FanPost

Game Report: Blazers vs. Clippers

[Bumped to Front Page]

Since the game wasn't televised, here's another fantastic account of Blazers/Clippers down in LA from BE legend Mortimer.

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

My amateur game report from the Battle of Sopping Up Pre-Season Minutes '09, PDX vs LAX's JV squadron of basketeers.    

Now, I'm not a fanpostin' type of guy, and I'm not really allowed to make fanposts.  Not after what happened last time, I wrote as I looked off mournfully to the distance...

But, I'll make an exception.  Here, reposted from the Junk Drawer AND Ben's post-game report, is my big dumb long game report.

I left home early, and traffic wasn’t too bad at all. Got there in less than half an hour, before they opened the doors to the Staples Center even. They let us in just over an hour before tip-off, which I didn’t suspect… I planned on getting there like 2 hours early and seeing who is getting some pre-game work in.

My seats were very nice— to the right of the halfcourt line, 7 rows up from courtside. I find my seat and watch the Blazers side get some work in with the assistant coaches and each other. Joel was working on post moves, Collins was as well (he is only 6’10", but has really long arms and a thick body). Bayno and Bayless were doing a few different things towards the end of the pre-warming up warm up, with Bayno being pretty physical with Bayless. LMA was working on post moves, soft floaters, that sort of thing. Roy was working with a coach, taking the ball from past the 3 point line to the circle and taking a jumper. He was missing more than I expected even in warmups (foreshadowing the night’s events).

Oh, and Bayless was working on a post game with Bayno, which I liked to see. He has such a big body for a PG; he sometimes has an optical illusion from seeing him on TV that makes him look like a normal sized PG, but he’s nice and big. Bayless and Andre talked for a bit on some of the courtside seats before Bayless started this workout with Bayno, and before Andre did his own warm up thing… lotsa stretching, running backwards from sideline to sideline, doing twists, he didn’t shoot or practice game moves.

I did not see Oden, Blake, or Dante at this pre-warm up warm up session. Maybe they already had a workout, were still getting taped/treated, I dunno. Just noting it is all.

The Blazers were out there much longer than the Clippers players were, and seemed to have more of a goal with what they were doing… practicing moves, drills, etc. The Clippers seemed more like they were goofing off.

The regular warm up/shoot around thing came later, and that’s pretty standard. Oden worked on post moves, doing them slow and methodically to get the footwork and moves down. One time while rebounding a hook that missed, two other made jumpers (didn’t see who shot them) bonked him on the head twice in a row— bop bop. It was funny. Him and Martell smiled. Gosh, guys, they all like each other!

(Martell didn’t play I don’t think, but he was bouncing around everywhere during both warm up sessions. Being a body for Collins or Joel to post up, taking jumpers, guarding perimeter players, all over. He is a bundle of energy).

Ok, onto the game…

The debut of RAMBO. It didn’t work tonight. However, I definitely think it will work. Look… I like Steve Blake. He is great in his Blakeness. But it is so mind blowingly obviously that Andre Miller is a much, much, much better player. Miller didn’t have a great game (while Blake played awful), but his passing, how damn CRAFTY he is, his penetration… we haven’t had a GOOD point guard like him in ever. In EVER.

No one was on their game tonight really, and I don’t think it’s because that lineup won’t gel. It’s because everyone was off. Roy was especially off… sloppy turnovers, bad shots, interspersed with normal Roy dishes and smart plays. Overall, it looked like he was trying to get into the game and do well (not really coasting), but he didn’t have his rhythm that he always says he needs to get.

The last player I worry about is Brandon Roy, and neither should you. I also think he and Andre will work well together. They need to play together to establish that chemistry though, as they are both that sort of player… and really, that’s a good way to describe Miller on offense. He is Roy-esque. Terrific ballhandler, he never feels hurried with the ball (some younger PGs start pressing when they get doubled or don’t have the handles to get out of it), and he had a few really nice drives… I think most don’t see what he is doing out there, how smart it is.

Andre Miller is a much, much better point guard than Steve Blake. It is as simple as that. He should be playing most of the minutes, and I believe he should start. Hands down.

Blake REALLY pressed tonight… it may just be me, but it felt like Blake was trying to show he can do the things Miller does— split double teams, behind the back dribble and penetrate and dish— but it doesn’t work when Blake tries it. That isn’t Blake’s game and it never will be and it SHOULDN’T be his game. We love Steve Blake’s game, and I want him to stick with it: no risk passes, no turnovers, hitting the open shot. Don’t push things. He didn’t look good.

LMA had a few points in a row in the 3rd, as we made our mini-comeback, but he’s still in coast mode. When he was trying he looks just as good as post-allstar break LMA, which is what we all want to see. Had his nice trademark running hook that goes in 90+% of the time, hit some jumpers, normal LMA. Not aggressive enough though, which was what made him special post allstar break. Very few rebounds. I attribute this almost 100% to it being pre-season, not wanting to get hurt, and wanting a deal without getting hurt. He is definitely not going all out right now.

Normally I don’t blame him for that, but right now, we’re getting used to a brand spanking new GOOD point guard, and a still-raw big man who will have a bigger role than previously. We still got several games left, but I’d like to see LMA and Roy going full speed along with Dre and Oden so they can establish that chemistry we all want to see.

Batum picked up two quick fouls, played his normal good defense, had a nice Batum-esque dunk, and otherwise didn’t do nuthin’. That has been his pre-season thus far, since we got other people we wanna see and he played all summer. We haven’t seen his offensive game that he sometimes showed during the Eurobasket, but I also get the sense that we don’t worry about what Batum will bring. The offense is just gravy. He will be a better version of what he was last year.

The Clippers feature the best frontline we’ve faced yet, which we all looked forward to as a good Oden-ometer to see where he is at. Kaman brought it physical to Oden right away, and Camby is always there to add meaningless defensive stats.

Now the best thing about New Oden, is his defense. No dumb fouls! Moving his feet! Guys, he had 1 foul all night, and Kaman was trying to take it to him. It was good news. He couldn’t score anything inside on Oden and all of his points came from jumpers. He’d try to make a move, get position, and pass out. One time he decided to take it HARD right at Oden, starting at about 13 feet away. Kaman drives, goes up with his left, and Oden stays in front of him the whole way and blocks the crap out of his shot. It was impressive.

After that block, Oden kept trying to block more shots, and altered a bunch but I don’t think he got anymore. Oden was physical without being overly so, was in good position, and if I have anything to critique it’s that he is playing it too safe. He has foul worries so seared into his brain now, that he is now likely playing it too conservative. BUT, he isn’t playing it soft or giving up points without trying, he is playing good defense. GREAT news.

I just think he’ll be able to block more shots once he isn’t worried about foul problems. I kept waiting for Oden-esque fouls to happen from Baron’s penetration, or Kaman bumping him, but he seemed much more comfortable and experienced out there. Viva la Bayno.

Oden’s offense was off tonight. He was trying his moves, getting good position, but was missing pretty bad, or forcing it when doubled. Here’s the thing we HAVE to remember: Oden is still very raw. He has much refinement left in him. This might sound bad, but it’s great news. He’s still going to get a lot better offensively. He will have his gangly and awkward moments still, and tonight was that sort of night. I do not think it was anything Kaman was doing, it was Oden being raw.

Like Ben said the other night, it’s like a baby elephant learning to walk. His moves are good, his position wonderful, and I think he has a great touch around the basket. Nights like this will happen while he is developing (and we can’t forget that he is still developing as a 21 year old raw big man), where he makes the wrong reads on the move, forces a shot, etc.

It is a lot different from last year. You don’t notice any huffing and puffing, no heavy breathing, he didn’t seem like he was having an asthma attack like last year. He wasn’t having a great game on offense, yet was still pretty effective. He got two quick fouls called on Kaman right away (within the first few minutes), continuing that pre-season trend. I believe it will last all season long. He’s too big, his still-burgeoning moves make you have to foul him.

I believe he only scored on dunks tonight, so no finesse like in the Kings games. There will be nights like this along the way. One rebound dunk was pretty awesome and everyone went OOOOOH. LMA (I believe) missed a baseline jumper, and Oden was on the other side of the basket, catches it in mid-air and hammers it home.

Oden did a really nice spin move on Kaman and scored, but he got called for the travel. I don’t think he traveled, but those quick spin moves can go either way. I’d need to see the replay to know for sure. It was a very quick and impressive move though.

I got my ticket from Ticketmaster’s ticket exchange on the Clipper’s website, and the season ticket holder who put the ticket up for sale sat next to me and we talked a lot during the game. He was an older fellow, big NBA fan, hates the Lakers with a passion (they are arrogant jerks, and their fans are stupid, he brilliantly states). He got really into our team and loved what he saw, especially from Oden and Miller. He remembers Oden from last year; how big he was and how he moved, and whistled appreciatively over and over.

Especially from his rebounding… I believe Oden will lead the league in offensive rebounding this year, unless his lack of foul problems these first 3 games is a fluke. His hands are just so STICKY. He gets them on almost every miss, either grabbing it himself or tipping it out for someone else to get. He has really good hands for being so raw, and his big fingers can almost grab the ball themselves. I don’t know how else to describe it besides saying they’re like Spiderman fingers. My new olde tymey friend was impressed.

Overall, he was quite jealous of our Ricky Davis-less team.

Speaking of Davis’s, Baron looks lots better this year. I believe he has the talent and ability to be a top 3 PG any year, and sometimes even the best one overall. But, he’s lazy, he gets fat, he coasts, and he loves to shoot 3’s even though he has never ever been a good 3 point shooter. I worried that now that he has his last deal (his last big contract, anyways) he was going to coast the rest of the way. Last year that was certainly true. From now on, he’s just playing for pride, and I’m happy to say he looked more like Baron Davis of old. He has lost weight (last year he always played like he just ate a big plate of meaty cheesy lasagna before heading out on the court), was much lighter on his feet, and was dishin’ and drivin’. That made me happy for Clipper fans.

Clipper fans are a special bunch, and I admire them greatly. I know we all hate the Lakers, but be honest with yourself… let’s say you were born and raised in LA. It would be TOTALLY FINE to be a Laker fan, if you are from LA. I am sure most of us would be Laker fans, were we born in LA. It is but for a twist of fate that we were born in Oregon and "chose" to be Blazer fans.

So to be Clipper fans, most born and raised in LA, with the hugely successful Lakers franchise staring down at you from all angles, and it being totally fine to be a Laker fan… to still choose the Clippers means they are special people. God’s people. I doubt I would be that strong. Us Blazer fans are a crazy bunch, but Clipper fans are perhaps the most admirable fans around. I do not mean that condescendingly at all, and I wish I knew a better word than "admirable" to describe it.

Back to the game…

Ime Udoka has been getting a lot more minutes than Collins, but I still heavily vote for Collins to get the last roster spot. Ime is still Ime— incredibly awkward when dribbling the ball, bad decision maker, good defender, can hit the corner 3. We would never play him.

Collins is Collins— a role playing big man who is a good physical defender. He would not be in the NBA if he wasn’t as big as he is, but since he IS as big as he is it is a pointless critique. He will not score, won’t get rebounds out of his area, but he has size and thickness and experience and smarts and 6 fouls. He has much more use to us in games (if Joel or Oden go down) and at least in practice.

Even in practice, Ime would be superfluous.

I suspect Ime will get the roster spot because it is a heartwarming story and he is a great guy, and I can’t argue against those points. I just think it would be the wrong move, considering how many good perimeter guys we have and the tendency for big men to get hurt. He’s certainly getting a grip more minutes than Collins, so either we’re favoring him for the last spot OR letting him show other teams what he can do because we’re favoring Collins. I really don’t know, and both make sense to me.

Ime was great for the 06-07 team. We have grown far past him, though.

Juwan Howard continues to relatively impress me, especially with all the negative brouhaha that surrounded his signing. He is solid, plays tougher than I expected, and looks to be in great shape. He makes smart passes, talks with the guys a lot, and ya don’t worry when he’s out there like we would with Frye. I never expected him to be better for us than Frye was, but I think he is.

Dante is a rookie. Hesitant passes, shots, he’s feeling his way. He is bigger than I expected, and won’t be all that undersized for a role playing PF.

Clipper fans were most excited for Blake Griffin, of course, and he gave them a few reasons to cheer. He, too, showed his rookieness though, and only scored on transition dunks. If the Clippers get out and run more, he’ll score a lot this way— he is good at running up and down the court and finishing. He took a few clanky jumpers (one time it was just him and ol’ man Juwan, and instead of taking it at him he took a long jumper… he will learn to recognize that mismatch in time), had a bad turnover on a almost-fastbreak trying to be too fancy, and is Outlaw’s height but much thicker.

If the Clippers play the normal Dunleavy way of lots of called plays and isos, I don’t think it will get the most out of Griffin. If Dunleavy lets Baron improvise and push the tempo, Griffin will get quite a few buckets that way and lots of nice gorilla dunks.

Otherwise, to make up for his lack of height and wingspan, Blake needs to add a lot more skill to his game. He’s strong, physical on offense, and runs the floor very well, so he’ll have lots of good moments and get Clipper fans excited. I don’t think he’s a franchise changer, though.

Outlaw had a normal Outlaw game. You should not ever let him dribble the ball in the open court… neither him or Ime are ever allowed to do that and I hate when someone lets them. It is a no no. Nothing good ever comes of it. Neither of them handle limitless options well. They need defined roles and set plays.

Trout had a nice drive and dunk, though. Very nice to see. He also ripped a rebound away from Oden, clearly recognizing that he is being judged for defensive rebounding.

Joel was Joel. Great defense, some nice blocks, lots of rebounds.

Bayless went into Bayless mode towards the end of the game, racking up fouls on his defender. He still overthinks when to attack and when to pass, and needs more development. He defended Telfair well (they were mostly matched up on each other, and Bayless dwarfs tiny framed Telfair), staying in front of the lil’ water bug easily, but had one dumb classic over aggressive foul that he did a lot last year. He’ll learn.

His free throw shooting was awful and he went 1 for 2 every time. He also couldn’t hit a jumper, and his one basket was a nice dipsy doo finish inside. Typical Bayless, I tell ya.

He impressed my new Clipper friend, who was also jealous we had a big young athletic talent like him sitting at the end of the bench. I think most of us forget how lucky we are to be Blazer fans, and that there is no rush for Bayless to get on the floor. He will get over any frustration he experiences right now, and he has more development to go through anyways.

Rudy didn’t do much; ran around screens like normal, hit some 3’s, still isn’t a strong dribbler. Did a nice pick and roll with Joel that Joel tried to throw down hard but he got fouled. I still like Rudy in the pick and roll, but in the open court or without a screen set for him, he simply isn’t a good enough ballhandler. He also needs time with Miller for them to develop some chemistry, so we can see them complete the famous backdoor-cut-alley-oop Rudy is beloved the world over for.

That’s another thing in Miller’s favor— he is so good, so much better than Blake, that I just want everyone to play with him. To develop chemistry with him. He will make everyone better.

Telfair actually had a decent game, and checking the boxscore I see he had 10 assists. His highlight was a nice drive and no look to (I believe) DeAndre Jordan for the monster dunk. Good to see him finding a role.

He still can’t shoot or defend, but he’s quick and can pass.

Rasual Butler (I like pronouncing Rasual like you’d pronounce "Casual") tried to make it the Rasual Butler show, with fancy pants dribbling and forced shots. He made a few of them too, so it wasn’t as bad as it seemed like it was going to be. Not a bad pickup for the Clippers.

Craig Smith should be the hippo, not the rhino. He is a tub of a man.

I seriously question whether DeAndre Jordan works out enough… he’s got a great frame and body to work with, but he’s still so soft and out of shape looking. I know work ethic and commitment was always a question for him, but he could develop into a good center someday. He can dunk and rebound decent enough, can’t shoot FTs to save his life, and is an inexperienced defender. I still just don’t think he has committed to staying in shape and it will inhibit his progress.

KAREEM RUSH SIGHTING. Yup, Kareem Rush was there. Fun for all.

The Clippers should be better than last year simply by Baron being in better shape. If Kaman can stay healthy, it’ll be all the better. He’s played well when healthy, but there’s just always been something keeping him off the court. I can see them winning 40+ games if they stay healthy and motivated. I question their motivation for a lot of the guys on the roster, and still whether it all fits together. The West is gonna be tough again, and the Clippers won’t be an easy out, but I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs. They got talent, though.

I hope they sell high on Al Thornton. He is what he is. Doesn’t play defense, shoots lots of so-so jumpers. Sell high, Dunleavy!

We are clearly a much better team, even though we were pretty bad tonight. The Clippers want ed to win this game, and they got the talent to beat anyone on any given night— but we’re just a lot better from top to bottom. I’d hope if this was a real game, Roy wouldn’t be so uncharacteristically off, LMA wouldn’t be coasting, Miller and Oden would be playing full minutes, and we wouldn’t have Ime and Juwan and Bayless play so much.

There is absolutely nothing to worry about from this game, and the score and end result was meaningless. Unless you think Roy’s last 3 years were a fluke, there are a lot of positives to take away from it, mostly centering around Oden’s conditioning and defense.

It should be a very good year.

I may have forgotten some points (I meant to bring a notepad so this is all off the top of my head), and if anyone has any questions I’ll be happy to answer them. I had a good time, even though we seem to never ever play good in LA when we play the Clippers. Always an ugly win, or a game like this. Oh well.

Thanks for reading all, sorry it’s so long. There’s a lot to talk about these days!

Mortimer

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