Man Of The Fans

Tim Folkman

Dec 21

The preseason has come and gone. This shortened preseason not only is a preview of how the schedule will feel this year, but there were glimpses of the reborn Portland Trail Blazers. I write this as I watch the replay of game 2, and I feel inclined to share my feelings about the outlook of this team.

The first game was encouraging. We were told by Nate McMillan leading up to this season that we were FINALLY going to see a fast paced offense. Some were skeptical, and i don't blame them, because we have heard this for at least the past year. But when the first game began in the Rose Garden it was hard to deny the new personality of the offense. Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews were flying down the floor with Raymond Felton in his element, dishing the ball with ease. What has become overshadowed in this talk about the new look offense, is the success of the defense. And overshadowed by it all is the success of Coach McMillan. I don't know whether it was his master plan, good sense basketball, or luck, but all of his work and style of basketball has allowed this team to grow into something spectacular.

The Blazers might not be considered in the top echelon of teams in the NBA, but to those teams I would say -- watch your back because Rip City is coming for you. To be honest, when I watch this new team play, I don't see a typical fast paced high powered offense (a la Warriors or Suns). The word that describes this new team best is balance. 

Since the hiring of Nate McMillan the personality of this team has been a slow, in control, half-court style. I think it is now that we will finally see divedens paid on that foundation. Theres no question that all championship teams have a foundation in Coach McMillan's style. Now that the team as a whole understands that defense comes first, and preventing turnovers second, a third layer can be added to the repertoire. This new layer is what we see starting to blossom, scoring a lot of easy points.  

This all being said there were a lot of places where the team looked far from perfect, especially in the second game. But theres no reason that most, if not all of those things, can't be fixed during the regular season. 

These 4 categories seem to be the worst offenders:

Careless fouls (especially in the 4th quarter)
Sloppy passing
Jump shot (LaMarcus will return to old form and Jamal is streaky)
Conditioning

There are many categories that shined or showed promise:

Toughness
Change and control of pace
Cohesiveness
Maturity
Defense
Depth
Good mix and balance of personell

That final group is what i would like to touch on. I don't know who to give credit to for the personell (Kevin Pritchard -- Rich Cho -- Chad Buchanan -- Nate McMillan -- Larry Miller -- Paul Allen?), all i know is that i like it. The role of each player seems to be well defined.

LaMarcus Aldridge: The go-to offensive weapon especially in half court offense. 
Raymond Felton: The floor general and fast break specialist who can shoot the 3 and steal the ball.
Gerald Wallace: The strong tough defensive wing that can finish on the break with authority.
Wesley Matthews: See Gerald Wallace with less finishing ability but a really good 3 point shot.
Marcus Camby: Vocal defensive leader and anchor who can clean up the boards and mentor.
Nicolas Batum: Think Tayshaun Prince role with maybe a higher upside. Word of the day with Batum is versatile. 
Jamal Crawford: Run the backup point and score.
Kurt Thomas: Tough and smart second unit front court anchor. 
Craig Smith: Strong tough rebounder and defender.
Nolan Smith: Can evolve into backup point and is a smart consistent well-rounded player.
Chris Johnson: Block shots and rebound.
Elliot Williams: DeMar DeRozan role with a better stroke but still unproven.
Luke Babbitt: Shoot the 3 and become this eras Peja.
Armon Johnson: Play strong defense and limit turnovers. 
Greg Oden: Get healthy, contribute this season, and help us win a playoff series. 

Of course every player has the ability to contribute outside of his role but with the defined roles each is given the opportunity to focus and excel in a team need. 

It's just the preseason and the Blazers split the 2 game series with the Jazz. That being said I see huge upside for this team and the stage is set to take the "next step."

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