Rip City Fan Fest 2011...
By Wayne M Kehler
The site of Fan Fest 2011 at the Rose Garden was more of the same, great fans in very large numbers. What a showing of talent tonight. We all gasped a quick breath of oxygen when Nolan Smith had his three point attempt blocked by starting point guard Raymond Felton in the first half, knocking him to the ground. After a spell on the sidelines stretching out his lower back Smith returned, in a white jersey. After starting the night on the black team, Smith would finish with the white team. A move by Coach Nate, to get Smith more court time with the starting players.Nolan looked very strong tonight, a shade of what's to come here in Portland. With the thoroughly speculated but hardly whispered "curse of injuries" in Portland, I was just glad to see Nolan back on the court.
Nearly everyone on the team played aside from Lamarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and new additions Craig Smith and Jamal Crawford. All of which are going to be factors this season come opening night. Plenty of talk surrounding the offensive playing style this season was for many, either put to rest or confirmed tonight. This is now a running team. With the play clock starting at 20 seconds, the team moved up and down the court a ton and usually with time to spare. This most likely coming from the fact that Coach Nate has been using a 15 second clock in practices. The flow was a very nice change, especially for the nights most valuable player Crash, also known as Gerald Wallace. "I love it! That's my style!" Crash spoke emphatically when asked after the game how he felt about the new tempo. Look for a Crash/Felton connection this season.
Crash, put up 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals including a thunderous alley oop dunk from Nicolas Batum. Nic put on a great show himself, scoring and dunking seemingly at will. keeping in mind of course this was only a practice scrimmage, Nic made everything he did seem effortless. Luke Babbitt looked like a rising force. Luke makes a ton of three pointers (is my assumption) after watching him take eight of them tonight, though hitting only one. Once he starts dropping those shots, lookout for him to be a surprising perimeter threat that most scouting reports simply must plan for. Earl Barron did impressive and noticeable work tonight as well.
The highlight player of the night in my opinion was guard Elliot Williams. He gave the fans in attendance tonight exactly what they wanted, high flying dunks. Warming up, you could tell E-Will wanted to make a splash. He accomplished that near the end of the scrimmage, scoring on a high flying between the legs dunk. With a 44 inch vertical, that's right, a 44 inch vertical leap, expect to see a rookie performance in some ways similar to Blake Griffin. Both E-will and Blake sat out their actual rookie seasons with injuries, rehabbing and watching. Scoring 19 points tonight, E-Will looked like a future star to me. The only problem may be playing time with all of the depth on this Portland roster. Earn it! The game ended 67-47 white team.
Tonight marked the start of the NBA season in Rip City, and a start of very good things to come. As we do every year, Let us all rise in support of our TrailBlazers, our City and OUR HOUSE!