NBA Pre-Draft Combine In Chicago: Thursday News & Notes

USA TODAY Sports

News and notes from the Pre-Draft combine in Chicago, where the Portland Trail Blazers are scouting for the 2013 NBA Draft.

Some collected Portland Trail Blazers news and notes from the first day of the 2013 pre-Draft combine in Chicago.

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad interviewed with the Blazers...

He met with with Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey and his contingent, among others teams on Wednesday, and says so far, the interview with Portland was his best outing.

"It lasted for about 30 minutes," he said. "I think it went really smooth. It was one of the smoothest ones I had. I felt really comfortable with them and it went good."

...

"That's a great situation for me," Muhammad said. "With LaMarcus getting doubled all the time and Damian, who's coming off of Rookie of the Year, I think I can step in and do some things for them....That's why I say I want to come in and learn from those guys. I want to learn and at the end of the day, if you learn, you''l become better as a player."

Casey Holdahl transcribed some additional quotes from Muhammad at Blazers.com...

"Really like the situation in Portland with Damian (Lillard) and LaMarcus (Aldridge), who's an All-Star big, and (Nicolas) Batum. I mean, that's a great situation for me. I think LaMarcus is going to get doubled all the time and Damian is coming off of (winning) Rookie of the Year. I think I can step in and do somethings for them."

...

"I really want to help them out in that position. And not even come in and try to score a lot. I want to come in and learn and if it comes in a slow start pace at first, it's a greater situation for me. I think I could do a really good job there."

You can join the Muhammad discussion in this FanShot from Roy Wonder.

Jason Quick of The Oregonian offers some details on the interview process...

Dana Sinclair, a Toronto-based psychologist employed by the Blazers, is conducting the majority of the 18 interviews with draft prospects the team is allowed to contact at this week's NBA draft combine at the University of Illinois-Chicago. General manager Neil Olshey said he and his five-person basketball operations staff are participating only in the interviews with players who may not come to Portland for a workout before the June 27 draft.

On Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact prospects, the Blazers met with UCLA wing Shabazz Muhammad, Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse wing James Southerland, Indiana big man Cody Zeller and San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin.

...

If the Blazers keep their lottery pick -- and that's a big if as it appears Olshey will look for willing trade partners -- it is likely the team pursues a shooting guard.

Quick has posted a notes column too.

Former Ohio State forward DeShaun Thomas said part of his predraft workouts have included sessions with former Trail Blazers center Greg Oden at the St. Vincents Performance Center in Indianapolis. Oden, who played in 82 games in four seasons after being the No. 1 overall pick with the Blazers in 2007, hasn't played since December of 2009 because of knee problems, but is working toward a comeback.

"Man, he looks unbelievable," Thomas said. "He's running, he's lifting weights. You might be seeing a comeback. He looks like he is ready to go. He's running, getting in shape. I'll tell you one thing: For a big 7-footer, that's all he does -- running and getting in shape. He's looking right."

Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com offers some thoughts on Muhammad and French center Rudy Gobert.

The former UCLA wing was one of the few expected lottery guys to actually get on the court on Thursday and go up against less heralded players. I have been critical in the past of Muhammad as an elite player, but he does play hard. The issue on Thursday was he didn't shoot the ball well from the perimeter -- and much of Thursday's work on the court in front of a packed house of NBA personnel focused on shooting.

Muhammad shot nearly 38 percent from beyond the arc this past season, but he's not a reliable long-range shooter. My concerns about Muhammad are that he's not an explosive athlete, he's a mediocre shooter and a sub-par defender. A wing with those characteristics is a role player at the next level.

-- I was excited to get an up-close look at Rudy Gobert, the supposed cream of a fairly deep international crop. He's exceptionally long, looking every bit of 7-foot-1, and can be a presence on the defensive end. However, he possesses virtually no offensive skills at this stage, and will be tossed around in the NBA. He's a "potential guy" who would be better-served staying in Europe for another couple years, but the word is he wants to come to the US this coming season. The problem is he wouldn't be able to handle the physical aspect and is a major liability on the offensive end.

Some measurements from Chad Ford of ESPN.com on Twitter.

Otto Porter was big with a 6'7.5" in socks and 6' 8.5" in shoes measurement . He has a very big 7'1.5" wing.

Shabazz Muhammad was much smaller Measuring 6'4.75" in socks and 6'6.25" in shoes He does have a 6'11" wingspan.

Victor Oladipo was even smaller at 6'3.25" in socks and 6'4.25" in shoes. His wingspan was a very long 6'9.25" however.

Cody Zeller 6'10.75" in socks and 7'0.25" in shoes. His 6-10.75 wing and 8'10" standing reach is on the small side however.

Rudy Gobert 7'0.5" in socks and 7'2" in shoes with a crazy 7'8.5" wingspan and insane 9'7" standing reach.

CSNNW.com has some additional quotes from interviews of Indiana center Cody Zeller, Gonzaga Kelly Olynyk and Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams.

Think you'll be a good fit in Portland?

Zeller: "Obviously they need a big guy that can rebound. I've drawn some comparisons to LaMarcus Aldridge, so I think I'll be good in Portland. We'll see what happens."

"Have you checked out the Trail Blazers' roster to see if you would make a good addition?

Olynyk: "I haven't looked at it too deep in that sense. Obviously I know who plays for their team. Damian Lillard is a great player, LaMarcus Aldridge and then they drafted Meyers Leonard who we played against at Illinois who is a good athlete and good player, as well. They have a bunch of guys and they are really on the rise. They just missed the playoffs this year. They're going to be a good team down the road."

Think you can play alongside Damian Lillard?

Carter-Williams: "I think I can play with Damian Lillard. He's a smart player and I believe I'm a smart player myself. I can feed off him and he can feed off me and make each other better. The point guard, he does make plays and brings up the ball, but I think a lot of of it has to do with if I get the rebound, just go. If he gets the rebound then he can go and I run the floor. I think I can make it work."

A Shabazz Muhammad interview from DraftExpress.com.

A Cody Zeller interview from DraftExpress.com.

More combine links from Sean Meagher at OregonLive.com.

Thanks for your patience over the last few days with our site slowness and loading issues. Hopefully the issues have been resolved.

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

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