Pick and Scroll, Portland finishes January 8-6.

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

Patty Mills, Unicorns, and the Post-Porter Curse

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Portland is known for bad luck when drafting centers. People are quick to connect Greg Oden to Sam Bowie, and even LaRue Martin if they want to show off. Bill Walton won a championship with the Blazers so gets excused from the discussion at times, even though the truth is that Portland was poised to compete for several more titles had Walton remained reasonably healthy.

Lost amongst the high profile disappointments are the selections of Arvydas Sabonis in 1986 and Jermaine O’Neal in 1996. Even these players were heart breaking in their own ways: Sabonis because the hobbled but still impressive version of him that showed up showed what could have been had he came earlier, and O’Neal because he became an All-Star after Portland traded him. Injuries then brought O’Neal down as quickly as playing time had lifted him up.

Portland has a history of drafting talented centers that don’t work out as hoped. In some ways the Blazers have an even harder time drafting point guards, at least over the last twenty-five years or so. At the point guard position the trouble seems to be finding competence, not health.

Since selecting Terry Porter in 1985 Portland has struggled to draft a solid point guard. Before Porter quality point guards seemed to come and go with regularity, after Porter the Blazers were lucky to draft a player that could last in the NBA at all. Take a look after the jump. (Note: If a drafted player never made his way to minutes I didn’t bother including him.)

BEFORE PORTER:

Fat Lever (1982): Played two seasons in Portland before being traded to Denver as part of the deal for Kiki Vandeweghe. Lever became one of the best point guards in the League and is probably the least appreciated player to ever come close to averaging a triple double. (19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists in 1988-89.) Where is the love?

Darnell Valentine (1981): Solid enough to start fourteen games as rookie, more during his second season, and then firmly hold the starting job by his third season. Even better, Valentine played his best in the playoffs. Injuries and the rise of Terry Porter made Valentine expendable in the eyes of management and he was traded for the draft pick that became Arvydas Sabonis.

Ronnie Lester (1980): Was traded to Chicago and never played for the Blazers. Since we are doing this I might as well add that Lester was a good player with bad knees. Lute Olson considers Lester the best player he ever coached.

Johnny Davis (1976): Another solid point guard sent packing before his prime; Davis lasted two seasons in Portland before being traded for the draft pick that became Mychal Thompson. Davis is now an assistant coach under Lionel Hollins in Memphis.

Lionel Hollins (1975): Hollins won a title in Portland, was an All-Star in Portland, and was twice named to the All-Defensive team in Portland. Then he was traded for a draft pick that became Al Wood. Yep, that happened. Now he coaches the Grizzlies.

Dave Twardzik (1972): Played four seasons in the ABA before joining the Blazers. Twardzik started for the 1977 championship team and is now Assistant General Manager for the Orlando Magic.

AFTER PORTER:

Craig Neal (1988): Was waived by the Blazers in early 1989 and out of the NBA by 1991.

Alvin Williams (1997): I always thought of Alvin Williams as more of a combo-guard, but then again I admit to not thinking about Williams very often. Williams played 43 games as a Blazer before being sent to Toronto as part of the deal for Damon Stoudamire. In 2002 Williams had his best statistical season averaging 13 points and 5 assists.

Even though Williams may not have been a point guard in the rigid sense of the position, and even though his best season was 13 and 5 with another team, he is still probably the best point guard Portland has drafted since Terry Porter.

Next came Erick Barkley (2000), Sebastian Telfair (2004), Taurean Green (2007), and Mike Taylor (2008). I think they are recent enough for me to spare both of us the trouble of recapping how they have fared since being drafted by Portland.

This brings us to Patty Mills, drafted by Portland in 2009. As a second round pick with skills that seemed a poor fit with Portland’s system it was an achievement that Mills even made the roster. (There are theories that Mills was able to hang on because Paul Allen has some sort of crush on him and really loves the Crocodile Dundee movies or something.) During that first season Mills was sent down to the D-League, which was usually a death sentence under the Kevin Pritchard administration.

Mills’ chances of being an impactful Trailblazer failed to improve during his first off-season. He broke his foot and wasn’t able to play in summer league. Meanwhile, rookie point guard to be Armon Johnson was winning supporters.

Mills managed to earn a roster spot with the Blazers once again, but Johnson was getting the majority of back up point guard minutes. Then the rookie faltered just enough for Mills to see the court. The Brandon Roy-less Blazers play a more open style that is a better fit with Mills and he produced. Now Johnson is in the D-League and Mills has been receiving the most consistent minutes of his NBA career, although his game to game contributions have remained erratic.

Mills might seem destined to falter like every other point guard the Blazers have drafted post-Porter. Yet since Mills has survived against the odds before thriving feels possible. If not, there is always another draft and the opportunity to try again. It’s a big ocean.

Pick and Scroll, MRI on Batum’s knee negative. Batum day-to-day.

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

Blazers Flounder Offensively, Lose To Celtics 88-78

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“I’m more into letters than numbers.”

That was the money quote of the evening, given by Kevin Garnett in response to someone mentioning LaMarcus Aldridge had a double-double by halftime. Indeed, as while Aldridge did manage to put up seventeen points and sixteen rebounds on the night, it wouldn’t matter in the end as the Boston Celtics dismantled the Portland Trail Blazers, 88-78, and gave them their second straight “L” in a row.

According to the numbers, the Blazers could have had a chance: they out-rebounded the Celtics 49-42 (including 19-8 on the offensive end), forced them into twenty-one turnovers, had forty-eight points in the paint versus Boston’s thirty-four, and held the Celtics to 47% shooting from the field (including 30% from distance), a bit below their season averages.

But for the Blazers, who only managed to shoot 36% from the field, the most telling stat came from the free throw line: Boston had thirty-three attempts to Portland’s measly thirteen. It wouldn’t be until the final ticks of the second quarter that Portland would even make their way to the charity stripe, the lack of whistles getting Nate McMillian fired up enough to pick up a rare technical foul.



All credit is due to the Boston defense. They forced LaMarcus Aldridge into another off game—he wasn’t able to get good post position, had a hand in his face on every turnaround jumper, and he couldn’t turn into the lane to save his life. It seemed like every time he tried to go one on one against Kevin Garnett or Kendrick Perkins, it ended with either a missed shot or a turnover. His eight offensive rebounds helped with his point total, as he was able to get some easy put-backs, but it took Aldridge an incredibly inefficient twenty shots to get his seventeen points.



With Aldridge all but shut down, there was no inside-out game to be had for the Blazers, as the lack of post scoring led to a lack of perimeter scoring. Ironically, on a night when the team passed out complimentary three goggles to fans, Portland was unable to connect from distance—they ended up going 4-16, three of those coming after the game was already out of reach.

In the absence of reliable offense from Aldridge, there was no viable second option for the Blazers. Wesley Matthews was 1-10 shooting until he made a few buckets in garbage time, Rudy Fernandez and Patty Mills would end the night shooting 3-10, and Nicolas Batum went 1-6 before leaving the game with a knee injury in the first half. Fingers crossed for Batum, as he’s scheduled for an MRI tomorrow morning—post-game he was nothing but optimistic, but at the rate the Blazers have been picking up knee injuries this year, bad news tomorrow would not be shocking. On the (very, very, very, very small) plus side, another knee surgery would fill the punch card completely, putting the next one on the house.

Portland’s shooting was so bad, Joel Przybilla would be the only Blazer to end the game shooting better than 50% from the field, making two of his three attempts on the night.

In the end, the Celtics were just the better team. They let Portland hang around for three quarters, but when the final frame came around, Boston started it on a 10-2 that all but sealed the game. It would take Portland nine and a half minutes in the final quarter to score seven points, and while the final two minutes saw Portland explode for twelve points, at that point it was too little, too late.

A few more free throw attempts and makes, plus a few more early made three pointers, and this would have been a completely different game. Portland executed their game plan relatively well, but on a night where LaMarcus Aldridge struggled and no other player was able to step and shoulder some of the scoring burden, Portland just didn’t have enough firepower to overcome the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Celtics Preview: Green with Envy

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The Boston Celtics are in town for their annual visit, sporting a healthy Kendrik Perkins for the second time since game six of last year’s finals. 

Perkins: a starting center back from season-ending injury? What a bunch of showoffs.

The Celtics have the best record in the east—three games up on Miami— second best in the league behind San Antonio, several All-Stars, plus four centers on the roster including Shazam.

Other than that, what else is there to say about a Celtics team who has been at the top of the league for the past few seasons? When it comes to the Blazers, quite a bit actually.

Boston has won the last three match ups against Portland, including a 28-point performance by Paul Pierce in Boston on December 1st. But a Boston win wasn’t the whole story that night, and the Blazers know it.

Wesley Matthews lead Portland with 23 points on 8-13 shooting, with LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy chipping in 20 and 18 respectively. The Blazers put together a 10-3 run in the third quarter and an impressive 15-0 run in the fourth against the league’s second best defense. The Blazers battled it out for 48 minutes, took care of the ball and limited their turnovers (12 on the night), got to the line (20-23), and refused to play the score or the situation.

Though losing to Sacramento this week was an unwelcome shock to the system, hosting a title-contender at the Rose Garden could be (and we’re all hoping will be) a great opportunity for Portland to have a bounce-back game in front of a national TV audience.

Like most folks in the Keep Andre Miller in Portland camp, I believe (as I do going into most games) that Miller setting the tone early on offense—moving the ball and waiting for the right shot instead of the first one—will be the key to Portland staying in this game and possibly pulling out a close win at home. Also, as someone who did fairly well after the fourth grade, I should know that the last sentence should have been at least two.

What else do I know? I know the Blazers have something to prove after rolling over against Sacramento, and national TV is as good a place as any to prove your self. 

TIP-OFF: 7:30
TV: TNT
RADIO: 95.5 FM
VEGAS LINE: Celtics -4.5

Blazers Look Better in the Black

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According to Forbes, the Blazers are the 14th most valuable franchise in the NBA, worth an estimated $356 million. The details can be seen here. Of particular significance is that last year, for the first time in a decade, the Blazers posted a positive operating income ($11 million). The article defines operating income as, “Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.”  Perhaps not entirely coincidently, player costs are at a 10 year low as well ($64 million).

It’s a little mind boggling to see that in 2003, the Blazers operating income was -$85 million dollars (player costs were $100 million that year). Wow. How far they’ve come.

The conjecture portion of the recap focuses on the proposed development of ‘Jumptown’, or whatever the latest name is for the mythical entertainment district plans around the Rose Garden and Memorial Coliseum may be. I haven’t heard much on that lately, but I’m not an avid Oregonian reader, so perhaps someone can update me on what’s happening there…

Overall, this seems like positive news for the franchise. Financial stability certainly allows the organization greater flexibility in player moves. Maybe even signing an expensive, high risk, injury plauged former #1 draft pick? I was talking about Yao Ming.

If you are interested in Forbes overview of their valuations, head here. The piece features this gem: 

However, if NBA commissioner David Stern gets his way, an imbecile would be able to make money running a team. Stern wants to lop $750 million off of player costs, lowering the portion of basketball-related revenue that goes to players from 57% to around 40%. If Stern succeeds, even teams like the Hornets, who were thought to be headed for bankruptcy before the NBA rescued the franchise, would immediately rise at least 30% in value because potential buyers would know they don’t run the risk of writing checks to cover operating losses.

Imbeciles rejoice, your day may be coming. Well, if you have $350 million.

Update (1:33 PM): head over to sister site, PistonPowered, for some fancy graphs illustrating where Portland sits in relations to other teams.

Pick and Scroll, Expect “Championship Basketball” to be played tonight

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

  • The Blazers take on the Boston Celtics tonight in a nationally televised game on TNT, and as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian points out if the Blazers start off slow again, its game over.  Helping the Blazers’ chances tonight is LaMarcus Aldridge who coach McMillan said will start and play.  Aldridge often plays well against the Celtics, and will try to get over the poor game he played on Monday against Sacramento.
  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian expects tonight’s game to get physical and Wesley Matthews thinks the Blazers can win the battle.  Matthews, who was seen after practice Wednesday using a different kind of three point goggles looks to have a big game against the Celtics.
  • Forbes magazine came out with its annual NBA Franchise Evaluations and is reporting that the Blazers are worth $356 Million and are valued as the 14th best NBA team out of 30.  John Canzano of The Oregonian believes that Paul Allen should celebrate by taking advantage of the teams position by going after weaker teams in hopes to win a championship now.  In any event, it is great news to see that the Blazers are among the top half of NBA teams financially.
  • Chad Ford of ESPN (Insider) lists his top 10 impact players most likely to be moved before the deadline, and Andre Miller ranks second on the list.  Ford goes on to say:

Miller’s contract is also not guaranteed next season, making the 34-year-old an attractive target for a veteran team trying to shore up its backcourt. The Blazers have been hunting for help just about everywhere, and if they can get a young player or an asset for him, they’ll pull the trigger.

  • Also from ESPN Insider, John Hollinger considers the Blazers as “Sticking” rather than “Kicking” as the trade deadline continues to grow closer.
  • Sekou Smith of Hangtime blog, which believe it or not is not a blog devoted to my favorite video game, debates whether Aldridge or David West should make the Western Conference All-Star team.  Unfortunately, this debate may turn out to be moot, as both players seem likely to be shafted in favor of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.  For what it’s worth, Aldridge did receive 83% of the votes at the time I wrote this.
  • Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat has an interesting article about newly acquired Blazer Chris Johnson and the lessons he learned during his time on the Celtics.  Johnson, who is essentially the Blazers sixteenth man, reminisces about his time with the Celtics during training camp and the advice Danny Ainge and Shaquille O’Neal bestowed upon him.
  • TrueHoop Network sister site, Celtics Hub, is reporting that Bill Walton will be providing color commentary for the Celtics tonight on their CSN broadcast.  This is now the second time this season a Blazers opponent has had Walton join their broadcasting team for a game.  Although, this time Walton makes a lot more sense as a commentator than when he announced for the Kings last week. 

Pick and Scroll, Blazers catch a break so to speak

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

  • Congratulations LaMarcus Aldridge, you are the first Blazer this season to successfully receive good news on an injury.  Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that Aldridge is probable for tomorrow’s game.  As I am sure all of you realize, if Aldridge had been out for an extended period of time he would have become the SEVENTH Blazer to miss substantial time due to injury this season. 
  • Speaking of injured Blazer big men, Mitch Lawrence of The New York Daily News is reporting that Donnie Walsh of the New York Knicks has a wish list and Joel Przybilla is on it.  The Knicks are looking for a backup center, and have been openly interested in both Marcus Camby and Przybilla.  The fact that the Blazers are also open to the possibility of acquiring Anthony Randolph from the Knicks makes me believe that a deal between these two teams is very likely to happen before the deadline.
  • Nicolas Batum is now blogging.  Sean Meagher discovered the post on the French basketball site, http://www.basketsession.com and Tim Brown of The Oregonian roughly translates it.  One of my favorite quotes:

Now, I’m seeing less space and less open shots, so that would be super interesting to the team if I could develop a shot from 4-5 meters out from the basket off of the screen

Any time something has the potential to be super interesting to the team, I am onboard.

  • Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat is reporting that executive director of the NBAPA, Billy Hunter met with the Kings team two weeks ago and warned them that “The lockout would last all of next season” if an agreement isn’t reached by June 30th.  Meetings are reportedly scheduled to take place during All-Star weekend between owners and the NBA Players Association in hopes to put to rest the uncertainty of next years NBA season. 
  • If you find yourself wondering what Kevin Pritchard is up to these days, Chad Ford gives us an update in his chat:

Lance (Pdx)

Hey Chad, KP was invited to spend some Quality time with Larry Legend, big changes coming in Indy?

Chad Ford

(1:31 PM)

From what I can gather, Kevin Pritchard approached Bird, an old teammate, looking for some side work. Pacers asked him to scout some NBA players. No official relationship. Doesn’t appear to be anything. While I’m sure Pritchard is on the hunt for a new GM gig (and I think he deserves one) I don’t think there’s anything going on in Indy. The owner is a big Bird and David Morway fan I’m told.

Pick and Scroll, L-Train Stalls Against Sacramento

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Today’s P&S written by Jack Ward

Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

  • Last night the Sacramento Kings came into town and ended the Blazers five game winning streak. Unfortunately, the Blazers recent string of slow starts finally caught up with them, as the team was never able to fully dig themselves out of another first quarter hole.
  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian asks the question everybody else was asking themselves last night: Why is Samuel Dalembert such a matchup problem for Lamarcus Aldridge? For the second time this season, Dalembert locked up Aldridge in what is one of the most surprising mismatches for the emerging star. The nine-year veteran attributes his success against Aldridge to extensive film study, but consider me in the camp that believes Lamarcus’ increased minutes to be the main reason for his sub-par game last night.
  • Don’t exhale quite yet Blazer fans, but Jason Quick is reporting that X-Ray results on Lamarcus Aldridge’s hip have come back negative. However, there is still an MRI test scheduled for today, because as we all know it’s never THAT easy.
  • Mike Barrett believes that it was the defense early in the game and not the lack of offensive punch that costs the Blazers last night.
  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian comments on a troubling new trend for the Blazers, awful defense to start off games. In five of their last six games the Blazers have trailed at the end of the first quarter. With games coming up against Boston, San Antonio and at Denver if that trend continues the Blazers will be out of games in a hurry.