Thursday, December 10, 2009

Free Bayless!

The day Portland signed Andre Miller, the hype and expectations of the upcoming 2009-2010 season were sky high. Many fans, like myself, saw Portland challenging the Lakers for best in the west and even a trendy or dark-horse pick to make it to the NBA Finals. As soon as word got out that Nicolas Batum would more than likely be out for the entire season due to the surgery needed to repair his shoulder, the percentage of us winning a championship went down. After each and every injury, the chances kept decreasing and decreasing, this wasn't even taking into account how out of sync we were looking on offense. The one bright spot left was Greg and as long as we had Greg along with Roy and Aldridge, I felt we always still had a chance to win it all, even as slight as those chances were. With those three healthy, we had a chance. The instant I saw him hit the hardwood holding his knee, I knew he was done for the year and that any slight possibility we had of going to the Finals went right out the door too.
NBA teams have one goal and that goal is to win an NBA Championship. Once that goal is no longer a reality, which can come sooner or later in the season, depending on the team, each squad takes the proper course of action to ensure themselves of a better future in the upcoming seasons. We saw this during the 04-05 season when Kevin Pritchard replaced head coach Maurice Cheeks in order to play all of our young talent to see what we had in the cupboard. No, I am not suggesting we fire Coach Nate or kick all of our veterans to the curb, but we do need to see if Bayless is going to be the right ingredient or not. I love what Steve Blake has given this team with his calm demeanor and clutch shooting, but we essentially know what he brings to the table and probably does not have much more room to grow in terms of potential. Also, when you use nearly all of your cap room on a player, you should give him big minutes as well, right? I do believe Andre should still play, but just like Blake, we know what we have; a very heady, veteran point guard who loves getting his teammates involved but also capable of carrying his team to victory with his scoring ability.
Jerryd is a bit of a wild card. Really, the only attributes we know for sure he possesses are a knack for getting to the rim at will, an astounding and renown work ethic, and scrappy play. In the past few games we have seen him take his defender to the paint, draw another defender as he nears the bottom of the hoop, but only to kick it out to a forward for a wide open, free throw line jumper. It is the type of play Blazer fans world wide have been waiting to see from Jerryd. We all know he can score, but what we want to see is a little more court vision if he is going to become the point guard of the future. Even if Brandon is going to have the ball in crunch time, any point guard must be able to create for others, bar none.
I'm not asking for Jerryd to play Brandon Roy type minutes, but with all of these unfortunate injuries, this is the perfect opportunity to see what this guy is made of. KP traded up in the draft to get him for a reason and it would be a shame if we dealt him away and were haunted by possibly committing a move that could be dubbed "Jermaine O'Neal Part II". Since both Greg and Rudy went out of the lineup on December 5th, Bayless has logged an average of 17 minutes a night, nearly 11 points per game on 50% shooting (8-16), and only committing 1 turnover per night.
Portland has a game upcoming against the Kings at home on the 15th of December. I think it would be a nice experiment to start him, play him about 28-30 minutes, and see how he reacts. The Kings, regardless of how surprising they have been this season, are a team the Trail Blazers should win as long as Roy and LMA are in the lineup, so we should be able to absorb any young player mistakes Jerryd may have. I'm not really a proponent of juggling someone in and out of the lineup, but I want to see how this kid handles the big stage of starting. If he performs well, ride the hot hand into the next game and even keep him in there if he struggles. If the experiment clearly isn't working and he isn't ready to start, then 20-25 minutes off the bench may be best suited for his development. If all goes according to plan, Jerryd will rise to the occasion and the Trail Blazers will have their elusive, young starting point guard of the future that we have all been dreaming of since the day Terry Porter left the Rose City.

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