Every Thursday O-Live does a chat with the O's Blazer beat writer Jason Quick. As a regular Friday feature of this site we'll review and discuss the podcast, as it's the closest to real "inside information" that any of us will get. This won't be a true recap because I will summarize rather than quote what was said and I won't cover every point in the podcast. We'll just lift out the most interesting parts and I'll give you some additional takes and allow you to add your own. The podcast material is in grey.
A: They're basically done with it. At this point they're trying to escape without any more injuries.
This is not a good sign, folks. Training camp and pre-season mean more the younger you are and the less successful you are. We are both the youngest and least successful team in the league. We don't need wins per se (they mean little) but we need organization, cohesiveness, momentum, and evidence of growing into a solid style of play. The fact that we're limping through the last few games doesn't bode well for our chances when the scores really count. It also points out how fragile the team's depth is.
A: We're an improved team, but still not a very good NBA team. The bad points have been the turnovers and scoring. On the positive side we've seen a better team attitude, Z-Bo is killing folks in the low post, and Brandon Roy does everything well. Brandon looks like the odds-on favorite for Rookie of the Year and Zach should be an all star if he keeps it up.
OK...there you go all you people who think the Oregonian guys are constantly hyper-negative. The first couple of points seem dead on. The Roy for R.O.Y. talk and Zach All-Star plug are WAY premature to my mind. First of all, it's pre-season. Second I think Brandon plays more of an all-around game than other rookies and thus won't lead the rooks in scoring. Theoretically this should garner him votes but in practice all the NBA media guys will probably forget about the Blazers (and all the other bad teams) once the season starts and stats will determine their vote. And the Zach thing? Sheesh! Three weeks ago we were just hoping he'd be decent and not kill the team on either end of the court. Now all of a sudden he's made the promised land? I hope it's true but I'll wait and see. Besides, I could care less if he or any Blazer made the all-star team. I'd rather see us make .500.
When you step back and look this is as typical of the Portland media as the negativity, dating way back to the days of Terry Frei predicting we'd win it all every time the team made the playoffs and continuing through this fall's repeated references to Jamaal Magloire as an all-star. There's a lot of drama involved in Blazer coverage (as well as within the organization itself...a lot of the hype comes straight from them). We get these fringe-unrealistic expectations that don't come true and then you see the negative, disappointed backlash.
Unless he averages 26 and 12 Zach probably won't be an all-star this year. Unless the national media all of a sudden gets a case of conscience over hype Brandon Roy probably won't finish first in the Rookie of the Year balloting. But neither one matters unless you're a bad team anyway and that's all you have to hang your hat on.
A: He'll probably see some time in the NBDL. He needs to learn the American game, especially eliminating turnovers like palming the ball. He might have cost us the Golden State game the other night with a pair of horribly-timed, ill-conceived passes.
No surprise there. Point guard is a very hard position to learn. The interesting thing is how very thin that leaves us. We'll probably need to sign or trade for another veteran back-up at some point.
A: Steven Graham provides depth with the injuries to Miles and Martell, though he's probably more of a two-guard than small forward. The Blazers were familiar with him from informal summer workouts and had him on their list. He's a thick, solid athlete. Nate says he hasn't had enough time to judge him. There could be some controversy over Ime Udoka. Nate has named him as a potential opening night starter and the best perimeter defender on the team. Management hasn't said whether he'll even make the team. There could be ripples of conflict between Nate and front office that spread to the players too. Zendon Hamilton was simply a victim of the numbers game.
Graham's athleticism is something that's sorely missing on this team, especially with Miles down. The quote from Nate probably means he won't make the squad though.
The Udoka thing is interesting. If there's one complaint I've had about Nate, it's that he tends to say too much (and too many different things) to the media. Rifts between him and the front office--whether real, potential, or fabricated--become really evident, really fast. This team doesn't need that. If decisions are going to be made by committee then discussion needs to remain among that committee until a final decision is reached, then everybody needs to buck up and stand behind it.
The Hamilton thing was evident from the moment he was signed. At least he made it hard for the Blazers. That might earn him a 10-day contract somewhere down the road.
A: He'll contribute. He's just been really bad so far. He has 23 pre-season turnovers, which amounts to 8.6 per 48 minutes. He's making Ha-like mistakes. He's pretty laid back about it too. He says he's been around the league and has nothing to prove.
OK...the Ha comparison just made me spit my carbonated beverage of choice all over my keyboard. The only thing you can say to that is, "OUCH!" His response to Quick's question about needing to show something sounds like a classic case of a guy who didn't like coming to the worst team in the league and whose agent has told him he isn't going to be here long.
A: His jumper has been money and he's pushing off of both feet now. He's a heady player, a pass-first point guard, and big guard running the pick and roll. On the other hand he has too many turnovers, he struggles handling the ball against pressure, he needs to dribble lower to the ground, and he has trouble focusing in every moment. Eventually he'll be fine but the learning curve will be steep.
None of this should come as any surprise to anyone who read our pre-season preview.
A: Obviously they want to win each game but realistically it's a development year. Nate has said so himself. A lot of players on this team are 2-3 years away: Martell, JJ, Brandon. Zach may move from good player to great this year. The Blazers are going to let their young guys grow before deciding whether to make a big-time free agent signing or trade.
Hmmmm...that last sentence is a very charitable way to put things. Big-time signing of whom, and with what money? Big-time trade using what as bait (assuming our young guys don't develop and thus we need to make such a trade)? Reality check: for better or worse this is the team we're looking at for the next few years unless we're willing to part with one of the young players we're most excited about before we know if they're really a player. And even then their potential won't net us a bona fide all-star.
A: There are no results from Martell's MRI yet. Having to leave the team and get an MRI at all is a scary deal. This could be a chronic, nagging thing. Darius might not be on the court for a long, long time. This could be a season ender. The team and Darius are arguing over microfracture surgery vs. a scope on the knees.
This is bad news either way. The last thing Martell needs in his formative years is to deal with debilitating injuries. Not only will it rob him of much-needed experience, it might force him to play in a style that stunts his development. This guy was our big, huge lottery pick last year. It would hurt really bad to see that wilt before our eyes. The words "microfracture" and "Darius" in the same sentence should scare the bejeebers out of any Blazer fan. I can almost guarantee that surgery will kill his career. He'll be untradeable and barely playable.
A: Juan could still be on the market. Nate doesn't like his defense.
Take that John Hollinger!
A: He's getting close to participating in practices. There's still no actual return date. Pritchard is high on him, saying he'll be a player in three years. That may be too long for a #2 overall pick.
Can't argue with any of those points. Too many of our players are 2-3 years away though. When that happens large numbers of them never get there.
A: He'll get a ton. They want him to learn by being out there on the floor. He'll probably hit the rookie wall at some point but they'll risk that. He's a wonderful, charismatic person and will own the town with his personality. Brandon knows he's going to be successful and make it. Again, he's the odds-on favorite to be Rookie of the Year.
Already covered the R.O.Y. stuff but let me second the part about his personality. This kid was like a magnet to everyone at summer league. It's amazing how quickly that mantle shifted from Martell to Brandon too.
Go ahead and add your own reflections below if you wish.