Blazersedge Mailbag: March 30th, 2010

Diving right into the mailbag, formed from questions submitted to blazersub@yahoo.com...

What's the maximum combination of salary and years you offer Marcus Camby to remain a Blazer after this season, assuming Joel Przybilla misses at least half of next year?

Przybilla missing half of next year made this question a lot easier.  You're going to need to take a risk on signing one of those two as your second center.  Here's how they line up (per 36 minute stats unless otherwise noted):

Points

Orebs

DRebs

TRB%

Blks

BLK%

ORtg

DRtg

Age

Camby

8.5

3.9

9.6

22.1

2.3

4.8

110

101

36

Przyb.

6.5

3.8

8.8

21.7

2.3

5.0

104

102

30

As you can see they're close in most categories.  Both can rebound and block shots.  Both are decent on-ball defenders and good help guys.  Here are the differences:

  • Camby is more mobile and more versatile on offense. 
  • Przybilla sets better picks, is 2 inches taller, and is 30 pounds heavier. 
  • Joel is 6 years younger. 
  • Camby is healthy.  You don't know yet when or how Przybilla will come back. 
  • On the other hand Joel will almost certainly be under contract next year whereas you're going to have to woo Marcus, which will cost you. 
  • Then again you're going to have to go through the contract signing process with Joel a scant year later, so you're likely to pay either way.  It's a matter of inking a new contract this year or next...pick your poison.

Here's my take:  You can't go into next season without a reliable center behind Oden if there's any way to help it.  Were Joel healthy we wouldn't be having this discussion.  You could never play both guys behind Greg.  You'd say goodbye to Marcus after his spot duty here and figure you could sign Przybilla to a reasonable contract in 2011.  But given Joel is not healthy, may not be healthy, and will expire in 2011 I think you do offer a contract to Marcus.  The glaring drawback to Camby is his age.  But you're hoping Oden stays healthy enough and develops solidly enough that in two years the back-up center is a luxury, not a necessity, so you can live with a 36-year old guy.

I think you try to get Camby with the same kind of deal you gave Miller, maybe two years with a team option for a third.  I don't think many teams will offer him three years guaranteed at his age.  The dollar amount is the sticking point.  Prices may get inflated this summer with the cap space available for many teams.  But I don't think the Blazers renew his current salary of $9.2 million.  Andris Biedrins makes less than that.  Some pretty decent post players are getting in the $6-7 million range, including Przybilla.  Maybe you go for the $7.5 million you're paying Joel.  For one year you're going to take a hit having both of them but after that you're simply replacing Joel's salary with Marcus'.  In fact you might come out even in the long run because Marcus' new contract would expire before Joel's new contract would have.  Add in that you might be able to move Joel's expiring contract sometime during the year for a non-center-piece and it seems like a solid move.

If another team wants to go crazy and offer Marcus $10 million a year and/or longer terms I think you have to let him go and just hope Joel comes back.  That's going to be too much of a hit for the semi-frugal Blazers.  The caveat would be if they really feared for Oden's health or development.  Then if you want to win you have to bite the bullet and pay the man.

Shoot.  I just noticed the question was how much I would offer Camby.  It's not my money, so anything he wants!  But the Blazers can't and won't operate like that.  More money for Camby is eventually going to mean less money for someone else.  With Joel on the roster and young guys waiting to be extended it becomes a tricky cost-benefit question.  The backup center they keep may not be the absolute best one for their team.  It'll be the best one who meets their price.

Can you think of any reason to fire KP?

No.  I would prefer to see him stay.  I think he deserves to stay based on what I know.

However I'm also willing to admit that I don't know everything about the situation.  I also know for a fact that there are some things which cannot be shared publicly which inform these decisions.  I can give you concrete examples from my own line of work.  Let's say I have a family in my congregation who just experienced a very private tragedy.  They quietly stop coming to church.  I go and visit them and they tell me what has happened.  I continue to walk with them through their journey.  Meanwhile, back at church, other people notice that this family is gone.  These people also have an axe to grind because we sang Hymn #346 instead of Hymn #348 at last Sunday's service.  So they come up to me and say, "Pastor Dave!  This family has left the church because we sang this hymn!  Did you know that?  Did you even bother to visit them?!?"  What am I to say?  I could save my own skin and shut these people up by blurting out the real reason the family is gone but that would be a horrible victimization of that family, a breach of trust and professionalism.  Even if I say, "That's not the reason..." or I admit that I've been visiting them I've opened the door to the idea that something else is wrong.  So I basically have to nod and take the criticism, letting people think what they think even if it's not close to the truth.  That's my job.

I am not saying anything like that is happening here.  But it could be.  We'd never know.  Maybe our public perception of KP is spot on.  Firing him would be a travesty then.  Maybe we don't know what we're talking about.  We might burn somebody in effigy who was doing exactly the right thing.  In the end we have little choice but to depend on the people who have both full knowledge of the situation and the power to make those decisions.  Note that "depending" is different than "trusting" or "agreeing with".   It's the nature of the beast that we judge their decisions.  But the only way to do that reliably is to gauge results.  That takes time.  It can't be done beforehand.  If the Blazers sack KP and the team prospers maybe they were onto something.  If they sack KP and the organization collapses either they were wrong or their priorities were different than they should have been.  I'd assume people would end up paying for that with their jobs just as Pritchard once did.

Personally I think it'd be easier to just keep him and work around any flaws he might have.

How can you say owner Paul Allen's statement about the Penn dismissal did the job?  It was total media-speak!

When that statement came out I cautioned people not to confuse two separate issues:

1.  How you feel about KP going or staying.

2.  The Blazers front office handling their business in a competent manner and achieving their stated goals.

The statement did nothing as far as the first issue.  However it was much more effective than their previous methods when it comes to the second.  That's what I meant by it being what was needed.

I've already discussed my feelings on KP above.  I'm going to give you a shorthand way to interpret where I stand on the rest of this and then we're going to put this topic to bed until summer (period!) when there might or might not be more movement from the organization.

Just think of me as a Mafia Don, like in the movies.  We all witnessed a hit take place with Tom Penn, perhaps getting a glimpse at family turmoil in the process.  I wrote a pretty lengthy piece decrying what we were seeing, as if you were watching the Don lament somebody getting whacked.  But as the Don spoke it should have become clear that he was not speaking out against the hit, nor against murder in general, but the fact that this one was so sloppy...to the point that the whole world was witnessing what should have been a family-only affair.  Everything that happened in the aftermath, up to the point Paul Allen finally said, "Hey!  Discussion over!" only made things worse.  Business is business.  Sometimes people gotta get whacked.  But you don't do it in such a way as to draw attention to yourselves, let alone make the papers.  That's just bad business.

Click through for questions about growth from the JailBlazer era, media on the baseline, post scoring, continuity between Aldridge and Roy, a bunch of takes on LaMarcus, and everything you ever wanted to ask about Ben Golliver...  (Seriously, three different people asked about him this week.  I think he needs to stay off TV!)

Were you very active during the infamous "Jailblazers" years, like you are now?  Did you follow the team closely during that time?

I started writing publicly at the tail end of that era but I had been in a small online discussion group for years and years prior, so in a sense I was writing all the way through it.  The audience just got larger later on. 

Have things changed that much?  Is this a bunch of people with agendas playing games through the media?  If these people causing the trouble get their way, just what might they want to do to our team?  Do they just want to jack up prices and nickel and dime the players and fans for extra money?  Or do they want to actually run this organization and start shipping our players out because they think they can build a better team than Pritchard?

It's an interesting question.  Blazer fans have usually been content to blame General Managers for the team's faults.  Bob Whitsitt did this to us.  Steve Patterson and John Nash did it.  Having KP do so well in such an engaging fashion has removed that option.  Having some mistakes repeated era to era has also drawn attention farther up the ladder to people who have spanned all of these eras, particularly Paul Allen.

Here's my best guess at what I think you're getting at.  The NBA is a world unto itself.  Each franchise has its own atmosphere.  The center of gravity holding that atmosphere in place is the owner.  It's hard to build any foundation when you know that both you and it exist at the pleasure of said owner.  I'd guess that Blazer execs through many eras have found certain desires or initiatives blunted by Paul Allen and/or Vulcan, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.  The higher ups have made mistakes of omission and commission through various eras but I also think they've learned from those mistakes...at least the gravest ones.  I don't think we'll see a return to Whitsitt-era fantasy acquisitions and overspending.  I don't think we'll see a return to Patterson-era media relations.  Maybe there are Pritchard-era mistakes we won't see a return to either.  It would be nicer not to commit them in the first place though!

It's hard for me to extrapolate what Paul Allen and his people should do because I'm not in their shoes.  In my world you get the best people you can to serve with you and you give them their heads as much as possible, letting the results speak for themselves.  If I owned the Blazers I'd like to be aware of and involved in everything but at the end of the day if I hired you to be my GM I'd expect you to be the final decision-maker.  If I ended up not liking your results I'd fire you and get someone else.  But I don't guess I'd interfere much more than that.  On the other hand I'm not a billionaire either, so maybe my approach isn't as effective as I think.  I also don't know all the reasons Paul Allen bought the team.  Maybe the great joy in it is being able to see his decisions enacted.  If so, what can you do?  You can't tell a guy who paid hundreds of millions of dollars for something to keep his hands off it.

  • Have things changed?  Yes.  But maybe not in all the ways they need to yet. 
  • Are people with agendas playing games through the media?  Yes.  That's what everyone does, intentionally or not.  The media doesn't give you absolute truth.  It gives you enough different accounts of the truth to define its boundaries.  Whatever you go with inside those boundaries depends on your perspective.  You could say the sum total of the media is simply thousands of agendas through which we interpret reality.  In the entertainment/public relations venue you're never going to find an agenda-free first-hand story. 
  • If the people in charge get their way, what will happen?  Pretty much what's been happening.  Ups and downs.  I doubt the people in charge have ever not gotten their way on anything big.  You just see it more clearly during some times than others.  You can make all the noise you want but in the end you just hold on and hope more good comes of it than ill.  Or you quit.
  • Do they just want to jack up prices and gouge people for money?  That's too cynical.  They want to run a successful entertainment enterprise that earns a profit.  That includes doing what's necessary for the bottom line and public perception.
  • Will they ship out players because they think they can build a better team than KP has?  It's a false notion, as the team KP has built has been with their approval so far, provided their noses are in it as much as we're assuming.  They might bring in someone who is more aligned with their perceptions should KP prove an ill fit by their standards.  That's unlikely to bring wholesale roster changes though. 

Have you noticed just how close all the dancers, photographers, ball-boys etc. etc. are to the Rose Garden court? Now granted, it's a packed house almost every night, but one of these nights someone is going to get hurt.

I have noticed.  It differs from arena to arena.  If somebody important (Kobe, LeBron) were to get seriously injured because of it I bet the NBA would institute a rule.  Until then it's most likely a matter of demand for media access versus available space.  Let's hope Greg Oden's next injury doesn't come from a telephoto lens.

Can the Blazers become a title contender without someone who can score in the paint?

No, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need a 20 ppg low-post scorer.  Andre Miller is demonstrating that a point guard can create offensive pressure in the key.  He's freeing up other players because of it.  Greg Oden will create tons of pressure down low by just catching the ball every once in a while and threatening the offensive rebound even when he doesn't...all without being a volume scorer in the post.  But if you took away Oden and Miller (and guys like them) replacing them with jump shooters the Blazers could still be good but I doubt they'd contend.  The perimeter game only takes you so far.

It seems that our two biggest stars don't play together. You rarely see Roy and Aldridge involved in the same offensive play. Is this a problem that Nate needs to address or the attributes of the players don't match for them to play together?

Both are basically scorers, so that's to be expected.  Still, Aldridge has been passing more effectively this year and Roy continues to average nearly 5 assists per game.  They're just not passing to each other.  When Roy has the ball LaMarcus knows he's likely to shoot it.  LMA's role then is offensive rebounder.  The same holds true in reverse, except Brandon has to get back on defense.  Brandon's usually taking the ball in the halfcourt when the defense is set plus he's just not at the right angle to give LaMarcus those alley-oops he likes to catch.  If Brandon is going to pass to someone it'll either be a continuation pass around the perimeter or a drive and dish to a distance shooter.  If LaMarcus is going to pass it'll probably be to a cutter down the lane or the other big man whose defender he's just drawn.  Neither one of those is Brandon.

I'd love to see more motion and passing in Portland's offense but that doesn't change the fact that both stars are scoring well enough the way things are.  Even with more motion you wouldn't necessarily see them passing directly to each other.  Other players might get more connected though.

Remember also that directly passing to each other isn't the only form of working well together.  When Brandon was out we saw LaMarcus quickly and consistently double-teamed every time he caught the ball.  I'm sure it was a relief to him to see Brandon back on the court.

Is LMA meeting expectations? 

The immediate question in response is, "Whose expectations?"  I suspect he's meeting the Blazers', as they just gave him a hefty contract.  But the Blazers also understand who he is and what they need from him.  I don't think he's meeting the expectations of fans as much.

Is he REALLY the power forward we need for the future?

Yes, LaMarcus could REALLY be the power forward we need for the future, but I'm not yet married to the idea that he is.  He's got a lot of things going for him.  He shoots almost 50%, which is not bad for a mid-range oriented game.  He's tall and rangy.  He runs the floor well.  You also have to remember his context.  He's hopefully going to be playing alongside Greg Oden.  Theoretically that leaves him room to play to his strengths:  shooting, running, relying on quickness rather than force to defend.  With Brandon on the team the Blazers don't need LaMarcus to be a game-saver or clutch scorer.  They could settle for a guy who averages a hefty sum each night, producing bulk points instead of critical ones.  If you think of guys like Antawn Jamison or Zach Randolph who generally fit this description (granted with different secondary strengths and weaknesses) I'd as soon have LaMarcus right now as any of them.  But even if he doesn't turn out to be the right guy he's still going to have value on the market for a long time to come, provided the new CBA doesn't cut everyone else's salaries in half.  I don't think the Blazers are taking a big risk with LMA.  He's solid whether you keep him or move him.

What areas would you say he has to improve to become the player everyone seems to expect?

Simple!  He needs the grittiness and toughness of Buck Williams, the passion of Brian Grant, the scoring power and intimidation ability of Maurice Lucas, and so on.  Seriously, we have a long tradition of favored blue-collar power forwards here and LaMarcus doesn't fit the mold.  But he does fit the mold of the new-breed NBA power forward.  That's who he's going to be playing against most nights.  He doesn't have to take on Karl Malone.  He has to be an extra guy who can help against anyone from Kevin Durant to Kevin Garnett.

The most strident fan critiques pick apart his soft-ish, perimeter offensive play.  His style will become more of an asset once Oden gets established.  I think LaMarcus can make a couple improvements that will make him look better closer to the basket.  He doesn't establish position well.  His finishing moves in the key are shaky.  Both of those can be learned.  A couple of characteristics probably won't change.  He's deliberate making offensive moves.  He doesn't handle the ball well on the move.  He doesn't like contact.  Those stack the odds against him.  You also have to remember he's making an eight-figure salary based on how he's been playing, so he's not likely to see the need to overhaul his game. 

His rebounding and defense, other sore spots among fans, will look more acceptable with Oden playing as well.  We'll be depending on him to make the kind of plays he's capable of instead of filling a massive void, as was true in the pre-Camby days.

Should we trade LaMarcus for someone who is more of a physical, bruiser-type power forward?

Where is that guy, especially nowadays, especially starting?  LaMarcus gets his clock cleaned by Corey Maggette on a regular basis because Maggette pushes him around.  But LaMarcus can also guard Dirk Nowitzki.  Which is more critical, toughness against the Warriors or defensive mobility against the Mavericks and other scoring forwards like Dirk?

A bruiser looks good on paper, but a bruiser also occupies much of the same territory you want Oden to.  I hate bringing up Greg so much but the power forward and center spots are really married together.  I probably need to go on a Chris Rock "Champagne Room" monologue (set to an R+B track) about no scoring happening when there are two low post players on the floor together no matter who those post players are.  How many people can get their hands on the same rebound?  How many people can crash the offensive boards before nobody is getting back?  How many slow bruisers can you have running back on defense and forward on offense period?

You can probably get sufficient mileage with a bruising power forward coming off the bench.  You wouldn't have to dump LaMarcus for one.  The way the team is set up you'd need get a scorer in return for LaMarcus in any case.

Why don't we hear more critique on Blazersedge about LMA's game?

First, he's doing a pretty good job.  Second, the gaps in his game are fairly obvious and at this point well-worn.  How many times do you need to hear someone say, "Darn that gazelle for not being an elephant!" before everybody gets it?  And is that a valid critique anyway?  We try to highlight stuff that's unusual or not popularly known...maybe even more controversial.  If I were doing a preview of the Blazers for another site where fans weren't familiar with the team I might repeat some of the more obvious observations about LaMarcus' game. 

Can I have Ben's job?

No.

Can I have Ben's phone number?

Ummm...you could ask him directly.

Can I have a lock of Ben's hair?

OK...this is getting creepy. 

It looks silky.  Is Ben's hair silky?

Really creepy.  I'm not sure what's worse, that you're asking or that you think I'd know.

What do you do once the season ends?  How do you enjoy the time off in summer?

We still post almost every day.  In most ways the site is as active in the off-season as it is during the year.  When the games end I do give myself the luxury of Sundays off.  Also I'm not as much of a slave to the team's schedule, of course.  I remember last year during the playoffs Gavin and Casey and I were talking on the podcast and we realized we'd had, like, 10 hours of sleep in the last two days between us.  In some ways the off-season is a relief.  But I don't like it coming any sooner than it has to.  I can last until June!!!

I'll spend more time with my family, catch up on my reading and gaming, sleep more, that kind of thing.  I'm going to the coast this summer.  I also plan to make sure Ben gets a rest, as he's been posting like a fiend, for which we should all thank him.  But in between all of that resting we'll be covering the draft, going to Summer League, talking salary cap and trades and all of that stuff.  Blazermania lasts year-‘round!

Thanks as always for all of the questions.  If yours hasn't been answered yet you can submit it (or re-submit it) to the address below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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