Here's our recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by the terminally dashing Casey Holdahl. As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses. You can listen to the entire chat here.
Portland rookie Taurean Green joins the chat.
A: We had a pretty good first quarter defensively. We made them take tough shots, forced turnovers, and converted. The second half we had some defensive mental lapses and allowed them easy shots. We also turned the ball over and gave them easy buckets. Coach's halftime speech was about taking care of the ball and locking up defensively and playing together. We came out in the second half and executed. Then Brandon Roy got his tires back in the fourth quarter and carried us.
Q: What's it like playing with Brandon? You guard him in practice a lot. Who gets the better of it?
A: He's a smooth player. He plays at his own pace. He doesn't play fast at all, it's just at a nice pace. I guard him in practice and it's tough! He's so smooth and quick. He knows how to create space and shots for himself and his teammates.
"Plays at his own pace..." I've never heard that before. I really, really like it. You can be great because you're blindingly fast but then you get older and slow down. You can be great because you're strong but then your body breaks down. But I imagine, now that I've heard it, that the real, enduring great players have that quality of playing at their own pace and succeeding. It's like they shape the game around themselves. Nice.
How about that? Paragraph two and Taurean teaches me something new!
A: I just want to be a little pest out there. On the offensive end I look to attack and take what the defense gives me. On the defensive end I want to pressure the ball and be scrappy, come up with steals, and make it tough on whoever I'm guarding.
Q: The Blazers have established guards in Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake plus fan favorite Sergio Rodriguez. How do you approach getting minutes?
A: You've just got to compete. It's a business. You have to compete in practice and show the coaching staff what you can do...that you're capable of playing. At the same time even though you're trying to compete for a position you're trying to make each other better. It's not like I hate this guy because he's in front of me. We're trying to make each other better but at the same time trying to prove what we can do so we can get on the court.
From my interview with Taurean this summer I can tell you that this is straight-up T. Green. He's honest about who he is, what he does, and the challenge before him. He seems to know that it's not going to be given to him the way it is to guys like LeBron or Oden. So he's going to look at the mountain, measure how high it is, and then climb it. Let me tell you also that you don't get ANY sense from him that he's not going to make it. It's not bravado or bluster. He's like a guy looking at a wall saying, "That's 15 feet high. Here's the rope. Better get started." It's as simple as that.
A: (laughs) I don't hate anybody! I love all the guys on our team. We have such a close team. We've bonded. A lot of us have been here since late August. We've been doing conditioning and working out together. We've been together so much we've bonded with each other. It's a fun team.
Q: What do you bring to the point guard position that others don't, that gives you an edge?
A: We have a lot of talented point guards...each and every one of us can play. I just try to do things. If somebody's not doing something I try to come in and change the pace of the game. I try to pressure the ball. That's the main thing with me. I don't really have to score because we have a lot of scorers. I try to go in there and play tough defense, pressure the ball, and try to create my offense from my defense.
If he can manage that he'll probably stick either here or somewhere.
A: Yes indeed. Coach Donovan was very instrumental in my development. I had a rough freshman year, up and down. He was always there on top of me every day, just getting on me. At the same time he was teaching me. I watched film with him and watching the reads on the defense, what I can and can't do. That helped me a lot. Coach McMillan was a point guard too so it's the same thing. In practice if I make the wrong pass he'll pull me aside and say, "In that case you need to penetrate and kick it back out instead of dumping it in to the big." It's just good being able to play for former point guards.
Q: What are the similarities and differences between Coach McMillan and Coach Donovan.
A: I think Coach Donovan is a little more intense. Coach McMillan is laid back but at the same time if we're not out there executing or playing hard we're going to hear from Coach McMillan too. They're both hard-nosed coaches. I think Coach McMillan is a little more old school.
Q: What does that mean?
A: I don't know...just the way Coach McMillan carries himself. You can tell he's got that old-school in him.
I had to rewind this section about six times to make sure I heard it right. "Coach McMillan is laid back..." Have those words EVER been uttered in the whole history of existence?
I have a hunch "old school" means if Coach hears you called him more laid back and less intense that your college coach you're gonna be running suicides for 20 minutes straight. That's old school, rookie.
A: I think it was the first day of training camp for Summer League. We were doing two-a-days for Summer League. Those were intense practices. We went hard for six days, two times a day. That was an eye-opener for me.
Q: Do you ever get tired of people asking questions about your days at Florida?
A: It's the past but at the same time I don't think I'll ever get tired of answering questions about my days in Florida. Those were the most fun days of my life.
Q: Which meant more, the first or second championship?
A: I don't know. They both have different meaning to them. The first one meant a lot because it was the first one we had. We were doubted the whole year because we had lost our top three scorers from the previous year. We were under the radar. I guess you could say we snuck up on some teams. That meant a lot. The second one we were on top. We had a lot of adversity that year...all the hype, the media attention, getting every team's best shot. It meant a lot because of all the stuff we had to go through. A lot of guys on our team could have gone to the NBA the previous year but they came back. We were happy that we were able to win it again.
Q: Florida is more football country. Did you ever have to get people to pay attention to basketball?
A: Florida will always be a football school. There's no doubt about that. But Coach Donovan has done a great job over the years in making it into a basketball school also. In order for basketball to be noticed at Florida you have to win. That's one thing Coach Donovan has done since he's been there. He recruited a lot of talented guys and his system and style of play allows us to win and compete every year.
Q: Who got more girls, Joakim or Tim Tebow?
A: I'm going to have to go with Tim Tebow on that. He was a ladies man down there.
That and, well, Joakim looks a little like a bad yearbook picture. I mean every day he looks that way.
A: Because I've been doubted and under the radar. I've had doubters since 8th grade. It just reminds me that I'm starting at the bottom again and have to work my way up to the top. Looking at that 0 reminds me I have to come out here, work hard, keep working on my game, and prove I can play.
This also shows what I mean about Taurean's personality. You get the feeling you could have drafted him 2nd overall, 52nd, or not at all and he'd still approach things the same way.
A: No, I never thought that. I got good feedback from my agent and other teams. I was told I'd be drafted in a certain range but anything can happen on draft night. It's such a crazy night. Unfortunately I slid down to #52 but I was fortunate to be drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and to get this chance to prove myself.
Q: Jason Quick wrote that Coach Donovan had a nickname for you that he couldn't print in the paper. I assume you can't say it here either but can you give us a hint?
A: Let's just say it rhymes with "brick".
Or you could say what a needle does to your finger. But maybe that's too obvious.
A: (laughs) It's totally different. Florida has the sun. It's hot and humid. There's a lot of stuff to do out. Portland is a little different. I have to get used to it. I'm not used to the rain every day...though it is a nice day today. The sun's out! I just have to find my way around town and see what there is to do.
That and the bloggers are better in Portland.
A: It's not so much hanging out. I found myself a couple of restaurants. I do most of my hanging out at home playing video games. I'm renting a place and I'm all set up.
Q: What video games are you playing?
A: I've got an Xbox 360. Football...NCAA 2008 if anybody wants to take me on. I play my Gator boys and Florida State.
Q: Isn't that a rivalry?
A: Yeah, definitely. If Florida is playing Florida State I'm going for my Gator boys. I just like playing Florida State in the game.
Uh oh. I can just see the next devastating scandal to hit the team. Local blogger goes to Taurean Green's pad to play some NCAA 2008. When Taurean goes to the bathroom blogger pokes around and finds...Hello Kitty Adventures in the stack of game boxes. Taurean: "It ain't mine, man! I swear! Awwww...don't report that."
A: I don't know if that really has anything to do with me. He gives me advice on how hard you have to work. He just tells me to keep working hard, stay confident, and prove everybody wrong. He's been there for me since I was a kid. He's been there for my development as a basketball player. I do owe him a lot for where I am today.
Q: The Blazers have a lot of rookies but Greg Oden and Josh McRoberts are down. That leaves you as the only healthy rookie. Are you taking all the rookie hazing now?
A: Yes. It's all down to me. I don't have Josh or Greg to take it off of me. Big Joel gets me sometimes and James Jones and Steve Blake. But it's really not too bad. We don't have a lot of veterans on the team. Just Raef...I'm surprised Raef hasn't had me do anything yet!
Beware. The therapeutic calf massages are coming.
A: Every road trip I get Joel's bag and take it to his room. I'm always the last one to eat. That's about it. Nothing too bad.
Q: Have you ever tried to not take Joel's bag and see what the repercussions are?
A: I don't even want to find out!
Q: Did you come to Portland by yourself or did you have a support system?
A: My best friend moved to Portland with me. He went to high school with me. I beat him all the time in video games and he gets mad.
Q: What are the differences between the college game and the NBA?
A: The NBA is a lot faster and quicker. In college you have the 35 second clock. In the NBA it's 24. You have 8 seconds to get it across the line instead of 10. The pace is faster. Everybody is bigger and more athletic. I expected that though. Other than that I've adjusted pretty well.
Q: Is there more trash-talking in the NBA than college ball?
A: No, I think there's more trash talking in college. Guys on my team in Florida trash-talked all the time. In the NBA they say more silly stuff. I heard Sam Cassell talking to Jarrett and Steve and I was laughing the whole time.
Reality check time, rook. Nobody would stoop to trash-talking the 3rd or 4th point guard on the Blazers' pre-season team. It would make them look weak just to acknowledge you. Wait until you play a decent role on a playoff team and watch what flies your way.
A: ME! Just playin'. It's going to be tough. All of them are talented and bring something different to the table. I played against Al in pre-season and he played us tough. I've heard reports that Jo and Corey are doing well too. I'll have to get back to you later in the season.
Q: Do you sport your NCAA championship rings?
A: I have two. I gave the first one to my mom. The second one is right here in my room. I don't wear it out much. I don't want anybody to take it from me.
Q: You don't think you could defend yourself?
A: Oh yeah, I could defend myself. But I don't want to put myself in that situation.
NO CASEY! BAD CASEY! If your taunting causes one of our fine, young players to get into a Telfair-esque jewelry-robbing incident I'm going to personally come to town and put one of those ugly couch cushions of yours upside your head! We just got out of that kind of thing!
A: I just want to play and show what I can do. As a team we definitely want to make the playoffs. It's going to be tough but we think we have the right ingredients and chemistry to make that push. My personal goal is to just do anything I can to make the team better.
Q: Ducks or USC this weekend?
A: I know USC is tough but they've been sleeping on it the last couple of weeks. I like Oregon's quarterback so I'm going to go with Oregon.
Q: Talk about the NCAA run and the game against Oregon.
A: It was one of the toughest games. They had Brooks and Porter and Taylor and Hairston. They were fast and we knew we had to get back on defense. It was a good game but at the end of the day the Gator Boys had to take it.
I think Casey found out what becomes apparent after spending five minutes around Mr. Green. He is a smart cookie with a great personality and his direct, honest, and not a bit pretentious. He is one of those guys where you say, "It wouldn't surprise me if he became a coach someday." I'm sure part of the reason Nate likes him right now is that he's a hard worker and a good teammate. This is yet another quality guy on our squad.
Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick joins the chat.
A: Was Taurean jibber-jabbering a lot? He's going to be a real fan favorite just because of his style of play and personality. You could see it in his dance at the Fan Fest. That's the way he is in the locker room and at the practice facility too. He's a real joy.
Q: Talk about the game last night.
A: The main thing is everyone associated with the Blazers breathed a huge sigh of relief because they saw the real Brandon Roy. If Brandon hadn't had that fourth quarter there would have been real questions about whether he was ready to start the season. They had seen it in practice but in those first two pre-season games he was decidedly off his game. For the confidence of his teammates, Nate McMillan, and really Brandon Roy they needed to see him have that type of performance. For those who didn't see it, it was vintage Brandon Roy...a bunch of penetration post-ups, dunk-unders, rebounding, getting assists. He took control of that game. I think it's important to point out that when he took control of the game he was playing point guard. Brandon is more and more realizing that his future position might be point guard. He realizes that it creates so many mismatches. Everyone's heard me harp on this before. I think the grand plan for the organization is Brandon Roy moves to point guard in two years and Rudy Fernandez becomes the shooting guard.
A few of us have been speculating that the answer to, "Which of our four point guards will eventually become the main guy when we get better?" is "None of the above." If Jason is right then maybe that guy sits on our team already. If it turns out that way there's still an interesting question about who the main backup is. Do you go with Blake as the prototypical NBA reserve who does most everything well? Do you like Jack because of his scoring punch and strong body, even though he'll likely want to start somewhere? Do you like Sergio's tempo-changing skills? Or do you like Green's defense, heart, and probable eventual leadership?
This is also maybe good news in that it opens up more possibilities for free-agent signings or trades. After centers really good point guards are the rarest commodities on the open market or in the draft. Shooting guards are a little easier to come by.
A: Part of it is there's no real dynamic option at shooting guard who can go 35-40 minutes. Rudy will provide that stability. Also there's a lot more wear and tear playing point guard for a full game. Right now they're trying to conserve Brandon's energy and the exertion he puts on his body. It's still a plan for the future, not for now.
Q: Is Brandon still shying away from contact and being tentative?
A: I didn't see that at all. It's just Brandon being Brandon. Nate McMillan has harped on him about that. Early in games he's too passive. He doesn't take the initiative to take control and be a dominant player. That's his nature. He's a team player. He feels his way into a game. His quote in the paper was, "I'm not a guy who plays five minutes and makes an impact. I wear on people." Part of that is him getting a feel for where and how he can attack. Also he wants to get his teammates involved. I don't think he was being tentative at all.
Q: He seemed to play more on the perimeter last night though.
A: That's because he was playing shooting guard and didn't have the ball in his hands. When the ball is in his hands he feels like he's able to be more proactive. He's not relying on getting the ball or getting open, he's already got it.
I guess this is what I've been trying to explain about Brandon and Sergio being an either-or choice unless something changes. Whether he's a point guard or shooting guard doesn't matter...Brandon likes to handle the ball. Sergio also needs to handle the ball. There's only one ball. This is not so true of the other point guards. Blake can step up when needed and back when needed. Jack can score quickly without needing to dribble much before he makes his move. Taurean's main contribution at this point is defense. Unless one or the other radically changes their game you probably won't see Brandon and Sergio playing together much or both being effective if they do.
This would also be an argument against acquiring Kobe Bryant, by the way, though obviously the balance shifts towards Bryant winning that ball-control battle should it ever occur. You wouldn't expect Roy to look as special then.
Oh, and it also explains why Brandon will probably never look that great in All-Star or Rookie-Sophomore games as a shooting guard.
A: I don't think there's any question he will. There's no way anyone can justify him not. He's earned it. It's the feel-good story of the pre-season for the Blazers. This is exactly what everyone would have hoped...the best-case scenario. We've heard a lot about his off-season change of mindset and conditioning. He has backed up every promise and hope. It's an incredible addition for the team. Now they have the bona fide shooter they've lacked for years. It's going to be a huge thing. Obviously he needs to do it in the regular season now against the best players. Still this is a very good sign.
As far as Lamarcus it's not just the dominating numbers, it's how he got them. This was not the old Lamarcus hanging out at the elbow hitting feathery jumpers. This was him banging inside, getting dunks, offensive rebounds, and post-ups. I'm going to have a feature on him next week. He says one of the things he's going to focus on is discarding the label of "finesse player". He says he'll bang a lot more. He's stronger. He wants to be a multi-faceted player. I think we're starting to see that on a regular basis. He was directly challenged by Coach McMillan after the Denver pre-season game. Nate felt he played awfully soft. Every since then we've seen a more determined and rugged player. His outside shot hasn't been falling but we've all seen him enough to know his outside shot is money. Once he gets that going he'll be even more dangerous because he'll have the inside mentality to go with his outside skills.
You know, I'm trying to not anticipate what will happen if Martell really does blow up this year and become a consistent offensive threat and perimeter outlet. He'd really be a perfect fit with the Oden, Lamarcus, Roy group. There'd be less scoring pressure on Greg then. Oh dear...drool.
A: It's something Nate McMillan is very concerned about but Kevin Pritchard is not as worried about it right now. This is where you get the friction between a coach and a GM. The coach wants to win now and the GM has the long-term plan. Coach McMillan wants help but Kevin doesn't want to sacrifice that cap space they have coming in 2009. If they're going to get a big man to come in and help right away they're going to have to give up some promising, young talent and probably take on a big contract because big men don't come cheap in this league. I don't want to make it sound like Nate and Kevin are at odds or fighting. There's just a difference of opinion between the "win now" and the patience to let things develop.
I understand a coach doesn't live by the future, but I'm with KP on this one.
A: Joel has been great in the pre-season. He's much improved. He's rebounding well. He's touching the ball in the offense. That might sound like a little thing but last year he wasn't even interested in becoming part of the offense. He doesn't have to shoot all that much but he has to touch the ball and make people guard him. He's starting to do that more. But let's face it, Joel is in there for defense and to set screens and he's done a good job of that. I expect Joel to be a factor on this team. And he's going to have to because there really isn't another center. Channing Frye is going to have to play a lot of center on this team and Nate isn't exactly sure how that's going to pan out. That's where the desire for another big man comes in. I don't think Raef will be the factor I thought he would be. It looks like his skills have deteriorated a little bit. He's just not ready to be in a meaningful game right now. It's going to come down to Joel, Channing, and Lamarcus. They're going to have to share that center spot and try to get by.
Q: Raef's shots...
A: They're not even close.
Q: How about Josh McRoberts? Any updates?
A: He's coming along slowly but it's unrealistic to think he's going to come in and have an immediate impact. He's a small forward. He's a pretty physical small forward. Any time he gets the ball he goes to the rim hard. He likes to dunk. But I just don't see him, especially coming off this injury, coming in and being a factor anytime soon.
Q: What's wrong with Channing Frye?
A: I don't know why people are so down on Channing. I've seen some good things. He's more of a banger than I thought he would be. I thought he was in the finesse mold but he's more of a banger. His shot is going to fall. He's like Lamarcus. He's got a nice 17-18 footer. He's going to be fine. He needs to be in a little better shape. New York wanted him to be bigger. The Blazers would like to see him shed that. He's in the process of doing that. By late November or early December he'll be at the weight level they want him at and he'll be more fluid and effective out there. There's no reason for concern. He's not going to be traded. They like him. He'll be with this team and he'll be fine. I think he'll score 12-13 for this team.
I actually think he'll be able to score more than that. Here's exactly what happened with Channing Frye: people remember the rookie promise and not the sophomore slump. We got the same Channing the Knicks had, not the Channing people were dreaming of. There are a lot of things he's not, and we've talked about those, but scoring should not be a problem for him and that's enough to keep him playing for us. When he assimilates he'll do fine. He just isn't likely to be an all-world contributor now or down the road. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just a combination of his abilities and our situation/needs.
I may have expected to be a little more dazzled at this point myself, but that doesn't mean I'm down on what he has been able to do.
A: Yeah. Taurean and Sergio will play bit roles for this team...10-15 minutes at best. Nate is very big on going with guys who are going well. If Sergio comes in and has that flair that he has every five games where he changes the tempo and his shots are falling then maybe he gets 24 minutes. Same thing with Taurean. But the majority of the minutes will go to Blake and Jack and in the fourth quarter Brandon will play point a lot. Point guard is a solid position for this team right now.
10-15 minutes a game? Maybe between them! One is going to play a little, one not at all except in case of injury or blowout. There's no way we play four point guards regularly. There's no way our third point guard gets decent minutes unless he becomes our second point guard by default because Jack or Blake is now the back-up shooting guard. This is doubly true if Brandon takes the helm in the fourth quarter.
Basically you can expect to stop hearing about one, or maybe both, of these guys after tomorrow night's game.
A: Yeah. Nate's going to start the season with Jack as the starting point guard. It's not necessarily because he's outplayed Blake in the pre-season. It's more how he fits with the first unit and Blake fits with the second unit. Nate has been very clear that the second unit will be more up-tempo and Blake is clearly better running that style of offense. Blake gets the ball from the free-throw line to the other free-throw line faster than any other point guard. Jack has the familiarity of playing with Brandon in the first unit. That's the way he's going to start. I think we'll see it flip-flop a couple of times during the season where Nate goes with Blake for a while as a starter and then goes back to Jarrett. It doesn't really matter who's better or who's not. It's just what combination fits best.
Q: What do you expect for the end of the pre-season and the beginning of the regular season.
A: Tomorrow's game against Denver in Redmond is more of a nuisance than anything. Nate has a pretty good idea of how he wants to go. He just doesn't want any injuries. He's not going to play Brandon or Lamarcus and probably won't play Joel that much. We'll probably see the non-descript guys: Raef, Taurean, Sergio...those types of guys will play a lot. The main guys will get some rest. The team takes Saturday off. Sunday will be the big day when the starters are named and the team will vote on captains. Sunday and Monday the practices will be exclusively aimed at getting the first unit working together, running the sets, and getting some cohesiveness in preparation for Tuesday's season opener in San Antonio.
I suspect Jason is right that the only thing that matters to the club is no injuries! I remember players saying they used to hate these small-town pre-season games because the courts (or the surfaces under them) tended to be very hard and unforgiving compared to a normal NBA venue.
A: I'm working on a piece on Lamarcus Aldridge, the focus being on how great his work ethic is. There are several stories that have become almost legend around the Blazers regarding Lamarcus. One is that last year he repeatedly stayed after games at the Rose Garden and went back out on the court and shot and worked. He did this so much so that the workers...I talked to one of them today and he said, "Oh yes, we'd always have to stop our post-game tear down because Lamarcus would want to be out there working. Eventually we had to shoo him off so we could get our work done." There's also the story this year in Boulder when the team was playing Denver. Lamarcus told the bus driver, "Hey, take the team back but come back for me in 90 minutes. I need to get a workout in." Nate McMillan says, "Hey, when we brought this guy in for his pre-draft workout I worked that group harder than I've worked any other group. The other guys after it was done, `Boom!' they were gone. Lamarcus stayed after and worked." Nate couldn't believe it. He said in all his years in the NBA he's never seen a starter work as hard as Lamarcus does. He says usually the guys you see working extra after practice and games are reserves or people who are slumping, but not an accomplished starter. Never has he seen a guy work as consistently and hard. Blazer fans should feel very good that a franchise cornerstone works as hard as Lamarcus does. He's going to get better every year. I can guarantee that because he works so dang hard.
And at that point the audio cuts off. But that was pretty much the end anyway.
Another great chat. I kid Casey about making me type so much but this is always one of the highlights of my week. Thanks to him, the guests, and Oregonlive!