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Monday Training Camp Report

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I was numbering these reports "Day 1," "Day 2," etc. but it's starting to run together and I can't really count that high. Good thing I can read a calendar.

No huge stories from training camp today but there were a few interesting tidbits. Let's dig in.

Nate McMillan Believes in His Defense

Nate set his starting lineup for tomorrow night and it was no surprise: Blake, Roy, Batum, Aldridge, Przybilla. He also said he would experiment with various starting lineups later during the preseason and would communicate regularly with Brandon to keep an eye on his minutes.

I thought the most interesting thing McMillan said today, though, was in response to a question about Kings rookie guard Tyreke Evans.  Evans, a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school and after his one year in college at Memphis, would seem to have franchise-player level potential for the Sacramento Kings. Sure, Kevin Martin is the man right now but with his size and strength at the point Evans could become a transformational player for a team that badly needs one.

I asked Nate what he thought about Evans but he offered only generalities...

A lot of people liked him. Our scouts liked him. Big guard, I didn't do a lot of homework on him because we didn't pursue him. We knew that he would be somebody going high. Supposed to be a pretty good guard.

The interesting part came when I asked whether Evans or Martin were the type of players you might adjust your defense to focus on.  In the past, Nate has praised certain opposing players in advance of games, noting that the Blazers have to limit their offense in certain ways, whether it's denying them certain spots on the floor, always getting a body on a guy when shots go up, playing pick-and-rolls particularly tight, etc.  

Nate's response about how he's approaching tomorrow night's game defensively...  

We're going to just play our rules. For us, it's all about us being concerned about us, and not so much about what other things do. There are 29 teams. If you try to do something different for every team you get yourself in trouble. It's about what we do. Doing the things that we've worked on. Being solid and being connected out there on the floor.     
What do I take from that? A confidence in the skill level of his personnel on the defensive side, a confidence I'm not sure was there last year.  Martell Webster echoed his coach's sentiment...
It's just experience. We know what we have to do. We just play our rules. It's not really going to be honed on individual matchups. It's going to come down to us doing what we do, and that's playing our defense.
I'm not sure to what degree these comments are inspired by the Kings relatively weak personnel, the fact that it's only the first preseason game and there's not much on the line, or something else entirely.  But it feels like a new-look. The message seemed to be that the Blazers don't need to gimmick their way through the season defensively.

That confidence in defensive self is a luxury that good teams have, developing teams strive for, and bad teams dream about.  I see these statements from Nate as another indication of how the coaching staff feels its roster compares to the rest of the league. 

Andre Miller

I'm going to start a new, ongoing segment called "I can't tell you much about Andre Miller but I can tell you..." to collect the little portions of information that float to the surface about Portland's most secretive player and personality.

Last night it was a description of his back tattoo; today it's his cooldown routine.  Miller closed practice with some extra jumpers today but he also went through shooting drills from a number of different spots in the mid-post.  He would catch and face, turnaround over his left shoulder, turnaround over his right shoulder, bank shots in from the elbow, practice coming across the lane shooting the ball way out in front of him looking to draw fouls, you name it.  A very thorough post workout for any player, much less a point guard.

Miller hit these midrange shots at an unbelievable rate, roughly 80% by my count. Twice he broke into a wide smile after snapping the net so hard it got stuck on the rim hooks.  Assistant Coach Joe Prunty came over to dislodge the stuck net while Andre beamed at the rim.  Interestingly, he missed his first shot both times after the net was fixed.  Shooting by professional basketball players is such a robotic act that the delay caused by something as simple as a stuck net can be enough to throw off one's rhythm. 

Patty Mills watched from the next court over and shook his head after practice, "You don't see many guards working in the post like that."  Mills also repeated something we've heard from other Blazers: he's picking up little morsels from Miller just by watching him practice. It seems there's more to preseason than simply conditioning drills after all.

Here's another question to consider in the Miller vs. Blake debate: If you start Miller along with Aldridge and Oden can you get anything from him operating out of the post?  Seems like you would have to sacrifice this strength of his game when pairing him with two players that have serious down-low offensive potential of their own.  Throw him in a second rotation with Travis and Przybilla, though, and perhaps he can set up shop more easily. Just thinking aloud here.  I'd still start Miller personally but you know it's a decision that will be looked at from all angles, including this one.   

Patty Mills Update

Chatted with Patty Mills for a few minutes today because he was out of his boot and in sneakers for the first time this fall.  Mills said...

No boot for a few hours a day. A little bit of a tease. Baby steps trying to get the strength back in the joints.  Take it out let it breath. 

Does the boot start to become a drag? <---- See what I did there?

It does because you're in it so often, you sweat and stuff. The boot is good because its higher so there's less pressure on the joints and tendons and stuff. Saw the surgeon and he gave me the word that in about 2 weeks I can take the boot off altogether.

Did the crowd for last night's Fan Fest blow you away a little bit?

It did. Ahh, dude. unbelievable. 17,000 to an intrasquad scrimmage. It was unbelievable. They didn't just come to watch, they were making a lot of noise. For a player, especially me coming from a different country, coming out of college, coming to see how much support you get for a group of guys, that's what you want. You just feel comfortable in the program.

This Just In From The Team

Two Trail Blazers standouts return to team in a new role

PORTLAND, Ore. -Terry Porter and Brian Grant, two of the most popular players in Trail Blazers history, have formally rejoined the organization as the newest members of the Trail Blazer Alumni Ambassadors Corps, the team announced today.

...

In Porter, Grant and Dudley, the Trail Blazers now boast three past recipients of the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award provided annually to the NBA player, coach or trainer who best exemplifies outstanding service and dedication to the community.

"We are excited that Terry and Brian have both made the decision to return to Portland and thrilled to have them represent the Trail Blazers once again," Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said. "It is a compliment to our city, the organization and especially our fans that so many of our former players have made Portland home."

The Alumni Ambassadors Corps represent the Trail Blazers at events throughout the community year-round, bridging the team's past to its present, supporting team outreach as the public face of many of the team's "Make It Better" programs, including Harvest Dinner, the Statewide Summer Tour and local basketball camps.

Another Great One-Liner

I asked Martell whether tomorrow was a battle for Washington bragging rights, what with himself, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman all in the same arena at the same time.  Webster wouldn't bite on that one except to deliver this great one-liner...

I know Spencer [Hawes] has a bad taste in his mouth after getting a little bit of Greg [Oden] last year.

Indeed.

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