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Recap of Quick Chat from 11/09/07

Here's our recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by Casey Holdahl.  You can listen to the entire chat here.  

I sat down three different times to do this write-up and got interrupted every time.  Since it's already coming late I'm going to do something I never do and summarize the points instead of striving for such literal accuracy.  You won't miss anything important conceptually, you'll just lose some of the by-play of the conversation.  To me that's one of the most entertaining parts so I apologize.  We'll get back to normal this week.

Also because the chat was pretty straightforward I'm going to refrain from adding any comments of my own.  In the absence of those there's no need for the grey quote boxes.  It's all an extended quote.

Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick joins the chat.

Q:  What did you see in the New Orleans win?

A:  Nate got the exact results he wanted from the changes.  Jarrett Jack looked more relaxed coming off the bench as a shooting guard.  Most of us agree now that he's more suited to that position.  He needs to look for his shot instead of bringing up the ball and running the offense.  It makes the second unit flow better.  He had a nice game.  Joel Przybilla also answered the call, giving the second unit bulk and rebounding.  His free throws remain good...he leads the team in free throws attempted and made.  He's shooting 80% from the line.  That will be huge for him.  It will enable Nate to use him late in games.  That is why he sat so often in the past late in games.  Overall it was the most active they've been.  A lot of it had to do with the crowd.  Nate harped on them too.  They had scrappy practices, as we reported.  People were diving on the court, wrestling balls away, and throwing elbows.  That's the way this team needs to play.  They need to outwork other teams.

Q:  Does Jarrett want to play point or shooting guard?

A:  Jarrett envisions himself as a point guard.  It's a prestigious position.  As with quarterbacks in football once you've done it you don't want to play anywhere else.  He's done it all his life.  That said, he seems to be accepting it.  It has taken the pressure off of him.  Jarrett seems to think too much when playing high-class point guards.  Things bother him and get in his head.  As a reserve and as less of a ball-handler he's freer and has found more of a comfort zone.

Q:  How did the other point guards do in Jarrett's stead?

A:  Blake did a magnificent job.  9 assists, no turnovers...he was a calming influence.  The team looked in control and like they knew what they were doing because Blake got them the ball at the right places and times.  Also the team defense looked better.  Blake did a nice job limiting Chris Paul's trips in the lane.  Again it worked out the way Nate wanted it to, except for maybe Channing Frye who looked awkward and got dominated by David West.  They can live with that from Channing, except they need better interior defense.  Nate really got in Channing's face during a timeout in the first quarter in that game.

Q:  So does Channing keep starting?

A:  Yes, because Nate likes the matchups and balance.  He won't make a change anytime soon.  By February or March Przybilla could be back in the starting lineup but Nate is comfortable with the rotation now.  Also one of the second-unit factors is James Jones.  His knee isn't getting any better.  But Nate says that allows him to define his rotation to 8-9 guys without worrying about how to get Jones in.  That knee is a frustrating thing.  It's a bruise with tendonitis.  They've rested him a ton but it doesn't appear to be getting better.  They feel like they need to shut him down.  He'll still dress in uniform but he'll only be used in emergency.  They'll keep it that way until they become comfortable with Josh McRoberts' progress.  Once Josh has picked things up a little more they'll probably activate him and de-activate James Jones.

Q:  Can McRoberts make an impact?

A:  I don't see him playing that much even when he's back.  He's going to have to show it in practice that he's ready.  Josh is an aggressive player.  He likes to dunk and mix it up.  He's a great passer.  But I don't know if he's ready right now to contribute in a meaningful game.

Q:  What was with Lamarcus' foul trouble last night?  (vs. New Orleans)

A:  They were silly, ticky-tack fouls.  Nate made a blatant coaching error by not taking Lamarcus out after his second foul.  Nate said he won't take the blame for that one, as Lamarcus picked up his third foul 22 seconds after the second one.  That was before they could get anyone in from the bench.  I think you burn a 20-second timeout just to get him out, he's so important.  Lamarcus ended up playing only 5 minutes in the first half.  

Q:  Did playing without Lamarcus and doing pretty well give the team confidence?

A:  I don't know...not really.  This team needs Lamarcus out there.  They're not looking for him to be absent.  Lamarcus is money.  He'll have a great year.

Q:  How did you think Sergio did?  And what did you think of the three guard lineup?

A:  Sergio was...OK.  His shot was off, which will be a big key for him.  We've talked about improving his defense but he really needs his shot going in order to stay on the floor.  That makes him a dual threat.  He was decent on penetration and finding guys.  He hit guys but they didn't make their shots.  He made some poor turnovers in the 4th quarter that hurt the team.

The three-guard lineup appeared to work.  We gained ground when he used it in the second quarter and matched up well in the fourth.  It was an unorthodox lineup but he got away with it.  It could be a dynamic lineup--Blake, Jack, Roy, Webster--when we face smaller teams.

Q:  What did you think about Martell's game?

A:  Martell has been wonderful this year.  It's not just his shot either.  His defense has improved dramatically.  He's been the most consistent Blazer this year.  He's scored in double figures every game and his defense has been there.  In New Orleans he was the only guy who could keep Chris Paul in front of him.  Also he helped Peja have a bad game last night.  Martell is slowly but surely becoming the real deal.  Right now he looks like a candidate for Most Improved Player.  His emergence is so important for this team.  Having that third option makes this team dangerous when opponents focus on Lamarcus and Brandon.

Q:   Is Travis having a disappointing season so far?

A:  Travis himself categorizes his season as terrible.  His shot just isn't falling.  It's not more than that.  He's making the right reads, taking the shots the team wants him to take.  It's just not falling.  Travis will be there though.  He's important to the second unit.  The coaches haven't lost confidence in him.  He's taking extra shots and trying to break out of it.

Travis might be third most important person on the team.  They expect him to be the third leading scorer and anchor the second unit.  Another development we'll see with James Jones out is that Nate will be moving Travis a little more to the small forward position.  Having him play against guys his size might improve his scoring opportunities.  He's played exclusively power forward so far.

Q:  Do you foresee Roy playing point with Webster at two and Outlaw at three?

A:  Yes, that could happen.  They won't do it now because Blake is their steadying influence.  But more and more now you're seeing Brandon with the ball even earlier than the fourth.  They want him to score more early though.  He's done all his damage in the fourth, which is his make-up.  Nate has been imploring him to score earlier.  But in the fourth he has the ball in his hands, which makes it easier for him.

Q:  How much rust does Brandon have?

A:  He's been fine.  The first night he was off but after that he's been money.  He does so much for this team.  That left-handed dunk last night showed a lot.  It shows his foot is feeling fine, his legs are fine...that is as high as I've seen him jump as a Blazer.  It was great for this team to see.

Q:   Are the Blazers blowing a lot of close shots or is that my imagination?

A:  The Blazers have had their shots blocked more than any other team in the NBA.  That's gotten into their heads I think.  They're going up soft because they're thinking about getting their shots blocked.  Tyson Chandler blocked their shots and messed them up.  After a while they stopped attacking the rim.  The next day at practice Nate was dumbfounded because both Joel and Lamarcus talked to him about being concerned with Chandler and worrying about getting their shots blocked.  That's not a good sign.  That's part of why they're missing close in.

Q:  How did Nate assess Sergio's play after the game?

A:  I don't remember.  Last night was such a hectic night and I didn't get as much time with Nate and the players as I'd like.  I didn't ask him specifically about Sergio.  I imagine his reviews were mixed.

Q:  What do you think about the Comcast deal?

A:  It's a bummer, man!  I'm sick of people asking me when they're going to get this done.  They need to get it done.  I'm not totally clear on who is responsible for what part or who is holding out and being stubborn but it's frustrating.  I can't imagine being a fan and not being able to watch games that you know are on...especially with this team.  They're going to be fun to watch.  They may not win a ton but they will be entertaining and you'll see glimpses of greatness.  We all can see what a team it's going to be when Oden returns.  And hey...speaking of, what about that Oden thing last night?  They brought him in to introduce the team and he came in on crutches, waited until the spotlight hit him, then threw away the crutches and walked out.  What a great step for him and this team.

Q:  What did you think about the festivities on opening night?  Are you a big O'Jays fan?

A:  Never heard of them.  It was unique but I did think it took away from the buzz a little bit as the guys were walking down.  I love hearing who the fans cheer most.  It was pretty evident last night that this is Brandon Roy's team.  He got the biggest cheer I've heard for years.  Lamarcus was a close second, and of course Sergio got some love.

Q:  What do you look for in the upcoming game against Memphis?

A:  A big concern is that even though we've talked about the new up-tempo style it hasn't translated into more points.  The Blazers are still 26th in the league in scoring.  Part of it is that we've been playing good defensive teams.  Memphis is one of the worst teams in the league at defense.  They're allowing almost 108 points per game.  If the Blazers can't reach the century mark against them it's time to raise questions about the up-tempo style and whether it's possible.  That's what I'll be looking for.  Memphis is also interesting because they're big.  They start two seven-footers in Pau Gasol and Darko Milicic.  They grabbed 53 rebounds last night in Seattle.  The Blazers will be undersized.  They are finesse players though. I would look for Lamarcus and Channing to attack them and try to get some easy points inside.

Q:  We know you have a Travis Outlaw piece coming out.  What else is coming up?

A:  We have games!  There's a rare home back-to-back...I can't remember the last time that has happened.  The Blazers need to win tomorrow's game because the schedule after is formidable:  Dallas, Detroit, at Denver, road games with Philly, Washington, and Charlotte.  This team needs to perform well at home.

You can take heart in the fact that the Blazers' turnovers per game are down, which is a great sign.  They're 11th in the league.  Also they are the 7th best free-throw shooting teams.  I think this season they end up top three.  Those are two good things to have on your side, especially if you're playing close games.  

The chat ends with the usual sign-offs.

--Dave (