”

For the first time in a couple of seasons, it seems that the Suns are finally healthy entering the season (Robin Lopez injury not withstanding). With the team healthy, Richardson has high expectations entering the season.

“ We have high expectations for ourselves. There aren’t too many people in the NBA world talking about us because other teams made major changes and we didn’t. I think our major change is getting back to the style of play that made everybody successful. Getting back to running makes Steve successful, myself successful, and Grant successful. Also, having Amar’e come back from the eye surgery, I’m definitely excited about that. We have some high expectations for ourselves, and we are going to go out there and try to accomplish them.”

Perhaps the most important piece to the success of the Suns this season is Amar’e Stoudemire. Having been a key part of some of the most dominant Suns teams in recent memory, Stoudemire has a good perspective on what it will take to return to that form. If preseason and training camp are any indication, Stoudemire thinks this team is capable of bringing that success back to Phoenix.

“ I think we are close. It’s just a matter of still incorporating it,” Stoudemire said. “ A lot of these guys haven’t been a part of this type of offense, so it’s just a matter of getting them use to playing that way. I think as we keep working and practicing, and with games also, it will allow us to really incorporate our strategies offensively, and also defensively.”

In order for the Suns and Stoudemire to find that comfort on the offensive end, it’s imperative that he stays healthy for the full season. Although it’s early, Stoudemire insists this is the best he has felt in years.

“ I feel great. I definitely feel closer to being back to that form. I’m right there. With the eye procedure, I’m 100%. I’m getting my legs back into better shape, so I’m almost there. We can never limit ourselves short of anything. If we just keep our motives in line and take care of what we should take care of and play hard out there, then we got a chance.”

Playing in Portland is a unique opportunity for Dickau

By Max Mandel,

After beginning his career at the University of Washington, Dan Dickau transferred to Gonzaga where he put together an All-American career that led to him being selected in the 1st round (28th pick) of the 2002 draft by the Sacramento Kings. The Vancouver, Washington native has not had the same luck with his NBA career, as injuries and loaded depth charts have seen Dickau traded eight times. Tonight, Dickau returns to the Pacific Northwest as a member of the Phoenix Suns and with the hope that he has finally found a stable situation.

One of the perks about returning home is the fact that friends and family can be in attendance to support you and create a good atmosphere.

“It’s always fun (coming home). It’s a different situation with me trying to make this team and those sort of things, but anytime you are in a place that you are comfortable and enjoy being, you usually have a lot of success. I am definitely looking forward to tonight.”

In his highly decorated career at Gonzaga, Dickau was known as a scoring point guard that could thrive in an up-tempo system. For this reason, it seems like the Suns could be the perfect fit for his style of play.

“Without a doubt, the system is one of the main reasons that in looking at the opportunities to go to camp with different teams, I liked this opportunity the best,” Dickau explained. “Because of the way they play; the spacing, the shooting, the emphasis on those kind of things, I thought it would show my strengths a little bit more. I have had a good camp, and I need to just keep playing hard and see what happens.”

One of the keys to having a successful training camp and preseason for Dickau is the ability to stay healthy. At this point, he feels better than he has in a long time.

“I feel great. A few of the injuries that I have had in the past, I have absolutely no issues with now,” Dickau said. “Obviously, I have had a good summer of working out, and knock on wood, hopefully I don’t have to fight anything in the coming weeks. I feel really good and I take great care of my body, and it just becomes a process. Every day you work on it, and you work on your skills, and you stay strong, and stay in shape and in condition. When you do those things, injuries stay away or become less of a problem.”

Preparing For The MC

Just got back from Suns shootaround over at the Memorial Coliseum. I don't think I'd want to play every game over there, but after being in that building with the curtains down and the sun shining through, I have to say I can see what all the "Save The MC" fuss was all about. For whatever faults it have, it's still a pretty cool building. People are right when they say there's not a bad seat in the house. The highest vantage at the MC is about where the Lexus Club Level is at the Rose Garden. I think tickets are still available for $19.70, so swoop up a couple if you already don't have plans.

Sports reporter intern wunderkind Max Mandel and I will have some updates from Suns shootaround, including an interview with Channing "Buffet Of Goodness" Frye, Amar'e Stoudemire and "Thunder" Dan Majerle. Some interesting dudes.

But in the meantime, take a gander at some of the pictures I shot over at the MC today. Should get your blood flowing for tonight's game. Click on any of the pictures for a bigger image.

First, my panoramic attempt. This is three pictures cut together. That's pretty obvious on the right side, but I nailed the left side dead on.

Another shot, slightly left of center facing northwest. Better perspective and whatnot.

Center court facing west.

Slightly to the right, facing southwest.

Jerome Kersey pointing out ... something at the MC earlier this morning.

Terry Porter talking to the media.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Roy Looking For More Effort

By Max Mandel,

With expanded rotations and minutes being distributed unevenly, it can be very difficult for guys to find a rhythm and consistency during the preseason. However, the preseason can used be to create a mentality and confidence that can carry over into the regular season. For Brandon Roy, the hope is for a winning mentality to emerge as the regular season creeps closer.

“My approach earlier was kind of to let guys feel their way and to try and play off guys a little more,” Roy said. “Now it’s changing to being a little more aggressive because the season is getting a little closer. Guys have to see how I play so they will learn how to help me out on the court."

While the preseason can lead to some frustrating performances on the offensive end, Roy expects the Blazers to still play with great effort, which will be needed when the regular season starts.

“I think the important thing is to go extremely hard when you are out there,” Brandon explained. “The worst thing you can do is coast. When you coast like we did during the first three games, the chemistry looks bad and it looks like the guys aren’t in rhythm. So I think it’s important that we go hard the moment we step out on the floor, so that way guys say even if it’s 25 minutes(of playing time), it’s 25 minutes where I can go hard and try to build on something. I think we are ready to do that tomorrow and for the next game.”

It’s clear that even though these are preseason games, the effort level and intensity must increase and improve in order to be successful.

“I want to see guys step up and play these games like they count. I thought that during the first three games, we have been kind of feeling the other team out and coasting. I just want to see our effort step up, and see guys go out there and play extremely hard and play these games to win, even if you don’t play in the 4th quarter. Hopefully we can start to do that tomorrow.”

Practice Photos: Free Throw Follow Through

Lately I've been taking a lot of pictures during practice, some good, some not so good. But aside from the occasional blog post or Rip City article, the photos don't get used. I think that's a waste.

So I've devised the following project to get more out of my photo-taking. Whenever I go out to practice I'll take pictures of the players and coaches doing the same things, then display those photos together in a package. I'll throws those photos in this here blog for you to enjoy/critique/use for your own devices.

As you can see from the title, the first subject in this project is follow through on free throw shots. I tried to take each picture at the very end of each player's foul shooting extension. I got closer timing-wise with some than I did with others. Let me know what you think, and if you've got any particular actions you'd like me to document via photo, let's hear those as well.

Ime Udoka

Travis Outlaw

Nicolas Batum

Steve Blake

Dante Cunningham

Brandon Roy

10.12.09 Trail Blazers Courtside

A little bit of everything on last night's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside. In the first hour team president Larry Miller discussed the plan to stream games live on In the second hour Brian T. Smith of The Columbian drops by to talk preseason, and Merlin appears to talk about ... something. Both hours are available below.

Download Trail Blazers Courtside (Hour One) (43 MB)

Download the Trail Blazers Courtside (Hour Two) (39 MB)

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Believe In The Stream

Team president Larry Miller discussed on Courtside Monday the plan to stream games live online this season (thanks to MB for the podcast link of Miller's comments). Everything goes as planned, and the Trail Blazer will be the first team in the NBA make at least part of the season available to audiences via the internet. The goal: to stream every possible Trail Blazers game by New Year’s 2010. Who knows what could come of this?

Online streaming is something the team and the league have been working on for some time. Trail Blazers fans have been asking for some way, any way, to see their team play, regardless of circumstance. Live streaming via the internet is the best way to make that happen.

The possibility of individual teams live streaming games became a legitimate prospect this summer when the NBA signed off on the idea, so it’s very likely this option will become the norm throughout the league, but we’re the first team to give it a go. We’ve been experimenting with live streaming, albeit in a much different format, for years, so maybe that’s one of the reason why we’re a bit more willing to get streaming up and running. Of course the fact that our games are not available, for whatever reason, to a large portion of our eager fan base is the ultimate incentive to getting games online. You’ve asked for it, now you’re going to get it.

At least in part. The initial plan is to stream all 15 KGW games this season. That’s the baseline. So if you’re living outside of the local broadcast area or you simply don’t have a television, 15 games will now be, as they say, a mouse click away.

As for the remaining games that are currently only showed on Comcast Sportsnet Northwest (Channel 37!), the news isn’t as concrete. The intention is to stream all of our games starting in 2010, which would mean that the new year would probably be a whole lot happier for many of you out there unable to follow the team, through legitimate means, with your own eyes. Hopefully we’ll get there soon. Fingers crossed.

There will be more specifics in the coming days, but there are a few details out there. There will be a fee or fees involved, but no word yet on what those might be. We have to pay to make these games available online and we’re serious about making Trail Blazers basketball a viable business. That’s pretty easy math.

With any luck we’ll get to the point where everyone who wants to watch the Trail Blazers, regardless of where they live or what mode of telecommunication delivery system they prefer, can do so. That’s the way it should be. And hopefully the more information you hear, the more you’ll like the option. And if not, let us know. I know you will.

UPDATE: I have a few extra details regarding who the stream will be available to. Looks as though the stream will be available in Oregon and parts of Washington. Streaming to those out-of-state and internationally falls under the NBA's jurisdiction.

Friday, October 9, 2009

10.07.09 Podcast

Things I've done today: viewed the largest and most interesting collection of Trail Blazers paraphernalia on the planet, held a three month old baby, walked out of a Subway because they ran out of bread, saw Jeff Pendergraph and his new car and recorded this week's Podcast with Dave Deckard from It's been a grab bag kind of day.

On this week's podcast Dave and I discuss the preseason performances. Dave takes up the role of interviewer, which he does quite aptly, while I play guy who is supposed to know what he's talking about. Usually those roles are reversed, but like I said, it's been a different kind of day. Good though.

Download the Podcast (40.1 MB)

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

We Can Rebuild Him

So … how about that Greg Oden?

We’ve had a chance for the first time in a long time to see a healthy and in shape Greg Oden, and even though it’s preseason and against the Kings, but still, some impressive stuff.

You had seen him with a broken wrist, seen him on crutches. You’ve seen his frustration with fouls and how difficult it is to get back in shape a year after microfracture surgery. But what you had not seen is a confident Greg Oden, an Oden who believes in his ability to stay healthy and his conditioning. But if you were able to make it to the Rose Garden or ARCO Arena, you’ve had a chance to see those things first hand.

“I’m in shape,” said Oden. “Last year I was coming in just getting used to playing again. Last summer I couldn’t play all summer so my only playing was here during training camp. Right now I’m actually in shape.”

“He’s done a good job and he’s had a good camp,” said Nate McMillan. “What we want him to do is do what he’s been doing: working his butt off to get in great shape. I think that has shown by how he’s played, his conditioning.”

With improved fitness, Oden is now able to completely trust his body. A baseline spin around Spencer Hawes and a weakside block on Jason Thompson are evidence of that. But trust and conditioning are only minor players in the reconstruction of Greg Oden. The real lynchpin for GO is confidence. It was lost somewhere in the year he spent away from the game, but it’s returning with every practice.

“I definitely have my confidence up,” said Oden. “That’s something that, going through this summer, getting all those shots up, is something that did good.”

Those who have already come to a conclusion on who Greg Oden is going to be as an NBA player seem to discredit the importance of confidence. Having to work yourself into shape, during your rookie season no less, after spending a year away from the game can quickly erode a player’s confidence. It takes time and experience, as well as hundreds of hours on the court and in the weight room, to get it back.

“Last year was his first year,” said McMillan, “not knowing what to expect from teammates, from the league and opponents. This year he’s seen that twice now. He had a year to sit out and observe. Last year he got a taste of playing against teams and players in the league. Now he knows what to expect and what he needs to do to get ready. As you spend time in this league you mature, you get more confident in your ability to do things on the floor, and I think he’s feeling confident that he can play and play at a high level here.”

It’s only two games in preseason against an opponent void of bulk in the post, but if it gives the guy a much needed confidence boost, who cares? It’s something to build on, and Oden is portraying it as such.

“Everything is still a work in progress but it does feel a lot better.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Notes From A Shootaround: Welcome To Preseason

The complexion of a shootaround doesn't change much, be it pre or regular season. The team breaks off into units for walkthroughs, guys walk around with their hands down their sweatpants to stay warm, coaches discuss opponent tendencies, everyone huddles at center court, Coach McMillan says whatever is on his mind, the team says "Together!" in unison after which everyone scatters. Some guys get up a few shots. Others grab a quick bite in the players lounge before leaving for home, probably to go back to bed. And that's that. There's no reason to change habits for a preseason game.

Here are your notes:

• As has been reported nearly everywhere, Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla will start tonight against the Kings. However tomorrow might be a different story. The experimental nature of the exhibition season coupled with the playing a back-to-back has lead Coach McMillan to leave tomorrow's starters TBD.

"I’m going to rotate my starting lineup throughout preseason and look at some combinations and also rest some guys," said McMillan. So we will get Andre (Miller) in the starting lineup, not necessarily tomorrow night. We’ll see how tonight’s game goes and make a decision on tomorrow night basically tomorrow morning."

I wouldn't be at all surprised to see wholesale changes to the starting lineup tomorrow night in Sactown. I'm going to guess that Rudy Fernandez starts tomorrow. That's just a gut feeling.

• My favorite preseason question: Is winning important in the preseason? We all know it really isn't, but what is McMillan going to say? No, we don't care about losing? That'll be a great headline.

Mac-10 isn't so easily tricked.

"We want to play well," said McMillan. "I think you set the tone for going out and working hard and not going through the motions regardless of the result. At the end of exhibition it goes back to 0-0 but you play this game to win. That is our approach, to go out and try to win the game."

Cue the Herm Edwards clip.

• McMillan brought up a good point about tonight's game that I hadn't previously thought of: With Paul Westphal now calling the shots in Sacramento, the Blazers' coaching staff doesn't really know what to expect from the Kings as far as system goes. They know what individual players are capable of, but when it comes to the Kings as a whole, questions remain.

"We don’t have anything on Sacramento because they do have a new coach and a new system," said McMillan "There are tendencies. We will cover the players, cover some schemes. For us, what we’ve said, it’s not about Sacramento; it’s about us and what we need to do out on the floor as a team. We know how we’ve talked about playing and now it’s time for us to go out and execute that."

McMillan speaks truth on that one. A motivated Trail Blazers team should be able to handle the Kings with or without advanced scouting. Being at the Rose Garden doesn't hurt either.

• McMillan, for the first time since he took over as top dog in Portland, knows what he's got coming into preseason, or so I thought. Last year it was finding out about Oden, Fernandez, Batum and Bayless. The year before that it was Channing Frye, James Jones, Taurean Green and Josh McRoberts. There are new faces this season, but I figured that, since all of the main pieces remained intact, there wouldn't be much "getting to know you" time.

Turns out that assumption is only sort of correct.

"Every year is a different year," said McMillan. "I do feel more comfortable with our guys. We’re doing the same thing pretty much. We’re adding some new wrinkles, a few new wrinkles and players. There’s still a learning time with your team at the beginning because it’s a different year. Everything has changed. What you did last year is behind you and this year you’ve got to do it again but do it better. Expectations are different for yourself and from people around the league so people look at you different. So it’s going to be a different year."

Monday, October 5, 2009

McMillan Mix And Match

If you want to draw Nate McMillan’s ire, try making a distinction between the starters and bench players based off what jersey’s they’re wearing. Typically, the guys in black jerseys are the starters, with those in white jerseys comprising the second-string. But this early in the season, according to McMillan, those standards don’t apply.

“It’s not a first unit,” said McMillan when asked about Rudy Fernandez dawning a black jersey on the fourth day of training camp. “We mix up the team. Did you see where Brandon was at? I don’t think I’ve said that the black is the starting unit or the white. I was prepared for you guys coming in here. I knew you would look over and say ‘Brandon is with a different unit’ not necessarily the white unit. We’ll do that. We’ll mix up our rotations during practice and during preseason and look at some different combinations. Today we did that.”

Turns out McMillan has been doing that more often lately. The media was allowed for the first time Friday to see Fernandez play alongside Steve Blake, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla, the black unit, while Roy played with Andre Miller, Martell Webster, Juwan Howard and Greg Oden in the white unit, but according to Roy, today’s run wasn’t the first time McMillan switching things up.

“I didn’t do anything with the first unit since the second day,” said Roy. “I don’t even know if there is a first unit/second unit yet. I think me and LaMarcus are pretty safe. I don’t think there is a first unit/second unit. And I don’t think guys care. Guys are just competing right now.”

Roy plays so much that he’s sure to overlap with just about every rotation player during the course of the season, probably one of the reasons McMillan doesn’t keep him on one scrimmage squad for too long. He recently played on a team with Andre Miller, Joel Przybilla, Juwan Howard and Nicolas Batum and he’s sure to play with other permutations as well.

“I like it,” said Roy of the jersey swapping. “It was different because usually me and LaMarcus are always on the same team, so (Friday’s practice) was a little different. He had his squad, I had mine and it was fun. I enjoyed it. I’m just like that. Who ever you put me out there with I try to build something.

"I’m sure in preseason he’ll start different lineups because in the regular season there could be injuries. Some games guys don’t have it so coach wants to have lineups that are comfortable playing with one another."

Portland Puts The 'Fan' In Fan Fest

Usually when the Trail Blazers lace ‘em up at the Rose Garden, the play on the court is the big story. But Sunday night the 16,752 fans that nearly filled all three levels in the Rose Garden stole the headlines at the 2009 Wells Fargo Fan Fest. Not to take away anything from double-doubles put up by LaMarcus Aldridge (13 points, 10 rebounds), Greg Oden (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Fan Fest MVP Steve Blake (17 points, 11 assists), but when nearly 17,000 people show up for an inter-squad scrimmage, they become the story.

“I think it shows what type of fans we have,” said Nate McMillan. “We have fans that are very supportive. They love the Blazers. They like what we’ve been doing the last few years. We’ve got an exciting team. Everybody is looking forward to seeing this team play, our fans as well as me and the rest of the guys. Four years ago when I came here we may have had 1,000 or 2,000 people in the stands at that time. To see this grow and to see the fan support come back, it’s a great thing.”

McMillan can pat himself on the back for much of that renewed crowd support. His no-nonsense, team first approach has been instrumental in getting Portlanders back where they belong: in the Rose Garden. According to McMillan, the willingness of fans to show up for Fan Fest gives the scrimmages a little extra something that can’t be recreated in the seclusion of the practice facility.

“Once they get in front of a crowd, they play. You can tell them to take it easy and we want to be careful out there, but once the fans are in the building and the lights go on these guys compete.”

Brandon Roy, who played just 22 minutes because he’s Brandon Roy, was appreciative of the turnout but he wasn’t necessarily surprised to see the Rose Garden nearly full knowing the rabidity with which Portland supports the Blazers

“This is my fourth year but if you would have asked me before I’d have said at least 15,000 people were going to be here,” said Roy. “Our fans love this team. We have a really neat bond with them. Any time they say the Blazers are playing we expect them to come out and support us because they really push us and motivate us, especially during training camp.”

Steve Blake, who’s showed off a pain-free shooting stroke for the first time since the middle of last season, was a bit more taken aback than his backcourt partner.

“It’s crazy we had that many people there. That’s pretty exciting. The intensity they brought to this is as good as some other home courts for some people, so it was fun.”

Friday, October 2, 2009

Batum's New Attitude

It seems like almost everyone started out doubting Nicolas Batum.

After Kevin Pritchard and his staff orchestrated a trade with Houston to acquire the lanky Frenchman, the overwhelming sentiment amongst the media was that he would stay in Europe for at least another year, maybe more. People wondered whether his slight frame would allow him play the more physical NBA game. There were questions regarding a physical he took in Toronto. And his statistics in the EuroLeague lead one respected journalist to declare definitely that Batum was nowhere near ready.

His performance in the Las Vegas Summer League didn’t do anything to quiet those sentiments. He looked overwhelmed against NBA players; unable to do anything that would lead anyone to believe he belonged on the Trail Blazers’ roster.

So it came as a surprise to most people when the team announced Batum would make his way to Portland rather than spending another season with Le Mans. Once that little piece of conventional wisdom was debunked, the standard narrative changed. While Batum might now be under contract with the Trail Blazers, there was no way he could or would get minutes. A stint with the Idaho Stampede was surely in his future.

Maybe that was Portland’s plan, but it wasn’t Batum’s. He wasn’t going to leave behind his family, friends and teammates in France to pull a tour in Boise. His heart had been questioned, both literally and figuratively. It was then, after a tumultuous four months that saw him drop in the draft and flame out at summer league, that Batum decided he had had enough.

“People were walking over me,” said Batum. “When I think that people told me you maybe need to go to the D-League, in my head, I say ‘No. I am in the NBA; I don’t want to go to the D-League.’ If I come here, I come to play in the NBA. So I just try to keep confidence in myself, try to play hard every time, every practice, to play hard, to be the first in the gym. That’s what I did and that’s why I did a great season.”

Batum’s 5.4 points and 2.8 rebounds averages in a little over 18 minutes per game might not scream “great season,” but his better-than-average three-point shooting and his status as the team’s best wing defender made his rookie season an unqualified success, especially given the surprise nature of his contributions. And the confidence and maturity Batum gained throughout the 2008-09 season and over the summer playing for the French national team would prove more important to the long-term success of the Trail Blazers than raw per game averages.

Head coach Nate McMillan has seen the difference in Batum through the first days of training camp. The quiet, tentative kid who was left on the doorstep of the Trail Blazers practice facility has been replaced with a self-assured man ready to contribute from the jump.

“Last year (Batum) came in as a rookie not really knowing what to expect,” said McMillan. “This year you see him not thinking, but more reacting. Very aggressive. He knows he can play at this level and play with this group of guys and play in this league. You’re seeing a guy who is very aggressive, attacking the glass. He’s looking to put the ball on the floor, looking more relaxed, more confident in his ability.”

You can see that confidence in the way Batum carries himself. The swagger he showed in fits and starts last season is now ever-present. He’s become more assertive, instinctual.

“I feel better than last year,” said Batum. “I am more comfortable, more confident in my game. I’ll keep playing defense like I did last year and be more aggressive on offense, to go to the rim, take my shots and don’t be shy.”

Shyness is no longer a problem for Batum, on or off the court. A year older and wiser, he’s set his sights on keeping his starting spot, being more than just a defensive specialist and proving to all of those who doubted him, those who passed him over, that they made a serious miscalculation.

“I’m more mature than last year,” said Batum. “Now I know the NBA life and the NBA game. I know this life. I’m different than last year. I grew up a lot.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

10.01.09 Podcast

Welcome to October and training camp. And podcasts. This week Gavin Dawson of 95.5 The Game, Dave Deckard of and I, Casey Holdahl, of talk Andre Miller, Greg Oden, Ime Udoka, who we're most looking forward to seeing on the court, setting good picks, what websites we read when we're not reading our own and Dave's quest to send a bunch of good kids to a good Trail Blazers game. It's fun to listen.

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