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Expectations: Raef LaFrentz

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Finally we reach the end of our "Expectations" series with the team's most veteran center/forward.  There's little doubt that the last few years have been hard on Mr. LaFrentz.  First he craps out after signing a big new contract in Boston, then his playing time slips, then he gets traded as a throw-in, and then when he's finally asked to contribute he gets injured left and right.  This guy doesn't just have to look both ways before crossing the street, he has to look upward for falling pianos, re-entering satellites, or random flocks of circling pigeons.  There's little reason to expect he'll be a significant player on this year's team but I'm guessing he'll be more significant than people think.

A lot of our front-court depth right now depends on Channing Frye.  As long as Frye is healthy, motivated, with the system, and not getting completely abused on defense or on the glass Raef's minutes would appear to be numbered sparingly.  It's likely, though, that at least one of those four things will unravel sometime during the season.  Who steps in behind Lamarcus then?  I don't think Raef every becomes the second power forward on the depth chart but he could easily claim some of those minutes that Frye lets slip.  Also of all the big men Raef is the only one besides Przybilla who's not as green as grass.  Unlike Joel he has the ability to step in at that power forward position and open up the court with his shooting.  His defense has languished with the rest of his game lately but at least he knows where to put his body.  At least once or twice during the season Nate is going to want reliability over spark.  That would be LaFrentz's niche.

What does it amount to?  Not much.  But if he's healthy Raef should get more playing time than the rookie second rounders.  That's a low bar for a veteran big man but you have to consider what he's climbing out of.

Expectations:

--Demonstrate a good work ethic and example for the young guys.  Show them that you always have to stay ready and positive because you never know when your number is going to get called.

--Share wisdom with Oden.  (I see Raef as a more likely candidate to fill this role than Przybilla.)

--Block those young guys' shots in practice until they learn to take it strong and put it up right.

--Make life easier on the post players by hitting jumpers from the wing.

--Just stay healthy for a while so we can cheer you.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)