Full Court Press: Random Blazers Links From The Last 2 Weeks

Greg Smith-US PRESSWIRE

A round-up of Portland Trail Blazers news, notes and video from July and August.

Blazersedge old heads will remember the Full Court Press days, back when links came in weekly bundles rather than multi-daily individual blasts. After spending all week trying to get caught up after last week's vacation, and then getting sidetracked by the Mo Williams signing and press conference, I have finally decided to cry "Uncle" and put a bunch of links I have been meaning to post into one pile. Some are new, some are old, and all are interesting to some degree.

Thanks to those who helped in the FanShots over the last few weeks. Much appreciated! I tried to credit as many as possible below. If I missed you, my apologies. Here we go.

The Blazers announced Friday that Bill Schonely will be back as team ambassador. The move was previously reported by John Canzano of The Oregonian.

The Portland Trail Blazers have extended the contract of Founding Broadcaster Bill Schonely, it was announced today by President & CEO Chris McGowan.

Affectionately known by fans and media as "The Schonz," Schonely enters his 10th season as an ambassador and 44th year overall with the Trail Blazers in 2013-14. Celebrated throughout the region for his broadcasting acumen, Schonely served as the voice of the Trail Blazers from their birth into the NBA in 1970 through the 1998 NBA Playoffs. He provided the play-by-play for more than 2,500 Trail Blazers basketball games.

...

"I'm thrilled that the organization has included me in its future plans," said Schonely. "I've been here a long time, enjoyed every moment, and I look forward to exciting things in the future for this franchise. As they say, ‘You've got to make your free throws.' And I think the Trail Blazers will do exactly that."

acarnes is going deep with the statistics to compare Blazers players to others at their position in the FanPosts. Here's LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's Nicolas Batum.

Mike Tokito of The Oregonian looks at the Portland Trail Blazers' national TV appearances from year-to-year (not counting NBA TV).

2008-09: 13 national TV games (eight on TNT, five ESPN/ABC); 54-28 record
2009-10: 16 national TV games (six TNT, 10 ESPN/ABC); 50-32 record
2010-11: 15 national TV games (six TNT, nine ESPN/ABC); 48-34 record
*2011-12: 11 national TV games (four TNT, seven ESPN/ABC); 28-38 record
2012-13: Eight national TV games (five TNT, three ESPN); 33-49 record

On Thursday, we posted some quotes from Blazers GM Neil Olshey regarding LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors. Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com has more.

"I'm someone that keeps the players apprised of what we're doing, across the board," said Olshey. "LaMarcus and I have had a lot of conversations throughout the summer and it started the night before free agency, doing trades to get Robin Lopez and to get Tom Robinson and bolster our front court. He was pleased with that, we communicated that with one another."

...

"I think what was important for LaMarcus is we weren't 'rebuilding,' that we were rebuilding our talent base in terms of youth to get some talent on the roster and some asset value, but that we were willing to compete right away, too. And this is another signing that signals that."

Amin Elhassan of ESPN.com Insider ranked all the NBA teams by their under-25 talent. The Blazers came in at No. 9. Thanks to joelmaster in the FanShots.

"License to Lillard" is the name of the popular web series centered around Lillard's day-to-day life, but it also can refer to the permission granted to the Rookie of the Year to wreak havoc on the league last season. Lillard was one of the breakout stars of the 2012-13 season, as a scoring guard with point guard feel and playmaking, and he made the top 25 under 25 as a result. Lost in the hoopla of Lillard's play was a career year from Batum, who is entering his sixth season in the NBA. His all-around game finally got a chance to shine under new head coach Terry Stotts, as Batum was one of just eight players to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game.

Barton showed some promise as a raw, untamed scoring talent; Leonard exhibited potential as a raw, unrefined athlete at center; and Claver flashed as a multi-talented wing with size. But the real haul came in the draft, as the Blazers were able to bolster their bench by drafting McCollum, a gifted scoring combo guard, and Crabbe, a pure shooter with size. Finally, the acquisition of Robinson might turn out to be the steal of the summer if he can develop into the type of player teams thought he could be coming out of Kansas a year ago.

Zach Harper of CBSSports.com gives the Blazers an "A" for their offseason.

This was a team that was taxed by the end of the season and I think that's ultimately the reason we such a swoon by the time we got to late March. This year, assuming everybody is relatively healthy, the Blazers could really run 10-deep with a rotation of Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez as the starting unit with Mo Williams, McCollum, Wright, Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard in the second unit.

...

Olshey looks like he went to the Daryl Morey school of asset acquisition and in the process, he didn't panic to trade Aldridge when there were rumors of his unhappiness and he just plugged away to fill out a roster that complements a solid core of starters.

It's hard to find a team that used the offseason as wisely as the Blazers and because of it, we may see a surge toward the playoffs at the end of the 2013-14 season instead of them petering out.

Sean Deveney of The Sporting News on Damian Lillard's approach entering Year Two. Thanks to JP503 in the FanShots.

And there's Lillard himself. He's known for his work ethic, but he said that, after going through the grind of an 82-game season, with all those minutes played, he has a much better idea of what it will take to get better going into Year 2. As he improves, so will Portland.

"It is a big difference just having gone through a season," Lillard said. "Last summer, I was really prepared. I was doing a lot of work, I thought I was putting in enough time to make myself better. I was doing the things I always did when it came to working on my game. But I think once you go through it, you have a better idea of what you want to work on. My expectations are going to be higher, for me and for my team. I want to be an All-Star. I want to make the playoffs."

If last year was a mixed bag for Lillard, then, this year is shaping up to be a complete package.

A nice video tracking Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum's path from Lehigh to the NBA. Video via YouTube user lehighsports.

Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com on the Blazers' offseason.

That whole deep-pockets, big-spender rep... and now this. OK, so maybe Paul Allen having money is more than image. Mr. 53rd Richest Man in the World. Mr. I Co-Founded a Little Operation Called Microsoft, Mr. Owner of a 414-Foot Yacht. The guy who looks after two on-board submarines knows it goes beyond reputation. Maybe also whoever runs the smaller family liner, the 303-foot dinghy. But just look at what Allen's Trail Blazers have done in the offseason with the ultimate in fiscal responsibility.

Without trading a player from the rotation, without dealing a future first-round pick, without reaching too far into the boss' Grand Canyon pockets, there was another reminder Wednesday how the front office of general manager Neil Olshey has built a bench on tough decisions and opportunism. Olshey has, more to the point, moved Portland from 33-49 last season into the heart of the playoff conversation.

Bill Simmons of Grantland.com writes...

The Blazers heard everyone bitching about their reprehensible bench and did something about it, shrewdly adding Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Robin Lopez and rookies C.J. McCollum and Allan Crabbe. (In particular, I loved the Robinson move and remain confused why teams weren't jumping on a top-five pick who was being fire-saled by Houston to create enough cap space for Dwight. The best way to stumble into NBA talent? Steal a high lottery pick who's available for dumb reasons. Well, unless his name is Hasheem Thabeet.) Throw in LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Nic Batum and Wesley Matthews and, good lord, that's potentially a no. 7 seed!

...

[Aldridge has] been dancing around a trade request all summer without making one. Why are People Who Know Things wondering if he's maneuvering to get to Chicago to play with Derrick Rose? You're not gonna believe this, but Rose's agent also represents Aldridge ... that's right, the one, the only Arn Tellem. Keep an eye on this one.

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com got some thoughts from J.A. Adande of ESPN.com on Portland's offseason...

"The Blazers didn't shake things up, but I think they are positioning themselves. I think right now they're trying to be a team that can shed salary and create space. I like their Thomas Robinson pickup, it really didn't cost them much. If you think about it, the Thunder were doing that for a while. They were just picking up pieces that other teams were jettisoning. I think now, the model for a lot of teams are the Houston Rockets. How Daryl Morey just accumulated assets and people wondered what he was doing and when he was going to make a move. Guess what, when he had the chance, he was able to cash in with James Harden and Dwight Howard. Portland, if they're creative with Neil Olshey, and if Paul Allen is willing to use the resources, it's going to have to be a trade. You're not going to get free agents there. They're going to have to be position themselves. They have attractive assets that they can package for a trade to get that A-list guy if they want to be truly competitive."

The Blazers are reportedly down to three finalists for the Rose Garden's naming rights. Mike Tokito of The Oregonian reports that Blazers president Chris McGowan says it will be a long-term partnership.

"These deals typically are large in scope, and the terms are usually pretty long as well," McGowan said. "I would suggest that this will be our longest and most substantial partnership that we have as an organization. Typically, terms at least start at 10 years from a naming rights perspective. I would anticipate that that would be the case as well."

Chad Ford of ESPN.com gave the Blazers an "A" for their offseason.

After hitting a home run with Damian Lillard last summer, the Blazers believe they may have done it again with [CJ} McCollum. Like Lillard, McCollum is a super scorer who lit up opponents in a small conference. Like Lillard, he also possesses exceptional maturity and an unrelenting work ethic. Together, they could give the Blazers one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.

[Thomas] Robinson was a top-five pick in the 2012 draft, but he struggled as a rookie in stints with the Kings and Rockets. He has the requisite strength and athletic ability to be a beast on the boards. It's his basketball IQ on the offensive end that's in serious question now. While he may not have been worthy of his lofty draft position -- he went one spot ahead of Lillard -- Robinson has upside and could be an important fixture off the bench.

The team also upgraded in the middle, getting Lopez from the Pelicans. While [Robin] Lopez is probably better suited coming off the bench, he had a very strong 2012-13 in which he posted an impressive 18.9 PER. He should battle second-year big man Meyers Leonard for the starting center position.

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated chose the Blazers as the Western Conference lottery team that had the best offseason.

Portland wasn't flashy as much as opportunistic. The Blazers drafted another polished guard from a mid-major college, CJ McCollum, who has plenty in common with running mate Damian Lillard; they snared power forward Thomas Robinson when the Rockets had to clear salary-cap space for Howard; and they added center Robin Lopez to fortify their flimsy interior defense. The top six spots in the West are spoken for, but the Blazers should not be a lottery team this season.

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune writes that McGowan has some Rose Garden experience changes in store after reviewing those fan surveys that happened awhile back...

McGowan's staff conducted the organization's first study of desires of Trail Blazer ticket-holders in several years, and 3,700 responded to a 60-question survey.

"We learned tons of valuable information about everything that goes on with the arena," he says. "We got some good scores, and (advice on) some things we need to work on. We're addressing those issues."

Noise level at Blazer games, for instance.

"That was one of the two or three things that were consistent," he says. "We heard that a lot, and if we're too loud, we're going to address it."

Sandi Doughton of the Seattle Times reports that Blazers owner Paul Allen has donated $1 million to the Jane Goodall Institute to fund gorilla research in Africa...

The new grant to Jane Goodall's institute will help researchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo complete a survey of a rare gorilla subspecies that may be on the verge of extinction.

The Grauer's gorilla lives in the eastern part of the country, an area that has been rife with conflict for nearly two decades. The fighting has diminished, but the primates are still threatened by poaching and illegal mining, said primatologist Debby Cox, technical adviser for the institute's Africa programs.

A survey 20 years ago put their population at 15,000, but fewer than 5,000 appear to inhabit the area today.

Bill Oram of the Salt Lake Tribune with a piece on Lillard from USA Basketball's Las Vegas minicamp...

That no doubt extends to Team USA, where he was among 28 players, including Jazz forwards Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, trying to shoehorn his way onto a squad already loaded with young guards.

"I wanted it when I watched the Olympics," Lillard said. "That was something I wanted. Obviously, I wanted to make it to the league first. Now that we're here, it's just actually real and you realize what you're working toward and you realize how bad you want it."

Although one statistical analyst didn't include LaMarcus Aldridge in his top-10 power forwards, Sebastian Christensen of ESPN Deportes did vote for Aldridge as the No. 1 power forward in the league in a roundtable. Thanks to IamTheTrailcat in the FanShots.

He has great size, a well-rounded post game and a decent 18-foot jumper. While he lacks consistent health and a good team, he is the power forward with the best skill set in the NBA.

Joe Swide of Portland Roundball Society writes...

Sorry, I can't talk about Brandon Roy without getting all hyperbolic and misty-eyed. I believe that Roy was the greatest Trail Blazer of all-time - as far as what he means to the city and his positive impact on the franchise - and while that assertion may seem premature or overly sentimental or statistically indefensible, that's sort of the point, I think. Let the "experts" and pundits and Skip Bayless feign objective detachment with their blown smoke of statistical measures and arbitrary criteria for greatness. A fan's attachment is a pure and undeniably addictive emotional experience that can swing as quickly as a team wins and loses, as a player succeeds and fails.

David MacKay of RipCityProject.com reacts to the Mo Williams signing...

Mo Williams is the cherry on top of the Blazers' stellar free agency period. You've heard me list the improvements before, but you may now enjoy them in their completion, as this marks the probable last of Portland's offseason moves. To replace Luke Babbitt, Nolan Smith, Jared Jeffries, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Maynor, and J.J. Hickson, General Manager Neil Olshey brought in Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez, Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, Earl Watson, and some solid rookies (McCollum and Crabbe).

Perhaps the most important change with the addition of Mo Williams is Portland's projected playoff position. Jason stated just this morning (prior to signing Mo) that: "While I personally give the edge to the Timberwolves and Nuggets, it is well within the realm of possibility for the Lakers and Blazers to be squaring off for a final playoff spot at the end of next season." I think in one fell swoop, the Blazers shifted the landscape ever so slightly.

Pro8News.com reports that former Blazers assistant coach Kaleb Canales is back at it holding summer camps for kids in Texas.

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

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