Okay. First things first. Yes, the blog looks different. I am very slow to adapt, so it took me a while to come around. Finally, I've learned the new system (which took about 10, maybe 15 minutes) and off we go. For those of you who comment often, and I appreciate you, you're going to have to change right along with me. We're no longer using an outside source as the blog tool. So, you'll have to register again. I did it. You can do it.
Secondly, I know it's been a while. If there is a downtime in the NBA it's August, as you know. So, I've been... wait a second, it's September? My bad. But, we're off and running now.
The Trail Blazers practice facility in Tualatin has been a busy place as of late, as I've seen just about every single player in the last few days. Some new faces in uniform, along with new faces on the coaching staff, and a new front office, and it's been a little strange. A good kind of strange though. And, it's clear that the season is just around the corner because there's that special energy in the air.
On a typical day right now the music is pounding in the weight room, the coaches are in meetings, and Rich Cho is on the phone. The players are either lifting, or going through drills on the court- running, shooting, stretching, that kind of thing. Oh, and then there are the full-court five-on-five games.
Because this time is really about the players getting back and starting to dive back in, I don't normally get into breaking down the games, or individual performances. I do talk a little about this stuff, but when they're here early, on their own, I usually feel this is really their time. They are controlling the pickup games, and it's not really structured. It's a luxury for us to even be in there, able to watch, and so I'm careful about this stuff. I assume you understand where I'm coming from here. I just don't want the guys to feel they are under a microscope at this time. And, if they make a mistake, or have a bad run or two, it shouldn't be plastered on the internet for all to see.
With that being said (always dangerous when I start a paragraph like that), I will tell you a few things. LaMarcus Aldridge is a legit 260 pounds, and you'll notice the difference when you see him. He's ripped up. Brandon Roy is very lean, and feeling very, very good. He looks about 15 years old with the tight haircut and thinned-out features. Wesley Matthews and Armon Johnson look like they could be playing defense in the NFL. Wesley has been at the practice facility every single time I've been there. The money isn't going to change him, and he's stressed that. Joel Przybilla's rehab continues, and he was running full-court sprints without a hitch this week. Same goes for Greg Oden, who is down around 270, reportedly. He looks very good. More on Greg in a minute.
Johnson played well at summer league, so you got a pretty good idea of what he brings to the team. As for the other rookies, you'll probably be in for a surprise. I had no idea Luke Babbitt and Elliot Williams were this good. Granted, these are pickup games in September. But, Babbitt looks like a totally different player than the guy we saw in Vegas- not suggesting he had a bad summer league or anything. In the five-on-five stuff he has been beyond impressive. He has put on muscle, is very quick, has a great back-to-the-basket game, and sticks just about every three he's allowed to take.
The guy who has been consistenly causing jaws to drop wide open is Elliot. I talked to a scout today who believes Portland may have gotten the steal of the first-round of the draft. We all heard the stuff about Williams recording a 48" vertical jump in pre-draft testing. So, he was tested again. He actually bettered that mark. I've never seen a guy who causes the entire gym to stop, turn, and watch, when his vertical is tested. Jeff Pendergraph told me this week he's never seen anything like it, and said he saw Elliot take just two steps, go off TWO feet, and hit the 12-foot mark with his right hand. Yes, he can play too. He'd be a YouTube sensation even if he didn't have game. Wait until you see this guy jump.
Two guys we haven't seen yet recently wrapped up play in the World Championships- Nic Batum and Rudy Fernandez. No one is worried about Batum, who will be the starting three and continues to get better and better. I have no idea what's going to happen with Rudy. I've said before that I wouldn't be shocked to see him on the roster for the start of training camp. Now, I'm not sure I believe that. But, it could happen. There's still no rush to do anything with him. When a deal hits Cho's desk that makes sense, it'll happen, and not before that.
Most of your questions, obviously, are about Greg. There isn't a timeline right now, and he won't be rushed. To see him move around on the court right now would make you optimistic. But, there's a big difference between running, drills, and game action. I'd be curious to hear what your expectations are for Oden this season, or at least how you're approaching it mentally. Is he still the savior in your mind, or are you in the anything-you-get-is-a-bonus camp?
If you spend much time on trailblazers.com you've probably seen my interview with owner Paul Allen. The one thing I'll say (and something you can obviously see) he looks very good. Given what he's gone through in the last year battling cancer that was number one in my mind. I was around him for a while before and after the interivew and he's just in such a better place physically. It's great news. And this was before the Seahawks got the season off to a great start.
More to come this week. Thanks for the patience in navigating this new blog format. The iamatrailblazersfan social network is very cool and is getting bigger and bigger. This blog is now housed on that platform, and that's one of the reasons the change was made. Sign up so you can comment. It just takes a sec. I'm curious, as always, to hear your questions, comments, concerns, ect., as we rapidly approach training camp.
Talk to you soon.