Full Court Press

This week's Full Court Press is a day late thanks to Dienerpalooza yesterday. Have no fear.  That just means that this week's edition is even more jam-packed than usual.

First, and most importantly, Hoops for St. Jude Week continues.  Check it out. 

Second: Matt Smith of Fox 12 Sports is working on a story about BE.  If you get a chance, take a stab at some of the questions he posted in a FanPost last night.  I'm told he'll be using some of the best comments in the story.  Sidebar: Dave and I read through a few of the comments that were put up last night and then proceeded to hug each other while crying.  Thank you for making that moment possible. Photo reenactment here.

Anyway, here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge this past weekend plus Monday...

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Clearing The Notebook | Bulls Recap | Timberwolves Recap | Dave's Live Chat | Grizzlies Recap

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Click through for an exciting announcement regarding this coming weekend plus a lot of love for Nicolas Batum, some appreciation for Dante Cunningham, a few questions about Jerryd Bayless, reflections from Martell Webster, interviews, photoshops, playoff projections, and a partridge in a power ranking.

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

Cool Nerd beans: this Saturday, Dave has graciously detailed me to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT.  

The goal of the Sports Analytics Conference is to provide a forum to discuss the increasing role of analytics in the sports industry.

Sloan is hosted by Daryl Morey, the brains behind the Houston Rockets. Some of the topics of this year's conference include "What Geeks Don't Get," "Next Generation Sports Management and Ownership" and "Coach Analytics." The panelists and moderators are a who's who of Sports and Media: Mark Cuban, Adam Silver, Bill Simmons, Michael Lewis, Bob Ryan, the list goes on and on.  A number of the NBA's leading decision-makers will also be attending, including the Portland Trail Blazers' General Manger Kevin Pritchard.

Of course, Kevin Pelton will be there too, the happiest kid in the dorkiest candy store on Earth.  In celebration, we'll have a new episode of The Dontonio Wingcast up this afternoon which will include a preview of the conference. This weekend or early next week I'll have a full recap of the seminar.  Sounds pretty flippin' awesome, huh? This could be my best chance yet to go on a series of blind dates with real, live robots.  

On to real news...

In the wake of his monster game on Saturday and another solid performance last night, the last 72 hours have been Nicolas Batum Appreciation Days on the internet.

Jason Quick writes...

Batum scored 22 points in the third quarter, and had two chances to tie Terry Porter's franchise record for points in the quarter (25), but he missed two three-pointers in the final 40 seconds. 

"And no call for me ... no plays for me," Batum beamed. "I just played my game. I didn't do anything special. Just take the open shot, make cuts to basket, get rebounds. That's it."     

Coup from Rip City Project goes back for a must-read play-by-play analysis of Batum's incredible third quarter and concludes that Batum's self-assessment is on the money.

In total, Batum made seven field goals in the quarter and four threes. On three, arguably four of those baskets, the defense had either ignored or forgotten Batum, or they been picked off by a Blazer screen. Six of the seven buckets were assisted. Of the 14 possessions listed above, Batum only had to put the ball on the floor in five of them. Nic was also never out of position, and moved fluidly as the ballhandlers went though their progressions. Still, as well as Nic played off the ball - and the cuts he made, whether resulting in a hoop or not, were hard, deliberate and effective, even if an inane zone defense didn't react - there's no doubt that for most of the quarter, his teammates did much of the heavy lifting in terms of play creation.

The most encouraging things about the quarter, other than the off-ball movement, was Batum's willingness to test the defense, pass the ball back out and find a better shot, whether with a quick dribble, backpedal or pump fake. Not once did he try to play outside of his own game. The two best examples of him creating for others were the offensive-rebound tip-assist to Camby, and the jump pass that, despite being a jump pass, was an excellent look into the paint that makes you think about Batum's ability to get healthy Greg Oden the ball, as the team often failed to do in November thanks to Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw.

Sean Meagher has a great feature on Batum with thoughts from Nic, Nate McMillan and Monty Williams...

The coach Batum works most closely with in practice, Blazers assistant Monty Williams, is even surprised by some of the things he brings to the floor.

"He's good at what he does," Williams says. "He has some natural stuff that I didn't teach him. I share with him some things. I talk to him about some things in the game, but he has natural instincts.

"(Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) taught me a long time ago: don't mess it up. If a guy has something going well, let him go. Defensively he's off the chart with his IQ."

Dwight Jaynes wonders whether Batum's full potential will be reached in Nate McMillan's system...

You want to make him Bruce Bowen? Hey, Bowen was a fine defender but extremely limited. On offense he did one thing - go to the corner and make threes. Rodman was a rebounder and defender who ran from shots. The rest of those guys? Not even close to Batum's potential.

But it bothers me that in an offense that features isolations and two-man games all the time, Batum could get left out. I'm not sure he's going to get a chance to blossom. I wasn't as excited about all the points Batum scored in Minnesota Saturday night as I was all the other stuff.

Sheed writes on BustaBucket...

Having a game like this will put in Nic's head that he can do this again. Never underestimate confidence. I still think the sky is the limit for Nic, KP knows it, other teams know, it's just a matter of time for this guy. He has every single basketball tool right now and a body designed for the NBA game. Kenny Vance always says it, and I agree, put Nic in the starting line-up and leave him there for the next 10 years. He's right, do it.    

Mookie from A Stern Warning runs Batum's unique stat line -- 31 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 0 turnovers -- through the Basketball-Reference database and concludes that it was historic.

31 PTS / 7 REB / 7 AST / 3 STL : Once again in good company, the only players to be younger* than Batum in achieving this feat were LeBron James (four times) and Kevin Durant (once). Not a bad group to be mentioned amongst.

Jason Quick with a nice quote from Batum in last night's win over Memphis...

Of all his plays -- the four three-pointers, the dunks, the blocked shot -- Batum said his favorite was the steal of Conley's pass. 

"I prefer steals," he said.     

Over the weekend, Jason Quick had a look at Martell Webster's reaction to squeezed playing time...

"He has been a team player through this whole thing,'' McMillan said. "I don't expect him to like it, but I want him to stay ready. I hope if other guys are put in that situation they will respond as team players. But Martell has been a team guy.''
...
"It's hard. I'm not going to say it isn't,'' Webster said Friday before the Bulls game. "I just have to deal with it. I'm not necessarily happy with the situation -  I'm not - you just have to handle it. It's the game. My thing is my mind frame. Whenever I do get back, or have the chance to take advantage of something, I'm going to try my hardest not to give it back.''

Jason Quick also has the latest batch of his top 40 Blazers.  

16. Kevin Duckworth | 17. Kiki Vandeweghe | 18. Scottie Pippen | 19. Damon Stoudamire | 20. Arvydas Sabonis

Brian T. Smith joins Team Dante...

Asked about Cunningham's evolution, McMillan's first words were: "I love his game."

"I think he plays winning basketball because of the way he plays," McMillan said. "He's not afraid to mix it up and guard. He's not starstruck. He's not intimidated by anybody."

Brian T. Smith makes it sound like he believes Roy's hamstring issues are mostly behind him...

For a while, it looked like the Blazers were blowing it. Sacrificing Roy's health and possibly his future for what was increasingly looking like a last-second desperation shot at making the playoffs.

But then something funny happened: The organization's word stood up.

Funny, by my eye, the organization's word is lazily trailing Brandon's man by a step and a half coming off picks. 

Mike Barrett on Hoops For St. Jude...

Tom Penn, who is the Trail Blazers' Vice President of Basketball Operations, is on the board at St.Jude, and a few years ago encouraged me to go with him to the campus. To be completely honest, I didn't really want to. There was work to be done, as we were playing the second of a back to back, and it was at the end of a road trip. But, that wasn't the biggest reason I didn't want to go. I have young children, and nobody likes to think of one of their children battling a horrible disease. I didn't know how I would handle seeing kids, like my own, hooked up to machines, and going to war against illness. A pretty silly and selfish attitude, I realize.

The only person who is a bigger whimp when it comes to stuff like this is my partner, Mike Rice. I still remember walking in for the first time, and before I could try and hide the fact that I was welling up with tears, I looked at Rice and he was in worse shape. Penn could see this, and then starting to explain that St.Jude is a place of hope and healing. That sounds simple, but it changed my way of approaching these visits. It's still never easy, but now instead of feeling heartbroken (which doesn't do the kids any good), we try and lift their spirits. And, we watch, learn, and of course, pray.

Through Penn's education about St.Jude, and quite honestly, through his prompting, I'm never in Memphis now without constantly thinking about the kids, the doctors, the staff, the volunteers, and the donors who are involved with this great research center.    

Marc Stein has Nate McMillan on his Coach of the Year shortlist...

Too many things can happen over the final seven weeks of the regular season to derail Sloan, largely because there are so many other legit options in this category. Just to name five: Charlotte's Larry Brown, Milwaukee's Scott Skiles, Memphis' Lionel Hollins, Portland's Nate McMillan and, most notably, Oklahoma City's Scott Brooks, who must be doing some pretty good coaching -- even with the luxury of Durant as his go-to guy -- if the Thunder are a top-5 team in defensive efficiency with such limited depth, size and experience.

Coup looks at LaMarcus Aldridge's shooting...

As you can see, Aldridge is much closer in the mid-range to 33-year old, knee hampered Garnett than to 31-year old, MVP candidate Nowitzki. While Aldridge shoots very well from 10-15 feet on the left block, where he can turn over either shoulder to shoot, he doesn't have a true "Hot Spot" from anywhere between 10-23 feet, as in he doesn't approach 60 percent from any spot like the other two players do. He doesn't have a cold zone, either, which might mean opponents don't have an area of the court they try and push him to, but there's something to be said for teammates not having an area of the court to work to get Aldridge the ball in, too.     

Here's a nice observation from BlazerGuy.com...

An interesting subplot tonight was Nate's apparent shuffling of the point guard rotation.  Instead of bringing in Bayless when Miller first rested, McMillan went with a Roy/Fernandez backcourt, with each of them taking turns bringing the ball up the court. Nate tried that for a while in both the first and second half, and it's the first time I remember him doing that all season.  I found it odd that he would choose tonight to try that, given how well Jerryd Bayless played last night.  Jerryd only played 9 minutes tonight and much of that was in scrub time.  I'm not sure if this a reflection on Bayless' play or an attempt to find a way to get Rudy some minutes without taking them away from Batum and Webster.  I suspect the latter.   It will be interesting to see how the backup point guard minutes are distributed in the next few games.      

Ryan Virgin tackles Bayless's numbers on Bleacher Report.com...

In 18.1 minutes a game, he is averaging 9.3 points and 2.3 assists with 1.2 turnovers on a 41 percent shooting and 27 percent from beyond the arc.

At first, this may seem pretty darn good, because his per 48 minutes rating would be about 25 points, 6 assists, and 4.2 turnovers.

But it just isn't. a 2.4 to 1 turnover assist ratio is the average for point guards in the NBA, but considering he isn't the primary ball handler when he is out on the court, his 1.2 turnovers in 18 minutes is terrible.

It's hard to believe that the Bayless we've seen over the last few weeks will get much run in the playoffs.  Impressive and surprising that Nate McMillan didn't immediately yank him after Bayless threw up a terrible long 2 to close the third quarter.  Instead, he made a big show of stomping through Bayless's path back to the bench...

64194645-500x500_medium

You can tell McMillan is angry because their bodies form a right angle! "Look, Jerryd, I am perpendicularly pissed off right now!!!!!!"

Arash Markazi with a funny story involving Drew Gooden, Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake. Gooden is all over the map...

"Get over it," Gooden told Travis Outlaw, who was complaining about some criticism he had recently heard. "You can do something about it by getting 15 rebounds tonight."

He then turned to Steve Blake and engaged him in a conversation about one of his more embarrassing moments of his career.

"Two months back Andre Miller hung 52 on us," said Gooden of the Jan. 30 game when Miller scored 52 points against the Mavericks.

Sophia Brugato of BustaBucket doesn't see the Marcus Camby trade as a game-changer...

If Marcus Camby were 6 years younger and less-injury prone I would still contend he is not the difference maker for this team. While his addition to the Trail Blazers is no doubt great, in the grand scheme of things it is a temporary addition that has little long term impact and just moderate immediate impact. My opinion and the team's record would be different if Brandon Roy were healthy and McMillan wasn't so stubborn.

While their ticket pricing and television availability won't be bringing home any hardware any time soon, the Blazers have been nominated for an award for their social networking site: www.iamatrailblazersfan.com.

The Portland Trail Blazers popular fan site, www.iamatrailblazersfan.com, has been nominated for the People's Choice Award and the Community Award at the 2010 South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Web Awards on March 14th in Austin, Texas.

"To be nominated for these awards is a big testament to the fans who drive the network," said Dan Harbison, Director of Interactive Marketing. "We've always been fans of the Interactive Festival and Awards, and to be considered is an honor."

Fans can vote for the People's Choice Award by going to www.swsx.com or clicking the following link: https://secure.sxsw.com/peoples_choice/

Quick Hits

Power Rankings
Playoff Odds:
  • Hollinger85%
  • Basketball-Reference87% 
Drop anything that I missed in the comments. And, please, frequent the FanShots.

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