Thursday Practice Report

A jovial mood at practice today with Rudy Fernandez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dante Cunningham and even Tom Penn working on some soccer-style juggling moves and trick shots. There was a lightness in the air after last night's dominating blowout win. 

Brandon Roy's Hamstring

Hanging over the happiness, though, was the status of Brandon Roy.  Roy did not practice today after undergoing an MRI that confirmed the discomfort that he has been feeling is a right hamstring strain. Here's some good general information regarding hamstring strains.  Roy is officially listed as questionable for tomorrow night's game against the Orlando Magic.  

When questioned at practice today, Nate McMillan wouldn't say who would start in Roy's place should he not be able to go.  As always with Roy's health, McMillan was pretty tight-lipped. Asked about Roy's status, LaMarcus Aldridge summed things up pretty well.

I think he'll play, I haven't even seen him sit out any games if he could possibly go so I don't really think he's not playing. The only way I'd think that is if he said he's not playing. I think as of now he's playing. 

Joe Freeman has a nice piece with more details and quotes.

LaMarcus Aldridge's Ankles

Blazersedge:  Are you back to 100% with the ankles?

Ah no. [laughs]

Blazersedge:  Where would you say you're at?

About 75 or 80 [percent.] 

Blazersedge:  Really?  You were moving better last night.

I was. Then I kinda tweaked my right one again last night. I mean neither one of them are 100% but neither one of them are bad enough [to miss time]. It's tender.  I should be ok.

Blazersedge:  What are you doing for treatment?

Ice. 

Aldridge's stellar performance last night now looks all the more impressive.  He's facing a huge test tomorrow night. 

Nicolas Batum: Power Forward?

Over the last few days I've been pondering the options available to Nate McMillan once Nicolas Batum gets back.  According to McMillan (via Sean Meagher), Batum will travel on next week's road trip but will not play.  Nevertheless his return is considered to be right around the corner.  

The main problem facing McMillan, as I mentioned in passing last night, is that he currently has 6 players manning the 1 through 3 spots, all of whom have proven they deserve playing time.  He also only has 2 bigs he really feels comfortable playing big minutes and 2 rookies who have shown good promise but whose minutes fluctuate from game-to-game. Put simply: if you're looking to cram Nicolas Batum back into the lineup it's easier to find minutes for him if you consider playing either him or Martell Webster in the frontcourt than trying to squeeze a 7th player into the backcourt.  

Conventional wisdom dictates that Batum is too slender and too young to handle the league's premier power forwards on the block.  I would tend to agree with that assessment.  

However, I don't see anything preventing Batum from handling stretch 4s who rely on a face-up game. Batum looks to have added strength since last year as his body has started to fill out.  His defensive awareness and instincts combined with his quickness and versatility are perfectly suited to handle perimeter power forwards. When you consider the other available alternatives (Juwan Howard, Dante Cunningham), why not throw Batum out there against the likes of Hakim Warrick or Rashard Lewis? 

Batum at the 4 spot was not something we saw for any meaningful amount of time last season. I asked Nate McMIllan for his thoughts on Batum's potential as a frontcourt player.

Blazersedge: When you look at Nicolas Batum's defensive capabilities with your roster where it is right now, do you see him as a straight 3 or?

He's guarded mainly the 3, 2 and 1.  We haven't put him on a lot of 4s because Outlaw was playing that position. I think he can guard some 4s. 

Blazersedge:  First unit 4s or second unit 4s?

I think it just depends. I think he can guard similar guys that Outlaw was guarding. It depends on the player.

Blazersedge:  A guy like Hakim Warrick last night, he could probably guard him.

Oh yeah. He could front him. Front the post and guard him out on the perimeter. We would help him if he was getting posted up but I think his speed and length allows him to guard a guy like that.

Blazersedge:  Would this be a way to get him some minutes alongside Martell Webster? Webster has stepped up his defensive capabilities. 

Possibly. Possibly.... Martell can guard some 4s too. I think he does a great job of fronting. He's strong. He doesn't mind contact.

Blazersedge:  If you went that way, you would just shift LaMarcus up to 5?

I think LaMarcus is just forced to have to play some 5 without our centers [regardless]. 

As I left the gym today, Batum was working with Monty Williams on pull-up jumpers off the dribble from just outside the paint, a Travis Outlaw specialty.

While using Batum as a 4 certainly opens the Blazers up to some physical pounding and potential problems on the boards, this approach would help ensure that Jerryd Bayless continues to see at least some playing time, that Rudy Fernandez gets a large enough chunk of minutes to get going, that Martell Webster's development as a defender continues and that both Andre Miller and Steve Blake get substantial run.  

How would this play out?  One scenario might see the Blazers starting Miller, Roy, Batum, Aldridge and Howard.  Webster would be one of the first subs off the bench, replacing Howard.  Depending on the opponent's power forward, either Batum or Webster would move up to the 4 spot with Aldridge moving to the 5.  

Or, if McMillan feels that Webster has developed enough to hold his starting position, he could start Miller, Roy, Webster, Aldridge and Howard and bring Batum off the bench like he has done with Outlaw in the past.  Either way, McMIllan could also be able to limit Batum's size and strength liabilities by going to that smaller lineup against his opponent's second unit frontcourt.  

I, for one, hope that McMillan decides to give Batum a full chance at the 4 spot. Given the backcourt logjam, it's worth the look.

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

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