O-Live Quick-less Chat April 26th, 2007

The original broadcast was well-hidden and thus not many people knew about it, but here's our weekly recap of Oregonlive's Blazers chat hosted by Casey Holdahl.  As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses.  You can usually listen to the entire chat here.  Maybe not this one.   It depends on Casey.  

The format is a little different today.  Casey is in grey quote blocks, the responses are in white (since I have no further response other than what's there already).

Casey opens the show.

Good afternoon Blazer fans!  It's Thursday, it's 2:00, and it's time to talk some Blazer basketball.  The usual suspects couldn't join us today because of previous commitments but we have a special guest, right here in studio...Dave from Blazersedge.com.  Dave, welcome!

Thanks Casey.  Glad to be here.  It's funny that you mention "Usual Suspects".  I have this recurring nightmare where I get to live every blogger's dream and actually interview the notoriously reclusive and media-shy Paul Allen.  Then after the interview is done and I'm reading it over I notice he's pulled a Kaiser Soze on me and just fed me stuff from my own bulletin board.  I look out the window and see him getting into a limousine and speeding away.

Funny.  I guess that would explain how we got those amazing draft picks.

No doubt!  "They were holding his family hostage and refusing to accept Sebastian Telfair in exchange for the Brandon Roy draft pick.  So he shot his wife and child right in front of them.  They made the trade..."  I doubt Ainge needed that much persuasion though.

Probably not.  Anyway, it's good to have you here!  I can't help but notice the entourage you arrived with.  Very nice.  [note:  Substantial female twittering and giggling can be picked up on the tape here.]  Do they always follow you around like that?

Yeah, it kind of goes with the territory.

Man, I wish I was you, buddy.

I know.

So let's get into some Blazer talk.  The season just ended.  Give us your general impressions in a nutshell.

It was a good year...for fans if nothing else.  Very encouraging.  We saw a really solid shift in direction throughout the whole organization.  It was like everything that had gone wrong in years before all of a sudden started going right.  The players started playing hard and together.  They started bonding with the community, which began to embrace them as well.  Management got its collective foot out of its mouth and started charming the media again instead of antagonizing it.   It's like somebody poured magical pixie love dust all over Blazer nation.  It's refreshing, frankly.

What about on the court?

The progress was slower there, but it will come.  Offensively we need to decide what kind of team we will be...whether we're going to be primarily a low post team where we dump the ball into Zach and clog up the lane in exchange for high percentage looks or whether we're going to keep the ball in the guards' hands and let them penetrate and get open looks or dishes.  Either way we need to become more steady on our spot-up long-range shooting because both Zach and the guards are going to need outlets.

Do you have a preference between those two?

The guard option is certainly more pleasing to the eyes at this point but there are some major questions that come along with that.  The first is how good our guards are really.  And not just in theory, but when NBA defenses are focusing on them and actively trying to take away their penetration and the things they do best.  Can Brandon and Jarrett still get to the hole when they're the primary options?  If not it won't work because although both can hit the outside jumper we don't want that to become the main option for either, or for our team.  The other question is what, then, do we do with Zach?  Zach is clearly our most talented offensive player but he must have the ball to score.  It's no accident that he had career numbers this year because much of our offense was designed to give him those numbers.  Can he score close to that and be productive in other areas if he's not holding the ball or being tabbed as the first option on every play?  If not, and if you want to go with this kind of offense, you almost have to look at moving him.  You cannot let a talent and contract like that just rot on the court.  We have too much invested in him and his gravity is too great when he's out there.  The worst games of the season, hands down, came when he was on the floor but not getting the ball.

On the other hand if the guards aren't ready to shoulder that kind of offensive burden then I think you have to have another sure plan in place, which probably means running it through Zach again.  I don't think you can go into next season up in the air.  It wouldn't be good for this team to go through another season, or even a half season, of confusion and offensive impotence.  The team is at the point where they need to see wins, if not for the purposes of contending at least for their confidence.  Their heart and motivation are strong now but you have to believe another season of frustration would start to eat away at their trust in each other and in the system.

The only other option I see right now is if Lamarcus is ready to go and you think he can carry the offensive burden.

You mentioned offense, what about defense?

We have even more identity-shaping to do there.  At least our offense had a couple dependable parts this year.  Our defense had a dependable player or two, but no real cohesion that I saw.  Different guys would be giving different levels of effort on different nights.  Ime was about the only guy you could depend on every game.  How much more mileage can you put on him though?  Also our overall defensive system needs some work.  I don't know if it's the design or the execution but some things just weren't working right.  The one thing I will say is that we closed down the middle better this year than we have in years past.  But we got peppered with jump shots from everywhere, we got blown by on screen switches which often led to fouls, and our transition defense was far too sporadic.  People argue a lot about whether this should be a running team or a halfcourt team offensively but I'm almost more interested in what kind of defense we're going to play.  Of course losing Joel Przybilla for most the season didn't help us, but then again Joel wasn't playing that much even when he was healthy.

Let's get into that a little.  Who do you think had the best years individually?

Obviously the three big names are Brandon, Ime, and Zach.  Nobody knew for sure what Brandon and Ime could do at all coming into the season and they really shined.  People (including myself) were questioning whether Zach's knee and/or Zach's motivation would ever allow him to be a dominant force again.  He stuffed that right back down our pie holes.  But if you're looking for more subtle gains you have to look at guys like Travis and Jamaal.  Travis showed more consistency and got way more opportunity than we've seen so far.  You almost (almost!) trusted him out there with the ball.  He looked like he was paying more attention, making more smart decisions, and even having more fun.  It was nice to see him come out of his shell a little.  He's young but if you look at the Blazer draft history it's surprising how long ago he was taken.  Everybody we picked in the year after him has already pretty much busted out of the league, and the guy we took with him (Nedzad Sinanovic) never made it.  (In fact as a side note, did you know that other than Travis not a single person panned out for us from the 2002, 2003, and 2004 drafts?  And if we trade Jarrett and Martell as some are suggesting that will make it 2005 as well.  Think that could have something to do with the state we're in right now?)  Anyway, after all these years Travis is finally beginning to show some life, and that's good to see.

Jamaal was the other guy who really recuperated this year.  It was funny...at the beginning of the year we probably could have made a fortune selling "I hate Jamaal" t-shirts.  At the end of the year he became pretty respectable for us, especially in the rebounding department.  He saved the last couple months of the season for us.  He ought to get some credit for that.  A lot of guys whine that they're not playing enough and then when they get the chance they fall flat on their faces.  He actually came through.

Oh...Lamarcus, of course.  That goes without saying.  They're going to give him major minutes in his second year.  That's a great sign.

Do we keep Travis and Jamaal next year?

Travis is a no-brainer.  His contract won't be that high and if somebody wants him enough to offer him money they'll probably still want him enough to trade for him.  I doubt we let him go without compensation at almost any price.  I'm with the masses in that I'd say no on Jamaal unless we move Zach.  I like his toughness and his post scoring ability and if we do go with that guard-oriented offense we'd need somebody who could score in the post but doesn't have to.  But Jamaal and Zach take up too much of the same territory and are too slow to have out there together.

What about disappointing seasons?

The two that stick out are Martell and Joel.  They were kind of the anti-Udokas.  You expected them to step forward and they just disappeared.

What do you expect from them?

I may be off on this, but I really do expect Martell to have a nice career.  He just needs the system support that will allow it.  I've said before that I think Jarrett and Brandon (or whoever the guards are in the next couple years) should make it their business to keep him involved if that's a choice they get to make.  He could make their penetrating a lot easier.

Joel is an odd duck.  I actually have slightly more faith in his ability to play productively at an NBA level because we've seen it.  What he did to Sacramento that one year should be shown to all little Kings' fans as a warning about eating their vegetables.  

"If you don't eat your peas THIS GUY will come and get you.  And he'll do THIS!  And THIS!  And THAT!"

"No mommy!  No!  I'm eating!  I'm eating!"

However the fact that the sample of Joel's best work is so small relative to his time in the league worries me.  He was considered a bust before we got him.  Conditioning was an issue, injuries were an issue, and maybe attitude as well...and this was for three or four years.  Then he had that one magical year with Cheeks.  The next year he had injury problems and wasn't quite as productive.  This year he had more injury problems, perhaps some conditioning problems, and wasn't productive at all.  So you have maybe one and a half years of solid play surrounded by 4-6 years of difficulty.   Which is the real Joel?

Decent point.  Oh wait...we're getting a call from one of our regulars.  Kevin Pritchard is on the line!  Hey Kevin!

KP:  Hey Casey!  How's it going buddy?

Casey:  Just sitting here talking with Dave from Blazersedge.  I know you won't tell us where you are or what you're doing so close to draft time so I won't even ask.

KP:  (chuckles)  Right.  I just wanted to call in to say hi to Dave and to say that I don't miss a single day reading Blazersedge.

Thanks Kevin!  I really do appreciate that.

KP:  No problem.  I can't hang around but keep up the good work!  Oh, and Dave, can you call me after the show?  I want your advice on that thing we talked about.

No problem, Kevin.  Hold out for the first round pick.  They'll cave.

KP:  No, not that thing.  The other one.

Oh.  Well just be yourself.  She'll probably like you and if she doesn't it's her loss.  [sounds of girls giggling the background can be heard again]

Thanks Kevin.  Anyway...what do you see as the outlook for the coming season?  Coach McMillan says we could make the playoffs with a move or two.  Do you see that happening?

It depends on the move, I suppose.  If we don't make any significant moves or we make the type of move that still leaves us primarily dependent on Brandon, Lamarcus, Jarrett, and the young guys I'd say we're still a season away.  That's not because I don't like the young guys!  They just need more experience.  If we make a move to bring in a big-time scorer I think we could have a chance but we have to be really careful that we don't scuttle the chemistry or mortgage the future.  In fact in an odd way I wonder if we wouldn't be better off going slower and steadier.  Don't get me wrong, I very much want to get back into the playoffs.  You can see what it's doing for Golden State as we speak.  But once we're there I want to stay there and I want to progress.  I'd rather have a solid bunch of moves, draft choices, or whatever that build the right way than one big move that makes us instantly better but doesn't leave us room to grow.  Of course with Kevin you can't help but wonder if he could make both happen at once.  The next couple of years should be exciting, that's for sure.

Ooop!  We're getting another call in.  Hello?

PA:  Hello Casey, this is Paul Allen.

Casey:  It's an honor, sir!  To what do we owe the pleasure?

PA:  I'm following up on Kevin's call to say that I am also an avid reader of Blazersedge.  In fact I like the site so much I've decided to support it myself.  Next year's Jersey Contest grand prize will be courtside season tickets and a Ferrari.  That is, if you have no objections, Dave.

Fine by me!

Thanks Paul!  Oh, and ANOTHER call!  What is going on today?  Hello?

Ione:  Hi Casey, this is Blazer Dancer Ione.  Can I...talk to Dave?

Pssst!  Casey!  Ixnay on the ancerday!  The ifeway will get plenty admay!

 

Casey:  Sorry, Ione.  We're pretty much out of time here.

Ione:  Another time then?  Soon?

Casey:  OK.  Soon.  Bye!

Ione:  Bye.

Bye Ione! Say hello to the girls for me.

Man, I wish I was you, buddy.

I know.  You said that.

Well that's all the time we have folks.  Join us again soon.  Geez, Dave, this chat was so spectacular I'm thinking we shouldn't put the podcast up with the other ones.  You know...

Once you've had Dave you never go back?

Yeah.

I get that a lot.

Anyway, if you don't see it up there in the list you'll know why.

OK, fair enough.  Thanks for having me on anyway.

So long Blazer fans!  Have a great week!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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