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Quick Chat May 3rd, 2007

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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.  

Special guest and Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is up first.

Q:  What was going through your mind when you won the award?  What set you apart?

A:  The thing that set me apart is that I was able to play a big role right away.  A lot of other rookies have to learn the system and their coaches have to learn to trust them.  Coach Nate trusted me from the beginning and allowed me to get a head start on a lot of other guys.  I think that's the one thing I have to attribute winning this award to.

Q:  That's also a lot of responsibility and pressure to perform right away.  How did you deal with that?

A:  I prepared all summer so I was ready to play right away.  I didn't know if coach was going to play me right away but I wanted to be prepared.  There is pressure.  Every night I had to go out and match up with a Ray Allen or a Kobe Bryant or a Baron Davis at my position.  There wasn't any night to relax.  Because of that I was extremely focused to play.  I went out there and gave my best, which is all you can ask out of yourself.  It wasn't pressure.  It was more motivation to go out there and get better.

Q:  Do you ever get scared with how much the people of Portland are counting on you?

A:   I do, but only when I'm sitting around eating dinner or not doing anything.  As soon as I get into the gym and I start shooting I get focused and I believe it's something I can do.  I only feel pressure when I'm not working hard.  To accomplish what I need to I need to get better and watch film and concentrate on doing things to help the team win.  I'm much happier being in this position than on the other end of things.  I can't control injuries and things but I can control if I'm getting better.  That's how I try to approach things.

Q:  Is there more pressure to be a great basketball player or a great father?

A:  Being a good father is the most pressure.  Basketball is me going out there taking care of myself and doing the things I need to do to make other people better.  But taking care of a son is a big responsibility.  I try to pay attention to the way my parents raised me and do what they did.  It's not really pressure, it's something I enjoy doing.

Q:  I noticed there were several Blazers there at the award ceremony yesterday.  Did you hear from the guys who couldn't come?  Have you heard from anybody who surprised you?

A:  All my teammates called or wrote saying congratulations.  Everybody called...assistant coaches and just about everybody I can remember going back to high school.

Q:  How is your body holding up?  How's the foot and knee?  Will there be any surgery?

A:  No surgery at all.  My heel when I first came back was sore but that's past.  I didn't feel it going down the stretch.  My knee was a little sore from a couple run-ins with big men.  It swelled up slightly on me.  It's nothing that I worry about.  Just being in the position we were in coach felt it would be best to rest it up the last three games and try to prevent anything bad happening.  We had a good season and we wanted to escape it with no further injuries.

Q:  Does Golden State's run this year give you hope for the Blazers' future, that maybe you're one or two guys away?

A:  That's really all it is.  It's a matter of having an All-Star like Baron Davis healthy.  You see that if you're healthy at the right moment anything is possible.  It's a talented league and any team can beat you on a given night if you're not ready.  If we can keep the team we have, add a couple pieces to it, maybe we can make the playoffs next year and give somebody a run for their money.  The sky's definitely the limit and we're going to approach it that way.

Q:  What pieces do the Blazers need to get to the next level?

A:  That's really hard to say.  Lately I don't care about adding any pieces.  I'd say we've got the guys we have, let's go play.  That's how we have to think about it.  We have a team in place where if we get two rookies and they're not able to contribute we still feel like we should have a chance to make the playoffs.  We had a deep team this year but with the injuries it made it look like we didn't have that many guys.  If we could just stay healthy next year I think we have all the pieces we need right now.

Q:   What is your greatest weakness as a basketball player?  What will you be working on this summer?

A:  I think my greatest weakness this year was the three ball.  Even though I shot 38% I still feel like I can shoot it better.  That's the area where I feel I can most help the team because we don't really have a guy who can knock down a lot of threes.  The way this league is progressing it's an up and down game and you need to be able to shoot the three ball well.  That's something I'm going to work on this summer.

Q:  What's the most important piece of advice you got this year and who gave that to you?

A:  That was Coach Nate McMillan.  He said early in the season, before the first game, I'm going to start you and a lot of people are going to put high expectations on you but don't worry about that.  Just go out there and play your game and don't feel like you have to prove anything to anyone.  Just go out there and have fun.  He said that the morning before the first game when I had to go out there and face Ray Allen.  That just put me at ease with everything that was going on.

Q:  How's your luck since you might represent the Blazers at the lottery drawing?  Do you have any lucky charms or routines?

A:  I don't have any routines.  All the things I've been lucky about lately have been through hard work.  Hopefully I can bring some luck and we'll get the #1 pick.  But if not this is a deep draft and the top ten picks will all be great players.  If we can stay in that top ten I think we'll get a good player out of it.

Q:  Did you forget to send Chuck Swirsky a Brandon Roy Leatherman tool?  Is that why he didn't vote for you?

A:  I'll have to check on that!  I think he was just being loyal to his guy.  He felt his guy played a good role on a playoff team.  He justified his reasons and I don't have any hard feelings towards the guy.

Q:   What are you looking forward to next season?  Are you excited?

A:   I'm extremely excited.  Coach said to make sure and take time to heal your body up though.  You don't want to run out of gas halfway through the year.  I'm trying to take some time off.  But next season our goals are set high.  We want to go to the playoffs. We're going to prepare off-season like that and we're going to come to training camp and come in early.  We all have one goal now and that's to make it to the playoffs.  I think that's a good sign.  We did come somewhat close this year and we're ready to get over the hump next year.

Q: Where are you going to put the trophy in your house?

A. Right now it's going to stay at mom and dad's house until I buy mine.  They'll get to keep it.  Then I'm going to get a trophy room and it'll go front and center wherever it's at.

OK, that's the Brandon interview.  Here's a moment of brutal honesty from me.  I like what Brandon said and everything.  He did just fine...impeccably in fact.  But other than the injury question and the "what are you working on" question, did we really learn anything here?  And that's not a knock on Casey or Brandon, believe me!  It's good to hear the players' voices every once in a while and it's great to see them representing well, but everybody gets all excited over player interviews and when you look at their actual content they're so...predictable.  It reminds me of wrestling a little bit.  Everybody buys a ticket to see Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair or Stone Cold Steve Austin, but when you sit back and really watch what those guys do in their matches it's the same...thing...every...time.  You already know exactly what you're going to experience.  The guys that give you the real excitement are on the preliminary card.  They don't have as splashy of a name but they actually do more.

Again, this is not a knock on Casey or Brandon.  The questions were fine.  Casey asked exactly what he should have asked.  Besides, what is he going to do?  The one semi-provocative question about what this team needs gets the exact answer you'd expect which doesn't really give you more information.  And that's how all "stretchy" questions would be answered.  And appropriately so!  From Brandon's point of view you don't want him selling out teammates or tipping hands or trying to answer outside of his field.  So if everything goes well in these player interviews--at least with the big-name players who answer a million questions a day and only have a few minutes to spend--you just get vanilla all over the place.  And if you don't get vanilla you probably have reason to be worried.

Also once again we run into my personal pet peeve, which is because of my shortcomings as much as anyone's.  Every player in the universe talks five THOUSAND miles per hour.  As you may suspect from the volume of material I write I can type pretty well.  I'm not precisely ten-fingered but I don't lack very much for speed.  I had to rewind Brandon's interviews probably four times every three sentences.  (Part of that is also I feel a greater responsibility with players to get near their exact wording because it will be dissected so much.)  The interview took 11 minutes of real time and it took me around 40 minutes to transcribe.

I guess this is my rambling way of forewarning you that next time there's a player interview I'm going to cherry pick questions where something informative or unusual is said and either very briefly summarize the rest or just link you guys to the audio.

I'm not trying to complain or put a damper on the party.  I guess I'm just showing what an odd duck I am.  Given the choice between interviewing (or hearing from) Star A on the team or the beat writer, 99 out of 100 people would probably choose Star A.  I'm the Swirsky who would choose the beat writer...in this context anyway.  If you're talking about going out for a beer one-on-one, oh yeah, it's the player for sure.  (Mostly because I'm pretty sure if I'm buying I can talk Quick into it anyway.)  But in this formal interview setting give me Option B every time.

Much to Dave's relief Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick now joins the show.

Q:   What does the Rookie of the Year award mean to the franchise and to Brandon?

A:  Obviously it's a great thing for the franchise.  Some people pooh-pooh this and ask what it does.  A lot of guys have won the award and not gone on to do anything.  But with this franchise at this time considering everything that has gone before this is a great step.  I couldn't have happened to a better person.  I've said over and over that Brandon is the most impressive professional athlete I've ever dealt with.  He's very polite, thoughtful, gracious.  There's not a bad thing about him.  That goes beyond the court too.  I think he can improve.  He's said he's going to work on his three-point shooting among other things.  But the Blazers have a great cornerstone for their franchise.  It's safe to say in talking to Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan--they won't say this but if you read between the lines--Brandon Roy is this franchise now and it's no longer Zach Randolph.

Q:   How much does the award really mean to Brandon?  Did he aspire to this?

A: Absolutely, and he's been pretty candid about it.  Anybody who says it's not such a big deal is lying.  It is the top award for that class.  It's just like you'll hear people as the draft approaches saying that they don't care where they're drafted.  That's a bunch of bull.  They all want to be number one or two or as high as they can.  And after they're drafted they want to be rookie of the year.  I think it meant a lot to him.  I also think he knew he'd get it by February.  It was a slam dunk case.  As I traveled around the league this year and talked to other beat writers there was a time when this award was in question.  A lot of people had not seen Brandon.  I remember vividly before the New York game I was talking to the Knicks' beat writers.  They said they were wavering between Brandon and Bargnani and such.  Brandon had a pretty solid game and I remember two of them turning around to me in the middle of the game and saying, "OK, he's got our vote."  It was good to see that everyone else saw what we in Portland have been seeing all year...that it was such a landslide for him.  That was reassuring that what I saw and felt everyone else did too.  It should have been unanimous.  In talking to Chuck I don't think his argument carries enough weight.  He said it wasn't because he works for the Raptors but it has to be.  There's no way you can stack up Bargnani's stats against Roy's and say they're better.

We've been over the R.O.Y. thing enough but I do echo Jason's sentiments that Brandon is now the cornerstone of this franchise.  Even if we eventually get in more flashy, talented players the only thing that could keep him from becoming the emotional and mental leader of this franchise for the next decade is injuries.

Q:  Lamarcus finished sixth.  Did that surprise you to see him finish that low?

A:  No.  I expect him to be on the first team all-rookie squad, and I think he should.  I think he's opened a lot of eyes by having big games against good competition:  Dallas, San Antonio and Tim Duncan.  The word is out on Lamarcus around the league.  He's heralded and I'd expect him to be on the first team all-rookie team.

Which makes a pretty good draft, eh?

Q:   If you had to pick between Lamarcus and Brandon which one do you keep?

A:  Oh God, that's brutal.  I'd probably stick with Lamarcus because big men are at such a premium.  On the other hand Brandon has a lot of intangibles that Lamarcus doesn't have.  It's hard to describe how a guy gets a hold on the locker room or his presence there.  I've tried to show that with Brandon with the Zach Randolph story.  Brandon has this aura and respect from his teammates.  I think it was a huge, huge thing that five teammates showed up yesterday for his press conference.  Five...that's a lot.  That speak volumes as to how he's viewed and how well he's liked on this team.  I can't ever remember anything close to that happening.  That's a definite sign of respect.  And look who showed up...Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, Ime Udoka, Dan Dickau, and Fred Jones.  Granted Ime, Freddie, and Dan live in the area, but still!  You go around to all of the other award conferences and you won't see anything close to that.  To answer your question, I don't know who I'd pick.  It's very tough.

I must admit that sometimes I imagine what I'd answer to Casey's questions (which is part of why I write these little blurbs down here) but in this particular case I'm glad he didn't ask me and I am free to say, "Next!"

Q:   There was a rumor that you had some information on the Blazers and Orlando?

A:  I have no idea.  I have no information about anything.

Q:   So there's no new anything?

A;  (pause, as if fibbing)  Uh...no.

Q:   Who do you think is the most likely Blazer to be gone when the season begins next year?

A:  I'd say Dan Dickau.  They need to week out their point guards and he has the most moveable salary.  I think Zach's going to be traded.  I still think the Rashard Lewis thing is going to happen.  I think there will be a third team.  I think Chicago is a very likely candidate to be that team.  They need an inside presence and have previously shown an interest in Zach.  Chicago has components to make a sign-and-trade feasible.  Nocioni could do a sign-and-trade.  Rashard could do a sign-and-trade.  It could look something like Portland sending Zach and Martell with Martell to the Sonics.  The Sonics also get Nocioni and Gordon.  Portland gets Lewis.  Chicago gets Zach.  I think the Lakers will be a player also.  They are going to blow up this team.  Lamar Odom will be out there.  I'm not so sure he fits this culture but he is a hard worker.  John Canzano said when he was over at the Olympics that the two players from that team that impressed him most were Lamar Odom and Allen Iverson because they worked so hard every single day.  That would certainly fit into the Blazers' culture.  Because of the sign-and-trade possibilities there are a lot of scenarios in Seattle that favor Rashard's departure.  He'll want to know what their future is going to be.  Those negatives will play into him wanting to leave.  I still think it's a longshot for the Blazers to get Rashard but if you remember nobody though the Blazers could get Nate McMillan from Seattle either and it happened.

Why do I get the feeling we'll be hearing that name all summer?  The financial commitment is the only thing that worries me.  But if we're getting rid of Zach's salary and lose Darius' salary through retirement then we have room I suppose.

Q:   You mentioned in your blog today that Zach Randolph got the cast off his hand and will begin working out.  How does that affect his trade possibilities?

A:  I don't think it's an issue.  It was a minor deal on his non-shooting hand.  He'll be working out and shooting by the end of the month.  By the time a deal was done in June or July a team would be able to see him working out and sign off on any questions.  The hand won't be a factor whatsoever.

Q:   Is there any more news about Jarrett Jack and Atlanta?

A:  I think it could be forthcoming.  Everything is on hold until May 22nd when the lottery positioning is determined.  Portland wants one of those first two picks desperately.  Kevin Pritchard is almost obsessed with getting one of those top two picks.  He's not looking for fifth or sixth.  He wants this franchise to get lucky.  It's foolish to talk about trade scenarios until you know where people are going to draft.  If the Blazers end up where they should at the sixth spot then you can start talking about whether you move Jarrett, Z-Bo, or Martell in a package.  If they get number one or two that changes everything.

Q:   Say they do get one of the top two picks.  Does that make trading the guys already on the team less likely or more likely?

A:  Probably more likely.  They would be able to solidify their small forward or center position because of Oden or Durant.  By the way my vibe off of Kevin Pritchard is that if he had the number one pick he'd go with Durant.  Once you go with one of those positions then you start clearing out. If you get Durant what does that do to the prospects for Travis Outlaw and Ime Udoka?  If you get Oden what do you do with Joel Przybilla?  It's hard to talk about when it's theoretical though.

I think the answer is that it affects which players we move.  I'd guess that getting one of the top two picks might make moving Zach easier because the talent base would be stronger overall and because that new player would affect the style of game we play (either duplicating Zach or making him irrelevant).  But even a lesser pick could affect how the dominoes fall.  If we do get a lesser pick it will be interesting to see if we're making it for ourselves or someone else.

Q:  Let's go down the "You Be the GM" list.  I'd like to know how you'd vote and why.  Let's start with Joel Przybilla.  

A:  I said "stay" because I think he needs another shot.  He's important to this team.  The numbers that Kevin Pritchard runs say that the team is most effective when Joel Przybilla is on the floor.  That counts opponent field goal percentage and the Blazers' field goal percentage because he's really good at setting screens and getting second opportunities.  I believe in Kevin's quantitative analysis.  Just the brief glimpses he's given me they make sense to me.  I'm willing to give Joel one more chance. I do think he needs to perform better than two points and four rebounds.  He needs to get that up around ten points and eight rebounds.

Unless you keep Magloire or draft a center who's ready I say you keep Joel for his picks alone.  There's nobody else on this team besides Mags who even comes close to being able to set them.  That's a very underrated aspect of the offense.

Q:   Brandon Roy?  Stay?

A:  Absolutely.

Q:   Freddie Jones?

A:  I said stay, definitely.  He does a lot of good things for this team.  He doesn't expect to start.  You need those guys who know their role.  Even though his outside shot was brutal he did a lot of little things.  He was a great passer, got steals, got rebounds, ran the point.  He's overweight right now but if he sheds some pounds he can be that high-flying player we all remember from the University of Oregon.  Freddie and Ime are the type of guys you need to be a playoff team or championship contender.  You need the role players who understand what is being asked of them.

I think Freddie could be exciting if he loses weight also.  But will he be able to do that and will he be able to keep it off?  But with his salary it's no harm, no foul anyway.  He's a character guy which is a nice way to ride through the lean years (providing we remain in them).

Q:   Raef LaFrentz?

A:  Stay.  He'll be the surprise of next season.  He can still play and produce.  He's tough inside with defense.  He really impressed me at the end of the season with his defense.  He mixed it up, held his ground, blocked some shots.  His shot just inside the three point line was money towards the end of the year.  He's out of shape...he was constantly gassed.  But once he gets in shape he'll be an important bench guy.  If you look at his numbers he rebounded the heck out of the ball last year.  I think he can be a 12 point, 8 rebound guy off the bench and that is huge.

This would be interesting indeed.  But I think it might be a tad optimistic.  Why recover this year as opposed to any of the past six?  I think if the Blazers had a chance to deal Raef they would but nobody will take the salary for that kind of production.  As for us, whatever his contributions the hard fact remains that right now we're looking like we have way too many back-up quality centers and no starter, unless you count Lamarcus and the jury's out on that one.

Q:   Sergio?

A:  Obviously stay.

Q:   Luke Schenscher?

A:  (laughs)  Go.  It's a bad sign if he's still on this team.  They didn't have a good summer.

Q:   Ime Udoka?

A:  Definite stay.  He's a glue guy.  He's an important cog to this team.  Great defense...timely three-point shooter...never takes a bad shot...understands his role and limitations.  He's a great guy to have on the team, very important, and very well liked.

Q:   Has he had knee surgery yet?

A:  Yes, the day after the season.  It went very well.  They think he'll be the best he's been in six years.  He had the first knee injury in 2001.  They cleared out the floating cartilage and he expects he'll be better than he was this year.  We all knew he was playing through knee pain.  It should be a better Ime.

I agree about Ime, but the one thing that bothers me about him is how inept he was off the dribble this year.  Martell's no Globetrotter, but Ime made Martell look like Steve Nash with the ball in his hands by comparison.  I wonder if some of that is due to the knee.  It just seems to me if we're going a little more up-tempo we need to have a small forward who is a multivalent offensive threat.

Q:   Jamaal Magloire?

A:  I said stay.  I know it contradicts everything that's going on because I don't think you can have Jamaal, Joel, and Lamarcus all here again.  I've never done such a 180 on a guy in the middle of the year but Jamaal gave this team a facet that it's sorely missing in his toughness and rugged inside ability to score.  We all know his weaknesses:  his penchant for turnovers--offensive fouls, travels--he's a brutal free throw shooter.  But he's well liked and gives that tough, inside presence.  But the guy puts up numbers and was pretty impressive the last month of the season.  He averaged 11 and 11 or 10 and 10 which is the best the Blazers got out of any center.  That's why I said stay.  But if he stays Zach Randolph has to go.

I wouldn't be upset if Jamaal stayed.  I wouldn't be upset if Joel stayed.  I wouldn't be upset if Raef stayed.  I think I'll be upset if all three stay.  That'll be something like $22-23 million tied up in that trio, which is way too high.  That alone may force Jamaal's departure.

Q:   Martell Webster?

A:  I said go.  I don't think he fits anymore.  It's hard to say he'll improve because I don't think he's taken to coaching very well.  We've seen improvement from the other young guys.  I think Martell has for the most part stayed stagnant.  He's improved his rebounding and got better on defense but I still think this organization was hoping for much greater and much quicker improvement.  I'd still say he has one of the most beautiful jump shots in the league.

He either needs to go or the organization needs to invest more in making him a focus of the offense.  Likely you won't want the latter so maybe it's the former.  He should have some decent trade value you'd think.

Q:   Dan Dickau?

A:  I've already said....I love Dan and I think he's a great guy.  I think he's an NBA player.  I don't think he's a good fit here.  With all of the point guards--Brandon, Jarrett, Sergio--I think he gets lost in the shuffle.  I think it would be best for him to go.

Q:   Jarrett Jack?

A:  What I think of him and what I think will be done with him are two different things.  I think he is worth keeping.  He had a very solid season.  I think people forget he's a second year point guard in the NBA and that's a very tough position to play and especially to start at a young age.  That said I think the Blazers are going to trade him in the off-season.  That's not because they're unhappy with him.  He can garner some pretty good talent in return.  There's some value there.  I still think the long-term plan is to play Brandon Roy more at point guard.  We saw that at the end of the season.  In the fourth quarters in particular Brandon dominated the point guard position.  That's just the start...it will increase as the years go on.

Q:   Have you heard Jack has asked to be traded?

A:  No, no.  He has not asked.  But he has heard the buzz about Sergio and how the fans like Sergio.  I think he's a little stung and frustrated by it.  Jarrett is very perceptive to what's going on and what the vibe is.  He knows what I say about him being traded and what is written about him and he's pretty sensitive to it.  All of this talk about him being traded and the love-fest with Sergio and the increasing minutes for Brandon at point guard...he's taken notice of it.

I hope Jarrett has read Blazersedge from time to time.  I've all but begged the Blazers to keep him even in the face of the Sergio stuff.  Sergio isn't ready this year.  Jarrett is, or at least he's a lot closer.  If we do trade him I want something good in return.

Q:   Travis Outlaw?

A:  Stay, definitely.  He has a lot of upside.  The league is going to the smaller lineups.  How fun is it to watch Golden State in these playoffs with that smaller lineup?  It's good to have that option. I'm not saying the Blazers will go small-ball but it's nice to have the option when other teams go small.  Travis played the majority of his minutes at power forward this year.  They re-sign him and do what it takes.  He was money with his jumper.  He became kind of a black hole towards the end of the season but he was playing for that contract.

I'm surprised Jason is so high on Travis.  Maybe insiders see something more than the rest of us do.

Q:   Darius Miles?

A:  I don't think anybody needs the answer to that.  He needs to go right now.

Q:   You mentioned in your blog how big he looked at the press conference.  Is it viable for him to drop forty pounds before the season?

A:  He's going to have to show some work ethic.  I don't know how many people have seen that.  Over the course of his career he hasn't exactly proven that he's a hard or diligent worker.  I'm going to be shocked if he ever plays for the Blazers again.  I don't think he has the heart to make the rehab from microfracture surgery.  Zach Randolph is a hard worker and he says it's the hardest thing he's ever done.  It basically took him two years of rehab to do it. I don't think Darius has that in him.  I don't think he loves basketball enough.  That's evident by the way he's taking care of his body.  He's huge.  He's forty pounds overweight.  That's brutal.  And I think that's a big hello to the organization that hey, I don't care.  You're paying me and I'm getting fat and happy over here.  The organization has spent a lot of money on a personal trainer for him.  I don't think that's going to work out.  He still has all summer to do it. Maybe a light comes on.  I expect the same thing that happened this year.  He'll show up at media day and to practice.  He might try to do it but I think he'll call it quits before the season starts.  I think he will sign that piece of paper that says he won't play in the NBA anymore and the Blazers will get cap relief for him.  They'll still have to pay him but he won't count against the cap.

That would be one of the biggest godsends this team has seen in a while.  For all the positive progress and optimistic outlook the cap remains a millstone around our necks.  And usually when you're capped up you only make deals that get you capped up worse.  Losing both Zach's and Darius' salaries in the same summer would be like a miracle.  Speaking of...

Q:  Zach Randolph?  

A:  I think Zach has to go for the franchise to take the next step.  I like Zach.  I think he's a dominant inside scorer.  But the way the team played in his absence was energizing.  It was like the whole organization was revitalized.  It was like a breath of fresh air...the style they played...they played together...they played more fluidly.  It's hard to make that leap into the playoffs and win playoff series when you have a guy who's brutal on defense, who has trouble passing out of the double team, and clogs the offense.  For him to score it takes so much out of this team.  You have to clear out and wait.  We all know this.  We've watched it for the last four or five years.  For this team to make the next step it has to cut ties with Zach.  It's going to be a huge weight off of the organization's and fans' minds just wondering when the next Zach screw-up will be.  When he's gone they won't have to worry about that.  That sounds harsh, but I think it was an affirmation of Nate's thoughts when the team played so well without Zach.  I think he's thought that privately for the last couple of years and to see the team not only play without him but succeed without him was gratifying for Nate.  It reinforced everything he's been preaching that you play together and play hard and good things will happen.

Q:  What are your plans for this summer work-wise?

A:  Next week we're doing a story about how the Blazers are getting close to a new TV deal.  It sounds like a great thing.  They're going to be on Comcast.  None of this is official, but they're going to have pre-game and post-game shows and televise 81 of 82 games.  The next thing after that is the lottery on the 22nd.  I went back there one year and it wasn't worth it so I'll cover it from here.  May 29th I'll be heading to Orlando for the pre-draft camp.  That should be better this year with the new NBA rules on private workouts.  Leading up to the draft I'll do stories featuring the potential top draft picks.  They have a day in Orlando where they bring in the top players and they sit them in a room and the media can wander and sit down and talk with them.  Then I'll fly out to New York for the draft.  Then right after that free agency starts on July 1.  I'll be on top of the Rashard Lewis sweepstakes.  Then it's Summer League.  It'll be a busy summer until about the end of July.  Then in August and September I sit on my deck, drink beer, and play golf.

Told you about that beer thing...

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)