Preseason Game Impressions: vs. Golden State

Actually sat in my season seats tonight, it was great to see the old crew still in my area! Looking forward to the season. If only we could play Golden State 82 times, I mean who needs a center.

What can I say about the game in general. The Blazers looked g ood, real good tonight. Of course it IS preseason and it WAS against the Warriors so I am taking all of it with a grain of salt. Before I get down to a few player observations there were some things I really enjoyed about tonight's game.

1. Roy lead a fast break and it wasn't one of those where all 5 warrior players were on the baseline, there were plenty of defenders back.

2. Help from the weak side on defense was consistent and mostly effective.

3. The crowd is ready for the regular season to start. I am pumped I know that, aren't you?

Now onto some player observations.

LaMarcus Aldridge - I usually would start these things with our allstar Brandon Roy, even when there is not much to say, but LaMarcus did some things tonight that are, well, the things his detractors say he needs to do to get better. He did them with varying degrees of success, but the outcome was nothing but positive almost every time.

  1. Dribble drive. He is faster than most 4s his size. I, like many others, have long held if Aldridge would drive the hoop more he would begin to make that move to all star status. Lord knows he has the athleticism. Well he did it on 3 ocassions that I recall and he had another brilliant cut to the hoop without the ball. Two resulted in dunks and the other two hard fouls that he converted into 4 points. This is something we were lucky to see him attempt 4 times over 4 games in the past. This is a good sign. Beyond the dribble drive, he also made stronger post moves than usual, this was met with varying results, but he is clearly working on it, and in the past he usually talked about doing it, but we rarely saw much evidence of it. I would say nearly all of his 25 points came within the lane tonight.
  2. Help Defense. With Dante Cunningham as our starting center Golden State clearly made a point of driving the lane. Aldridge on several occasions came from the weak side on help defense to change shots. Two of them were awesome blocks. If Aldridge keeps doing that there is no reason he can't average two blocks a game. Again we were playing Golden State, but we have a tradition of being slow on help defense from the weak side, this is a positive sign we are at least working on it.
  3. Running the floor. I have long maintained that there is nothing prettier in the NBA than LaMarcus Aldridge running the floor on the break and getting the ball for a dunk. We saw that on full display tonight. It truly is a beautiful thing. He and Rudy seem to have a connection developing in that situation right now too. Rudy, despite the media storm, is proving his worth right now.

Brandon Roy - It is preseason, Brandon knows it. He spent most of the evening finding ways to get others involved. Not much ISO, not much calling for the ball. He did lead the team in assists and as I noted above, he even lead the way pushing the ball up the court. I like that Brandon a lot and he looked comfortable doing it despite his well known taste for slowing down the ball.

Rudy Fernandez - Since he has been the hot topic of the summer I put my observations ahead of Batum. Rudy may not want to stay in the NBA for personal reasons, but he is showing a high degree of professionalism that is commendable. The more exciting thing is that he is playing with the flair we became accustomed to his rookie year. He has active hands on defense again, his passing is crisp and inventive and fun to watch and his 3 ball is mostly hitting only the bottom of the net as it goes through. No matter what happens he has shown he belongs on the floor while he is here.

Nicolas Batum - This man is awesome. Nothing else to say to characterize his performance. Steel eyed defense, deadly three ball, more moves from the wing and the beneficiary Roy's largesse on the assist tote board. He also had a couple of nice assists to players cutting to the hoop tonight, probably my favorite part of the night overall. While Aldridge is a sight to behold on the break, Batum is silky smooth gliding to the rim from the wing.

Andre Miller - While Roy was focused on getting others involved and doing their thing, Miller broke down the defense and made same nice assists as well. There was one play he posted up Monta Ellis and drew a double team and he pitched it out to Roy for an uncontested 18 footer. This is how they can play together. There were several plays of the game that I will post for a vote in the poll below, but his bounce pass in to a driving Dante Cunningham for a strong guarded dunk was fantastic and puts on display his full value to this team.

Dante Cunningham - Kid works hard, good instincts. Love him. He is not a center. I was most impressed with his off ball movement. That dunk from the Miller assist was awesome. As our starting Center he did carry on part of the tradition well, he picked up 5 fouls. He did not get injured though, so that's good.

Armon Johnson - This will probably stir up a little controversy here on Bedge but he is the point guard f the future in my opinion. He seems to be a natural leader, he defends well above average for a rookie at his position and he is developing a shot (he even even drained a confident looking 3, something he is not supposed to be able to do with confidence). He is also aggressive with the ball when need be. Reports are that his work ethic is strong and watching him on the bench it is not surprising. He is the most attentive pro player I may have ever seen while sitting on that sideline. It looked to me that Bayless is feeling Johnson breathing down his neck as a result.

Jerryd Bayless - He looks like a man who is pressing a little because he has competition breathing down his neck. He is getting it from all sides to. Fernandez's performances, Matthews intensity and defense and Johnson's raw skillset are all chipping away at his playing time and it looks as if he knows it. The problem is when Bayless presses he reverts back to the things that Nate is not looking for from his back up PG on this team. Barreling into the lane, dribbling around forever and not passing the ball. It was one game in the preseason I know, but I think the pressure coming at him from all sides is getting to him this camp. He is no longer playing to get playing time, he is trying to keep it and it is affecting his game, at least judging by tonight's performance.

It is not that he was bad, he was reasonably effective, but those fighting for his PT had better performances overall and particularly when you consider these players are needing to fill rolls, what Bayless did well tonight is done better by others (even if they don't have the same skill set he does, they are playing to rolls better). He really needs to address two of his bad habits. 1. he needs to keep his head up when he has the ball and 2. he needs to stop driving the ball with no exit strategy. That would help him in this fight for playing time from the bench.

Luke Babbitt - While I think Armon is the most NBA ready of or draft picks this year, Babbit is growing by leaps and bounds every time I see him. He is obviously working mostly on his defense and it shows. He is doing better staying between his guy and the basket. He is not doing anything fancy on D and they are not asking him to front anyone or anything, but he did well given our lack of center on the court. Aldridge, as noted above, did a good job covering for him when he did lose position periodically. Unlike his opening preseason game peformance he seems far less nervous which is great. He hit a nice 3 ball and he is a good dribble drive pull back jumper, one that found the center of the hoop rather than going 3 feet beyond the far side of the rim like the Clippers game a few weeks ago.

Wesley Matthews - Concern for his sore achilles.

Conclusions - As noted, it is just a Preseason Game and one against Golden State at that so it does little to prove anything out on what will happen on October 26th and thereafter. That being said, it is fairly obvious that they are working on many things many of us here on this site have said they must to move to the next level.

  • Despite the concern and fury over Roy's comments earlier in the week it is pretty clear the emphasis in the preseason is figuring out how to get everyone involved. This is a good thing.
  • Aldridge is working on his post presence. This is a good thing.
  • Miller and Roy are demonstrating the types of things they can do well on the court together. This is a good thing.
  • Despite the external controversy Rudy is playing hard and looks to have his old flair and swagger back. This is a good thing.
  • It is clear there is some real competition for court time. This is a good thing.
  • Batum is showing more versatility on offense. This is a good thing.

All in all, tonight was a good night. Even if they lost, the things they were obviously working on tonight would provide any Blazer fan with some encouragement as the season approaches. This is a good thing.

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