Quick Chat 2/21/07
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.
For those who are waiting for a recap of Wednesday's chat with Pete Vecsey...sorry. You'll have to listen to the audio on that one yourselves. I did listen to the first half of it before I got interrupted and frankly I never went back. It was the usual steaming pile of Vecsey...well...you know. I don't think I heard one thing of real, repeatable interest. That's no offense, of course, to Casey "Lance Uppercut" Holdahl, the Best Blogger Ever, who conducted the interview. You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, let alone a horse's...well...never mind.
Chat Moderator Casey Holdahl is up first, answering some questions himself before Blazer GM Steve Patterson joins.
A: Usually that means a second round pick or cash. I don't think the details will be made public. Jones waived the last option year of his contract and that says something. We get a guy who wants to be here, who may be taking less money, and who's local. Juan was helping the team when he was in but it didn't look like he was happy. They money's about the same so it seems like a good deal for the Blazers.
That's about the size of it. The additional considerations will be very modest in a deal of this size. Casey's got the right idea when it comes to who got what out of the exchange too.
A: With Joel going down that doesn't make sense. Nobody knows what the injury is yet. If you're the Blazers and Przybilla is out, Magloire is a serviceable center. It'll benefit Magloire to stay with the Blazers right now. His focus is to get the next contract and with Przybilla out he'll get more burn. I would guess he won't be bought out any time soon.
I don't know how happy the marriage will be, but I'd be surprised if they bought out Magloire too, with Przy and Raef battling injuries. Leaving Lamarcus alone at our center spot doesn't seem like Plan 1A in the Book of Good Ideas.
I did mention that these recaps were highly paraphrased, didn't I?
Good call on Zach with the injury, but it should be noted that his improved play is mostly due to him giving more energy--more energy on the defensive end and more energy in the other parts of the offense besides holding and shooting--so even if the injury provided the catalyst you've got to give Zach a lot of credit for what he's decided to do with it.
Blazers GM Steve Patterson joins the chat.
A: We're excited to be able to acquire somebody with character, talent, and roots here. He wanted to come back. He was willing to give up the $3.5 million on the third year of his contract to make it happen. I've never seen anybody willing to do that and it speaks volumes about how much he wanted to be here. The conversation started between Brian Colangelo and I prior to the All-Star break and continued through All-Star weekend. We finally finished it up this morning.
The giving up the right to exercise the option year on the contract does speak well and help the Blazers out, but I imagine it's also a sign that Jones has confidence in himself that by the time that issue comes up he's going to be contributing enough that he would have opted out in favor of a new contract anyway.
A: This afternoon, yes. He was very professional. I think he'll fit in there with the running game. Freddie gives us someone who's a little bit bigger, stronger, more athletic, and a little bit of a better perimeter defender. Juan's probably a better shooter but Freddie is a little bit better scorer.
One thing I like about the responses from Blazer management this year is that they've been pragmatic and pretty honest about strengths and weaknesses, whether those be with the players or with the team. It's a welcome change from the days when we all knew the organization was leaking vital fluids by the gallon and yet all we heard was, "It's nothing! It's nothing! Just a flesh wound!"
A: He probably comes off the bench with either Sergio or Dan Dickau at the point, Martell at the three, Travis at the four, and Lamarcus Aldridge at the five. Potentially that could be a lineup that Nate and I talked about...it gives us a team that can run and get after it defensively. He wants to be here and plays hard. We really liked him in Indiana. He even played the point there for a little while and did a good job. It's a good fit for us.
Jones would have to be a good defensive guard to keep that lineup from leaking at the seams on the outside. Sergio and Martell will have trouble stopping people which will put a lot of pressure on Travis to make good help decisions and Lamarcus to stay out of foul trouble. If Jones can hold the fort it could work, especially with an up-and-down pace. If Jones is a leaky sieve, however, that lineup is going to fall apart.
A: He's pleased with the deal. We're always going to have the coach involved in the deals. I think that's an integral part of the evaluation. This deal helps our perimeter defense which is a place we struggle and in an up-tempo game he could really help us
Q: What will he do in the locker room?
A: He's always had a good reputation as a teammate. He worked at our practice facility in the summer. You can count on him to be here and help get the other guys in the gym during the summer. He knows his way around Portland and Oregon. He's an upstanding guy...doesn't drink or smoke. He's a good influence.
That's great to hear. I mean the drinking/smoking thing is kind of "whatever" (but better than, "He drinks six quarts of Scotch a day and smokes like a chimney") but the good influence and practice habits is just what we need. Apparently that was one of Juan's strengths and we don't want to lose it.
A: He had a dislocation on the middle finger of his shooting hand. It was a tough injury but he's recovered and he'll be fine
Q: Are there any trades you guys wanted that fell through?
A: There are always deals under discussion. We stopped talking at 1:00 this morning and started again at 5:30 this morning and it's been like that for more than a week now. Everybody is looking at deals. The overriding sentiment around the league seemed to be that a lot of teams were trying to get out of long-term deals and obligations and trying to carry more cap flexibility. They also wanted to hang on to their draft picks in the upcoming draft. Overall it was not a conducive environment for deals. Again we were one of the only teams to get a deal done.
Q: Were you surprised that there weren't more deals?
A: Yes and no. There was a lot of media hype about deals that might have happened. Those weren't really grounded in fact. A lot of that gets overly-hyped by the blogosphere. When people aren't willing to take on salary or give up draft picks you don't get a lot of deals done. Historically you see playoff teams do one of those two things but not this year. Some clubs we talked to half a dozen times about deals in the last 48 hours and in the last two weeks we probably touched base with every team in the league.
I love these chats for just that kind of assessment. This is a great overview/analysis and also tells us something about how NBA GM's (who should be in the know) are viewing this draft class. I'm still amazed the Philadelphia valued mid-to-late first round picks so highly in the Iverson trade but apparently it's not just them. I wonder if the draft can really live up to that kind of build up. More often than not a 23rd pick is just a 23rd pick. Maybe this will be one of those once-in-a-lifetime conjunctions though.
A: We had plenty of other conversations. That's the job.
Q: Let's talk about the game last night...
A:. I love beating L.A. It doesn't matter if I'm in the football business or the basketball business or in Houston or Portland. I just love beating L.A.
Oooooh! Nice! Apparently Steve has read page one, paragraph one of the "How To Speak to Blazer Fans" manual! He sounded genuine though. Good move either way.
A: I think if you look Zach's defense has been quite good the last couple of games. He's really made an effort, made some steals, not allowed teams just to run at him. Also we've pushed the ball to get easy baskets. The other clubs have been banged up but we have too. We're on a very positive track the last 14, 15 games...above .500, winning 4 out of the last 6. Brandon is settling in and Sergio will get back too. We're a tough out for folks at home or on the road. I'm excited about how we're headed. We've won more ball games than last year and soon it'll be the year before. We're going to be competitive every night.
That's high praise for this team. It wasn't ordained that we'd get to the point where these things could be said with a straight face. There's a lot of effort involved, and it's good to remember and appreciate that.
A: He'll get an MRI today and we'll know more later tonight or tomorrow. Until that it's speculation. Travis' ankle seems fine and he should be able to play tomorrow night.
Q: Jarrett Jack said the playoffs were a possibility. What are the chances?
A: If I could accurately predict the future I'd have done better in Vegas. I think the key is to concentrate on every game. We can't overlook Memphis tomorrow. They played Golden State tough the other night. If we stay focused on one game at a time we have a chance to beat just about anybody. We're a young club who will look bad some nights and good on others. But overall we're better off than we were a year ago. I think everybody senses that.
I'm doing a whole separate post today on playoff issues so I'm going to leave this discussion alone.
A: No. Once he's cut, a guy isn't tradeable.
Q: Will Freddie be available Friday?
A: I don't think they'll finish all their physicals by then. He should be suited up on Monday. Whether he'll know the plays and Nate will use him is another question.
Q: Are there any personnel issues left on the team?
A: Not at this point. You can't trade anybody past the deadline and I don't see us waiving anybody. Looking at some guys on a 10-day contract might be a possibility. That would be the only thing.
He sounded absolutely definitive on the not waiving anybody thing. I think that gives us all our answer on the Jamaal Magloire issue unless Jamaal just goes off the deep end.
A: I haven't focused that much on him in the last couple of weeks. I'll have something next week.
Q: What are you looking forward to on Friday?
A. Memphis has gotten healthy again. They have Pau Gasol back and Mike Miller playing well. You have to stop those two guys. You don't want to let Damon and Chucky Atkins get going at the point. If you can do that you can be successful. We'll want Zach pounding inside and we'll see if Brandon can get to the hoop. I'm excited at the emergence of Lamarcus Aldridge. They're playing better than they were earlier with all their injuries though.
I am also eager to see if Lamarcus can keep up the good play. Even more than the scoring he's starting to some little things right out there.
Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick joins the show.
A: I think it's a good trade for both players. Juan got what he wanted...the chance to play more and fit into a franchise. Freddy is excited to be a Blazer. He hasn't been able to wipe the smile off his face. He's assured everyone he's going to give 110%. A lot of people feel he has a lot of upside to his game. He wants to be here and he'll play hard. You got him for a guy who was becoming disgruntled. I don't know what Steve Patterson told you guys on the chat but it sounded like this trade was in the works before the break and started picking up speed over the weekend. Nate McMillan was brought into the fold about 48 hours ago and gave his endorsement. I asked him if Juan not playing last night was part of it and he said no, it wasn't done until this morning. Juan was part happy, part sad. He likes his teammates and the environment but he wanted a chance to play. He was told about 8:30 this morning and had a chance to go to the practice facility and shake hands with the team and Nate and say goodbye. I think he left on good terms. It didn't get to the point where Nate and Juan were at odds. It's a win-win for both parties.
Good to hear about Juan. I always thought that he conducted himself, at least in public view, as a really class guy. He brought a dose of maturity to the public perception of this team at a time when we really needed it.
A: The big difference is that Nate will now have someone he can put out there with confidence from a defensive standpoint on the second unit. In the two years he's been here Nate has privately discussed what a liability Juan was on the defensive end. They had to play zone every time he was in. This way they can go straight up. He can use a lineup of Sergio, Fred, Martell, Travis, and Lamarcus. He says that can be a young, vibrant, athletic lineup. We probably won't get to see him until Monday against Seattle. He'll wear 0 because the number 20 is Maurice Lucas' retired number and Dan Dickau had 2 already. This was his next option.
Q: Where do you see this team going after last night's win?
A: I'm impressed. A lot of these young guys are slowly graduating from players with potential to guys who are utilizing that potential. Brandon Roy is getting better and better and that was a big factor in the trade. Brandon is becoming a marquee player, which was pushing Juan further and further into the bench. Jarrett Jack is playing the best ball of his career. He has confidence in his jump shot. He's very in control. Zach continues to do his thing. Ime is doing more than just stopping people defensively. Lamarcus Aldridge was the real dagger in that game last night. He buried every outside shot and made the L.A. fans groan every time he hit it. And they're doing all this without Sergio. There are still some real areas of concern. The Blazers are the worst rebounding team in the league. They're giving up a ton of second chance points. They have to start rebounding better to make a playoff push. But still what a win. The Staples Center has been a house of horrors for the Blazers. The Lakers had something to play for and the Blazers flat-out outplayed them. That was one of the best wins of the year.
The Lakers' guys said the same thing about rebounding last night and it drove me crazy then too. The Blazers are NOT the worst rebounding team in the league. Not even CLOSE. Yes, they are tied for 28th in the league with Memphis and just above Toronto for total rebounds. But just like total points allowed is an unreliable measure of defense because it's affected by the pace you play as much as your actual defensive ability, so too total rebounds is a poor measure of rebounding ability. A big reason the Blazers get fewer total rebounds than most other teams is they play far slower than most other teams. So in a Portland game there are fewer possessions, shots, and thus rebounds. Also our relatively poor 47.2 shooting percentage allowed means more opponent shots go in and thus there are fewer defensive rebounds for us to get. (Defensive rebounds make up the bulk of the Total Rebounds stat.) We have a +0.7 rebounds per game margin on our opponents, which is better than 15 other teams in the league. Our total rebounding percentage is .504 which is better than 16 other teams in the league and tied with two others. We are no worse than the middle of the pack in rebounding. (Though Jason is exactly right about the second chance points being worse lately.) Now LAST year we were clearly the worst rebounding team in the league, finishing dead last not only in total rebounds but in percentage and rebound margin as well. To say we are again is not giving credit where credit is due.
A: He was an absolute professional today. He said he sees this as an opportunity. He wants to help the team win and make the playoffs. He's been reinvigorated along with the team. Now with Joel's knee, which we don't know about yet, Jamaal's going to be important for bulk, rebounding, and experience. He realizes that and is ready to embrace it. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Joel comes back healthy. Nate was very elusive about that when I talked to him about it today. I don't think he knows entirely how he'll use Jamaal. But immediately they need him and he'll probably start tomorrow against Memphis.
Q: What about tomorrow?
A: The next three games are a huge opportunity. They should be favored in all of them. If they're serious about a playoff push they need to sweep them. Jamaal Magloire will be an interesting facet tomorrow. When Portland last played Memphis they couldn't handle his size. Last time they tried Jake Tsakalidis but he's been traded to Houston. Joel's injury may be a hidden blessing.
Q: How likely is a playoff run?
A: Less than 50%. It's very difficult to leapfrog five teams. You need five teams to play sub-par basketball while the Blazers play better than they have been. This team does appear to be peaking and many of its players are becoming consistent performers. But this is a young team which has fooled me before. They won five straight in December and then started looking to the likes of Boston and New York. I like Zach's approach, saying, "Hell no, we're not in the playoff race. We've got to take this one game at a time." Nate McMillan says the same thing. He's drilling it into the team. That's the way this team has to do it. If they start looking ahead they'll get into trouble. They're thriving on playing harder than the other team right now. If you've looked lately you've seen the turnovers have been down and the Blazers have been playing smart, controlled basketball. They have to continue that.
A: The season keeps getting more and more interesting!
Again...Jason takes a lot of flak but he's clearly one of the better, or at least more interesting, writers around the league.