Here's our recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by Casey Holdahl. As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses. You can listen to the entire chat here.
Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick joins the chat (driving with Joe Freeman through the southland, trying to get from San Antonio to New Orleans).
A: It was a really encouraging start for the Blazers. Everything that the Blazers and their fans thought came to fruition. Lamarcus was as advertised. He was dominant from the inside and outside. Martell Webster continued his consistent outside shooting. Joe Przybilla was a rock in the middle. The only thing that didn't develop as planned was Brandon Roy. He took his performance very hard and he's determined to turn it around tomorrow.
Q: We all assumed Brandon would turn it on in the fourth quarter but it didn't happen that way. What to you attribute his struggles to?
A: 90% of them can be attributed to Bruce Bowen's defense. The other 10% is that he's still rusty. He still doesn't have a rhythm. It was like what we saw in his shortened pre-season. He was out of sync. But mainly Bruce didn't go for his fakes. We all know that a big part of Brandon's game is his stop and pump fake with duck unders. Bowen didn't go for that. He got in Brandon's head a little bit and the result was a 2-for-10 shooting night.
Q: Do you think people will have Brandon scouted better now and his pump fakes will be no good?
A: No, I don't think it'll be a long-standing problem. Brandon is crafty enough to get around that. We'll see some quick shots from him where he gets the ball and shoots right away. That will set up his pump fakes. He'll still get the job done on offense.
Here is the book on Brandon, and I should have mentioned this in the game review but you forget things until your memory is jogged. If you watch that game, Brandon's lateral movement was fine. He was getting past his guy and into the lane. But he had much less vertical explosiveness than he did last year. Maybe that's because of the heel. Maybe it's because he was being tentative because of the collapsing defense. Either way once the other guy figures out you can't or won't jump high he'll never, ever bite on your pump fakes. He'll just figure as soon as you go he'll jump too and he'll out-leap you, or at least bother your shot. Until Brandon gets farther up in the air and does it quickly his days of faking are done. But Jason's point about varying his shots is also accurate. He needs to do both.
A: He'll explode against New Orleans. He'll be guarded by Mo Peterson, not a noted defender. Joe Freeman covered practice yesterday and he was impressed by Brandon's work ethic. He stayed after and shot with Bill Bayno. He got a good workout in. Brandon said he didn't feel like he had his legs in the San Antonio game. He was still a little bit out of game condition. He's taken steps in the last two days to get in better condition. Nate worked these guys very hard in the off days. They were intense practices.
Q: What's your sense of Nate's sense about Tuesday's game?
A: I think he was encouraged but he didn't want to seem satis...fied. (Tire noise here.) Joe just almost ran off the road, seriously! He was happy with the effort but a season-long shortcoming was exposed. The Blazers are very small. Once Joel is out they are exposed underneath. Channing Frye did not play a good defensive game. He got a quick hook for allowing Ginobili to drive the lane and dunk. This is going to be a concern when the Blazers play big teams.
Wow. We almost needed two new beat writers right there on the spot. There should be a rule that they can't both travel in the same plane...or car apparently.
A: Yeah, we had a brutal start to our road trip. We pulled into the AT+T Center in San Antonio for practice and right as we were pulling out of the parking lot our rental car got a flat. It took us about an hour and a half to get a new rental car. Now we're on our way, about 100 miles outside of Houston.
Here's a handy tip guys: When pulling into or out of an arena parking lot make sure you're going the right direction. That's what those spike strips are for.
A: No, I don't think they do. Nate is concerned about that. He's being pretty hard on Channing Frye right now and demanding more out of him. One thing about the Spurs game...Nate only played seven guys really. Ten actually played but three didn't get into double digit minutes. He says that will change against New Orleans because the Hornets aren't as big as the Spurs. He'll be able to get away with playing Channing Frye more at center. It will be a season-long concern. As we said last chat Nate is kind of hoping for some big man help but the Blazers are high on their talent so they're not going to trade away their future for an immediate stopgap.
Q: Will they play Lamarcus at center and let Channing play his more natural power forward spot?
A: Eventually we might see that. Nate wants to see if he can get by with Frye at center. Probably by the end of this road trip he'll have his answer. If not we'll see Lamarcus at 5 and Channing at 4.
Q: Talk about Lamarcus' game. He had a great game offensively but he was a little lax on the rebounds with 3. Was he not in position or was he getting pushed around or what?
A: The reason for that is the Blazers playing a ton of zone. Their zone formation leaves Lamarcus away from the basket which means he doesn't get as many rebounds as you'd think. That will happen a lot against big teams. They're going to play a lot of zone. It's becoming a weapon. It was effective in the pre-season and Nate was happy with it after the Spurs game. He brought that up in the post-game press conference. He was pleased with how they executed it.
Q: Would Steve Blake be a logical starter at point guard? How was the point position against San Antonio?
A: Well Jarrett Jack was brutal. Let's be honest. His shooting stats were bad. He forced shots, had silly turnovers, and was out of sync. A problem for Jarrett in his young career has been crumbling under pressure. He's done it against Chris Paul. You remember the game at Denver where he was stripped at half court for a game-winning lay-in. On opening night in front of the big lights and national television he was very tight and affected by the situation. Nate has said in the last two practices Jarrett has looked good. Jarrett was disappointed himself.
Getting back to the starting position...it was a tough decision for Nate. He was disappointed that neither Blake nor Jake excelled and won the job outright. That made it a tough decision. He made the right decision because Jack had a better pre-season than Blake but long term I think we'll see Blake as the starter. It spoke volumes that Nate played Blake the entire fourth quarter.
Q: How about Taurean Green? Will he get a shot? Why the DNP against San Antonio?
A: Towards the end of the pre-season Sergio made a little surge and recaptured that #3 spot. Neither Taurean nor Sergio will see a lot of time this year. It will come in pieces. And when they do play it will be what Nate calls a "heat check". They'll see how they're playing and what they're doing and if they're playing well they'll stay in. When Sergio came in he played well. He got the tempo going and hit his jump shot. But then he had a brutal turnover--an unforced error that led to a San Antonio fast break basket and he didn't play the rest of the game after that.
We all have to remember also that we've had 1 game out of 82. Minutes will change radically for most everyone during the course of the year. I guarantee everybody will get a chance to show their strengths and weaknesses.
A: Yes, absolutely. That was something they worked on the next day in practice: being more committed to the up-tempo. Nate felt they weren't as committed as he would like. That's where Steve Blake will come into play. He's the best at pushing the tempo. Sergio is good at it too but I think his turnovers will keep him from getting extended minutes. As the season goes along we'll see Nate insisting more and more that they push the ball.
I think they did a credible job of pushing the tempo, especially early. They certainly shot earlier in the clock than we've been used to seeing. But that zone defense is not conducive to rebounding which really hampers the fast break.
A: Martell continues to be a great story. We've spoken a lot about this. What an asset he would be if he continues to play like this. He would give this team a three-pronged attack. Not a lot of NBA teams can say they have three legitimate scorers like Lamarcus, Brandon, and Martell. We saw Tuesday that once Lamarcus started getting hot the Spurs started double-teaming him and that's when Webster started heating up. Lamarcus recognized the double-team, swung the ball to Blake, who swung the ball to Martell who hit his three-point shots. That is going to be a huge weapon. The opponent has to pick their poison: do you want Lamarcus shooting the shot or Martell? And if Brandon scores too it creates more problems. This has the potential to be a lethal offensive team.
Q: What about Travis' game?
A: Travis was great early. He scored either 7 or 9 of his 11 points in the first quarter. I love his attitude. I've kind of ripped on him in the past, even to his face (playfully), that he never passes, he just shoots every time he touches it. In a way that's a really good thing though because that's what Nate wants from him. He wants him to come off the bench and be an instant scorer. Travis has taken that to heart. They're going to need that from him. I love his aggressiveness. His shot has been money. But he kind of lost it late in the game. I don't know what happened.
As for James Jones, we'll see him. Nate only played him 7 minutes but he was adamant that you're going to see more people play more minutes Friday night in New Orleans.
Q: Who will the backup shooting guard be?
A: Nate is going to rotate Blake and Jack as the backup 2. We saw that at times, them playing together. I think eventually Jack will end up being the backup 2. Remember backup shooting guard is the least important role on the second unit because Brandon is going to play 35-40 minutes a game. So we're only talking about a guy playing 8-10 minutes. He's just going to rotate the point guards in there.
Until Brandon needs a rest or gets hurt. Then we're going to see another hole in this team.
A: No. Where you'll see him being limited is in practices. Nate has set an informal limit of 35 minutes but he knows himself well enough to know he'll have a hard time taking Brandon off the floor. We'll see him averaging 38-40 minutes a game. But we'll see him take practices or half-practices off.
Q: Any progress on Josh McRoberts or Darius Miles?
A: Josh is progressing and doing light shooting. He's not traveling with the team and neither is Oden. Oden has a cold and they're worried about him getting up and down the team plane steps with those crutches. They left him home. Darius is targeted for December or late November but that's only one of many steps that needs to happen before he puts on a uniform and gets on the court.
Q: Cheryl Miller said during the TNT telecast that Miles called her and said he'd be playing in a month. Did that really happen?
A: I have no idea. But I think Darius' interpretation of "coming back in a month" means maybe getting on the court in practice. But that's just one little step. He also has to get back in game shape and regain his timing and shot. I don't see that happening. He's had two major surgeries on his knee. Getting back on the floor is one thing but getting back to the level where you can get into a game are two different things. Raef LaFrentz is healthy but I don't foresee him getting in games. We're talking about Martell, Travis, and James Jones at small forward. He has to be better than they are to get on the court and I don't see that happening this year. He's so far behind. They've added a ton of different sets. The team has completely changed since Darius was playing. It used to be a halfcourt team. Now they have different sets, different plays, and he's got to mesh with different players. It's a long, long road back. Getting back to practice is only a small step.
Q: How will Nate address the defensive lapses against the Spurs?
A: Most of those lapses came because of size. He'll combat it by playing a ton of zone. The Blazers will probably be among the leaders in the NBA as far as how often they play zone. Nate identified this very early. They spent a ton of practice time in training camp on the zone...that that the up-tempo offense.
Let me tell you a little story, children, about the Minnesota Timberwolves. For a couple years before their big Conference Finals run they had a few talented players, anchored of course by the incomparable Kevin Garnett. Their offense was mostly mid-range jumpers. Their defense was nothing but zone. It never worked. Oh, they got some wins, but they never excelled until they got Cassell and Sprewell, started penetrating, and played man-to-man defense with some zone sprinkled in. And again, this was with one of the best all-around players in the universe. That's better than we have right now. You cannot play zone all the time against NBA teams. They will find a way to eat it up and make huge dents on the boards.
Fortunately the Return of Oden should dramatically change our defensive schemes and capabilities. We may be stuck playing zone because of our size and depth this year, but I expect that to change next season.
A: I want to see how Brandon Roy handles coming back from the worst game of his professional career. I think he's going to break out with something like 24, 7, and 7. He's really determined to help his teammates. He was down that he wasn't a part of that great effort. He felt he let the team down. Another thing I'll be interested in is the point guard matchup between Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack. They're very close friends, to the point that their parents have become friends. Interestingly enough Jarrett dominated Chris in college while he was at Georgia Tech and Chris was at Wake Forest. Chris Paul has had the advantage in the pros. Last year at the Rose Garden Chris came in and really embarrassed Jack. It was one of the most embarrassing performances I've seen from a pro. Jarrett basically wet himself. He dribbled the ball off of his foot a couple times and looked tentative. It'll be interesting to see how Jarrett responds to the challenge.
Q: How does Lamarcus fare in this game?
A: It'll be interesting to see how New Orleans matches up. Will they put Tyson Chandler, the big guy, on him or do they go with the smaller David West? That will be a handful for New Orleans. They'll have to decide how to attack him defensively. I think he has another field day. He looked marvelous in San Antonio. Much of his scoring was directly against Tim Duncan. He outclassed him. And his sky hook was a thing of beauty! That's something we haven't seen from him but he must have a lot of confidence in it to bust it out that early and against a noted defender.
This is another thing I forgot to mention in the game review. That sky hook was pure psychological warfare. It was Lamarcus proclaiming boldly that he had absolutely no fear and that he was going to lay stuff on them that they never imagined. He might as well have worn a sign that said, "I'm toying with you, bro." It worked too!
A: Joel was awesome against the Spurs. 13 points is huge...a big bonus from him. Afterwards some of his players were kidding him about his 15-footer against the buzzer. And how about him making 5 of 6 free throws? All of that pre-season talk about his revamped shooting form...all the fans got to see what we were talking about. Joel is going to be a better free throw shooter and at least a factor on offense. That's big because for so long the team has played 4-on-5 when he's on the court offensively.
Q: What's coming up for you this week?
A: Sometime after this road trip I'm going to do a story about Channing Frye. I've talked to Nate about him. The feedback from the fans seems to be that they're down on Channing. Nate says he's not. He says he wants him to get in better shape and he wants to figure out what kind of player he is. He says he's not disappointed in him. He really values Channing because he knows how important it is that he shows up and gives them something at center. They have to get something from him. I talked to Channing and he's still trying to figure it out. He says he's lost 18 pounds since the start of training camp. They're happy that he did work himself into shape. Now it's just a matter of what kind of player he's going to become. Nate's struggling with whether he keeps being hard on him to be the inside, banging scorer that the team needs or does he just let him play and be who he is, which is a perimeter player. I asked Channing that and he said he doesn't want Nate to take it easy on him, that he wants to be what Nate needs, which is an inside scorer. So there's a feeling-out process going on between Channing and coach. It's an interesting dynamic in the early season.
Q: Some fans want to know what kind of music you're listening to on the road trip.
A: Right now we're listening to sports radio. Joe Avenzzano, former Oregon State coach, has a radio show where he talks about the Cowboys because he was a special teams coach for them for so long. After that we'll find some music to agree on. We're both Dave Matthews, 311 kind of guys.
Oh pflugh! Braaack! Ptooey! This is why I'm never taking a long road trip with Quick and Freeman. That and Quick was coughing constantly through the whole second half of the interview which is a sure sign that somebody forgot the first rule of long road trips: No stops at 7-11 for the double chili cheese dog special. I don't care if it is just $1.39!
A: No, but last night we went to the big Halloween party on the UT campus and Joe Freeman knew the words to all of the rap songs. I was like, "Damn! I didn't know you had it in you, white boy!"
Q: So dish on that!
A: We took a limo from San Antonio to Austin and really did it up. It is quite a scene there at UT. It's nothing like I've ever seen before. I've been around a lot of party scenes but that was among the biggest I've ever experienced. It was like Mardi Gras right there in Austin. 6th Street has bar after bar and there were masses of people all decked out in costumes. It was something to be seen.
Q: It doesn't sound as fun as my Halloween which was spent updating high school volleyball scores but I guess it's OK. Check us out at the games and on the blog and we'll do it again next week!
Good chat as always. I guess we'll all be waiting breathlessly for the next Oregonian piece so we know Quick and Freeman made it safely!