This will be the first of many blog entries concerning my home town Portland Trail Blazers. In this entry I wil discuss the beginning of this current NBA season, along with some predictions for the future. I am a very realistic person, I am optomistic about my Blazers, but I tell it like it is.
Game 1: @ Los Angeles Lakes:
What did you all expect? I know many people around these parts expected the Blazers to come out and suprise the world with an opening day win over the Western Conference Champs. Not me. I expected them to compete, show that we deserved some of the preseason hype, and compete with the West's best team from a year ago. My thoughts were that since the preseason was such an injury riddled one for the Blazers, that they would not be ready to click on all cylinders and knock off such a highly reguarded team. Oden, Aldridge, Roy, Blake and Webster all missed time in the preseason, that is our entire starting lineup. As we knew before this game Webster was not going to play, but rookie Nicolas Batum had a terrific preseason showing and looked as though the pairing of him and Travis Outlaw would at least come close to what Webster and Outlaw would have provided. We also caught a glimpse of Batum's defensive abilities and got excited.
What did we get? A poor showing from our "big three". Roy and Aldridge struggled from the field all game, and Oden got hurt early and didnt play much. Aldridge confirmed some of the concerns skeptical fans had, he showed that he was a "soft" big man, settling for jump shots and basically avoiding contact on the offensive side of the ball. Brandon appeared not to care about the situation, however if you have watched him in the past you know that his laid back facial expression is the same no matter what happens in the game. Simply put, he was going against the best SG in the game offensively and arguably defensively and didn't have a good game. You might look at Oden's numbers and say that the reason they looked so poor was because of his injury, however watching the game I noticed he looked well over matched. He didn't look like he was in game shape and looked as if he was trying to do everything himself. There were a few bright spots that dd come out of this game though, starting with Rudy Fernandez. His game is clearly ready for the NBA proving that the Olypic games were not a fluke. This guy was well on his way to showing that he is deserving of 30 minutes a game. In what appeared to be a slightly before game time decision Coach Nate McMillan decided to start Travis Outlaw over Batum. It was a suprising move that ended up working out as Outlaw led the blazers in scoring with 18 and seemed to be one of just two bright spots on offense. Batum ended up getting 3+ minutes of mop up time in going from what appeared to be a starter to a player burried on the bench. We ended up losing the game by a wide margin but learned a few things about ourselves, we are not the best team in the world and Oden wasn't going to make that happen just yet.
Game 2: vs San Antonio Spurs
Right about now we are looking at the NBA schedule makers and cursing them for putting us up against the best big men across the league in so many consecutive games. Well, hey, can you blame them? Didn't we all want to see what Greg Oden could do up against Bynum, Duncan, Shaq, etc? Problem is, Oden went down in game one, leaving us with a big hole and a bad schedule. This game had a great outcome as the Blazers outlasted the Spurs with a one point victory. This game not only provided the first win of the season, it gave us hope. We defeated a team who many professionals believe to have a dynasty over the last decade in the NBA. We also got to see the All-Star Brandon Roy. The guy who fills the box score, and shows he has the ability to be mentioned among the league's best players. In this game he scored 26, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished out 7 assists and snatched 3 steals. That is clearly what we wanted to see. LaMarcus Aldridge poured in 23, in an outing that saw him take the ball to the hole with authority more frequently. The truly exciting thing we got out of this game was the arrival of Batum. He was all over the court causing havoc. Although he only finished with 1 rebound and 1assist, he also scored 12 points including knocking down one 3 pointer, and totalled one steal and two blocks. Pryzbilla was in foul trouble most of the game and Channing Frye is softer than a marshmellow. Batum's legnth allowed McMillan to use him in a smaller lineup as a power forward, and he flourished. Showing NBA fans that #1 Kevin Pritchard pulled off another great trade accumulating Batum, and #2 McMillan was not crazy for considering Batum for the starting spot even at age 19. All in all the youth of the Blazers still reared it's ugly head down the stretch as the Spurs had a great look at a jump shot from Michael Finley to win the game, lucky for us the ball bounced off the rim and we got the victory. This was a jump shot that Finley likely makes at least 7 or 10 times, so we come away from his one with our heads held high as we pull off the win, but we are not cocky cause this one could have bounced the other direction.
Comments about the Suns game will be posted later today.