3/4 Court Trap

Should be a crazy night tonight.  Got the jitters going already?  

Let's take a lap around the internet to read the latest Blazers chatter; It's not quite a Full Court Press but there's still plenty of good reading to help pass the time until tip off.

Click through for the latest on Batum, an injured Blazer overseas, Rudy and LaMarcus catching heat, a Blazers gang sign (?), Camby extension reaction and much more.

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

Here's an update from international correspondent Hippo on Petteri Koponen...

Finnish point guard Petteri Koponen, whose NBA rights are owned by the Portland Trailblazers, will miss the remainder of 2009/10 season because of stress fracture in his foot, according to Finnish Basketball Federation. Here are Koponen's comments translated: 
 
"For last a couple of months I've felt pain in my foot and have received proper treatment here in Italy. Earlier this week, the medical staff of Virtus Bologna noticed the stress fracture, talked with Finnish national team medical staff and advised me to wear a cast." 
 
"Hopefully the healing process begins quickly and I will be able to get back on track soon. I'm hoping I have the possibility to represent my country in the Eurobasket qualifications in August. Now I have no opinion but to rest, gather energy into my body and come back stronger than ever."

Koponen played 23 regular season games as the starting point guard of Italian powerhouse Virtus Bologna, averaging 11,3 points, 2,3 rebounds, 1,8 assists, 1,4 steals and 1,5 turnovers in 27,7 minutes a game with shooting percentages of 63,9% (2pt fg's), 39,8% (3pt fg's) and 77,8% (ft's).

Koponen also finished 10th in Italian League in +/- category with average of +5,26. He was one of three Virtus Bologna players in Top 20 and the first player after nine players from 23-1 Montepaschi Siena.

Koponen is expected to be back once the Eurobasket Qualifications tip off August 5th. He is under contract with Virtus Bologna until 2012. Koponen's contract has a buy out clause if Portland Trailblazers is willing to include him in the roster. 

Nicolas Batum is the definition of questionable for tonight.. The Blazers tweet...

Nic Batum was ... indecisive when asked if he would play tonight. First said he wasn't sure, then yes, then maybe

Here's video of the exchange from Sean Meagher. Batum dances and dances before eventually saying, "I'm for sure playing. I'll play tonight, I'll play tonight." 

Chris Ballard on Andre Miller...

It's seems a little weird to say, but as goes Andre Miller, so go the Blazers. After leaning on Brandon Royand a deep roster the last few years, it is now Miller -- pass-first point guard, career second lieutenant, enemy of the highlight-compiler -- who will likely determine Portland's fate.

Here he is after practice before Game 3 against Phoenix, the last Blazer on the floor, shooting flat-footed jumpers from various spots around the key, each released with the same stunted push release and all the grace of your dad playing Around the World in the backyard. This compared to Rudy Fernandez, the stylish Spaniard, who finished his practice session (30 minutes earlier, I might add) by shooting half-court shots.

This is classic Miller: practicing boring shots, which in his case are game shots, which also happen to be effective shots.

Kevin Pelton's Internet Basketball Awards are short on Blazers...

Presti's work turning the Thunder from a cellar-dweller to a playoff team in two years earned him Executive of the Year honors in a tight race with Milwaukee's John Hammond. Apparently this was destined to be a clean sweep of the non-player awards, since I picked a pair of Bucks (Hammond and Skiles). After the top two, the results surprised me. Cleveland's Danny Ferry and APBRmetric favorite Daryl Morey tied for third. I figured Portland Trail Blazers fans might dominate the voting and back their beloved Kevin Pritchard, but neither was the case. Though not everyone filled out the favorite team that was the last question on the ballot, Blazers fans finished behind Celtics and Knicks supporters and Pritchard tied for fifth with Dallas' Donnie Nelson.

Speaking of KP2he liked the Camby signing...

From the Blazers' perspective, Camby's extension likely means paying the luxury tax next season. According to ShamSports.com, Portland previously had $56.8 million committed in 2010-11 salaries. Camby's 2010-11 salary figures to be around $10.1 million, which would put the Blazers at $66.9 million prior to the draft and filling out their roster. The more optimistic projection of Basketball-Related Income that triggered the increase in the projected salary cap also affects the luxury tax. As best as I can guess, the tax level will be set around $67.1 million, making Portland payers unless the team can shed some money.

Of course, that's nothing unusual in the modern NBA; this year's Blazers were one of just three teams to win at least 50 games without paying the tax. So long as owner Paul Allen is willing to spend the cash, paying Camby does little if anything to hurt Portland in the long term. That's why this extension made so much sense for the Blazers.

Regarding Camby, here's a story from Kerry Eggers on his college recruitment by Bill Bayno...

Camby transferred schools and didn't play during his junior season, so he was under the radar at the time. Bayno received a phone call from a friend in Hartford.

"She said, ‘I've got this 7-footer, and he's really good,' " Bayno says. "I thought, ‘Yeah, OK, sure you do.' He was a sleeper at the time. Nobody knew about him."

Bayno drove to Hartford - an hour from the Amherst campus - to watch the youngster play in a summer-league game.

"He blocked shots, took a charge, dove to the floor, did everything he does," Bayno recalls. "I went back to Calipari and said, ‘Look, man, I just found the No. 1 pick in the draft.' " 

Brother Wendell Maxey writes on Page 2 that Roy and Webster are opposites when it comes to gadgets...

"I'm a caveman," Roy confessed shyly with a smile. "I'm not a gadget guy."

Roy, the Portland Trail Blazers' leading scorer, has to turn to his local tech geek for assistance with any gadget he does buy. In this case, tech support is teammate Martell Webster.

"I don't spend my money on diamonds or cars. I've got gadgets," said Webster, grabbing his black handheld Arcos 5 Media Tablet and Sony headphones. "He [Roy] has a laptop, but he never uses it."

Seth Pollack at Bright Side of the Sun goes after Rudy Fernandez...

A former NBA player I spoke with this morning called Rudy "tissue paper" when I asked why Rudy wasn't attacking Nash more. Maybe.

...

Goran Dragic played in Spain and is somewhat friends with Rudy. Here's what Goran had to say about Fernandez:

"I don't know what kind of situation is there with Rudy. I played against him in Spain and European Championships. He was totally different player on national team and in Spanish ACB league. I don't know. He had a lot of injury. He's totally different player than last year. Last year he was more aggressive and everything but this year, I don't know. Maybe he don't have enough confidence or something like that. I know he's a good player but maybe he just have a bad stretch."

Jason Quick goes after Rudy Fernandez...

"I do not need 10 shots or 2 shots. Play free is what I can play, and I think my role is to open the space," he said. "For me, it's not important whether I'm a starter or not a starter. It's the ball. It's shots," Fernandez said. 

Fernandez took only two shots in Game 2 -- missing both-- and when told his lack of shots was exactly the point of the questioning, he walked away.     

Dwight Jaynes on Rudy Fernandez...

Some players feed off the crowd much more than others. In fact, I've seen players in all sports who were seemingly impervious to crowds - both friendly and hostile. I always felt Michael Jordan was that way. He was above it all.

Others, though, benefit greatly from a friendly and raucous crowd. Portland's Rudy Fernandez is one of those. I wouldn't be surprised, if the fans stay with him, if Rudy has a bounce-back game tonight. He's due - a much better player than he's shown so far. But if he doesn't start attacking Steve Nash tonight - early and often - he's going to have to find a seat at the end of the bench for the rest of the series.

I have no idea what's going on with this guy but it's looking like one big pout from him so far. Why? I have no idea.

Coup over at Rip City Project says Rudy's lack of production really shouldn't be that surprising...

Where does that leave us now? With a replacement for an All-Star that is only 1.4 wins (basketballprospectus.com) above the value of a replacement-level player. One who the Blazers, more likely than not, will need to have a big game in the next couple days for them to even have a chance at winning their first-round series with the Phoenix Suns. And despite the illusions we all have of Rudy in our heads, there's very little reason to expect a big game from him. He just hasn't gotten the universal "it" done enough, if hardly at all this season, except in a select group of situations.

John Hollinger says Channing Frye still loves Portland...

Teammate Jared Dudley wasn't buying in either. I asked if Frye would be showing him Portland's sights during the three days they'd spend in Oregon. "He'll probably want to," said Dudley. "I won't go with him."     

John Hollinger on the Marcus Camby signing...

Want to know why Portland could extend Marcus Camby? As I mentioned a couple days ago, the revised salary-cap guidance released by the league at this past weekend's Board of Governors meeting meant the Blazers could add Camby to next year's payroll while staying under the luxury tax.

Want to know why the Blazers felt they had to extend Camby's deal? Same reason. With the new cap guidance and increased flexibility it provided, Portland felt teams like New York, Oklahoma City, Miami and the Clippers all were poised to make a run at Camby. 

Jason Quick has LaMarcus Aldridge's response to those who were upset that he was laughing on the bench at the end of Game 2...

"People can get upset about whatever they really want," said Aldridge, who had 11 points on 3-for-8 shooting in Game 2. "But I'm not going to cry and get down over that game last night. If we get in bad spirits and get sad ... how can you bounce back if you are all down and sad? We have to learn from it and be hurt, but we can't be crying about it. We have to be men, learn from it and move on."

Paul Coro notes that Amar'e Stoudemire was able to get open a little bit more easily in Game 2...

"I was still in attack mode the same as I was in Game 1," Stoudemire said. "They weren't quite as set up as quickly as they were in Game 1. More times in Game 1, I was taking more of my time in the post and allow the teams to really set up and see where they were coming from (with) the double team. In Game 2, I was a little quicker and a little more aggressive on the moves. It kind of caught them off guard a few times and allowed me to get to the free throw line. Plus, we had more fastbreak opportunities. We filled lanes. We got to the basket pretty quick, even after made shots we got a few fastbreak points. With that being said, it allowed us to get to the free throw line more."

I'm mentally preparing myself for a monster game from Stoudemire tonight.

Ezra Caraeff of Portland Roundball Society is pushing his Blazers gang sign hard...

Say hello to "The Pinhweel." 

If a ridiculous hand sign can work for Diamond Dallas Page, the Crips, Ronnie James Dio, the Texas Longhorns, and Jay-Z, it might as well work for the Portland Trail Blazers. Given that the Blazers surrounding cast is already a mixed bag of larger-than-life personalities (The Hippie, Free Throw Guy, DarthBlazer, Travis Diener), might as well give the Portland faithful it's very own hand gesture. "The Pinhweel" can be thrust into the heavens as a proud act of fandom, flashed across the number six Trimet bus to a fellow Blazer fan (like a secret handshake), and perhaps it will replace Rudy Fernandez's three digit celebration after he drains a three-pointer (that is, if he ever hits one again). 

Brian T. Smith with Game 2 reaction from Andre Miller and Nate McMillan...

 

Miller said returning to the Rose Garden could not come at a better time for the Blazers. While Portland's belief that it can upset the higher-seeded Suns and steal the series has not been shaken, the Blazers must be more assertive and more aggressive.

"We've just got to hit them first," Miller said.

Meanwhile, McMillan just wants to see more fight from a team that has refused to give in all season.

"We just kind of gave in to playoff basketball," McMillan said.

Will Cantrell's Game 3 preview at Bright Side...

PTL's fans in attendance will be jacked up-the change in venue and energy from the sun-starved Portlanders will probably be good for a few runs in the Blazer's favor. Maybe Rudy Fernandez will show up, and perhaps LMA will prove beastly tonight. Oh and maybe Jerryd Bayless won't foul out in 22 minutes of play. But if the Suns can come out running and gunning, tune out the noise, and make some early shots, look for a game 2-esque performance. It will no doubt be more difficult than it sounds.    

...

Even if tonight results in a well played loss, it can still be considered a victory. Remember, this isn't single elimination people. Taking 1 of 2 from the Blazers in Portland, and then returning back to Phoenix to take care of business suits me fine.

Sarah Moon has a sweet art project showing at A Stern Warning...

About a year ago, Blazers Nation was experiencing the apex of a renaissance that was a long time in the making. For me, it was a throwback to the days of my childhood in the Portland area, when the Blazers transfixed the whole region with every play, and possibilities seemed limitless. Last spring, during the Blazers season, I was also learning letterpress printing and so it seemed at natural fit to capture that revitalization in a substantial project.

Adrian Wojnarowski includes Monty Williams's name in the Hornets coaching search...

Assistants to watch in Hornets search: Portland's Monty Williams, Spurs' Mike Budenholzer, Utah's Ty Corbin and Magic's Steve Clifford.

Kerry Eggers picks up on the fact that KP hasn't been sitting with Paul Allen...

But why, then, does Pritchard no longer sit with Allen courtside at home games?

Could that just be coincidence? Is their relationship still intact? Do they still have open lines of communication, just as always?

"I still have a lot of communication with Paul," Pritchard said.

A few quick-hitters...

As always, please frequent the FanShots.

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

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