Here are some thoughts from tonight's game. I'm not going to attempt being exhaustive because there really weren't that many major changes from what we've seen so far and leaning too much on the pre-season is a poor idea anyway. But some things did stick out. For instance...
--We saw a glimpse of the Blazer offense of the future, which consists of penetrating passes to big men followed by low post moves or return passes for open shots. It's going to be just that simple. Yes, the attack will be peppered with slashes from the wing and mid-range jumpers, but that inside-outside game will be our bread and butter. This is going to lead to the major inside players getting a ton of foul shot opportunities, which is not a bad thing.
--We also saw a glimpse of one of the remaining weaknesses, which is wing perimeter defense. Lamarcus Aldridge may still be our best perimeter defender at the moment. That's a credit to him but a worry otherwise. The Blazer wing players didn't look hopeless, but there were too many moments of inattention or slow reaction.
--Rebounds are hard to come by in a game where both teams shoot over 50% but it's good that we dominated the boards. You'd be worried otherwise considering the level of competition in the frontcourt.
--The three-point shooting was excellent tonight. I don't necessarily mind more three-pointers as long as they're good looks. Tonight they were.
--We saw a little different form of defense tonight: more pressure and attack. We allowed a much higher percentage than is comfortable but we also forced more turnovers. Then again Sacramento was shorthanded in the point guard department.
--I loved the overall unselfishness. This is a trickier balance than people think. On the one hand you don't want to force early, individual shots under most circumstances. On the other hand you can't be passing up good shots. The Blazers looked good tonight with their ball movement and decision making on offense. I'd love to see a more professional break, but that will come in time.
As far as individual performances...
--Greg Oden played a nice 30 minutes. He looks more agile and active than he did a couple weeks ago. Yaaaay training camp! He was hitting the jump hook far more consistently tonight which made him a powerful offensive threat. By the looks of it I wouldn't count on it falling every night like that yet. Don't underestimate the fouls he is drawing! This will be a potent part of his arsenal. I was impressed by his defense, considering that the Kings were doing everything they could to draw him outside at that end of the court. I think the Blazers are going to make a lot of hay switching Oden and Aldridge around on defensive sets one of these days. If the opponent wants to send their pivot outside, just have Lamarcus switch onto him and let Greg stay in. In any case, Oden did a decent job getting in and out tonight. His relatively few defensive rebounds can be partially accredited to this need to move. He was more active than he has been on the boards. You're going to look at his 5 turnovers and gasp, but he was trying to make the right play tonight, choosing between passing, spinning, and shooting. That's hard to work out and he needs time. Pay more attention to his three assists.
--Lamarcus Aldridge is amazing, especially when you can't defend him.
--Remember Brandon Roy? He had a fairly quiet game tonight with 8-15 shooting, 3-4 from distance, 21 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. That's why I love this guy. Quiet, noisy, it's effective.
There will be more interest in the up-and-comers so let's talk about them.
--Nicolas Batum's boxscore is a hodge-podge. He had 8 rebounds but only shot 2-9 for 5 points and Kevin Martin scored many of his 34 points while being guarded by Nic. What to make of it? To my eye, he had a good showing. He was active, the shots he took were mostly well set-up and well-timed (in fact I'd be mad if he didn't take them), and he showed why the coach has confidence in his defense by the way he negotiated his way around the floor on that end. He did very well if you measure him against Nicolas Batum. If you're looking for a guy who's going to be a weapon and shut down guys like Martin or John Salmons, that's not Nic right now and it's not going to be for a while. For first steps these were good steps though.
--I liked Rudy's offensive outing and I think this is going to be typical of what you see out of him. He's going to hit those deep shots our interior players create. He's going to move himself and the ball around the court and not let the opponent off easy. He's going to have one or two wicked plays that you remember. And he's going to score somewhere between the low and high teens depending on how many minutes he gets. I'm quite comfortable with him being out there. His defense was exposed a little tonight. A big part of that was the concentrated Sacramento attack but there are still little decisions Rudy can make better...NBA decisions particular to this league and style of play, playing the right percentages and moving accordingly. This is another case of not expecting everything right away. Give him a couple trips through the league and he'll be more polished defensively. My guess is we won't have to worry about it after that.
--I really like Sergio's effort and body language. I think he played appropriately on both ends of the court when he was in and he's giving great, controlled effort out there. The best way to put it maybe is that he's developing but he's not playing developmental minutes out there.
--Didn't get much of a look at Bayless. Still fighting an uphill battle it seems. Give him the ball and let him score and he'll be fine, but that's not the Blazers' plan right now, any more than it was their plan to put the ball in Sergio's hands and let him control the offense the last couple of years.
Everybody else did about what you'd expect. Joel rebounded, Travis scored, Blake ran the show. Oh...Channing Frye was back and he didn't look too rusty.
We saw a little closer to a regular season distribution of minutes tonight. Oden had 30, Lamarcus 36, Roy 35, Fernandez 33. I imagine you're going to see the rotation tighten a little as at least one of the guys who got 12-18 minutes during this game lose time while another of them gains it, but it's too early to tell who those guys will be. Some guys may not be getting full minutes in pre-season because they aren't ready for them or haven't earned them and some may not be getting them because they don't need them. We'll have to see.
P.S. Ooops, almost forgot. The folks in the Gameday Open Thread were pointing out that we apparently set a record for Gameday posts tonight. The old record was 1400 and change? There are well over 1600 comments as I type this. I thought maybe we broke that 1400+ record at some point but I'm too tired to go back and check. In any case, that's almost 1700 comments for a pre-season game. I shudder to think what's going to happen when the games count...let alone for huge games like opening night and the L*kers. Welcome to Blazersedge 2008-09, folks.