Notes from Shootaround

I had the chance to look in on part of the Blazers' shootaround this morning.  Some notes:

--In general the mood seemed upbeat about last night's game with the exception of a few defensive wrinkles and, above all, the turnovers.  The effort was there but the execution needed some work.

--The Sacramento scorers will put pressure on Portland's defense tonight.  This is worth exploring a little.  It's true that you don't need, and can't have, five 20-point scorers on the floor at once.  But when a player isn't a threat, or isn't a threat from a certain position on the floor, he makes life easy for the opposing defense.  Defense is all about taking control of space away from the offense.  Having a weak offensive player on the court frees a defender to occupy more space.  The defender now has more choices about where and how to cover and undergoes less pressure when making those decisions.  When guarding a legitimate threat the defender has fewer options.  Every decision leaves something undone, which puts strain on the decision-maker, causing second-guessing, hesitation, and error.  I don't think it's a state secret to say a guy like Sacramento's Spencer Hawes, with his ability to score in the post or take threes, makes life tough for the entire opposing defense (between strategies to cover him and strategies to cover for the holes that coverage leaves).  You can only imagine how a player like Kobe Bryant warps the game.

--Speaking of strategies, even at this level these guys are pros. They're being taught...that's quite clear.  But the space and time into which those concepts are hammered is quite brief, at least in the shootaround context.  You have to be able to see something once and then execute it, including all of the subtleties.  Much like a game show it's a lot harder than it looks on TV.

--The guys with international experience are ahead of the game conceptually, at least on defense.

Individual Notes:

--For better or worse, Jerryd Bayless seems pretty intense.  Some time with veterans will probably smooth out the rough edges, but that competitive fire will also serve him well on the court.

--Bayless can hit a jumper, but he's really going to be depending on his quickness to free himself first.  Granted the jumpers you take in practice are casual, but he still doesn't have the release point to shoot over most NBA players.  He'll need to be open or juke and hit on the move.

--Petteri Koponen has a funny, if effective, shooting style.  The concerns will be how quickly he can get his jumper off and whether he'll be able to hit on the move.

--The coaches appear to be working with Nicolas Batum and he appears to be absorbing it.  Too early to tell if he just needs extra work or if they see something in him.  Both probably.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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