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Quick Chat 11 21 07

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Here's our recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by the terminally handsome Casey Holdahl.  As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses.  You can listen to the entire chat here.  

You may recall I asked for people willing to help transcribe the chat during the next few months and faithful reader Blazerholic took me up on it.  He did all of the heavy lifting here so please offer him your appreciation.  The comments in-between are still mine but that's the easy part.

Oregonian beat writer Jason Quick joins the chat (back from the 4 game road trip).

(The Quick chat was shorter than usual this week due to the holiday.)

Q: Blazers are still 0-for-the-road. What did you see on that trip?

A: I didn't see the same team that played so well at home. For whatever reason they didn't have as much energy or defensive intensity. A lot of players came back down to earth...Martell, Brandon, LaMarcus, Travis struggled. I think we're going to see that a lot this year, where the team has spurts of great play, and valleys where they just don't have it. It is an indication of the team's youth that will be marked by inconsistancy.

Q: Was there any game on the trip that the Blazers could take away something good from?

A: Not really. Even the Philly game where the Blazers were up big, that was more a reflection on how bad the 76ers were playing rather than Blazers clicking on all cylinders. The Blazers were just taking what was being given to them rather than putting it to the 76ers. In the Charlotte game they had a nice little comeback, but their defense totally abandoned them and Charlotte was able to score at will. This was a team that had been a good 2nd half/4th quarter team, but on this trip they disappeared in the 2nd half.

Q: What effect does it have for this young team to lose the game at Philly in that way?

A: That was a crushing loss. In my years covering the team, aside from the game 7 WCF loss to the Lakers I can't recall another loss as stunning, in a total meltdown way. I'm not sure they were over it when they got to Washington. What made it worse was they way they gave the lead away with sloppy turnovers and the inability to break the press. Roy said it best when he said they were scared to bring the ball up court. That's distressing. Other teams then used that against the Blazers with success. You have to think the Blazers have worked on that now, but they have been exposed as a poor ball handling team.

They're not necessarily a poor ball-handing team.  Rather they don't know how to coordinate to break the press.  Several times they have just abandoned the point guard to his fate or the person they sent back to help him was inappropriate (e.g. Travis).  This is one of the things you notice about their play and one of the things that is definitely a mark of youth and inexperience:  they do fine in following Plan A but when Plan A falls apart they have little sense of how to make Plan B work.  The surprise press exposes this in spades.

Q: Last year they didn't seem to have as much difficulty with the press. What's the difference this year?

A: They're not making the right reads. They've been a step slow to provide an outlet for the ball handler. It boils down to a few things. First, Channing Frye isn't as good as we thought he would be. The excuse has been made that he's playing out of position, but still..he's not in position on defense and just doesn't seem to have any fire. Second, Outlaw has been a disappointment..they thought he would be an offensive weapon but his shot has been off and his defense has been bad. He's still playing power forward, but he's being outmuscled and overmatched by opposing power forwards. He's been late in covering the basket on traps, resulting in easy scores by the opponent. Third, Martell has cooled off...he's missed wide-open threes during crucial times, and missed them badly. Martell needs to get back to that scoring level he had earlier. The Blazers were successful at home when they had a third scorer such as Jack or Webster. Good teams who win have that third scorer. The Blazers need a consistent third option.

Q: Given Frye's problems, do you think we might see Raef at some point? He doesn't seem afraid to bang.

A: That's a good question for Nate. I think Nate doesn't have any confidence in Raef, he feels like he's out to pasture. Raef has performed well in garbage time, but when he was given meaningful minutes he didn't meet the challenge.

Q: Why is Joel not playing many minutes? Why not let him play until he fouls out if he's being productive?

A: It's a catch-22. If there was a particular time Joel didn't play enough, it was the 2nd half of the Philly game when the Blazers had that big lead. Theoretically you put a defensive guy in there to help maintain the lead, but Nate feels Joel is an offensive liability in the 4th quarter. I asked Nate why wasn't Joel in there, they didn't need offense. Nate says, "Well who was he going to guard since Philly went small?" I said Jason Smith, but Nate didn't agree with that and got pretty defensive about it. That game shows some curious rotation moves by Nate because Delambert was in foul trouble, which forced the 76ers to go small. Nate countered by going small himself. If I'm on the 76ers bench and my center fouls out I'm thinking, "oh man, we're going to get killed inside." He did them a favor by countering their small lineup with his small lineup.

Except Joel can't kill anybody inside really.  However I do agree that Nate seems more likely to try and match what an opponent is doing than to claim an advantage himself lineup-wise.  But then again maybe we're overestimating the advantages to be claimed.

Q: What will it take for Martell to snap out of his funk?

A: At the end of the morning shootaround today Nate took Martell into his office. He had plays from the Charlotte game on a TV and showed Martell how he wanted to come off screens better and create more space for himself. He also pointed out Martell was giving his man too much cushion. This also highlights the difference between being at home and being on the road. At home you have an office, and a video room to review plays; the players have whirlpools to help with injuries. You have these things to a smaller degree on the road. But at the practice facility they just have so many more tools available. The travel and crowd have a big impact too. At the home games this year, the crowd has been electric. Fans should be proud they've made the Rose Garden an advantage for the team. This young team is so overmatched they need the energy the crowd provides. It will be interesting to see if that holds true against the Nets.

Q: Is Brandon Roy hurting? He doesn't seem as aggressive and his energy seems low.

A: He says he's not hurting...after the Charlotte game his legs were very tired, and that's because he's playing a ton of minutes. He hasn't played well. Nate says that Brandon will see different defenses and it's part of the learning this year. I don't see that. Brandon's crafty enough to beat defenses. His shot just isn't falling. In the long run he'll be fine. If Sergio can be more solid, it will give Brandon more of a rest on the bench. But so far Sergio hasn't been solid enough offensively and defensively to give Brandon that rest.

Brandon not playing 40+ minutes a game will help him be more effective in the long run.  This guy isn't Allen Iverson.  He's already encountered any number of bumps and bruises.  We have to protect him somewhat even if there aren't readily-available alternatives on the bench.  We mix and match at every other position.  We may just have to do it at off-guard as well.

Q: What's going on right now between Nate and Sergio?

A: Nate approached Sergio. He said he made a heat of the moment decision to yank Sergio after two bad defensive plays. By saying Green would play instead of Sergio, he was trying to send Sergio a message. He felt bad about that. The perception is Sergio is on a short leash and gets yanked for the same mistakes Jarrett makes, but it's the fact that he's repeating the same mistakes over and over. Nate is getting tired of the Sergio questions - Sergio is the 3rd string PG, so Nate feels he's doing Sergio a favor in giving him playing time. There aren't a lot of minutes for 3 point guards, especially when Brandon plays almost the whole 4th quarter at point guard. Sergio will be fine...the meeting put his mind more at ease. He was putting too much pressure on himself, but now he feels he will play with more control.

Now this, my friends, is true.  On how many other teams does the third-string point guard get this much attention?  Sergio's GameLog is here.  Click through to check it out.  Outside of the one Detroit game and maybe one against New Orleans it's not really impressive.  He's shooting under 32% from the field, under 17% from the arc, he's drawn 3 free throws all year and hit only 1 of them, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is about 1.07.  I'm not saying we need to give up on him, but we probably need to give this a rest for a while.

Q: Some people are saying he needs more time now, to be ready...

A: Ok, but how do you sell that to Jarrett Jack?

You don't give players more minutes to get them ready.  Players get ready and then they get more minutes.

Q: Jarrett is not playing much PG right now. In reality Sergio is the first PG off the bench.

A: That's what you have to understand about the 3 guard rotation. Brandon comes out for 4-6 minutes. Same with Blake. Jack's going to start the 2nd quarter, at PG or SG. Then Blake or Brandon will come back in. It's about getting rest for the starters, and Sergio's just the holdover for those rest periods. People ask how can he play well in 5-6 minute spurts. That's up to him. He's a professional and that's the way this league is. Sergio just hasn't made a strong enough case to Nate that he needs to be left on the floor the way Jack has. When Blake started the season on the bench he played well enough for Nate to say "I have to have him out there." Sergio needs to do the same thing.

Q: Are LaMarcus's foul problems a result of Frye not helping enough defensively? Wouldn't Joel be better in that case?

A: No. In Charlotte his fouls were from hand checking because he didn't move his feet well enough when helping out with pick and rolls. He has to play smarter. We saw the same thing at home with New Orleans...ticky tacky fouls on the perimeter. They're not from defending the basket. He needs to learn what is a good foul and what isn't.

Q: Has Nate scrapped the fast-paced offense?

A: No, he's decided to maintain the commitment to run. The problem is the team is getting killed on the offensive boards and can't get stops. You can't run that way.

And we knew this would be an issue before the season even started, so I wonder why people are so surprised at this.  Basketball isn't a compartmentalized game.  Football and baseball are much more so.  Yes the offense affects the defense but you can change one system while not overhauling the other.  In basketball they're much more closely connected.  You can't just decide to stick in a new system.  You need players and sometimes years to make it work optimally.

Q: What's coming up this week?

A: On Sunday I'm doing a story about Kaleb Canales (sp?), the team's video coordinator. He's an unsung hero and you'll be really surprised to hear what others have to say about him. He's consulted on trades, draft picks...he's been designated by Nate to come up with 1st half highlights/lowlights to review during halftime. That's a huge responsibilty. Nate trusts him to present problems and also what is going well. The story was difficult because he didn't want to be interviewed and didn't want the attention. Kevin Pritchard wants to promote him to an assistant coach. LaMarcus says the players already consider him as one. In fact LaMarcus considers him his own personal assistant coach.

Q: What's up with the whole Greg Oden's size story?

A: Oden stories tend to be blown out of proportion. They simply didn't realize he would balloon like he did. His body just takes to weight lifting. His arm and shoulders are huge. Nate thinks it's not the time to gain weight while he has the weak knee; he needs to wait until the middle of rehab. Right now he should be focused on getting the knee healthy and developing his core - the abs and back. At least the team knows when they want him to bulk up, he'll be able to. And also he's not dogging rehab, he's going full-bore. He's got a great work ethic that blows away the rehab efforts of another Blazer with the same surgery...Darius Miles.

Thanks again to Blazerholic for transcribing this week's chat and to Casey and Jason for putting it on!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)