Pick and Scroll, Everybody is nervous their first time.

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

ESPN Rankings:

  • Stein: 12 (-3)
  • Hollinger: 17
  • Hollinger’s playoff odds calculator is not favoring the Blazers right now. Portland has the toughest remaining schedule in the league, and the computer isn’t factoring in the addition of Wallace or the re-introduction of Roy and Camby, so things may not be quite so bleak. However, Portland does not have much room for error.
  • It’s Waiver Wire time baby! Who will Portland pick to fill the open roster spots? Leave your preference in the comments below.

Blazers Die by the Jumper, Sunday

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Just about every part of Sunday’s game hurt.

After the Blazers overcame a six point fourth-quarter to deficit to beat the Nuggetts in overtime on Friday, coach Nate McMillan called it Portland’s best win of the season. It was the Blazers second-straight emotional overtime game.

The gritty, tremendous performance was followed by one of the their worst in recent memory.

Sunday the Blazers were simply atrocious. It was as if they entered Sunday’s contest against the Hawks completely sapped of any competitive fire.

The awful play bottomed out in the third. Down 36-48 at the half, Portland came out of the locker room and continued their offensive free-fall. The Blazers opened the third by hitting just one of their first nine shots. They had as many turnovers as field goals. By the middle of the period Portland were down 20.

The Blazer finally found their stride in the fourth, scoring 34 in the quarter. But it would be too little, too late. It’s also not hard to believe that the Hawks, who had played three quarters of inspired defense, simply stepped off the throttle.

Despite fielding near-blowout leads in the second half the Hawks did not look like a tremendous team. A further indicator of the Portland’s futility, Atlanta won soundly despite handing over a season-high 24 turnovers. The 90-83 final score doesn’t accurately reflect the Trail Blazers total offensive malaise.

Simply, they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. Portland shot a miserable 39% from the field and made a disgusting four of 21 attempts from behind the three-point line.

The loss became more disheartening as it severed as a welcome to the recently acquired Gerald Wallace, playing his first game in a Trail Blazers uniform, and a welcome back to Marcus Camby.

In 29 minutes Wallace showed flashes of the chaotic high-octane fury on both ends of the court that earned him the nickname “crash.” But Wallace also appeared to be pressing at times, dealing with the jitters that come from wearing a new jersey for the first time in seven years and trying to pay back a Rose Garden crowd who, in the last two games, have welcomed the former Bobcat with numerous ovations.

Wallace finished with nine points, five rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist. Wallace hit four of twelve attempts from the field including a three, but a number of his shots were ugly and well off target.

It’s too early to assess offensive Wallace’s impact—he needs time to learn the sets. That said, there seemed to be an almost immediate chemistry between he and veteran guard Andre Miller. They seem to share a similar savvy, and Wallace should feed off of Miller’s smart passing and eagerness to push the the ball up court.

Camby, meanwhile, showed signs of rust. Playing for the first time since January 7, Camby played 20 minutes, missed two shots and grabbed six rebounds. Clearly he will have to work his wind and rhythm back into game-shape.

A game after hitting a clutch three to force overtime, Brandon Roy came back down to earth. In his second game after returning from arthroscopic surgery on both knees, Roy was as ineffective as the rest of his Portland teammates. He hit three of nine attempts from the field for nine points.

Unlike Friday’s overtime thriller where he played 24 minutes, on Sunday Roy was kept within the doctors playing-time parameters of 15 to 20 minutes. He played 18.

The only Trail Blazer to shoot above %50 from the field was Miller. But when the rest of the team couldn’t buy a bucket, Miller’s team-high 20 points weren’t nearly enough.

Missing shots has been a common refrain from coach McMillan after losses this season. And Sunday’s pile of bricks was no different. In a way, it almost felt like the Blazers were due—-in the past few weeks Portland have been shooting the ball well.

Not on Sunday though. Eeek.

Hawks Preview—Forget the Oscars, Crash already won best Picture

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The Blazers host the Atlanta Hawks (35-23) tonight in their second straight ESPN national broadcast.  The Blazers, of course, will debut their new athletic, high flying, defensive minded small forward—Gerald Wallace. Every eye on the Rose Garden will be rested on him and I hope it isn’t too overwhelming for him to play in front of a home crowd of more than 2,000.  

The Blazers should have their hands full with an athletic Hawks roster that has a new addition of their own—point guard Kirk Hinrich, whose slight upgrade(?) at the point guard position is a lesser addition than that of Gerald Walaces, but nonetheless it will be intriguing to see how both players adapt to their new teams.  Aside from Hinrich the rest of the lineup is similar to the Hawks of the past.  They still have two very athletic post players in Al Horford and Josh Smith, who will score on a team in bunches if they don’t have two athletic posts to defend them with.

The Oregonian is reporting that Marcus Camby will be back and start tonight so his addition is vital in the Blazers defensive efforts to stop the duo.  Of course, you can’t talk about the Hawks without mentioning joe Johnson.  Johnson’s production is down from last year but still  he is an all world scorer and it will be up to Wesley Matthews and most likely Nic Batum to try and slow him down. 

The Hawks come in having lost 6 of their last eight games and trying to hold onto the fifth seed in the competitive East.  This game is going to be a great opening test for the new look Blazers and as long as they play in control and get out on the fast breaks when possible, they’ve got a great shot at starting the post all star break 2-1. 

Tip Off: 7:30

TV: CSN and ESPN3.com

Radio: 95.5 FM

Vegas Line: Por -5

 



TJ Ford as a Blazer

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Just because the trade deadline has come and gone does not mean teams are done making roster moves. Playoff teams are eager to bolster their chances by picking up available players. TJ Ford
is rumored to be on the verge of becoming such a player, he and the Pacers are reportedly working on a buy out that would free Ford to sign with a team of his choosing. Portland is one team that has been mentioned as having interest in Ford, along with Miami and New York. With the possibility of Ford becoming a Blazer in mind I reached out to Tim Donahue of Eight Points, Nine Seconds to update my perceptions. Follow the jump to Ford the river. (Sorry. No, not sorry. Oregon Trail references are God’s work.)

TJ’s got a pretty flawed game:

Offensively, I think the league has largely figured him out. His only consistent shot is the 10-12 foot pull up off penetration (bizarrely – the harder the look, the more he hits). He can’t spot up, and won’t hit anything consistently outside of 15 feet. Worse, he can’t finish, missing a ridiculous amount of bunnies. I think the finishing thing started out because of his size, then grew until he just didn’t feel comfortable at the rim – partially because of fear of being blocked, and partially because of those major injuries he’s had. It’s pretty common for him to break into the open at the rim, the whip the pass out to the corner – often giving away a seemingly uncontested layup. In Indiana, he didn’t do a great job creating for others, but there weren’t a lot of others to create for, either. His size really hurts him on penetration, primarily because it limits his vision. He’s got a good handle, and passes well enough, but he’s turnover prone because he loves to get himself in the air or other situations where he has no outs. I think this is a function of his vision as well.

He would be well served – I think – by pushing the tempo, but that didn’t work particularly well here. I used to think it was because he wasn’t aggressive enough, but watching Collison this year, I’ve realized that most of the Pacers are just terrible at filling lanes. The only guys who are any good at it at all are Dunleavy and George – and Ford never played much with George.

Defensively, I think he can help teams. His attention wandered here, but he was in a shitty spot. In any case, when engaged, he was a good defender. In his 750+ minutes here, the Pacers allowed only 100.7 points per 100 possessions. The Pacers were a very good defensive team in November and December (even after they started collapsing), but a huge portion of that was Ford (and – believe it or not – Posey). He’s small, but he’s strong and experienced. He has a tendency to go under screens, which can be irritating, but when he challenges the ballhandler, he’s pretty good at bodying the guy off the screen. Also, he’s strong enough to make it difficult for bigger guys to post him up.

He’s not a stopper, but a “slower-downer” in that if a team decides to attack him, he’ll drag it out, and that can stagnate the opponents’ offense.

For all the shit he’s gone through here, he’s been a pro’s pro. Never spouted off in the media. Never shirked. There were rumors of him and O’Brien getting in each other’s faces, but that’s more a function of the two’s personalities than anything. Studiously avoided any controversy while here, and seemed to genuinely connect with the young guys. I think he spent last season taking Tyler Hansbrough out to eat and hanging out. Seems a decent guy, and he did OK this year, but just not a lot of purpose for him here.

I don’t know that he’ll ever be that 15/7 guy again, but he can play.

I’m fuzzy on how he fits in Portland.

It remains to be seen how much of Ford’s drop off came from diminished ability and how much can be attributed to a bad situation. With other teams showing interest I’m not sure the Blazers will have the opportunity to find out first-hand. As long as all interested parties are offering similar amounts of money, the rumor is that Portland would offer the minimum, I am not sure that Ford would choose Portland. He is friends with LaMarcus Aldridge, but does the chance to play with a friend overrule the opportunity for a larger role with a glamorous contender like Miami?

If Ford were to join the Blazers for the minimum it would be a solid move for the Blazers. Ford could be an excellent back up point guard, especially for the price. No guaranteed multi-year contract would make the move very low risk. Ford has the potential to provide the depth at point guard that has eluded the Trailblazers for what feels like generations.

A Little Like Old Times

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After Wednesday’s heart-breaking overtime loss against the Lakers, Friday’s 107-106 overtime win over the new-look Nuggets was welcomed with open arms and hungry hearts.

The script from Wednesday was basically flipped—instead of coughing up a lead Friday, the Trail Blazers overcame one. And how they forced the extra period—a fading 25ft Brandon Roy three with five seconds remaining—sprinkled a little extra sugar on top.

With a throng of reporters surrounding him the question came pouring in: did it feel like old times?

“Every time I make (a clutch basket) it feels like the first time,” Roy said.

In fact, Roy wasn’t sure the shot was going in. He looked to draw a foul and thought he did. But when he saw the ball roll through the net Roy withdrew his objection.

But the overtime-forcing bucket was just one in a string of many critical plays down the stretch for Roy. There was another three moments earlier that cut a six-point deficit in half with just :39 seconds remaining in regulation. Then there was a drive and kick to Wesley Matthews in overtime for another three that put the Blazers ahead for good.

Indeed, it was in fact a little like old times.

And while he admitted that the evening’s play restored some of his confidence, misplaced as result of sitting out some two months and having double-knee surgery, Roy was careful to keep humble and on-track. At times he seemed grateful to be playing at all—the rest was just gravy.



Because of overtime and a trade and injury-depleted roster, Roy saw 24 minutes—nine more than team doctors wanted him to play. Coach McMillan was quick to quip that Portland’s training staff would be upset with his keeping Roy on the floor. But McMillan added that there was little else he could do—Nicolas Batum had tweaked his ankle.

Surely McMillan could’ve gone to Luke Babbitt, Patty Mills or Armon Johnson, who saw a combined 16 minutes. But the coach’s desire to win is too strong. And after the Wednesday’s devastating loss and the way Roy closed out regulation Friday, there was no way McMillan could bear to leave him on the bench.



Roy, who finished with 18 points, said he felt fine playing beyond the prescribed minutes, adding that he doesn’t think his time should be limited. Instead he’d rather “keep building.”

But of all the Blazers to log heavy minutes—and there were many—LaMarcus Aldridge bore the full brunt with a whopping 51 (a season high). Any more, Aldridge said, and “I would’ve passed out.” He was only half-joking. Still, in his almost never-ending stint Aldridge remained effective. He piled up 24 points and a game-high 14 rebounds and made a pair of pressure free throws.

And as the Trail Blazers were fielding an extremely small lineup, coach McMillan put a premium on rebounding coming into the game. To have a chance the small lineup—featuring Aldridge at center, Nicolas Batum at power forward and Rudy Fernandez at small forward—would all have to crash the boards.

Along with Aldridge, the two under-sized fill-ins performed admirably. Batum pulled in eight boards and Fernandez grabbed six.

The guards did extra duty down low as well. Wesley Matthews added seven boards and Andre Miller tallied nine.

But Miller’s game went further than rebounding. With 18 points and nine boards—triple-double territory—he was simply everywhere.

And had a couple of questionable calls not went against Miller, including one especially dubious whistle that sent Danilo Gallinari to the free throw line in the game’s closing seconds, the Blazers might not have needed the extra period.

Because they were able to overcome the questionable calls, Miller said, made the win all the sweeter.



But really the calls were an afterthought. Friday it was all about one man: Brandon Roy.

The Gerald Wallace Trade, Celebrate and Be Afraid

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Now that the trade deadline pandemonium (when twitter crashed yesterday I became so agitated that I actually started sweating. I need help.) has passed it is possible for some semi-coherent thoughts to emerge in response to the Gerald Wallace trade. The move is at once fantastic and disturbing. Fantastic because Wallace is a very good player acquired for a low price, disturbing because taking risks on injury prone players is what got Portland into trouble in the first place.

Wallace is an excellent player. Fans will love how hard he plays. His acquisition signals that the Blazers are committed to winning now and not rebuilding. (A true rebuild seems like it would be tricky anyways with Brandon Roy’s large contract.) It also shows a commitment to the small ball style that has brought the team success recently. Andre Miller is one of the best down court passers in the NBA and Wallace is suited to take full advantage of that. On the defensive end Wallace is among the best and able to guard multiple positions. With the addition of Wallace the amount of talent on the Blazers increases significantly.

Some have expressed concern that the arrival of Wallace will stunt the development of Nicolas Batum. There is no way to know for sure how Batum will respond at this point, but the trade will not necessarily damage his growth. Batum will not only still get minutes, he will get to learn from one of the most aggressive and defensively capable players at his position. If Batum picks up even a fraction of Wallace’s mentality this deal becomes not only a short-term talent boost but a long-term gift to the Blazers as well.

And yet; this trade is not without worry. Along with the encouraging signals regarding the direction of the team it could also signal a continuation of self-inflicted misery. Wallace is injured often. In nine complete NBA seasons he has missed at least 20 games five times. Most of his injuries are not the result of Blazers style bad luck. Wallace does not get injured getting off the couch. His injuries result from his style of play. He was not given the nickname of Crash, he earned it.

Portland’s willingness to take players that are at higher risk for injury does not totally explain the freak injury history of the team. It does explain the most damaging injuries, the ones to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. Considering that this team has had so many injuries I keep expecting management to make player health a more prominent consideration during personnel decisions, similar to how character became more important following the Jail Blazers. The trade for Gerald Wallace suggests that the Blazers are still willing to add personnel with extensive injury histories.

Viewing this trade in isolation it is a fantastic move. Portland acquired Wallace, an All-Star and All-Defensive player, for two role players and two non-lottery first round draft picks. Players like Wallace are rarely had for such a price.

I’m excited for the arrival of Wallace, but because this team demonstrated a willingness to roll the dice on a frequently injured player once again, I cannot help but hold back a little. Heres to the health of Wallace and to the increase of player health as a prominent consideration in the future.

Get to know Gerald Wallace

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Brett Hainline operates the Bobcats blog Queen City Hoops. Naturally we asked him to help introduce Rip City to Gerald Wallace. Inform yourself.

As a Bobcats fan – it’s tough to see Gerald Wallace go. The last remaining original Bobcat and the cornerstone of last year’s playoff team, Gerald is a fan favorite for his demeanor, toughness, hustle, and skill. Charlotte watched him develop from an athletic, undisciplined wing (who still managed to average 2 blocks and 2 steals per game one season) into an All-Star. While Gerald’s numbers are down a bit this year from last, his effort level has been solid for a team that struggled early and as he has picked up his game, so as the team.

Offensively, Gerald still has an ugly jump shot – that’s not going to change. But it is clear he’s put in a lot of time over the last couple of years working at it, and he shoots from the perimeter well enough that teams need to respect it, and a corner three for Gerald is a good shot. Gerald is at his best in transition – while he can get a little out of control and commit the occasional charge – he is nearly automatic to score on the break, with his quickness and leaping ability. One of my favorite moves of his actually is where Gerald will drive to the paint and lift the ball over his head with both hands, leading with his elbows – for some reason, defenders don’t get in the way.

Defensively, Gerald’s days of threatening another 2-2 season are past him – he does not gamble nearly as much as he did early in his career, but he is still a good weak-side shot blocker with a nose for the lazy pass. Gerald’s strongest defensive characteristic is his rebounding – though that may have been exaggerated by playing next to Boris Diaw for the last couple of seasons. Good, not great on ball defender.

The thing that fans love most about Gerald is what is probably going to wind up shortening his career – his all out style of play. He goes hard after loose balls, potential blocks, and to the rim – and he has suffered a handful of concussions from it, as well as the collapsed lung a couple of seasons ago from Andrew Bynum’s elbow. I have no doubt Gerald will quickly win fans over in Portland with his play – but at the same time, a couple of times a game, he’ll cause you to suck in your breath and say “I hope he’s ok”.

Gerald Wallace: Art Inspired by the Heart

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Love how the Blazers keep picking up guys I’ve always liked. Guys with bigger
hearts and balls than egos. Andre, Camby, Mathews, and now Gerald.

I demand the Vanilla Gorilla be bought out and returned promptly though. And not
happy to see Junkyard leaving either. You should take his cats, then leverage
them for his return or threaten them to gain un junkyard like performances from
him when he faces his old team.

Tweets You Missed Today

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While the PRS crew is working through their own responses to today’s trade madness, we’ll take a look at some Twitter reactions to all of the news from the players:

Rob already covered the issue Dante Cunningham is facing with his cats, but this was one of the more heartwarming reactions of the day. 

Patty Mills offered up this Tweet before expanding the hashtag further:

 

 LaMarcus Aldridge weighed in with a similar sentiment:

And of course, this Tweet from Marcus Camby to the city of Portland was pretty great:

So what do the PRS writers think of the trade? Take it away, Seth:

And my personal favorite, PRS’ own Rob Simonson:

 Honorable mention goes to PRS Emeritus, Ezra Caraeff:

More is sure to come tomorrow. 

So, what do you think?