Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Marcus Camby

Immediately after being traded to Portland near the trade deadline, Marcus Camby made his impression felt. The 6'11", 220 lb. 14 year veteran helped shore up a depleted Trail Blazers front line, ailing from the injured departures of Oden and Przybilla. Down the stretch run of the season, whatever the Trail Blazers needed from Marcus on any given night, he provided it. Whether it was his memorable 30 point, 13 rebound performance in victory against the Thunder, inspiring the crowd to serenade him with chants of "Mar-cus Cam-bee" all throughout the Rose Garden arena or his uncanny veteran leadership. With the health status of the other big men still in question, Camby will definitely be called upon again this season to shoulder the load. What can he do this summer to ensure his impact is prolonged on the Trail Blazers?
  1. Free Throw Shooting
  2. There's no doubt the big men of the NBA take the most punishment under the boards and with all the gouged eyes, elbows thrown, and rakes across the arm come free throw opportunities. Although Camby doesn't make a living at the charity stripe as implicated by his career-high 4.19 attempts per game, which took place during his rookie year and 1.35 attempts during his 23 game stint with Portland, the worth of a big who can hold their own at the foul line is invaluable. How much more dominant would players such as Shaquille O'Neal (.527 career free throw percentage) or Wilt Chamerlain (.511) be had they been able to knock them down at a reasonable clip? Now, no one is comparing Marcus to two of the greatest centers in NBA history, but refining his 58.1% free throw percentage should be a priority this summer. If he can hover around 70% for the upcoming season, Portland's 21st best scoring offense (98.1 ppg) could eclipse the century mark for the first time under Nate McMillan's tenure and overall since 1995.
  3. Jump Shot
  4. Even with an unorthodox form on his shot, Marcus possesses great touch for a man of his size and stature. Throughout his career, one of Camby's offensive essentials was his patented top of the key jumper which aided his .471 career field-goal percentage. Camby's versatility on offense allows him to play along side Oden as a power forward or Aldridge as a center and allows for optimal spacing in Coach McMillan's offense. At age 36, the question becomes how many more miles does he have left in the tank? Defense and rebounding will always be staples of his game until the day he retires, but to ensure that he will still be able to keep the defense honest with his mid-range shot, a lot of repetition over the summer shooting jump shots should do the trick for the upcoming season.

By becoming more consistent at the charity stripe and maintaining his jump shot, Camby can stake his claim as a top 10 center in this league. With the center position evolving into a dying breed of today's NBA, the Trail Blazers are fortunate to have a player of Marcus' size and caliber holding down the fort in the middle.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Jerryd Bayless

Logging only 65 minutes and appearing in 53 games during his rookie year, Jerryd Bayless was determined to make a bigger impact on the Trail Blazers in 2010. But after the team brought in a free agent and fellow point guard Andre Miller, it was unsure just how much playing time he'd be able to muster by being 5th on the depth chart amongst the guards. No one took advantage of the injury-plagued season more than Bayless. In a one week span right before Christmas, Jerryd showed why he was a heavily coveted lottery pick in 2008, scoring 29 points in 29 minutes in a comeback victory over the Suns and then six days later, with Brandon sidelined, scored a career-high 31 to upset the Spurs in San Antonio. With Roy out again to start the playoffs, it was Jerryd who once again rose to the occasion, averaging 13.5 points, on .431 field goal shooting, 4.0 assists, only 1.3 turnovers, and saw his three-point percentage increase from .315 during the regular season to .400 this postseason. The flashes of brilliance were evident in 2010, but how can he sustain his lightning in the bottle outbursts over the duration of an entire season?
  1. Long-Range Shooting
  2. One of the prerequisites to playing successfully alongside Brandon Roy is the ability to spread the floor and knock down open shots, disallowing the defense to swarm Brandon at every given chance. Jerryd had some success keeping the opposing defenses at bay, but it was mostly sporadic as seen from his shooting percentages of .414 and .315 from the field and three-point range respectively. Granted the NBA three-point line is four feet further away from the basket than in college [23'9", 19'9"] and professional level defenders are a different animal than the ones Jerryd saw at Arizona, but he was a great perimeter shooter in his lone season in college proven by knocking down .458 from the field and .407 from downtown, prompting these rave reviews from NBADraft.Net in his pre-draft report:
    Gets great lift on his jump-shot, with range well out to the NBA three. His pull up jumper is magnificent; with the elevation, balance, and quick release, he is virtually able to shoot whenever, and over whomever he desires

    Jerryd didn't all of a sudden forget how to shoot a basketball. The discrepancies in percentage can be attributed to time spent on the floor. There is no coincidence he played his best basketball when he saw 20+ minutes of action, because he is a rhythm player who takes time to get into the flow of the game. After his remarkable play against Phoenix in the playoffs, consistent minutes for the 2011 look promising, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees in the league. If Bayless can continue to be the gym rat that he is widely recognized as and continue to work on his jump shot, either off of the dribble or spotting up, it may not matter how frequent he sees the court, because he'll produce regardless.
  3. Court Vision
  4. Known for his fearless drives into the lane, teams have now keyed in on Bayless when he enters the game and catered their defenses to deny him access to those buckets which get him energized. Having the target on your back can be both a gift and a curse, but a way for Jerryd to make teams pay for sending the house at him as soon as he makes his move towards to goal is to hit the open man, spoon feeding them with a wide open dunk or jump shot. Running the pick and roll and finding shooters in transition are turning into strengths for Jerryd, but too many times this season saw him seemingly go straight to the hoop without a plan in mind to execute. If Bayless attacks the film room relentlessly to study when and where the openings will occur as soon as the defense doubles him, just as he does with any other basketball-related activity, there should be no doubt he'll be able to piggyback off of his impressive playoff run, which included an astounding 3:1 assist/turnover ratio.

With the addition of a more consistent jump shot, Bayless fills the void of dynamic scorer off the bench and by adding the ability to find the open man in traffic, it completes his game offensively. Along with his defensive intensity, he can now make the transition from role player to the next great, young Trail Blazer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Nicolas Batum

After missing the team's first 45 games of the season due to shoulder surgery, it was questionable just how much progression Nicolas Batum could make out of a shortened season. It didn't take long for the second year forward from France to let it be known that he wasn't satisfied with his rookie production. In just his second game back from injury, Batum showed off a new and improved offensive repertoire, which included a quicker release on a more accurate jump shot as well as the ability to shoot off the dribble. Along with being the team's most suffocating perimeter defender and a highlight real waiting to happen with his patented chase-down blocks, Batum saw his offensive numbers spike up all across the board in 2010. His points nearly doubled from 5.4 to 10.1, he lead the team in three-point percentage at 40.9%, shot 84.3% from the foul line, and improved his field goal shooting nearly 7% from .446 to .519. He has already showing signs of becoming the next great small forward in this league, but what is most vital to achieving that goal this summer?
  1. Gain Weight
  2. Along with being the team's top wing defender, Batum is also the most versatile. Outside of guarding centers, he has proven to be capable of guarding an array of players, from the extensive 7'0" Dirk Nowitzki to the accelerated 6'0" Chris Paul. Although the spectrum of players he's able to shut down on a nightly basis is immense, there is one prototype which gives Batum fits, the strong, bulkier small forwards of the league. Guys such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony use their size and brute strength to over match Batum's 6'8", 210 lb. frame.
    Batum's God-given wingspan of 88 inches, normally used to disrupt and suffocate his prey, is taken out of the equation when trying to guard players of over 230 lbs., because of their ability to do all of their damage down low on the blocks and muscle their way to the hoop and/or the foul line. A player everyone compares Batum's potential to, Scottie Pippen, had the same physical attributes as Nico (6'8" tall, 87 inch wingspan), except he played around 225 lbs. To allow these comparisons to come to fruition, Mr. Batum should become friends with the weight room this summer as soon as his shoulder heals up 100%.
  3. Ball Handling
  4. With fellow Frenchman Tony Parker missing out of last year's action with the French national team, Nico was able to run the show as the lead guard for most of the summer, enhancing his already multifaceted game to take on the role as point-forward. Portland didn't implement too many sets with Batum handling the ball, probably due to him missing nearly five months of action and wanted to get him settled in before throwing too much his way, but the flashes of his skill level were clearly evident, especially on the break. As was the case last year, Parker will not participate this summer at the World Championships, leaving the majority of the point guard duties up to Nicolas once more. Adding another summer of full-time ball handling under his belt, primarily against great competition, could really vault Batum into the stratosphere and give Coach McMillan multiple lineup options with his newly found ability to play the point for stretches during the game.

Considering the amount of lethal scorers in the NBA at the small forward position, players of Batum's defensive caliber are at a premium and if he is able to put on muscle, it gives the Trail Blazers an answer to all of the aforementioned scorers. Not only would he be able to stymie them defensively, but if he can craft his ball handling skills, it will force them to defend him on a regular basis.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: LaMarcus Aldridge

Standing 6'11", weighing 240 lbs, and the agility of a guard, there is not much physically the L-Train can't do. His feathery mid-range jump shot has become a staple of the Trail Blazers offense and his quickness from end line to end line has made him a lethal weapon for Portland to exploit on the fast break. Defensively, he is as versatile as they come from the power forward position, strong enough to defend bigger forwards down on the blocks yet agile enough to stick with nearly anybody on the perimeter. He is a big reason why Coach McMillan is a firm believer in switching on defense, because he has the skill level to hold his own out top if a switch occurs on a pick and roll. Like all players, there is always something to improve on during the offseason and here's what LMA should be doing to prepare for his All-Star campaign in 2011.
  1. Face Up Game:
  2. What separates the likes of Nowitzki, Bosh, Gasol, and Amare from the rest of the pack? They each have the ability to not only play with their back to the basket but also take their man outside, turn and face them up, and work out of the triple threat position by either shooting the jump shot, finding the open man, or dribbling hard to the hole. Now, LaMarcus is two-thirds of the way there. He has better than average court vision for a man of his size and doesn't hesitate to knock down the 15 ft. jumper, but to be the complete power forward and earn those multiple All-Star appearances, he'll need to work on his ball-handling this summer. He has the quick first step and agility to pull it off.
  3. Go-To Move:
  4. Given his already long frame at 6'11" and even longer wingspan, spanning 89 inches, coupled with the high release of his shot, he is virtually unblockable in the post. Too often though I feel he relies on the turn-around to bail him out down low. Even though it rarely gets altered, the degree of difficulty is higher than something going towards the hoop. Every great big man in the past and present has had a patented signature move they called upon when buckets were needed. With his soft touch, I'd like to see Aldridge make his baby hook across the middle of the lane, his move he dials up when Portland needs a basket. Get deep position, take a couple of dribbles, turn and fake one way, go back the other way, and finally put the ball in the air. He's a career 48.9% shooter so making it on a regular basis, shouldn't be a problem for LA.
By adding these two moves to his offensive arsenal, Aldridge now becomes impossible to defend and catapults him into elite power forward territory. With a few icons of the post now on the downside of their primes [Duncan, Garnett] as well as a few hitting or eclipsing the age of 30 [Gasol, Nowitzki], the time to take the torch from the others is now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HolyBackBoard Draft Look Ahead: Version 4.0

Now that the draft entrants are set after the May 8th withdrawal deadline has come and gone and Portland's picks are set in stone after tie-breakers were held, it is time to update the top 5 prospects the Trail Blazers should realistically be targeting. For the second straight season, Portland reached the 50 win plateau as well as being bounced from the first round of the playoffs, this time at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. As the season headed down the stretch, it became clear this squad had a few glaring needs, such as another scorer off the bench, preferably a 3-point assassin or a big, bruising power forward to relieve Aldridge. The combination of losing three separate tie-breakers for draft positioning and a late-season surge, presumably in large part to the acquisition of Camby, took the Trail Blazers further away from the lottery than I expected, forcing a huge overhaul in the entrees the team should be eying. The Trail Blazers own the 22nd and 44th picks in the 2010 NBA Draft.
  1. C-Hassan Whiteside: Marshall

  2. For the next two seasons, at least, Portland is set at center, but that all rests on the shoulders of 36 year old Marcus Camby. Seeing both Oden and Przybilla go down with knee injuries this past season has made another center, for insurance purposes, a top priority. Hassan Whiteside is a Freshman eligibility wise, but due to being born in '89, he's two years older than the average Frosh. Everything physically a team would look for in a center, Whiteside attributes: height (7 ft. tall), length (7-6 wingspan), agility. Compared to our own Camby, Whiteside is an elite level shot blocker, averaging 5.4 blocks in only 26 minutes of action to go along with 13.7 points and 8.9 rebounds. Why then is nation's leader in blocks mocked to go late-lottery at best? Questions of a poor work ethic combined with a lack of a true offensive game, make him one of the rawest prospects in the draft. Normally in the past Portland would stay away from those red flags, but we have the culture in place to instill a strong work ethic upon him and bring him along slowly as he sits until Camby is ready to ride off into the sunset.

  3. PF-Ekpe Udoh:Baylor

  4. One of the players who improved their stock most in the NCAA Tournament was Baylor's power forward Ekpe Udoh. Although Udoh doesn't display a great offensive game, he wouldn't need to be the savior for the Trail Blazers, who are just looking for a backup 4 to spell LaMarcus. Even without a true offensive move, he still put up 13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and a fifth best 3.7 blocks per game. What he lacks in traditional post-moves, he makes it up with a lightning quick first step for a person of his size (as seen by the video below), which aids him in getting to all the loose balls, and at 6-10, he loves to shot block and can do so with either hand. Udoh is the perfect fit for what the Blazers are looking for in a bench player and as shown by his progression from his two years at Michigan to where he is at now, not only does there seem to be more potential in his game but a strong work ethic is engraved in him as well.

  5. C-Larry Sanders:Virginia Commonwealth

  6. Yet another long, lanky big man makes the list, this time it's VCU's Larry Sanders. Relatively new to the game, Sanders has only been hooping for five years and accompanied by his 7-7 wingspan, it has allowed for him to become one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Anytime a 6-10 big man has abnormally long arms, is still relatively raw in a basketball sense, and already has an instinct for blocking shots, has to be looked at with great consideration come draft time. Over the course of his Junior year, Sanders lead the 27-9 Rams in scoring, rebounding, and blocks with averages of 14.4, 9.1 and 2.6 respectively. Compared to a former Trail Blazer, Theo Ratliff, Sanders would most likely be a one-trick pony in the league, but with their starting unit set for the foreseeable future, the Blazers need to find players who can carve out a niche for themselves. Just like with Whiteside, there would be no rush in putting Sanders on the floor right away. Working on his game on a daily basis with Bill Bayno could do wonders for Larry and the Blazers could reap those rewards down the line when a center position opens up.

  7. SG-Dominique Jones:South Florida

  8. The most glaring weakness on the Trail Blazers roster is a pure scorer off the bench, something missed since Outlaw was injured, then traded. Players such as Outlaw, Crawford, Terry, and J.R. Smith all have the ability to change the complexion of a game in a split-second with their firepower off the pine. A player in Portland's draft range who could fill that void, could be South Florida's Dominique Jones. As a 6-4 shooting guard, Jones is likened to Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, with his skill set allowing him to bring the ball up the court and look for the open teammate or go into all-out attack mode. Averages of 21.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 3.6apg were impressive enough to garner 1st Team All-Big East honors in arguably the toughest conference in America. Similar to Bayless in the sense he not only plays with the same chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, but Dominique works hard in practice, busts his butt defensively, and is relentless in getting to the line, shown by his 8.5 free throw attempts per game.

  9. SG-Avery Bradley:Texas

  10. Bradley's one and only year at Texas didn't turn out exactly how he would have liked as seen by his averages 11.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 2.1 apg, his team going from #1 to unranked, and ultimately bounced out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But there is no mistaking his talent. At 6-2, he is strictly an off-guard, not possessing enough point guard skills to run the show, but think along the lines of Eric Gordon/Monta Ellis, players who can fill it up quickly off the dribble as well as spotting up. Like our own Jerryd Bayless, his athleticism allows him to finish at the rim ferociously. Unlike those two previously mentioned, Bradley is a suffocating defender, even being singled out as the top perimeter defender in the draft. Looking at small guards doesn't mean Portland should look to replace Bayless, rather these players in particular, would compliment Bayless on both ends of the court. Defensively, either Bradley or Jones would pair with Jerryd to trap, fluster, and agitate opposing guards and on offense their shooting ability would spread the floor and allow Jerryd to operate a bit more freely.

2nd Round Steals
  1. PG-Jerome Randle:California
  2. SF-Da'Sean Butler:West Virginia
  3. PF-Jarvis Vanardo:Mississippi State

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2010 Offseason: Playing With House Money

Although everything turned out for the best in the end, no Trail Blazers fan will ever forget the rocky, unsettling start to the 2009 summer. Portland had around $9 million in salary cap money to throw at numerous free agents as well as having the extensions of both cornerstone players to hammer out, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. The pressure was on. Cap space isn't like many things in life, it can't be carried over or reused, either you use it or you lose it. Maybe more vital to the team's success in the 2010 season was locking up both Roy and Aldridge long-term, preventing a season of uncertainty as either could have been a restricted free agent come July 1st, 2010. With all those variables in place, not even factoring in the draft, it was an offseason of sitting on pins and needles for anyone associated with the Trail Blazers worldwide and it got started off on the wrong foot.
After Portland management targeted Hedo Turkolgu as their #1 free agent, all looked well. Hedo visited the Rose City and a 5 year/$50 million deal seemed inevitable, even being announced on ESPN.com as a done deal. In a flurry of changes, it appeared Hedo would be heading north of the border to play for the Raptors, his wife choosing the Turkish culture of Toronto over Portland. A lot of people were divided on Turk from the beginning but swinging and missing on your top choice was not a good omen and voices of Portland not being an attractive free agent destination began to creep back in. A week or two passed and the Blazers pounced on Paul Millsap, the only problem is their money was tied up for a week as Utah had the allotted time frame to match the offer due to Paul's restricted status. After much deliberation, Utah matched, stating they would not be bullied by any "toxic" offer. Even though Millsap would have been a huge addition, it did force Utah to ultimately give away Ronnie Brewer and Eric Maynor in order to stay under the luxury tax; a direct correlation from the offer sheet Portland gave Millsap. Finally, KP snagged Andre Miller to a reasonable 3 year/$21 million deal in July, proving you don't always have to be the first option to be the best option.
If the free agency fiasco wasn't enough trauma to endure during the summer months, the prospect of not having either star extended was looming on the horizon. Signing Roy to a 5 yr/Maximum extension was a no-brainer, right? To many fans and media members, it should have been done in a day or two and then quickly move on to Aldridge. A holdup over an early termination player option after the 4th year was causing all the hoopla. Radio interviews by Roy, sounding unsure of his future in Portland, left a lot to be desired in the hearts of BlazerManiacs. Could the unthinkable happen? Could Brandon Roy be unhappy in Portland and eventually leave the franchise he recently saved? After holding their collective breaths for two months, the entire city exhaled on August 6th, when the extension was signed. Roy was supposed to be the easy one though. It was Aldridge's contract everyone was worried about. Andre Bargnani had just received a 5 year/$50 million extension and surely LA is a much better player, so what does that say about his market value? To no one's surprise, talks stalled and it was assumed a deal just couldn't be reached. Fans were chanting "Cut the check" during Fan Fest as well as early pre-season games. Everybody was restless. But just 10 days before the Halloween deadline, a 5 year/$65 million agreement was reached, momentarily putting Blazer fans at ease, that is, before the news breaking of Batum missing half the season and the rest, as they say, was history.
Why am I bringing up the past? Only to remind all of you about the roller coaster that was the '09 summer. This year, take a more relaxing approach to the draft, free agency, and don't worry about contract extensions. Portland has already handled the big business, inking Marcus Camby to a 2 yr/$21 million extension, keeping him in the Rose City to finish out his career. Anything else added to Camby's re-signing is cherry on top of the sundae. Coming off a 50 win season and first round exit, normally urgency would be high after another early bounce out of the playoffs, but the Blazers had integral championship puzzle pieces injured, either for the season or physically being well below 100%. Injuries are something no one should dwell on, because they are out of everyone's hands. With that said, all the Trail Blazers need to do this summer is get healthy and address the need of another bench player, whether it be a long-range assassin or a punishing, rebounding machine. In his arsenal, Kevin Pritchard obtains the 22nd and 44th picks in the 2010 Draft, along with the ability to have owner Paul Allen purchase another pick if deemed necessary, as well as the 5.8 mid-level free agent exception. We have minimal needs and one of the best management teams in the biz. Enjoy this ride.

Monday, May 3, 2010

2010 Offseason: Addressing Team Needs

Now that we have seen Portland go one and done in the playoffs for the second straight season, some team needs still need to be addressed. The biggest difference between this year and last has to do with the plethora of veteran leadership provided by Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and Juwan Howard, which allowed Portland to withstand the array of injuries as best as possible by winning 50 games again, and reaching the playoffs in the hotly contested Western Conference. Out of necessity, the trade which brought in Marcus Camby turned a couple of strengths into liabilities at times down the stretch of the 2010 season. Blake and Outlaw provided a solid, sturdy second unit for the Trail Blazers, as well as long-range accuracy, but those strong suits of the team had to be left by the wayside as Portland had bigger holes to fill, such as providing Aldridge and Howard with some help up front. No one questioned the trade for Camby then, nor do they now, but the voids left by Blake's steadiness and Outlaw's gunner mentality still have yet to be filled.
Here are a list of needs Pritchard and Co. can target this summer to help take Portland to the next step.
  • Bench Scorer:
  • What do all elite teams have in common? Either a cohesive bench unit or a 6th man who can come in and heat up in an instant. Detroit in the 80's had Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson, Toni Kukoc for the Bulls in the mid-90's, and more recently, Manu Ginobili of the Spurs earlier this decade. Although he wasn't at any of the aforementioned player levels, Travis didn't need any time to heat up and was good for about 13 points a night and could be counted on to make shots in the clutch. Jerryd Bayless showed signs of becoming a dynamic scorer off the bench, but a couple factors negate this thought. First, he needs more than just a few minutes to heat up. He is a rhythm player who needs minutes in bunches to get into the flow of the game. Also, I'm not sure we want our point guard being the one doing all the scoring and I don't think that's what the coaching staff is grooming him to be. Bayless' future is definitely with this team, but I'd like to see us acquire a wing player to play alongside Jerryd and Martell on the second unit. While Jerryd is trying to make a name for himself as a distributor, Webster is doing so as a defensive stopper. A three guard bench unit of Bayless, Webster, and [insert scorer here] seems to fill all roles to a tee and could catapult us into elite status.
  • 3-Point Specialist:
  • Again, with Blake and Outlaw gone, our long-range accuracy went as well. In 2009, Portland shot 38.4% from beyond the arc but saw it plummet down to 35.5%. The discrepancies in shooting percentage could be just another fallout from the injuries as guys such as Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw (pre-trade) were either hurt for prolonged periods of time, in Outlaw's case or just constantly dinged up as was the case for Fernandez, but Coach McMillan wants to see another shooter added to the mix regardless. While Batum has turned himself into quite the marksmen from downtown, (40.9%), I still feel like once he subs out of the game or is having an off night, our long-range shooting goes out along with him. Maybe this is where Portland kills two birds with one stone, in the sense they acquire a instant offense scorer off the bench who happens to be extremely accurate from 20 ft. and beyond.
  • Bruising Backup Forward:
  • What did the all the great Blazer teams of season's past have that we don't currently attribute? A big, strong, take-no-prisoners, power forward. Although the title team had Maurice Lucas, the 90's had Buck Williams, and the millennium squad featured Briant Grant as starters, the current Trail Blazers already have their starter at the 4 spot firmly entrenched for years to come in Aldridge, who's inside/out combination is a perfect compliment to Oden. The only issue is that too many times did the starting big men check out of the game only to see the opposition clean house on the boards. It makes even more sense considering the division in which Portland participates in. The Thunder have young buck Serge Ibaka, Utah possesses one of the best backup forwards in the league in Paul Millsap, Minnesota has one of the best pure rebounders coming off their bench in Kevin Love, and Denver has Chris "Birdman" Andersen who is willing to give up his body on any given play as long as it benefits the team.
    As the team stands, when healthy, they are loaded and a force to be reckoned with. All the essentials are there for contention. Superstar? Check, Brandon Roy. Veteran leadership? Check and Check, compliments of Camby and Miller. Robin to Roy's Batman? Yes sir, LaMarcus Aldridge. Perimeter defense? Most definitely, thanks to the progression of Nicolas Batum and Martell Webster. Interior defense and rebounding? No doubt about it with Oden and Camby manning the middle. Young talent? Bayless, Cunningham, and Pendergraph would all agree. The team doesn't need much, but with their mid-level free agent exception to go along with two picks in the upcoming draft, the Trail Blazers have the resources to turn some of these weaknesses into strengths in a big hurry.

    Saturday, May 1, 2010

    It's The Offseason, What To Do Now?

    The 2009-2010 Trail Blazers season has come and gone and the prospect of no Blazers basketball for six months is now looming upon us. Some may get their hoops fix by watching the rest of the NBA playoffs play out for the upcoming six weeks, but if you're like me who only has an NBA allegiance when Portland is in the mix, the rest of the playoffs just doesn't fit the bill. Chances are if you aren't a baseball, golf, or racing fan, taking part in watching professional sports will have to be put on the back burner until the leaves start to change colors in the fall. Now with nights freed up and the summer coming up just around the bend, what hobbies or activities are there to do or take part in? If you still want to keep the Trail Blazers in your mind during the off-season, here are a few suggestions. For all of the readers out there, I offer up three selections, destined to bring back memories of the glory years. Up first is The Long, Hot Winter, a narration of the 1990-91 season told through the words of Coach Rick Adleman with Dwight Jaynes. After Rip City had returned the year before with a Western Conference Championship, fans wanted more and more Trail blazers coverage. The book is a very quick and easy read, which takes you through the highs and lows of the 63 win Portland Trail Blazers. For a fan such as myself who was only 5/6 years old during that season, going back now and reading it, gives you a whole different perspective on what was actually going on. Against the World, written by Kerry Eggers and Dwight Jaynes who covered the team religiously, takes the reader into an even more in-depth look at the 1991-92 Portland Trail Blazers. Due to having actual members of the media putting together this piece, instead the head coach, the coverage is much more thorough. We all have to remember that their was no internet, Facebook, Twitter, or really even cell phones back in the early 90's, so this book is the best recollection of everything that went down from Danny Ainge's contract holdup to the potential Charles Barkley to Portland trade rumors. Last but certainly not least is Clyde The Glyde and autobiography of Clyde Drexler told through the stories of Drexler himself but forwarded by Kerry Eggers. Like many 20-somethings in the Oregon region, Drexler amazed us with his high-flying athletic glides through the air and won over our hearts as the sports hero for us during our youth. A must-read for any Trail Blazers or Drexler fan, which takes you through his life as a child in Houston all the way through his retirement as a Hall of Fame and 50 Greatest Players career. If reading isn't your cup of tea or you simply want more, there is visual reminiscence of those great, engaging early-90's Trail Blazer squads. The films which depict the amazing three-year run were Return To Rip City which tours through the NBA Finals run of the 1989-90 season, Running Down A Dream focuses more on the franchise-setting 63 win regular season during the 1990-91 year, and Make It Happen is the culmination of the three-year run that shows the Trail Blazers last grasp at a title during the 1991-92 season. For me personally, the team will continue to stay in the back of my mind, but with more nights free now, I'll definitely explore more of the Portland restaurant scene and maybe check out a movie here and there. Outside of keeping up in the world of the blog-o-sphere, I would like to see what Oregon has to offer in term of hiking terrain and scenery. While in Arizona this March, I hiked two mountains and found it not only exhilarating but a sense of accomplishment when you stand high above the rest of the world, looking owt to see how far you made it. And during those rainy, June days the northwest is known for, nothing beats a good book. Now that I let all of you know what my plans are for the off-season, what are yours and do you have any suggestions for me?