mikebarrett

Sep 28

It's always amazing to me how quickly this whole thing begins.  I mean, we know it's coming.  I've been inside the gym during some of the five-on-five pick-up games, so that's a pretty good indicator that the season is near.  But, still, when it actually kicks off it kind of seems like we never had an offseason- like things just continued with no real break.  It usually feels that way.  This year, however, is different.

I sat at media day on Monday trying to figure out what exactly felt so different.  Then, on Tuesday night, watching the evening session of camp, I started wondering again why this has such a unique feel to it. 

Perhaps it's the new members of the coaching staff, and there are several.  There are also new people involved with player development, hustling around on the court.  Then, of course, there's a new general manager, and two new assistant GMs.  And, finally, there are new faces on the court, and some that we've become pretty accustomed to, are not there.

That should be enough right there to make things feel very odd.  But, I've seen change before, as I'm heading into my 11th season with the team.  The new people being around aren't totally responsible for the difference that's in the air.  

Perhaps it's that I'm not sure what the theme of this season should be.  Clearly, that doesn't have to be figured out right now.  But, when you think back over the last five or six seasons, we had very strong clues as to what to expect, what factors were automatically built in to our thinking and why.  We went from the dismantling of the team, to a transitional year or two, to the rebuilding, to winning the lottery, to surprising people by winning 54, then to battling through so many devastating injuries, and still winning 50.  And now, there's....   what exactly?   What is it?  Does any of this make sense at all? (wouldn't be the first time, if you're shaking your head).

The Trail Blazers are no longer rebuilding, don't have the crutch of being "one of the youngest teams in the league," can no longer shoot for a playoff birth like it's the holy grail, and will probably be called unrealistic if they openly start talking about a championship.

So, where do we find ourselves?  Is this some kind of basketball purgatory?  That's probably the wrong term to use here, but I've heard purgatory described as some kind of spiritual waiting room.  Or, as some people describe it, it's the condition or process of purification.  That sounds pretty close.  I know judgement is involved as well, so that's pretty fitting for where we're at right now, correct?  This new team was born, has matured, has changed its form and is now waiting to see where it's headed- up or down.  Okay, it's a stretch, but clearly there are similarities when it comes to the ultimate destination being unknown.

On this team not being able to be considered a clumsy, youthful, innocent bunch anymore, we're spot on.  I talked to LaMarcus Aldridge about that on Monday.  He began shaking his head well before I was done asking the question, making me think he's spent time thinking about this himself.  To listen to the brief conversation with L.A., click here.

Seeing one day of training camp isn't enough to get a solid feeling, but it seems like a different approach is being taken by these guys.  This is especially true in the guys like Aldridge, Brandon Roy (click here for my interview with Roy), and Nicolas Batum.  There isn't this "happy to be here" kind of air to these guys.  It's more of a determined approach, and a we've-been-here-before-and-are-ready-for-the-next-step kind of feel.  There weren't many smiles on Tuesday, and the intensity wasn't forced the way it can be on the first day of camp.  In short, this team has grown up.  

I will say that watching this team on the first day of camp was exciting.  It's very easy to start dreaming big.  Even with the question marks that are hanging over this team.  Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla went through drills with their teammates and looked very good.  Joel, in fact, finished one drop step move with a thundering two-handed jam, then, as if remembering he's supposed to be taking it slowly, hung on the rim for an extra count and landed softly.  He actually laughed at that, because he shot a glance at us and probably read our thoughts, that were something like "what the hell are you doing?"

Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson, and Elliot Williams looked very comfortable, considering this was their first day on the job.  I'm telling you, take your expectations for Babbitt and move them up a notch.  And this comes from a guy who usually tempers expectations for rookies.

I'm not going to waste my time, or yours, attempting to temper expectations for Batum.  The guy is ready for prime time.  It's cliche to say "breakout season," but watch for five minutes and Batum just jumps out at you as a guy who's at a different level.

Okay, like I said, it's easy to get excited.

I can't wait for the rest of the week.

LaMarcus Aldridge Video Interview:

Brandon Roy Video Interview

Previous Story: Pre Pre-Season Underway

26 Comments

  1. One week from tonight. I can't wait!

    by Pamela Porter on 9/28/2010 9:40 PM
  2. one name that hasn't been mentioned much, president miller.

    i suspect that people will look back on wesley being brought in as the glue that sealed things in around andre, brandon, nic, jerryd and dante.

    since he's not been mentioned, probably by design, i'll give props to el presidente.

    by reverse on 9/28/2010 10:06 PM
  3. the personnel moves that have been made in the last 9 months may be part of what give the team a more advanced feel. the last couple of players brought in that were not draft acquisitions are guys that were starters on other teams before coming to town. both marcus and wesley are also defensive specialists. when greg and joel do get back in the mix, opposing teams will be trying to crack 75.

    by reverse on 9/28/2010 10:24 PM
  4. What is on Andre Millers head?

    Other than that, I am excited. Not much I can say. It's time to win a playoff series and go big. 27 days until the Sunset and we bring on the Blazer night. We're a 60 win team at heart, let's go be one on the court.

    by Herr on 9/29/2010 12:38 AM
  5. Mike, I knew you would blog. I just knew it.

    Mike, I knew you would have a new blog. I just knew it. BTW, great courtside on Monday; oh, I have said that before.

    I don't see many games, but I read a lot. It has been said time and time again, when a player or a team has arrived they get that swagger to them that just says look out world we are here. It has also been said and I have felt it that when a team is good there is no guessing for what ever the reason is you just know it. Dave at BE has mentioned that several times.

    All the above may be the difference in the feel. It was also said by you several times last year that diversity builds strength and character. If you go though what this young team has gone through with all the injuries, all the changes and still win fifty games that builds confidence; confidence builds that swagger that people talk about, and swagger builds championships.

    I personally don’t know the difference in feel, but since you are my ears and eyes on the subject, I will be glad to take your word for it.

    Thank you for filling us in on the first day of a great season.

    Hg

    by Hg on 9/29/2010 2:03 AM
  6. I'm not even there at camp and I'm excited.Great post,MB.I hope we are serious.I wouldn't expect anything else this year.Quiet resolve.
    Here's something on BRoy from a new sportswriter in town.
    http://probasketballnews.com/story/?storyid=1124

    I think even BRoy,the unlikely leader was talking on The Fan about how he realizes that he sets the tone for these Blazers and that he has to take a leadership role.

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/29/2010 6:39 AM
  7. Initial Impressions...

    Aldridge looks like a man. I don't mean that in the "you the man!" way either. I mean he looks like an adult. There were times last season where he looked like a confused, 7-foot kid. The pics I've seen show a cool-headed, comfortable man. I hope that translates to better passing out of double-teams (I know, I'm a broken record, but it is his Achilles heel).

    Roy and Cunningham both look to have lost a bit of weight. They have a gaunt, hungry look to them. Roy's having a good time, and can be seen smiling in most of his pics, but Cunningham looks like he's about to take a bite out of ya. I think he's trying to fit himself into the physique of a SF to avoid the "tweener" label and get reliable minutes behind Batum. Supporting this have been quotes about him stretching his range to three-point line (I think it was Born who said that).

    Armon Johnson is working on that jumper...and apparently his Mantis Style kung fu (look through the photos posted yesterday and you'll know what I mean). All I'm going to say is, Bayless had better watch his back. While Jerryd was nursing his much-downplayed leg injury, the Armonizer has been eating lightning and crapping thunder.

    A humble request...

    Can we please see an interview with Nico? There was one posted on Portland Roundball Society, but it was woefully lacking in content and angle. The interviewer didn't even ask any basketball related questions and came across as starstruck. I want to know how he felt being the center of attention on the French squad; what it felt like to play primarily as a guard; what he feels his role is on the Blazers... The PRB guy asked where he liked to holiday... I wonder what his follow-up was, his favorite kind of pizza? He did get a good quote about Nicolas wanting to take Greg to Paris, but Mike, you can do so much better!

    by 500Dogs on 9/29/2010 12:59 PM
  8. Rudy misses first day of camp with "vision trouble".Just leave already,will ya.

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/29/2010 2:27 PM
  9. Vinnie:

    Rudy hurt his back in the second day of practice and couldn't continue

    Hg

    by Hg on 9/29/2010 2:33 PM
  10. And to think Patty could be on this roster instead of RUDEE.This is such a joke.See what ha happened today .

    http://www.blazersedge.com/2010/9/29/1720253/rudy-fernandez-injured-isolated-and-silenced

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/29/2010 3:22 PM
  11. hg.. that is also up for debate according to reliable sources.

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/29/2010 3:25 PM
  12. Could that "feeling" be the long-awaited return of RIP CITY!?! I hope so!

    by sarahhecht on 9/29/2010 3:57 PM
  13. Good post 500dogs and I agree. Batum has always been underrated, and I'm starting to feel he is becoming underrated by the Blazer network. I'd love to hear from him, since I agree with Brandon Roy that he's the glue to this team.

    by Herr on 9/29/2010 6:41 PM
  14. exactly, ripcitysarah, couldn't have said it better myself!

    why is it that every time i hear something about Joel, the way he plays, or his personality does it just increase my pride in the fact he's a blazer? i absolutely love his reaction to that dunk and catching himself in the process. i would have loved to see that!

    LaMarcus sounds like he's ready to go. he hit the nail on the head when he talked about he and Jerryd learning a lot and growing last year when we were depleted by injuries. if he needs to be at 255 to be most effective, great! i hate to add on expectations, but i have a good feeling about how he's coming into the season.

    the video link to Brandon's interview said it wasn't available. however, given the other interviews and notes from this season, it sounds like he's itching to get on the court. Brandon is a professional. i've also noticed from stories about Greg and Rudy that Brandon seems to be becoming more of a leader, speaking to his teammates about their actions and representing the team to the media. i think that's great and hope we continue to see more of it.

    we all talked about Nicolas a lot over this summer, and i'm really not trying to raise expectations for him, but given all the improvement we've seen, it's difficult not to. i recently stated that i think he could average 15 ppg, 7 rpg and in the 1.5 bpg range. he is that good, and i think he's ready. i just hope that Nate constructs some plays which give him an opportunity to do so.

    i'm going to cut myself off here because i don't want to get too ahead of myself on day one, but i am getting more excited and encouraged as the days progress.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 9/29/2010 7:17 PM
  15. Y'all must see this interview with Armon Johnson from Media Day... This kid is a freaking headhunter, plain as day. First he drops the All Star card during his draft workout, now this? Dude's got the Eye of the Tiger. Eye of the Tiger!

    http://videos.oregonlive.com/oregonlive/2010/09/trail_blazers_media_day_armon.html

    I hereby anoint Armon Theodore Johnson (I don't actually know his middle name) my pick for Rookie of my Year. Previous winners are Nicolas Raphael Batum (don't know his either), and last year's winner, Dante Thadeus Cunningham (...), both of which have exceeded my expectations and blown the competition out of the water.

    Don't prove me wrong, Armon; I know you've got it in you. Just go for the neck, kiddo.

    by 500Dogs on 9/29/2010 10:18 PM
  16. P.S. The Armonizer video gets really good at 2:20

    by 500Dogs on 9/29/2010 10:37 PM
  17. Hey Mike - Good to hear from you. Should be an exciting season/ride. Thanks for your thoughts.

    PS. Awesome you switched from Blogger to IAMA format, if I can say that, I like it. :-)

    by Anees on 9/30/2010 4:46 AM
  18. Some perspective on Rudy.After MB,Dave at BEdge is always one of my faves.

    http://www.blazersedge.com/2010/9/29/1720717/rudy-rudy-rudy

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/30/2010 6:14 AM
  19. I know i'm obsessed with the rudy thing.Wendell Maxey's tweet,OUCH.
    http://twitter.com/w_maxey/status/25763496047

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/30/2010 6:17 AM
  20. OMG The Armonizer thinks he's better on offense than defense.crazinesssssssss.I love him even when he talks.and not to mention having two rookies who have played with each other since they were very young.Once again this time of year is like a kid waitin for Santa.WOOT WOOT.

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/30/2010 6:28 AM
  21. 500,wooooorrrd......,kid has some serious Moxy.wouldn't want to have to go up against him.

    Poor JBay:(
    JBay, you better find a home for him, because the Armonizer is going to be LIVIN in your jersey,baybee.

    by DowntownVinnie on 9/30/2010 7:40 AM
  22. Mike,
    Once again, great blog post. I love reading your blog so much. It's from a different perspective than most blogs out there and I just thought I'd start out by telling you I appreciate your work and dedication.

    Now for my take on the team. One day. That's all that this post is about. Yet from one day, I get so excited reading about the improvement of veteran players and the development of the rookies. I hope that Babbitt will continue to play well and that he has a solid rookie campaign. LA should be an All-Star this year. He gained great experience and leadership skills after he had to lead the team through injuries. Joel, what can I say? Just an all around great guy and I hope he returns to his domination on the boards. Brandon will be Brandon. Now the only question marks are what to do with Rudy and Greg's health. Let's hope these questions get answered sooner rather than later. Thanks Mike!

    by CrazyRusty on 9/30/2010 9:04 AM
  23. Hello Mr. Barrett! Glad you have given us, yet again, your particular "insider" perspective. Reading what you wrote this time gave me the chills. Intuitively, I have felt like this year is going to be big for the Blazers, for all of us really. Of course, intuition is completely groundless, so seeing your excitement jumping off the page was really validating for me personally.

    I am so jazzed up for this season, and even though I utterly despise Comcast and the way they have their boxes, remotes, and DVR service set up, I am 100% THRILLED I get to finally see EVERY SINGLE GAME our Blazers play this time! I am going to Fan Fest, dragging the kidos with me, urging my husband to get off work early, and just ready to see these guys play!

    500Dogs: THAT was a great video of Armon. And yeah, JBay better really bring it, because that kid sounds seriously motivated. After watching him in Summer League, my assessment was that his style is ultimately probably a better fit for the team and Nate's system than Jerryd's is. "I want to be a starter, I don't want to come off the bench in any position!" Man....it's good to have heart, right?

    I second the motion to get an in depth interview with Batum that addresses his World experiences and how they will impact his NBA game :)

    Back to research now!

    GO BLAZERS!!!!

    by EowynAmarie on 9/30/2010 10:04 AM
  24. Vinnie:

    I watched that video: my computer keeps buffering all the time so it took a lot out of the video; I thought that ARMANHAMMER said he was an offensive play, and weak on D, so he worked hard on things he doesn’t do well and to have everybody recognize his defensive skills says his hard work is paying off.

    Commenting on his shooting, saying he can stop and shoot the outside shot but preferred to take it to the rim. That tickled me so much I almost peed my pants, Of course with my new Prostate problem that doesn’t take much---Ya I know too much information, and off subject.

    Is that the way you got it. At any rate, I agree with those type work habits—working on the things he doesn’t do great will make him great.
    Hg

    by Hg on 9/30/2010 10:34 AM
  25. MB,

    After watching this video:

    http://www.nba.com/blazers/video/2010/09/30/Trainingcampday3mov-1427774/index.html

    I'm real excited! :) I think the Blazers are going to be fast out of the gate. It just might turn out to be a special season.

    I often time fine myself defending a player when he may not be my fav player, but just because there is such negative against him. I remember when we had Jermaine and people were so negative. I defended him against a friend of mine and pointed out the positive which he seem to not see and he started calling him by boy and so forth when actually I was just trying to see both sides. I feel the same with Rudy. People are really on him and while there are some stuff he's brought on himself there is also positive. He did show up for camp. He had blurry vision because of a eye test which no one seems to mention and he hurt his back going up for a great block from how I've heard it describe and in that video I just posted you can see him playing with the same intensity of the rest of the players.

    Anyway, I so excited the season is about to begin! I can't wait until opening nite. Oh, btw, hg I just got cable internet and for the first time I can watch movies and stuff online without having to pause it and wait and wait for it to download or watch it breaking up through out! I love it! I don't mean to be rubbing it in your face or anything, but I could so relate before and I just got this installed Monday which was the perfect time since TC started.

    GO BLAZERS!!!!!

    by mgb on 9/30/2010 4:08 PM
  26. 500dogs,

    I liked that interview with Armon. I thought that was funny at the end when he was ask where he felt he was rotation wise and they ask if he wanted to be the first pg off the bench behind Miller and he said I want to start! I don't care where it is I want to start! :)

    by mgb on 9/30/2010 4:20 PM
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