When Greg Oden was drafted, we soiled ourselves and said “Holy crap, we’re going to be good this year.” Then, when he got injured, we were in perfect position to throw away the season and get another great draft pick! But we didn’t - we had a 13-game winning streak. We used the season to developed the players that we had. Out of it emerged Brandon Roy.
Now, Greg is back, but we already have Brandon Roy to depend on. Well, we did have Brandon Roy. Now without him, we have to look at these games as an opportunity to develop the other players that we have. A player like Brandon Roy is the difference between the W or the L, but you need those other guys to bring it if we’re going to put ourselves in good position against the elite teams. This time is simple - don’t take every game too seriously. Work on becoming more consistent. That’s it.
LaMarcus, who had a rough outing against the Hornets, came back with a great one tonight. His offense needs to expand if he is going to start breaking the 30-point barier. Tonight, that beautiful high-release turnaround was working for him. But on nights where the shot isn’t falling, he needs a go-to inside move other than the running right hook. He needs to develop the threat of going left; if the defender is afraid of him going either way, the hook and the turnarounds will completely open up. In the mean time, defenders continue to correctly predict that he’ll go right - you can see his workspace in the middle getting smaller and smaller.
LaMarcus was part of a very effective frontcourt for the Blazers. G.O. wasn’t a total stud tonight, but you can’t argue with getting another 35 minutes under his belt. And it looked like Bynum was genuinely wornout ALL GAME from working against him. Greg looks like he is gaining a lot of confidence on offense. Some of his shots aren’t pretty, but you have to take it game by game. Right now, I’m happy that I’ve seen how comfortable it can be for him and that he’s wanting to score. Footwork comes next…
I love everything I’m seeing from Bayless. I can’t complain about his shot selection when I see him patting himself on the chest and saying “My bad” after a bad attempt. If he’s still having these problems at the beginning of the season next year, then I’ll be willing to talk more about it. For now, though, I love to see his head up every time he gets the ball - he’s looking to make plays however he can. On that wrap-around pass to LaMarcus for the dunk, you could see his eyes locked on LaMarcus like “How can I get him the ball?” He gets himself caught in the air too often - a mistake that LeBron used to make often. Must be a super-freak-athlete thing. In the end, Bayless is trying to be a play-maker for the Blazers, and that’s what we’re looking to develop out of this time without Brandon. When Brandon is unable to handle the entire load, who is going to be able to provide offense? Now is the time to find out.
Our backcourt really killed us tonight. Blake was off all night, and Rudy hasn’t been consistent in quite a while. Regardless, a loss to the Lakers because we didn’t make our shots is not a bad loss at all. Blake has generally been brilliant, and Rudy is still very green. In Rudy's case, having a player that is so active on the court - both offensively and defensively - is an incredible asset. He is always filling nooks and crannies around the court that throw the other team off-kilter. I think these guys have benefited a lot from the experience gained in the last few games without Roy.
Nicolas Batum showed everybody why the Blazers should put him in a contract for a long time. That length on such an agile frame makes him a really unique talent. It was certainly a nice surprise to see him get 34 minutes in this game, and he responded with a stellar 17 points on perfect shooting (3/3 3PT), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers.
The Blazers still kept turnovers low (10 to their 13), had more than twice as many offensive rebounds as the Lakers (15 to their 7), and got themselves good shots. Those shots didn’t fall, and some very frustrating officiating didn’t help. However, it was good to see us generally out-play the Lakers for most of the game. These most recent games may have looked very different had we been playing some scrubs, but instead we played Boston, New Orleans, and L.A.
Don’t take any risks with Roy, and welcome the opportunity to develop the players around him. Just keep playing tough…