Blazersedge had an on-site correspondent at Oracle tonight in the form of an associate who has been a basketball and Blazer aficionado for a couple decades and corresponding with yours truly for much of that time. Some brief, eyewitness reflections from the game, in no particular order:
- If Brandon Roy plans on taking over the game more he didn't show it tonight. He looked to be going through the motions, like he was still on vacation instead of ramping up for the season. Monta Ellis, in a rare defensive display, controlled Roy. Brandon never forced the issue--positively or negatively--looking like he was almost thrusting the game upon his teammates instead of rising to a challenge. He looks ten games away from being ready to play. One hopes he can turn it on quickly because the team didn't execute well in his absence.
- Andre Miller was guarded by Stephen Curry all night. Curry isn't a defensive specialist and he gives up 20 pounds to Miller but Miller took most of the abuse in the confrontation. He looked more into the game than Roy but was sloppy with the ball, getting his pockets and passes picked.
- Nicolas Batum is still a puzzle. Either the Blazers haven't figured out how to get him into the offense or he hasn't figured out how to get himself in. They ran only a couple plays for him. Even when he got the ball he wasn't smooth in his execution, though also guarded by weaker defenders. He traveled twice trying to take guys he c ould beat in his sleep. He was the outsider looking in tonight. He wasn't productive at all.
- LaMarcus Aldridge looked to be playing hard. He seemed to enjoy the challenge of being matched up with David Lee, over whom he had the advantage.
- You also have to love Dante Cunningham because he always hustles.
- Even though you know the story, it's still shocking to see so many Blazers in street clothes...a story defining the bench as much as anything. The lack of Blazer big men allowed the Warriors to win the glass battle.
- Armon Johnson looked better than Jerryd Bayless tonight...more comfortable running the second unit anyway. Bayless is a good player but he doesn't seem to have figured out his role yet for whatever reason. Johnson at least knows who he is and it shows.
- Elliot Williams doesn't look ready yet. His athleticism, speed, and hops are evident but if you're measuring by point guard skills he's behind Bayless and Johnson both.
- Luke Babbitt hustles and rebounds. He's giving effort. He looks lost defensively. He doesn't appear to understand spacing on defense. He looks confused on offense, perhaps because he's trying to fill in multiple roles because of injuries. He supposedly has the green light to shoot but he appears to be thinking before every shot and then forcing it. His three-pointer looks clumsy. He is unselfish with the ball though. He might have passing potential eventually. The decision-making lag just doesn't allow it now. He looks promising though, especially with the energy.
- Rudy was shooting almost effortlessly (as opposed to without effort like some of the starters). His release looks even faster than in previous years. When he comes off of a screen he's not hesitating a bit. He's letting fly and hitting...amazing! If he's trying to be a playmaker, though, it's not quite there. In the open court with nobody on him he's brilliant. In the halfcourt he can't reach escape velocity and he's forcing awkward passes with defenders on him. The slower the game moves and the better he's watched the worse it looks. In the first half he showed some camaraderie with Aldridge and a couple other teammates. In the second half he sat apart from everyone else on the far end of a side portion of the bench, the seats of which were aligned at a 90-degree angle to the rest of the team, disengaged. Patty Mills eventually joined him for a few minutes. Then again, the whole team pretty much checked out after halftime.
- The Blazers looked like they wanted to run their sets on offense but nothing was crisp. They jogged through cuts (most notably Roy and Batum). They set lazy screens and/or didn't use them. On defense all the Warriors had to do was cut hard and they were open. The overall effort was disappointing. Any sense of urgency must have been left in Portland in their last contest. If you're looking to color this game, go with anemic.
Here's the question I want to pose. Not to pile on, but are these consistent below-average pre-season performances from Brandon Roy bothering and/or worrying you? Why or why not? How do you think Roy will start the regular season? What, if anything, does this portend, keeping in mind that one or more centers will start the year hobbled and that a slow start can't be on Portland's agenda if the team expects to challenge the conference elite? Reflect below.
Update: An update from our observer in response to some of the comments and reflections:
I wasn't so much concerned that [Roy] didn't appear to put much physical effort into last night's game. The big concerns were: if McMillan was trying some new half court sets to get Roy more involved, they sure as heck didn't execute very well. It would seem that at least for a quarter, they should go all out/game speed to get some cohesion amongst the starters in these new sets (Batum included). If Roy wants more control of the offense (which I'm okay with), then it seems he ought to practice it during a pre-season game that doesn't mean anything, so at least look like you're trying to iron out some wrinkles. When I said he looks 10 games away, I was thinking in terms of injured players coming back, and how many say it takes them 10-15 games to get back in the flow. Roy, Miller, Batum certainly did not look in the flow, and unless they have that magic switch to flip, if last night's game is any indication of how the starters are running the offense, then yes, 10 games to get on track.