Tag:Portland Trail Blazers
Posted on: October 28, 2010 11:04 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:12 pm
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The Game Changer 10.28.10

Blake Griffin impresses in his debut, Russell Westbrook gets way up, Thabo Sefalosha talks block and "The Most Interesting Man in the World" makes a cameo in Los Angeles.
Posted by Ben Golliver

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: BLAKE GRIFFIN MASHES IN HIS NBA DEBUT

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was the Talk of Twitter Wednesday night, charging out of the gate with astonishing energy in the first quarter of his NBA debut, dropping jaws and immediately earning rave reviews from commentators and fans alike.  First things first: if you haven't seen the video of his right-handed alley-oop catch followed by his left-handed putback slam, both of which took place in the game's opening five minutes, then go here right now.  Griffin's energy and fearlessness in his return from a season-ending injury last year stood out most prominently, but his all-around game shouldn't be overlooked. His stat line speaks to his game-changing ability - 20 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, and a steal - and the only downside was that his Clipper teammates and coaching staff apparently forgot he was on the team down the stretch. While he's not yet a finished product, Griffin is by no means raw. He did almost all of his work around the basket tonight, finishing 6-10 on layups and dunks, while shooting 2-4 from outside the immediate basket area. There's a pro and a con to those numbers. The upside? He's attacking the basket relentlessly, both off the dribble and while crashing the offensive boards (he had nine offensive rebounds, and it felt like 29). The downside? Defenses will adjust quickly, daring him to shoot the mid-range jumper, a shot that is in his toolbox but that he didn't look particularly eager to shoot tonight.  Forget the nit-picking, the kid is special, and he set a high standard for his main competition for Rookie of the Year - Washington Wizards point guard John Wall - to match tomorrow night, when he makes his NBA regular season debut. Keep reading for a frame-by-frame look of one of Griffin's prettiest offensive moves, a stunning 360 degree spin move that left the Portland defense flat-footed.

GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:

Russell Westbrook:  28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steal, 1 block, 8-15 shooting Two of Westbrook's 28 points came in spectacular fashion : a must-see coast-to-coast drive and dunk. Honorable mentions go to... Joakim Noah: 18 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 7-13 shooting and... Monta Ellis:  46 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 18-24 shooting

DON'T MISS:

Ken Berger was on hand for the Miami Heat's first win of the 2010-2011 season in Philadelphia. He wonders when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will start clicking?

FRAME-BY-FRAME SPIN MOVE ANALYSIS:


OK, back to Blake Griffin.  Below you'll see a frame-by-frame look at a second-quarter spin move Griffin executed against Portland's Dante Cunningham. Let me set the scene a little bit. Frame 1: Griffin received the ball at the elbow with his Clipper teammates standing around in semi-hopeless fashion. With all five Blazer defenders eying him, Griffin slowly took a dribble to his left toward the paint, lulling Cunningham to sleep a little bit. Frame 2: Cunningham, an undersized power forward with good core strength and lateral quickness, trusts his defensive abilities on the perimeter and attempts to body Griffin to force a pass or tough turnaround shot. Rudy Fernandez dives down to make life for Griffin a touch more difficult but he doesn't commit fully, and Griffin is able to continue operating with relative calm. Frame 3: Griffin absorbs the body contact from Cunningham and explodes off of it, rotating nearly 360 degrees towards his strong hand with a reverse pivot and taking a monster gather step towards the basket in the process. The result is as explosive as it looks in the freeze frame: Griffin was in one place and then instantly in another, while Cunningham barely has time to react. Portland's help defenders are similarly stunned, as Brandon Roy stays home on the corner shooter and new Blazers big man, the aging Fabricio Oberto, has no chance to come over from the weak side to help. Frame 4: While Cunningham makes a game effort to recover and contest the shot, Griffin has created a clean look at the rim at close range, and he converts on the move. His quickness into his jump ensures no one will be able to block the shot. As the clock shows, the entire move, including the original dribble, took place in just two seconds.
blake-griffin

WHIMSY:

"The Most Interesting Man in the World" of Dos Equis fame took in the action between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. Seated in front of him appears to be a member of Napoleon Dynamite's extended family. most-interesting-man Video Clip Mania: Oklahoma City guard Thabo Sefalosha talks about how he sent back a Luol Deng shot attempt. Via Royce Young. 

HERO OF THE DAY:

Cleveland needed a hero to ice their huge win. Anthony Parker, with an assist from the clock crew, stepped up and became that hero.

 



CONFETTI AT THE BUZZER

By Matt Moore
  • Russell Westbrook was simply devastating for the Thunder last night, slashing all the way through. He was lethal off in-bounds, off the rebound, and especially in transition. Derrick Rose matched him in points and assists. It was a classic point guard battle, though Westbrook killed Rose in terms of efficiency.
  • Derrick Favors was surprisingly good in limited minutes yesterday. He was active on the glass, that you'd expect, but he got a few buckets off the pick and roll and seemed to work smoothly in it.
  • The Nets got their first win, a month earlier than they did last year.
  • The technical foul issue popped up again in several games. That rule hasn't faded since the start of the season.
  • Monta Ellis was ridiculous, and didn't miss a single shot inside ten feet last night.
  • DeMarcus Cousins was overshadowed by Griffin, but had himself 14 and 8, and oh, yeah, his team won.
  • Utah got blown off the map, not how the Jazz wanted to start what should be a promising season.
  • How about Roy Hibbert in a losing effort last night? 28 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks for the big man. The Pacers need that and against easier competition, Hibbert could be the difference in wins and losses.
  • Terrence Williams is looking more and more like a complete player for the Nets. He had a solid outing last night, including a nice lob to Favors.
  • Andrea Bargnani's offense roared back after a terrible preseason, and he had two solid defensive plays. The problem as always? All the other defensive plays.

Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.

Posted on: October 27, 2010 11:03 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:10 pm
 

Blake Griffin dunks with both hands on Blazers

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin makes his NBA debut in spectacular fashion, with back-to-back first-quarter dunks. Posted by Ben Golliver Looks like Washington Wizards point guard John Wall will have some competition in the Rookie of the Year human highlight department. Check out Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin's first-quarter reign of terror during his NBA debut against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.  In the game's first five minutes, Griffin threw down two monster dunks, one with each hand. First, a right-handed catch and finish on an alley-oop pass from Clipper guard Randy Foye.   Soon after, Griffin effortlessly completed an acrobatic left-handed put back, following a missed 3-pointer by Clipper wing Ryan Gomes Heads up, NBA bigs. Put a body on this Blake Griffin guy at all times. He's a threat to dunk, whenever and wherever.
Posted on: October 27, 2010 2:35 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:09 pm
 

Your essential guide to Armon Johnson

Portland Trail Blazers rookie point guard turned some heads during his NBA debut against the Phoenix Suns. Here's everything you need to know aboutarmon-johnson him boiled down in one place.
Posted by Ben Golliver


The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the most bizarre media coverage situations in the NBA. In Portland, they're under a microscope, often receiving the entire sports attention of local television, radio, internet, daily newspapers and alt-weeklies, enjoying perhaps the most obsessive coverage of any small-market team in the NBA. Nationally, thanks to their late-night start times and slow-down pace, plus zero televised games this preseason, the team has existed in a black hole. As such, even hoops die-hards like J.E. Skeets were left to joke that they had no idea who Blazers rookie point guard Armon Johnson was after his impressive NBA debut last night, when he tallied 6 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in 9 minutes of play and played his patented brand of chest-to-chest pressure defense. Given that TheRookieWall.com named Johnson "rookie of the night" on opening night, I figured it was a good time to get you caught up on the man they call "A.J."   Here are 10 essential Armon Johnson facts that you can use to impress women at the bar.
    1. His first name is difficult to pronounce properly and he's a little sensitive about it, going so far as to explain the proper pronunciation to a press conference room full of reporters when he was announced to the media following the 2010 draft. There's a Jamaican-esque emphasis on the "Mon" after a soft r. It's pronounced "ar-MAHN," not "AR-mun."

    1. Johnson originally hails from Chicago but was raised in Nevada, and he has known fellow Blazer rookie Luke Babbitt since elementary school. He graduated from Reno's Hug High School (seriously) and his affectionate off-the-court personality makes this detail feel like a major part of his persona.

    1. Johnson was part of the most interesting pre-draft workout scene in Portland over the last three years. After his workout, Johnson was the only player to stick around afterwards to work on his jump shot with the team's shooting coach and hobnob with the team's scouts. Less than two hours after his workout finally ended, the Blazers sent millions of dollars to the Golden State Warriors to buy the right to switch second-round draft picks. The Blazers used that new pick, No. 34 overall, to draft Johnson.

    1. Blazers scouts simultaneously adore Johnson and work aggressively to manage expectations for him. Perhaps this is a function of the point guard hype carousel that has gone on in recent years in Portland (a list of casualties: Sebastian Telfair, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless). This summer, they saw his ceiling as an Eric Snow type of leader at the point guard position and, despite a strong preseason, they continue to hold to that as Johnson's ceiling.

    1. The strengths of Johnson's game are his tenacity on defense, his overall quickness, his passing ability and his good size and strength.

    1. The biggest weakness of Johnson's game is his jump shot. Denver point guard Ty Lawson set an NBA record by sagging 21 feet off of Johnson during a preseason game. Also, his aggressive defense and use of his hands will lead to a lot of perimeter foul calls this season. Lastly, while some opposing guards have yet to pick up on this, Johnson is left-handed and greatly favors his dominant hand when attacking the defense off the dribble or looking for his shot.

    1. Why wasn't Johnson a first round pick? Two main reasons. First, his small-conference college team, Nevada, was off the map because they didn't make the NCAA tournament last year. It looked even worse because the Wolfpack had two NBA prospects in Johnson and Babbitt, and Johnson, as point guard, caught a lot of the blame for this lack of post-season success. Second, he shot just 23.9% from the college three-point line last year, leading to questions about how far that number would plummet at the NBA distance.

    1. A Blazers assistant coach gushed that Johnson is "a left-handed Nate McMillan" after a Las Vegas Summer League game this year and Johnson's willing-to-do-anything hungriness has clearly endeared him to his new coach, who has been notoriously difficult on young point guards in the past.

    1. Johnson figures to carve out a nice role for himself in Portland's rotation this year, as the team's second unit is stocked with shooters like Rudy Fernandez and Wesley Matthews, who can make up for Johnson's lack of range. Another factor playing in Johnson's favor is that McMillan will likely lean heavily on Matthews to close games alongside Brandon Roy in the backcourt. Using Johnson to tire the opposing team's point guard seems like a smart strategic move to make life easier on Matthews and Roy, neither of whom are true point guards.

  1. The final question for any point guard in Portland is: "Does he have Brandon Roy's endorsement?" Even an established veteran like Andre Miller hasn't been able to escape that one. Roy liked what he saw last night. "Armon gave us 10 minutes. A really good 10 minutes. It gave us a chance to come in and finish that game. Armon did a wonderful job this preseason working every day to get better, watching a lot of film, and he showed it out there. He showed what he's been working on. That wasn't a fluke."
Posted on: October 26, 2010 9:57 am
 

Shootaround 10.26.10: And it begins

Posted by Royce Young
  • You guys, the NBA season starts today. How exciting. Just a couple games tonight but they're all wnners. Phoenix vs. Portland, Houston vs. LA and that one team vs. Boston.
  • Kobe Bryant did a radio interview yesterday and hinted that his first retirement might not stick: "Yeah, I mean, you see so many people and so many players do it, but it's tough to say that you won't go through that. Obviously, everybody does go through that. That's the point where you have your family handcuff you to a chair."
  • Greg Oden played some 5-on-5 yesterday but admitted he was a little hesitant: "I was worried, but it was fun ... I got my blood moving, it felt good being out there. Coach basically told me 'Don't try and go full-go'. It wasn't like a full blown practice. I was the weak link out there, but I was still out there."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Heat's recruiting of stars and Pat Riley's ruthless master plan had nothing on the Magic's tactics. The Magic exhausted themselves clearing salary. They knocked themselves out trying to snag Tim Duncan. Greeting a plane in their hangar with Duncan aboard, they erected a huge banner that read, 'GRANT US TIM,' and offered trays of finger-food. Lon Babby then leaned over to John Gabriel and said, 'Tim doesn't eat cold cuts.' The color drained from Gabe's face as he imagined Duncan passing on the snacks -- and the Magic. They frantically dispatched staffers to retrieve burgers for him. It's just a snapshot into the lengths a team will go to win. Your team. Maybe the Magic and their fans shouldn't be so hard on the Heat."
  • How did Udonis Haslem end back up in Miami? Have a read: "Something that doesn't have a lot of precedent in American sports happened then. Wade called Bosh and asked him to cut $15 million off his salary for Haslem. Wade called James and asked him to do the same. Bosh and James barely knew Haslem. Just a few short conversations here and there. But Wade told them this team needed someone hungry and gritty and unselfish like Haslem, and promised to cut $17 million out of his own contract to make it happen, too."
  • The Lakers kick off a title defense tonight and Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold warns to be patient: "I bring all this up because this season will be filled with peaks and valleys.  Like every other season that we’ve observed as followers of this team, there will be moments where hope is low and where the frustration spawned from suspect results will dominate the mind.  Do not succumb easily to these feelings of doubt.  The NBA title will not be decided on Christmas Day or on the Grammy Road Trip.  These are just steps in the process and must be separated out from the larger goal at hand.  Enjoy the journey and understand, again, that it is a long one.  Championships aren’t won in a single game during the regular season, but over the long haul the lessons learned from the cumulative will prepare the players (and the fans) for the bigger prize."
Posted on: October 23, 2010 8:34 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Blazers trade Jerryd Bayless to Hornets for pick

The Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly traded guard Jerryd Bayless to the New Orleans Hornets for a future first-round draft pick. Posted by Ben Golliver  jerryd-bayless
Marc Stein of ESPN.com first reported that the Portland Trail Blazers have traded guard Jerryd Bayless to the New Orleans Hornets for a future first-round pick.
The Portland Trail Blazers have found a trade to create some extra roster room, agreeing Saturday to deal guard Jerryd Bayless to the New Orleans Hornets for a conditional future first-round pick, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources tell CBSSports.com Saturday evening that the trade has gone official and the pick that Portland is set to receive is top-7 protected in 2011 and top-8 protected in 2012, 2013 and 2014. After that, it would turn into two second-round picks in 2015 and 2016. The Blazers also receive a trade exception worth nearly $2.3 million. Because the Blazers are currently luxury tax payers, the move saves the team roughly $4.6 million.  Bayless is entering the third year of his NBA career and, while showing flashes of sensational athleticism, has never found a defined role in Portland's backcourt. A prototypical score-first combo guard, Bayless has had trouble running an offense and defending without fouling. For New Orleans this is a move that makes them better in the short term, as it fortifies their backcourt depth, which took a hit when they traded reserve point guard Darren Collison to Indiana this summer. Bayless should be able to play both off the ball alongside all star point guard Chris Paul and behind him in a reserve point guard role. Bayless is familiar with New Orleans's new head coach, Monty Williams, who was an assistant in Portland for Bayless's first two seasons. For Portland, the move frees up a roster spot. The Blazers had 17 players under contract prior to the trade. Now, Portland is down to 16 players and, if they waive injured big man Jeff Pendergraph as expected, can retain the rights to Australian guard Patty Mills and still meet the league's 15 man roster maximum or they can waive Mills and carry 14 players. 
Posted on: October 22, 2010 9:37 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:59 pm
 

Portland Trail Blazers To Sign Fabricio Oberto

The Portland Trail Blazers will sign Argentinian big man Fabricio Oberto. Posted by Ben Golliverfabricio-oberto

Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that the Portland Trail Blazers will sign Argentinian big man Fabricio Oberto.
Sources told ESPN.com that Oberto -- who has turned down several offers from Europe in recent weeks because he was determined to keep playing in the NBA -- is joining the Blazers on a one-year deal to fortify their depth as Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla continue to recover from the serious knee injuries they suffered last season.
A league source with knowledge of the deal has confirmed the report to CBSSports.com Friday evening. The news comes as no surprise because the Blazers have limped through the preseason, often using power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Dante Cunningham in the middle and getting production from veteran (aging?) center Marcus Camby only when he's been healthy. A season-ending knee injury to big man Jeff Pendergraph left the Blazers with no frontcourt depth, making life even more difficult in the continued absence of Oden and Przybilla. Oberto will likely serve as Portland's fourth big man, at least until Przybilla's return, which is anticipated in mid-November.  Rookie Luke Babbitt -- a combo small forward/power forward -- had been logging time at the four spot during the preseason, but he isn't yet ready to play heavy minutes in the NBA. With the signing, Portland's roster currently stands at 17 players, meaning GM Rich Cho will need to trade or waive two players before Monday's deadline. If no trade develops, those two players are expected to be Australian guard Patty Mills and, in a sick twist of fate, Pendergraph.  It's been a horrible month for Pendergraph, a second-year fan favorite out of Arizona State, who went from being projected as a major contributor for the Blazers to, likely, a player without an NBA home. On the bright side, his contract this season is fully guaranteed, so he won't walk away empty-handed.   
Posted on: October 19, 2010 10:18 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:55 pm
 

Stephen Curry: running point, raising hopes

Golden State point guard Stephen Curry is growing up fast, focused on making the Warriors a playoff contender. Posted by Ben Golliver

“You make me feel old.” 

That was the reception from a middle-aged woman for Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, as he emerged from the Rose Garden’s visiting locker room on Saturday night after nearly going quadruple double -- 17 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds and 8 turnovers -- on the Portland Trail Blazers in a meaningless preseason game.

The 22-year old Curry hears that a lot when he travels the league, in part because of his baby face, in part because of his slight frame, in part because so many people remember him tagging along his father Dell, a long-time NBA veteran. But as Curry begins his sophomore trip through the league, after contending for Rookie of the Year honors last season and winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship this summer, he’s hearing a lot of others thing too. Like, “One of the best shooters in the league.” Like, “All star potential."

That’s the story for Curry and his new-look Warriors this season: emerging. “He surprised everybody last year because we thought maybe he wasn’t ready for the NBA,” Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said. “He seems more mature. He has learned the NBA game.”

Curry says he’s ready to take on the full time playmaking point guard duties that new head coach Keith Smart has laid out for him. “Down the stretch of last season with so many injuries I think my role would be to distribute the ball, and 1A was to score. This year I think it’s more managing the game, we have such a powerful lineup this year I’ll be able to pick and choose when I want to attack, when I want to get people the ball.”

With the offseason additions of power forward David Lee, forward Dorell Wright and big man Lou Amundson, there’s a steadiness in the Bay that wasn’t there last year. “We had so many guys rotating in and out with injuries,” Curry lamented on Saturday. “Coming from the D-League, guys who are going to be here for two weeks until somebody gets healthy. Playing with unorthodox lineups on the floor, it’s kind of tough to be consistent throughout the course of a season so hopefully that doesn’t have to happen this year. Right now we have more of what I’d call a traditional lineup, our big guys are healthy, we can go out there and know the rotation that coach is going to put in, know what to expect night in and night out, not have to adjust on the fly as much as we did last year.”

The bread and butter of Curry’s game remains his gorgeous shooting stroke, which he works at harder than just about any one in the league. Two and a half hours before Saturday’s preseason game, Curry went through his “plan” with Stephen Silas. The plan consists of getting up “about 200” shots prior to a game, although Curry says he takes even more some nights to get his rhythm. This isn’t a standstill three-point contest. Curry works on catching the ball in awkward locations, creating a clean look off the dribble while moving in all four different directions, stopping and popping, floating through the lane, you name it.

All the work has paid off. “He’s always been a pretty good shooter with range,” says Blazers coach Nate McMillan, who coached Curry during the World Championships as an assistant for Team USA.” Now he’s proven he can shoot the NBA three. He’s definitely one of the top shooters in the league.” Batum agrees. “He is a top two or three [shooter] in the NBA for sure. When he has the ball he’s very dangerous. You have to remember where he is. If you lose him, bam.”

Bam, indeed. While the Blazers threw three different guards at Curry and occasionally extended their ball pressure full-court to make his life even more difficult, Curry found his shots again and again on Saturday night. Pull up three in transition, stopping on a dime. Cross-over dribble for a step back mid-range jumper. Darting off of a high screen, squaring his shoulders and letting fly.

“He has no conscience,” former NBA player and three-point ace Hersey Hawkins, who has known Curry since he was a child, laughed last week. “I think every guy that’s been labeled a great shooter shoots the ball with confidence, regardless of makes or misses, they’re constantly looking for their shots. He moves well without the ball, that’s a plus for being a good shooter. He knows how to free himself up to get his shot off. And then he has a variety of shots. He can put it down, shoot the floaters, shoot runners, of course we know he can shoot the three. When guys like that get on a roll, they’re just unstoppable.”

Curry isn’t yet an unstoppable force, but he’s getting there. The game plan to defend him involves denying him clean looks and forcing him to make plays under pressure. Curry’s 11 assists on Saturday speak to his developing vision, but his 8 turnovers make it clear there’s still work to be done. “It’s still a little bit of an adjustment,” Smart said after the game, pointing to the team’s addition of true low post players as a contributing factor. “We won’t have as much space on the floor that we’ve had in the past. There’s nothing major that’s going on right now. He’s going to figure it out.”

A number of Curry’s zip passes hit unprepared teammates in the hands. “We shared that in our shootaround this morning. You guys need to make sure when you’re cutting to the basket, be ready to receive the ball,” Smart said. “Don’t just run through the lane. He’s putting the ball on the money in some places but they’re dropping too many of his passes. But those things are correctable. They can correct the pass, they can correct the catch and we can move forward.”

Curry smiled when asked about the turnovers. “I won’t have that many every night.”   He says he’s still adjusting to his new teammates, and vice versa, and feels like he’s being given as much time and space as he needs to develop into the point guard role. “They want me to be aggressive, make plays, but you can’t be careless with it,” Curry says. “You can’t take that freedom and running around the floor. I think they trust me to be smart with the ball, be aggressive, make the right play. Nights like tonight where I’m making a lot of dumb plays, it shows the trust they have in me to make the right ones by keeping me out there and letting me work through it.”

That work, on his jumper, on his maturity, on his playmaking, is turning heads. Asked if Curry will make an all star game in the near future, Hawkins didn’t hesitate. “Oh, yeah, definitely. I think he’s that good.” McMillan agreed. “He enjoys the game, he works at it. Just a talented player. If he continues to have that success and his team wins, you certainly have to consider that.”

Team success is on Curry’s mind too. “We have a lot of pieces we need to make that push, be in the mix with those eight or nine teams in the West competing for those playoff spots.” Whether it’s this year or next, Golden State is playoff bound in the near future.  Young Curry will see to that, as he makes us all feel old in the process.

Posted on: October 14, 2010 5:36 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:49 pm
 

Brandon Roy versus the world won't work

Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy has called for the ball, but is that a winning strategy?
Posted by Ben Golliver

Four games into the preseason, after a summer that didn’t see much roster turnover, the Portland Trail Blazers look and sound like a team still trying to find an identity, a team struggling to get on the same page.

Coach Nate McMillan has preached defense throughout training camp, and the troops, minus new addition Wesley Matthews, by and large haven’t responded. After holding a short-handed Los Angeles Clippers team (no Eric Gordon, no Baron Davis) to 86 points in their preseason opener, the Blazers have gotten clocked by division rivals Utah and Denver in three consecutive games. Add it up, and the slow-down, injury-depleted Blazers, are giving up 101 points per game during the preseason.

Throughout his young career, whenever Portland has hit a tough patch, all star guard Brandon Roy has responded by placing more responsibility on his own shoulders and, by extension, calling for more touches. After a flat performance on Monday night and a day off to think about things, Roy told reporters Wednesday that the motion offense the Blazers have been running during the preseason was going to give way to Portland’s usual isolation-heavy sets in the near future.  Along with that change was Roy’s desire to initiate more offense himself and he made that fact clear, declaring, “I want the basketball a lot more.”  Roy already sees a lot of touches, and Portland gives him the keys to the car down the stretch, so this comment earned Roy a fair bit of criticism in Portland over the last 24 hours.

Last year, Roy was 16th in the NBA in usage rate, trailing fellow guards Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Richard Hamilton, Monta Ellis, Russell Westbrook, Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings. Surveying the names on that list, you get a better idea of where Roy is coming from. If you go back two seasons, Roy was 11th in the NBA in usage rate, and the only guards ahead of him were Wade, Bryant, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Will Bynum and Devin Harris.

So while going from 11th to 16th in the league seems like a modest drop, it’s one that Roy himself has felt mostly because of the quality of those touches. Indeed, he made specific reference yesterday to returning to the team’s offensive style from 2008-2009, when the Blazers were near the top of the league’s offensive efficiency charts . So what needs to happen for that return to take place?

The most obvious variable here is point guard Andre Miller, who was signed as a free agent during the summer of 2009. While a lot has been made about Miller’s own need for the ball in his hands to be effective, a more critical factor is his inability to space the floor effectively when he plays alongside Roy. Miller has never been a three-point threat, and last year he attempted just 80 threes, hitting at a paltry 20% clip . This allowed opposing defenses to cheat off of him with Tiger Woods regularity, clogging the top of the key, Roy’s favorite spot on the floor, and closing down driving lanes. This, coupled with hamstring and knee issues, led to declines in clean looks, shooting percentage and overall offensive efficiency. It should come as no surprise that Roy might desire a return to the pre-Miller days, when a standstill shooter in Steve Blake made defenses pay.

How will this situation resolve? Last season, McMillan showed a willingness to experiment with fourth-quarter lineups that didn’t include Miller. Matthews’ defensive versatility – he can legitimately guard three positions – and his spot-up shooting make him an ideal late-game backcourt partner for Roy. Throw in Nicolas Batum, who is also a versatile perimeter defender and solid outside shooter, and the Blazers would have a big, long, athletic perimeter trio to help compensate for having an emergency room full of centers on their inactive list.

The spotlight is now shining on Miller to prove his worth to the Blazers once again. Trade rumors continue to surround him, as they seemingly have since he signed in Portland. Now in the final guaranteed year of his contract, Miller is one of the few Blazers that would seem to have a greater external value than internal value. How much more would he mean to a young team needing leadership from a steady, reliable veteran point guard than to the Blazers, where he is, at best, a square peg fighting for room in a round hole that’s nearly entirely filled by Brandon Roy?

As for Roy's call for the ball, it is both admirable and short-sighted. In times of distress, and these Blazers know distress intimately, responsibility and accountability are gold qualities. But leaning heavily on Roy and isolating him on a regular basis hasn’t proven to be a winning strategy, in the playoffs or with regard to Roy’s health. The first-round exits and injuries have mounted up.

If we’ve learned anything in the NBA over the past six months, it’s the power of economies of roster scale. The more good players that play together well, the more likely it is that great play will result and the easier it is to succeed despite injuries. Ultimately, Roy is correct to look to himself for improvement first, but he must remember that he cannot dethrone the Lakers or Heat singlehandedly. No one can. To accomplish his goals for the team, which include playoff success and potentially more, Roy still needs to learn to trust someone. That someone doesn’t have to be Miller. But it needs to be someone.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com