Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Batum To (Supposedly) Start Tomorrow

Casey Holdahl has the inside scoop on Batum starting tomorrow
First Nicolas Batum was the starting small forward, then Nate McMillan decided to go with Travis Outlaw at the last minute in Los Angeles. And now it has come full circle. According to McMillan, Batum will get the start against the Utah Jazz Wednesday night.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Greg Oden Will Be Fine

I have seen so many people call Greg Oden injury prone. I've even heard one "expert" say quote,

Here’s what the Blazers do know: They can’t depend on their young center. Not yet, at least. Maybe not ever.

And if you're like me, you've heard all the "shoulda' drafted Kevin Durant!" talk. And the "Why'd the Blazers draft a center? Everyone knows centers are injury prone" talk.

It's nonsense. Pure nonsense. For three reasons.

Reason One: Unfair Comparison (The Center is Your Tank)

You know what, they're right. Centers are injury prone. If you compare them to guards. If you compare them to forwards. But that's wrong.

Comparing Greg Oden or any center to a guard or forward is like comparing an M1 Abrams tank to a Humvee. It's just not a fair straight-up comparison. If you want to call him injury prone, compare him to other centers, like Blodgett did.

The thing is, tanks break down. They are more susceptible to breaking this, twisting a that, smashing a one of those....but does that mean you don't want them in your army? By no means! Everyone knows that one, well-oiled tank can be worth a thousand humvees. You bring a tank into battle knowing it's going to break down and knowing it's going to take 4 gallons of diesel to the mile.

The center position in the NBA is a nitty, gritty, position where there's a lot of rumbling. There's battle going on. Guards are going to be less prone to injury because they aren't getting body-slammed to the floor by Andrew Bynum three times a game. They aren't getting the ball smashed into their face by Shaquille. They aren't taking elbows to the neck on a regular basis. The center is the tank of the NBA, so you take what you can, and make do with what else you've got when your tank is down for repairs. Praise be that we have two tanks in Greg and Joel, so if one's down, the other is up and ready to roll.

Reason Two: Unfair Expectations (You're Throwing the Weight of the World On a Recruit)

Greg Oden is what? A rookie. Meaning:


 [rook-ee] –noun

1. an athlete playing his or her first season as a member of a professional sports team: The rookie replaced the injured regular at first base.
2. a raw recruit, as in the army or on a police force.
3. a novice; tyro

1890–95; alter. of recruit; see -y

Notice the word comes from the word "recruit." Greg Oden is a new recruit--not an officer, not a commander, not a general--a recruit. And sometimes, recruits get hurt on the first day of battle. Sometimes they may even get hurt in boot camp. Does that mean they're not worthy soldiers? I would say no, unless they're faking it because they're afraid of battle, which I don't think ANYONE would accuse Greg Oden of. You just move on and wait to fight another day, letting your officers and generals (that is, your veteran fighters--B-Roy, LMA, Joel, Travis, Blake) lead the way. A recruit shouldn't feel the weight of an entire war on his shoulders, no matter how skilled he is.

Reason Three: The Season and His Career Are Young (The Battle Has Just Begun)

We are one game into a season of 82 games. Or if you want to look at Oden's career as a whole, assuming a 15-year career, he's approximately 1/15 of the way through his career.

It's just the beginning. Luke doesn't defeat Vader in Episode 4--it takes him three movies to do it. Let's give Oden some time, ehh? Because he wasn't strong enough to bring balance to the Force right off the bat, do you give up on him? Give him some time!

To return to the tank analogy, if he finally goes out to battle in year two and the machine gun turret is gummed up, do you give up and hand your enemy a $15 million dollar tank in exchange for a few ATVs and Humvees simply because the tank isn't operable at the moment?

I'd stick with the tank.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wednesday Linkage: Greg Oden Injury Edition

Henry Abbott of TrueHoop talked to Stephania Bell, a physical therapist who is both a Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She had the following analysis of Greg's injury:

The initial diagnosis of a midfoot sprain tells us that the injury is in the middle of the foot (of course), which is essentially the region between the base of the toes and the ankle.
This region is critical because it represents the arch of the foot. Forces are transferred from the rearfoot to the forefoot through the midfoot every time a player pushes off his foot to run and jump, and likewise in reverse when landing from a jump. The midfoot also has to absorb a lot of rotational or torsional stress when spinning or pivoting. Any injury to the midfoot can result in instability, which then means the area cannot absorb and distribute stress as well, and the player can't perform those movements without creating pain or increased injury.

The term "Lisfranc" is almost always associated with the more severe type of midfoot injury that we see, but really it describes the region of the foot that is involved. The name comes from a surgeon in Napoleon's army.

A sprain would indicate some injury to the ligaments that support the midfoot. The big issue comes down to the degree of sprain. If minor, meaning there is little visible disruption on MRI, it might mean resting a few games, wearing a protective boot to allow the tissue to heal, easing back into weight-bearing activity, then return to play, perhaps with something protective in the shoe.

If there is greater ligament damage or any instability, the rest time becomes longer. Can be up to about 12 weeks to allow the tissue to fully heal.

The most serious situation would be a Lisfranc fracture-dislocation.

In these instances the ligaments can be sprained badly enough that the bones separate, move out of position (the dislocation) and potentially crack or break (the fracture). This is a situation that most often requires surgical stabilization (pins and screws) to help restore the proper alignment and stability.

The athlete is then non-weight bearing for a while, sometimes up to six-to-eight weeks, and then it is a several-month process to resume normal weight bearing, then gradual increased activity and eventually sport.

In between, there is often a surgical procedure to remove some of the hardware, and the athlete may end up wearing a more rigid foot support in his shoe going forward.
With that said, Mike Barrett didn't seemed too worried last night:
The latest on this, as of late Tuesday night, is that's a mid-foot sprain, and he'll have it checked Wednesday. Doesn't sound too serious, and that's good news.
Sean Meagher at Oregon Live is reporting that the MRI was scheduled for noon today. The results should be in soon...

Ben at Blazers Edge had a good post with links and pictures pertaining to the injury.

With that, there's not much to do but wait and see what happens...

Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press

Greg Oden Post-Game with ESPN

The thing to take away from this is that he's got a level-head and he wasn't freaking out, by any standard. I guess a year of sitting out will do that to you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Columbian with an Update on Martell

Brian Hendrickson of The Columbian has an update on Martell. Nothing new, really, but here's the link and the story.

Martell Webster's recovery from a broken bone in his left foot appears to be going well, and the small forward expects to be cleared to remove his orthopedic boot sometime in the next week.
The Blazers won't get an accurate timetable for his return until after the boot is removed and the foot more closely examined. But Webster said his doctor told him this week that he has about another month of healing before starting his rehab, and then another two weeks before he can play. That would put Webster's return somewhere in the first half of December.

Depending on how his rehab goes and on the actual date on which he returns, Martell shouldn't have to play too many teams with premiere forwards. The schedule from mid-to-late December looks like this:

Fri 12 vs LA Clippers 7:00pm CSN ch. 37
Tue 16 vs Sacramento 7:00pm CSN ch. 37
Thu 18 vs Phoenix 7:30pm
Mon 22 @ Denver 6:00pm KGW
Tue 23 vs Denver 7:00pm CSN ch. 37
Thu 25 vs Dallas 7:30pm
Sat 27 vs Toronto 7:00pm CSN ch. 37
Tue 30 vs Boston 7:00pm KGW

So why does it matter who we play? Well, Martell should definitely help us with his shooting, but I'm worried that it might take a while to get back in shape and be able to get his feet back up to speed in order to keep up with the man he's defending. With that said, it doesn't look like he'll be facing a slew of premiere SFs once he comes back...

Clippers -- Martell would be guarding Al Thorton, who could end up being a fine player, but he's certainly not premiere at this point. Last year he was a 13 point and 5 rebound guy in a little under 30 minutes a game.
Summary: Martell should be ok

Kings -- John Salmons torched the Blazers the other night to the tune of 27 points (in a losing effort, I might add), but he's really only a 12 point and 3 rebound guy in around 30 minutes a night.
Summary: Martell should be ok

Suns -- The Arizona Republic is reporting that Terry Porter is starting Matt Barnes. Matt Barnes?! Last year he gave you 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in 20 minutes a game. And he's no rookie, either. The guy is a five-year veteran. He shouldn't be a problem to defend.
Summary: Martell, using only one leg, could lock this guy down like a guard managing a locked up con in a maximum security prison.

Nuggets (2x) -- The Nuggets don't have a good SF either, do they? Oh wait--Carmelo Anthony, one of the most prolific scorers in the league. If Martell's still recovering, he'll have a heck of a time defending 'Melo. However, if he's healthy....he'll still have a heck of a time defending 'Melo. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nate start Travis Outlaw in order to keep up with Melo's aggressive, slashing, cutting, driving nature.
Summary: Double Uh-oh

Mavs -- This is an interesting situation. I would normally say that the Mavs' SF is Josh Howard and Martell is going to have a hard time keeping up with a 20-point and 7-rebound-a-game man, but interestingly, the Mav's also plan on starting Atoine Wright, a guy who only averaged 6 points and 2-and-a-half rebounds in 20 minutes a night last year. Both are 6-7, and in the Mavericks' offense, I would expect to see both play a "wing" position, the significance in this being that perhaps we see Brandon Roy start the game on Howard and Martell on Wright, a guy whom Martell should have no problem handling.
Summary: Martell should be ok, but Brandon might have a tough game.

Raptors -- For all the hype Jamario Moon received coming into the league, he really only scored 8.5 points and around 6 boards a game in almost 30 minutes a night. He's athletic, but that doesn't make up for his other shortcomings.
Summary: Martell should be ok

Celtics -- Hopefully Martell's back to full speed by the time this game comes around, but in all Truthfullness (lame pun intended), he's going to have a hard time guarding Paul Pierce no matter what his foot feels like.
Summary: Single Uh-Oh

Grand summary: 3 Uh-Ohs, 5 No-problems

Sunday Morning Truehoopin'

I'm still on vacation and everyone's sleeping but me, so I decided to catch up on my Truehoop and found these two Blazer-related (or should I say Oden-related?) articles while doing so.
  • An opposing scout tells Sports Illustrated about Greg Oden: "It's hard to go crazy over Greg Oden coming off his knee surgery before he's played a real NBA game. He's going to be a very good player, no doubt. But a superstar? I'm just not ready to go that far yet. He has great size and hands, he's good around the basket, he can finish, he's decent at the line and he's a good paint rebounder, though he's not really good moving around to get extended rebounds. But I don't know how smart he is on the court, and I can see him getting into foul trouble."
  • ESPN's David Thorpe on Oden: "Oden has played just OK in the preseason, which is to be expected due to his long layoff and the type of knee surgery he's coming back from. But if the NBA's Most Improved Player award was based on in-season play as opposed to play from one season to the next, I think Oden would be the favorite. When his mind and body catch up to the speed of the game, he should be a monster every night out."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Evening Linkage

Joe Freeman tears it up with a great feature on Nate McMillan.

With R&B music humming in the background, McMillan pulls his SUV off the freeway and heads downtown for an appointment with his barber. At a red light, he warns that parking is hard to come by so he might have to drive around the block a few times.
Suddenly, McMillan spots a car pulling out of a space on the street to the right.

"Ah, see, you gotta be patient," he says, grinning, before waiting out traffic, veering across two lanes to turn right and easing into the spot.

It's as if McMillan were lecturing himself. Patience was vital as the Blazers navigated through a top-to-bottom roster makeover and the forgettable seasons that accompanied it. But even though the rebuilding is in the final throes, McMillan says patience is needed more than ever while his players develop into winners.
Casey Holdahl posted a sweet collage of Greg Oden pictures over at his blog. Check it out here and post a comment for him.

Quick Chat from last Thursday, in case you missed it.

Ball Don't Lie is putting the Blazers at 44 wins for the season:

Please, Blazers fans. Don’t be shook by my win projection. It hardly means that Portland isn’t well on its way toward dominating the NBA for the next 11 seasons. It’s going to happen, but I don’t see the big step forward happening this year.

Why? Because your team is super-young, and played over its head last year. Hypothetically, the Blazers without Greg Oden, five years from now, could be a 60-win team as everyone hits their stride; but in 2007-08, that team should not have won 41 games. A few fewer than 41 is more like it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

And this year, even though Oden is going to be sickeningly good, they’ll probably only improve by a few wins. Last year’s team was shockingly injury-free, the team looked the same on opening night against the Spurs, in mid-winter during the 13-game winning streak, and in early spring as things were winding down. That doesn’t figure to repeat itself. People are going to miss games.

And in case you missed it on Wednesday, Channing Frye wants you do download his NBA.com widget.

Blazers Pick Up Some Options

This just in via Yahoo Sports:

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The Portland Trail Blazers exercised fourth-year options Saturday on the contracts of forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guards Sergio Rodriguez and Brandon Roy.

The Blazers also said [sic] exercised their third-year option on center Greg Oden, who missed last season following microfracture surgery on his right knee after being selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.

The moves, announced by general manager Kevin Pritchard, keep all four players under contract through the 2009-10 season.

The Trail Blazers acquired Aldridge, Rodriguez and Roy in 2006 draft-day trades.

Good to see the Blazers locking up the big three, and hopefully extending Sergio's contract will give him a big confidence boost. It appears we should be locked, cocked, and ready to roll for the next couple of years with these signings.


PS--Just threw the [sic] in there to show that the error is theirs, not mine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday Linkage

It's a fine Wednesday morning and as you're waiting for tonight's game against the Clips, here's some links to check out...

Gavin Dawson of 95.5 the Game, Casey Holdahl of trailblazers.com, and Dave Deckard of Blazers Edge rippin' it up on the Morning Sports Page this morning. Listen here.

And speaking of Casey, he talks about Joel's injury and how cool of a dude Joel is:

You've surely heard by now that during last week's scrimmage at Cleveland High School, Greg Oden's elbow collided with Joel Przybilla's eye, resulting in a new shiner and a couple stitches for "The Thrilla." So just to recap, that's a rookie cutting a grizzled vet in a scrimmage. One could assume said rookie was going to have hell to pay.

But that's not how Joel Przybilla rolls. Rather than taking out any residual aggression on his fellow center, something more than a few veterans around the league would be happy to do, Przybilla is content to shrug it off as one of those unavoidable job-related hazards.

"I’ve been cut up before," said Przybilla. "I just took an elbow to the eye. It happens."

And then there's Dwight Jaynes talking about the beast that is Greg Oden:

I guess it should have dawned on me earlier, but Blazer fans, think about this for a moment: After all these years of screaming at Shaq and Kareem and Patrick Ewing and Hakeem, you have a new reality. Your days of being the lovable underdog are pretty much over.

You’re rooting for Goliath now. The monster is on YOUR side. How is that for changing your complete personality as a fan?

ESPN analysts predictions on the season are up and available, complete with John Hollinger breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

Hint: There weren't too many weaknesses other than youth.

Up front, they have Oden, a dominating 7-footer who should control the paint, and Przybilla, the 7-foot-1 shot blocker who held down the fort a year ago. At power forward they have two softies in Aldridge and Frye, but both players are 6-foot-11 and can create problems with their length as wing defenders in zones. Some teams don't have any players that big; the Blazers have four.

Go down the list and the size advantage gets more daunting. Small forward Webster is 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, and backup Outlaw is 6-foot-9; either can slide down to shooting guard when needed and provide an even more imposing height edge.

Roy is big for a shooting guard at 6-foot-6, 229, and what's really scary is that he is comfortable playing the point and often closed games at that spot a year ago; when he does that the 6-foot-5 Fernandez can come off the bench. Even at the point the Blazers are big: Blake, Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez all stand 6-foot-3, making them the shortest players on the team.

All that length should make the Blazers an unusually good zone defensive team, especially with Oden as a goalie in the middle and the young players on the outside gaining experience in playing NBA defense.

Hopefully you managed to catch Monday's game against the Kings, but if you didn't (or even if you did), check out Greg Oden getting Block of the Night honors over at NBA.com.

That's it for now, but hit me up with an email or leave a comment anytime with your thoughts.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Kevin Pritchard Is Committed

Just listened to an exerpt from the Morning Sports Page with our friend Gavin Dawson. Kevin Pritchard was on the show and I went ahead and transcribed some of the stuff I liked. There's still a lot more to the interview, so head over to Casey's blog and check out the whole clip to hear more good stuff.

But without further ado, here's what KP had to say:

On Nate:

"I feel great about having him as our coach."

On the organization:

We have an a owner, a president, a head coach, and a general manager and we all line up...we know what we want and how we're gonna' get there...we have the same goal...we want to be successful the right way with the right kids.

Gavin: You're a hot name...one of the hottest general managers in basketball today. How committed are you to the NW?

KP: I love it here...I kidded that if Mr. Allen offered me a 25 year contract I would sign it today. I'm not going anywhere. I'm emotionally connected to our coaches, to these players. I want to see us have success long term. We've built this into something that I hope is something that this community can get behind. It feels so different...it's different around our community and I'm just proud to be a part of it....I'm so proud of it and I know we're going to go through some tough times, but I know our character is going to shine through.


Your thoughts? Should be be scrambling to pick up Matt Millen now that he's done with the Lions? Should we ink Pritchard to a lifetime contract? Or do we "wait and see?" Once a golden GM, always a golden GM? Or not?

Sound off...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blazers Dethrone Kings

SACRAMENTO -- Led by the 24 points of Lamarcus Aldridge and 21 by Brandon Roy, the Portland Trailblazers knocked off the Sacramento Kings 112-98, never trailing for the length of the Monday night preseason game.

The visiting Blazers jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and stayed in front the whole way. Despite allowing the Kings to pull within one on with 3:15 left to go in the third quarter on a Williams bucket, the Blazers remained calm and regained their comfortable lead on layups from Roy, Joel Pryzbilla, and Travis Outlaw. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish duo of Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez connected for an alley-oop that left the home team groaning.

In a losing effort, Keven Martin tallied 34 points and John Salmons added 27, making the Blazers defense look vulnerable at times.

For the Blazers, the game marked the return of two injured players. Both Steve Blake and Channing Frye returned to play 27 minutes and 12 minutes, respectively. Greg Oden continued his solid play after having knee surgery last year, contributing 13 points and 9 rebounds in 30 minutes of play.

The Kings, now 1-2 at home and 1-6 overall in the preseason, look to bounce back Thursday night with a home game against Houston.

The Blazers (3-2) will continue their road trip with a Wednesday game against the Clippers and then head to Utah to face the Jazz on Thursday.

The Kings were without Beno Udriah and Francisco Garcia, both due to injury.

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images