Portland Update

November 11, 2008

royNow that we’re about 10% of the way into the season, I thought it was time to update how the new-look Trail Blazers are doing. We all know Greg Oden has already missed all but four minutes of the season so let’s take a look at how the rest of the team is doing.

To this point, the Blazers are 4-3 and in second place in the Northwest Division and tied for fifth place in the Western Conference. It looks like an average start until you look at exactly where Portland lost.

The Blazers lost in their season-opening game at Los Angeles (Lakers). No shame in that. After beating the Spurs at home, Portland then lost at Phoenix and at Utah. With a 1-3 start, they turned things around with wins against Houston and Minnesota and finally at Orlando. Pretty tough to expect a young team like the Blazers to win games at LA, Phoenix and Utah on a regular basis. The win over Houston was a nice one and Orlando on the road was a good result as well.

Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are leading the team in scoring with 20.9 and 18.9 respectively. Newbie Rudy Fernandez is adding 14 more per game and giving the Blazers a nice ‘big three’ offensive attack. Roy is also adding 5.7 assists and Steve Blake is averaging 3.7 with only seven turnovers on the year. With Oden out of the lineup, Joel Pryzbilla is leading the team on 8.4 rebounds with Aldridge just behind, averaging 7.1.

None of those numbers are superb but in a tough league with a young team, they’re more than respectable. Playing six of their next seven games on the road could be a tough stretch this early in the season but if they can pull through that with a good record, they can be a pretty good shape through most of November.

Most of the national media is going to be focused on Oden and his progress coming back from his recent ankle injury but the Blazers would do well to ignore all that attention and just play ball. They were able to accomplish that most of last year, only fading at the end of the season and just missing the playoffs. This year they’ve got better players and more experience so going without Oden for a while again shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially not mentally.

Greg Oden is the Next…

October 31, 2008

odenMany people have filled in this sentence with the name Bill Russell over the past few years. Tenacious defender, great rebounder, solid offensive game, etc. But maybe it’s time we start filling in that blank with Sam Bowie or Bill Walton.

Each of those two men were top draft picks after stellar (and in Walton’s case, possibly the greatest ever) college careers. The Trail Blazers took them both and pinned their franchise’s hopes to them. In Walton’s case, Portland was almost immediately rewarded as the goofy hippie from UCLA led the Blazers to the 1977 NBA title. But as had been the case with his first two seasons, the rest of Walton’s career was filled with disappointment, injury and ultimately wasted talent.

Bowie was the second pick in the 1984 NBA draft out of Kentucky, famously ahead of Michael Jordan (though Portland did already have Clyde Drexler). He had been a member of the 1980 Olympic basketball team that never made it to Moscow, despite the fact that he was a senior in high school! But he too was beset with injury in college and left after three years despite missing significant time. Bowie never averaged much more than ten points per game and was injured for the majority of his first five years in the league.

So is Greg Oden one of those players? He doesn’t really measure up in one sense, at least with Walton, because Walton is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever live if only his injuries hadn’t gotten in the way. But Oden has had this mystical quality about him that makes people love him. He’s a good guy (it seems) he’s gregarious and well spoken. But he has not played a full season since high school. At Ohio State he had an injured wrist and missed about half of the season. Still, he helped lead Ohio State to the national finals before losing to Florida. Then he went pro, was drafted no. 1 overall by the Blazers and immediately injured his knee, requiring micro-fracture surgery. He missed all of last season. This year he had a sprained ankle in training camp so he was limited to only a handful of games and just three minutes into the first regular season game of 2008/2009, he sprained his foot requiring him to miss the next two to four weeks (at least).

Maybe he’s cursed or maybe he’s just having a weird string of bad luck. Either way, Greg Oden is starting to become a sad story without having even completed a single NBA game. I really hope he comes back and can stay injury-free but that scenario is becoming less and less likely with each injury he sustains. The man can play, but will he get a chance?

Rise of the Blazers?

October 8, 2008

odenThis is not a UAB-themed post.

Is there any NBA team with more promise and more interesting prospects than the Portland Trail Blazers? As one who is probably 30% likely at this point, and probably increasingly so each month going forward, to move to Portland in the spring, I’m going to take it upon myself to follow the Blazers throughout the NBA season. Hopefully the results will be much different than my decision to follow Tottenham Hotspur in the EPL.

But seriously, look at the following players and tell me you’re not interested in seeing how they do:

Greg Oden
LaMarcus Aldridge
Jerryd Bayless
Rudy Fernandez
Brandon Roy
Shavlik Randolph

Wait, scratch that last one. With those five guys plus nice complementary players like Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Channing Frye, Portland has a chance to be legitimately competitive in the ultra-deep western conference. The Blazers actually did pretty well last year, despite no Oden and without the services of Fernandez, though they did own his draft rights.