Blazersedge Mailbag: February 9th 2011

Another off day for the Blazers, another crack at the old mailbag.  You can submit questions to blazersub@yahoo.com.  Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line to make sorting easier.  Also I tend to combine questions that are similar and choose the shortest practical wording when doing so.  If you wrote a lengthy tome about one of the questions answered rest assured I did read it and might even be using it to form my answer, but it's probably not re-printed here in full.  Just claim credit for any question that covers your topic!

LaMarcus Aldridge, not an All-Star.  How disappointed are you?  And what in the name of Bobby Gross happened?  Why wasn't he named by the commissioner at least?!?

I am somewhat disappointed for LaMarcus but not that disappointed myself.  I'm going to be honest here.  I stopped caring much about All-Star festivities around the time I was 16.  The last ASG moment I felt really passionate about was when Clyde Drexler was headed for the MVP but then tossed it away to Magic Johnson for the feel-good story.  No disrespect to Magic, but he's had plenty of accolades before and since.  I wanted Drexler to get that award.  After that I've basically shrugged my shoulders no matter who made it, including Portland players.

If Aldridge had made the game this year he probably would have played 12 minutes and not gotten many shots.  I'm not sure it would have been that much better for his reputation being the 12th (13th, really) guy on that team or one of the best guys who didn't make it, you know?  Also I'll be glad for him and the rest of the Blazers to have the rest.  LaMarcus will make it eventually if he keeps playing this way...next year probably.  So whatever disappointment we're feeling will be short-lived.

In the end I don't believe LaMarcus or anyone becoming an All-Star makes this team better via the honor.  At this point that's all I care about.  Having an alternate jersey to buy doesn't boost my fandom one bit.  Only playoff victories will do that.

As to what happened, LMA ended up a tweener in the equation.  How do you measure worthiness?  If it's based on team performance Tim Duncan can't miss this year.  Nobody's had a better first half than the Spurs.  If it's based on reputation you look at Steve Nash, a former MVP.  If you look at stats Kevin Love probably gets the nod, especially since he's had a couple ultra-splashy performances.  Aldridge has some of each, but ends up in second place by each metric.  You could step back and say he has the best all-around argument but when you're talking ASG, especially at the border of qualification, you tend to pick one category and take the best guy you can imagine in it.  Personally I don't think LaMarcus had any worse of an argument than Duncan, Nash, or Love but I don't think he had much better of one either.  Therefore I can't get too worked up over the voting and decision.

What do you think of Mike Barrett and Mike Rice constantly mentioning Aldridge's snub?

I don't know.  I understand it from a certain perspective.  Part of their job is to create interest in the team, which occasionally requires reassuring the fans that the Blazers do matter and trumpeting Portland's cause around the league.  I'm also guessing that both men believe that Aldridge should have been named.  When you feel passionately about something it'll come out in your work.  Personally I can take or leave the talk though.  When the Blazers are losing it doesn't make sense, as the performance isn't there.  When they're winning there are better things to talk about.  But I'm sure it's temporary anyway, so I'm not sweating it.  This is especially true since--and I'm not shining them on either--both men have called a couple of the best games I've heard from them in recent weeks.  There was a time after the Roy/Oden injuries when everything went flat for everybody, including the broadcast team.  The Mikes were back in full force in that Chicago game.  I appreciate when their work gives the story a sense of direction.  If that means some All-Star complaints for a few days, I'll take that deal.

The Blazers have beaten very good San Antonio and Chicago teams now.  Has Portland arrived?  Or at least are the Blazers getting closer to that level of play?  That would be a miracle with the injuries!

Miracle indeed!  I loved both games, to me clearly the best outings of the season.  Success is relative, though.  Those were great nights to be Blazer fans, for me undimmed even by the sad three-game stretch in between.  But remember in the Magnificent Seven when Yul Brynner affirmed that instead of wanting to recruit the hombre with the big scar on his face you want the guy who gave him that scar?  It's better to be the team that makes someone else's whole season when they beat you than be the team whose whole season is made by virtue of beating one good team or two.

Click through for questions about re-integrating Brandon Roy, Portland's playoff hopes, health, scheduling, Nash trades, and more!

Brandon Roy is coming back!  Excited?  How will this change the team dynamic?  Do you foresee problems integrating Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge?

I am ecstatic to have Brandon back.  Outside of Greg Oden developing bionic knees I don't think the news could be better for the Blazers.

In theory there shouldn't be much adjustment.  These guys have played with each other for a few years now.  If there's any shakiness it should come from Wesley Matthews and/or Rudy Fernandez, both of whom face potential minute and role cuts.  I'm interested to see how Matthews, in particular, responds.  One of the unspoken truths about the last few months is that the Blazers haven't had to worry about defending opposing backcourt players as much as they used to.  Portland can't afford to lose touch with Matthews completely.

I began the last paragraph with "in theory" because in practice I see more difficulty.  Aldridge may say this is still Roy's team.  He may believe that this is still Roy's team.  But if and when touches go down and performance suffers that will not go down smoothly.  As they say, how you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?  (Apologies to Nicolas Batum there...that's how the thing was written.)  Aldridge has not only seen "Paree", he's been to the top of the Eiffel Tower and danced the can-can all over Carlos Boozer's rear end.  He's not going to play second fiddle if that means 15 points per night.  Nor will the Blazers want him to.  Roy ought to know it.  Aldridge ought to admit it.  The two of them should be out to dinner as we speak plotting how together they're going to storm next year's All-Star game.

Part of what worries me about this situation is that these Blazers have never had a proper education, so to speak.  In the normal course of things Aldridge and Roy would have come in under an aging veteran star or two.  They would have transitioned into their dominant roles.  In the course of that transition they not only would have learned how to earn their spot, they also would have learned from the actions of those star veterans how to share that spot...how to be a star who also makes room for another dominant player.  With the complete team reset after their draft they never got that experience.  For them the situation has been binary:  100% dominant or not...on or off and nothing in between.  LaMarcus Aldridge cannot switch off when Roy comes back.  Roy cannot switch off to accommodate LaMarcus either.  They both have to produce together.  We've not seen it between Roy and Miller.  Hopefully it'll be easier between Roy and a big guy.

Why hasn't Nate McMillan ever garnered any serious support for Coach of the Year over the past 3 or 4 seasons? While the complaint that he can't take a team to the top could be valid, it's hard to argue that anyone has done more with less, been superb at handling personalities, able to adapt on-the-fly, get the best out of every player AND is fully respected by basically everyone. What's he gotta do?    

He's either got to push this team near a title or move to a team that didn't draft Roy, Aldridge, and especially Greg Oden.  Once the Super Drafts hit, expectations went sky-high.  Coach of the Year is predicated on exceeding expectations.  (Which helps explain why there are no repeat winners and why so many coaches are fired soon after they win it.)  Even had Nate taken the team to the Finals the year after Oden was drafted (assuming Oden played to make that happen) everyone would have blamed the success on the highly-drafted players, not on coaching.  Now that these players have lost some of their shine, he might be able to do it with a huge run next season, provided he's here.

For what it's worth, I agree that Nate's overall performance has been everything one could hope for given the circumstances.  Whatever details people want to argue about, it's hard to imagine anyone squeezing more wins out of these teams.

Will the Blazers make the playoffs this year?

I'm going to say yes.  Roy and Camby returning from injury is part of it.  But also I believe in Memphis the same way I believe in those Nigerian guys who promise to wire me 80% of their inheritance.  Phoenix and Houston don't really seem poised to challenge either.  The Blazers aren't a lock.  They play too many games with seeming indifference for my taste.  Also the games get tougher as we progress later into the spring and opponents are looking to stake their own post-season claims.  But that #8 seed is still sitting there and Portland has the inside track, in my estimation.

Will the Blazers go anywhere in the playoffs this year?

Yes.  Vacation.

Have you ever seen as many injuries to key players as the Blazers have suffered the last two seasons? Is the franchise cursed?

No and no.

A couple months ago reports came out which said the Blazers ignored sound health advice when drafting, perhaps leading to the injury problems they've suffered.  How mad would this make you if true?

The bitter pill to swallow would be Oden.  And this is coming from a guy who, to the best knowledge we had at the time, both predicted and supported the Oden pick.  You don't mess with franchise centers because you can't get them anywhere but the highest reaches of the draft.  I can find guys who can score within 7-8 points of Kevin Durant.  I can't find a 7-footer who can dominate the game unless he's mine already.  But if the Blazers knew that Oden was a serious health risk and also knew that a future scoring champion was available then they were foolish.  The problem is, nobody knows what they knew except the principles involved and they're either not going to tell or not going to be verifiable.

Other than that, I think Portland had to take some risks drafting in the high-but-not-high-enough positions.  If you've got the #6 pick you have to brave something.  Taking a guy as a franchise player with potential health issues seems like a reasonable risk to me.  After all, how bad could it be?  (He says, cringing, some years later.)  I'd rather have a Brandon Roy with possible knee troubles than a DeMarcus Cousins.  Health, talent, character, upside, position...it's a balancing act.  Maybe the Blazers will be a poster child for health-related ignorance when all is said and done.  ("Don't Draft who Donny Don't Drafted!")  But I would have taken that chance too.  If nothing else it was better than the days when character ended up on the low end of the scale, eh?

Steve Nash.  Want him?

Why?

He's undoubtedly going to cost a fortune.  He's that franchise's (and the league's) ex-MVP and still a solid reason for their fan base to purchase tickets.  They can't give him away.  If they did give him away, then sure.  But on that basis I'd want almost anybody.  If I were entertaining a package the Suns would accept, I'd have to ask what the cost-benefit was to me.  It'll cost young players and draft picks at least, probably a Nicolas Batum and maybe more.  It'll benefit me for a couple years maybe.  Will this be the last move before a title?  Then I might consider it.  But it won't be.  In two years Phoenix has my young guys and I either have an old, broken Nash or I'm left holding my Thunderstick.  Meanwhile I get an upgrade in shooting and distance shooting from Andre Miller but no better defense and not an enormous playmaking bonus either.  Nash would open up some new vistas for this offense but his overall contribution wouldn't lift the Blazers enough to justify his cost.

Is the Blazers schedule awful or what?

I don't know about awful, but Portland seems to be playing tons of games at once followed by long, drawn out rest periods.  That must make it hard to play.  I know it makes it hard to write about them.  How many mailbags have you seen this year compared to normal?  That's because there's no time to write them except during those long breaks and you can't write five in a row.

Portland fans should probably get used to this, though.  With the Sonics' departure the Blazers are now a definite "corner" team geographically.  In fact they might be the most hanging-out-there corner team in the league.  What else is Portland near as far as NBA cities?  That means their travel schedule will always be on the odd end of things. 

Have you finally finished Battlestar Galactica, if so what were your thoughts?  Also, what are your opinions on soccer in Portland?

Yup.  Finished it quite some time ago.  Like most, I didn't think the ending lived up to the beginning.  In particular I think the Starbuck thing was cheap, both in what she ended up doing that was so "important" and in how her story arc resolved.  But overall I enjoyed the series and will definitely watch it again sometime.  I was as entertained by it as I have been by anything I've seen in the last decade.

Since I don't live in Portland the soccer thing is hard to judge, but in general I'm in favor of Portland sports.  I also love that Portland is a hotbed of soccer when so many other communities are lukewarm.  It adds character.

 

Remember to send your questions to the e-mail address below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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