Full Court Press

I waited a few days but since it doesn't appear that anyone else is going to step up, allow me: I accept full responsibility for the last two losses and I apologize to Blazers fans for my sub-par effort.

In case you're experiencing memory loss after subjecting yourself to the waterboarding that was this weekend's back-to-back losses, let me remind you that Henry Abbott is hiring a Blazers blogger for his TrueHoop network. Dave spelled out our thoughts nicely here. If you apply: good luck!

Some good news: tomorrow is an official Blazersedge holiday -- Shavlik Randolph Day -- as the Miami Heat, led by Randolph and Dwyane Wade, will visit the Rose Garden for their lone regular season appearance in Portland. 

If you haven't been reading Timbo's post-game roundups-- latest edition here-- you're really missing out.

Casey Jarman of the Willamette Week interviews Kevin Pritchard. There's a whole bunch of other Blazers content too.  A lengthy must read...

You never feel burnt out on basketball?

You know, I'm a workaholic. I've always been that way. But it doesn't feel like that. A friend asked me, "How many hours do you work?" and I say, "Well, how many hours am I late?" My mind is always on it.

Do you use the free-chalupa coupons?

[Laughs] No, I've never. But I need to! My daughter loves Taco Bell. She thinks Taco Bell is the real deal. She wants to go there every day.

John Schuhmann from NBA.com has the stat of the day...

The Blazers' defense got scorched over the weekend, allowing the Grizzlies and Jazz to shoot 57 percent from the field. In the 10 games Andre Miller has come off the bench, Portland's defensive rating is 105.2, as opposed to 93.4 in the nine games he started.    

Click through to drown your Blazers sorrows by going around the internet...

-- Ben Golliver | (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com) | Twitter

Jerryd Bayless pours his soul out...

Last year was the first year that I spent the holiday season alone. There are only a couple words to describe it. Boring, rough, and terrible. Although my Mother came up and was able to spend time with me after her school let out, it wasn't the same. That's when it really hit me and I was able to see what the Holidays were really about. Yeah the presents, and the stockings stuffed to breaking point is nice, but how good does all of that feel when there's only one person to share it with? I know this is sounding kind of sobby and sad, but what I'm trying to get to is that the Holiday season should be special. It should be a time when you are able to celebrate your family and be thankful for everything that you have been blessed with. It's human instinct to always want more, but for that four and a half weeks, just try to be thankful.    

Brian T. Smith with an early contender for "Most Regrettable Paragraph of the Season"...

McMillan has made all the right moves. He has shaken up lineups to find a spark. He has tightened up the Blazers' defense while fine tuning its offense. And he's prepared and put his team in place for a hard run through what should be a tough and trying December.

Wendell Maxey wonders if Andre Miller is healthy...

After Portland's tank job to the Utah Jazz, McMillan suggested Miller wasn't "moving well", explaining why Andre only logged 6:18. Miller contends he's okay. That's interesting. So was Miller going 0-4 with 2 turnovers the root of the "benching", or is the right ankle giving him trouble more than he really is letting on?

The lift isn't there on the jumper.

The bounce to his step comes and goes.

He's moving gingerly in the open floor.

It's now raising the question, is Andre healthy or hovering around 80%?

Kevin Pelton looks at the developing Greg Oden...

On the defensive end of the floor, Oden's improvement has been incremental but nearly as important. His improvement in terms of pick-and-roll defense and positioning has been a key factor in the effectiveness of the Portland defense in the early going (until the last two games). Oden is also blocking more shots than ever--his 7.1 percent block rate is tops among NBA regulars, and he's seventh in rebound percentage.

Add it up and, on a per-minute basis, only six players rate as more effective. Oden's WARP ranking--13th--is much lower, which points to the biggest remaining weakness in his game: foul trouble. His rate of fouls per possession has come down slightly, but Oden is still averaging 4.1 fouls a game and 6.7 per 40 minutes, which inevitably limits his time on the court. Nate McMillan has played things very cautiously with Oden, subbing him out early in the first quarter and rarely playing him with two fouls in the second quarter. Oden has played more than 30 minutes just once all season, and that required overtime at Atlanta. If he is able to get closer to 30 minutes a night than his current 24.6, Oden's rise will be impossible to ignore.

Dwight Jaynes says the Blazers look undisciplined...

I've always felt that you can tell easily how disciplined a basketball team is - is it doing what its coach wants it to do?

If you apply that reasoning to the Portland Trail Blazers, the answer would have to be "No." And even though coach Nate McMillan has that reputation of a tough guy and a nickname ("Sarge") to match, I don't believe the Trail Blazers are a very disciplined team. Certainly, they can't be doing what their coach wants them to do - not just in the last two games, but for most of this season.

Joe Freeman with a look at Greg Oden's increasing role...

But with Oden becoming more and more of an offensive threat -- he's tied with Pau Gasol for the NBA lead in field goal percentage (63.3) and ranks third on the team in scoring (11.6 points per game) -- the Blazers are trying to learn how to play off of him on offense. 

The byproduct, at times, has been an out-of-sync and inconsistent offense. When asked what the Blazers needed to do to get things clicking for the trio, Oden said the solution involved every player on the floor. 

"All three? You mean all five?" Oden said. "I feel like when somebody has something going, you are going get it to them and keep it going. I'm not going to say when one guy has something going, you are going to just give it to three specific players, that's not how it works. If you go out there and cut and move, the offense will flow. Same as last year, it should be looking good. We just have to figure out how to do that consistently. It's not just one person, or three people, it's all five guys doing what they need to do."    

Brian T. Smith on LaMarcus Aldridge...

And while Aldridge's average rebounds have shown a minimal improvement, McMillan said the forward must continue to refine his focus when it comes to crashing the boards.

"It's a mindset," McMillan said. "Rebounding is about, ‘I'm going to go get it.' "

He added: "You may not get it every time you go. But the majority of the time, with his length, you're going to get some. You're going to get your share. Especially when you have another big in there like Greg."

The latest from Mike Barrett on Friday's loss to Memphis...

I can't say I recall a 31-2 run, ever. The fact that it came on Portland's home floor, at the end of a successful home stand, made it just about unthinkable. The Blazers went an astonishing 1 for 18 shooting during that run, and when it was over the score was 42-17. The lead would grow as large as 29 in the first half.

We say this all the time, but digging out of a deep hole takes so much energy. And, you basically have to dump the game plan you've worked on, and change what you are in order to try and mount a charge. Still, we saw Portland come from double-digits down 18 times last season to win, so we knew a run was coming. A run big enough to erase the damage that had been done in that first half? That was probably an unrealistic thought.    

Casey Holdahl finds a permanent bright spot...

But the wait has been worth it. Now back on the court, though in a non-contact capacity, Pendergraph is having the time of his life. 

"It feels good, really good" said Pendergraph after his first on-court workout. "I might have done a little bit too much today but I couldn't help it. My body wanted to go all crazy."

And that's Pendergraph's new challenge: not going "all crazy" as he continues to work himself back into shape. The timetable for his return is still in flux, though Pendergraph has designs on being available by Christmas. Whether or not he reaches that goal depends on how his body takes to the work and how fast he can shake off three months worth of inactivity.    

An interesting twitter-inspired interactive recap from Coup at Rip City Projectwho writes...

Other than after the Chicago game, things haven't felt completely right about the Blazers all season. Lineups have been in doubt, starters have been in question, not to mention rotations, effort, defense and everything else. As many other folks tweeted after the game, things have just felt "off" for quite some time.

Sure, there are the back-to-back games and early season excuses, but everyone can see that things are beyond timing and tired legs. The Blazers haven't been consistent in their execution or their quarter-to-quarter consistency. There have been flashes of things coming together, but relative to the length of the season they have been there and gone in the blink of an eye. Fans, writers and critics alike have come to expect more.

What I can tell you now is that these past two games have offered Portland the greatest moment of on-court adversity the team has been a part of.

Here's a solid interview with Darth Blazer conducted by Bryan, who you can follow on Twitter here.  

Seth Johnston on BustaBucket.com writes...

"These setbacks are normal, perhaps even helpful," is a belief that I'm clinging to as I watch Portland struggle. It was never realistic to expect smooth sailing. But when the losses come the finger pointing starts, even when the losses are few. So far I've heard or read from different sources that this is Nate's fault, Miller's fault, Kevin Pritchard's fault, Roy's fault, Aldridge's fault, "injurie's fault", and nobody's fault. If things continue none of us are safe from blame. Not me. Not my imaginary goldfish. Nobody.

CDub from BustaBucket.com also has some funny photoshops of Blazers doing the Black Friday thing.  The Blake one is the best.

Kellex from Blaze of Love with a satirical Thanksgiving post...

A thanks to Nate McMillan for blaming his superstars.  Actually, for continuing to blame everyone but himself.  For continuing to say "work" in every sentence.  For wearing mustard suits.  For allowing his staff members to wear mock turtlenecks.

Runyon from Trail Post writes...

 It goes without saying that a team makes all their easy looks when they're hitting 60%, but that's still, quite a reach, say, when they shoot 90% on shots they usually shoot 55% on. Or in the case of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, a shot at the top of the key feels like a dunk. It didn't matter if we got a hand in their face that night, they were going to make it. This is my way of saying there's absolutely no lesson to be learned defensively here. We weren't going to give up the lowest field goal percentage in the NBA for the season. No one thought that. This weekend was us regressing back to the average. Hard.    

Geoffrey C. Arnold says it's not time to panic...

Yes, the Blazers were blown out in their last two games, looking flat and very ordinary in those two games. However, one would think the Blazers are on the precipice of disaster after reading some of the fan e-mails and websites. 

 I say this: Come on, get a grip on the realities of basketball in the NBA.      

Sergio Rodriguez had a big night last night, posting a career-high 24 points on the New Orleans Hornets (without Chris Paul). 

''There are only so many point guard minutes we have, but the way Sergio has played lately he's kicked the door down,'' Kings coach Paul Westphal said. ''It's going to be harder and harder not to play him.''

Rodriguez made two 3-pointers and converted 9 of 14 shots overall. He also had five assists, two rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers in 24 minutes.

''I feel very comfortable playing here, I don't worry about going out and making things happen, I just play my game,'' Rodriguez said. ''For me, the important thing is when I get in he (Westphal) just lets me play.''

John Hollinger rolls through with the predictable "I Told You So"...
Longtime readers know I'm a big Sergio Rodriguez supporter, so I was heartened to see him blow up for 24 points in 24 minutes Sunday night in the Kings' victory over the Hornets. That's on the heels of his exploding for 16 points and seven dimes in 18 minutes in a loss to Memphis last week. In his limited minutes, he sports a monstrous 22.96 player efficiency rating for the season.

Sergio is now averaging 7.1 points and 2.8 assists in 13mpg, having played in 12 games this year.

Power Rankings

-- Ben Golliver | (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com) | Twitter

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