The Center Situation

The hug of DOOOOOOOM. (That's Patty Mills with his back to the camera.)

As most of you know, Portland fans saw a little center shuffling over the weekend.  Sadly, Jeff Pendergraph went down for the season with an ACL injury.  Comically, Summer League Legend Steven Hill appears to be the replacement for the duration of training camp.

There's been plenty of Erick Dampier talk going around lately.  After Hill was tabbed I noticed some muttering that Dampier should have been the guy the Blazers chased after next.  Personally I'm glad Dampier doesn't appear to be in the mix.  He's a decent talent and his skills would fit in some ways, but consider:

  1. He's available on the open market for the league minimum.  How many centers can make that claim?  Scratch that.  How many centers who are really going to make a difference can make that claim?
  2. Dampier started 47 of 55 games for Dallas last season.  He started 80 of 80 the year before.  He played only 23 minutes per game in each of those seasons and surely sees himself as a reserve at this point.  But it's certain he'll see himself as a strong reserve, one who's not due for a massive minute cut, let along a string of DNP's.  (Let's face it...the reason you like his name over, say, a Steven Hill is that in the back of your mind you're thinking about his potential to do the same thing.)  That makes him totally unsuitable as a fourth center and largely unsuitable as a third.
  3. Add 1 and 2 together and you come up with a significant Production vs. Perception gap.  That's usually a chemistry killer.
  4. Knowing this, the Blazers would probably only sign him if they has lost confidence in Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, or both coming back.  If we had Dampier I'd start wondering what they knew about their current centers.  (I suppose a trade would be the other possibility.)

 

I'm not keen on Point 4, especially since Dampier would provide a marginal difference at best.  He might save the Blazers from disaster but he wouldn't take them to the next level.  I hope the Blazers are still thinking in terms of busting through the ceiling instead of falling through the floor.

I also harbor a semi-hidden Point 5.  I never do this...well, I guess on very rare occasions.  I know it makes sense from an insurance standpoint to carry another center.  But if Oden, Przybilla, and Camby are healthy that need is lessened.  All other things being equal, I'd like to see Jeff Pendergraph remain a part of the team.  That's not so much because of his on-court contributions.  I just appreciate the way he plays.  He wasn't experienced enough to fill in when the Blazers needed prime minutes from him last year but he went out and played Rocky-Mountain-Oysters to the wall anyway.  I respect that.  I've enjoyed calling him a Blazer.  I'd continue to do so even if he wore street clothes.  Teams used to carry 12 men plus injured reserve, so it's not like 15 guys have been available for every game from time immemorial.  Portland could probably live with 14 live bodies until proven otherwise.  I understand that sentiment takes a back seat to practicality in this league and I'm almost always on board with that even if I have to harden my heart to get there, but somehow bidding adieu to Pendy after an unfortunate injury just seems unfair.

No disrespect is meant to Steven Hill.  I was at Summer League when he played for the Blazers.  I never quite got the infatuation with him but he is an interesting character and would be easy to root for in an underdog-makes-good fashion.  But Pendergraph already fills that role and I'm having a hard time contemplating the switch.  As long as it's Hill and not Dampier I suppose there's a faint chance that it's only a pre-season signing and Pendy will stay.  That would do my heart good.  It'd be decent karma besides.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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