Full Court Press

Brandon Roy Improves Humanity.

Brandon Roy just makes the world a better place.  For the first time during this year's playoffs, the Blazers finally feel like the Blazers again, don't they?  

This morning's deep batch of links should help you process the magnitude of Roy's return, sort out its implications for the rest of this Blazers/Suns series and bask in the man's glow. 

But first here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge this weekend...

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Reason to Rejoice | Game 4 Media Row Report | Game 4 Recap | Game 3 Media Row Report | Game 3 Recap  

Also some end-of-week links

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Click through for reaction Brandon Roy's return, video and discussion of Amar'e Stoudemire vs. Nicolas Batum, areas of adjustment for both teams entering game 5, KP talks about lurking in the tunnel instead of sitting courtside, and a lot more.

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

Here's video from the Rose Garden of Brandon Roy's return courtesy of Sublime1bs in the FanPosts.

John Canzano on Brandon Roy...

Legend.

Roy played 27 minutes, scored 10 points, and gave a city a collective case of the chills. He made the Suns account for him, and they paid dearly for it. Best of all, while it was obvious to anyone watching that he was not quite himself, Roy showed rare restraint for an NBA star and didn't attempt to do a single thing that he wasn't capable of pulling off.

Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos said after the game, "He's the best I've ever been around." And owner Paul Allen, who was consulted pre-game on the decision, walked down the hallway and out of the arena with a delighted and wonderous look in his eye. And teammate Jerryd Bayless, whose locker is beside Roy's, leaned in to me after the game so his star neighbor couldn't hear him and said, "I told him before tipoff, ‘Brandon, I don't know if you should do this.'    

Rob Simonsen of Portland Roundball Society on Brandon Roy...

I'm not going to say Brandon Roy coming back eight days after surgery was the greatest moment in history-sports or otherwise-but to put it in hyperbole-free perspective it was like Willis Reed carrying Kirk Gibson on his back as he stormed the beach at Normandy to dunk on Hitler.

Yeah, it was that good.

Mike Barrett on Brandon Roy...

Teams have to set their rosters an hour before tip off. When the sheet was handed out, it had Roy's number circled, meaning he was going to be in uniform, and active. Even then though we knew Dante Cunningham was sick and wouldn't play. So, did this mean they just activated Brandon to get an extra body on the active list? Or, would he play?

At about 1:15, the team entered the hallway to meet one last time before taking the court for pre-game warmups. There was a camera there, and it showed Roy in uniform, on the big screen. The place went nuts, and the team was still 50 yards from the court.

I must admit that I rarely ever get chills anymore, as it relates to this job. You numb a bit to that stuff over the years. But, looking up at the big screen, hearing the crowd, watching Brandon bounce around like a caged animal in the hallway, was something I won't forget. Head-to-toe chills, and the thought that momentum was about to shift in this series. This is why we emotionally invest so much in sports. Moments like this. I was going back and forth between watching the big screen, and watching fans in the arena point to the screen to tell the people around them, "he's going. He's going to play."    

Fran Blinebury on Brandon Roy...

"His conditioning was really bad," McMillan said. "Basically, I said, 'No, you're not ready.' He was OK with it, he left, and then it was phone calls and text messages all night."

One can only imagine the text exchanges.

Roy: OMG, coach. I wanna play 4U.

McMillan: LOL.

Roy: Plz. I'll be your BFF.

SMH

Dwight Jaynes on Brandon Roy...

There's one thing that's been overlooked and I give him a ton of credit for it - there are a lot of stars who would not play in that situation because they are risking embarrassment. After all, it had been a couple of weeks for Roy without playing and he was out of shape, physically. He probably knew he wasn't going to be capable of playing at his best - yet he was willing to do that to help his team.

His mere presence meant so much - and for the people in that building Saturday afternoon, it was a real goose-bump moment.

David Aldridge on Brandon Roy...

Roy heard that both Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, on the TNT set, questioned whether he should be out there at all, that someone in the Blazers' organization should have saved Roy from himself, that any player worth his salt is going to suit up in the playoffs. Jensen wasn't thrilled with their opinions. "They were acting like we were knuckleheads or something," Jensen said. "There's a process that we go through to see if a guy can play. We went through that process.". Roy understood, but he wanted everyone to know that this was not a rash decision. He asked me to thank Kenny and Chuck for looking out for him.

"The only thing I'll say I had to fight everybody, from my parents to my friends, to the doctors," Roy said. "But I felt so good. I can cut. I don't think I can get 30 tonight, but I can play. I can contribute. I kept stressing that. I 'm not in any pain ... It's weird, man. I can't explain it. I'm just not trying to question it too much."

Greg Jayne says Brandon Roy regulates heat...

There's a saying some coaches like to use: "Be a thermostat, not a thermometer."

A thermostat regulates heat; a thermometer reacts to it. When the temperature goes up, so does the thermometer. Roy is the Blazers' thermostat.

Brian T. Smith on the day after Roy's return...

"I think guys are a little looser. But it's important that we come out to play," said Roy, following a Sunday morning practice at the team's workout facility. "I didn't come back to have one good game. I came back to try to help this team win this series. And it's important that we get over the whole emotional high of last game and get ready to play a tough basketball game at Phoenix. They're still a really good team."

Roy acknowledged that his conditioning is still a work in progress, as is his shot. As a result, guard Jerryd Bayless was declared the likely starter for Game 5.

...

"I wouldn't be surprised if I'm starting (tonight)," said Roy, who scored 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting during Game 4. "But right now, no, I'm not starting."

Joe Freeman tweets...

Roy said Coach Mac plans to limit Roy to 25-30 mins.

Mike Tokito reminds us that Nicolas Batum is playing hurt...

"Maybe," he said. "Because I received a lot of hits on my shoulder. That hurt a lot, but I've got to play with it, play through it."

Batum made two three-pointers, but also was 3 for 9 from the field. He said he didn't notice any pain during his shooting motion - or maybe was just too distracted to.

"You know, when you are in the game, you hear 20,000 people behind you, you don't feel anything," he said.    

Here's video of Amar'e Stoudemire elbowing Nicolas Batum posted on BustaBucket.

Jason Quick writes in response to the incident...

McMillan said the Blazers once again have asked the league to look at an elbow thrown by Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire. In Game 3, Stoudemire threw his right elbow near the head of Aldridge, which later led to a flagrant 1 being assessed to Stoudemire. Then in Game 4, Stoudemire elbowed Batum's sore right shoulder during a lull in play. Batum shoved Stoudemire and received a technical. Afterward, Stoudemire said he was merely adjusting his goggles when his elbow hit Batum. "That's two games where we have seen high elbows from players," McMillan said. "We are looking into that."

John Canzano with the reaction from the players..

"Cheap," he said. "He hit me hard enough for me to really feel it." And then Batum rose to his feet, squared his elbows up and performed his best elbow-throwing impression of the Suns 6-foot-10 forward. 

What did Stoudemire say about the incident? 

"I didn't hit him on purpose. Just fixing my goggles, man."     

Wendell Maxey on Kevin Pritchard being relegated to the tunnel during games...

Last week, a person close to Pritchard confessed Allen asked Portland's general manager to no longer sit alongside him at games. The reason: it would only add another distraction to an already distracting situation. Three others within the Blazers said there was no such belief to that theory. Still, one company person admitted the strangeness of the sight of Pritchard tucked away. Many are left confused.

"I enjoy being mobile," Pritchard said when asked about his "tunnel vision".

"I've been a player and I've been a coach, and the one thing I know is what makes basketball so special is the ups and the downs. I'm feeling just like I'm out there. I'm emotionally invested like anybody."

Rob Mahoney talks pace...

Once Portland was able to get free points and establish their offense on the break, Phoenix's defensive adjustments weren't quite so stifling. Things became substantially easier for the Blazers as they opened up the game, despite the clear departure from their style.

The winner of every game thus far has been the leader in fast break points, but every game has also been more in line with Portland's average page (90) than Phoenix's (97.6). The fastest game of the series was the Blazers' Game 1 victory, and the two run-and-gun Suns wins were in games with very few possessions. Those aren't signs that either team is struggling with the sense of identity, but rather that the series itself has become something of a compromise.     

Jason Quick looks at defensive adjustments for Phoenix with Brandon Roy back...

"Hey, they can't have Hill guard everybody," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. 

Phoenix mostly defended Roy with Jason Richardson and Dudley, and toyed for a possession or two with Leandro Barbosa, leaving the Blazers anxious to see how the Suns approach tonight's Game 5. 

The Blazers are envisioning a scenario where Phoenix has to pick its poison: Roy in isolation, Aldridge with an open jumper or Miller one-on-one. And if all else fails, the Blazers believe they can explore another option : exploiting Phoenix's decision to have 6-foot-3 Steve Nash check 6-8 forward Nicolas Batum.     

Seth Pollack from Suns practice...

There wasn't much talked about in the way of specific adjustments. The team was happy with the shots they got and felt like they just need to knock them down.

"We'll take all of those shots. If they want to give us those shots, we'll take those shots tomorrow night also. Those are shots that we made over the last two games and we just didn't get them on the basket. And we got to do a better job on the offensive rebounding. The 17 second chance points is too many." - Coach Gentry

Nash agreed that more than other match-ups it really is as simple as the Suns making or not making their threes based on the way the Portland defense is collapsing in the paint or trapping him on the pick and roll.

Geoffrey Arnold says the Suns struggle in close games...

 Another issue that has surfaced is the Suns' inability to win close games. The Suns are a very good front-running team; when they're ahead, they can step the gas pedal and leave the Blazers in the dust. But when the game is tight, they have shown a tendency to tighten up.

 The Suns were outscored 18-9 in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter and committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter. Point guard Steve Nash, trying to do too much and looking frustrated, committed three of those turnovers, including a bad pass and losing the basketball while trying to dribble through two defenders.    

Valley of the Suns says the Phoenix bench needs to step up...

"Right now the starters have been playing well, Grant, J-Rich, so you can't really argue with them coming back in the game earlier," said Jared Dudley. "The only thing I can do is start hitting more shots to make it a little tougher on him putting those guys back so quick.

"If we out there at the end of the first, beginning of the second and play real well I guarantee you coach Gentry will keep us out there longer. In the playoffs it's all about production stays on the court and if not someone else will."

Gentry said that he plans to lean on his bench more in Game 5 at home, where bench guys typically perform better in the playoffs. Dudley said the team needs a couple of the reserves to step up with big games after that quiet Game 4 off the bench.

Wendell Maxey on Martell Webster's journey...

Now with his first postseason experience perhaps drawing to a close against the Phoenix Suns, Webster can't believe how far he's come.

Years ago, he wondered about giving it all up.

"I felt like, ‘maybe this isn't the sport for me'," Webster said, remembering back to his rookie season in 2005 and the journey he'll never forget.

John Hollinger on underdogs taking over the West...

In the cases of L.A. and Phoenix, however, you can make a compelling case that the underdog is playing at least as well. If you compare the Lakers' performance over the past two and a half months to that of the Thunder, one might be inclined to say Oklahoma City is, in fact, the better team: Since the All-Star break the Thunder are 22-13, while the Lakers are 18-14.

Similarly, the Blazers' 22-10 mark since a Brandon Roy-less win in Phoenix on Feb. 10 isn't altogether different from the Suns' 25-9 in that time frame; in games Roy plays the numbers are 19-7 against 23-7.

In other words, while it's a tortuous process to determine whether these teams are exactlyeven, it takes relatively little effort to see that they're approximately even.

Coup from Rip City Project on Game 4...

And that's the takeaway. While in the grand scheme of things this game was crucial in the gloves coming off and the team maturing, in respect to this series the performance will be easier to repeat. With Roy on the court to keep Phoenix honest, the Blazers only need to move the ball, get some threes out of Batum, get penetration out of Bayless, build off the steady performances of Miller and Aldridge, win the loose balls and execute defensively - a huge departure from the earlier games when anything less than 18 points out of one or two of the Batum-Bayless-Fernandez-Webster group would leave the Blazers dead in the water.

No, they won't have the emotional boost of Roy's return anymore, but that's overrated. As long as Roy's conditioning gets a little better, the Blazers have a solid chance.

SJ from Rip City Project on Game 5...

On the flip side, for Portland they have to continue to find ways to get offensive rebounds. Now that's a slippery slope because you can't just recklessly crash the boards. If you do and you don't get it Phoenix is scoring on you on the other end. I'll take more tapouts from Marcus Camby and Juwan Howard please.

Another key to this one is how good of a start the Blazers get off too. It's been simple, when Portland gets off to a good start in this series they are right there all game. When they don't they get run off the court. Phoenix and their crowd realize the importance of this game and there should be a ton of energy coming from the home team. The Blazers have to be ready to match that to start and go from there. If not, as we've seen before, things could get ugly.

Kevin Pelton on Game 3...

Let's start, though, with Rudy Fernandez, since the Spaniard's play was a major storyline between Games Two and Three. After two invisible games in Phoenix, Fernandez was no better and maybe even worse in the opening minutes of this contest. Looking very tentative and self-conscious, Fernandez was called for a charge on the game's first play and reluctantly took and missed a three before committing his second foul in three-plus minutes at the defensive end and leaving the game. Early foul trouble and slow starts by Fernandez and LaMarcus Aldridge really set a negative tone for the rest of the game for the Blazers.

Fernandez finally saw the ball go through the hoop midway through the fourth quarter, hitting an open three-pointer. He followed that with another one in transition and made a third in as many possessions on a set play after a timeout moments later. Fernandez added a fourth three later and ended up scoring more points in the fourth quarter (12) than in the first 11 periods of the series (10), a hopeful sign for a Portland team that needs him to be an offensive presence.

Kevin Pelton on Game 4...

In the first half, Portland tightened up and closed out better, while Richardson missed some good looks. He shook free for 11 points and a pair of triples in the third quarter. But things changed in a major way down the stretch when the Blazers altered their defensive strategy. Nate McMillan put Nicolas Batum on Steve Nash, a matchup last seen for an extended period in the final quarter of the Blazers' Game One win. Shortly thereafter, LaMarcus Aldridge was assigned Amar'e Stoudemire. That allowed Portland to switch the pick-and-rolls between Nash and Stoudemire, since Batum is big enough to battle Stoudemire down low and Aldridge is as good as any post player in the league at defending guards on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Marcus Camby was available to serve as a help defender.

Camby replaced Juwan Howard at the 5:32 mark of the fourth quarter with the Blazers clinging to an 82-79 lead after a pair of Aldridge free throws. On the ensuing possession, Nash threw the ball out of bounds against Aldridge's pressure. Phoenix scored on its next two possessions, but just once over the following seven as Portland extended its advantage to eight points with 1:05 left on the clock.

Sophia Brugato of BustaBucket on Game 3...

I can't speak for everyone when I say this isn't a fluke the Blazers were once again pummeled . The Blazers do not have the fire power to score enough points to keep up. They have failed twice now to control the pace, allowing the Suns to get out on the break. The Blazers were dismal on the boards, not a new trend this series, and the Blazers aren't moving the ball. The Blazers shot barely above 50% from the free throw line and just 31% from the three point line. With so many guys playing out of position and some playing injured, their struggles are understandeable, yet still it is painful to watch. In almost every metric the Blazers are down from their season average by a significant amount-not  a good omen.

Sheed of BustaBucket on Game 4...

 Basically, as soon as the crowd saw Roy stand up, they went crazy and the team responded. Simply put, Roy's presence alone means everything to Rip City.

Brandon Roy's presence didn't just ignite the fans, when he stepped on the floor Phoenix immediately responded on defense. They had no idea how healthy he was so they had to change their game plan and even threw some doubles at him. Brandon may not have been his usual self with just 10 points in 26 minutes. But besides his presence, he hit two huge shots down the stretch that helped seal the deal for Portland.

Mike Tokito saw a brooding Rudy...

With Roy and Bayless playing effectively, Fernandez played just nine minutes, including none in the second half, and scored three points. It was his second-shortest stint this season.

Fernandez appeared frustrated when he came out of the game for the final time, with 5:30 left in the second quarter, and he slammed a towel on the bench in frustration.     

Via DaniBCN in the FanShots here's Rudy's take on his blog...

"This year is being difficult, you all know. But I want to make it clear that it's not a wasted year, I'm maturing a lot, and this are things an athlete has to go through. Sophmore years have always been hard for me, my second year at Joventut I injured myself too and didn't play well. I overcame it there because I was with my family, with a coach who really trusted me... Here it's different, and that's why I growing. That's the way the NBA is and there are no excuses."

"This last days I've tried not to think about anything else and just focus on giving my best. That's why when I've hit those three threes in a row I've felt rage and joy at the same time. They came a little late, but those were feelings I didn't have on the court since a long time ago. I need confidence amd I know that here I have to build that confidence myself. I'm the same way, ready for whatever may come and to give always my best. We'll see what happens next."

Quick Hitters:

Drop anything I missed in the comments. And please frequent the FanShots, which continue to be phenomenal.

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

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