Tag:Nicolas Batum
Posted on: December 30, 2010 4:13 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:56 pm
 

Should the Blazers shut down Brandon Roy?

The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly considering shutting down Brandon Roy. Should they? Posted by Ben Golliverbrandon-roy

The 2010 version of Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy is a far cry from the 2008 and 2009 versions, and it's throwing Roy, his franchise and the Portland fanbase for a loop. Expectations have been re-calibrated, dreams have been deferred and apprehension has mounted. With word coming from CBSSports.com's Ken Berger on Wednesday that all options are on the table for Roy -- including potentially shutting down his 2010-2011 NBA season before the All-Star break -- what's the right course of action here? There are a number of factors weighing on, and complicating, this decision. Let's look at what's best for all parties. The Team Roy has been ineffective and inefficient on offense, and a total liability on defense this season. His game has always been of the ball-stopping variety: when he's playing, the offense slows down, the Blazers run more isolation plays and Roy takes a ton of shots. Given his decreased quickness off the dribble, Roy is settling for tougher shots and making less of them this season. That fact has dragged Portland's offensive efficiency down in a meaningful way and has forced Blazers coach Nate McMillan to re-think Roy's role when he is out there.  In Roy's absence over the last two weeks, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has seen an increase in touches and has delivered well. Guard Wesley Matthews, Roy's replacement in the starting lineup, has also seen his numbers spike up, and reserve guard Rudy Fernandez has flourished, to a degree, now that he's been given the playing time he's long desired. The Blazers as a whole have played more energetically and less passively in Roy's absence, as the team's younger players tended to defer to Roy and stand around watching and waiting for him to make something happen. Still, the Blazers would be better off with Roy than without Roy, but the nature of his role as a starting two guard and primary scorer simply isn't sustainable, unless he has made significant progress in terms of his mobility during his weeks off. If Roy was available to play in short spurts and was comfortable playing off the ball, his shot-making and play-making abilities are of value. He could still be a positive this season, even in a limited capacity. Brandon Roy Despite concerns surrounding his health, Roy no doubt wants to play. He's a fierce competitor and has grown accustomed to being treated as the 3-time All-Star that he is. Shutting down the rest of this season, combined with a potential lockout, could mean years away from the game during what was theoretically supposed to be the beginning of his prime. That's no easy decision for a player to swallow. Sorting through the mental demons of playing in a limited state is going to be easier for Roy if he's able to play than if he simply steps away from the game. Shutting it down would really be Roy's last resort, the product of a medical diagnosis that he simply couldn't avoid. The Organization The Blazers have officially fallen short of their goal of competing for a title with Roy, Aldridge and center Greg Oden as their primary nucleus, and are reportedly deciding whether they should enter a rebuilding phase. The team's ceiling this season is the No. 8 seed and virtual certain elimination in the first round of the playoffs; their basement is the No. 10 or No. 11 seed and a trip to the draft lottery. Roy is essentially untradeable given his health and the fact that he's in the the first year of a 5-year $80+ million contract, so the Blazers are stuck with him for the time being. If Roy is able to contribute meaningfully, the Blazers would love to have him on the court for his superstar appeal and ability to sell tickets. He hasn't been able to do that this season, however, and his absence has allowed new general manager Rich Cho additional time and space to assess the rest of his roster's pieces.  Young players with untapped potential, such as Matthews and Nicolas Batum, can certainly use the extra playing time created by Roy's absence. If a rebuild is in the cards, the team could do a lot worse than making Aldridge, Matthews and Batum their temporary centerpieces, at least until a clearer picture of Oden and Roy's future effectiveness emerges. More minute and touches for the younger guys now means more confidence and reliable production down the road. The organization would like a productive Roy, but shouldn't let an unproductive Roy stand in the way of the development of younger, potential future core pieces. Conclusion Shutting down Roy isn't nearly as catastrophic an option as it might appear at first glance, given the team's record, the state of the organization and Roy's on-court ineffectiveness. The 2010-2011 Blazers are almost certainly going to be hovering around average, whether Roy plays down the stretch or not.  Given that fact, there's really no reason to rush a decision, unless medical opinion has swayed hard against Roy's ability to play through his ongoing knee pain. If no definitive conclusion has been reached about Roy's knees, there's nothing wrong with continuing to monitor and re-evaluate Roy on a week-to-week basis, assuming he is on board with that.  Treading carefully is of utmost importance here, given that a decision to shut down Roy will have major implications on and off the court for years to come.
Posted on: December 17, 2010 6:12 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:41 pm
 

Report: 76ers turn down Blazers Iguodala offer

The Philadelphia 76ers have reportedly turned down a Portland Trail Blazers offer for forward Andre Iguodala. Posted by Ben Golliver andre-iguodala

This side of Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, no reasonably big man has found himself in more NBA trade talk than Philadelphia 76ers wing Andre Iguodala. Given his large contract, questionable fit with 2010 No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner, and general malaise in Philadelphia, Iguodala doesn't arrive in these rumors by accident. On Thursday, an ESPN.com chat noted that the 76ers reportedly turned down an offer for Iguodala from the Portland Trail Blazers, which included young forward Nicolas Batum and veteran center Joel Przybilla. The Blazers, as noted by CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, are actively engaged in trade talks in advance of the deadline. This activity is motivated by both a disappointing start to the season and owner Paul Allen's rumored preference for seeing immediate results rather undergoing another full rebuilding cycle.
Batum, a fan favorite French forward, is a long and gifted, and has shown the ability defend multiple positions and knock down the corner three. Under former general manager Kevin Pritchard, Batum was considered untouchable, and big things were expected from him entering this season. Unfortunately, his play has been inconsistent, and coach Nate McMillan moved him to the bench to make room for 2010 summer free agent signing Wesley Matthews.  Still on his rookie deal, Batum represents an extraordinary value and still has significant untapped potential, given that he just turned 22 this week. He has shown the ability to play alongside a ball-dominating guard like Brandon Roy, and theoretically would be a solid pairing next to Turner, should Turner develop into the player everyone expects him to be.  Przybilla carries an expiring contract, so this move would make sense financially for Philadelphia, allowing them to escape the money owed to Iguodala and improve their flexibility going forward. For Portland, Iguodala would represent an all-around, tested, veteran forward that the team has lacked for years. He would be able to provide some much-needed scoring, as Portland's offense has been anemic this year thanks to the injuries to guard Brandon Roy. What's more, he has played with Blazers point guard Andre Miller in Philadelphia, so there's a familiarity there. The Blazers lack a number one option, and while Iguodala isn't necessarily established on that elite level, he might be as close as Portland can reasonably hope to get. Blazers owner Paul Allen isn't afraid to spend money, but taking on Iguodala's long-term deal is not without risk, as he has yet to prove he can contribute meaningfully to a winner in the NBA and because Portland is already tied up long-term thanks to extensions for Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge. That Philadelphia reportedly turned down this deal, even though it represents good value, shouldn't be overly surprising. We're still very early in the trade season, and Portland is only likely to get more desperate, the longer they deal with Roy's absence and their team-wide struggles. Plus, Philadelphia will likely find themselves listening to a number of offers for Iguodala. Berger, for example, sees the New York Knicks potentially having interest.  
Posted on: November 30, 2010 9:57 am
 

Shootaround 11.30.10: Riley doesn't want back

Posted by Royce Young
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The Heat knew going in that LeBron James would be high maintenance. Superstars almost always are. But pair that with a young, intellectual sideline purist and you have what you have right now, a leadership void that allows the ancillary to dominate. So reports emerge from within the locker about unease with the sideline guidance, with the same coach who first found a way to get two rotation rookies to the No. 5 playoff seed in 2009 and then a cap-conscious team to that same seed a year ago. And to the coach's aid steps ... Not a word from Pat Riley, even though a source close to Riley and his family insist that the last thing Riley wants to do right now is return to the sideline."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Unless --- knock on wood --- he is felled by a catastrophic injury, Dwight Howard is destined to join basketball's hall of fame. 'He's a sure-fire hall of famer' if he remains on course, agrees Magic coach Stan Van Gundy of his 24-year-old center. Oddly, 16 games into Dwight's seventh season, that heady forecast is more sure-fire than Howard ever being awarded MVP."
  • And on cue, Stan Van Gundy says Howard doesn't get fair treatment in the media : "Maybe it's a size thing. Maybe people are harder on that. But he's a guy who clearly is the best guy in the league at his position, and has been. He's still very young, he's improving, he's won, he's a damn good person. I don't understand why there are so many negatives on him in comparison to the other guys. I've always felt since I've been here that he's taken more of a hit than the other people."
  • Stephen Jackson was ejected again a few days ago but his coach says he doesn't think Jackson ever change: "I don't know how things are going to change. I understand from his perspective what's going on, but that's the way it is: As hard as it is for a player to understand that, you've got to play through (emotion). You're too important to our team. We need you on the court."
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: "The novelty of Oklahoma City serving as the New Orleans Hornets' temporary home from 2005-07 seems to have all but disappeared. Crowd reaction during pre-game introductions drew only polite applause for Chris Paul and David West. Monday would have qualified as one of the most lethargic crowds in Thunder history, but the eighth sellout (18,203) gathering of the season finally came to life with 4:17 left in the third quarter when Jeff Green sprinted down court and blocked Paul's wide-open layup attempt."
  • Hornets24/7 on last night's loss to OKC: "Dear Coach Williams, West is moderately efficient as a scorer, but he is not brilliant.  Paul is a brilliant scorer and distributor.  Crunch time should be Chris Paul time, not David West time.  Actually, let me change that.  It can be David West time, but ONLY when he’s shooting after Chris Paul has broken down the defense.  The ball needs to start in Paul’s hands.  It can end wherever, but Paul needs to be creating the shot. Thanks.  Great job so far, by the way."
Posted on: November 7, 2010 5:41 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:34 pm
 

Brandon Roy goes to "ground game" after injuries

Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy says concern about his injury history and a heavy playing time load is changing his approach on offense.brandon-roy Posted by Ben Golliver The Portland Trail Blazers demolished the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night, despite being forced to play center Sean Marks on the same day they signed him and not having reserve guard Rudy Fernandez, who is dealing with back pain.  Those are only the latest roster tweaks, however, as the Blazers are still without centers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, who were lost to season-ending knee injuries last year, and guard Elliot Williams and big man Jeff Pendergraph, who were both lost to season-ending injuries since the preseason started this year. The result has been an increased minutes burden for Portland's veteran starters, including point guard Andre Miller, center Marcus Camby, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and all star off guard Brandon Roy.  After the blowout win over the Raptors, which saw him play 37 minutes, Roy noted that he's been "playing more minutes than I've ever played" and he told Blazersedge.com that he's changing his offensive game because of it.
Roy told me he is already making adjustments to his game and schedule given the heavier minutes load and some mental attention he's paying to the miles that are already on his body. "I think now my practice time is going to cut down a little bit. In the games, I'm just trying to pick my spots a little more smarter. I think just with some of the injuries I've had in the past, just trying to make my reads, be a little bit smarter, attack the basket, try to get guys in the air."
While observers have been calling for Roy to settle for his jumper less and attack the basket more, Roy made it sound tonight like his new perimeter-first approach has been by design. "I'm just playing a little bit more of a ground game," Roy told me. "Some of that is just trying to continue to understand my body and how I can get my game off. Pick my spots about when to go to the basket. I'm not jumping as high as I was. Tonight I thought I finally got the pump fake off in the paint, got the foul. Try to do things like that to keep opening my game up."
Roy underwent minor knee surgery before the 2010 NBA playoffs and it sounds like he feels that his best athletic days are behind him. Last fall, Roy was given a 5-year, $80+ million contract primarily due to his leadership skills and offensive versatility. Roy built his reputation on being able to score in every way possible: above the rim, at the rim, in the mid-range, behind-the-arc, off-the-dribble, on the pull-up, you name it.  Roy's ball fakes and jukes remain some of the craftiest in the league, but an inability to explode vertically and/or a hesitancy to drive to the basket hard on a regular basis makes him an easier cover defensively. As more game tape of the "grounded" Roy, expect defenses to crowd him on the dribble and double-team him in isolation less frequently. These changes put more pressure on Roy to hit contested shots and necessitate that some of Portland's auxiliary offensive options, guys like Nicolas Batum or Wesley Matthews, bring a little bit more firepower to the table. Roy's intelligence and skill level ensure he will be a premier two-guard for years to come. But his comments, which come just seven games into the season, make Roy sound like a player who is much older than 26 years of age. It's still too early for real concern, however, as the Blazers sit atop the competitive Northwest Division with a record of 5-2. But it might be time for Blazers coach Nate McMillan to adjust his rotations, easing up on the load being carried by Roy and the other veterans.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 9:50 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:54 am
 

Shootaround 11.2.10: LeBron's not laughing

Posted by Royce Young
  • Anthony Tolliver did a funny little Decision spoof back when he signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Wolves. But LeBron has taken notice and doesn't think it's very funny: "We play Minnesota twice," James said to reporters. Tolliver told Brian Windhorst, “It was just me having fun, making fun of the decision,” Tolliver said after the Wolves practice on Monday. “When I did it, I had no intention to have him react.” “If he’s seen the video then he would know that it had nothing to do with him personally, it was about the situation.”
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "In 2005, Ronny Turiaf needed open-heart surgery to repair an enlarged aortic root. Ten months later, Jack Gilroy, then 7, had a heart transplant. At the time, Gilroy knew nothing of Turiaf. But the two seemed like natural lunch partners Monday at the Knicks’ training center. They talked about scars and echocardiograms, fishing and boogie boarding and Jack’s smooth 10-foot bank shot. 'Nice form,' Turiaf remarked in his thick French accent. 'Quick learner.' In recent years, there have been dozens of visits like this for Turiaf, a 6-foot-10 center who brings equal amounts of frenetic energy to defense and heart-health awareness."
  • M. Haubs of The Painted Area says Thunder fans should be a little concerned because of the lack of defense: “After the embarrassing loss on Sunday, the Thunder's numbers show ample regression on defense after a week. Is this because of [assistant coach Ron] Adams's departure? Is it because of the absence of underrated defender Nick Collison? The Thunder were 7.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively (one of the best numbers in the league in that +/- department) with Collison, who led the league in charges drawn, on the floor last season. Collison is out with a bone bruise in his knee, after playing 75 games last season (charmed luck with injuries in '09-10 was a significant factor in the Thunder's meteoric rise).”
  • Vinny Del Negro gave Baron Davis a small public rip: "He got out of shape pretty bad. He’s not in great physical condition. Baron has to put in the time….” Del Negro said before his Clippers took on the San Antonio Spurs. “Baron wants to do it. But I need to see action. Talk is talk. I’m optimistic he can do it.”
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.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 9:04 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2010 10:06 am
 

Preseason Primer: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland loathes expectations. Expected to compete for the West title? Down in a burning wreckage of knee bones and perimeter shooting. Unable to hold on to the playoffs? Say hi to a massive winning streak to glide into the playoffs. They are never predictable, that's for certain. As we continue our Preseason Primers , we take a look at the noble hope of the Northwest, and if this is finally the season when things don't go wrong for the Blazers.

Portland Trailblazers

Training camp site: Portland, OR

Training camp starts:   Sept. 28 

Key additions:  Wesley  Matthews (free agent)

Key subtractions:   Juwan Howard (free agent), Martell Webster (trade), Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Andre Miller, PG; Brandon Roy, SG; Nicolas Batum, SF, LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Marcus Camby, C 

Player to watch:   Greg Oden. Guy's gotta get healthy sometime, right? Oden has been and remains the missing piece of the puzzle for the Blazers, even with the addition of Marcus Camby. If Oden can reach a significant portion of his massive untapped potential, he could be a difference maker for the Blazers, completing the team that's been constructed over the past five years. It's unknown if Oden will even be available for camp, or how much he'll be participating. But even that says something. Oden's got to bounce back hard, and get back to where he showed flashes last year prior to the injury. That's the only way the Blazers can make the jump they need to this year. 

Chemistry quiz:   Who's the ticking time bomb? That's the question, and it's multiple choice, with several "A and B and C" type choices. Last year, Andre Miller and Nat McMillan blew up at one another during a low point. The two reconciled things and seem to be on better ground, but there's been consistent trade chatter involving Miller since he was signed as a marquee free agent in 2009. And that's just the start! Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake, two longtime Blazers were traded last year, along with Martell Webster before this year's draft. And, oh, yeah, Rudy Fernandez is involved in a messy, gross situation where he's demanding a trade and talking about sitting out the next season , even after rejecting a trade to New Orleans. This is all before we get into LaMarcus Aldridge's longterm problems with the club, and the attention showered on Greg Oden constantly. That said, McMillan has done a tremendous job keeping the team together and helped lead them to the playoffs last year. If he can keep them together this year, it'll be another award-worthy performance.

Injury watch:   Ha. Ha ha ha. Hahahahahaha. Sorry. That's mean.

Well, let's see. Brandon Roy struggled with an ankle towards the end of last year, but that should be fine. Greg Oden is recovering from a broken patella, slowly. Joel Przybilla also broke his patella and tore ligaments, then reinjued it in the shower. Marcus Camby is no spring chicken. This team is one bad turn, a helicopter and a few tents from becoming a M*A*S*H* unit. If any team is worthy of karmic bonuses resulting in a clean bill of health this year, it's Portland.

Camp battles:   Center's going to be a big one throughout the year, but with Oden not near 100% by any stretch of the imagination, Camby has it on lockdown. Nicolas Batum continues to be one of the better developing small forwards in the league, and his overall play should keep him locked in above the rookie Babbitt. An interesting one? Point guard. Miller was terrific at points last year for the Blazers, but when he wasn't, Jerryd Bayless was increasingly better. Bayless is a fierce competitor. If he were to make a significant jump, that one could get ugly really quick.

Biggest strength:   Depth and Brandon Roy. That's the formula, which is why the injuries const them so much last year. Additionally, Brandon Roy's going to have to climb back out of the pool and onto the pavement of great players after a downturn last season. The Blazers absolutely must have Roy as a top ten player in the league if they're going to compete for the Western Conference Finals, along with all the other things they need to happen. But Roy has shown he can do it, and they still have considerable depth, arguably more, with Matthews to give Roy a breather, and young talent mixed in with the vets.

Glaring weakness:   You mean, besides spending more times on their backs than Luke Walton? (You thought I was going for a sex joke there, didn't you?) The team's gotta stay healthy, which isn't something they can avoid, outside of moving to Phoenix and hiring their training staff. On the floor, the offense can stagnate considerably when Roy's not on the floor outside of the handful of nights where Miller goes nova. The other players need to develop into go-to scorers, at least a few. LaMarcus Aldridge in particular has had low expectations which he's exceeded yet not received credit for the last few years, but now he's going to have to be a big-time power forward for the Blazers. If he doesn't show he can get to the next level, he may find himself on the block as the Blazers look for the missing piece.

 
 
 
 
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