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Full Court Press

THE SEASON STARTS TOMORROW!!!!

  • I snuck this post in late last night: some thoughts and some quotes from Nate and KP regarding LaMarcus Aldridge's contract extension.
  • Dave dropped his massive season preview even later last night. Must read.
  • It would be cool if Kevin Pelton and I did a season preview Wingcast, right?  What if we did two of them?  Check back around noon. Also, a practice report later this afternoon.

Here we go...

The boys over at Rip City Project did a great Q and A with the Lakers Blog over on LATimes.com.  Coup writes...

At the time of the signing my response was, essentially, that all of Miller's skills will make up for his poor shooting, but that judgment must be reserved until we see what other move the Blazers make. They've got nearly $9 million in expiring contracts between Travis Outlawand Steve Blake to play with this year and while Kevin Pritchard isn't known for in-season trades, this is the last of the major cards the Blazers will have since the "Raef LaFrentz Expiring Contract" days. 

On a scale of 1-10, I'm about a 4 on "how worried I am about Roy and Miller playing together," but that's the only thing that has given me pause. Word is that Steve Blake is going to be the starter, which I don't entirely agree with, but if Miller is finishing games and gets plenty of time on the court with Greg Oden, it's a moot point.

  

I will say this, however. As much as I like Miller -- who is very, very good -- if all you get from all that cap space is 2-3 years of Andre Miller and that's it, then that will be a missed opportunity on a monumental scale. Sure, championships could make that irrelevant, but at this point that's putting something that hasn't happened up against something you could have done to make things happen.

Back at RCP, SJ reacts to a certain Sports Guy...

However, saying the Blazers, who return exactly the same team, plus Andre Miller (over Sergio Rodriguez), the return of Martell Webster and a ton of guys entering their second year are going to go 41-41...that's where I draw the line. That's just silly. I can understand doubting whether this team is going to get the chemistry together. If guys are going to accept their roles. If Roy/Miller are going to get things going in the right direction. I can get wondering if Roy and Aldridge can maintain their hunger now that they have their paychecks. I can see questioning if Nate McMillan can make this work. Going on a national platform and saying this team is going 41-41...that's a bit much.    

Casey Holdahl on the LaMarcus Aldridge contract extension.

"It's a little bit like a Chinese water torture for me cause I'm a basketball guy," said Pritchard. "I love smelling the gym and being in here and when you're doing a negotiation, both sides, there are struggles. You've got to get to a fair point. But ... we always felt good about it."

It helps that KP has been a player. He knows the mind of an athlete and he knows LaMarcus. And this isn't his first rodeo when it comes to negotiating. But KP is as connected to his players as any GM in sports. He's not locked up in an office making decisions from on high. Everyday he's feeling the pulse of the team. Part of that is being a good executive, but that's just an ancillary bonus. The reality is with the players is where he wants, almost needs, to be. And when you take that away, it's challenging. Some could take that forced distance the wrong way.    

Kevin Pelton on LaMarcus Aldridge.

While extensions are inherently a tricky business, none of the players of Aldridge's ilk signed contracts their teams have really come to regret. The negotiations on Aldridge's extension were difficult, complicated by the fact that the two sides had to try to hit a moving target in terms of next year's salary cap, which will depend on how much the NBA and the economy in general rebound over the next six months. Using history as a guide, it appears that the Blazers and Aldridge did a fine job of reaching a deal that is equitable to both sides.

Jason Quick on Andre Miller.

Miller said he could read the handwriting on the wall during the exhibition season, when coach Nate McMillan used Steve Blake as the starting point guard. When the decision became final after Thursday's exhibition finale in Vancouver, B.C., Miller simply shrugged his shoulders and looked ahead to Tuesday's season opener against Houston at the Rose Garden. 

"I think I've handled it fine," Miller said. "I haven't made a big fuss about it. It hasn't affected how I practice. I mean, it's just different. I didn't think it would happen at this point of my career. I think I'm still peaking. But that's part of the business. I'm not making a big deal about it."     

Joe Freeman on Greg Oden.

An offensively capable Oden creates the three-headed monster the Blazers envisioned when the drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick.

"It can be pretty unstoppable," Aldridge said. "As Greg gets better and as I continue to grow, we could be a pretty dynamic threesome." 

One facet that remains a work in progress is one that could develop into one of the Blazers' biggest weapons down the road: the high-low game between Aldridge and Oden. The two revealed a hint of high-low ability in spurts late last season and the Blazers have been working on it regularly in practice throughout the preseason.     

Dwight Jaynes on Greg Oden.

More than half the teams in the NBA do not have a player big and strong enough to defend Oden. We saw some of that during the exhibition season. And the more Oden gets the ball, the more skilled he will become on offense. Long term, this team needs him at BOTH ends of the floor.

Dwight Jaynes on the rotation.

My argument is that, given time together, it's always best to play your best players with each other - and I think Miller is a more talented player than Blake. And I think Miller would fit very well with the others after just a few games together.    

CNNSI's Mark Montieth on Greg Oden.

The outcome of the Western Conference finals will largely hinge on the knees of centers Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden.

Oden, the top pick in the 2007 draft, sat out his would-be rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. He struggled through typical growing pains in an uneven debut season, but appears poised to justify the Blazers' investment. A dedicated summer conditioning program dropped 13 pounds and added confidence, and it showed in the preseason, when he averaged 13.6 points and 9.3 rebounds in 22 minutes.

A healthy Oden will solidify the Blazers position as the third-best team in the West, and have them in position to step forward if the Lakers or Spurs falter.

Some questions and answers from Brian T. Smith.

Will this season's Blazers be better?

Gut reaction: of course. The team added well-respected veterans in Miller and Juwan Howard; Roy and Aldridge are a year older; Webster has returned from injury; Oden has improved; and McMillan has proven he can maximize the team's talent. However, nothing is guaranteed - especially not in the NBA, where injuries often compete with egos in the race to wreck a team first. In addition, the Blazers at times looked woefully out of synch during the preseason, leaving McMillan to wonder if the team thinks it can "flip a switch." Expect Portland to play somewhat shaky ball through first 30 games, with losses rivaling wins. But once the Blazers cohere, the team should soar. Portland might not pick up as many regular-season victories this season, but the Blazers will succeed when it counts: in the playoffs. And the Rip City faithful should expect to see their team still playing ball in May.

More Brian T. Smith with Nate's thoughts on Rudy.

According to McMillan, the Blazers need Fernandez, pure and simple. McMillan said Fernandez brings energy, excitement and passion to the team, creating a mixture that is contagious. 

"Our guys feed off that," McMillan said. "Not only can he play, but he entertains. And players feed off of that when he brings that energy to the court - playing hard and scrapping and stealing the ball and knocking down big 3s."    

I'm disappointed that this lengthy profile of Blazers President Larry Miller from Brian T. Smith featured not a single word about the team's television deal(s), internet streaming of games or even a mention of the contentious email he sent to the rest of the league.

"It was a big relief, just a big relief," Mills said, referring to his reaction that the Blazers were handing him their 15th and final roster spot. "At the end of the day, I'm happy to be here and happy to get my basketball career going again. I've kind of been in limbo for a few months and it was kind of a tough situation. So I'm just very excited to be here."

Andrew Theen on OregonSportsLive.com.

The Blazers are paying Aldridge for what they think he'll be worth in a few years time. He's still growing (literally).  His potential is still untapped.  The extension simply puts all the onus on Aldridge.  There can be no more lackadaisical first half of the season followed by a ferocious post All-Star game effort.  Aldridge needs to play like he has in February and March for the entire season.  This year already shaped up as a "show-me" year for LMA.  He's long talked about wanting to be an All-Star, and he is close.  The All-Star game is in his hometown of Dallas, and Aldridge minced no words at Media Day: he wants to be there.  Now LMA has All-Star money, and he needs to live up to the faith the franchise has in him.    

Sheed over at Bustabucket.com rides out on David Stern.

For fans, replacement refs ruined the flow of the game. For coaches they were pathetic and with no relationship to fall back on, there was no way to communicate. And of course the players were baffled with an awful overabundance of foul calls.

How can anyone trust David Stern?

He doesn't take criticism well and his smug demeanor makes even the most mild-mannered person want to scream. 

Not sure whether to laugh or cry over this passage from runyon on Trail Post.

Travis Outlaw's new quote won't be "Let's agree to disagree." It will be stumbling through a bathroom, barfing a torrent of rose petals, then falling to the ground. When he looks over, he will see a bowie knife. He stands up, looks in the mirror, and proceeds to cut open his abdomen, as even more rose petals tumble out. He reaches in and pulls out a tiny rodent demon. He places said demon on the bathroom counter, and then pulls out a tiny demon-sized bowie knife from the handle of his bowie knife. He gives the knife to the demon, and then the demon commits seppuku.

Not really a quote, but that's what needs to be done for Travis to play defense and learn how not to step on the three-point line. Who has the mushrooms?

Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez make ESPN's Most Improved Players nominees. Rudy gets a nod for 6th man too. Nate gets one nomination for Coach of the Year.

Marc Spears looks at JR Rider.

The team will practice and play its home games in a high school gym and practices are scheduled at night so players with day jobs can attend.

"Just give me a gym with a nice floor and I'm good," Rider said. "It's a long way from practicing at [Trail Blazers owner] Paul Allen's house in Seattle, but it's still good though."

NBA.com's first Power Rankings of the year have the Blazers at #6.

Not the most flattering picture of Steve Blake.

You can feel the stamp on this piece.

Drop anything I missed in the comments. As always, be sure to frequent the fanshots.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

PS On newsstands now: the November issue of the Portland Monthly, featuring five Blazer profiles from yours truly.