Time for another edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag. If you have a Portland Trail Blazers question, send it to email@example.com and we'll try to get it in the rotation! Here are today's selections from my inbox:
They seem to be having quite a time at CSNNW with reporters getting insulted for asking questions in the locker room and such. Any thoughts? Are some of our players getting nasty?
Honestly I'm not that up on the situation. When things like this start getting talked about I hear Charlie Brown Parent Voices everywhere. I guess it means something to someone? It's muffled trumpets to me.
As we talked about in yesterday's Blazer's Edge Podcast, I'm generally down on NBA media coverage. Reporters don't ask enough tough questions. Image-conscious teams, players, and agents buy off the media with inside information. Too many "stories" are extended PR pieces. I'm all in favor of an independent media asking whatever it dang well pleases without being concerned about the possible reaction.
This didn't seem like an appropriate test case though. From what I understand, the crux of the matter was a reporter asking a player whether his increased minutes were due to the team showcasing him for a trade. On the scale from "Impending Pulitzer" to "Ridiculous", that question tends towards ridiculous.
"Showcasing for a trade" is mostly a fan-created phenomenon. It's only slapped on players that people want to see traded in the first place. Nobody is saying it about CJ McCollum, right? It's a justification more than a description.
When a guy doesn't play it's because the team can't use him and probably wants to trade him. If he does play it's because the team is trying to show him off in order to trade him. Where's the "keep him" option? Nothing that happens on or off the court alters the pro-trade opinion. The whole concept is flawed.
Nor does "showcasing" make much sense in basketball terms. The third small forward in the rotation sits on the bench because two other players beat him out. If his team wanted to trade him, why would they put him out on the court to let everybody see exactly why the other two guys play ahead of him? They'd want to do the opposite. They'd preserve the mystery, portraying him as a player who could be great but just isn't getting a chance because of the jammed roster.
You can see why the concept would be greeted with an air of suspicion and disdain among basketball professionals to begin with. Making the situation worse: almost every player in the universe is going to take personal offense to that question.
NBA minutes and NBA careers are earned through a mixture of talent, dedication, and quality play. The ratio between the three may vary player-to-player, but there's no redistribution in which players get handed their position for free. Implying such is insulting. The "showcasing" question definitely implies that the player in question didn't earn his minutes, but got shoved ahead of more deserving guys because of ulterior motives on the team's part. Adding even more insult: the ulterior motive in this case is that the team wants to get rid of you.
No matter how it's put, a player is likely to translate that statement as, "You suck and the minutes you just played out there weren't real." It's the equivalent of asking an artist how easy it is to just splatter paint randomly on a canvas or asking a pastor how it feels to only work one hour a week on Sunday and tell everybody what to do all the time. I'd probably assume that kind of question was a joke. If it wasn't, I'd still answer it graciously but I'd think the guy who asked it was a major league tool who knew nothing about my profession and had just insulted me and all of my colleagues.
I'm not saying that about the reporter in question here. I assume there were reasons to ask what he did. I am pointing out that players reacting negatively to that kind of query is understandable. They're under no obligation to be gracious and I'm not surprised that the response wasn't roses and sunshine in this case. Whatever sense showcasing makes to anyone else, it makes no sense to them.
Please explain to me why (other than him being a good 'locker room' guy), Stotts lets Chris Kaman sit for this entire season, while his skills (and trade value) further diminish. Especially, when frequently the Blazers need a '5' with size and midrange offensive skills?
Because he's slower than snot running uphill in a freezer?
That's not all Kaman is, obviously. He has plenty of skills and knowledge, plus size and a nice shooting touch. All of those recommend him as an NBA player. But playing alongside his Trail Blazers frontcourt teammates, his inability to move around the court is glaring. He just doesn't fit Portland's big man mold.
The Robin Lopez Ice Age defense is gone. This year Blazers bigs are expected to move out and recover against screens and extend on both sides of the floor. Mason Plumlee, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, and Meyers Leonard routinely cover 15-20 feet from the basket. If Kaman gets stuck that far out, you might as well UPS him back to the rim. 3-5 day standard delivery would get him there faster.
You're correct that Kaman's mid-range moves are a strong asset, but that's exactly what the Blazers don't want from their bigs. Plumlee and Davis have an effective range of 6.2 inches. Leonard and Vonleh hang out at the three-point arc. Even Al-Farouq Aminu ends up shooting at the rim or 22 feet away. Any center holding the ball 15 feet from the bucket is taking up space that the guards could drive or cut through. And speaking of holding...Kaman likes to take 3 dribbles and 5 seconds to set up his shot. Nobody on the team over 6'4" gets to do that, especially not when it would draw defenders to the middle of the floor where they can easily cover the rim or the three-point arc. If a Portland player is stand-still dribbling, they're 20+ feet from the bucket drawing defenders to one side of the floor, creating space instead of clogging it, trying to use quickness against an imbalanced defense instead of post footwork against a set defense.
Again, Kaman isn't a bad player. He's an Old Portland System center stuck on a New Portland team. The Blazers aren't going to change that system, especially for a 33-year-old on the last year of his contract who was never projected to be a top option for the team anyway. Kaman was brought in to bolster a roster that no longer exists. He can't change his physical tools or his game to match the demands of the new roster. That's why he's relegated to garbage-time minutes while awaiting his next destination where hopefully he'll be able to contribute more.
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How many stars would you give 'Come Sail Away'?
ALL the stars.
You talked about your feelings on CJ McCollum for Kevin Love but what about Bill Simmons' other suggestion of McCollum for Love for Blake Griffin? Would Blake look good in a Portland uniform?
Swipe left. Hard. The guy's a really good player but if he's not pushing for a title with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, what is he going to do with Damian Lillard and nobody else? Well...besides occasionally take them to the second round and break their hearts like a fist thrown at an equipment manager's face.
The Blazers will need a major infusion of talent if they ever end up trading McCollum but that first deal won't be sufficient on its own. The next step has to be clear as well and I don't see a next step that turns Lillard and Griffin into title contenders.
Remember, folks, Bill Simmons doesn't care about the Blazers winning championships. He probably doesn't think that can happen. He just wants to throw you a bone and have everybody walk home happy. Whatever doldrums your team experiences in the short term, in the big picture No Title = Not Happy.
These are not the trades you are looking for. We can move along.
As we detailed here, we've already donated over 1100 tickets so underprivileged children and youth can see the Portland Trail Blazers face the Sacramento Kings on March 28th. We're trying to get that number to 2000. Can you help out with a ticket or two?
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You can send 2 kids for less than $20. You can send 10 kids for $100. The investment pays more dividends than you can dream of.
Also...with 2000 tickets on the horizon we will probably have room to say "yes" to a few more people. We've had requests for entire grade levels at some schools and request from grandmothers who have one grandchild they'd really like to take. We honor those and everything in between. If you work with underprivileged youth or children and would like to request tickets, my e-mail is right below.