The starting lineup tonight was Greg Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Sergio Rodriguez, and Stefano Mancinelli.
Everybody wants to know about Oden so we'll cover him first. You're going to look at the stat line and be disappointed. Don't be. Despite the difficulties he still showed enough to make me pretty sure we're all going to come to love his game.
First of all I was watching the game from behind the stanchion and I will tell you he already has the rudiments of blocking out far better than many of the players who have come through here in the last decade. He's a big, physical specimen and he knows where to put his body. I don't think he's used to this level of physical contact yet and that's why you don't see the dominance but that will come. He moves his feet quickly and well. He's able to hold his position fairly well in the post. He is able to get up and down the court incredibly well for a guy his size. He's still a little raw but it is going to get better and when it does...when he harnesses the stuff he's got...watch out.
Here's a couple more things: First, Oden already passes 600% better than Zach did. Wow. He sees the floor and cutters well. It usually takes NBA centers years to learn that and once they do their offensive game opens up exponentially. G.O. seems ahead of schedule there. Ignore the passing turnovers. They will...well...pass. Concentrate on the fact that he already knows how to make those plays. Second, when Oden gets a putback dunk it reminds you a little of Shaq. He has such power. I guarantee you that sometime during summer league he's going to get a flying dunk that blows you, and this entire arena, out of the water.
Oden's big problem in this game was he was trying to block shots by extending his arms outward instead of straight up. That's a foul every time and he tried to block a lot of shots. Every young center does this when he first gets in the league. Don't let it worry you.
Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the real star of the game. La...mar...cus. WHOOOO! He looks bigger than last year. He's just as fast and he's beating people up and down the floor. His leaping is still there. His defensive rotations are smart. What's more, he's really acting like a captain on the floor, directing traffic and encouraging people.
Lamarcus' shot is falling from both mid-range and the post. He's getting exactly the kind of shots he'll get with the Big Boy team and he's making them. Just as I'm typing this he's out on the floor throwing down dunk after dunk on the break. This is not summer-league cheap scoring. This will translate into the show. He's arriving.
Here's the best news folks...Lamarcus and Oden are clicking together out there. They're running plays for each other, passing to each other, running the floor hard together, and helping each other on defense. When the two of them were out there together we really made hay. It looks almost like they're giving each other confidence. If this is any indication they are going to make one heck of a team together. And I mean special.
Outside of those two our big men didn't look that special. Joel Freeland is bigger than he was last year and he looks just about as fast. He has nice leaping ability and make an INSANE block of a dunk attempt that was every bit as good as anything we've seen from Theo Ratliff or Joel Przybilla. Unfortunately the rest of his game isn't nearly as consistent, None of the other big guys really registered but it's only Game One.
As far as the backcourt and smaller players it wasn't that special of a night. As usual Sergio had a few nice passes but overall struggled to keep the offense going. He inspires excitement on the break but not that much confidence. He did hit a couple of nice shots though. Taurean Green played really hard-nosed ball out there. He's only 6 feet tall though and he looks short. He has trouble when he penetrates even at this level of competition. Koponen looks like he could be a nice player. At least he has some fundamentals. He didn't get to show much though. Stefan Mancinelli is a legit 6'8" but he didn't get to show much either. Josh McRoberts, whose name always makes me wonder if you want fries with that, didn't get enough time to make a comment.
That brings us to Martell. He had a couple of nice plays...mostly shooting, though he had some nice rebounds too. But he's still drifting through most of the offense. I don't know if that's him not being assertive or his role in the offense being weak-side shooter and not much else. Whatever it is the cumulative effect is him once again disappearing on the court. When he DOES get uncorked he makes some exciting plays. He almost crammed a flat-footed dunk that would have brought the crowd to its feet. But most of the time even when he's getting the ball he's giving it right back up.
Team-wise we got outrun and we got baked on the perimeter on defense. We committed too many turnovers. We were fractured. But it's summer league. That will happen.
Ignore the scoreboard. It doesn't matter. What we found out tonight was that we have a ton of reason to look forward to the future but we still have a steep learning curve. We also have some shortcomings tailing over from last season. (That's to be expected...it was only a couple months ago.) If we expect the non-Lamarcus-and-Oden crew to be basically subs that's probably not a huge issue. If we're looking at Sergio, Martell, or any of the new guys to step up and contribute in prime time...well, they may not quite be ready yet. But then again, this is still way early in the summer process.
Side note: Sebastian Telfair was here but not suited up for Boston.
P.S. Three things to add that I thought of or heard of when I was on my way home from the arena:
1. Because I am so exhausted after the long trip I took a large part of the fourth quarter typing the recap instead of watching (so I wouldn't have to be up late doing it). I was reminded after the game that Martell has a very nice fourth quarter so you should take that into account.
2. Petteri Koponen did not miss a single shot that anybody saw in warm-ups.
3. If you're upset about the loss, remember this: If we were a normal summer league team with all of our rookies and second year players present the starting lineup tonight would have included Jarrett Jack and Brandon Roy. Then we wouldn't have lost.
4. Ken from Vegas adds this: It looked like Oden took it very personally when people scored on him on defense. Good to see.