As you've read by now, we were lucky enough to briefly see some full-court 5 on 5 scrimmaging over at the Practice Facility this afternoon. The pace to the game was quick and it was relatively competitive.
The lineups that we saw during 5 on 5:
- Bayless, Roy, Jackson, Aldridge, Przybilla vs. Rodriguez, Rudy, Batum, Randolph, Hill
- Bayless, Roy, Webster, Aldridge, Przybilla vs. Tatum, Rudy, Outlaw, Randolph, Hill
- Bayless, Roy, Webster, Aldridge, Przybilla vs. Tatum, Rudy, Jackson, Ike, Randolph
- Bayless, Roy, Webster, Aldridge, Przybilla vs. Rodriguez, Batum, Outlaw, Ike, Randolph
Keep in mind: Blake went down with an injury (reported to be cramping by Coach McMillan afterwards) almost as soon as the media was allowed in. As mentioned below, Oden sat and watched the practice and did not participate due to injury.
I would love to be able to give you a detailed breakdown of each player, but during the allotted time we only saw a short amount of play. Also, the game was, for the most part, guard-dominated and played around the perimeter. With that said, here are some thoughts:
-- Yes, everyone's ravings are accurate, Aldridge looks like a beast. Playing big on both ends, his size is even more noticeable without Greg in there. Then, after practice, he was draining 3 pointers one after the other. Totally automatic. It was ridiculous. My eyes were popping. Blazers officials that have been seeing him do this for weeks barely reacted. So, yeah, totally automatic. I don't think it's going too far to say that his name will be in discussions for the All-Star Game this year.
-- Brandon looked great today. I hesitate to say completely 100% because he was starting to drag ever so slightly by the end of the full-court game. But he looked great. He was matched up with Outlaw and was really having his way with him. He hit a beautiful pull up j, had a nice dish to Przy for a dunk, and generally moved very well. He cut smoothly in his Brandon way. He does not look injured whatsoever.
-- Nate was instructing the guards to pick up roughly 3/4 court on defense and to really pressure the ball-handler. With Blake out, Bayless was bringing the ball up the floor for his team and Nate instructed Sergio to "get up" in him. It seemed like Nate was putting Bayless to the test a little bit. Perhaps Bayless's ability to bring the ball up the floor is still an open question for Nate. I know that's a question that's been circling around these parts for awhile. Bayless didn't seem overly bothered by the pressure, but he was giving the ball up almost immediately after crossing halfcourt -- passing-and-moving after turning the offense over to Brandon.
-- Bayless rushed and missed a bad jumper from the top of the key with Sergio's hand in his face. That was his most memorable offensive play today. Something to track, for sure. A love affair with a jumper is a bad, bad thing. Other than that, Bayless is lightning quick and shows great control and poise when on the dribble. He doesn't play or act like a rookie at all. I think when all is said and done, he will be in the rotation because he is doing things Nate's way... with the exception of a few over-eager jumpers.
-- Sergio looked good today. He hit two shots, had a nice drive-and-dish to Randolph for an easy bucket (which succeeded in making Randolph look good, which is no easy task given that he was being man-handled by Aldridge). He did have a careless pass that went out of bounds which caused him to look down at his hands in confusion. His defense was good-- most of it was off-ball as Brandon was dominating possession and Bayless wasn't getting a ton of looks, but he was moving his feet and had his head up looking to read the passing lanes. He was also running hard through off-ball picks that were being set for Jerryd.
-- If you were holding out hope that Tatum would be the 15th man, I would suggest not doing that.
-- Martell seems really comfortable in his skin right now. To me, this is the best news possible regarding Martell. I could not have said that last year. He doesn't seem tense. I think he is enjoying the fact that he isn't the young guy with "something to prove" anymore. He seems at peace, which is a great place for a shooter to be.
-- Both Brandon and LaMarcus seemed to make a point out of being vocal leaders, leading cheers and high-fives for their teammates. Encouragement is, apparently, a universal language -- Rudy was also quick with the high-fives for his teammates and Sergio, as mentioned, went over to briefly talk with Greg.
-- As for the 15th roster spot, Tatum is out for sure, Randolph looked like he didn't necessarily belong on the court, and Hill was doing what Hill does. Oh, almost forgot, Jackson hit a nice corner 3 to close out the scrimmage. I still think the smart money is on Hill but I'm not willing to bet on it.
-- And, almost before it started, the scrimmage was over and it was time for the team to shoot free throws, running down and back whenever there was a miss. I tried to keep count but lost it -- anyway, I did have... Przybilla missed, Luke went 1 of 2, Rudy 2 of 2, Martell 0 of 2, Outlaw 2 of 2, Sergio 1 of 2, Batum 2 of 2, Bayless 1 of 2 (he let out a loud F bomb after the miss, which was, uh... compelling) and then Przybilla made 3 in a row to close it out. During the sprints, Bayless and Luke seemed to be making a point of leading the pack, with Batum not far behind, and everyone else pretty much running in a group after that. I think all 3 of those guys were trying to make a statement.
You're probably wondering: what's the deal with Rudy? First off, he belongs on the court. Yes, he's thin but I side with Nate in thinking that this will not be a huge liability. He has very quick feet on defense. He is also, as you already know, extremely active on both ends. He hasn't had the ball a ton so it's difficult to meaningfully assess his offense. He looks to be in game shape. Hopefully, we'll see more soon.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS An unrelated aside: if you haven't been enjoying my posts lately, you're in good company. In 2004, this man told me that my fiction was "nearly unreadable." So, good job.