In case you missed them, the Blazers won both their games this weekend. On Friday, they topped the Spurs. Here is a Game Recap and a Media Row Report. On Sunday, they destroyed the terrible Timberwolves. Here is a Game Recap and a Media Row Report.
The big news of the weekend, of course, was Nate McMillan's new 3 guard starting lineup: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Congratulations to Brian T. Smith of The Columbian for scooping everyone with the news of the lineup change on Friday night.
Congratulations also to Blazers Broadcaster Mike Barrett (and his father Duane Barrett) for being inducted into West Albany's Sports Hall of Fame. (link via DwightJaynes)
Here's the single best basketball story you'll read all week: Pete Thamel of the New York Times goes to Israel to check in on high schooler Jeremy Tyler's progress.
As you read that piece I imagine you'll start thanking your lucky stars for Greg Oden.
Click through for this week's trip around the internet...
Brian T. Smith on the lineup...
Miller stated that "there was a good flow," with a strong mix between half-court and fast-break basketball.
Meanwhile, Blake said he simply enjoyed the ability to sprint up the court and play side by side with Miller and Roy.
"It's new for me to not be bringing the ball up and just to run the floor," Blake said. "It was fun. I enjoy playing with Andre in that capacity. And it's nice to have a lot of guys that can handle (the ball) and make reads."
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the start of Friday's game that the Blazers would be "smarter" by having Blake and Miller on the court at the same time.
Brian T. Smith on Rudy's uncertain role in the new lineup...
"Right now, I don't know my situation in the team," said Fernandez, who dealt with back spasms during training camp and missed four preseason games. "Blake play in the 2 (guard) position. For sure (that) is one more player in that position. Right now, I'm focusing in my work and taking (care of) my back. And when I'm on the court, play hard to help my teammates."
Fernandez, a native of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, added that he is losing money by playing in the NBA, rather than starring in his home country.
"For me, it's wait my turn ... and play hard," Fernandez said. "It doesn't matter if it's five minutes, 10 minutes or 35."
John Hollinger (insider) on last night's game...
Suggestion from a friend at last night's Blazers-Wolves game: that I keep track of so-called "flaming bag" passes, when a guard delivers the ball to a player who isn't open with two seconds or less on the shot clock. My spy swears one Blazer in particular did this at least four times last night. We'll take it up with the league office.
On a more serious note, the Blazers' shift to a three-guard lineup seems to be paying dividends based on our admittedly limited two-game sample. Portland shredded San Antonio and Minnesota over the weekend, and more importantly, the Blazers played the kind of defense they'll need to in order to challenge the West's elite.
The Blazers now rank 10th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, and while that's based on five home games in their first seven contests, it also came against one of the league's most difficult slates if you buy the early-season results.
Dwight Jaynes on the lineup...
I believe this is some sort of transitional lineup - a way to ease into putting Blake on the bench. Well, OK, but if that's the case, the team would be better off going to it right away, to get the bugs out of it.
A lot of people will dismiss this post as the rantings of a grouchy old cynic. But the deal is, the whole idea of this season is to IMPROVE. Get better - not win 54 games again. Portland should be thinking about what it needs to do to beat the Lakers, the Mavericks and the Nuggets.
And really, this new lineup is not going to accomplish that.
Dwight Jaynes on Roy's touches...
What Roy needs to recognize is that if he has the ball in his hands LESS OFTEN he might end up scoring more. That 1-4 set Portland has relied on so much late in games isn't working against good teams that are well prepared. Just as we said all along it wouldn't work forever. At some point, the league adjusts - and watching what Houston did to Roy and the Blazers in the playoff series last season taught everyone a lesson.
What Portland needs to do is get the ball in Miller's hands and let him create for EVERYONE, not just Brandon Roy. Run Roy off picks and get him moving without the ball. Put him in some different spots on the floor - make it harder to lock in those double teams.
Kevin Pelton on last night's game...
For the second straight game, Greg Oden was effective on offense for the Blazers, scoring 11 points in 22 minutes and showing off hooks and floaters in the post. While beating Jefferson one-on-one is not exactly as impressive as how Oden was able to hold his own against Tim Duncan in Friday night's win over San Antonio, it was encouraging nonetheless to see Oden continue to make use of his opportunities in the post. The ability to score down low is obviously there, as Oden demonstrated during the preseason, but something held him back early in the regular campaign. Now, he's playing smart, controlled basketball--he did not have a turnover--and gives the Portland offense a different dimension. Also worth noting: Oden, who had one game of four fouls and five with five coming into Sunday night, picked up just one personal in 22 minutes of action. He can't show off those budding post skills if he's on the bench, so staying out of foul trouble is a must for Oden.
Mike Barrett on last night's game...
Make no mistake, this style of play is extremely contagious. This team that's always looked built to run, was flying up and down the court, racking up highlight after highlight. Even after the occasional turnover in the open court (something that's bound to happen when you play this way), they would go right back and run again. If you know me, you know I've never really cared about the turnover total when it's balanced by other positive numbers. It's risk-reward, and I love the fact that they were willing to roll the dice.
This is why Andre Miller chose Portland, and why McMillan decided to go to this new starting lineup. It won't work this way every night, obviously, but there's no going back now. Well, hopefully we continue to see this, even when other teams make an effort to take it away. And, they will. Everyone scouts the heck out of everyone, so adjustments will be made to try and find weaknesses in this new system.
Joe Freeman with Andre Miller's play-calling duties...
For the first time in his coaching career, McMillan allowed his point guard to call most of the plays as the Blazers defeated the Spurs 96-84 at the Rose Garden on Friday. After McMillan yelled out the first set of the game, Miller essentially took over from there.
"I was a point guard who called my own plays ... so I'm OK with that," McMillan said, referring to his days as a player with the Seattle SuperSonics. "If you know the reads and you have a feel, I don't have a problem with that. There will be times when I will call some sets, but I thought 'Dre did a nice job ... observing what the defense was doing, figuring out who's on who and getting (guys) involved."
Jason Quick with the Blazers pushing the tempo...
The Blazers can, and will, get better at running.
"Defense," Miller said. "Defense can create easy baskets on offense. A lot of people think you can just fast break after a basket, but defensive teams are up there in fast breaks by forcing turnovers."
Ever since coach Nate McMillan arrived in Portland in 2005, he said he wanted the Blazers to run. But Portland has always been among the most deliberate half-court teams in the NBA. McMillan said they didn't run because they didn't get defensive stops. Or that he didn't trust his young point guards to take care of the ball. Or that the players were better suited for halfcourt sets.
Henry Abbott on last night's game...
This season the Blazers have been a bit underwhelming. Brandon Roy is part of the reason -- for whatever reason, he has not been his regular self. Last night the whole team's energy level seemed higher when he was out of the game. That's concerning. There has been a lot of discussion in Portland about Andre Miller not mixing well with Roy, and that could be a factor. But a simpler explanation is that Miller is a guy who has the ball a lot, and Miller has spent most of the season missing shots. One of Miller's great gifts is to get into the paint. But I just watched video of every shot he has taken this season, and a huge percentage of them have been misses. He has also been a very bad spot-up shooter in the young season too. That does three things to Roy -- takes the ball out of his hands, makes his team's offense inefficient, and emboldens defenders to help off Miller onto Roy. Last night, however, when Miller finally hit some shots, the Blazers' offense rolled, even if Roy couldn't hit more than one field goal before taking an early seat in the blowout.
Coup from Rip City Project on last night's game...
Since this wasn't a complete basketball game and it was such a team offensive effort, I'm not going to single anyone out. Everyone gets to go to Roundtable Pizza tonight and have their coach say something nice about them.
Torrid Joe of Loaded Orygun on last night's game...
With Miller in there, the options seem to explode: he can distribute, drive or sometimes pop. But when he distributes to Blake there is a different tree of options for where it goes from there, as opposed to when Miller feeds Roy as the beginning of the play. And god love 'em, but just having Miller on the floor seems to prevent the intermittent sinkhole a Travis/Webster pass becomes, at least to start halves. It almost forces the ball all the way inside, because there's no intermediate step between guard and big man at the forward position to start taking ill-advised long range jumpers.
Runyon of Trail Post writes...
One last stat-head stat: Oden has a PER of 18.5. His opponents average a PER of 6.6. That net of nearly +12 is total and complete domination. Anyone who still wants Joel Przybilla as the starter should see a therapist.
Cory on Bust A Bucket lists his top 10 Power Forwards...
7. LaMarcus Aldridge - Aldridge is a budding star in the league, and he has some God-given abilities that nobody else in the league does. The ultra-high release on his shot makes him difficult to defend in the post, and not many big men in the league are as good with the mid-range jumper. The criticism of Aldridge thus far has been that he is soft. It may be true to an extent, but I don't think he is any more "soft" than other finesse players in the league. He just plays a finesse game, not a power game. He could stand to improve as a rebounder, and let's all hope he doesn't keep drifting more and more to the outside, like Rasheed Wallace started doing throughout his career.
Drop anything I missed in the comments. And be sure to frequent the FanShots.