18 December 2009
I’ve been saying for the past couple weeks that this stretch of games for Portland – beginning with Phoenix at the Rose Garden and on TNT before heading out on a four game roadie – is their real test of this still young season.
Guess what. They passed the first exam.
While I worked Tuesday’s game for the Portland Sentinel for an upcoming Blazers column in January, and my Wednesday night was busy with my first assignment for SLAM Magazine taking in some high school hoops in the burbs, I opted for the night off from the hardwood hustle.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to write about that Portland win via TNT. No way.
Sorry Chuck, Kenny, Ernie and Reggie. Here’s the real deal Holyfield in Portland:
Fans and even media alike fell into two camps about Channing Frye in Portland last season. Some cheered his genuine likeability, while others kept the Ford Taurus running and ready to drive Frye out of town. But both camps have to confess the guy is just smooth right now from outside. Visions of James Jones from his Portland days (okay, let’s not go that far). The Blazers put him on freeze down the stretch, but Frye made believers out of doubters with that game….and with his season.
What can I say about Jerryd Bayless that hasn’t already been said or will be said after his 29-point career night on Thursday? Straight up, that was impressive and a long time coming. The key now is for Bayless to stay aggressive (not a problem) - and here’s the kicker – to be consistent (could be a problem). Ask Martell Webster about how important carryover is.
Speaking of Martell, I’d much rather see him cleaning up the misses and rebounding than concerning himself with his offense. Don’t get me wrong. He should pull the trigger on those open looks, but if not, his defense and battling for boards is more important for this team at this time. Especially if Bayless can keep the scoring up, that’s the perfect role for Martell Webster.
Found myself repeating this simple phrase during the game, much like I have the past three seasons: Where would Portland be without Joel Przybilla?
Just not saying this because he’s one of the great guys coaching in this league, but Blazers assistant Monty Williams was made for the sidelines. I’m not even talking about his late game interview with Cheryl Miller, where Williams combined Nate McMillan with Gregg Popovich-isms to break down Portland’s game plan. As McMillan’s legs right now, Williams worked that sideline like the team was his own. And right now with these assistants, you really don’t expect anything less. McMillan used the word “slippage” last week to describe his team. Well, the word to describe that coaching staff is “ownership”.
And I sure hope Channing Frye doesn’t forget who worked tirelessly and relentlessly with him on his shot during Frye’s tenure in Portland – that would be none other than Monty Williams.
Random observation of the night: While the Blazers team celebrated on the floor – including a number of assistant coaches - after Steve Nash’s ill attempted three-pointer at the buzzer, many bum rushed Bayless, Andre Miller quickly exited stage right. Not shocking knowing who Miller is. He’s about his business. I get that. Again, just an observation.
Goggles or no goggles, Amar'e is a beast. Plain and simple.
Smartest move of the night by Nate McMillan: Going to Brandon Roy over and over and over and over once the game got 4 minutes and under. Roy took matters into his own hands by putting the ball in his teammate’s hands. Roy doesn’t need to take over games – at least not all the time - and go for his shot in those situations. As the leader and focal point in the offense, he’s in the perfect situation to suck the opposition in and then instantly set up the guys around him. Good call by Nate. Great execution by Brandon.
Glad to see Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry get his due praise for turning the Suns around. It’s one of the great stories so far this season. I know Terry Porter doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth.
I’m curious to know what the game plan is in using LaMarcus Aldridge in the post this season. With Greg Oden out, Aldridge is the lone offensive option down there. And while that turnaround jumper is effective and his face-up game has become his bread-and-butter, shouldn’t he be banging more down there – drawing some fouls, pulling a double-team over, or even flashing a spin move on the baseline? For me, Portland isn’t getting the most out of Aldridge on the block regardless what the numbers say.
Is Steve Nash the best point guard in the league? If not, if you go with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose or fill in the blank, I might have to call you on it.
How sick is Grant Hill? Seriously, after everything the guy has been through – the ankles, knees, back, a staph infection – and he’s still playing like he did on Thursday night, Hill isn’t merely a feel good story for the NBA the past few seasons. Hill gives hope to someone like Greg Oden. Set aside the difference in positions on the floor. In Hill – much like Oden - we’re talking about someone who carried heavy expectations on his back so early in this league, where it reached the point where it bogged him down with injuries. Ask Grant today, and he’ll tell you how it is he can still do what he does: faith. Oden is already starting to live that.
Welcome to Portland Anthony Tolliver.
He’ll never forget his first night as a member of the Blazers.
photo: bruce ely (who is better in the biz than bruce? that's right. no one.)
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