Thursday, July 30, 2009

Running Down a Dream: Western Conference Semi-Finals

After being taken to the brink in the opening round of the playoffs, the Trail Blazers playoffs didn't get any easier as their perennial rivals from the Midwest, the Utah Jazz were up next. Portland looked liked the 63 win team, using their depth to outplay the Utah duo of Malone and Stockton to the tune of a 4-1 series win. The Blazers were led by the amazing all-around play of Clyde Drexler, who nearly averaged a triple-double for the entire series by going for 19.8 ppg, 10 rpg, and 9.6 apg.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

After Signing Miller, Blazers are Overcrowded

With the addition of point guard Andre Miller and the imminent signing of Portland's two 2nd round draft pick, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph, the roster stands at 13 players.
LaMarcus AldridgeNicolas BatumJerryd Bayless
Steve Blake Dante CunninghamRudy Fernandez
Andre MillerGreg OdenTravis Outlaw
Jeff PendergraphJoel PrzybillaBrandon Roy
Martell Webster
Portland has up to two more roster spots to fill if they so choose and one possibility could be adding 55th overall selection Patrick Mills or they could look to sign a veteran journeyman for insurance purposes. Whether they add or don't add to the current roster is not the question. The question becomes, "Is the roster overcrowded?" Normally, I wouldn't worry about having too much depth during the last week of July, but recent reports make it seem like no more trades will be made before training camp. (Notes) Point guard is the most glaring log jam where Portland has three capable players vying for only 48 minutes of action and none of them can split any time at the off guard. Baring injury, Miller and Blake will split the entire time with Bayless being relegated to 3rd string cheerleader once more. Jerryd is very driven and ultra-competitive, so would he be fine waiting yet another year to get on the court? He was the consummate professional last year but that was only one year. In regards to being a team cancer over a lack of playing time, Bayless was quoted as saying, "I will never be like that. I know how it can affect a team." Also, if there is any consolation, it should be much easier watching two better players get run ahead of him, in Miller and Blake, instead of witnessing Sergio Rodriguez take playing time away from you. Another minutes battle ensues if Martell Webster returns from his stress fracture injury 100%. Webster can play either the 2 or 3 position and could take away time from Batum, Outlaw, and Fernandez. Rudy was already worried about Hedo coming to town and with the addition of Andre, there goes any minutes Rudy could have had at point guard. Also, if, and it is still a big if, Webster is fully recovered, Roy's time at the small forward probably drops, which means no more of those additional minutes for Rudy at the 2. Of any player on the team, Rudy strikes me most to become a problem in the locker room. Although McMillan views Travis as a power forward first, he still can and does play small forward, which allowed him to average 27 mpg the previous two seasons. By all reports, Travis is the most likable guy in the locker room, but this is a contract year for Mr. 4th Quarter, and if he only gets scraps behind Aldridge, it'll mean less money on the market for him. Batum's defense is too valuable to Portland for him not to continue to get his minutes, 16, whether starting or not. Finally, what about Martell if he finds himself buried on the depth chart and only getting garbage minutes? Personally, I don't think he would cause a ruckus, because he knows he is a year behind due to the foot injury and he is still reaping the benefits of that $20 million contract. As much as I would love to say that we, the fans, or talent were the #1 reasons why the Trail Blazers won 54 games last year, it's simply not the case. Both helped out mightily, but it was team chemistry that got us a share of the NorthWest Division crown and home court advantage in the playoffs for the first time since 2000. A lot of people would say winning breeds chemistry and I don't disagree with that at all, but what if the wins don't come as plentiful this season or the team hits rough patch in the season? Do we hear trade demands and players pointing fingers in the locker room? I don't think it would get that extreme, mainly due to the personalities on the roster but little things could start showing up on the court. The extra pass may not be made in order for a player to "get theirs" or the bench might not cheer for their teammates. Little things compiled together add up. Ideally, KP would swing a 2 or 3 for 1 consolidation trade which would trim down the playing rotation down from 10 to 8 or 9. Historically, championship caliber teams that play for long tenures have short rotations. The early 90's Blazers had a 7 or 8 man rotation, as did Jordan's Bulls, and more recently, the Spurs of the current decade. There is such a thing as "too deep" and right now, Portland is there.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Been a Long Time

The 14 year drought of not having a legit starting point guard has ended today with the singing of Andre Miller. 1995-96 was the last season the Trail Blazers had someone running the show as a top 10 point guard in the NBA. His name? Rod Strickland. Its not as if this 14 year dry spell has been the exception, it has been the norm for a relatively young franchise. It only takes one hand to count the really good point guards the Blazers have had. By my count, there have only been 2, Terry Porter, and Rod Strickland prior to today.
The point guard position has been a house of horrors this decade for the scarlet and black. In what was supposed to be a great homecoming, Damon Stoudamire, never really lived up to his rookie of the year play as soon as he arrived. He was criticized by Blazer fans for shooting too much, being too inconsistent, and most importantly, coming up short in the playoffs. Many thought the dry spell was over in the summer of 2004, when the team draft flashy, point guard Sebastian Telfair with the 13th overall pick in the draft. Bassy was supposed to be the next big thing to come out of Cony Island, New York, instead, his lack of a jump shot got him shipped out of town within two seasons. For supposedly having great court vision, he never managed over 3.6 apg in Portland. The next two young hopefuls, Jarrett Jack and Sergio Rodriguez, never seemed to take control of the reigns and take off with the starting position. Jack had the desirable ability of attacking and finishing at the hoop but was too turnover prone to be handed the keys to the car. On the other hand, Sergio has eyes in the back of his head, but couldn't shoot to keep the defenses honest and thought playing defense was optional. Steve Blake was brought in around the same time as Jack and Sergio, but, almost by default, has been the current starting point guard; the safe bet who won't make outstanding plays but also won't commit turnovers. Finally, there is Jerryd Bayless who has the fan base divided right down the middle as to whether or not he is the future point guard of this team. Many feel he is a shooting guard in a point guard's body while others love his intensity, work ethic, and ability to get to the rim at any time. The jury is still out on Bayless in regards to being the future pg, but everyone can agree that he is not ready to handle starters minutes this upcoming season. Terry Porter was drafted by the Blazers in 1985 with the last pick in the first round (24). He would be the floor general of the Blazers for the next ten years, and would be no small reason the Blazers saw the finals twice during his tenure. Though Clyde Drexler was unequivically the best player on the team, Porter commanded the offense and was often called upon in the clutch, and seemed to play his best in the big games. A player that could do it all, Porter would stick the three, take it to the hole, run the fast break and send out a myriad of dazzling assists. Yet Porter played with kind of a gritty toughness, especially on defense. The best point guard in Blazers history, ultimately he was a casualty of the 1995 Whittsit rebuilding process as the Blazers let him walk and sign on with the Timberwolves. Rod Strickland was Porter's backcourt mate and eventual successor. Signed in 1992 as a free agent, he manned the point guard spot while Porter moved more to the shooting guard. Another point guard product of New York, Strickland was lightning quick and would get to the rim at will. He was an incredible finisher at the basket, but could make all the right passes to open teammates as well. After Porter left in 1995, the Blazers looked to be ending their 14 season playoff streak as they stumbled to a 16-34 record. Behind Strickland's play, however, the Blazers would go on a 17-2 run and easily secure a playoff spot. Strickland average of 9.6 assists, is the highest for any Blazer since. Strickland, however was the first in a line of players who were unhappy with the coaching style of P.J. Carlissimo and was traded following the year along with Harvey Grant for Rasheed Wallace and Mitchell Butler. Although Miller lacks Porter's long range capabilities and Strickland's lightning speed, he finds his own ways to become a great play-maker. He uses a combination of an accurate mid-range jump shot and his 6'2" 200lb frame to bully his way into the paint. Three players, Roy, Aldridge, and Oden, should be ecstatic with this new addition. Miller led all NBA players in alley-oops thrown last season and LaMarcus loves to use his long strides to beat his man down the floor. On numerous occasions, the opportunity presented itself for a lob pass, but we lacked the point guard capable of being able to throw such passes. How many times have we all saw Oden set the pick, roll, be open, and no one look for the big fella for the easy deuce? Andre has been averaging around 7 dimes the past few seasons, surrounded by lesser talent, so I don't think Greg will go neglected anymore. Brandon can now rejoice. He doesn't have to carry to team on his back for a full 48 minutes anymore. Obviously, the ball will be in his hands in the clutch, but no longer will Portland have to run their bread and butter plays in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, because he is the only play-makers out on the court. Probably the most important attribute to Miller's game? No, not being the current NBA iron man, but taking one less Trail Blazer killer off of the market!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Andre Miller: Right Fit or Desperation?

Multiple outlets have been reporting for the past several days that Andre Miller flew into Las Vegas this past week to meet with head coach Nate McMillan. Obviously, Miller was not Pritchard's first or second option, but does going after Andre signal that he is the right fit, just not the top priority, or is it an act of desperation by KP to accomplish something this summer?
One major positive in not having Andre Miller as our #1 target is his market value has been driven down, way down. As time passed in free agency, deals such as Mike Bibby getting 3 years for $18 million, have set the market for 30-something veteran point guards. Originally, Miller wanted $10 million a season for multiple years, but not only has no team pursued Miller for the $10 million he was seeking, no team has really showed any interest in Miller at all. The Knicks have been rumored to have offered a 1 year deal at the full mid level exception but who knows the validity of New York tabloid media? Also, another factor in Portland's favor is the fact Philadelphia will look for a sign and trade, which would allow the Blazers to add an upgrade at point guard and still have their cap room to go after another free agent or lopsided trade.
One big question has to be asked though. How come teams aren't knocking down the door for a 16 ppg, 6.5 apg, 4.5 rpg point guard who has been extremely durable over his 11 year career, playing on average of 90% of his games? It could have been his hefty contract demands but since those seem to have been subdued, really only the Knicks have shown interest. My theory is Andre Miller is only a player a contending team seeks out and all the contending teams (Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Cavaliers, Magic, etc) all have point guards they are satisfied with, so that doesn't leave many options available for him. Portland would seem like the only logical destination; young team, on the verge of title contention, in need of a veteran point guard.
The major red flag in regards to bringing Miller to Portland seems to be his lack of 3 point shooting, career 21% shooter. Many fans believe that Brandon Roy is our point guard when it matters most in the 4th quarter and we need a point guard to be able to spot up, off the ball, and knock down the long ball. One thing that gets overlooked is how good of a shooter Miller is inside the 3 point arc, 46% over 11 years. Portland already has enough long-range threats, Outlaw, Webster, & Fernandez, to compensate for Miller. While Portland would surely miss Blake's timely shooting, we would be in a better position to win games over the full 48 minutes with Andre's superior penetrating, rebounding, and passing skills.
Finally, I believe going after Andre is a little bit of "right fit" and a little "desperation". KP has already missed on his top 2 targets this summer and I get the feeling he wants to get something done in what has been considered "the last summer with cap space". Also, Miller makes a lot of sense for this Blazer team who have been in dire need of someone other than Roy who can get to the hoop and finish. The fact that KP could acquire Andre without giving up all of the team's cap space makes him more of an attractive option. I really hope Portland is able to sign, seal, and deliver Andre to the Rose City but contingent on two factors: It is a Mike Bibby type of contract and the only players given up in a sign and trade are Steve Blake or Martell Webster.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Running Down a Dream: Western Conference Quarter Finals

The Trail Blazers were riding high into the playoffs as the #1 overall seed but drew their rivals from north, the Seattle Supersonics. Everyone thought Portland would sweep their way through since they went 4-0 vs. the Sonics in the regular season but each contest was hotly contested. Seattle forced the series to 5 games, nearly becoming the 1st 8th seed ever to upset a #1 seed, before bowing out in the finale 119-107.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer League Game 5: Trail Blazers vs. D-League All-Stars

Without Jerryd Bayless, the Trail Blazers put up a valiant effort, but threw the game away in the closing seconds en route to a 74-73 loss to the NBDL All-Stars. Portland blew the game open in the 2nd quarter, leading by as many as 20 points, but tired legs caught up to the Blazers in the 2nd half and the lead was down to 5 going into the 4th. Portland gave up the lead early on in the quarter but found themselves in a position to seal the deal. The Blazers had the ball at halfcourt, up by 2 and with the ball, but an errant pass by Thomas Gardner was stolen and a desperation three was nailed as time expired by the NBDL All-Stars. The loss in the Summer League finale dropped the Trail Blazers record to 1-4. Note: This game was radio only, so I am only going off of the box score and Brian Wheeler's play by play. Jerryd Bayless: Due to a left wrist sprain, Jerryd Bayless was held out of tonight's action.
Dante Cunningham: With Bayless out of the lineup, the scoring load was shouldered, as suspected, by Dante who led the way with 16 points on 7-14 shooting. No one will ever complain about 50% shooting, but Dante never really got into a rhythm. It was make, miss, make, miss all game long and nearly all the shots came from the perimeter. Usually if something is clicking, then don't shy away from it, which is the jump shot in his case, but this is Summer League, time to work on weaknesses. It would have been an even bigger surprise to see him take his game to the next level by either showing off some post moves or putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim.
After a disappointing 2 rebound effort last night vs. San Antonio, Dante bounced back strong by pulling down 7 boards. Given all of his activity around the hoop, its amazing he managed to not commit a single foul, that is the epitome of controlled chaos. Really the only negative tonight was the 3 missed free throws, but it seemed like a fluke since he had only missed 2 free throws going into the final game.
Mr. Cunningham was easily the biggest surprise of Summer League and our MVP during this week in Las Vegas. His performance definitely opened the eyes of Blazer fans and should put him in the mix for backup front court minutes. I said it after his first game of the summer and I still stand by that statement, that if we did not sign Millsap, which we didn't, I would feel very comfortable with Dante as our backup power forward getting 15 minutes a night. Overall Grade: B+
Jeff Pendergraph: Another "as advertised" game for Pendergraph tonight with 10 points, 4-9 shooting, 5 boards, and 3 blocked shots. Like Cunningham, I was hoping Jeff would take a more assertive role on offense without Bayless playing, but 9 shots is about what he averaged through the five games. Even though the offense might have not taken off with Bayless out, his defense seems to get better each night. 5 blocks over the last two games has really shown his progression in timing and anticipation on the defensive end.
I compared him to Tyson Chandler the first time I saw him this summer and that comparison still stands. He probably never will be one to be a dominate low post scorer or even a player who the offense will run through, but his field goal percentage is sky high, 55.3% for the summer, and is a superb garbage man around the rim, using his strong hands to grab everything in sight. One thing that sets him apart from other centers is his shooting. He showed off a face up jumper I didn't know was in his offensive repertoire and shot 85.7% from the foul line through his five games in Las Vegas.
Backup minutes at the center spot in Portland will be impossible to come by, barring injury, but Jeff would be a nice insurance policy if an injury did occur or a potential replacement to Przybilla down the road in a couple of years. If for nothing else, he'll be a great, big body for Greg to practice against every day throughout the season. Overall Grade: B

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summer League Game 4: Trail Blazers vs. Spurs

With a dominating 91-74 performance over the San Antonio Spurs, the Portland Trail Blazers picked up their first victory of the Las Vegas Summer League to run their record to 1-3. The return of Dante Cunningham provided an early offensive boost that the Blazers needed to take an early lead and never look back. This was a no-doubter, as Jerryd Bayless was able to rest and recuperate the entire fourth quarter. Jerryd Bayless: Bayless put together probably his most complete performance of the Summer League with 18 points on only 9 shots(5 made)while still handing out 5 assists. Averaging two points per shot attempt is an amazingly efficient night. What was most impressive was how comfortable he looked out there on the court as a creator. By being such an acrobatic finisher in traffic, it makes him a dual threat on the pick and roll, which Portland loves to run. A play that exemplifies this occurred when Cunningham came over to set a screen and Bayless took both defenders to the wing with him, but spaced them out far enough so he could split the defense and have the open court be his prerogative and threw up a nice floater which resulted in an And-1. Unfortunately, the turnovers reached 7 tonight, one more than his average. The frustrating aspect of each turnover is focus and control. On the first play of the game, he had Pendergraph open on the low blocks but threw him a lazy pass which ended up getting poked away. On one other occurrence, he was called for another palming violation, seemingly his calling card since he gets called for it on a nightly basis. On most nights, 0 rebounds would look rather poor, but considering George Hill only shot the ball 3 times didn't give him much of a chance to go after the ball. One thing that went unnoticed during the game was his on ball defense of George Hill, who played quite a bit as a rookie in San Antonio. He held Hill to only 6 points and only committed 2 fouls in the process, which is a huge success, because Bayless was notorious for his aggressive D last year that led to a lot of quick fouls. The most important aspect of the night for Jerryd was that he found the middle ground between distributor and scorer and looked good doing it. Do not be alarmed by the turnovers as most of them can be corrected with experience. As for tomorrow's affair with the D-league All-Stars, I'd like to see more of the same vintage Bayless living at the foul line (8-10) and finding the open man. Overall Grade: A- Dante Cunningham: Mr. Cunningham did not take long to welcome himself back onto the team tonight. His 3 straight jumpers to start the game set the tone for the Blazers to run away with a victory. He only ended up with 14 points, on 7-12 shooting, but it was the way in which he was getting his shots that is so impressive. As stated before, his basketball IQ is through the roof. He can score off the curl, from spotting up off of the pick and roll, and via the face up game; he just knows how to move well without the ball. Teams now know he can be deadly from 18 feet and are coming out to challenge that look, but he made a few nice moves with two head fakes in a row, but the following move after the pump fake needs to be quicker as he hesitated too much. The only chink in the Dante Cunningham armor tonight was the lack of rebounds, 2. The Spurs have some big bodies down low in DeJaun Blair and Ian Mahinmi which makes boards a premium. Although only 2 rebounds were gathered, no one, outside of Blair's 11, had more than 5, so it was a team effort to keep the Spurs off of the glass. It seems that as each game passes, a new aspect of his game stands out. Tonight it was his man defense, mainly on Mahinmi. A few times in the first half, Mahinmi was just too quick an agile for Pendergraph to stick with, but once Dante got the switch he was athletic enough to force him into a few bad shots. For the next game, I'd like to see Dante attack the hoop more often. Maybe off of a catch and shoot situation, throw a pump fake in there and dribble right around the defender for some points in the paint. He had 0 free throw attempts tonight and he's much too good of a charity stripe shooter to not make a living at the line. Overall Grade: B Jeff Pendergraph: It was a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hide outing for Jeff tonight. In the first half, he was nonexistent outside of a great block on Blair. He was getting abused in the post by the aforementioned Mahinmi and wasn't as active on the boards as normal. It's a pretty bad omen when David Padgett is outplaying you in a half. To Jeff's credit he came out in the 2nd half much more focused and driven, which led to his finest outing this summer, 14 points, 6-6 from the line, and 10 rebounds. The strength of his hands, as a ball never seems to get out of his grasp, was shown off on a multitude of plays down low which resulted in free throw attempts and dunk put backs. Bayless threw him a pass where only he could grab it, but it was a difficult catch and finish, but he took it up strong in one motion for an And-1. What really seems to be his calling card are the charges he has been known to draw, similar to Przybilla. He drew 2 in a row on the San Antonio bigs and that really got him going. For him to make it in this league as a known defender, he must get quicker. He has zero problems muscling with the wide bodies, as he swatted Blair twice while Blair shot in the post and affected countless others. Its those long, lanky, athletic players which are too quick for Jeff to stay in front of that give him fits. I wish he would learn to play off the quicker players and make them beat him in other ways first, so he needs to improve on adapting. Overall Grade: A

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer League Game 3: Trail Blazers vs. Nuggets

Not unexpectedly, the Trailblazers losing streak was extended to 3 as they fell to the Nuggets 111-93. The Blazers never were able to get into a rhythm without leading scorer Dante Cunningham, and though they cut the lead to single digits in the 4th quarter, they didn't have the firepower to match a late Nuggets surge. Jerryd Bayless: Everyone take a deep breath and relax and repeat after me, "It is only Summer League!" After a solid opening game to the Las Vegas Summer League, Jerryd has put together back to back mediocre performances. It's not as if he is doing anything necessarily wrong but how comfortable he looks running the show. There would be times where he looked like a point guard; breaking the Denver press by attacking the middle of the floor, but a few plays later he would get caught on the sideline and force a turnover. At least the mistakes he is committing, offensive fouls and carrying, are easily fixable, but still another 6 turnover game is frustrating to watch. The one major positive is how easy it is for him to score at will and, for the most part, is not trying to just take over every minute on the floor. Another solid shooting night, 8-17, for 19 points read the stat line is an encouraging sign. The jumper looks nearly automatic off of the pick and roll as defenders are going underneath the screen and daring Jerryd to pull the trigger. Although the transition to more of a play maker has been rough at times, the body language has always been positive and he is still making efforts to help the team out in other facets of the game, which can he seen by his 5 rebounds last night to hit his Summer League average. After viewing the first three games this summer, one question is left to be answered. When Jerryd gets that fire in his eyes and looks to score, can he differentiate between score mode and play maker? There was a sequence which epitomized this feeling. Bayless had just rattled off 7 straight points on three straight shots then was leading the fast break in which he had teammate Thomas Gardner behind him for the easy lay up if he just dropped it right off to him. Jerryd didn't keep his eyes open and forced a bad lay up, but on the next time down he found Gardner streaking for a great scoring opportunity, so he's learning, just inconsistent. For tonight's game vs. San Antonio, it would be nice to see him look to make plays, not just score or not just pass. Also, three straight 6 turnover games needs to stop! Overall Grade:B- Dante Cunningham: Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, Dante Cunningham had to miss tonight's game due to a sore left groin. He is listed as day-to-day. Jeff Pendergraph: It was a tale of two halves for Pendergraph. In the first half, he was crashing the boards, making a couple of nice face-up jump shots, and playing very solid defense. It is easy to tell when he is and when he isn't in the game just by the team defense being played. The team defense improves drastically when he steps on the court. Again, his fronting of the post is amazing and a skill set he needs to use as his niche if he wants to stay in the league. The plays were nearly back to back, but by using his length and athleticism, Jeff was able to get 2 steals simply by moving his feet and using instincts to get to the ball. Outside of one made jump shot, there was nothing of note he did, good or bad. He hardly played at all in the 4th quarter, but maybe that was because Portland is in the midst of playing 3 games in 3 nights and wanted to preserve some of his energy for his battle with DeJuan Blair next. None the less, he still tallied 7 points, on 3-8 shooting, and 9 rebounds, but it would have been nice to see him more assertive on the offensive end since Dante was out of action. For next game, I would love to see his weak side defensive instincts come out more often. We've only caught a glimpse of it when he had a nice rejection against Houston. Overall Grade: C+

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blazers Staring at 0-2 Count

Kevin Pritchard has taken two home run cuts already this summer, nearly connecting on both, but, in the end, each was nothing more than a long,foul ball. The first swing was aimed at Hedo Turkoglu, and all Blazer fans were anxious to see him in scarlet & black, but he backed out of a verbal agreement to play in Portland only to go north of the border to Toronto. Strike one. KP's next swing was targeting Utah restricted power forward Paul Millsap, and not unexpectedly, Utah has decided to match Portland's 4 year/$32 million "toxic" offer. Strike two. With Portland starting down the barrel of an 0-2 count, what will be their next move? Will KP swing for the fences once again in free agency or will he be a patient hitter and work the count in hopes of landing someone on the cheap at the trade deadline? Shockingly enough, there are still 3 marquee free agents left on the table: Lamar Odom With the Lakers pulling Odom's offer, he would seem like the best player available, but supposedly he and Aldridge are not the best of buddies and Odom is the epitome of enigma. One night he looks like an All-NBA player, the next, you wonder if his head is even in the game. The lure of Odom is his play making abilities from the forward position, seemingly giving us everythign we coveted in Turkolgu with his rebounding skills canceling out his lack of an outside shot. Not to mention, it would be a crushing blow to the Lakers squad as he was the player that made that team click. David Lee In Lee, you know what you'll get night in and night out, a double double. Unfortunately, Lee does not want to become a backup, and he just would never start over Aldridge and Oden, unless in the case of injuries. Would he accept a 30 mpg backup role if space were cleared? Accepting a role like that makes Lee much more of a viable option, but I'm not sure the Blazers front office wants their money tied up in another team's hands for 7 days. Ramon Sessions Along with being restricted as well, Sessions' lack of a 3 point shot, 17%, makes you wonder if he'd even be a good fit in Portland where one of the main requirements of the starting point guard is to spread the defense via the outside shot. Also, it seems like the only way to acquire Sessions would be via sign and trade. By making Charlie Villanueva a free agent, Milwaukee made it clear Ramon was their top priority and would match any offer thrown his way. The other option of taking a step back and being patient, offers benefits unmatched by signing a free agent. Portland can make a lopsided deal any time from now until the trade deadline in February. If KP decides to stand pat going into the 2010 season, one major plus is the cap holds from European players held overseas, Koponen, Freeland, and Claver, will not count against the salary cap and free over an additional $2 million in cap space. Another potential reward of waiting until the trade deadline is to see how the other teams around the league are performing. Maybe Arenas gets hurt again and Caron Butler becomes available on the cheap or another prized player becomes attainable. Of course, the enormous drawback is striking out and not being able to coup anyone with this once in a decade cap space, similar to coming up empty handed at the trade deadline last year as we had Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract as trade bait. Dustin's Take: Part of me wants to bring in that prized free agent to Portland for the sheer excitement of a signing and to prove that Portland can attract free agents. I want no part of Sessions as his game seems to fit like a square peg in a round hole with his jump shot being on the levels of Sergio and Telfair. Lamar Odom is too big of a risk, even if it would cripple the Lakers. The culture of Portland and Odom don't seem to go together well at all. Lee is the free agent I would target next and try to work out a sign and trade with the Knicks. If that fails, KP should take his ball and go home and just pray that something miraculous happens this February. Matt's Take: As I look at our team now, I just want a piece that is going to help us grow. I still am a believer that Andre Miller does that for us. Yes it would create a bit of a jam unless Blake was traded, but I just think he brings the leadership that we need. I think that that is too understated. If Lee were willing to play off the bench then I think you give him a look, but it sounds like he's not. So, I think you look to the trade route. I know it will lead to some of the media and some fans ripping management apart for not landing a free agent or trading Raef's contract, and granted you could end up with nothing, but whether we make an addition or not, our team is in good shape going forward. If we could just find that one piece that would put us over the top in a playoff series or two, that would make my summer.

Running Down a Dream: 2 Hot 2 Stop It

If you were a Trail Blazers fan growing up in the early 90's than you can appreciate the music videos the team put out each year. The more notable ones were Rip City Rhapsody from 1990 and Bust a Bucket in 92, but 2 Hot 2 Stop It, from Running Down a Dream in 1991, gets overlooked. The title of the track came from the amazing 16 game winning streak Portland was riding into the playoffs, and looked like they were 2 hot 2 be stopped. Out of all the songs made from that era, this is definitely top 2 along with Bust a Bucket. All I have to say is "Dammit, Clyde!" Why didn't you have a Nike contract so all of us could have seen your musical talent shine like Jerome's?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer League Game 2: Trail Blazers vs. Rockets

In heartbreaking fashion, the Trail Blazers fell to 0-2 during Summer League play, falling 87-82 to the unbeaten Houston Rockets. Portland had many chances to win the game down the stretch but missed shots and turnovers sealed their fate. The Blazers led by 2 heading into the 4th, but a 10-2 run by Houston in the final 2 minutes took away all hopes of a first summer league win.
Jerryd Bayless:
It wasn't a pretty stat line for the reigning Las Vegas Summer League MVP. A mediocre 13 points, on 5-10 shooting, only 2 assists, 3 rebounds, and 6 turnovers as well. Stats aside, Bayless just looked like he was thinking too much about being a pass-first point guard out there. Many times he would bring the ball up the floor and just pass it to the first wing. There were hardly any plays called for him to throw it into the post or run a pick-n-roll with Cunningham. Most skeptics would look at this game and point out the 6 turnovers, but I'm more concerned over taking only 10 shots. His strength is his ability to score. A lot of star players like to get their teammates involved and then pick their spots when to take over, but maybe getting the offense flowing for Bayless would be easier if he scored early and often. It would draw the defense to him and clear things up for others.
All was not lost in this game for Jerryd as he showed flashes of brilliance. The one on one 20 foot pull up to end the 1st was a thing of beauty, and his defense was much improved, mainly due to not picking up so many quick fouls as he did last game. There's no problem sticking with his defender side to side, but he really needs to work on not bumping his man when they go north and south.
People will look at the box score and read only 2 assists and think "he's no point guard", but I counted at least 5 sure fire dimes that were botched by teammates including a missed alley-oop perfectly placed to Pendergraph. All of a sudden, 7 dimes seems a lot more appealing than 2. This should be no problem as guys like Outlaw, Roy, and Aldridge who will convert on those passes. Again, next game the turnovers need to be cut down. At least he wasn't too out of control this game. Overall Grade: B-
Dante Cunningham:
How was Dante not a 1st round draft pick? This is only the second time viewing his game live, but I came away even more impressed after this performance than Monday's, where he shot better. Cunningham was the leading scorer with 22 points even though he wasn't really calling for the ball through the 1st quarter. 8-20 from the field doesn't seem too attractive, but every shot was a makable shot and had about 4-5 that just rimmed in and out. A 30 point game is not out of the realm this summer. I would like to take back my Brandon Bass comparison and upgrade that to David West-lite. All Dante is lacking is the back to the basket game West has patented.
Honestly it's hard to think of many holes in his game. Only two things jump out to me. There was the missed lob pass from out of bounds in the final seconds of the game and the lack of rebounds, but battling Dorsey all night can make those rebounds a hot commodity. His basketball IQ is through the roof. One play that stood out occurred when Bayless drove baseline and drew 3 defenders and Dante moved over into the open spot and got off a 10 foot jumpers. He also knows how to adapt to the defense. Early on, Houston scouted out the deadly pick and pop and took that aspect away, but Dante showed his face up jumper a few times over the Houston bigs. There was even a post up baby hook that was on display tonight.
As for next game, I would like to see if his game has any more variety, maybe some more post ups and see how he reacts to his back to the basket and/or double teams. The one thing we know he can do is shoot, but how does he see the floor in terms of his passing ability? Overall Grade: A-
Jeff Pendergraph:
Jeff looked very lost in the early stages of the game as he missed the aforementioned dunk from Bayless and had the ball hit in him the face off of a pick and roll. Seemingly, all it took was one jumper to fall and he was right back in the game. He was incredibly efficient on his shot tonight, shooting 5-7 and hitting from all over court 18 feet and in, even showing off a couple of fade aways. His release still seems a little slow, which, if he wants that shot to be his trademark in the league, it needs to get out of his hands quicker.
Everyone will talk about the amazing shooting put on by Pendergraph, but what stood out in my mind was how he went toe to toe with Joey Dorsey, even drawing 2 charges on him. Portland has been looking for added toughness and they found it in their two 2nd round bigs. Dante will out hustle you and Jeff will get right up in your face. During the game, Blazer fans finally got to see his defensive instincts as he had a great weak side block and fronted the post entry extremely well when the situation was presented. Also of note, he has great footwork which allows him to be very active on defense, especially weak side help.
For Friday's game, it would be nice to see Jeff post up on the block and show off some post moves. I saw his great baby hook at Arizona State and it's a deadly weapon if used. Also, although it doesn't happen often, he got outworked by Dorsey for 2 boards off of missed Houston free throws and for someone as active and long as Jeff, that shouldn't happen twice in one game to the game player. Overall Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Missing Piece: Paul Millsap

Blazer fans have until Friday night to contemplate whether Paul Millsap is one of the final missing pieces to the Trail Blazer puzzle. On Saturday, Portland signed the restricted free agent from Utah to an offer sheet that would pay the power forward $32 million over 4 years, with $10.3 million to be paid up front within the first week of signing the contract; the "toxic" part of the contract. Normally, the Jazz wouldn't think twice about matching the offer, as Millsap appears to be in their long-term plans, but with the NBA luxury tax dropping to $69.92 million and the Jazz already having a team salary of $73 million, thanks to Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver, and Carlos Boozer all opting back into their contracts, it makes the Millsap deal very hard to swallow as it would put Utah $12 million over the luxury tax. A lot of people like to hinge on the negatives of a player and what they can't do. Naysayers say he is undersized at the 4 position (last time I checked 6'8" isn't small for a power forward and I believe Buck Wiliams and Brian Grant and their 6'8" height would agree as well) or that he doesn't possess a face up game or he is only a Jerry Sloan system player. But while reading The Long, Hot Winter by Rick Adelman, he thought it was more important to focus on what a player could do for your team instead of dwelling on what they couldn't provide. Regardless of how much we had to offer Millsap, you have to overpay for free agents anyway, he is the perfect fit and more importantly, his strengths are our weaknesses. Although the Trail Blazers led the league in offensive rebounding last year, they were only a horrid 27th in defensive rebounding. A banger at the power forward probably wasn't high on the list of off-season priorities until we all witnessed Louis Scola grabbing 7 offensive rebounds in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Even Brandon Roy took notice and wanted the team to add some toughness and nastiness to the squad. Millsap fits the bill as he is a hard-working, blue collar player who led the NCAA in rebounding for 3 straight years, ranked 9th in total rebounding percentage in 2009 and, when given playing time, is a walking double double. Not to mention, he won't rock the boat. He has already assured Coach McMillan that he will be fine coming off the bench behind LaMarcus Aldridge, which makes him a perfect fit chemistry wise. There is no doubt that the 4 man rotation of Oden, Przybilla, Aldridge, and Millsap automatically becomes the elite front court in the NBA. There's only one problem, playing time. With 96 minutes available between the two post positions and 4 guys hungry for playing time, the math just doesn't add up. 24 minutes a night isn't enough to satisfy all 4 or to even get them into a rhythm. There are a coupe of ways to open up some minutes though. If Utah doesn't match, it makes Joel more of a trade asset. As much as it pains me to type that, he does have an opportunity to opt out of his contract after this season, which he probably will in hopes of getting one last big contract before he retires. Also, as Oden progresses and minutes increase, who knows if Joel wants to take a lesser role with the team? Another possibility would be to increase Aldridge's playing time at the small forward due to his length, outside shooting, and ability to defend the perimeter well. I am 100% Pro-Millsap. He is the perfect fit to this organization on every level, not to mention how devastating it would be to the Jazz franchise. We need toughness and rebounding from the 4, he delivers. We look for players who put the team ahead of themselves, check. Also, this is the last time for a long time that Portland is going to have cap space to outright sign a player without giving up any assets whatsoever and as much as everyone likes the lopsided trade idea, we have enough trade assets to make almost anything happen anyways. Why not get someone for nothing but monetary value? One reason I was hesitant on acquiring Hedo was his age, 30, and that he had already peaked 2 seasons ago. There is no question that Millsap is young enough to grow with our core, at age 24, has been in the playoffs every years of his career, and still has upside. Hopefully on Friday night, Trail Blazer fans can celebrate Paul Millsap being the "missing piece".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer League Game 1: Trail Blazers vs. Raptors

The Portland Trail Blazers lost their first summer league contest of the year, 92-87 to the Toronto Raptors, but that's not the point of this discussion. After each game, HolyBackboard will provide a report on how Bayless, Cunningham, and Pendergraph performed, looked, and what they can improve on for the next game. Jerryd Bayless: He said this summer he wanted to pattern his game after Chauncey Billups, and outside of a few hurried turnovers on the fast break, he looked very Billups-esque. He was in control of the offense and was very efficient. The stat sheet read 22 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds on 7-17 shooting. More important than just the incredible stat sheet was the fact he looked like a point guard out there on the floor. He took the scoring opportunities when they were presented, but he always kept his head up and eyes open for teammates. One play that exemplified this new Jerryd Bayless was early on in the 1st quarter. After a failed pick and roll, the Raptors kept the double team out high on Bayless, but he quickly knifed through the double team. Last year, he would have shot the floater in this situation from about 10 feet out, but he kept his eyes open and threw a beautiful lob for Pendergraph for an And-1. As amazing as he looked at times, a few problems still need to be ironed out throughout summer league. 7 dimes looks and sounds great but not accompanied by 6 turnovers, many coming on the fast break as he lost his dribble trying to split the defense. He will learn to slow down and set up the offense. Although his jumper looked great in the 1st half, it wasn't falling for him in the 2nd half. All but one or two were good, open looks and should be knocked down in the future, but his jumper isn't quite back....yet. For Wednesday's game, Jerryd should keep doing what he is doing in the flow of the offense. If the jumper is there, take it. If they are up on him defensively, blow by the man for the layup. I'd like to see more consistency out of the jump shot as well and try not to force anything. Finally, the turnovers should be targeted at 3 and below, that was really the only aspect of his game tonight which really needs working on. Overall grade: A Dante Cunningham: Rarely when you go to YouTube and search for a highlight mix, does that mix actual exemplify how the player actually plays. I encourage everyone to watch this Dante Cunningham Mix, because that's Dante for you. Athletic, hard working, smooth jumper, and tenacious on the boards sums up Cunningham in a nutshell. He finished the game with 21 points, and 9 rebounds on 8-17 shooting. It was a quick start for Cunningham as he scored 10 of his 21 points within the first 8 minutes of the game. Nearly all of his buckets came off of mid-range jump shots and it wasn't as if he has a "sweet spot" on the court either, because he was drilling them from all around the perimeter like he was playing Around the World. Bayless found him a lot off of the pick and roll and unfortunately, for whatever reason, the team went away from Dante in the 4th period which likely lost the game for Portland down the stretch. I see a lot of Brandon Bass in his game. He flat out will out work his man for the rebound and is much more athletic than I think is given credit for. A play that stood out in my mind was how high he got up to break up an alley-oop thrown for Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan and DeRozan can fly. Another plus is his smooth free throw stroke. Many times a big can be active around the hoop and always getting hammered on, but they can't shoot foul shots to save their lives but not Dante. His smooth shooting jump shot doesn't desert him at the charity stripe as he went 5-6, which is a big plus if he is going to keep being lively around the hoop. Finally, his best attribute is he sticks to his strengths and doesn't do anything out of his skill set. As for next game, seeing more of the same from Dante would make me feel comfortable that if Utah matches Millsap, he could be given a few minutes a night. Overall grade: A+. Jeff Pendergraph: It's tough when you put up 12 points, grab 9 boards, and shoot an efficient 5-8 from the floor and it would be considered the worst night of the bunch, but Pendergraph showed flashes why he was taken 31st overall in last month's draft. If there's one thing that jumped out about Pendergraph, its that you must put a body on this kid. He attacks the glass hard and is athletic enough to finish strong around the hoop. Like Cunningham, he is very active around the hoop and something to take notice is the lack of fouls he committed, only 3 in 26 minutes of action. I don't know what it is, the follow dunks, the similar stature, or his ability to crass the glass, but when I think of an NBA comparison, Tyson Chandler comes to mind. Although he only shot it once, it appears that Jeff has a nice, soft baby hook. Unfortunately for Jeff, there weren't many chances to go back in the post and take that shot. He got it down low only one more time the rest of the way and threw up an ugly fade away. The position of the ball being so close to his face needs to be changed quickly, because that shot is getting sent back in his face in the NBA. The next time I see Jeff, I want to see him on the low block and let him bang away and shoot the jump hook. It was a pretty good debut for Jeff, he was just in the shadows of Dante and Jerryd tonight. Overall grade: B-.

Running Down a Dream: 1991 Portland Trail Blazers Part 2

Part 2 navigates the rest of the regular season from January on, where Portland would accumulate a franchise-best 63-19 record. Such highlights include All-Star weekend featuring Drexler, Porter, and Duckworth as All-Stars, back to back 20 point comebacks on the road at Seattle and Los Angeles, and a 16 game win streak to finish off the season strong.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Running Down a Dream: 1991 Portland Trail Blazers Part 1

Part 1 of an ongoing series of clips from the video "Running Down a Dream", the video yearbook documenting the 1990-1991 Portland Trail Blazers. This first clip takes us through December of 1990, including such memorable games as the "perfect quarter" at home vs. San Antonio and the "miracle in Seattle", a triple overtime thriller at the Seattle Center Colliseum vs. the rival Supersonics.

What the hell's goin' on out here?

Where to even begin? For better or worse, Hedo Turkoglu left us high and dry at the alter and backed out of a verbal agreement to sign with the Trail Blazers and go across the border to the Raptors. Whether you were pro-Hedo or anti-Hedo, it is a pretty bad omen to strike out on your #1 target for the summer while wasting all of our time courting him when your other backup options are already being snagged up.
Hedo spurning us for Toronto is no big deal, but when reports coming out late Wednesday night that negotiation talks between Brandon Roy's agent and Kevin Pritchard were stalling, it sent shock waves across Blazer Nation. If there was just one goal to get accomplished this summer, it was to extend the contracts of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge as quickly and easily as possible. Most fans expected some hangup with negotiations between KP and Aldridge's agent, because he's not quite a MAX level player, but you don't want to insult him with an offer, because he is one to hold grudges. It didn't make matters any easier when mediocre NBA bigs got huge extensions; Andre Bargnani for 5 years and $50 million and Anderson Varejao for 6 years totaling $50 million. KP's hopes to sign LaMarcus to a deal working around $10 million/yr now seems out of the question.
Roy's extension, on the other hand, should have been done in seconds. I'm not usually a big fan of what John Canzano has to say, but he nailed it right on the head, "Brandon Roy should get anything he wants!" He is the franchise, the cornerstone, whatever you want to call it, he's it. If KP plans to keep Roy and Aldridge around for a "very long time", than what does it matter if his first extension is only 5 years instead of 4? Also, am I missing something but wouldn't you want Roy for the longest extension possible, which he wants?
One move being talked about that shows promise is the "toxic" contract offer to Utah Jazz restricted free agent Paul Millsap. The news about Millsap broke Wednesday night as well, but its Friday afternoon and there are conflicting reports, surprise, about whether or not Millsap even has an official offer sent to him. Jason Quick reported yesterday afternoon on 1080 The Fan, Millsap had indeed been sent an offer, but just moments later on the Canzano's Bald Faced Truth radio segment, KP denied the report of an official offer being made.
A lot of questions have been raised about the potential acquisition of Millsap. Is he worth $8-9 million a year as a backup? Will there even be enough minutes for him? Or is he just leverage in trying to push Utah into the rumored 3 team deal also involving Chicago and Portland, with Portland obtaining Hinrich? Of course, staying on par with this summer, conflicting reports are being made about this possible trade. Jason Quick and Adrian Wojnarowski are refuting it, while Chad Ford and Marc Stein still believe the deal has legs.
While KP continues to be selective to find that "special fit", his other targets are being taken off the board. Just two days ago, Brandon Bass had Portland in his final 3, along with Detroit and Orlando, but he is now officially off the market as he chose to sign with the Orlando Magic. Bass wouldn't have been a huge loss if we were offering someone else, but we seem to be in limbo over what we want to do, seemingly over thinking all decisions.
Finally, in the "what can go wrong, will go wrong" category, rookie point guard Patty Mills broke his foot earlier today in a summer league practice. When will something go right? Hopefully Roy and Aldridge sign their extensions soon and the summer of hell can start to turn around, but until then....

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Holy Backboard's Inaugural Podcast

Holy Backboard is podcasting! Click the icon on the left to subscribe to our podcasts! This is our first, they will get better, but I think this turned out pretty darn well. Let us know what you think of the podcast and feel free to share your thoughts on the topics as well! First Holy Backboard Podcast

Monday, July 6, 2009

What's in a Name: Mr. 4th Quarter

It has been said it is not how you start, but how you finish. For Travis Outlaw, in the past two seasons, finishing hasn’t been a problem at all. The 6th year forward from Starkville, MS has been dubbed “Mr. 4th Quarter” by play by play announcers Mike Barrett and Mike Rice after hitting big shot after big shot seemingly time and time again in the 4th quarter during the 2007-2008 season.
Well, just how clutch has Travis been? According to, Travis has taken 7 game winning shots, which are defined as having less than 24 seconds left in the game and the team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 or 2. Of those 7 shots, Outlaw has connected on 6 of them, for an insane .857 percentage, which is good enough for #1 in the NBA with at least 5 attempts through the past 5 full regular seasons, playoffs, and through February 4th, 2009. To put his percentage into perspective, the league wide percentage in game winning shots is only 29.8%.
Statistically speaking, it is easy to see why Coach McMillan has so much faith in Travis in crunch time. In fact, according to, Travis is 2nd off of the bench in “Super Clutch” time, which is defined as the game being either in the 4th quarter or overtime and neither team holding more than a 3 point lead with 47 minutes of “Super Clutch” time in the 2007-2008 season.
Now why is one of the most clutch players in the league, on a $4 million contract, and reported best buddies with LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy seemingly not wanted back in Portland this year? According to OregonLive's You Be the GM, Travis had the largest gain of returning votes in 2008, improving from 68% in 2007 to a nearly untouchable 96% retention. In 2007-2008, Outlaw averaged 13.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and shot almost 40% from 3 point land. What did he do that was so awful to be the only rotational player to be voted to go in 2009 then? His stay rate dropped 53% from 96% in 2008, to a measly 43% in 2009. In 2009, he put up very similar stats by averaging 12.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and shooting 37.7% from 3. He even cut back on his turnovers from 1.3 to 1.16 and shot a higher field goal percentage, 45.3% up from 43.3%.
It is true that Travis had a poor showing the playoffs, but if we were to make judgments based off of every player's 2009 stint vs. Houston, I think nearly everyone not named Brandon Roy would be on the trading block. The bottom line is it was Outlaw's 1st ever big game experience, because the playoffs are a whole other animal than the regular season and he never went to college to experience March Madness. I think his play over his tenure here in Portland deserves to buy him some benefit of the doubt.
By no means am I advocating Travis to being an untouchable asset on this squad, but why is there such a love/hate relationship with him? Why, for example, did Rudy Fernandez have a 98% vote to stay on the team? In 2 less minutes per game, Rudy averaged 2.4 less ppg than Outlaw on a worse field goal percentage, 42.5% to Outlaw's 45.3%. Even as Rudy broke the rookie 3 point record, he only shot the 3 pointer 2% higher than Outlaw.
I know the argument is that this was Travis' 6th year in the NBA compared to this being Rudy's 1st year in the league. But Rudy is only 7 months younger than Travis and has been playing professionally since he was a teenager in his native country of Spain. But something to think about when comparing the players is team chemistry. Outlaw has always let it be known that he wants to start, but he knows it is best for the team to come off of the bench and become one of the elite 6th men in the league. He is the quintessential "glue-guy" on this team. He keeps everyone loose in the locker room and there is not a person on the team who doesn't love Travis. On the other hand, we are already hearing rumors of Fernandez wanting out of Portland if we bring in another talented wing and wanting a bigger role with the team. Rudy is already whining about playing time now, will it stop when he doesn't get more than 24-28 minutes per game due to being Roy's backup?
This is not a Pro-Outlaw, Anti-Rudy blog, but I want to know why is there such a difference in opinion among the Blazer faithful? Is it because Rudy is the flavor of the month? Is it his outstanding court vision? Do people not think Outlaw has any more room to grow or that his playoff performance reminded too many fans of Cliff Robinson, a great regular season player who faded in the playoffs? Just know, there is more that meets the eye in regards to these two players.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Now What?

Hedo Turkoglu has rejected Portland's offer and will end negotiations with the team, according to Jason Quick. I only had two concerns with the courting of Turkoglu. The first being his age, 30. The Blazers figure to be serious NBA Title contenders in 2 years and what would a 32 year old Hedo have left in the tank? Second, when signing an above average player, you always worry if they are all about the money and will become lazy once that fat contract is secured. Hedo gave off that vibe a little bit by rejecting a lucrative contract extension to stay in a great situation in Orlando. I was always worried more about the length, rather than the dollar signs, but no need to worry as Hedo will not be playing in front of the Rose Garden. This completely changes everything. Instead of finding the right point guard to play with Hedo, now we start from scratch. With all the other premier free agents seemingly locked up in verbal agreements (ie: Gordon, Artest, Ariza), it would seem that Plan B does not involve a free agent. I don't think Andre Miller is a target as multiple sources have reported that KP turned down a sign and trade involving Outlaw and Blake. Also, the 2 best free agents still on the market, Paul Millsap and David Lee, would not fill a huge need and would not be happy with only 15 minutes of playing time a night. Portland will still have their 8-9 million in cap space to take part in a lopsided trade, but who is realistically available? A few options:
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Financially, we could do a straight offer of Steve Blake for Hinrich, and save the Bulls approximately 5 million, but with the departure of Ben Gordon, is Kirk even on the market anymore? For the money he makes, he is not a huge upgrade over Blake, but he can still shoot the 3 well at a 41% clip and his defensive is drastically better than Steve's, which would keep Oden in the game longer.
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Personally, I think he is the best fit of all veteran small forwards. He has won a ring before, can hit the mid-range jumper and 3, and his defense is still in the upper echelon of the NBA. My only worry in bringing him here is Joe Dumars, who is notorious for overvaluing his players, but with the signing of Charlie Villanueva, who can play small forward, and Detroit desperately needing a center, maybe a package based around Przybilla would be enticing? But trading our warrior, I don't think so.
  • Shane Battier
  • With Yao Ming out of the year, most likely, Ron Artest leaving for the Lakers, and never knowing the health of McGrady, would this wily veteran be on the market? The defense is there, no question about that. We all saw how clutch he an be with timely 3's as well, but what would be the cost? Houston could be in position for a big spending spree in the 2010 summer and trading Battier for cap space, would only give them more money to play with.
  • Devin Harris
  • Everyone's favorite pipe dream. With Harris being 27 and the Nets looking to contend in further years with Lopez as their cornerstone, would Harris be available? There were rumors on draft night of New Jersey wanting Ricky Rubio and were dangling Harris to try to move up far enough to obtain him. Would Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez be enough young talent and cost savings to persuade New Jersey? Your guess is as good as mines when it comes to what's going on inside the head of KP, but if history has shown us anything, it is that he is the master of contingency plans and probably has 3-4 backup plans ready to go. My final take on Hedo: True ballers are all about the W's, not the $'s and it will be very apparent if Hedo was all about the $ if he signs with Toronto.

    In KP We Trust

    Just 4 short years ago our starting lineup consisted of Theo Ratliff and Juan Dixon. Just 4 years ago our sights were set on the future with players like Sebastian Telfair, Sergei Monia and Ha Seung-Jin. Just 4 years ago a guy by the name of Kevin Pritchard helped orchestrate arguably one of the greatest drafts in NBA history. For the next 3 years it seemed as though KP could do no wrong, but then the trade deadline approached in 2009 with a seemingly great trade piece in the contract of Raef Lafrentz. When the contract failed to be traded, a small contingent of fans began, for the first time, to question the abilities of our GM. The last time the Blazers were a major player in the free-agent market they were signing a young power forward named Brian Grant. Now we are on the edge of the first big free agent signing of this decade. Details of the potential deal are not yet known, and yet some are criticising it already. At this point I must reiterate: In KP I trust. Kevin Pritchard has done nothing to this point that has failed. Every "questionable" move so far has turned out justifiable at the least, at best it's been golden. Ultimately Kevin Pritchard has what's best for this team on his mind more than any one of us, so when people ask why certain deals weren't made at the deadline, I tell them ultimately if a deal would have come that would have made our team better, I trust that KP would have pulled the trigger. So is signing a 30 year old Turkoglu to a contract the right move? I do have my own doubts, but I have to remind myself that KP knows basketball ten times better than me, knows talent, and seems to know what it takes to win. If he believes that Hedo Turkoglu will bring the Blazers that much closer to a championship, KP is deserving of the benefit of the doubt. Dustin's Take: I have to admit, I haven't always trusted KP. In 2006, I was yelling to anyone who would listen that we made a monumental mistake by trading away Sebastian Telfair for, what turned out to be, Brandon Roy. Well, after seeing the first Summer League action for Roy, I was a believer and vowed to give Pritchard the benefit of the doubt in any roster transaction. Is the man perfect? No. But does he know his hoops more than 95% of the world? Most definitely. I was peeved we passed up on DeJuan Blair 3 times during last Thursday's draft and seemingly reached for Dante Cunningham and Victor Claver, a player who will not help contribute for another 2-3 years. But after sleeping on it, I knew KP had a plan. A plan that would lead to more cap space to help obtain more help for the Roy and Aldridge. A plan to get someone with NBA Finals experience. And finally, a plan to help make Greg Oden's life easier. There was a reason Dwight Howard called Hedo 3 times and pleaded with him to return to Orlando. Although we may have to overpay, I would rather overpay than do nothing at all. I'm sure KP has more tricks up his sleeve this summer and, as his body of work has shown so far, the man deserves credibility.

    Thursday, July 2, 2009

    Woe Is Me: The Epic-Tale of Rudy Fernendez

    It has been a soap opera lately in regards to the Rudy Fernandez saga. Apparently, Rudy isn't too thrilled about the idea of the Trail Blazers pursing Hedo Turkoglu, with the reports going as far as to say that Rudy is "infuriated" about the possible acquisition. That report, by Chris Sheridan, came out around 12:00 pm yesterday afternoon, and Blazer fans only had to wait till dinner time before another twist. Jason Quick rebutted that Rudy being upset was "new news to the Blazers" as KP and Coach McMillan had jut previously spoken with him about all off-season moves, including moving fellow Spaniard Sergio Rodriguez, and that Rudy seemed "OK with everything they've done." As I awoke this morning, Blazers Edge had already translated an interview done with Rudy via It took 3 reports, but we finally got information directly from the source. The main concern on Rudy's behalf is the logjam it could create with the addition of Hedo. He was quoted as saying, "Turkoglu is a Guard and we are speaking about almost six for two positions. This makes me think that the team does not give me space for my work. I have demonstrated that I could be more of a factor." Rudy did leave a lot of money on the table in Europe to come over and play here in Portland and it seems all he wants is minutes to play, as seen by the quote, "I have been surprised with the minutes that I have played but if now they pick up a player in my position, that will stop my progression, and what I want is minutes so I can improve." But what did he realistically expect coming to Portland where he plays the same position as the franchise player? It would be different if Rudy could play the point or small forward positions for extended periods of time, but he isn't strong enough to play the 3's on defense and isn't quick enough laterally to stay in front of the point guards. Dustin's Take: I understand Rudy wants to play, but getting 26 mpg as a rookie isn't exactly getting splinters from riding the pine. If he was smart, he'd look at how the Spurs use Manu Ginobli for reference as a spark off the bench but still a player who can get crunch time minutes. I just don't ever see him being a star in the NBA; I don't think his body is made for the wear and tear that guys like Roy, Wade, and Kobe take on a nightly basis at the 2 guard spot. Have we ever seen a more beloved player? He should realize just how great of a situation playing in front of the Rose Garden crowd is. Every team needs role players and I hope Rudy can understand that. Unfortunately, I don't think he ever will. I have been a big advocate of trading Rudy since mid-season, because he'll never accept a backup role and will never start ahead of Roy. You all know the saying, buy low, sell high! Matt's Take: The question now is, knowing that it will upset Rudy, should the Blazers still go after Turkoglu? He was a solid part of the rotation all last year. I could see him being slightly concerned over bringing in a player that does what he does, but to be "infuriated?" It seems pretty over the top. Obviously the organization has put a lot of faith in him. We need to first of all find out if we even sign Turkoglu before we do anything. I think that they can not only coexist, but thrive with each other. If at this point we sit Rudy down and he’s still unhappy, we should look to see what we can get on the point guard market as a last resort. If Rudy is here for next season, all I ask is this: 8Ball & MJG - You Don't Want Drama

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    Hedo in the Rose City

    According to Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Kevin Pritchard has made Hedo Turkoglu his #1 target. It is also being reported by ESPN that Coach Nate is flying down to Orlando this afternoon to have a late night dinner with Hedo and Hedo will return the favor and drop by the Rose City tomorrow to tour the Blazers' facilities. After seeing Brandon Roy carry this team on his back for 6 games in the playoffs, I have been begging for a veteran 3rd scorer to ease the burden from Roy and Aldridge. Not only can Hedo knock down the 3, at a career 38.5% clip, but he is the prototypical point forward. Roy can't be our full time point guard and some teams were even smart enough to double team him at the end of games to get the ball out of his hands, if Hedo is added, there is another experienced ball handler to go to. The one thing numerous Blazer fans didn't want this off-season, was to get younger. It's true Hedo is not getting any younger, already at 30, but he has NBA Finals experience and has been to the conference finals on more than one occasion. As much as Turk brings to the table, there are quite a few concerns. The first being his level of play. He saw his scoring average drop from 19.5 to 16.8 in 2009, while his field goal and 3 point shooting percentage each dropped by nearly 4% too. Those drops in categories that are supposed to be his strengths are worrisome, especially considering Hedo is looking for a 4 or 5 year deal with at least 8 million a season. Finally, is Turk fools gold? Let's be real, this free agent crop is not the creme of the crop, so does Hedo look better just because there really isn't any other competition for the type of money he is looking for? Dustin's Take: Although Ron Artest is my #1 target, it's doubtful KP will court him for fear of him messing with our culture. With that said, I say go for it! He is 30 and will not stunt Batum's growth and Nic will still be able to play his 16 minutes a night. Roy is nearing the prime of his career and the Blazers should be doing everything possible to maximize each and every one of those years. After seeing the Finals, I am convinced our team is ready to contend for a title, this is just the first move to make it happen. Do not try and outbid Toronto! Matt's Take: Hedo is 30 and his stats dropped off significantly this year. Maybe it was a fluke, but this is getting to the time in one's career where things start breaking down and you stop moving as fast. This looks like a lot of other mistakes teams have made. Teams giving formerly good players a big long contract, just to see them break down, sit on their bench, and be completely untradeable. I am all for using our cap space this year, so if Hedo is the best you can get, ultimately it's not me paying the luxury tax starting next year, but if I were KP, I'd take a nice long look elsewhere first. UPDATE: From Jason Quick:Sources say Toronto is preparing an offer of five years and $60 million for Turkoglu.