Full Court Press

College basketball ends tonight.  That means it's about to be all NBA playoffs all the time for hoops heads. If you're already feeling oversaturated with playoff chase talk, no worries.  There's plenty more going on this week with the Blazers.  

Here's what you might have missed on Blazersdge this weekend...

LA, Utah or Phoenix? | Camby to NYK? | Nate Uneasy? | Kings Recap | Oden's Uncertain Summer

What's on tap this week?  The Blazers practice today and tomorrow before flying to LA for their cage match with Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and the rest of the Clippers.  Back home Friday to complete the season series with the Dallas Mavericks and then straight back to LA for a face off with the fading Lakers.

Meanwhile, the Nike Hoop Summit is this Saturday at the Rose Garden and the two teams will be practicing here in Portland later this week.  I'll have an update or two from practices and the game at some point.  Last year John Wall broke out.  Good times.

Without further ado, click through to read: Brandon Roy turns to the dictionary for a better word than humble, Buck Williams recalls wearing his famous goggles, a Blazer makes Sports Illustrated's All-Judicious team, the anti-Bayless chants ramp up, Nate McMillan wistfully remembers his first dunk, the Blazers get passed by the Thunder in the eyes of two prominent NBA writers, discounted Hoop Summit tickets, a standings watch, Power Rankings and much, much more.  

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

The latest must-read batch of Jason Quick's Top 40 Blazers is full of 1990s glory era names and tons of memories from Clyde Drexler...

#6 Brandon Roy | #7 Buck Williams | #8 Jerome Kersey | #9 Cliff Robinson | #10 Jim Paxson

About Roy, Quick writes...

Roy remembers Drexler saying that if anybody was going to break his Blazers records, he would want it to be Brandon Roy. 

"It caught me off guard," Roy said. "I was like, 'Break his records? The greatest Blazer of all-time? Me?' That has never even been a thought of mine. For me, I can't even put that in words. As a kid playing basketball, I never thought I would be considered as a top player in a franchise. Humble is not a good enough word to describe how that made me feel. I would have to look in a dictionary for a word to describe it."     

About Williams, Quick writes...

He looks much the same as when he wore No. 52 for the Blazers and sported the protective goggles. He was forced to wear the goggles after taking a elbow from James Donaldson to the right eye during the 1990 first round playoff series against Dallas. 

"I cannot believe to this day the amount of people who associate me with those goggles," Williams said. 

"I hated those things. They were difficult to play in, it was like playing in a tube. And I would always get cuts on my face, because if someone hit you real hard, they would press into your face and cut you. Hated those things and threw them away a long time ago."     

About Uncle Cliffy, Quick writes...

Robinson was involved in the most memorable play of the series, in the closing moments of Game 6. The Blazers trailed by one when Robinson deflected a Magic Johnson pass that Terry Porter recovered near halfcourt. The Blazers had a 3-on-1 fast break. Porter passed to a trailing Kersey, who then passed under the basket to Robinson. But Robinson fumbled the ball out of bounds with 56 seconds left. 

Although Porter eventually missed a game-winning jumper, back in Portland, Robinson said he was crucified for not catching the pass from Kersey. 

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I definitely heard it. People saying, 'Why didn't you catch that pass?"' Robinson said. "Well, it was an impossible pass to catch unless you were expecting it, and I expected Jerome to dunk it."     

Brian T. Smith on Roy and Miller...

A preseason battle between Miller and incumbent starter Steve Blake for the starting point guard position then added a little old-fashioned drama to already-heavy expectations. As did a statement by Roy that he preferred playing with Blake.

Six months later, Roy smiled wide and laughed when his words were brought up. But he also paused for several seconds before addressing the issue. Roy said he had played two years with Blake, thus he naturally felt more comfortable playing with the pass-first point guard who now suits up for the Los Angeles Clippers. But Roy acknowledged that he should have used a filter before inadvertently praising Blake over Miller.

"It got blown out of proportion outside of the team," Roy said. "I don't think the team ever blew it up. Like, ‘Oh, Brandon and Dre: (Roy) likes Steve, and there's a beef there!' I'm glad it's over with. "I've got to be smarter with how I say things, because people will run them. But I've always made the statement that, as me and Andre play together, we'll get better. And I feel like from (February), we were rolling."

Kevin Pelton concludes that this year's Thunder are bigger child prodigies than last year's Blazers... 

A year ago, I marveled at the Portland Trail Blazers' ability to win 50-plus games despite their youth. Following a similar playbook of stockpiling productive draft picks, the Thunder may actually be doing the Blazers one better this season. At a minutes-weighted average of 23.9 years of age, Oklahoma City is the league's youngest team. In fact, just two teams in the NBA's last three decades have been younger, and both of them (the 2002-03 pre-LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers and 2005-06 Atlanta Hawks) were teams in the early stages of the rebuilding process, not playoff teams. The Thunder has surpassed last year's Portland team as the youngest ever to finish .500 or better.

...

The Blazers have been used as a yardstick for the Thunder throughout this rebuilding process. This time a year ago, Ric Bucher (who correctly anticipated Oklahoma City's rapid rise in an ESPN the Magazine story) touted the team's future by suggesting to The Oklahoman that the Thunder, not Portland, was the up-and-coming power in the Western Conference. Even Oklahoma City's marketing tagline for this season, "Rise Together," evoked the Blazers' "Rise with Us." Now, however, it is the Thunder who is setting the standard for precocious NBA success. 

Ian Thomsen says the Blazers spent their money more efficiently than every NBA team... except the Thunder...

Portland Trail Blazers, $58.2 million payroll, $1.16 million per win.The irony here is that GM Kevin Pritchard's job is in danger even as he is making the most of his depleted roster. This is another young team with a half-dozen contributors on rookie deals: It helps that Brandon Roy ($3.9 million) and LaMarcus Aldridge($5.8 million) are in the final year of their original contracts before shifting into their big extensions next season. The Blazers were a high-payroll team last year and they may soar back over the luxury-tax threshold in the near future. They must decide whether to compete in a bidding war for free-agent center Marcus Camby, and whether to risk their chemistry by danglingAndre Miller to acquire a prolific-scoring small forward to be paired with Roy, and, alas, whether to wash their hands of Greg Oden.    

The Blazers also land Darius Miles and Juwan Howard on his All-Excessive and All-Judicious teams, respectively.

Coup from Rip City Project turns to the film again, this time looking at the Blazers' transition defense...

The Blazers committed just 11 turnovers in the game, but five of them resulted in the easy buckets you see here, the giveaways ranging from poor ball handling to poor passing to Jerryd Bayless.    

Dwight Jaynes takes Jerryd Bayless to task...

Obviously, Jerryd Bayless has been struggling lately. Just as obviously, the coaching staff seems to be losing confidence in him - he's been on a pretty short leash lately. And with good reason, he's not making shots and he's turning the ball over.

Mike Barrett points out that the Blazers, despite their recent play, have been treading water in the standings...

But, consider this. On February 22nd, the Trail Blazers were in the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference. Since then, the team has gone 15-4. That's been good enough for them to clinch a spot in the second season, but guess what? They're still in 8th.

Getting red hot for a month and a-half will usually be enough to gain you a few spots. Not this year.    

Stat head Wayne Winston breaks down each playoff team and likes the Blazers...

Batum (+12 offense) and Bayless (+11 offense) have been coming on strong. The underrated Andre Miller is one of he league's best players this year (+16 points in March). Juwan Howard (-28 offense) grinds the offense to a halt. Roy(+14 offense) has been great on offense but needs defensive improvement (+8 points). I would not want to play these guys in the playoffs!

Henry Abbott charts the lower half of the playoff standings making a late push...

Meanwhile the five lower-seeded Western playoff teams -- the Jazz, Suns, Thunder, Spurs and Blazers -- have combined to create a 38-12 record over their last ten games. And five of those 12 losses came from within that group of five. 

The point being: If momentum matters, there's a lot it in the West's seeds four through eight, who are bunched up very tightly behind the teams ahead of them.     

J.A. Adande says chemistry is overrated in the NBA...

Good chemistry gets you nowhere in the NBA. Maybe it makes the team more enjoyable for the fans to watch, but it just doesn't translate into enough victories. Ask the Houston Rockets. They made a nice run, but at the pro level -- be it over the course of a season or a seven-game series -- talent prevails. 

The upside of having a group of guys that gets along is limited in the pros. Horrendous chemistry can hurt an NBA team more than excellent chemistry can boost it. It's only a problem if the players hate each other so much that they won't pass to an open man. Otherwise the interaction can be as impersonal as handing a deposit slip to a bank teller, and the team will be fine as long as the players are good enough.     

Wendell Maxey writes that Marcus Camby influenced Tracy McGrady...

"Him and Damon Stoudamire took me under their wing," McGrady recalled of "M.C." during their days with the Toronto Raptors.

It was the 1997-98 season. Camby was 23 and in his second year in the league. T-Mac was an 18 year old rookie.

"They groomed me and showed me the ropes. I just sat back and learned from those guys. I enjoyed my time with them. I learned how to carry myself and how to be pro - come in early and stay late and how to handle the media. Just how to handle yourself away from the court. He's (Camby) not real vocal guy. He just goes about his work. He leads by example that way and doesn't really say too much. He's a winner. He gets the job done."

Ezra Ace Caraeff weighs the pros and cons of each playoff match-up on Portland Roundball Society...

Why the Blazers Do NOT Want to Play the Lakers:

Uh, because they are the world champions. Because they are the best team in the NBA not named the Cavaliers (and we all know they are still better than Cleveland). Because experience and toughness is vital in the postseason and the Lakers have those things in spades. Because KobeGasolArtestFisherBynum is still better than any combination of players the Blazers can put on the court at any given time. Because they have Jack Nicholson and Portland has the fat Baldwin brother. 

SJ at Rip City Project prefers the Mavericks for the Blazers...

And here they are, the team I believe that the Blazers can beat in a 7-game series. First off, they are in a world of hurt right now. Ok let me correct myself...they are in as much of a world of hurt as a 50 win team can be. I mainly like this matchup because we can throw LMA and Batum at Dirk and fluster him. I think our defensive personnel matches up well with them. We can get them stagnant and running isolations on offense. Their defense is not exactly the bees knees and they tend to play sporadically. This is a team that is still ‘finding itself' with 5 games left in the season. They

This is Portland's best chance to get out of the first round

Dwight Jaynes sees institutional problems that will keep the Blazers from enjoying playoff success...

Well, I have never thought you judge coaches only on how many games they win. Expectations differ by talent level of the teams. Winning games is one thing, but how a team plays is quite another. All season long, it wasn't as if the Trail Blazers lacked talent - you judge talent of teams by who is playing, not who is NOT playing. Portland was never totally without talent. This was never a Clippers or Warriors situation.

But put that aside, what I saw Thursday night out of the Trail Blazers in Denver is what drives me nuts. And this happens not just in Denver but whenever the Trail Blazers play a good team with a chance to prepare for the game - in other words, teams and situations the franchise is going to face in order to ever get to a championship level.

Sophia Brugato of BustaBucket sees Roy's struggles on Thursday as a bad sign for the playoffs...

As the Blazers have finally solidified a spot in the playoffs, many fans (including myself) consider the rest of the season as a sort of "practice run" for the post season. Games such as tonight's are not, in my eyes, so important to actually win, rather they are a good indicator of how well ( or not-so-well) certain players perform and how well the team executes on offense and defense.

For example, tonight Brandon Roy, who has struggled against the Nuggets in previous games, needed to show that his bad shooting in the two team's last meeting was a fluke. He did not do that, in fact he was completely shut down again, going 3 for 13 from the field and finishing with just 14 points.

Dustin on Holy Backboard makes an emotional case for Nate McMillan as Coach of the Year...

Be honest, whether you saw it happen right before you eyes live or on television, heard those chilling words come from Wheels' mouth over the radio, or read about it the next day in the newspaper, the moment you found out Greg Oden broke his kneecap and would be out for the remainder of the season, you thought the season was over, done, finished. I'll be the first to admit it. While the team had the courage, inspiration, and poise to fight back and defeat the Houston Rockets that night in December, I sat slouched in my seat up in section 329. All hope had been lost in my mind, nothing could resurrect my spirits for the 2009-2010 season. While I was having my own personal pity party, Coach McMillan didn't bat an eye, instead deciding to face adversity head on and become the commander in charge his troops needed him to be. He truly was "Sarge". Whether it was losing Pryzbilla for the season in Dallas after tearing his patella or sporadically losing players here and there for multiple games at a time, Nate McMillan was always the calming presence.

Austin Burton from Dime Mag agrees...

Through all the injuries, potential chemistry landmines, personnel juggling and higher expectations (a real factor with a young team like Portland), it's an astounding feat that McMillan has still guided his team to the playoffs in the tough Western Conference, even if it is as an 8-seed.

But will he be rewarded with the Coach of the Year trophy he clearly deserves? Probably not, because he was supposed to get Portland here anyway. The Blazers are who we thought they were, a playoff team with 1.5 "star" players who either gets KO'd in the first or second round.

Quick Hits

Power Rankings

The current standings. The Blazers are in 8th place, 1/2 game behind San Antonio.

Drop anything I missed in the comments. And, please, frequent the FanShots.

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

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