Our weekly analysis of O-Live's chat with Blazer beat writer Jason Quick. These are not verbatim quotes of Jason or moderator Casey Holdahl, just summations, followed by my reactions. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
A: It was very encouraging. It's like every good pre-season story came true all at once. This is a different team, one that gives effort and fights. Will still lose but probably won't be horrible.
I agree. Even though the first quarter plus didn't go all that well for us, you could see the difference from the opening tip.
A: They aren't an upper echelon team but they're not horrible. They have good, proven talent. The Blazers outplayed them and outscored them in 3 of 4 quarters. The Blazers took advantage of matchups, especially with the pick and roll. Brandon Roy especially understands how to do this.
I would only add that in the end the Blazers wanted it more. You could see it by guys scrambling for loose balls. You could see it in the rebounds and the concentration down the stretch.
A: Juan Dixon was huge. He has been all pre-season. He has a great attitude and played in control. Jamaal Magloire also played well after Joel's early fouls and Raef's injuries. He calmed them down and stopped the bleeding in first half.
I doubt that Dixon scores 20 or shoots as high of a percentage every game, but I have been saying since late last season that neither his play nor his attitude are as poor as have been popularly portrayed.
A: Juan has accepted role. He's prepared to come off bench. He knows who B-Roy is. Late in game he was coaching Jarrett Jack from bench. He could have huge role on this team in 1-2 punch with Brandon. Jamaal accepting a bench role is not such a sure thing.
I don't believe Juan is a starter anywhere in this league, so he needs to accept that role. Again, his unique skill on this team, matched perhaps only by Roy (though we need to see more of him to prove it), is the ability to get those clever shots off the dribble. Also as I said last night I think the spacing helped Juan big time last night. Last year he'd shake his man and then only have a couple feet and a couple seconds in which to get the shot up before he was covered again. Last night he got past his guy and had half the court and all day to shoot.
I know everybody is rosy about everything that happened last night but I still think that Jamaal as a big-minute solution isn't our best option. Too much stopping the ball on offense, not enough speed and interior intimidation on defense.
A: Travis had a great night. The stats didn't show how valuable he was. It's not so much the sum of his contributions, rather that they happened at key times. The staff seems pleased with his play.
And what a change that is on all counts. Last year if Travis wasn't putting up stats he wasn't helping in any way. Also the stats he did produce usually came when it didn't matter. I can't think of too many times when he changed the course of a game. Accordingly the coaching staff was reticent to use him and often annoyed. Again, though, this is as much of a team issue as a Travis issue. Good, smart, disciplined teams make everybody that plays with them better. Bad teams minimize even good contributions. (Witness Zach's 18 and 9 last year.) It's too early to say whether we're turning into a good team but it's not a stretch to say we looked more like one last night than we have in 3-4 years.
A: JJ was OK. Luke Ridnour outplayed him. That might happen a bit this year. He's still learning. But they'll take 13 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists, with 3 steals every night. Handling pressure will remain Jack's weakness. He picks up his dribble too early under duress. Remember he played 44 minutes in an up-tempo game though. He was dealing with fatigue. Overall you have to be happy with him.
This is a big part of why Webster will be more of a 3 this year than a 2. Jack needs Roy or Dixon as an outlet.
A: Nate has lost confidence in him, though he denies it. B-Roy is the backup PG for now. Dan might play spot minutes in back to backs. Nate just likes Roy better.
Granted, but everybody gets a chance eventually. Dan fans need not hang their heads. Keep in mind that Roy can't play 40+ minutes a game every night. If nothing else he'll hit the rookie wall at some point. And we're only one injury away from Dan being either the primary or a strong secondary option at the point. It's a lock that during one or two stretches in the season he'll be averaging 20 minutes a game. Then we'll see what he can do.
A: Yes. In fact he'll get majority of his minutes at the four spot. This will probably affect Jamaal's minutes. At some point Nate has to figure out how to find enough minutes for Webster and Travis. Maybe this is a solution.
I know the league is up-tempo, but I have a couple questions. First, isn't our advantage and style of play supposed to be that we're bigger and more measured? That's Jack's game. That's Zach's game. That's the game of all of our centers. I can see changing that up with a quick second-unit lineup, but if Travis plays a bunch of minutes at power forward I think we break up what makes us distinctive. Second, unless we're going to run a faux-Phoenix style rebounds are going to be darn important to us. Can Travis keep up in that department? And wouldn't playing the people who could make up for his potential lack of rebounding alongside him scuttle the whole "smaller, quicker" thing? I guess I remain skeptical about this. Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist though.
A: No. Joel sees himself as a shot blocker and a rebounder, not a glitzy superstar. Neither is he a complainer. His role is to provide stability. Nevertheless he will have to contribute more on the floor than he did in the Seattle game. No worries though, it's only one game.
And this is exactly the kind of guy we need alongside Zach, Roy, Martell, and maybe even Jack. That's what makes a team work. (A theory our lack of success in international play has cemented over the years.)
A: It looked OK but it's still causing him to struggle on his shot. The team is wary of pushing him and will continue to be so. Nate had a similar injury as a player and it lasted months.
Read my lips: Don't push him! I'd love to see him play but realistically these games don't matter a ton. Even being undefeated through Day 3 of the season nobody is predicting the playoffs for this team. Let him play when he's ready but until then keep him healthy and his future intact.
A: Most people think of Ime as a nice story, but he would be starter even if Martell were healthy. He's intelligent, a quarterback on the floor, a calming, steadying influence. He plays nice defense too. He's a smart shot taker who doesn't need the ball to be effective.
Again, exactly what we need. We are starting to see a trend league-wide that veterans who have played in other leagues can be valuable stabilizing blocks. They know how to work. They know how to play in ways that get coaches to like them. They've seen it all before and value their position in the league. Maybe your 5th man is too high, but you need some of these guys in the 9-10-11 spots.
A: It's possible we just have better shooters this year. Ratliff, Ruben, and Miles are gone or not playing. Zach is a good shooter. Jack is good. Dixon, Dickau, and Roy are also good. The centers are still not though.
It's amazing how these changes can affect the team in subtle ways like this. Though frankly given our youth I'd expect the charity shots to be inconsistent, I think Quick is right that we'll be better overall. What a relief that would be!
A: Zach will have a huge year. He has something to prove. He knows he's on borrowed time off the court. He and Nate are finally on same page. Last night Nate got on Zach about getting in the paint. Zach nodded, accepted the coaching, and did what Nate wanted. Last season the two butted heads a ton.
(sigh) Every Blazer fan in the universe is knocking on wood right now. We all know this story could change 180 degrees before two Quick Chats have gone by, but let's enjoy it for what it is.
A: Nate is excited but will remind the team not to let up. Nate is much more pleased with the team this year and has been since Day 1 of training camp. Their work ethic and I.Q. are a lot better.
It's a funny thing...motivational speeches work best when you're already winning. If we're going to lose to superior talent and experience we're going to lose no matter what Nate says or reminds the guys of. That said, the latter two points are well taken. Perhaps even if we lose we'll do so with better play. Also even if we do lose it doesn't necessarily mean the same things are going wrong this year that went wrong last year...or really that anything is even going that wrong at all.
A: The insurance claim came from Steve Patterson himself. There is a distinct possibility that Darius will be out for a long stretch of the season, maybe even all year. The MRI showed real problems with his knee. The team should announce any day whether the solution is arthroscopic or microfracture surgery. He should miss at least a month, probably more. He's obviously overweight. But hey, does anybody miss him right now? The team doesn't. The fans don't. Nobody is itching to get him back. His chapter with the Blazers may be done. Maybe it's time for management to admit their mistake and move on. It would be nice not to have to talk about him anymore.
It would be nice in an emotional sense, but teams seldom do anything to make people feel better when that recourse would submarine them financially or lose them talent. I don't expect Darius back and happy any time soon but I don't expect he'll be waived either. It would be completely unlike the Blazers to admit any kind of mistake, let alone back that up with such dramatic action. (Nor, I believe, should they. Since they have to eat his salary anyway they can always let him sit.)
A: Power forward will be a big matchup. Nellie is using Mike Dunleavy there in the up-tempo game. Travis may get time there to counter. The Warriors might be demoralized after having lost to the Lakers at home. Bigger things were expected of them. Look for a high scoring, wide open game. The Blazers did score 110 last night though. Roy and J-Rich will be an interesting matchup. B-Roy could exploit him. Davis against JJ is another.
Yes, we did score 110 against Seattle, but in three of the four games we played against the Sonics last year we scored 99, 116, and 108 and we were still the worst offensive team in the league, so I'm not sure that's indicative. I'll save the matchup talk for elsewhere but I think it's just as likely that the Warriors will be angry as demoralized. And as much as I like Brandon, I'm not sure I'd count on him exploiting Jason Richardson just yet.