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Quick Chat June 07, 2007

Here's our 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 joins the chat.

Q:  What are your retrospectives on the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp?

A:    The highlight of the week was getting to see Oden and Durant actually work out in drills.  I thought Oden was very, very impressive.  Portland fans will notice right away that his ball-handling skills and footwork are exceptional for a big man.  He's got incredible explosion to the basket and when he dunks he absolutely throws it down.  Kevin Pritchard said he wouldn't be surprised if this guy brings down a backboard sometime in his career.  He is that explosive and powerful.  Durant...I didn't get to see all of his workout but I thought he didn't look all that interested.  Several other people have commented on that as well.  He just went through the motions and didn't take it as seriously as Oden.  I talked to Oden after and he said it was a big deal to him.  He took the previous day off to rest his legs.  He knew he'd have people looking at him and he said anytime he has people looking at him he wants to show them what he's got.  That is the type of stuff Kevin Pritchard wants to hear.  That's the kind of competitiveness and pride that the Blazers are looking for.  Overall it was a very solid day for Greg Oden.  Then of course the numbers come out.  Much has been made of those numbers but regardless of whether they relate to basketball talent or not they are numbers.  Compared to other people his size Greg Oden is just off the charts.  He's an absolute freak.  In the last two weeks the momentum has been gathering and Greg Oden has become the clear-cut choice for #1.  Kevin Pritchard still wants to keep an open mind but it's seeping into his mind that this guy is really special.  I would put all my money on the Blazers picking Greg Oden.

Q:  What percentage would you give that?

A:  99.99%

Q:  They weren't scheduled to work out, were they?

A:  They were given the opportunity but Pritchard and many others felt they wouldn't work out.  That's often what the top prospects have done in the past because they don't feel like they have anything to prove or show.  The fact that both of them did that...they should be applauded.  In this case it helped Oden out and probably hurt Durant's case a little bit (if he even had room for it to be lessened).  I think it was a good thing and I hope this sets a precedent for top draft picks in years to come.

Q:   Why did they choose to work out?  Was it a case of Oden deciding to work out and Durant didn't want to be the guy who didn't so he wasn't prepared?

A:  I can't speak to that.  I just know Oden did it because his agent told him to do it and he wanted him to be showcased.  I don't know Durant's reasons or if one guy chose before the other.

This is fascinating news on Durant going through the motions.  I don't think that necessarily means he'll be any less of an NBA player, but Quick is right in that you have to like Oden's desire.  Apparently he wanted to prove he was #1 and went out and did it.  Maybe Durant didn't think he had a shot or didn't think it mattered, but still you don't like to see guys mail it in even when they think all is lost.  I don't know...another small mark in the Oden column.  (As if he needed any more.)

Q:  I've been hearing that Durant's agent Aaron Goodwin is saying Durant is going to be the #1 pick.  Are there grounds for that or is that just agent-speak?

A:  That's just an agent being an agent.

Does anyone fib more than agents?

Q:  You wrote that the Blazers are trying to move up and get another lottery pick.  Who are they targeting with that pick?  And what are they trying to glean from these workouts with obvious second-rounders?

A:  You're right that they're second-round caliber guys.  Kevin and his staff wants to get a firm grasp on the talent level of these guys so when it comes time to make trades that they know what they're dealing with...what type of commodities they have.  There are some guys who are a definite cut above the rest though.  One of them is working out tomorrow:  Ramon Sessions from Nevada.  He's a strong guy, a Nate McMillan-type point guard.  He sets up the offense.  It's not about him or the scoring.  I know the Blazers are very, very high on him.  I don't have a good grasp of where he falls in the draft but I can tell you for sure they think very highly of him.  Another one is Taurean Green from Florida.  He is a guy who stood out at the pre-draft camp.  He's an NBA talent.  He's probably a late first or early second rounder.  The Blazers want to get him in and see what he's all about.  Also D.J. Strawberry.  He's probably more of a shooting guard but he's big and physical and plays good defense.  I think it's interesting how many point guards the Blazers are bringing in.  It's about 14 or 15 including the swing guys.  There are more players at that position than any other by far.  That tells me the Blazers are looking for help at point guard this off-season.  I don't know if that seals the deal on Jarrett Jack being traded but it's certainly an indication of how they're leaning.

Q:  Why is Jarrett Jack at the middle of so many trade rumors?

A:  First he's accomplished enough in this league to garner interest and has some pretty good upside.  Second, while the Blazers like him and are satisfied with the job he did there are questions within this organization about whether he's a starting point guard in this league...especially for a playoff-contending team which it appears the Blazers will be.  There are internal questions.  I brought this up as early as January or February that he'd be on the trading block this summer.  Now it's summer and here he is.  That's no accident.  But at the same time when you look at what the Blazers are doing they could go one of three ways:

  1.  The status quo with Oden at center, Randolph at power forward, Lamarcus or a free agent at small forward, Brandon Roy and Jarrett Jack.  That would be a status quo starting lineup.
  2.  Oden at center, trading Zach and putting Lamarcus at power forward, a small forward you acquire in the Zach trade (Jason Richardson, Richard Jefferson, Andres Nocioni, Shawn Marion) plus Roy at shooting guard.  The next big question is whether you get a veteran upgrade point guard...a steady force like Steve Blake.
  3.  Just going crazy and for the big-time right now.  Oden, Lamarcus (trade Zach), Marion or Jefferson, Roy, and a big-time point guard like Chauncey Billups.
I think the second scenario is the most likely.  

The big question for the rest of the summer is what they will get at small forward.  Here's an update:  it sounds more and more like the Blazers are being pulled away from the Rashard Lewis sweepstakes.  They're giving up hope.  They don't think they can get him.  It looks like Orlando is clearing a lot of cap space to get him.  I talked to an agent last night who said that's where he wanted to go and it was a lock.  I think Rashard Lewis is off the wish list.  The Blazers have turned their attention to another tier of small forwards:  Richard Jefferson, Jason Richardson, Nocioni, Shawn Marion.  They are looking to make a splash at that position.

Interesting take on Jack and the point guard workouts.  Although I will also say this:  the first round is apparently short on quality point guards.  But the law of averages will tell you that there have to be about as many point guards coming out this year as most years.  Where are they going to go?  The second round.  Maybe we wanted to work out a bigger variety of positions but this was what we could get.  Also drafting someone in the second round doesn't necessarily imply a vote of no-confidence for your starter.  There is smoke here, but if JJ is traded he won't be replaced by any of the guys on that list.

I don't see the huge difference between options two and three on Jason's list.  If you can get a better point guard don't you have to do that?  If not you go for a guy like Blake.  I guess he means maybe we trade for a better point guard but if Zach is already gone in the small forward deal who can we give up to draw a major guy?  Pretty much once Zach is gone all of our moves are going to be lateral for awhile unless we break up our core.  That will be true until some of our younger guys grow and develop value on the market.

Q:  What has happened this season that is causing the renewed interest in Steve Blake?  Have they found out in one year that Jarrett Jack isn't the man and Steve is?

A:  I think most people in the Blazers' organization would say it was a mistake in hindsight to trade Steve Blake for Jamaal Magloire.  It wasn't a popular decision when it was made.  It was more of a Steve Patterson move...something he ramrodded through.  I think Kevin was kind of hurt.  Blake was the first player he ever signed here. Nate McMillan was a huge, huge Steve Blake fan as evidenced by him starting the final 47 games or so.  When you think of a Nate McMillan-type point guard you think Steve Blake.  He's solid, runs the offense, and he's a calming influence.  His talents have been enhanced playing in Denver in the playoffs.  He'd be able to offer that experience when the time comes.  He's an ideal component for this team.  They're not going to have to pay him a ton.  That's something the Blazers are going to have to start becoming cognizant of in the back of their minds.  You're going to have a lot of big-time superstars coming around for free agency at the same time:  Brandon, Lamarcus, and maybe Greg.  They're going to have to pay big money to keep those guys here.  I don't think you want to pay a lot for a point guard right now.  Sergio might be able to handle that a year or so down the road...and then you'll have to pay him too.  They're going to have to make some smart business decisions right now as they look down the road.  Blake is the kind of guy you can get for the mid-level exception, play him for three years or so, then assess again where your young guys are.

Q:  What about Sergio?  How does he fit in?

A:  I still think he's a huge part of the plan but I don't think he's ready to come in and start or play huge minutes.  Next year he'll play much the way we saw this year...15 or 20 minutes a game.  But as this team morphs into a running team with Oden and Aldridge blocking shots and getting out on the break that fits Sergio's style.  A lot will depend on how much Sergio improves this off-season.  Last year he hit the wall and was tired and largely ineffective.  But by no means are the Blazers done with him.  It's the opposite...they're very, very high on him.  Last year at the trade deadline nearly every offer the Blazers got included Sergio Rodriguez.  The league knows about Sergio.  They know what Sergio will develop into.  The Blazers are just waiting for that to happen.

Quick is very optimistic here about Sergio's future...or at least the Blazers' perception of Sergio's future.  That's good to hear.  If he did develop into a star (or even semi-star) level player...whoo doggy!

Q:   Are the Blazers willing to dump Zach for a cheap prospect or expiring contract or do they want to make sure they get a talented small forward?

A:  Obviously they want to get as much as they can for him but winning the lottery has created a little fudge room for them.  They can take back maybe a little less than equal value and still feel good about their direction.  It's lessened the importance of getting fair value.  But they're still looking to address the small forward position with that trade.

Not only that but it's lessened the number of concerns you have about the players you bring in.  Before the guy pretty much had to be a defensive wizard, for instance, because our small-position defense was so porous.  Now you have a little more leeway considering Oden and Aldridge are your front line.  

Q:  Have you heard any rumors about offers for the #1 pick?

A:  I know that two Western Conference teams have offered their superstars in return for their #1 pick and they are hall-of-famers.  The Blazers turned down both.

Q:  Has the competition heated up because of the workouts?  What is his value at this point?  Is there anybody the Blazers would consider trading that pick for?

A:  The only person that would make them even consider trading Greg would be LeBron James and even then I'm not sure they'd do it.  He's the only person that would make them discuss dealing that pick.  NBA general managers knew long before the pre-draft camp drills and numbers that Greg Oden was something special.  The offers were coming in before those workouts happened.

Q:  What about Oden's injured wrist?  How serious is it and is it likely to reoccur?  Is it of concern?

A:  I don't think it's of any concern.  He dislocated the thumb on his right hand and he tapes up his whole hand whenever he does anything basketball related.  A lot of people look at that and say, "Ooh look...his wrist!"  It doesn't have anything to do with his wrist.  It's his thumb.  It isn't going to be a problem.  It's just something he's going through right now.  There isn't going to be any question about his wrist.  He says it feels great and if you look at him jam the ball there's no pain or hesitancy.  I don't think it's going to be an issue.

Since the end of the college season I haven't heard one media/NBA person say anything bad about this guy.  Let's hope the other shoe never drops.

Q:  A fan question:  When all is said and done who's going to end up hating you more...Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, or Darius Miles?

A:  Probably Rasheed because Rasheed has a lot of hatred inside him.

Q:  Tell us about Aaron Brooks.  Any further thoughts on where he will go?  Is Portland throwing a bone to fans by bringing him in for a workout?

A:  I don't know about throwing bones but I think he'll be an early-to-middle second rounder.  He's awfully, awfully small but he's also awfully quick.  He's got great leaps.  I was impressed mostly with his defense at the pre-draft camp.  I was expecting the free-flowing guard we saw play for the Ducks but he was really playing hard-nosed defense the length of the court.  That's the kind of thing Nate would like but I have a hard time thinking the Blazers would take him.  It just doesn't seem like a fit.

Read my lips:  no more short guards...ever!

Q:  What is Travis Outlaw doing in the offseason?

A:  I don't know right now.

Q:  At this point the Blazers have Ime and Travis as free agent small forwards and they're looking for another to shore up the position.  How does that shake out?

A:  I think at this point the Blazers view Travis as a power forward.  Nate liked using him in the small lineup.  He performed very well at the position.  Really I think they have only one small forward because I'm not counting Darius Miles.  Right now it's just Ime.  I think Martell will play a little bit of three if he's still around.

Q:  Are you hearing anything about Martell?  Will he be with the team next year?

A:  I'm torn on that.  I haven't heard him in as many rumors as Jarrett.  I know Houston has brought his name up.  I think they will look to move Shane Battier.  At one point they were discussing a Jarrett Jack-Travis Outlaw deal.  They were debating and considering Travis and Jarrett for Shane Battier.  But they didn't feel Travis was good enough.  Then they talked about Jarrett and Martell but the concern was they didn't think they were getting enough of an upgrade at point guard in Jarrett.  They wanted to compete with San Antonio and Utah and they didn't feel Jarrett could put the clamps down on Tony Parker or Deron Williams.  Those trade talks passed by quickly but those players were brought up by the Rockets.

Oooh!  Juicy tidbit there.  Although that does give you a fair assessment of the market value of those three youngsters.  Any combination of the three equals less than Shane Battier.  I suspect that pretty much makes them tempting throw-in appetizers rather than entrees unto themselves.

Q:  What are you working on next?  What's coming up?

A:  Tomorrow we'll start with the workouts.  We'll probably do a little segment on each player that works out.  We get to see the last 20 minutes of the workouts when they're doing their cone drills and speed/agility work.  It's always nice though to get out to see these guys and their athleticism.  Hopefully next week I'll be going to Indianapolis to watch Greg Oden work out.  I'm curious to talk to his big man coach, Ed Schilling.  Oden has said Schilling is really working on his pump fakes and explosion.  I want to see that first-hand and see the actual workouts this guy goes through.  I don't know, you want to lay the big news on them or wait until it's official?

Q:  Nothing is confirmed but tentatively next Thursday we're hopefully going to have Greg Oden on as well as Jason.  But according to Jason it might be a go.

A:  You guys will love talking to him!

And we'll love transcribing long as he talks s...l...o...w...l...y.   You hear me Greg?  Make a good first impression with your friendly neighborhood blogger.  Slow and clear, young man!

--Dave (