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Last Thursday's Quick Chat

Blazerholic was kind enough to summarize the Quick Chat for us once again as we were off having babies and such.  Keep in mind all of this refers to last Thursday and before.

Oregonian beat writer Jason Quick joins the chat.

Q: What happened in the game?

A: Brandon Roy is struggling right now. It's going to be tough for the team to win if he's struggling. He's getting the shots, he's just not making them. Every player goes through this in a season. I don't see any health issues, and he says there aren't any. Despite the defenses keying on him he's still getting quality shots. Eventually they'll start going in.

The team is inconsistent, which is typical for a young team. People are getting sick of hearing that, but it's true. If you go down the roster, Martell and LaMarcus have met or exceeded expectations; Brandon has just met expectations. Blake has to shoot better. Travis has been a huge disappointment. Jarrett has been ok, Sergio has not met expectations, Frye has been a huge disappointment, and Raef has been a non-factor.

I promise that "young team issues/not young team issues" post will come this week.  In fact I have a hopper full of post ideas, if they would just stop playing the darn games for a while...

Q: So Brandon's not hurt? He looked like he might have hit his knee...

A: That's just Brandon's style of play, very Dwayne Wade-ish, he gets knocked around a lot. Over the course of games he gets bumps and bruises.

Q: Why isn't LaMarcus getting in the paint?

A: His jumper from the top of the key is money. He's just not strong enough and experienced enough to play down low. He's also more comfortable from the outside. He looks uncomfortable when shooting turn-around jump shots. Tim Duncan has a similar face-up game.

BUT Tim Duncan has a bankable shot from the block, mostly facing as Jason says but he can also maneuver for it starting with his back to the basket.  Lamarcus hasn't got that yet.  Now granted, he'll need less of the back-to-the-basket game when Oden is in there but he'll still need some.

Q: Where's the toughness? Guys like Foyle and Foster have hurt the Blazers. Are we watching a year-long "boot camp" that is supposed to toughen players up?

A: It's obviously a problem...they're getting killed on offensive rebounds and points in the paint. But they are who they are. It's going to continue until Oden comes back.

And even Oden won't completely do the trick, but he will give them the sense that someone is watching their backs in every sense of the phrase.  That doesn't wonders for your confidence-type toughness.

Q: How does Oden look (physically) compared to Dwight Howard?

A: Oden is bigger and bulkier, maybe not quite as athletic. Nate would like Oden to be like Howard; he's worked with Howard on Team USA and sees similarities between the two. But I expect Oden will be better in a couple of years.

Q: If the team continues to struggle is Nate on the hot seat?

A: It seems the tide has turned between Nate and the fans. Most of my voicemail is filled with people pointing the finger at Nate as the problem. I don't think that's the case. He's teaching, he's demanding, and he doesn't tolerate mistakes. These guys are making mistakes because they are young. He's tried to back off a little on yanking people, particularly with Sergio and Joel. He says the team is in a building mode but people want results now. The benfits will come down the road.

Q: What's your opinion of Nate's substitution patterns?

A: He's been fine. There isn't anybody that isn't playing significant minutes that you can say should be playing more. Sergio, Frye, and Travis are all not playing well. It's hard to argue with who he's playing.

This mystifies me as much as anything.  No matter what you say or critique the bottom line is you're sending Nate out there to play chess minus his queen and with many of his pieces being pawns.  Sure it looks like he has a decent starting force but that disadvantage will tell in most games no matter how good or bad he is.  Every other criticism has to keep that in mind.  You can't develop a style of play, an effective substitution pattern, or winning basketball when that's the case.

Q: Will Green and McRoberts go to the D-League?

A: Maybe later...right now they need the practice bodies. With Jones, Darius, Oden, and McRoberts not practicing much this year, they need them for 5 on 5's as substitues. Green is the most likely since there are 3 point guards and Brandon ahead of him. He shows up early on game nights to get a workout because he isn't getting much run. If he goes to the D-League it would probably be in January.

Q: Is there a chance he would be waived to bring in a big body?

A: No chance. The Blazers are very high on Green.

Q: Would the Blazers have any interest in Anderson Varejao?

A: I don't know. I haven't talked to Kevin about it. The Blazers would have to part with a couple of young guys, which they're not willing to do. Also, I'm not sure Anderson is the answer, especially long-term.

Ugh...the toughness and energy would be great but if you think things are bad offensively now, add ANOTHER limited-type scorer to the lineup along with Roy and LMA.  Can you imagine a starting lineup of Blake, Roy, Varejao, Lamarcus, and Przy?

Q: What is the most fixable short-term problem?

A: This team will be fine long-term. Free-throw shooting should be better, so maybe that. For the first 2 weeks they were one of the top shooting teams in the NBA, now they are near the bottom. Shots at the end of the shot clock can be avoided. It's hard to put your finger on one specific thing because of inconsistent play.

This is the whole thing that frustrates fans.  The Blazer problems right now for the most part aren't fixable.  They're either experience-related or due to the inherent limitations of the guys on our roster.  That doesn't mean those problems will be around forever.  We will get experience.  We will learn how to cover for each other's limitations better.  And we will get new personnel.  This will not be the lineup the Blazers field in 2010.  In the meantime though there's going to be a whole lot of "What about this solution?" thinking that's going to end up ultimately fruitless.

Q: Are they going to keep using Raef?

A: Yes, they'll experiment. He's been working his butt off in practice, and Frye has giving them nothing. Pritchard thought Frye would be better when he traded for him. It's not for lack of effort, he just looks lost.

I like what Raef has brought so far.  His energy level is higher than most of our big guys.  That alone counts for a lot.  I promised not to talk about Frye anymore...

Q: Why does Nate prefer someone other than Joel in the 4th quarter?

A: Usually the Blazers are behind and Nate's looking for offense, which isn't Joel's strength.

Q: Travis came out with fire after getting smacked in the face by Foster. Is that what it is going to take to get Travis going this year?

A: No, he normally shoots a lot, they just haven't been falling. In that game they were going in. But it is the most aggression and emotion he's shown since he's been here. He has a great jump shot that will become a nice weapon in time.

Also honest professional players don't run on emotion, primarily anyway.  They go out there and do their job and sometimes emotion comes from that.  If the emotion has to come first before you can do your job you're not going to make it.

Q: Will the Blazers make a move before February?

A: No.

Q: What do you think will happen on the upcoming road trip?

A: The Blazers have struggled in Dallas and San Antonio - those teams are obviously two of the best in the league. The best chance for a win is at Memphis, but they could flirt with the team's 13 game road losing streak record.

Q: What will get them a win?

A: They need to make free throws, and Brandon and LaMarcus both need to score over 20 points.

Q: Anything else?

A: I'm taking the trip off, Joe Freeman is going. I'm going to see a different perspective by watching on TV. TV is kind of a bigger picture -
 you see things you might miss in the arena. Although I won't be watching the Sunday game because I have DirecTV and no Comcast.

Given that was the case Jason really should have invited me over for a beer.

One last thing...I asked Nate if this team is underachieving and he shot that down, but I believe it's true. These are talented players that need to play to their potential. At some point it will come and it will be awesome to watch. Also James Jones will be activated...right now he's a mystery. He's got a beautiful stroke and should help with rebounding and court presence. He'll be limited in minutes for a little while until he gets stamina, but it will be interesting to see his impact. McRoberts will go on the inactive list.

Underachieving is the wrong word, I think.  Rather I'd say there are going to be some good stretches to counterbalance these bad stretches.  We're not as good as we look when we win a lot and we're not as far gone as we look when we lose a lot.  We are EXACTLY the team you see...inconsistent because many of our players don't yet know how to approach, prosecute, and especially close games.  But they are learning.

Thanks again to Jason, Casey, and Blazerholic!

--Dave (