Day 1: Fan Fest Reaction
By Tim Folkman Posted in: ArmonJohnson, Blazers, ElliotWilliams, geraldwallace, GregOden, Jazz, LaMarcusAldridge, LukeBabbitt, MarcusCamby, NicolasBatum, WesleyMatthews
Hello Blazers Blogging Network!
I am excited to have made the decision this year to post my thoughts on at least every Blazers game this season. I am sure I will post random ideas, draft updates and just fun thoughts now and then as well. That being said -- why don't we start by going over my reactions from the Fan Fest.
Sadly, I was unable to attend the Fan Fest this year, but i was able to watch it on TV (I was watching my family's new puppy). It was sad to see LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby and Greg Oden all not playing due to health issues. Also, I wish Jamal Crawford and Craig Smith could have played but theres no reason to rush them in on their first day as Blazers. Yes, it was just a scrimmage and yes i do take into account the long offseason and short training camp. While watching I felt torn about the outlook of this team. I was left with both good and bad impressions from the scrimmage.
1. The young guys:
The offseason seems to have really done wonders for Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson and Chris Johnson. All three appear to have gained confidence in their game and it shows. Armon still has a ways to go to prove himself as a guy that deserves minutes. He is still sloppy with the ball and needs to improve his shot. He shows the least improvement out of the three, but given his work ethic i have faith in his ability to grow.
Luke Babbitt made his first shot and it seemed to get to his head. The next time he got the ball he jacked up a three a couple of feet behind the arc and missed completely. The reality is i loved that he did that. Although I do not usually enjoy Antoine Walker style shot selection, it shows Luke is gaining the biggest fault in his game: confidence. Luke has the potential to become the next Peja Stojakovic, but will he believe in himself? Only time will tell.
Chris Johnson is the most interesting prospect of all the young guys on the team. He is fighting with Earl Barron for the 15th and final roster spot, and both guys played well during Fan Fest. The major difference between the two, and the reason i would choose to keep Chris, is style of play. Chris is a true shot blocker. He is incredibly athletic, and has great instincts and timing when it comes to swatting everything that comes his way. The word on the street is he gained upwards of 17 pounds during the lockout, and it was needed. I think if he can work on his on ball defense of bigger front court players, Nate will find a lot of minutes for him in this hectic season.
Elliot Williams. To those who have been hyping him up since LaMarcus started raving about him before training camp began, you know what I'm talking about. But if there are still any Rip City citizens out there that are unaware of this rookie you will be. There are rumors of his vertical leap reaching 48 inches. If this were true that would mean he can jump as high as, well, only Michael Jordan. Most of us know his athletic ability, but he impressed with his overall offensive play during the Fan Fest. He hit a 3 and slashed to the basket and dunked with authority. I see DeMar DeRozan 2.0 in him. He took over for his team and should take advantage of any playing time he gets this year.
I will be honest and fess up here: I was one of those people disappointed in the pick of Nolan Smith on draft day. I have been a Kenneth Faried fan for years and thought it was a no-brainer to pick Faried if he was still around at pick 21. After the Fan Fest all of those feelings left. Nolan looked great. I'm really excited to see how high his ceiling is in the NBA. He looked like a seasoned veteran out there with no weak spots in him game. He might not be the most athletic guy but he makes up for it.
There is almost too many positives I can discuss in this category. This is a refreshing contrast to less than a decade ago where there wasn't one good thing to be said. We do have to thank Brandon Roy for being a catalyst for this change, but since he has announced his retirement others have stepped up. There are two types of leaders: vocal and example. Both are needed and equally valuable in an organization. Having LaMarcus (who does both) sit out during the scrimmage really highlighted where other guys land in this spectrum.
Jamal Crawford (everybody see him on the bench teaching the young guards on his first day?)
For me to say that we have that many leaders on this team that played (LaMarcus and Marcus clearly deserve on those lists but didn't play) is a testament to Brandon Roy's legacy and the dedication by One Center Court to get and preserve a positive culture in this organization.
You know it's not a good sign when Nate admits on camera that, at least part of, his team is out of shape. How is this new running style going to fare if a group of players are out of shape and cannot even play halfcourt defense. I know that most teams, if not every, are having conditioning issues due to the long lockout (Yes, I'm talking to you DeMarcus Cousins and Boris Diaw) but thats no excuse. That could be the difference in this season between a good and great record.
There were some flashes of what we should expect by late January, but the whole team just looked sloppy and confused. They also all were under shooting across the board. This probably has a direct correlation to conditioning because they cannot get their legs under the shot. Raymond Felton had a couple of smooth passes but thats it. We need to pray this was just scrimmage laziness, because if this is a preview of the season, its going to be a long ride to the draft lottery.
All in all it was fun to watch on TV and I look forward to the first pre-season game against Utah. We should all get a better idea of the status of the team by that game.