Some quick notes and quotes from a fairly quiet Portland Trail Blazers practice on Monday.
New "Support" Coach
Former Portland Trail Blazers assistant coach Tim Grgurich was in the gym working with players on Monday. Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales has worked at Grgurich's summer camps for years and said the two have a relationship that dates back to when he was first hired by the Blazers eight years ago.
"Coach is here just to support me, support the team," Canales said, noting that Grgurich wasn't offiically added to the staff and wouldn't be sitting on the team's bench. "I have a real close relationship with him. He's always been a mentor and he's just here for support."
Canales was evasive when asked whether Grgurich was there at his or management's invitation.
"We talk basketball throughout the year," Canales said. "This is not different than any other year. He's a real special mentor to me. He's here for support for a couple days... I've talked to coach for the past eight years on a consistent basis. He's here for a couple days. He's here on vacation. He's here to support me and the team."
One player working with Grgurich on Monday was guard Jamal Crawford, who shot 1-for-10 against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.
"I've known him since I was 16," Crawford said. "It's pretty weird being around him again, coming full circle. He was telling me to stay balanced on my shot. 'Your shot is fine, stay balanced. You get into a lot of tough situations in the shot clock and whenever you have to rush it. Take your time to shoot it.'"
Crawford said he didn't know whether Grgurich would be with the team for the remainder of the season but that he "hoped" he would.
"He's a legend," Crawford said. "His wisdom is much needed. We can all learn from him. He's been at the top, he's won a championship... He's just giving us ideas, giving us thoughts, interjecting."
That now gives the Blazers an Acting GM, an Interim Coach and an unofficial "support" assistant. In related news, Portland claimed Todd Kellogg, line cook, off waivers after his release by the Burger King on 99-W on Sunday. Kellogg will serve as "Temporary Chef." Blazers President Larry Miller plans to assess his status once the season is over.
On Sunday, Blazers point guard Raymond Felton told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com that he planned to visit his mother during an upcoming heart surgery and would miss "a game or two."
On Monday, Canales said that no definitive plans had been set for an absence and that he expected Felton to attend shootaround on Tuesday morning and play against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night.
"I haven't had those conversations with Raymond yet," Canales said. "We have shootaround tomorrow and we expect everybody to be here."
Update: On Monday night, the Blazers sent a text media alerting the media that Felton will miss Tuesday's game against the Thunder for "family reasons" and is expected to return for Thursday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets in Portland.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Matt Calkins of The Columbian wrote a piece arguing that the Blazers' season turned on the now-infamous goaltending call during Oklahoma City's first trip to the Rose Garden earlier this season.
"I don't know if I think about that every day, but I think about it very often," continued Batum, adding that he thought that was the most significant game of the season. "When all the trades happened, I thought ‘if I had made that shot, this would be totally different.' "
"That definitely was a landmark point of the season. That was a big moment. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," Blazers guard Jamal Crawford said of the goaltending game. "That was kind of the moment where things started getting a little funny."
"We're not looking at the past," Canales said on Tuesday.
He also called Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook "pretty unstoppable at times," noting that James Harden is now right there with OKC's two All-Stars.
Bench / Rotation
One of the biggest differences between Canales and Nate McMillan has been his quick trust in a young newcomer.
During his Portland debut against the Lakers in Los Angeles, forward J.J. Hickson played well into crunch time; he saw two extended stretches against Golden State on Sunday night too.
"We're excited to have J.J.," Canales said. "We know what type of player he is, what type of problems we had guarding him [when he was with Cleveland and Sacramento]. We know what he can bring to the table. We went through the process with him, offensively and defensively. Today was a good day, he got out on the floor and got some reps in."
The path to the court hasn't been as easy for reserve guard Jonny Flynn, despite intelligent calls from both media and fans to get him solid rotation run as a late-season tryout. Canales looked down at the ground and shook his head when asked whether there was a clear path to playing time for Flynn right now.
"He brings speed at the point guard position," he said. "We want Jonny, Hasheem [Thabeet] and J.J. to keep going through the process on offense and defense. When they get their opportunity, which they will, we want them to be in a good position to succeed."
Canales said that he will continue to adjust minutes for all of his reserves on a "game by game" basis for the time being.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter