Sunday, July 09, 2006

Summer League Sunday

I'm overlooking the balcony of one of the fine hotels in Vegas having just witnessed three of the four Summer League games of the day including, of course, the Portland-Minnesota contest. Time is limited so I haven't read the Oregonian or O-Live game summaries. I'll try not to duplicate any things I know for sure will be listed there (stats and the like). From this fan's perspective in the stands, here's what things looked like...

The Veterans

Most of the pre-trip interest was in the two main vets, so we'll start there.

Good news first: Despite a poor shooting game, Martell really stood out today. The first thing you noticed was his intensity, which started during warm-ups. For a long time now warm-ups have elicited either bored indifference or joking horseplay from our players...so much so that I was surprised to see Martell going at it with concentration and vigor. At first I wondered if something was wrong. Then as I saw him march through the drills and the team following suit, I remembered what warm-ups were supposed to look like. It was refreshing.

If you only saw the stats, you might think that Martell laid an egg out there. Not so. I was really, really encouraged by his defense, which by any measure was light years ahead of where it was this time last year. His positioning was better, his hand and foot movement was better, his effort was better, the results were better. On one play in the first quarter Martell was helping on a double team at the right side of the key. The Minnesota player passed the ball past Martell, across the key to a teammate at the top. But instead of following the ball, Martell noticed a cutter down the baseline on the left side of the key and moved to pick him up. He got to the guy before the pass did and stopped the play cold. When another Blazer came to help the result was a turnover for Portland. The fact that he saw the play before it developed and then moved to stop it (and was successful) tells us something about the work he's put in and the way his game is growing.

Whatever leadership role is being put upon him, Martell appears to be taking it seriously and living up to it. That's good news. We've always known the shot would come, this was far less sure.

The only criticism I have is that he seems to be relying on the quick outside jumper too much. He did that early last year to his detriment. After he found his game again in the D-League his offense was more varied and it blossomed. He needs to get back in the groove.

Now for the bad news...

It's hard to tell anything from just one game and I don't want to make snap judgments, but if what we saw from Travis tonight is any indication, he's in for another long year. It's typical for a rookie to get "stuck in the middle" a lot, meaning that faced with a choice between Option A and Option B, he is indecisive and does neither, taking himself out of the play. Travis did that a bit tonight. The problem is, he's not a rookie anymore. Blog Reader Ken, who was also at the game, put it succinctly by saying when Travis thinks too much he's not as good. I would shade that a little. I don't have a problem with him still needing to think things through. This has been a recurring difficulty and is part of the package with him. My problem is that when he's thinking, he defaults to hesitation instead of action. Ken suggested that maybe having a new coach was part of the problem, and that's probably true, but I wouldn't have a problem if, when uncertain, he defaulted to doing what Cheeks told him to do. That's correctable. Unfortunately a lot of the time he defaults to "Uhhhh..." and ends up stuck in the middle of a play, out of position for both options. That's frustrating. And the result was him getting burned one-on-one defense, team defense, and picks. Again, you can't tell much from one game, but there was little progress shown tonight.

Travis did have a couple of classic Outlaw moments, including a huge dunk at the buzzer. They were exciting, but at this point it's kind of like seeing a one-hit-wonder band in concert. Yeah, that's a great song, but do you play anything else good? To his credit he also played steadily and didn't appear to get down on himself or quit even when things weren't going well.

The High Draft Picks

Again caution: one game, but...this was Brandon Roy's night. Nay...a night and a half. He was everywhere doing everything. He handled the ball, he played great defense, he scored when called upon. It was a great first impression. I noticed he has a great defensive stance. He has a good handle and court vision, especially for a guy who will probably end up as a shooting guard. He is willing to take it to the hoop. His body and style remind me a little bit of Rip Hamilton when he first came out, just with less of a shot and more drives, defense, and dribbling. One thing that's clear is that he can change directions on the dribble almost effortlessly. Also every dribble and step have a purpose. He doesn't waste them. That's something we haven't seen for a while around here. Roy looks pretty skinny out there though, and will really have to add some weight if he wants to be a 2.

Lamarcus Aldridge has a less obvious night, but still showed reasons for enthusiasm. He is really fluid on the court. He also has good fundamentals from what I can tell. He keeps the ball high, he shows good footwork, he stays down on the floor when guarding in the post until his opponent jumps. His shots didn't fall, but he had consistent form so there's reason to hope they will in the future. I want to see more but I walked away impressed.

The Sleepers

I know you've probably heard his name already, but 6'10" Kevin Pinkney looked really good out there. He didn't have the monster stat night like last week, but at first blush I really liked him. The thing I noticed most is he moved the entire time he was on the court. He was always doing something and most times it translated into something good. He seemed strong and well-conditioned. He made smart plays with the ball and away from it. One time Martell was dribbling down the court and Pinkney saw him coming and sealed off his man by the bucket, in essence giving Martell permission to shoot because he had the offensive rebound covered. That's perceptive teamwork, also a rare commodity around here lately. He showed glimpses of being able to shoot from range in addition to a deep post game. I saw a shades of a Kersey or Ruben Patterson in him and we need that kind of guy right now. I don't know if he can make it with the Blazers on a team already stacked with power forwards, but I'd even consider him as a tall, bruising 3 for limited minutes. If he doesn't make it here, I think he should get a look somewhere.

Joel Freeland also looked farther along than I expected. The thing you notice immediately is that he's fast. Ken pointed out he's often the first guy down the court at both ends. He had a nice poke-away steal and his shot looked decent. I like the pickup at first glance.

The Others

Hector Romero had a nice game. Marque Perry did well at the point.

The Enemies

Randy Foye drove by people left and right and scored a bundle, but I'd still rather have Roy's all-around game. Foye also seems a tad short, but it was hard to tell.

Sebastian Telfair was handily outplayed by teammate Rondo and opponent Ewing, at least for the portion of the Boston game I saw.

For those wondering Bargnani is everything advertised on offense and more. He not only hit his shots, he did it in traffic. And from range. And he has good lateral quickness and apparently a great first step (at least for Summer League). Defensively he was even more stuck in the middle than Outlaw. And it looked like he had a two foot bubble around him warding off all rebounds. He will have to do a ton of work on those parts of his game.

General Impressions

I'm going to save a post about Vegas and the experience in general for the end of the week, but a couple of thoughts:

--I hope these guys get some training about how to deal with (ahem) groupies, because you couldn't take two steps today without bumping into a hopeful lass, anywhere from apparently 13 to 50 and older. I'd think this would be the single hardest experience for a young guy to cope with skillfully and they're likely to need some good advice.

--If the public address announcers were any indication, you should view the stats coming out of Summer League as being about as accurate as a televangelist's tax return.

--There are a LOT of basketball luminaries here. And you're VERY close to them.

More later as warranted.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

7 Comments:

Anonymous Lance Uppercut said...

I'm overflowing with jealousy. You spend the weekend in Vegas watching the future of the Blazers, I spend the weekend hauling couches and washing machines and listening to my new neihbors crank vietnamese pop music through the wee-hours of the morning.
Travis is a write-off guys, it's time to make it official. He's the athletic version of Dustin Hoffman's character in "Rain Man." Great skill, but with no ability to utilize them in a real world setting. Why can't he be dumb like Karl Malone?

9:33 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

LOL...I want to see him a couple more times before completely writing him off, but I wasn't encouraged. Sorry about your neighbors. Suggestion: Buy a really good stereo, set the speakers next to the wall, and crank Aqua's "Barbie Girl" on repeat until 4 a.m.

--Dave

10:53 AM  
Blogger ignacio said...

I've always wanted Travis to be good because he's so aesthetically pleasing when he has a good game, but the mental inconsistency really does start to make you wonder after a while. For instance, the fact that he so often doesn't seem to know when to shoot, or has his mind made up before receiving the ball.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous TP43 said...

Good stuff Dave, I'm immensely jealous but thrilled to have our own eyes and ears on the ground.

I'm with you on the wait and see, Travis is my biggest concern but we actually need him to deliver this year IMHO so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He actually looked pretty good in a more structured setting with more frontline talent around him at the end of the season so maybe he's just not cut out to be "the man" and struggles when he tries to be in this setting. The first month of the season will tell the tale if he's still here.

I'm also very curious about Freeland so any extra coverage on him would be great. Have a great time!

12:15 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

i keep telling you guys outlaw
will be a goner when the blazers
get rid of miles and randolph
he's just not bright enough to
handle constructive nba coaching
you blazer fans accept it the
last of the whitshit*nash era
on life support 3 more trades
and the era is over period !!!
groupies hah dave so how many
flirted with you !!!!!

1:20 PM  
Anonymous School Marm said...

Fatty, you are slipping. Be sure to use those commas and periods so your paragraphs don't sound so monotone. And it is disrepectful to Mr. Whitsitt to mis-spell his name...Oh, my goodness! Did you do that on purpose? Fatty!!
In my day, young man, that would have been unacceptable! But I'm not giving up on you. I know you are redeemable and I will remain unwavering in my persuit of that end.

4:39 PM  
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11:45 AM  

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