Politics as Usual

How sick would it be if there were daily tracking polls like Rasmussen, CBS News, NY Times, etc. giving us 7 updates a week on how Blazer Nation feels about key questions.... "Is Blake fit to lead?," "Does Nate McMillan have the foreign policy experience to manage Rudy's transition?", "Does Nic Batum represent change, hope, or both?" and the like. 

If such polling existed, and it absolutely should, one question would interrupt more dinners than any other: "Martell or Travis?"

I remain firmly undecided.  However, for quite a while I have been one of those voters that thinks Martell needs to do a bit more to confront the questions about his being, for lack of a technical term, SpongeBob Soft.

Thankfully, old friend Wendell Maxey has some interesting new information for us...

Martell Webster has been putting in his time with a personal trainer at Club Sport across the street from the Blazers practice facility. The workouts - which have included some shadow boxing, glove work, core building techniques and the like - usually last a few hours in the morning. Hard to tell how many days a week though. Anyway, let me just say, Webster is busting his hump in these workouts. It's no joke. From the looks of it, it's a pretty intense workout and Webster is all-in. It's the kind of workout that makes you tired just watching. Both Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake have also partaken (as have Steven Hill, Jamaal Tatum and assistant coach Monty Williams - who looks as if he could still play) in these sessions sporadically, yet it is the work ethic of Webster that is most noticeable.

I'm not saying Blake and Outlaw aren't going all out, although it's clear Travis isn't even close to being in the same condition as Blake and Webster right now. You can tell those two guys have invested the time this summer. You can tell just by watching these guys go through the various drills. Travis seems a step or two behind Steve and Martell. Again, that's not a knock on Outlaw or anything.

Another old friend and former BE interview subject, Bethlehem Shoals, had this to say about TO...

I wish the Blazers could play 200 guys at once. Last year's upstart nucleus is joined by new faces Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez and Ike Diogu, and of course, Greg Oden's deferred rookie year begins. That means LaMarcus Aldridge moves to power forward full-time, where do-it-all Outlaw got his share of minutes, and spot-up shooter Martell Webster becomes a no-brainer in this offense.

So where does that leave Outlaw, who can play positions 2-4 and last year learned clutch and the longball? Well, he's certainly not going to get as many shots as Roy and Aldridge got in 2007-08, which is his stated goal. And he's no longer as desperately needed as a situational stop-gap. Expect Outlaw to be used selectively, as a match-up scrambler, defensive fright, and occasional big-shot option. But after last season's meteoric arrival, this year he'll be receding back into the rotation.

 Oh no, a recession!  He said recession! 

So, like a typical undecided voter, I'm letting the media swing me from questioning Martell's tenacity to questioning how well TO's skills fit within the context of our roster makeup.

The subtext to this debate has always been, "Is there really room on this team for both?"  In political elections, you've got to make a choice.  When it comes to basketball, it's not always as simple as marking A or B on a ballot.  But the minutes at stake here are pretty tight.  More than likely, a choice between the two will be made at some point down the road.

Look, I'm not trying to swift boat the guy, but if you listen to Maxey and Shoals it sounds like Travis, not Martell, is the one that needs to shore up his support.  But perhaps that's how Travis would prefer it. Historically, he always seems to perform his best with a chip on his shoulder.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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