Two late-breaking quick hits...
First, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinal, Shavlik Randolph survived another round of Miami Heat cuts today. He's the 15th man right now. The Heat have until Monday to decide Shav's future.
Second, The Blazers have now officially waived Ime Udoka and Jarron Collins. Here's the note from the team.
TRAIL BLAZERS WAIVE UDOKA AND COLLINS
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Trail Blazers waived forward Ime Udoka and center Jarron Collins, General Manager Kevin Pritchard announced today.
Udoka, a five-year NBA veteran, averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.40 steals and 18.8 minutes in five preseason games for the Trail Blazers. An eight-year NBA veteran, Collins appeared in four preseason contests for Portland, totaling averages of 3.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 14.0 minutes.
With Thursday's moves, the Trail Blazers roster now stands at 15 players.
With the exhibition season wrapping up -- the Blazers play their final preseason game tonight in Vancouver against the Phoenix Nashes -- the season previews are rolling out in full force.
In terms of total information, nobody has topped Kevin Pelton's Pro Basketball Prospectus, which is now available on Amazon.com. I got my copy earlier this week and despite being hyphenated (the ultimate insult) I couldn't recommend it more forcefully (without being arrested for assault). PBP is like the 2009 version of the arm sleeve: the single must-have NBA accessory. The more affordable PDF version is still available as well.
Yesterday I linked up Yahoo!'s Blazers preview, which was excellent. You should consider grabbing the Yahoo! Sports NBA Season Preview as well. I got the magazine at Borders but you can also order it here. Some solid analysis from Kelly Dwyer and company.
Ezra Caraeff, Portland Mercury
This current crop of Blazers is nearly god-like when compared to their expected division rivals, the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz. The Nuggets are an inked-up house of cards with a level of team chemistry that rivals the stability of a mobile meth lab. (That wasn't a Chris "Birdman" Andersen joke, I swear.) Meanwhile, Utah lacks depth outside of a few elite players, which means barring a complete meltdown, a series of catastrophic injuries, or a Joel Przybilla on-court rage killing (do not rule this out), another division championship banner should be gently swaying from the Rose Garden rafters by next summer.
Bethlehem Shoals, Sporting News
There are a lot of computers in Portland and a lot of people with time on their hands, or who are passionate enough about their Blazers to make time. After several years of writing about basketball on fake paper, that's a conclusion I will fight to the death to defend. It's a small city, and yet no fanbase so passionately and so adroitly makes its presence felt in this sphere.
Thus, it is with great trepidation that I start assembling this Blazers preview.
Dwight Jaynes, Dwight Jaynes.com
I've seen good teams muddle through the exhibition season and then take off as soon as the real games start. It's hard to motivate veteran players for exhibition games. I don't think it's going to be easy for this bunch. There are too many young players trying to figure out where they belong in the league.
But it's going to happen for them. It might take a month - maybe even two. It might take an injury or two to thin the roster down. But there is too much talent here to expect the team to struggle for more than about 25 games.
Ken Berger, CBS Sports
What could go wrong: With such a deep, versatile roster, McMillan faces the formidable challenge of putting the right combinations together on the floor. It's the hardest job of an NBA coach, and one that often gets overlooked. The second-hardest job is massaging egos, and McMillan has two point guards -- Miller, who came in out of shape, and Steve Blake, who knew he was losing his job -- with hurt feelings. If you're in the mood to feel old, go check out a Blazers game and watch Juwan Howard come off the bench in his 16th NBA season. Give him a hand if he needs it.
Paul Forrester, Sports Illustrated
After the season coach Nate McMillan talked to Oden about not only improving his conditioning to become more explosive but also remembering what he loves about basketball. Oden obliged, undertaking a rigorous off-season program with assistant Bill Bayno while taking classes at Ohio State. After 10 weeks of five-on-five scrimmages, lessons in post positioning and defensive technique, and talks about his role on the Blazers, the 21-year-old center emerged 13 pounds lighter in body and decidedly lighter in spirit. "The lesson I took from this summer is that I'm here for a reason," Oden says. "I worked for this, so why can't I be excited and become an All-Star?"
Tim Buckley, Sporting News
Miller may not knock down shots from the 3-point range, but he is a drive-to-the-basket distributing sort, which one Western Conference scout suggested could prove interesting when two-time All-Star Brandon Roy decides he wants to take over down the stretch.
"There's a concern on how he (Miller) and Roy are going to coexist in the fourth quarter," the scout said, "since that's when you mainly see Roy create shots for himself ... while Miller is a consummate point who gets everybody involved."
I can't remember if I've already linked to this scouting report on CNNSI, but it's very thorough.
They should be a second-round playoff team this year, and the pressure to get there will be felt by the coach more than anybody else. But Nate McMillan has been through that pressure already as a player and a coach. He's done a great job of directing that team, keeping it stable and teaching the young guys how to be professional. Now it's going to be whether he is making the right adjustments in the playoffs, but he should be able to handle that scrutiny.
Shawne Clark, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
OUTLOOK: Portland has plenty of upside this season now that its younger core players are more mature and have a better understanding of the message coach McMillan is trying to convey. Defense has been the biggest weakness for this franchise the past few years since the offense can score 90-plus points a night and not have to worry about getting back in position. McMillan hopes that strategy will not surface this season, especially being in a tough division and conference. A possible fourth or fifth seed in the playoffs is a reasonable prediction for this club. Under Roy, Aldridge and a healthy Oden, the Trail Blazers are ready to take the next step after getting a brief taste of success the previous year. Anything less than a second round appearance in the postseason will be a failure.
Will Brinson, Fanhouse
Kevin Pritchard has, amazingly, gone from "favorite NBA genius" to "evil, demented mastermind who garners shifty and angry eyes from people who root for other teams." I'm not sure when that happened -- I believe it was in his second consecutive year of draft-fleecing when people finally stood up and said, "ENOUGH!"
For the official Blazersedge season preview, please go ahead and read every post we've written between May and today. Or there's also this blog season preview post that I threw together earlier this week.
[Edit by Dave: Errrr...or you could just wait until Monday when the official official preview comes out. We just wait until everyone else has gone before we get all definitive on people.]
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)