Full Court Press

With a rare three day break between games and a cross-country stats conference to attend, it was a relatively quiet weekend here on Blazersedge.  But here's what you might have missed this weekend...

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Dave's Mailbag | Camby to the Knicks? | Przybilla Injured | Nuggets Recap

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And, posted this morning: a recap of reactions to Joel Przybilla's injury plus my full analysis of what it means going forward for the Blazers.

Click through to read reaction to the loss in Denver, raising or tempering expectations as the playoff push begins, my brief thoughts on this year's team compared to last year's, Brandon Roy's continuing dance with Team USA, playoff projections, power rankings and much more.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver | Twitter

Jason Quick: Brandon Roy was struggling last night...

Roy made his first shot -- a three-pointer -- but missed his next 10 in one of his most frustrating nights as a professional. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting, with five assists and five rebounds. 

A common expression of Roy's on Sunday was one of disgust -- his arms outstretched and his mouth agape -- after drives in traffic were turned away by the physical Nuggets. 

"It was frustrating," Roy said. "Just being out on the court and feeling like you were out of it. I gotta do a better job because guys look at me and if I seem as if I'm not into it, then I think they kind of follow."     

Coup from Rip City Project says last night's loss to the Nuggets could have been worse...

In fact it could have been much worse than it was. Carmelo Anthony stole his fair share of lunch money from whoever Portland tried to throw at him, but Nic Batum was fundamentally solid despite his strength disadvantage - he just couldn't avoid fouls when Anthony took him underneath.     

ESPN's Sam Alipour with an excellent profile and interview of Brandon Roy...

Most mornings, Roy's father, Tony, left home at 5 a.m. to drive a Seattle Metro bus, often picking up extra shifts to help fund Brandon's AAU travel. His mother, Gina, worked in the local elementary school's cafeteria, allowing her to keep an eye on her four kids and tend to their needs at home.

Brandon didn't let his parents' sacrifices go to waste.

On the high school court with Garfield (Seattle, Wash.), he made the leap from a marginal role player as a sophomore to the leader of an undefeated squad as a junior to the state's most heralded baller as a senior. He persevered in the classroom, too, overcoming a learning disability that slowed his reading comprehension.

Dwight Jaynes says Nate McMillan needs to be more vocal...

I guess he must subscribe to that old idea that if you don't yell at referees, in the long run you come out better for it. I've heard the  concept but never have heard it from a basketball coach who has done any long-term winning.    

Dwight Jaynes also wrote a pair of pieces over the last week, upping expectations for the Blazers. First, he likes this Portland team more than last year's...

But now that Marcus Camby is here, I think you can take a look at Portland's lineup and say it's better than the one that won 54 games last season. Seriously, Andre Miller is a big upgrade at the point, Camby is a marginally better player than Joel Przybilla, this year's Nic Batum is much improved and well, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are better players this season than last - at least they ought to be.

Oh, you're going to say this group needs time to get used to each other. Well, maybe - but I think veteran players like Miller and Camby and players with the basketball IQ of Batum don't need that much time. 

Second, the guys are healthy at the right time...

Look, other than Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, all the injured players are back playing. And playing well. And in place of the injured centers is Marcus Camby, who is certainly more talented than Przybilla and would also be thought by some as being as talented as Oden at the defensive end.

So why not expect big things from now on this season?

But Wendell Maxey says temper those expectations...

For me, it's best not to get too high or too low with the Blazers. Because while the recent wins should be applauded, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Indiana aren't exactly Utah or Denver.

That's why these next 18 games will be very telling. Aside from playing against sub-par teams like Sacramento (3 times), New York, Golden State (twice) and the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland also has Denver (twice), Dallas, Oklahoma City (twice) and the Lakers.

My two cents: this year's team has one thing that last year's team had: a solid understanding of self.  During the late-season run last year, I remember a lot of broad smiles and surprised faces, as young guys wondered whether they were actually that good.  At the time, they were playing some serious basketball.  Once the playoffs hit, things pretty quickly swung back to a less pleasant reality. You can't really blame them for it.  It was their first time through it.  This year's group is more experienced, older and much more level-headed. Whether that makes them "better" overall, I don't know. It does make them more ready and less susceptible to blanking the bed when the bright lights get turned on.

Ian ThomsenNate McMillan says coaching is hard...

"No question, no question," Trail Blazers coachNate McMillansaid. "If a team decides to shut it down on you, there's really nothing you can do. When they don't have that passion to play for you anymore, then it's over. And then it comes down to the organization making a decision of whether we believe in that coach and we're going to change this attitude and this approach. Or do the players outweigh the coach? And most of the time the organization decides [to stick with] the players."

Brian T. Smith on early offense...

Another alteration, Blazers lead assistant coach Dean Demopoulos said, has been the speed at which Portland moves the ball up the court and sets up it's half-court offense. That change points directly toward starting point guard Andre Miller.

Since taking over for ex-Blazer Steve Blake, Miller has finally begun to find a comfort zone in the offense. And now that Roy has returned, while new assets such as Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby have appeared, Miller is no longer being asked to score first and pass later. Now, the 11-year veteran's main task is simply to set up Portland's offense as quickly as possible.

"It starts with Dre pushing the ball," Roy said. "We get a good push, we're tough to defend. Because once we get in the half-court set, I feel like I can get us a good shot; LaMarcus (Aldridge) feels he can get us a good shot. And Nicolas is playing really good basketball right now."

Wendell Maxey writes that Nate McMillan wanted to draft the stache...

Believe it or not, there was a time when Portland wanted to pass on selecting the three-time All-Star guard.  It was back in 2006 before the NBA Draft.  Roy was fresh out of the University of Washington and was in town for pre-draft workouts with a trio that included Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), Rudy Gay (Connecticut) and Hassan Adams (Arizona).

After the hour-long workout at the Blazers' practice facility, head coach Nate McMillan met with Morrison - the eccentric 6-8 sharpshooter - in his office where the two "talked for a little bit" about the upcoming draft.
 
"He told me he wanted to pick me if I fell to that spot," says Morrison, a reserve forward with the Los Angeles Lakers. "He said he'd draft me."

Brian T. Smith with a melodramatic interaction with Jerryd Bayless... 

Then the former Arizona standout said he does not pay attention to fans or commentators who critique his game. But he soon followed up the comment by stating, "People can say what they want, but I'll get the last laugh."

Wrapped like a hot, tight wire, it initially appeared that Bayless was still in the same uneven place he was when the season began. Frustrated about his minutes; defensive about his talent; guarded to the point where it was safe to wonder how much Jerryd Bayless was actually enjoying being Jerryd Bayless.

Then there was a moment. Nothing truly changed. The words kept rolling, and Bayless continued to stare out at a huge, empty basketball court. But the fiery, explosive guard relaxed a little, laughed, and dared to look ahead.

Coincidentally, that article was posted one day after I asked whether it was still Bayless Time.

Chris Tomasson on FanHouse tracks Brandon Roy's continuing dance with Team USA participation...

"I still hope so,'' Roy said of playing in the London Olympics. "Besides winning the NBA championship, that also has been a dream of mine to have a gold medal. But I kind of had to choose right now (whether or not be on the roster).

"If there's a chance, I'm healthy and playing well and somebody can't play that year, you never know what happens. I would love to try to play. If they are looking for a reserve, I would raise my hand and say, 'Here I am.' I would love to try then if the opportunity presents itself.''     

Portland Roundball Society's Nathan Begley fillets Brian T. Smith's understanding of basketball "facts," one of which stated that Portland's defense, not its offense, has been winning games this year.  

Oh, ho. You have me going there Mr. Smith. I didn't realize that this article was satirical. According to Basketball-Reference's defensive rating and John Hollinger's defensive efficiency rating, both pace-adjusted statistics, Portland's defense is middling at best. Instead, it is the Blazers' sixth ranked offense that wins games, filling in the gaps left by porous perimeter defense and a Greg Oden shaped hole in the middle.

Fact: many successful marriages begin with a blind date.  (Sorry. Sorry.)

Wendell Maxey also has the Blazers' reactions to George Karl's continued fight against cancer...

"Basketball is just a game. This man is fighting for his life basically, Camby began. "He's a fighter, and has fought his life as a player - he was a scrappy player - and now with another bout of cancer. I hate to say he has experience with it, but if anyone can get through it he can."

...

"You'd think we've known each other for a long, long time. We just clicked from day one. He was one of my biggest supporters to bring me to Denver, and then when they went to release me - because of the Chauncey (Billups) trade - he was fighting hard for them to re-sign me back. " Howard explained.

Even before last night's loss, Sophia Brugato of BustaBucket.com was looking ahead to a tough April...

What I am concerned about is the April schedule, during which the Blazers close out the regular season playing the Mavericks, Lakers, Thunder and Warriors. Although March is a fairly easy month comparatively speaking, the Blazers have not shown a consistent ability to close out weaker teams and have little room for mistake in April.    

On the other hand, Torrid Joe contends on A Stern Warning that the Blazers can still get to 50 wins...

So come tax day in the US, April 15th, if the basketball gods finally pull the pins out of the doll and give the Blazers a tiny break this year, you can nod knowingly amongst your lesser roundball brethren and say, "Well of COURSE they got to 50, they had a clear path to it when March started." And then if you have this column discreetly written on your hand and throw in a you betcha or two, you'll be golden.    

Quick Hits

Power Rankings

Playoff Odds

Leave anything I missed in the comments. And, as always, please frequent the FanShots.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver | Twitter

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