Today has been a somewhat hectic day so here's what you need to know in bullet point fashion. Sorry for making this quick and dirty.
- A lot of people have been asking about the "mood" of Blazers camp. Now that Rudy Fernandez has settled down (at least for the time being), the Practice Facility has returned to a very business-like, veteran, day-to-day feel, with post-practice three-point shooting contests being the rage this season. Today saw a battle royale between Australia (Mills), France (Batum), Spain (Fernandez) and the United States (Matthews) with the requisite, good-natured flag-waving trash talk.
- Something that Brandon Roy said during Media Day keeps popping up in my mind. Roy said that he was entering the season preparing for the long haul rather than itching to get started and jump out of the gate on day one: a sense of readiness without unnecessary exuberance. I think there is a good deal of confidence in this group but the knowledge that key pieces won't be available for an extended period of time has flattened early expectations.
- With that said, I think everyone, from the top down, is beginning to itch for tomorrow night. It's unavoidable.
- The starting lineup for tomorrow night's preseason opener against the Los Angeles Clippers will be: Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Jeff Pendergraph. Nate McMillan anticipates using a relatively normal rotation, but it's the preseason. "We'll probably play a lot of guys tomorrow," McMillan said.
- Pendergraph is starting because Marcus Camby will not play due to his injured groin. Camby underwent testing on his groin (kinky) and the tests revealed that everything was in order. That's what she said. It's worth noting at this point that there is zero urgency from all parties in terms of Camby's absence or return timetable.
- Nate McMillan's focus remains on defense. He discussed some minor tweaks to his halfcourt defensive sets. I'll hold off on writing about them until we see what happens tomorrow. He said only portions of the offense have been installed to this point so if you're expecting a free-wheeling, perimeter ball-movement circus tomorrow, stop it.
- At a few recent practices, Greg Oden hasn't been in the gym during the open access period for media. Questions were starting to bubble up once again about whether he is around the team, still on track, etc. Word today was that Oden has still been participating in team drills and has been going through strength workouts and lifting sessions on a daily basis.
- The roster cuts this past weekend boiled down to a numbers game. The Blazers now have 18 bodies left but only 15 are able to fully participate (Przybilla, Oden and Camby are limited currently). 15 = 3 teams of 5, which makes life easier for scrimmages, drills, instruction, etc. No further cuts are expected before tomorrow night's game.
- GM Rich Cho has brought in a new nutritionist to work with the Blazers and she was in attendance at practice last week. Her focus is on diet: making sure all the players are eating properly and knowledgeably. Cho met her when he visited Oden in Indiana and she is said to have built a very good rapport with Oden. I noted on Media Day that Oden lost a significant amount of weight this summer.
- Joe Freeman has a really nice piece on a motivational video Nate McMillan and Rich Cho put together.
Here are a few leftover thoughts from Saturday's Fan Fest.
- Wesley Matthews was the obvious headliner as he lit it up on offense and went toe-to-toe with Brandon Roy (at least as much as is possible during an intrasquad scrimmage). It was a good look at what we've seen briefly in practices too: a compact, repetitive shooting motion that you can tell is the product of a lot of work.
- The Fan Fest delivered an "oof" moment when the perception of the Blazers on paper collided with the Blazers who are actually healthy. That moment came the first time Jeff Pendergraph posted up LaMacus Aldridge up in the post and threw up a wayward layup. There's a sinking feeling that goes with both of those guys being forced to play minutes at the 5 to start the season. Unlike years past, when it was Always Sunny In Pritchardelphia, private expectations among the team's brain trust are very conservative this season, due almost entirely to Przybilla's and Oden's availability.
- Can we stop and take a moment to reflect on how great it was to see Brandon Roy moving effortlessly on the Rose Garden court? I know Twitter has eviscerated both my short and long term memory but I have a vague recollection of The Natural using both arms to drag one of his legs behind him as he gamely tried to run up and down the court last spring. It's difficult to shoot a jumper when both hands are occupied like that. On Saturday, it was back to free and easy Brandon; he started the game with a jumper from deep and didn't look back. Big smile on his face. Certainly he's glad to have those memories behind him too.
- Luke Babbitt is going to be a big time target any time he gets the ball in his hands, as athletic defenders are going to get up in his jersey and force him to get a shot off the dribble. Ball pressure the likes of which he hasn't yet seen. He has a decent handle in isolation but the bigger challenge for him will be dealing with ball pressure without breaking out of the offensive set.
- As if to prove a point that he plans to run the slowest team in the league, Nate McMillan made the fans sit through nearly an hour of warmup drills and stretching prior to the scrimmage.
- I dare you to try to stop watching this...
Get 'em Luke. The clap at the end just kills it.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter