Oct 02

Time to Roll

By mikebarrett
If you can't be good, then be interesting.

I'm not here to imply that they won't be both.  But, while I may not sure about the first, at least right now, I am certain about the second.  Using perspective as my guide, and with the memory of last spring fresh in my mind, interesting is a definite step up.  After all, the journey back up the hill is a heck of a lot more fun and entertaining than the ride down.

Considering all that happened last season, some of it out of the team's control, the fact that we're sitting where we are, watching a team get excited at the prospect of building and truly believing it's going to win more games than it's going to lose, it's quite an accomplishment.  Yep, it's going to be a process, but it certainly feels like a pretty attractive train is about the leave the station. Although the duration of this latest journey is going to remain a mystery, at least for a while, the shared believe in how to ultimately reach the desired destination isn't.  

That's called a direction.  That sounds very fundamental, but a lot of teams don't have one.

No matter what your early impressions of Neil Olshey are, I can tell you that he's not going to be one to just sit with the bat on his shoulder.  That's not why he's here, and that's not the way he operates or thinks.  He's not going to hit everything out of the park, but he's going to take some healthy rips, and that's why there is this feeling of anticipation.

I don't think I'm the only one feeling that.  Owner Paul Allen was bouncing around the team's practice facility on the first day of training camp, and has bought into this process that Olshey is selling.  The value of that can't be overstated.

As we talked about over the summer, one of the early steps of this process was the draft.  Yes, it's early, but it continues to look like it was a solid success.  It's at least a good example of direction.  They identified their targets early, and got them.  This is still very much LaMarcus Aldridge's team, and should be, but Damian Lillard has the look of a guy who could be a game changer.  That's not to heap even more expectations on his untested NBA shoulders, but it's tough to watch him in action, even during training camp, and not get excited.

Lillard walks in and gets the keys to the franchise.  No huge shock there.  And, I don't think anyone is debating the fact that Portland has an impressive first unit.  There are question marks, but I'd take this year's prospective starting lineup over last year's in a heartbeat.  It's after that where things get tougher to read.  

I'll admit that I didn't know much about Terry Stotts when the summer began.  But, he has certainly looked like he's the right guy for this job.  Dallas coach Rick Carlisle basically called him an offensive mastermind, and Stotts has surrounded himself with an impressive supporting cast.  Up to this point, this has been the most organized, most efficient fall I've seen in years.  That's not taking anything away from what's gone on in the past, but this is now a different era, with different demands and the need for a different direction.  

We all think we know what to expect, as far as a style for this Blazer team.  We've been told they'll look to run more (I know, that's what everyone says during camp), and that Stotts will rely more on outside shooting by basically giving his bombers a permanent green light.  But, I'm very curious about this team's defensive style.  If the first day of camp was any indication, they'll bank on a hustling, trapping defense, and we'll probably see a lot more zone than we have in the past.

So, along with being interesting, it should be fun.  There will be some long nights, and tough stretches, of course.  And, I don't say that as a blanket warning.  This team is playing in the west after all, and I can't seem to find many teams that don't think they got better over the summer.  

The best part of camp getting underway is tossing all of this stuff around, while the team's record is still 0-0, and getting caught up in the what-ifs.  We won't have long to do that, because camp is short in the NBA and we're going to get the answers to a lot of these questions very soon.

More blogs to come in the next few days, but here's a little quick fire to answer a lot of the questions you've been asking.  Yes, Batum has looked as sharp as you've heard here in the early stages of camp.  No, LaMarcus has showed no signs of having lingering effects following hip surgery.  No, I didn't think Wesley Matthews could dunk like this (backing his claim that he's finally fully healthy for the first time since college).  Yes, Nolan Smith looks like a new man.  Joel Freeland has been a very pleasant surprise to the coaches (they didn't know what to expect).  Yes, I think Freeland could be the opening night starter at center.  Yes, I think Adam Morrison has a solid chance to make this roster.  Ronnie Price will be in the rotation, Jared Jefferies could get more minutes than he expected (and will be the best interview on the team), and you might see this Portland team play zone defense for an entire preseason game, just to give it a solid test drive.

I'd love your thoughts.

Previous Story: Stotts Era Begins


  1. Okay so I have my reservations about this years team and the moves that have been made. I'm glad I'm just a fan and not the decision maker. But fans are the business so....

    I'm not entirely sure if Stotts is the long term solution.
    I know I'm in the minority.. But it's going to make it very hard for me to watch/go to games... if the goal is to just outscore people.
    I understand the need to push the ball up the court and run, but run for the rim... Not the three.
    I highly doubt my ability to even watch games on tv if they're just firing up wild 3's all night long. If I wanted to see that I'd go to a random gym, pay 5$ and do it myself.
    I'm very scared that the Blazers are going to look like the Suns.. or even the current Warriors and attempt to outscore people.

    As far as zone defence? I hate zone defence/box and one with a passion. But with one maybe two above average defenders on the team It might be a must...

    Well 1:23am prolly should head to bed.

    by Brandon Weinant on 10/3/2012 12:23 AM
  2. Hey Mike, welcome back and welcome to the new season:
    That train that is loading up used to be the L Train, but I have been joking around all summer about it being the new LL and L train, that being Lamarcus, Lillard and Leonard.

    I have been studying all summer and have become a much better student of the game of BB then I used to be; of course, I still need the Mike and Mike, Sarahhecht, and Casey to get my lessons for the day.

    I am like you, it may be too early to say or think, but watching what I could of summer league, makes me think Lillard, or from now on Dlill, will be a special PGofTF. I compare him to BRoy, not in his style of play, but more to the fact of all he brings to the game; he can shoot the three, he can take it to the rim, he is already great with pick and rolls, he has a great step back jumper and he can find open shooters. That part of it is fact not brag; you feel he can be a game changer, me too, I think he will bring us that closer that we lost in BRoy also. Last year our PG was a disaster for the most part of the season, and our sixth man was a notorious me first player, So with DLill, and Nolan developing as a top rotation player, IMO, we are already better and more fun then last years entire year, and we do forget we had some high lights last year, both OKC games, that we really won is the best, putting it together after blowing up the team and beating Chicago away was very exciting.

    I think our starters with Lillard, much improved Wesley, a fired up Batum, of course LMA and an assortment of centers that will be more by committee then any beginning big star, can match up with many of the NBA teams, and also give the super teams something to think about.

    Mike: Sarah and Casey is aware that the subscribing to the commenters is not working, So my continued crying will now go to your blog as well. Is there a new way to do that, I can go on line to Blazer home page and read all the comments, but I liked it much better getting notification through my e-mail.

    Welcome back Mike

    by Hg on 10/3/2012 5:20 AM
  3. Mike, I guess you're the only one who can answer this right now so if you can take the time respond... GREAT! I recall that both you and Mike Rice talked about Nicolas Batum was going to have a number change from #88 to #55 starting this upcoming season. Reason being because of his mother's birthday was on May 5. When pictures and videos of the new red uniforms came out, I saw a video of Batum in them being interviewed and he was wearing his familiar #88. I also saw Blazer merchandise of Batum's #88. I thought of the reasoning behind changing his number was a great gesture. Any information about why he changed his mind and decided to stay with his old number, like did he get mad at his mother or something (not that I believe that would be the reason)?

    by Shem on 10/3/2012 6:01 AM
  4. I am so excited for the season to get underway. Thanks for your take on the new team and coach, Mike. Go Blazers!

    by dockaren on 10/3/2012 6:25 AM
  5. @ Brandon Weinant, u might b right that Stotts may not b the man for the job BUT u may b wrong about that too. Let's give the man a chance b4 we say he's the wrong guy; I AM in the camp who believe that he is the RIGHT man for the job but that doesn't mean I'm going to try to heap too much praise or try to convert the doubters (yet ;) though. All I'm saying is give this man a FAIR chance to prove himself b4 getting negative about Stotts (devil's advocate: & we shouldn't give him too much praise until he's earned it ;); he's a Blazer too & ALL OUR Blazers need our support especially w/ all the changes that have gone on recently. IF Stotts really stinks it up... roast away but I have a feeling Stotts' actions will make u change ur mind ;)

    by Simpson on 10/3/2012 6:45 AM
  6. hey MB! seems like forever since you last wrote. always glad to get your perspective on the opening of camp.

    now, i don't want to dig, but isn't this the same optimism we have every season? sure, some names have changed and all, but we always get excited simply for the season to start. as you remember from the previous blog, i'm not sold on Stotts. style and results will either prove or disprove that he's the right guy (and to @BrandonWeeden: i suspect you and i are not in the minority).

    i'm still not sold on Damian nor with handing the keys to an unproven small-college combo guard (which is basically the definition of a shoot-first point guard). Luke is already better than Adam Morrison ever will be and that sf position is already crowded with Nico, Luke, Victor and Will. simply, we don't need another sf. you didn't mention Meyers! from following Nolan on twitter and reading other things,
    t seems to me that he is ready for the season. i kind of felt bad for him last year that he didn't have a training cap prior to his rookie year (at least not a real one).

    the next step in moving personnel has to be to trade Wesley. he hustles and does have his moments, but he is not a viable shooting guard for a team looking to make a run deep into the playoffs. let's not forget, he was stolen away from utah as a backup for Brandon Roy. how many actually thought he would be our starter? after a couple years, i think it's time for that experiment to come to its conclusion.

    the fact of the matter is that while we always get excited this time of year, i'm not prepared to get overly optimistic at this juncture. sorries if i seem negative.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 10/3/2012 7:48 AM
  7. @ Kass, I know what u r saying about the excitement thing every yr. & don't totally disagree; maybe it's a bit of the "homer" in the rest of us ;) I want our Blazers to make the playoffs this yr. but most likely they won't bc there r a lot of good teams that just got better (especially around that 8th spot & the WHOLE NBA is finally balancing out); I could go on about this but I'm not gonna ;)

    About Wes, again I don't totally disagree w/ u & he's a VERY marketable/flexible piece that could net us a lot in return but I say we wait until the beginning of the new yr. b4 we even think/talk about moving Wes. We'll know what we have in Wes & his future potential ~2 months into this season (same goes for Batuum ;).

    No need 2 b sorry. What u said is honest/blunt; I think u r right to temper expectations. I believe I'm more optimistic than u (@ least currently) but I I'm far from overly optimistic (again, @ least for now ;) also.

    by Simpson on 10/3/2012 9:40 AM
  8. Great article Mike! I think fans are always excited about a new season but to me this season is special. Nobody in crutches getting big paychecks for one. I am sold on Stotts and if I'm not mistaken, Kaleb is our defensive coach. I think zone is smart defense when you're undersized and quick. It's also a fast break defense if you get rebounds. I like our bench unlike a lot of fans. Price, Jeffries and yes, I believe Pavlovich are going to surprise fans with what they bring defensively to the team. I think our shooters will improve across the board with the coaching style. I would never trade Wesley. I'm penciling him in to win Most Improved Player this season and Nico to be an allstar. I love the idea of JJ and LA being a duo in the post...hard to double team either without paying a price. I love that Lillard can score and rebound as well. I love that Price is a lockdown defensive pt guard that was coached by Sloan and backed up Steve Nash. I see no negatives to worry about and haven't felt this optimistic about the roster and staff since Oden was drafted. We have bigs that can score, make freethrows and run. That's an advantage in the NBA. Morrison is a better shooter than Babbit with a defender in his face but Babbit is a great set shooter if he's open. Morrison hits those shots on the run. Babbit has to prove he's a complete player to me and I hope he does but he didn't impress me in summer league at all. Let the games begin. A side note on the last courtside...questions being asked were continuously interupted and in the end not answered...check out the replay and you guys might want to give a bit of space to those who are trying to answer questions. I won't name names but Wheels is really patient with the conversations..Go Blazers!

    by riverman on 10/3/2012 10:33 AM
  9. I agree with a lot of the comments above mine. This kind of optimism is always around at the start of the season. I think in some ways it's legitimate and in other ways it isn't. Obviously, I'm excited for Lillard. Kassandra, while the idea of Lillard being "unproven" is still real, I think he'll turn out perfectly fine. I had doubts even heading into summer league, but he surprised me there. As Mike said, these training camp and preseason weeks are times to work things out and figure out where we're headed. I think that's what this entire season will be like actually. Lillard is going to change how this team plays, and the question of how our other starters will work with him is a big question. The questions surrounding Wes and Nic are right to be asked, and I think that this is really the final season we should say "He has potential. He'll be better next year." They're both old enough that they've fit into the NBA. If they can't play well this year, get rid of them.

    I am hopeful for both of them however, just as I am every preseason. I think playing with Lillard will help Nic and Wes move around and score more as long as they can hit their shots.

    I'm not sure about the new guys like Price, Morrison, Freeland, Jefferies, or even Leonard. I really hope we give a share of minutes to Barton; I think he has great potential at SG.

    The comments on Freeland are a bit exciting to me. I didn't really expect anything from him and completely forgot about him until recently (we drafted him back in 2006!), but didn't think he'd be a starter like Mike says the coaches hinted at. That would be fantastic if he was good enough for that. That would mean LaMarcus wouldn't have to play much at Center.

    Curious on other thoughts though. You guys have some great opinions on this. Excited to see how the season turns out!

    by chris.barnes on 10/3/2012 10:51 AM
  10. Hey Miss Kassandra:
    Glad you responded, like Mike, it seems like forever since we heard from you;
    of course you are right about the excitement of the opening of season every year is a repeat, I do the same thing with my Fall Bowling league, although I have the same team, and probably get the same results, I am still excited in getting it going.
    There is always skepticism of new players and new team mates, and I like you, in the draft was wanting Marshall, and like you, I support whomever the FO drafts; my excitement for DLill and this years team is the flop of last year; as far as I am concerned anything that gives me hope after "The Jamal, Felton melt down" is reason to be excited, but again as you have guessed I am a passionate Blazer fan and easily excitable. So bring on DLill and let the games begin.

    I am maybe in agreement with you about Wesley, and last year he struggled mightily, but since I blame the whole fiasco of last year on the above mentioned culperts, I am waiting one more year on Wesley; I am thinking that maybe we have better 2gds on the team, but Wesley still brings a lot of good D and leadership.

    Also, like U, I am not overly optimistic of how far this team will go, but I am overly excited to see a new, season, a new team, like you pessimistic about, Stotts, and a brand new start, and I am overly confident that Lillard will be a sight for sore eyes after Felton.
    Thank you for giving us your true insight, and there is no reason to apologize for the way you feel, mainly after last year.
    I cannot believe you are a junior in college already, Good grief, I was old when you started posting and Blogging and now, I really feel old ☺.
    Are you starting on a blog yet?

    by Hg on 10/4/2012 3:45 AM
  11. Surprise of the year- WILL BARTON

    by Divotking on 10/3/2012 3:54 PM
  12. My take on Wes Matthews. Retire him as a Blazer. 15 years from now. He may never be an allstar. He may be a backup for much of his career. He is everything you want from a team standpoint. He does more behind the scenes than the average fan knows about. Every championship team has had a Matthews on it. His value does not always show up on the box score.

    by Divotking on 10/3/2012 7:23 PM
  13. My thoughts:

    (1) Love that JJ Hickson has been accepted for what he brings to the team: hustle and muscle and other valuable traits this team has been missing for a while now. Players who can score 12-15 pts a game without having plays called for them are invaluable. Not to mention his rebounding.

    (2) The two biggest question marks are Lillard and Batum. If they both work out as hoped, this season could be a very good one. If either falters, it's unlikely there will be a playoff push in PDXland.

    (3) I like the way Coach Stotts has begun his reign. The new coaching staff will have to prove themselves this season as much as the new players.

    (4) Unlike some others, I look for Wes Matthews to have an excellent year. This is make or break for him as far has his Blazer career is concerned and I think he will make it, not break it. We know the team wants great defense and Wes certainly can provide that.

    by dgpdx on 10/3/2012 9:30 PM
  14. The team and the press has been raving over the way JJ Hickson came into camp in such great condition? Answer me this: All NBA players are professionals. Their jobs and careers are on the line every season. Why doesn't every player come to camp in great shape???

    by dgpdx on 10/3/2012 9:27 PM
  15. Hg...I'm sure it was a typo, but DWill doesn't play for the Blazers, he's the Nets pt guard

    by riverman on 10/3/2012 9:52 PM
  16. riverman:
    Yes we were talking about getting DWill, we had Ewill, and now we have DLill so all my shortcuts gets bogged up in my head, My bad

    by Hg on 10/4/2012 3:47 AM
  17. Don:
    I agree with you on both post, The big reason Lillard hit the draft so great is because he came into the draft tryouts in top physical shape.

    I agree with you on Matthews having a break out year. He is finally injury free, he has improved his dribble drive, he can now dunk because of lower body and leg development, he is a leader and leads by example and hustle; if you judged him by just his shooting, playmaking even scoring, then he might break it in many fans eyes, but he brings so much more to the table. Besides, I LIKE HIM LOL.

    by Hg on 10/4/2012 3:57 AM
  18. And one more thing: Lots of press (ESPN) about Raymond Felton coming into NY's practice in great shape, and blaming last year's performance with the Blazers on being out of shape. Intentionally or not, Felton sabotaged the Blazers effort last year, not only by coming in fat and lazy but staying that way for most the of season and being a big part of the "I'm not playing for Nate" bunch.

    by dgpdx on 10/4/2012 11:15 AM
  19. BrandonWeeden huh? Well I'm okay with that I guess... But wheres my $$? :)

    Hmm well I believe it was pretty well reported Felton has alot of talent. But he typically comes into training camp out of shape. I think that was how it was reported when we traded for him. Good for him that he got into shape before camp, hope he has a good year.

    I'm not as down on wesley as others are. I personally believe hes lived up to expetations. Hes a backup 2 that hustles and wont back down from anyone. He is a player however that needs a dominate point to get him open looks. Felton and Crawford really wern't dominate last year.
    I am down on Batum though.
    I wanted Barnes in the draft when he fell. That way we could have done a sign and trade with Batum.(but I know most of my lady-friends would have been upset with that haha)

    by Brandon Weinant on 10/4/2012 6:36 PM
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