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Quick Chat Recap January 25th, 2007

Here's our weekly review of Oregonlive Blazer blogger Casey Holdahl's chat with Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick and Blazer President/GM Steve Patterson.  As usual a disclaimer that much of this is summarized and little of it is word-for-word.  You can listen to the entire chat here.  My thoughts (if any) follow each portion of the review.

A special disclaimer today:  The audio for this chat was VERY choppy.  I don't know if that was my system or the feed itself.  I had a hard time hearing every word as some thoughts were interrupted and taken up later.  I did my best...

Jason Quick steps to the plate first.

Q:  Any news today?  There was no practice today.

A:  The Blazers' plane had mechanical problems before departure so they arrived late and practice was cancelled.  They may regret that facing a methodical, intentional team like Houston.

Q:  Anything that caught your eye last night?

A:  The 4th quarter was distressing.  They went through Zach and things bogged down.  They had seven possessions and didn't score on six of those.  They were fighting the clock too.  I attribute that to Zach.  He held the ball, fumbled a lot, grabbed it at his ankles, then hoisted a bad shot.  I also found it curious how Nate kept substituting Jamaal in late for defensive purposes.  Jamaal was torched in a variety of ways.  Ricky Davis got two wide open shots because Jamaal was so slow or not confident that he could play without the 5-6 foot cushion.  A better team would have beaten the Blazers.

Q:  Why did Nate go with Magloire instead of Lamarcus or Joel?

A:  Nate said he thought about using Joel but he was worried about Joel being stiff having not played.  But defense is supposed to be Joel's strength, while offense is Jamaal's.  Nate doesn't have confidence in Lamarcus' defense in any one-on-one defensive situation which requires physicality.  Still I think Joel has to be ready to play in that situation.  It shows how far he's fallen when Jamaal is getting defensive preference over him.  Joel was guarding Garnett and did a good job early though.

Hmmm...anyone ever have a "Honey Do" list, and the only thing longer than the list itself was your slate of excuses as to why you weren't doing anything on the "Honey Do" list?  That's what it feels like when Nate starts talking about Joel.  Too many fouls...too stiff...too many misplaced "y"s.  I'd love to know what is really going on.

Q:  How about Martell last night.  What got into him?

A:  He's one of the emerging bright spots.  We've been waiting for this.  He's showing life by way of aggression...driving.  He's been waiting on the perimeter all season and being passive and the coaching staff has been trying to break him out of that.  Last night was an example of that coming to fruition.  We saw a little bit against Sacramento the other night but this was a great effort...exactly the type they need from him.  He's getting pigeonholed as a shooter.  But again, he's just 20.  Nate talks about his first two years with Rashard Lewis when he was young.  His first two years he couldn't do anything then his fourth or fifth year he became an all-star.  It takes time to understand the game and its nuances.  It's easy for us as fans and media to say, "Why don't you just..."  It's a lot harder to do that against actual NBA athletes who are quick, smart, and have you scouted.

Amen.  I don't have much bad to say about Martell at this point even though there are a lot more holes in his game than in some of the veterans' games I criticize freely.  It's all about age.  You can't expect him to play even like a four-year college player, let alone a young NBA guy.  If he hits his shots and gives full effort that's good enough for now.  I was the same way with Zach three or four years ago.  Now if Martell still has gaping holes four years from now you'll hear me crow as loud about him as I do about Zach (or Magloire or whoever).

Q:  If Martell plays well does Dixon play less?

A:  Juan's reduction in minutes can be traced to Martell's improvement.  In Phoenix Nate and Juan got into it a little bit when Juan took a shot that Nate felt was ill-advised.  Juan thought he was open and pretty much had to take it.  Then late in the game Juan passed up a shot that Nate thought was wide open.  Juan passed late in the clock and stuck Sergio with the ball and nowhere to go.  Nate got in Juan's face during the timeout.  The team sat down and the coaches huddled and when they came back from the huddle he beelined to Dixon and asked, "Are you confused what a good shot is?"  Juan replied, "Yeah...I guess I am."  At that point Nate motioned to Jack and Juan basically didn't play again.  Nate insisted it was no big deal but the next game Juan played only nine minutes.  When I talked with Juan the game after he said they wanted to see a better attitude out of him.  The whole incident was heated but it wasn't Ruben Patterson-esque out of line.  Nate still insists the reduction of minutes is because of Martell's play and Roy's play, not because of the incident.

That is very interesting.  Juan had been fairly quiet this year too.  But you know, sometimes a coach will want to take things out on a certain guy (or guys) but you can't because you need those guys, so it comes out against somebody else.  Dixon's never been consistent enough with his shots--either in takes or makes--that you'd see the good in yelling at him.  It'd be kind of like yelling at a dog for having a tail.  I know fans won't be sorry to see the other guys more.  Again I'm wondering why Jarrett can't have some of those spare off-guard minutes.  He's no shorter than Juan is.

Q:  The game ended last night with a lineup of Jack, Roy, Webster, Zach, and Aldridge.  Will that be the core group for the next three years?

A:  That's a nice team.  I'm sensing a gradual yet definite change towards the future.  Juan and Jamaal are being phased out more and the young guys are starting to get important minutes.  They're performing well and that's encouraging.  They're also entertaining.  At the end of the season the team is going to look long and hard at their style of play.  Zach commanding the ball puts a damper on momentum compared to Sergio who can get the ball to any of the other four players on the court at any time.  And by the way we haven't talked about that yet.  How about Sergio looking for his shot lately?  He has a variety of shots too:  the 3-pointer, the floater in the lane...I like his game.  I'm not ready to say he should be starting but he should get more minutes.  Eventually they'll have to decide whether this is Sergio's team or Jarrett's team.

I wonder how soon that decision will come, and if that might possibly affect who we draft.  Or maybe it'll be the other way around and who we draft (especially if it's a very high pick) will affect who else we build around.

Q:  What are the differences between Sergio and Sebastian Telfair?

A:  Sebastian looked for his own shot first.  Sebastian was hyped as a great pass-first point guard.  That never happened though.  In Boston Doc Rivers has had to plead with him to make a pass.  And by the way, he's now completely out of the Boston rotation...a third-string point guard.  That's because he can't play.  He can't shoot and that's his whole game.  Sergio is the opposite.  He's a pass-first guy.  His defense still needs a lot of work but that can be taught.  The innate ability to want to pass and to see guys is much harder to teach.

That's fair to say.  At least that's how Sebastian's career has turned out so far.  Every time things like this get mentioned though I can't help but think, "We didn't draft Chris Paul because we had Bassy."  That makes my stomach turn.

Q:  What about the availability of Andre Kirilenko?  Would Portland pursue something like that?

A:  I love him as a player.  He's a great passer and defender.  He's not a guy you want to call plays for.  He's a garbage player.  Jerry Sloan is a really tough guy to play for and Andre has a little lip to him.  Owner Larry Miller got on the radio and warned him about his lip, but since then their GM has come out and said that they're not trading Andre.  That doesn't mean much though...lots of players have been told that.

On paper that might look like a good move, providing Kirilenko can return to his old form.  But I wonder.  I wonder about salary (his is enormous).  I wonder about him wanting shots and whether he'd get them here.  And I wonder if a guy who can't play for Jerry Sloan--a guy that some have labeled "lazy"--is really someone you want playing for Nate.  Haven't we had enough of less-than-full effort?

Blazer GM  Steve Patterson joins the show...

Q:  All-Star and Rookie game, how does the process work?

A:  The starting team is named tonight.  The dance team was announced yesterday.  The reserves are voted on by the head coaches.  The rookies will be announced and then the reserves and the skill contest players.

Q:  How many Blazers do you think will participate?

A:  Brandon is a lock for the rookie game.  Lamarcus Aldridge has a good chance to get in.  Jarrett Jack will have a tough time making the sophomore team since he's competing with Chris Paul and Deron Williams and Monta Ellis.  You can only have four guards and four forwards.  He's done a great job for us all year though.  For the all-star game itself Zach has put up great numbers.  We've done a campaign on our players' behalf with all the coaches.  If Duncan or Nowitzki slide into the center position there might be a chance.  It'll depend what the head coaches do.  Zach deserves it.

Q:  What does the lobbying entail?

A:  We send them statistics and information.  We talk to the league office also.  We meet face to face with them but others do the same thing.  Everyone wants to see their guys make the team.

Let me go on record right here and now.  I've kind of said this before but not so straight out.  I do not care if Zach makes the all-star team.  It doesn't do a thing for the team, it doesn't do a thing for Zach, it doesn't give us one more win.  I care about this team getting better and that's it.  That won't happen in Las Vegas.  I know it's supposed to be a big carrot for the fans and all but I don't want carrots.  I want rings.

Q:  Will you be attending?

A:  Yes.  I'll be there at the technology conference and Kevin will be at the competition committee meeting.

Q:  Is it common for deals to be hashed out there?

A:  I don't think so.  In the old days it used to be more like that but the game and the events have gotten so big now that sometimes it's hard to even get together.  Most of it happens on the telephone now.

Q:  What are you guys doing to prepare for the trade deadline?

A:  We spend a lot of time talking to other clubs, assessing their needs based on injuries, personnel, goals, playoff position, etc.  You see if there's something that makes sense.  Thank God long distance is cheap!

Q:  Have you been busy talking trades?

A:  There's always interest, it's just a matter of seeing if needs, contracts, and goals match up.  For us we're playing young and we're not going to add overpaid veterans that would win us a game or two this year but cost us down the road.

That's exactly the tack I hoped they'd take.  I didn't see much difference between 25 and 32 wins this year, let alone 32 and 34.

Q:  What teams do you expect to make the most moves?

A:  I think everybody would like to better their position.  Teams with injuries...Miami, with Shaq.  Does Chicago make a deal to put themselves over the top?  Does Memphis try to shed some veteran salaries?  Denver and Philadelphia have made some exciting moves.  There's interesting stories everywhere.

Q:  Chad Ford said in a Q+A today that the Blazers are asking too much for Jamaal Magloire...

A:  I think it'd be hard for Chad to know what we would or wouldn't do.  I don't care.  I haven't talked to him in months.  The reality is Jamaal is an attractive player, we'd be (audio skipped here...I'm assuming "happy"?) having him stay with us.  He's an accomplished center and there aren't a lot of those around.  Certainly if you're a team that wants to go deep in the playoffs you're going to be playing against Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, Detroit, and that's the kind of player you're going to need if you're going to go all the way.

Translation:  "What do you mean you didn't like your blind date, Bobby?  My cousin IS good looking!  What?  Horse's head?  Pig snout?  Are you kidding?  Why I could have five guys lined up just like that, begging to go out with her!  If she wasn't my cousin I'd date her myself!  Bobby?  Bobby??  Hello???  Something must have happened with the phone..."

Q:  There seems to be a lot of buzz about Chicago and Pau Gasol.  There was also a piece in Sports Illustrated comparing Zach and Pau.  How do you compare the two?

A:  Pau is a bit bigger and can play center.  He's a bit better at the defensive end because he's a shot blocker.  Zach is a scorer and he's expanded his game to play away from the hoop.  He can beat people either way.  He's a better rebounder.  They're both very good young players just getting to the best part of their careers.  They have their best years in front of them.

I liked this assessment.  He took the middle ground and didn't just say Zach was Mr. Everything.

Q:  Update on Brandon's back?

A:  Our crew says he feels fine and should play tomorrow.

Q:  What about Gilbert Arenas' promise to drop 50 on the Blazers?

A:  It doesn't bother me.  Sometimes players just like to have fun with the media and give a little bulletin board material.  He's having a great year.  I hope he tries for 50 and shoots 1 for 25.

Q:  At mid-season who's the team MVP?

A:  Zach has had an unbelievable year.  He came with something to prove and should be an all-star.

Q:  Who's the most improved?

A:  Zach, Travis Outlaw, Sergio, and Lamarcus have shown dramatic improvement.

Q:  Dwane Casey just got fired.  What factors come into play when making a decision like that, especially mid-season?

A:  It's whether the coach reaches the players, imparts some sense of organization and discipline, maximizes the talent he has...those are all factors.  I'm not really privy to their reasoning.  Dwane Casey has had a good career so far though.  He's someone we looked at as being here at one time.

I wonder if he will end up in the organization.  He was a first-time hire in Minnesota so maybe the chances of him getting another head coaching job right away are slim.  Nate liked him.

Q:  What are the chances at the 8-spot?

A:  It'll be tough.  The second half of the schedule is a lot tougher than the first half.  We've been playing well lately though.  If we keep winning at home, who knows?  But the second half is a lot tougher.  We have surprised people sometimes though.  This trip has three tough challenges which should be indicative.

You know those games when you're only down by 5 but it might as well be 45 because of how the game is being played (and who you're playing against)?  That's how this season is with regard to our record and the playoffs.

Decent chat today.  Interesting stuff about Juan!

--Dave (