Folks have e-mailed a few questions and observations, so on this off-day we’ll cover them.
>>I perused the stats this morning and noticed that none of our guys are very high up in anything, even though we have a winning record. (And I am aware that some of the leaders played in fewer games and may slide rapidly.) I'd like to think that it's because we actually have a more balanced team and so all the numbers are spread among a larger number of guys while the other teams have fewer who are producing. What is your take on this?<<
You have it exactly right. While other teams are featuring single players like Ager, Foye, and Lucas, we have Webster, Outlaw, Roy, and to a lesser extent Aldridge. Also part of what we want to see from Roy (and even Webster) as guards is the ability to see the floor and make a play, so other people scoring figures in there too. We don’t necessarily want any of these guys to rule the stat sheet…in fact in a way it’s good that they’re not.
In addition, our summer league team is pretty unselfish. Part of that comes from centering around two players with experience I think. If Romero or Pinkney are open and in good position, they take the shot even when more “talented” players are on the floor. No complaints, just high fives…end of story. This also is a good thing and something that should happen more on the main team.
>>How many of these non-signed players are going to be invited to camp? Players like Pinkney and Romero and others who are getting minutes and numbers. And what are the odds of their being on the roster?<<
It’s hard to say exactly. To make it to camp a player has to be good enough to get the invite but not so good that another team with more potential to play them lures them away. This includes European teams. If I had to guess I’d say Romero gets an invitation to camp and accepts it. Pinkney might get an invitation but might not because we’re already carrying four power forwards. If he receives an invite from another NBA team with fewer forwards with guaranteed contracts he’ll probably go there. I’d say the odds were pretty long against Romero making the regular season roster because even though he has decent talent he’s 6’8” and looks to play more of a power position, which makes him a little short. Also he’s hit a number of shots, but they haven’t been self-created or under pressure. With the exception of a dunk, he hasn’t really done anything to make you notice him. (Read below for a different view from Ned, however.) If we had fewer forwards I’d say Pinkney would be a possibility for a deep bench player on the regular squad but he’s caught in that numbers game so I’d say the odds were pretty long there too. I’d like it if he made it, but I’d be surprised. I’d also be surprised if some other team didn’t give him a look though.
>>Why are they using Roy at the point? Are we still looking for a point guard? Or is that the best place for him in Summer League?<<
He has some point guard skills, though he’s going to have some adjustment to make at the NBA level. Basically they want to see if and how well he can play the position, because not only would this give us a 6’6” point guard possibility, it would open up more minutes for him and possibly allow us to consider trading Blake (if they thought he could be serviceable this year) or Jack eventually (if they thought he was going to be really good for a long time). The latter point is also valid with Martell starting at the 2-spot. Roy wouldn’t be getting nearly the minutes at shooting guard that he is at point.
Notice, though, that they’re not starting Roy, even in summer league. That job belongs to Marque Perry. I think part of what they’re doing is sending a message to Brandon about what will be expected no matter which position he plays: see the court, distribute, make your teammates better, and earn your minutes with your play. In my mind this is a lot better than taking the “here’s the ball, go score 20 kid” approach. The kid ain’t gonna score 20 or get that many shots once the ball goes up for real. In fact he may not get 20 minutes, let alone points. But in those minutes he can still do the things that are making him great here,
>>My heart sank when I read your comment "...the movement stopped and the team just died." Isn't that what we saw all last season? Why does that happen? How can an entire team stop working just like that? Is it lack of floor leadership? Something lacking in the coaching?<<
Don’t let your heart sink too much. It happens. I attended the “Perfect First Quarter” game against San Antonio in 1991. Many folks remember that when the twelve minute buzzer sounded we were up 48-19. Most have forgotten that the next three quarters were utterly non-descript. It’s human nature to let down after building a lead. When everything is going in you forget that the reason shots are falling is that you’re running the plays well. You start thinking just anything is going to fall. And when it doesn’t you start pressing more to make something fall. Pretty soon there goes your lead. More veteran leadership probably prevents such slips and the fact that we had a new head coach may have added a little, but in the end the important thing was that we ran good plays in the final minute and pulled out the win through smarts and effort.
>>I like what I've heard and read about Joel Freeland. With his athleticism and instincts, he seems farther along than Ha is, even at this point. Would you agree?<<
I guess it depends on what you mean by “farther along”. I’ve consulted with a couple internet experts on this question and they’re waffling similarly. If you mean it looks like he might grow into a regular player someday, then yes, Freeland is farther along than Ha. He also shows a greater grasp of the game (which is sad since he famously was a bag boy a few years ago). He applies defensive principles better. He’s aware of the court and his place on it better. He’s also a ton quicker, which helps. Ken pointed out that he’s often the first guy up and back on offense and defense. But as far as stepping into a game next season and providing something meaningful, I think maybe you’d still have to go with Ha just because of the impact of his body and the fact that he’s been there before. If Freeland and Ha’s growth continues at their current paces, Joel will have easily passed him up by next year though.
>>Speaking of Ha, what do you think his prospects are? I am starting to be a bit pessimistic about his future. It doesn't seem like he is successfully developing the mindset of an NBA center.<<
Ha is one of the disappointments of my summer league experience. But then that’s been said in years past too. He’s not worse than he was last year, but he’s not better either. He seems congenitally incapable of using his body to get position and grab a rebound and he might as well not exist on any kind of help defense. At a minimum, a big guy like that is supposed to eat space and in that respect he’s on the Atkins diet. That, coupled with him being a Nash project, makes me guess he’s not long for the Blazers. If we’re just talking a 15th man though, I’d probably still hold onto him and work him hard. He’s still very, very young. But as I said last night, if you look at his progress compared to Dallas’ Pavel Podkolzin, Ha isn’t in a favorable light.
>>I am starting to have similar feelings about Mr Outlaw. He is gifted athletically, no doubt about that..but after 3 years now with the Blazers, I would've hoped that he would be a more consistent, more well-rounded player. Not to be mean, but I wouldn't be sad now if we were able to unload him in a trade.<<
What we’ll do at small forward will become one of the intriguing story lines of the next season. If this is an audition for Outlaw, I’d say he’s passing but not by much. I would suspect the Blazers are feelingly similarly to you. We’re going to make use of him and will certainly not dump him for nothing, but his stock isn’t rising anymore and if he’s an attractive throw-in in a trade we’ll have no problem making that move.
>>How much will Aldridge contribute this year?<<
Some, but not a ton, at least not at first. He will be a good player within a few years. He has skills, he can jump, and he may even turn out to be a force on defense. But he’s getting pushed around a bit by summer league guys, which doesn’t bode well for the regular season. Be prepared to be pleased by what you do see of him, but also be prepared to see him in small doses. Next summer league will be his jump-off point.
Finally Ned writes:
>>One of the benefits of being an Oregonian living in Las Vegas is the chance to attend some awesome events like summer league hoops. I'm also really impressed with the play of Romero. He has a strong body and can not be kept off the boards with his tenacity, but more importantly, the guy simply works harder than anybody else. In the game against Minnesota, he took a pass on the three point line, looked hesitant at first because nobody was guarding him and then he decided to attack the defense and thunderdunked over the Minn defense. Just as impressive as that play was, I noticed that he was the first guy back on defense after the dunk. As a fan, you have to love that and as a player, you have to be inspired by that type of effort. That type of play seems to be indicative of what I've seen out of him in the past few days and will land him on somebody's bench around the league.
>>Even after Foye's impressive offensive display over the past few days, I'm glad we have Roy because his skills, size, and feel of the game allows him to play several different positions well, plus the guy is looking to distribute often and will eventually develop into one of several leaders for the Blazers. Foye's game seems similar to somebody like Iverson, in the sense that as he continues to develop his offensive game, there may not be anybody that will be able to stop this guy one on one.
>>It would be great to retain Pinkney and Romero to see how they develop their game. T-Outlaw's development seems to have plateaued a bit after several seasons with the Blazers and I wonder if he would even make the roster if the 'Zers had any depth at the 3 position this year. I'm still rooting for him to contribute as a Blazer, but at this stage he still doesn't appreciate the intricacies of the game on both ends of the floor that might have been there if he had several seasons to grow at the college level.<<
Thanks for the eye-witness view, Ned!