Blazersedge Mailbag: February 10th, 2010

Dave, in yesterday's mailbag you said that the Blazers schedule was hampering you from doing mailbags because they had tons of games in a row and then long stretches off and you couldn't do lots of mailbags in a row.  Why not?  I like em!  Do another one this week!

No.  Absolutely not.  I couldn't possibly...could I?  OK, fine.

What is the biggest change in LaMarcus Aldridge's game?  We know he's better.  Why?

The biggest change I see on the offensive end is speed.  He's gone away from the "12 dribbles and move a foot farther away from the basket" offense.  Now he catches, assesses (or has pre-assessed), moves, and finishes with confidence before the defense can adjust.

Speed can be broken down into several factors, though.  I'm sure he didn't gain 50% to his footspeed or natural lateral movement.  First, he establishes position better.  Second, his footwork and body use have improved dramatically, in effect shortening the motion he needs to get into effective scoring position.  Third, he's reading defenses quicker, as evidenced not only by his extra scoring but by his developing passing ability.  Fourth, that confidence in the finish eliminates the split-second hesitation we used to see when he put up every shot but his jumper...a split second which in the NBA often means the difference between a smooth shot and a contested (or blocked) one.  In short, he's not faster but more compact.  

His burgeoning offense has also helped his defensive energy.  He's playing and rebounding like he cares down there.  Defense and rebounding are at least half desire and he's got it.  That's part of the reason I hope his offensive game stays strong when Brandon Roy returns.

Do you think LA will ever be able to take another step or 2 back and shoot the 3?    

Yes, but I hope he doesn't.  That shot ruined Rasheed Wallace long before he became enough of an old man to need it.  The Blazers don't need the three from LMA anyway.  He's a strong-side guy.  They need the guys who are supposed to hit it on the weak side or up top to start connecting more.  Someday I'm pretty confident he will be hitting threes.

Click through for questions about officiating, compelling reasons to watch the game, cameras on the baseline, more on Brandon Roy's return, Blazersedge Night, and more!

 

Mike Rice is right, get those cameramen back off the court! There is no arena in the league that has a more crowded baseline than the Rose Garden. Granted, they have more fans than most, but still you would think with all the problems this team has had with injuries, that they would take a close look at how many times players get tripped up, or fall into a  guy sitting under the basket.     

I agree in spirit, but it'll never happen.  You have to get used to the fact that coverage of the event supersedes the event itself.  TV timeouts, more intrusive cameras in huddles, rule changes to make the game more "exciting"...perception is reality.  And those cameras are our perception.

How do you stay interested in NBA basketball, especially when the Blazers have no chance of competing
for the title?  Is there anything the league could do to make its product more compelling?    

I'm old school, I guess.  I like the sport as a sport so I follow it.  Also I love the Blazers because they're the Blazers so I follow them.  Those two things keep me cemented even when my interest is low.  I will admit to you, the double blow of Roy and Oden this year mandated a shift in mindset that was incredibly hard to make.  After years of preparing for this season, to have it yanked out like the non-proverbial rug was a bitter pill.  But at the end of the day there are still games to be played (and covered) and still players suiting up in Portland's uniforms.  The questions are fascinating even when they involve the play of Aldridge, Batum, Matthews, and Miller instead of whether Portland can become a juggernaut in the conference.  

As far as more compelling, I'm an advocate of not messing with the game too much.  One of the sins of modern storytelling (i.e. media coverage) is elevating certain moments out of context:  the dunk on SportsCenter, the 30-point game in the boxscore, the mega-star in the sneaker commercial, the controversy in the locker room.  I believe that the sport provides the best drama if people would stop sweetening it artificially.  I want to see teams play good basketball.

I do believe the basketball would be better if the league contracted a little.  There are too many teams with low attendance, half a star, and a bunch of mediocre players.

You never talk about the refs.  Doesn't anything they do bug you?

It used to, but I'm so over that.  After a few thousand games you start seeing them as part of the landscape, much like a marathoner saying, "Oh!  A hill."  You can curse the hill all you want but in the end that doesn't matter.  The only question is whether you're going to run it or quit.  I prefer the team--and by extension its fans--to just hush up and run it no matter how steep it seems on a given night.

When the officiating shades towards the systemic I start to get annoyed.  If it appears a player is getting star treatment, especially in the context of a playoff series, my dander gets up.  Also there seem to be certain rules that are emphasized or all but ignored in given seasons.  That annoys me.  Do people really palm less than they did two years ago when you'd see 8 palming calls every game?  Also when's the last time you saw a technical called for hanging on the rim or--other than the recent Przybilla transgression--an offensive basket interference infraction?  Those used to be common calls.  I guess I understand evolution but fluctuation gets me jumpy.

I was wondering about your thoughts on Brandon Roy coming off the bench. Do you believe that it will help the production of the second unit do to his drawing the attention of opposing defenses, thereby opening up shots for other players (Rudy/Patty/Dante)?  Or do you feel like Brandon's penchant for iso plays will diminish shot opportunities for the other players?     

The Blazers' second unit isn't really defined right now with all the injuries.  In Portland's best games the starters play tons of minutes with a decent dose of Rudy Fernandez but every other bench player playing only spot minutes.  Even if Roy were playing in reserve, I wouldn't make getting shots for any of the guys you mentioned a high priority. 

Brandon could come off the bench in the very early stages, but as I've said before you can't keep him there for long, if at all.  Every time something goes wrong the "starter" in front of Roy will be looking over his shoulder, knowing what everyone will say.  Heck, Roy himself may say it.  You have to start your best players and Roy has clearly been Portland's best player for the last few years.  Besides, bringing him off the bench won't work forever.  Someday he and the starters will need to mesh.  You might as well start that early when the stakes are comparatively low instead of waiting when you hope they'll be higher.

Brandon's penchant for iso plays has been overstated, or at least labeled in far too one-sided of a fashion. The team has often depended upon him to make those iso plays work.  They've won a ton of games with a sparkling Roy in the lineup doing what he does best.  And those same plays have made life easier for his teammates.  Our sight is short.  We tend to remember only the lame, limping Roy, not the All-NBA-level player.  Nobody was complaining about his production then.  His teammates were producing too...at least producing enough to win 50+.

What one player will be affected most by Roy's return, pro or con?

Given the history it might be Andre Miller.  Though 'Dre has managed to fit in marvelously this year, so I'm hopeful that the two will mesh.

Where do you think Carmelo Anthony will end up?

At this point?  Denver.  When you're rumored to be talking to the Lakers about a trade you have officially reached the bottom of the barrel.  But seriously, I'll just be glad when this saga is over one way or another.  I care about as much about Carmelo news as I do Paris Hilton news at this point.

Are the Blazers headed up or down at this point?

Sideways.  That's the problem.  Either vertical direction would indicate a clear course of action.  Instead the team is muddling around looking for comfort in All-Star berths instead of momentum.  The same team that plays brilliantly against Chicago and San Antonio plays like overcooked pasta against Indiana and Cleveland.  We know a few things at this point:

1.  Health is going to be precarious.

2.  The bench is wholly inadequate given #1.

3.  Scoring is at a premium with this team.  If Brandon Roy can't address that, somebody needs to.

Those three things could indicate that the team needs to hold on or that it needs to start over.  Which they'll end up doing remains to be seen.  All I know is that the #8 seed and an early playoff exit is not an acceptable finish for the year given the goals going in.  If the organization doesn't foresee a major change it will have to make major changes.

 

Hey folks, don't forget that Blazersedge Night is fast approaching.  We need your help to send 500 kids who wouldn't otherwise be able to attend a Blazer game to the April 1st contest versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Here is the info:

Blazersedge Night:  April 1st, 2011 versus the Oklahoma City Thunder

Ticket Cost:  $25 per ticket plus a $5 service charge per order whether you buy 1 ticket or 100 with that order.

Ways to Purchase:

  1. Call Lisa Swan at the Portland Trail Blazers office at 503-963-3966.  Tell her you're purchasing for Blazersedge night  FOR THE KIDS or FOR CHARITY.  You can also purchase tickets for yourself to attend in the B.E. section that night, which is why you need to make your intentions clear.  If you tell them it's for the kids they set the tickets aside instead of mailing them to you.  If you want to attend yourself, make that clear as well.  You can purchase in all the usual ways:  credit card, check, what have you.
  2. You can also donate money via PayPal to the Blazersedge Paypal Account: blazersedge22@yahoo.com  We accumulate your donations and pay for the tickets in one big chunk at the end.  This allows you to donate non-standard amounts (like $20 or $80) and also avoids that $5 order fee, as we make one bulk purchase.
  3. If you prefer just to send a check, contact me at the e-mail address below and we can set that up.

Thanks for your support for this great event!  Questions?  Contact me via e-mail. You can also send Mailbag questions to the address below. Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line to help me sort things clearly.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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