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Quick Chat Recap 2/01/07

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Here's our weekly 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 is up first.

Q:  Notable news today?

A:  Sergio's ankle is pretty serious and he'll be out a while.  He's ginger on it, it's painful, there's swelling.  Probably two weeks at best, more like a month.  He knew it was bad the moment it happened.  He was emerging as one of the great stories of the season and the team was developing a rhythm with him.

It's true the timing is bad.  Not only was he just emerging, but as someone on one of the message boards noted today (and I'm sorry, I just skimmed past it and don't remember where or who it was or I'd give you credit) he was starting to assume just a little bit of those first team roles and minutes.  I'm not saying he would have or should have started, but we mentioned in our in-game chat last night that a possible cure for those early-game doldrums we've been experiencing could be a little shot of Espresso.  It would fix the non-penetration issue, for sure.  But then we all have to remember that this is a minor setback on the long road.  We aren't about this year or next year but an eventual championship run year, so two weeks or even a month isn't the end of the world even if it seems like it.

Q:  Who gets his minutes then?

A:  Brandon Roy at the point is an advantage for the Blazers.  You can see it with the pick and rolls.  He can pass or shoot.  Down the road 2-3 years you can see him as a full-time point guard.

Roy should get some of those minutes but this will also be Dickau's look for the season.  Knowing Dan he'll be ready.

Q:  Impressions of last night's game against Denver?

A:   Everybody lived up to their strengths.  Ime was defending.  Lamarcus had his shot going.  Zach was solid down low.  Joel was blocking shots.  Brandon did everything.  Martell hit three pointers.  Jack was steady.  About the only guy who didn't come through was Juan Dixon.  I think in the first forty games of the season he averaged 25 minutes per game.  In the last few it's down to 15.  I think that's directly attributable to that argument in Phoenix.  I think he's likely to be traded, maybe before the deadline.

Q:  How does he feel about that?

A:  He can see the writing on the wall as far as the youth movement.  He sees that Brandon and Martell are going to eat minutes and he'll be the odd man out.  He's in his prime and wants to play a larger role instead of being phased out.

That makes sense.  We said at the beginning of the season that the team needed Juan very much in the early going and that as the season wore along and the youngsters got more time and confidence he'd see less time on the court.  So far it's going pretty much according to that schedule.  Obviously any NBA player entering their prime would want a bigger role than that.  Lots of opposing commentators praise Juan, so I assume he could find a home somewhere.  But whether we could find something we want in return is another matter.  I doubt we'd take a second-round pick.  We might take a late-term veteran with a small contract, but those are rare.

Q:  Will Lamarcus get more playing time?  He was first off the bench last night.

A:  Denver was an up and down team which fits Lamarcus; play.  I think it'll be a game-by-game decision.  That said, the younger guys are probably going to play more from here on out.

That's the same thing that happened last year.  Except last year it ended up being a giving up of sorts.  This year we might be playing them because they're a good choice, or soon will be.

Q:  What is the reason for Jamaal's minutes?  Some fans think he's hurting the team when he's in.

A:  Good question.  Nate says Jamaal offers something...a post presence and scoring.  He turns the ball over though and he's a defensive liability.  It's a reflection of Nate's loss of confidence in Joel as much as anything.  But why not develop Lamarcus more, especially in a rebuilding year?  The theory's still out there about them playing Jamaal to trade him.

 

Please, can we kill that one?  Anybody who saw Jamaal play against Minnesota wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole.   He was totally exposed out there.  Nate really believes that he gives us something (rebounding in addition to a slightly bigger body and some deep post moves) and he has all along.  It seems pretty evident that showcasing him was never really a part of the equation, because if it was they would have stopped by now.

Q:  What do they do with Jamaal, especially with Travis returning?

A:  I think it's likely they'll keep him and take the cap savings.  They want a first rounder for him but no other team values him that much.  If there's a trade made it'll be Dixon.

Nobody would give a first-rounder for Jamaal unless maybe it was the 29th or 30th pick.  OK...maybe south of 25 is possible....maybe.

Q:  What's the timeline on Travis' return?

A:  He was hoping to be back tomorrow against Denver but Nate says that's not likely to happen.  I guess the next target is Saturday against Chicago.  That's going to open up a lot of playing time issues between Lamarcus and Travis.  My guess is Travis will start seeing more small forward minutes.

Q:  Will that be difficult for him?

A:  No.  He's told me he finds it daunting to handle some of those big power forwards.  I think he's more comfortable at small forward.  The biggest adjustment will be for Nate.

I think a lot of people have forgotten he was even on the team.  But his return will bring up an interesting question about him...the one Jason just stated.  We were starting to find out what position he really plays.  I would be interested to hear people's thoughts on whether he's really a power forward or not.  And if he is, what does Zach and Lamarcus being on the team already mean as far as his future in red and black?

Q:  Jason Fleming wrote that Travis is untouchable.  Agree?

A:  No.  It's hard to say what it'd take to get him though.  It'd have to be a young, up-and-coming player.  They like him and they're not going to give him away.  I don't think they've fully decided yet whether they're going to make a qualifying offer for him.  The ankle injury was a real setback.  He was having a good year before that.

I suppose they have to figure out whether he's a Blazer long-term first.  My guess is that if he's a small forward, maybe yes.  If he's a power forward, maybe no.  But that's just shooting from the hip.

Q:  How do you think he'll bounce back from injury?

A:  I don't know.  I think they're being really careful with him to bring him along slowly.  He already looks 100% to me.  I think they're protecting him.  One of the knocks on him has been his work ethic and there are people who are unhappy with his rehab on his ankle.  I'm not sure if he didn't want to or just didn't know how to.  He needs someone to help him learn.  He's not a self-starter.  We'll see how well he kept in shape when he returns...

If he comes back out of shape I bet that's the straw that breaks the camel's back, especially with Nate.  I hope that doesn't happen.  The last thing Travis needs is to go back to square one.

Q:  With some of these trades...Nate has apparently publicly stated that he thought the Blazers have too much talent to develop as it is.  Will they really want another young guy?

A:  Yes.

I don't see how anyone could argue that the Blazers have too much talent of any stripe, young or otherwise.  Of course Nate knows that you need a few veterans to win but that doesn't mean he'd turn down a trade for a talented young guy.

Q:  Do the Blazers have any interest in Pau Gasol?

A: No.  He and Zach would be a nightmare [ed. note: the bad way] defensively.

I can't see those two on the same team.  I can't see us trading Zach for Pau either.  It seems we'd be trading one set of strengths and weaknesses for another...many of them the same.

Q:  Will they look to move Zach?

A:  He's not untouchable.  They want a high-profile shooter or some size in the backcourt.  It'd have to be a high-level player.

Q:  What about the Bulls?  Could they offer anything for him?

A:  Ben Gordon.  Nocioni.  Both would fit.

Before the season even began I said that Chicago would be an excellent fit for Zach also.  If any trade goes down with Zach I'd say that one made the most sense.

Q:  Some fans are becoming annoyed with Nate because of the slow style of play, inconsistent rotation, and playing the vets.  Your reaction?

A:  I've gone over all of this stuff with Nate and it irritates him.  He agrees that the style is archaic but he has to play to the strengths of the franchise player, which is Zach.  He didn't bring Zach in here, but he has to coach to suit him.  Nate prefers a more up-tempo, free-flowing style himself but the team doesn't fit that.  Or at least the star doesn't fit that.  The rest of the roster is maybe more fit to run.  The substitution pattern is something Nate is very sensitive about.  If I ask him about it one more time he'll probably slug me.  He says anybody who wants to say that can come say it to his face and prove it.   He says he hasn't been inconsistent.  The players are young and he has to deal with what he has.

Normally, being a fan, I tend to lean towards the fan point of view, especially in terms of not yelling at fans for asking fan-type questions, but here I really agree with the coach.

  1.  Anyone who watched Seattle and their "Don't let the clock hit 20 without hoisting a three" offense when Nate was there can't possibly disagree that up-tempo is a part of Nate's arsenal and probably his instinctive preference.  If he's playing slow-down ball here it means he's truly convinced that Zach cannot play in an up-tempo game.  And you know, the style he's coaching has allowed Zach to have the best year of his career, hands down.  So I don't see where people are arguing.  It's also brought us more wins than last year.  I would think we'd be happy to have a coach that can employ different styles successfully.  So many of them are one-system guys.  I am intrigued by the eventual up-tempo possibilities too, but if that's going to be the style you have to plan the team that way.  You don't enter the Indy 500 if the pride of your fleet is a dump truck.
  2. Nate's rotation has not been that inconsistent.  In fact the main complaints I hear around Blazer-land is that he's been too predictable, e.g. subbing in the vets consistently or pulling a guy out at a certain time even if that guy just hit a three.  Where it has changed, it has changed for a reason and for a reasonable amount of time.  For instance when you saw Sergio get a little more active on defense, or Martell drive and get rebounds, or Lamarcus move his feet, you could say, "Soon they're going to move up the rotation."  And sure enough, after they did that for a couple games they were coming in earlier and some of the other people were coming in later.  That would hold true for as long as they played well.  Then when the young guys faltered the regulars came back.  I can predict (at least in a general sense) what Nate is going to do WAY better than I could ever read Maurice Cheeks.  I'm not saying there's no room to question substitutions or why a certain guy is playing or not.  But we also need to realize that one of the first things fans ALWAYS say about a coach when they're griping is, "I don't like their substitution patterns."  It's completely cliché and nobody knows what it means.  In fact half the people don't know what they'd do instead besides a general idea of playing some guy more or not yanking this other guy in one particular instance.  It's like looking through the window of a wedding-cake shop and saying, "I would have put that flower more towards the side."  OK, maybe that would look good, but you didn't see the ten hours the baker took making the thing in the first place.  I'm thinking that on average his design decisions are going to be better than the window shopper's who would be at a complete loss if actually handed the mixing bowl.
  3.  Nate is in a total no-win situation with the vets and the kids.  If he does his job right and brings the young guys along like he should they're going to look very good as a result and people are going to get mad that he's not playing them even more.  If he throws them to the wolves they're going to fall on their faces and the team is going to lose and people are going to get mad again.  And no matter what he does every time people see Magloire get off the bench they're going to think, "Why not Lamarcus?" even if Lamarcus would blow up in that situation.  I would guess that anyone who thinks Nate is purposely not playing the young guys should look at Brandon Roy's minutes and the situations he's put in.  If they other guys aren't getting the same treatment right now it's not because Nate is blind, but because there's a reason.  You can't trust him and praise him for one rookie and then say he's ignorant with all the others.
I'm not saying that the criticism and speculation should cease.  I am saying first that I understand where Nate is coming from and second that the next time somebody does bring this stuff up it would be nice to see a detailed explanation of what they would have done instead and why.  And it ought to be more than, "Magloire was getting hammered so put in Lamarcus!"  Why wouldn't Lamarcus have gotten hammered?  And how would that have affected the rest of the game and your offensive and defensive and rebounding philosophies?  And how would it have affected the locker room and practice?
Q:  Your Q+A with BlazersEdge.com was well-received.  People are writing in asking for another story or two.  One guy is asking for a Sabonis story...

A:  Arvydas was hilarious.  He liked to play like he didn't understand English but he really did.  He used to get razzed by his teammates all the time because he'd basically walk through the shower without ever stopping to actually get real wet.  They called it the "European Shower".  So he was getting razzed on this road trip to Chicago.  He went in the shower and got completely wet and them came out and showed his teammates, saying, "Look how wet I am!"  (Jason does a deep Sabonis voice here)  Then he started to dress.  But he didn't dry off that well.  He was dressing and the water started sleeping through his shirt.  Then he started grunting and pointing at his shirt and saying, "Look!  See?  Oh no!"  He always talked in a robotic way.  He was a cool dude and I liked him a lot.  He didn't talk much but he commanded a lot of respect.

Wow...a big-time mention!  Can't quite get over that...

Q:  Is Boston tanking to lose a draft pick?

A:  There's no way that happens.  All these guys grew up being the best guys in their city.  Nobody wants to get shown up.  It's a huge ego thing in this league.  You'd have to be a huge loser to do that.  And you're talking about a coach trying to save his job, a GM trying to save his job, players trying to earn money.  I don't think that happens.

If you haven't already, read this.  I basically said the same thing yesterday.

Kevin Pritchard joins the show.

Q:  What was the first thing that went through your mind when you saw Sergio's ankle?

A:  He's a tough kid and he usually shrugs off injuries.  This is the first time he's been hurt for real.  Even in the locker room last night he was trying to walk it off and play.  Even as he was doing that he couldn't.  He was cursing in Spanish about 100 miles per hour and that's when I knew he was in pain.  He's 10+ days away.  I don't think it's as bad as Travis'.  But he needs to understand that it's important for him to get back 100%.

Q:  How is your Spanish, by the way?

A:   I lived in Spain for a year when I played.  I was in the same league that Sergio was in.  I could understand his words even if I can't say them.

Q:  Your thoughts on the rookie-sophomore selections?

A:  I think it's baloney.  I'd put Sergio up against any of the guards that were selected.  Only one year since the game started has the rookie assist leader not made the game.  And he's not only the assist leader but top five in assist-to-turnover ratio.  If you take out his first couple weeks when he was just learning the league he's played some great basketball.  A lot of people say he's just an assist guy and can't score but if you look at the last couple weeks he's been scoring all over.  His efficiency ratings are fantastic.  When he comes in the game things happen.  I don't know if it's because we're on the West Coast or because we're re-branding and getting away from the old image, but I think we've been slighted and I don't like it.

On the off-chance that Kevin is reading, as a long-time Blazer fan (which is the only advantage in perspective I have in any of these matters) let me offer some advice.  Don't sweat it.  This is always going to happen.  You will be slighted more than once.  Nobody will know your players.  Nobody will respect your team.  Nobody will vote for you for awards.  The guys on TNT will spend the pre-game talking about your opponent, the halftime talking about the Lakers, and the post-game talking about where they're going for a steak.

There is one, and only one, revenge for this.  You build a team that wins, and wins often.  Not because they'll talk about you more then, but because you can take great pleasure in beating all of those teams they talk about instead.  The response to this kind of thing should not be hot, but cold and calculated.  They don't need to see you coming.  It doesn't matter if they acknowledge you.  You're going to take those wins and take those rings and then when they stick a microphone in your face after you've won and say, "You're kind of a Cinderella story.  How did you come out of nowhere like that?" you can reply, "You didn't see us coming?  You probably should have asked somebody."

The Spurs have won three titles.  They STILL don't acknowledge them that much.  But I don't think anyone in San Antonio cares.  They'll take the rings and run.  That's exactly how we need to be.  I still have a t-shirt from the '99 playoffs that I work out in.  It says, "No superstars, no egos, no respect?  No problem."  That's the attitude we need to have.

Q:  Knowing what everybody knows now, how many teams out of 30 would take Jordan Farmar over Sergio Rodriguez?

A:  I don't want to talk bad about any other players.  But if the draft was today I'd draft the exact same players we did.

Q:  What would Lamarcus have needed to do to make that team?

A:  I think it came down to minutes.  I don't know.  Maybe he played well against certain teams and poorly against others.  I'm biased.  My job is to fight for our guys and I'm going to do that.

Q:  What about Jarrett Jack?  Luther head made it...

A:  I wonder what people look at for selection criteria.  If they're looking at guys helping people win we have one less win now than we did all last season and our rookies are a big part of that.  If you go just by stats all of them should have been in there.  I'd put Jack in there against any of them.

Q:  Do you know if Zach will make the all-star team?  

A:  There's no forewarning.  We find out just like you do.

Ah yes, but the best all-star appearances are the ones that were never in doubt...

Q:  The Blazers have had 14 consecutive losing months.  February is looking like another tough one.  What do the Blazers need to do to win?

A:  I've always said this isn't about winning and losing.  We said the same thing with the Spurs.  We're trying to take our team and organically grow it.  Brandon has played great.  Zach has played well.  Sergio has shown at times that he can be exciting.  Lamarcus has a bright future.  Martell has been up and down but is starting to defend and drive better.  Jarrett is playing well against top notch competition.  We're seeing progress.  I want to keep adding good talent, good community representatives.  In scouting meetings we talk about getting hard-hat, lunch-pail kind of people because that's who we feel we are and that's who Nate is.  At the beginning of each season I sit down and I write goals for the year.  That is my guiding light.  I look back at it every couple of weeks.  I wanted to play harder than everybody else.  Mostly we have.  We have also played smart and together.

I've seen a couple things recently I noticed.  One...the other night Sergio threw kind of a bad pass to Zach.  In the past Zach would have yelled at him.  Instead he went over there and tapped him on the head and took some responsibility himself.  I thought that was a big step for Zach.  Two...last night Roy gets into the paint and finds Jarrett for a three, which was maybe the most important play of the game.  I wrote in my notes, "Will this team trust each other?"  I think you're starting to see some of that.  You're starting to see Zach take more of a leadership role, which he needs help with...it's a process.  You're starting to see guys trust each other.  It's not about the self.  If we all try to make each other look good then everybody will look good.

Two things delight me about this:

First, the whole "organic" approach is exactly the same thing (the same terminology, even) I've been trying to impart to the people in my day job, a field in which people also tend to measure things by results without paying enough attention to, or trusting enough in, the process you take to get there.   People ask all the wrong questions, and in doing so often take the wrong paths, and thus don't achieve the results they were looking for.  Often the best way to get those results is to forget you were shooting for them in the first place and to concentrate on the parts of the process you can affect and control here and now...how hard and diligently and faithfully and well you do the things you're supposed to.  When you throw your heart and effort into those then the results usually work out for themselves...organically, if you will.

 It's a little like going out on a date.  You may be thinking, "I want to find a girl (or guy), settle down, get married, and be happy for the rest of my life."  But even though that's the eventual goal, what's going to happen if you approach the date thinking, "How do I get this person to settle down, marry me, and make me happy?"  Chances are if that's your approach you're never going to get to a second date with anyone!  You have to forget that agenda, go out and have some fun, be considerate and kind and inquisitive about whether this person is right for you, and then when the time comes the rest will take care of itself.

In short what I'm saying is this guy is darn smart and has a lot of things exactly right.  Listen to him!

The second thing is that I'm delighted that he shared that he notices little things and little moments that make a big difference in showing progress.  The one that comes to mind for me is from that wonderful game we played against Cleveland.  I've shared it before.  Early on in that game LeBron drove past our perimeter defender (Ime, I think) and towards the lane.  Zach jumped off of his man and planted himself square in LeBron's path.  It didn't cause a turnover or anything.  LeBron just turned around and dribbled back out.  They may have even scored on that possession...I don't remember.  What I do remember is that for that moment Zach was our Horatius at the bridge.  The Chosen One was on his way for a spectacular play and in one moment, with one right play, Zach stemmed the tide and single-handedly sent the message, "No sir.  No you don't!  Not tonight.  Not that way."   I don't think it was an accident that we played one of our best games of the season after that.

Q:  The trading deadline is three weeks away.  What's the prognosis?  Any nibbles?

A:  There are points during the season when talk happens.  Usually it's because of a big-name player, like Iverson.  Everybody gets in position and looks for secondary players that might be available even if they're not directly involved.  Now it's Pau Gasol that everybody is scrambling around.  We have as much activity as we've ever had right now.  Steve Patterson is very proactive.  We believe in being on the phones and active.   The other interesting thing now is that the league is so transparent with all the internet sources.  We all read the same things.  What you try to filter is what's true and what's not true.  You do your homework and sift through the pieces.  It's no different than the draft really.  One thing I will say is that we love our core.  We got some great pieces this year.  Brandon and Lamarcus are obviously good players with upside.  Sergio is an X-factor.  When he's in the game he moves and sees the game at a different speed than any other 20-year old I know.

Q:  Do you post in the OregonLive forums?

A:  You mean have I ever?

Q:  Sure.  Have you ever?

A:  Yes.

Q:  What websites do you look at?

A:  OregonLive for Quick's and Canzano's takes.  Then HoopsHype and InsideHoops.  From 5-6:30 each morning I'm reading on the net.

Ahhhh...we already got one mention this chat.  I suppose two was more than we could hope for.  And what a mention it would have been!!!  Alas...

Q:  There's been some criticism of Zach's 40 shots the other night.

A:  They didn't say that when Wilt was winning.  The important thing isn't number of shots, it's production and wins.  I didn't think he played selfish that game at all.  He can be misunderstood.  I'm not saying he's a choirboy.  Believe me, we work with him every day.  But he wants to win.  He proved that by coming into camp in shape.  He's also accepting coaching now better than he ever has.  Nate does not let him get away with anything.  He's tough on Zach and Zach is accepting it.

Hey, we criticize him as much as Nate does, and probably for the same general reason (because we expect a lot out of him...more than out of anyone else on this team) but we've also been quick to say when he's had good games that many other would have called bad just by the stats.  The 40 shots would bother me if it were every night.  And I'd say that it means the 42 points wasn't automatically as great of an accomplishment as it seems.  But it was still a good night for Zach and a good win.

Q:  How much is Brandon exceeding your expectations?

A:  Not that much on the court.  I knew he was going to be a special player.  I try to keep an open mind right on up to the draft because that's important to allow space for all the players.  But I saw him late in the season in Seattle and I couldn't stop thinking how well he'd fit in with what we want.  So on the court I expected this.  But off the court you have no idea how good this guy is.  He's everything you'd want.  He's great in the locker room and a real leader.

He's going to be among the leaders of this team for a while.  He does seem well suited from afar.  And the best part is that he has enough of a game on both ends of the court to back it up.

Q:  Did you know Stu Inman at all?

A:  I met him but didn't have a chance to talk to him really, and I wish I had.  Everybody says that basketball changes and you have to keep up on it, but it's really about getting good players, good people, guys who will put the team before themselves, and Stu was about that more than anybody.

Classy.  And I think he's correct.  There are a thousand detail decisions to be made that require judgment calls.  The way you collect and process information to make those calls does evolve over time.  Maybe even certain criteria for making those decisions change over time.  But when it comes to the overarching philosophy of winning (or even putting out a good product) that's pretty simple and pretty timeless.  And it's exactly as he stated here.  I spent a lot of posts talking about this exact same thing in the off-season and I imagine I'll do so again in the coming summer.  This is part of why that character deal becomes important.

I think the problem that people run into sometimes is they fall in love with the details or the methodology or the decision making (and maybe even the power of making those decisions itself) and lose sight of the overall picture.  You have to have a pretty good head on your shoulders to avoid that.

 

 Q:  Who's your team in the Superbowl?

A:  I'm not a big football guy.  I have my blinders on.  I'm a basketball guy.  But I'm for the Colts.

Q:  How about the Oregon, UCLA game?  

A:  I think Oregon will win but I don't really care who actually does.

Q:  What are your plans for Valentines Day?  Are you married?

A: I don't even know what day it is.  I'm not married.

There you go ladies.  If you're interested in a basketball-obsessed semi-genius who's tall, polite, and reasonably good-looking but unlikely to remember Valentine's Day, there's your man.

This was another great interview by Kevin.  I can't even tell you how impressed I am with this guy at every turn.  He's the type of guy who you'd trust with your organization even if it wasn't basketball, just because he has the right approach and outlook.

I'm going to reach deep into the fan vault here, unlock the buried safe, and bring out something that I don't think has ever been said in the history of fandom:

Every fan has that secret fantasy that maybe (s)he should get a shot at being a team executive (GM, coach, whatever).  We all think that maybe, given the opportunity, we could make a difference or do something unexpectedly good and help guide the team where we'd like it to be.  You've thought it in your secret heart of hearts.  So have I.  Here's the deal:  Listening to Kevin Pritchard I realize that I don't need to be a Blazer executive.  You don't need to be a Blazer executive.  Kevin Pritchard needs to be a Blazer executive.  I don't think there's any higher praise a fan can give than that.  On the off chance the Big Guy with the bucks ever reads here, let me say (knowing this is just from a fan's perspective, but for what it's worth)...don't let this guy go.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)