Portland’s New Guards Drive To Debut
The offseason is in the rearview mirror and it’s time to slam on the gas and move full-speed ahead into oodles of basketball. Behind the wheel of the Portland Trail Blazers is Raymond Felton, a fresh face to squad. The experienced starting point guard was tossed the keys in a 2011 draft-day trade.
During the 2010-2011 season the 6-1 floor general bounced among three cities. He started the year with the New York Knicks and was traded to the Denver Nuggets as part of the landmark deal that landed Carmelo Anthony in the Big Apple. After a short stint in the Mile High City he was headed to Portland in a move that sent Andre Miller to Denver and Rudy Fernandez to the Dallas Mavericks.
With the swap that brought Felton to the City of Roses occurring after the season ended, Blazermaniacs have yet to see him play with his new teammates. But that’s not to say the savvy basketball fans of Portland haven’t done their research. Numerous YouYube videos, blog posts and tweets have surfaced with montages of great plays and heavy discussions hyping up the soon to be starter.
Trading for Felton wasn’t an exchange made out of the blue for Portland. He’d been on the radar of the Trail Blazers brass for quite some time and was heavily targeted during free agency last year. When he arrived in Portland to be introduced to the city last summer head coach Nate McMillan raved about the acquisition.
“We’re getting Felton in his prime, where I think he still has room to grow and improve,” McMillan said. “We’re hoping that we catch him at the right time and he has a team that he can grow with, create that style of play and have some success here.”
Prime. That was s word used to describe Felton not only by McMillan but also Trail Blazers Interim General Manager Chad Buchanan who feels he “matches up with a lot of the guys on our roster.”
For a team that’s had a run of point guards since the 10-season led stretch of Terry Porter in the early 90s, the prospect of a younger veteran to build around is exciting. As is the up-tempo leader’s game. Felton’s style may be a bit of a change for Portland fans used to the slower-paced style the Trail Blazers have shown under McMillan. The man likes to run. A fact that lead to the idea a modified offense will take shape heading into the 2011-2012 season.
Another addition to the back-court depth chart is first round draft pick Nolan Smith. A combo-guard out of Duke University, Smith stepped into the point guard role for the Blue Devils last year after Kyrie Irving fell to injury.
Smith’s ability to assume the spot on the fly, and lead perennial NCAA tournament contender Duke, spoke volumes to his ability to adapt and succeed in a variety of situations. Talented off the dribble, off pick and rolls and a solid spot up shooter, he has McMillan itching to see where the rookie will fit.
“I think his versatility allows us to do a couple things,” McMillan said. “I think Smith can play with Felton, I think Smith can play with Brandon, he can play with Wesley. So he can play with the ball and he can also play off the ball. That should give us some versatility with him.”
Next Friday, December 9th, training camps are expected to open and the Trail Blazers coaching staff will begin to mold the offensive and defensive systems to include the new faces. Just ten days later the remolded back-court will take the floor at the Rose Garden for the first time as the first of two preseason games against the Utah Jazz breaks the offseason drought.
For now we sit back, soak in all the NBA news and get ready to buckle up for a season speeding closer every day. A season with new faces sure to alter the Trail Blazers road ahead.