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Early Season Observations: Portland Trail Blazers
November 6, 2007, 11:18 am
Filed under: Sports | Tags: , , , , ,

(Since the season has begun I suppose it’s too late for parts 3 and 4 of the intended previews that would have rounded out the “Scoping Just the Teams I Remotely Care About” thing. Sorry, real life got in the way).

Anyway, the Blazers, who as of now are off to an 0-3 start. Martell Webster, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy are the best things going for that team right now (and Roy, the reigning Rookie of the Year, got off to a slow start). The first game at San Antonio — on Ring night — was actually impressive because the young Blazers for the most part kept up with the defending champs and wouldn’t go away. It was an encouraging loss, but a loss nonetheless. Then the Blazers got pwned at New Orleans and fell on the short end of an 80-89 loss at Houston.

Coach Nate McMillan started the season with incumbent PG Jarrett Jack at the 1, a decision that he might now rue as he considers lineup tinkering ahead of another game against the upstart Hornets which will open the Blazers’ home season.

Jack is an incredibly talented player who is mired in a slump at the worst possible time, and it seems that point guard play is a sore spot early in this season.

Here’s the deal, and perhaps a recap of Portland’s wealth of point guards as I view them:

Jack — entering his third season in the NBA — is a combo guard who is probably more suited to the 2 (and backing up Brandon Roy for now). It is possible that Jack might not be adapting to McMillan’s new up-tempo offense, or it might be possible that there is something in Jack’s head that is eating him, but one thing is certain — he is in a slump and perhaps a change is in order for Jack’s good and the good of the Blazers as this young season wears on. Two other things to consider: 1) Jack’s success last season was when McMillan was employing a more deliberate type of offense and 2) There was still Zach Randolph down there to feed.

Sergio Rodriguez is a terrific second-year player from Spain. He can give the Blazers a spark when he’s out there, but excess turnovers (also a knock on Jack AND Steve Blake in the preseason and early in the real season) and deficient D seem to keep him on McMillan’s bench. The rub is that Rodriguez is widely regarded as the Blazers’ future at PG, and well, he’s gotta get his minutes *somewhere* and have the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.

Finally, this brings us to Steve Blake, technically the newest Blazer guard (because he came this season as a free agent), but not at all a new Blazer: He played the 2005-2006 season with Portland and started most of that season’s games at point guard from December 2005 on following an injury to Sebastian Telfair, who at one time was regarded as the Blazers’ future at point guard. Former Blazers GM Steve Patterson traded Blake (along with Brian Skinner and Ha-Seung Jin) to Milwaukee in August 2006 for Jamaal Magloire. When Kevin Pritchard became the Blazers’ GM last spring, one of his objectives was to get Blake back. Mission accomplished, no aircraft carrier, flight suit or well-placed banner necessary.

I know the following is unpopular sentiment on some Blazers blogs and forum communities (such as Blazer’s Edge), but it’s my sentiment, I’m entitled to it, and don’t think for one minute this has anything to do with my allegiances to a certain ACC school whose mascot is a turtle.

Blake SHOULD be Portland’s starting point guard. His calmness, steadiness and maturity on the floor is exactly what these young Blazers need to get them over the hump. At 27 he’s still young enough to still have his best NBA years ahead of him, and just mature enough to be a rock for what is one of the NBA’s youngest teams. Furthermore, he’s one of the few Blazers that has been to the NBA Playoffs (DC, 2004-2005 season; Denver, 2006-2007 season), so he has some experience on what its like to be THAT situation as well.

He isn’t going to be the next Steve Nash, and that might be the rub in his case: Blake does everything well — although he has his bad nights, everybody does — but “well” is what you get with him. Not “spectacular” or “stunning,” just “well.” Because you can’t look at Blake with goggly eyes and murmur, “ooooh, shinyyyyy” like a small child transfixed by the Christmas decorations, he’s apparently beneath the bar in a league that is all about flash over (and sometimes at the expense of) substance.


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