Full Court Press

No introduction necessary.  One week until opening night.  Off we go...

Henry Abbott did a live chat on ESPN.com last week.

Here's NBATV's video season preview.

Dwight Jaynes on Patty Mills...

I believe he'll probably get released. The other long shot is that in the future, the team thinks he's a better prospect than Jerryd Bayless, in which case this move might force Portland to part with Bayless. But I seriously doubt it.    

Mills will almost certainly be waived. He was not at the practice facility yesterday during the media open period, as is customary for injured players.

Torrid Joe from Loaded Orygun heard Larry Miller lay out some high-level plans for a re-designed Rose Quarter, aka Jumptown.

It was brief and high level, and an attempt mostly to signal that the ball is rolling, and that the team feels ready to proceed in a concrete manner that had not seemed available over the several years since an entertainment district had first been proposed as a way to invigorate that section of town (and--cough--make some more dough).  

But high level can also be a synonym for vague, although the v's I recall actually being used were a "valid, viable vision." We learned that sustainability is a necessary marketing touchstone that any good company will insist you consider talking about if not actually pursuing. In this case, the Blazers boasted of their recognition as a sustainable arena and team, and promised that level of committment to Jumptown. When I asked whether LEED certification was a potential path, I was told it very well might be. So there's that. 

But the bottom line plans-wise is that something interesting will be done with the Memorial Coliseum to use it more and more efficiently, they want some kind of broad plaza with daytime activities as well as night, and for a sense of what it would look like it's...bars, restaurants and clubs. (Or as Isaacs enthusiastically pointed at the accompanying notebook screen, "beer...and coffee!") That's not to say that's all it will be, but rather that's about all they know.

Wendell Maxey has the Nuggets' reaction to Sunday night's game.

For the Nuggets, the Carmelo Anthony show played early and often. Anthony - who battled the trio of Nicolas Batum, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw for much of the night - was his typical active and aggressive self throughout the game. Aside from 9 points early from Nene in the first half, Melo received little help in the first two quarters. Apparently it's nothing to worry about.

"Everyone is just trying to do something a little different right now," Anthony, who was high-scorer with 21 points and 7 rebounds, said after the game. "Chauncey [Billups] is trying to teach Ty Lawson and then we're just trying to get everyone back to where we were last year. We're good though. I don't see any worries though. We haven't even gotten started yet."

Joe Freeman on Jerryd Bayless...

Just before the start of training camp, McMillan sat Bayless down in his office at the practice facility in Tualatin to discuss his role. To no great surprise, Bayless was informed he would be the fifth guard, behind Blake and Miller at point guard and Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez at shooting guard. 

"And he said, 'How do I play?'" McMillan said. "And I said, 'Work. When you get that opportunity, take advantage of it. 'He's done that. He's come in every day and gone after guys. It's not personal, he just feels he can play and he's gonna prove it to the coaching staff and to everyone here. Every day in practice, he's early and he's working and he's gotten the opportunity in the last couple games and he's made the most of it."     

Scott Howard-Cooper writes about Greg Oden for NBA.com.

That's where the weight loss comes in. Coach Nate McMillan said he and Oden talked about physique at the start of last season and that Oden wanted to be the kind of center that powered through people. Then Oden averaged seven rebounds (in just 21.5 minutes) and suffered another knee injury, and maybe burly wasn't better after all.

"I've been strong my whole entire life," he said. "It just took a whole entire year of going through the league for coaches to finally get it in my head that 'You're strong already.'"

Ian Thomsen of CNNSI polled NBA scouts and they like the Blazers.

Last season the scouts correctly forecast a runaway victory by the Lakers as the best team in the conference. While they anticipate the defending champions will maintain home-court advantage throughout the Western playoffs, they also view the Spurs and Blazers emerging as the solid Nos. 2 and 3 teams, respectively. Utah, Dallas and Denver are almost too close to call at Nos. 4, 5 and 6, as are New Orleans and Phoenix at Nos. 7 and 8.

Dwight Jaynes on the preseason.

If you ask me, a lot of the exhibition season has been a waste. I see little progress at all on defense, which was the priority. I think replacement referees have made it hard, too, to get any flow into games. But that's not the sole reason. What they have done, too, is make it difficult to see if Greg Oden has made any progress with foul problems.

I mean, I think he has but you won't know that until the real guys get back.

Steve Brandon of the Portland Tribune had a thorough comparison of Schonely and Wheels.

It's a matter of taste, to large extent. Listening to Schonely is like going to a Sinatra concert and an NBA game breaks out. Listening to "Wheels" is like going to a pro basketball game and WWE breaks out.

Both root, root, root for the home team, Wheeler just does it LOUDER and more vociferously. Schonely can call out a referee (or replacement referee), too, but he does it more politely, and of a kinder generation. You know Schonely cares, but you get the feeling that he doesn't care more than is appropriate. Not enough to throw a fit. Wheeler is more apt to be on the Zebras from the opening tip and call for full and immediate retribution.

Brian T. Smith on Oden staying in the game with 5 fouls.

"Last year we got him out and we went with Joel (Przybilla) and we pretty much stayed that way," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said Monday, following a workout session at the team's practice facility.

But Oden kept playing Sunday night in a come-from-behind preseason victory over the Denver Nuggets. 

After drawing his fifth foul with 9 minutes left in fourth quarter, the Blazers' second-year center stayed on the court. And then he dominated.    

It will be interesting to see if Nate reverts to his old "hook him immediately" strategy when the games actually matter.  Easy to roll with Oden when it's the preseason.

Casey Holdahl has more on Oden and the fouls.

"I look at it like I wasn't the only one getting called this time. B.Roy got a little taste of what I had last year sitting on the bench."

Knowing he probably didn't have much time before the inevitable foul-out, Oden got down to the business of dominating.

"I would like to say that at that point I really didn't care," said Oden. "At that point you want to stay in the game. Through the whole entire three quarters I think the most I played was three and a half minutes in a row. At that point I was like, let me do whatever I can to stay out there on the floor."    

Brian T. Smith on Travis Outlaw.

According to Blazers coach Nate McMillan, Outlaw's struggles at the offensive end are not a concern. Moreover, McMillan stated that Outlaw's role on the team has not changed since last season. Outlaw is a player who "comes off the bench and gives us some energy," McMillan said.

However, it is on defense where Portland's coach wants to see Outlaw make a change.

"I'm looking for him to commit there," McMillan said Saturday, following a workout at the team's practice facility.

"As I tell our guys, each year we should see something improve from you. And this is Travis' seventh year. Defensively, he should have been there. That's where we need to see his game expand."     

Greg Jayne realizes there's going to be a minutes crunch.

With a lineup of 11 guys worthy of playing time, with all of the key figures back from a 54-win team plus some crucial newcomers, McMillan simply doesn't have enough minutes to go around.

That can be a problem. Somebody is going to be unhappy with their playing time; somebody is going to think - rightly so - that they deserve to be on the court.

And the way that McMillan and his assistants and the players deal with it will be one of the most important story lines in the early portion of the season.    

Jason Quick did a nice job distilling the Bill Walton Press Conference.

But the wounds he discussed Friday are older, going back to his ugly departure from the Blazers in 1979, two years after he led the team to its only NBA championship. 

Walton left after demanding to be traded, and while accusing the team of pressuring him to play through what had become repeated foot and ankle injuries. He also sued the team physician, Dr. Robert Cook, and one of his closest friends, trainer Ron Culp, over the quality of treatment and care by the Blazers medical staff. 

"I'm here to try and make amends for the mistakes and errors of the past," Walton, 56, said during a 40-minute press conference. "I regret that I wasn't a better person. A better player. I regret that I got hurt. I regret the circumstances in which I left the Portland Trail Blazers family. I just wish I could do a lot of things over, but I can't. 

"So I'm here to apologize, to try and make amends, and to try and start over and make it better."     

Here's a funny vignette within a much longer piece from Mike Whitman over at Oregon Sports Live.

As the presser wrapped up, I hurriedly stuffed Theen's gear into my duffel, one eye on the clock and another on Jason Quick. If I didn't leave in the next five minutes, I would be late for work. I tried to get to Walton first, but Jason lived up to his namesake and beat me there. I knew that if Quick finished his question and Walton started talking that I could probably go work my shift, come back, and Walton still wouldn't be done with his response. So I struck like a cobra.

"Hey yo, Jason. I'm really happy for you, and I'm gonna let you finish, but Bill Walton, meeting you was one of the coolest experiences of all time. Of all time."

That's a paraphrase, of course. What I actually did was interrupt rudely and then apologize profusely, quickly shaking Walton's hand while explaining that I had to leave to go to my real job.

"Real job???" bellowed Walton. "What's THAT???"

It's great fun reading these two takes on the same exhibition game side-by-side.  

First from John Canzano...

When Deldre Carr, CJ Washington and Ken Washington left the Rose Garden floor on Sunday they wore dark slacks, tucked-in referee jerseys and each carried a jacket with the official logo of the National Basketball Association on it. 

And that's where the story begins and ends today. Because Portland beat Denver 98-96 an exhibition game. And we can talk in circles about whether the Trail Blazers are good enough, or ready enough for the season, but the big issue is whether the best basketball in the world can ever really matter as long as the officiating is not the best available. 

The NBA cannot and should not start its season with replacement officials calling the games, because if it does, it is giving you a lousy product.     

Then it's Jason Quick.

A sputtering Trail Blazers team that has spent much of the exhibition season trying to find itself got a welcome sign Sunday night in the fourth quarter: It came alive. 

Greg Oden started swatting shots, igniting the fast-break. 

Brandon Roy started spinning and finishing at the rim. 

And Juwan Howard kept doing what he has done throughout this preseason: the little things that help a team win.  

Sure, it was just a 98-96 exhibition win over the Denver Nuggets at the Rose Garden, but boy did it feel like oh-so-much more to the Blazers.     

Canzano's should be packaged with a post-read Zoloft; Quick's some light tranquilizers.  

Sean Meagher found a great reaction shot from Kevin Pritchard in a photo taken by Brent Wojahn.


Mookie over at A Stern Warning really knocked his season preview out of the park.

Pre-season play has seen Miller playing a role largely with the second unit, leaving Blake in his existing starting role. McMillan has presumably done this to trial the lineup, as not having the ball in his hands on offence has detracted from Roy's game. The team's star has been noticeably quieter than his normal self in the pre-season and has noted that he needs to be more aggressive as a team leader. This is all part of the "feeling-out" process as the new lineup takes shape.

Will it sort itself out? Of course it will. Miller is a pro and he has played on a multitude of different types of teams. He will find a way to co-exist with Roy, as will Roy do what is best for the team. Leading the team in scoring is part of Roy's mandate on this squad, but there will be times where he finds that he can save energy by deferring to Miller, allowing the point guard to set up Aldridge and Oden down low and orchestrate other parts of the offence. This in turn will give Roy the opportunity to focus more energy into his defensive game, something he has stated that he'd like to do this season.

More season previews...

Profiles of Roy, Oden, Aldridge Pritchard, and McMillan that I wrote for Portland Monthly.  The November issue.  Check your news stands in the near future.

As always, please frequent the fanshots.

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

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