Trailblazers - Page 2

Blazers Top Lakers, 93-75, In Opening Exhibition Game

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Lakers defenders watch as Leonard finishes a dunk in the Blazers’ 93-75 victory over LA in Ontario (Reed Saxon/The Associated Press)

ONTARIO, Calif. – Blazers fans were able to get their first real glimpse of the new Portland regime, headlined by draft picks Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard during their 93-75 victory over the Kobe Bryant-less and Dwight Howard-less Lakers.

Lillard was as good as advertised, scoring 14 points with five rebounds and seven assists, and played as a floor leader in only 24 minutes of action. It appeared early on that he would come close to getting a triple-double. Lillard was responsible for covering the soon to be hall-of-fame PG Steve Nash who put up a team-high 13 points.

Leonard had a solid performance as well, scoring 10 points on 4-4 shooting. Center J.J. Hickson got the start with Leonard coming off of the bench. It’s uncertain who will be the starter for the regular season.

But perhaps the most talked, or joked, rather, arrival was that of SF Adam Morrison. Morrison, a former top-3 pick in the NBA has had a completely disappointing career. He even has stated that this is his last chance to really make a solid career in the league.

Morrison scored 9 points on 4-6 shooting against his former team.

But it wasn’t just the two rookie and Morrison’s debut, head coach Terry Stotts also was on display after replacing interim coach Caleb Kanales. Portland showed it wanted to use its youth by outscoring the aging Lakers 19-10 in fast break points. Stotts will use that speed throughout the season. The Blazers also played 11 different players in the first half.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Stotts said to reporters after the game. “I thought Damian had a good first outing. He showed good signs, and the movement on our offense was pretty good. Defensively, we can get a lot better.”

Overall, it’s safe to say the Blazers were much more synchronized and playing as a team than would be expected with such a young team. There is still, though, a lot of room for growth.

The Blazers will play the Phoenix Suns at 7:00 pm PST on Friday.

  MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
Blazers   LaMarcus Aldridge, F 24 4-12 0-0 6-7 8 3 0 1 1 14
Nicolas Batum, F 22 5-12 2-3 0-0 1 2 2 0 0 12
J.J. Hickson, F 18 3-6 0-0 0-0 5 1 0 3 1 6
Wesley Matthews, G 24 4-8 2-3 0-0 3 2 1 0 1 10
Damian Lillard, G 24 6-11 2-5 0-0 5 7 0 0 2 14
Victor Claver, F 12 1-3 0-2 1-1 1 0 1 1 2 3
Luke Babbitt, F 13 1-5 0-3 1-1 5 1 1 0 1 3
Joel Freeland, F 12 1-4 0-1 0-0 3 0 1 0 1 2
Adam Morrison, F 12 4-6 1-2 0-0 1 0 0 0 1 9
Jared Jeffries, F 12 1-1 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 0 0 2
Sasha Pavlovic, F 15 1-5 1-3 0-0 2 1 2 0 0 3
Meyers Leonard, C 18 4-4 0-0 2-3 5 0 0 0 2 10
Nolan Smith, G 21 1-6 1-2 0-0 4 3 0 0 0 3
Ronnie Price, G 16 1-2 0-0 0-0 3 3 0 0 3 2
TOTALS   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
37-85 9-24 10-12 48 23 8 5 15 93
43.5% 37.5% 83.3%
  MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
Lakers     Pau Gasol, F 30 3-12 0-0 2-2 3 4 0 3 1 8
Metta World Peace, F 30 6-10 0-3 0-0 5 3 1 0 2 12
Robert Sacre, C 21 2-5 0-0 4-4 3 1 1 1 1 8
Steve Nash, G 25 6-9 0-2 1-1 4 4 2 0 2 13
Jodie Meeks, G 24 1-7 0-2 4-4 5 1 0 0 0 6
Antawn Jamison, F 28 2-7 0-2 0-0 7 1 1 0 2 4
Devin Ebanks, F 17 3-8 1-2 3-4 4 0 1 0 2 10
C. Douglas-Roberts, F 14 2-5 1-2 2-2 1 1 1 1 1 7
Earl Clark, F 9 0-1 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 0 0 0
Greg Somogyi, C 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0 1 0
Ronnie Aguilar, C 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Andrew Goudelock, G 6 1-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Darius Morris, G 6 1-1 0-0 3-4 1 0 0 0 1 5
Steve Blake, G 15 0-1 0-1 0-0 3 2 1 0 3 0
Chris Duhon, G 8 0-3 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
27-71 2-16 19-21 38 19 10 5 16 75
38.0% 12.5% 90.5%

2012-2013 Portland Trailblazers: 3 Keys Factors in Beating the Lakers

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Every year, throughout the NBA, there are a handful of teams to circle on the schedule as a measuring stick for progress. This year, the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder are the teams the rest of the NBA are now playing catch-up to while the mainstays are still the Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and the revamped Los Angeles Lakers.

For the Portland Trailblazers, being in the Western Conference means four games against the purple and gold, keeping them all too familiar with one of the best teams on paper in the NBA. Here are the three key factors against the Lakers that would get the Blazers a victory as opposed to simply being swept under the rug.

Photo credit: ESPN

Point Guard

Damian Lillard is 15 years the junior of Steve Nash. Can the youngster wear down one of the game’s oldest point guards? Or will wisdom take precedence over inexperience? The way Nash plays the game, he may very well take advantage of Lillard’s greenness to the tempo of an NBA game. Pushing Lillard in transition may be to the advantage of Nash as the decision making in this scenario leans more toward the veteran in comparison to a rookie.

For Lillard, isolating Nash in half court sets will probably get him on Sportscenter as a Top 10 Move but that’s only if Nash guards him consistently throughout the games. Kobe Bryant has been known to lock down smaller guards and former Trailblazer Steve Blake can be a handful as a defender making things tough on Lillard. The Blazers do have veteran Ronnie Price and second year guard Nolan Smith but the Lakers win this battle starting on opening night against the Blazers for both the pre and regular season.

Photo credit: ESPN

Center

As of Tuesday, Dwight Howard had practiced full go 5-on-5 with the Lakers in a scrimmage and could realistically play in the season opener at the Rose Garden on Halloween. The situation for the Blazers looks meek as a rookie, Meyers Leonard, could possibly start and play key minutes against the superstar Howard. LaMarcus Aldridge and Jared Jeffries could also log minutes at the five, but the Blazers have a few big men to worry about clogging the paint in the Lakers Pau Gasol, Antawan Jamison and Jordan Hill.

The Blazers really seem overmatched in the post against the LA but that seems limited to the center position. Gasol may have a slight edge over Aldridge in the sense of personal accomplishments in championships, gold medals and a few individual accolades.  On the court, though, when matching up, Aldridge clearly can hold his own and if comparing the two athletically, Aldridge tips the scale. No matter what, though, Howard will probably play his share of the four meetings and unless Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez put on a Blazers uniform, the Lakers take the middle all day.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Shooting Guard

There is no secret as to who may be the absolute best in the NBA playing the two-guard right now. No matter how old he is, there are very few other nameable guards that compare to Bryant all the way around starting with championship rings. Wesley Matthews, who showed a lot of potential last year, could come out this season as a really different player depending on what he did this offseason.

Matthews may score and defend with a real consistency this year, but when playing against the Lakers, it’s going to be what it is.  All about Kobe.  This could be a more lopsided matchup for the Blazers than the center as the Blazers really don’t have anybody that can guard Bryant and keep him from doing the things he does best.  The only Blazer that could possibly guard Bryant with a real intensity is Nicolas Batum and even he’s not going to keep Kobe in check for 40-plus minutes.

Photo credit: Portland TrailBlazers

Overall

Pointing out the harsh realities with the game plan aren’t to slight the Blazers in the least. Portland has always been competitive and one of few teams to give the Lakers real scares during both regular season and playoff runs over the years.

A big reality for the Blazers is that youth is at the forefront and there is going to be many nights of trial and error. The youth movement may be to the benefit of the Rose Garden for years to come, but as of now the Lakers win the key points within the matchups on the floor. With all due respect to the Blazers as a team, the Lakers could very well win all four games against Portland this season and have the new Blazers looking forward to next year’s regular season, four-game series.

Portland TrailBlazers: 10 Games That Will Define 2012-2013 Season

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The NBA season is a long-winded marathon, not a sprint. Within the 82-games that start at the height of the holiday season and end in mid-summer, there are always 10 to 15 games that will define a season. Every game for this group of young Blazers will be a real test to their character and chemistry as they go through the on-court battlefield for the next six months. Through all those games, here are the 10 games that will define the Blazers’ season.

October 31 vs Los Angeles Lakers:

There won’t be any easing into this season for Terry Stotts and Damian Lillard. The Blazers start with one of the best teams in the NBA and three sure Hall of Fame players in Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. For Lillard this probably won’t be a fun way to start as he may beat Nash off the dribble but Howard, if he plays, will certainly be waiting in the post for the scoring point-guard. Stotts is familiar with the Lakers but not this version and unfortunately for Lillard, the NBA is far from the competition at Weber State. Even though this is a home game for the Blazers, this could possibly get out of hand after halftime.

November 2 @ Oklahoma City Thunder:

Starting with the Lakers is tough enough for any team. Then, to play in probably the loudest and most energized building in the NBA (Chesapeake Energy Arena) to start a three-game road trip is another task to overcome. Not to place everything on Lillard, but if he is the starter at the point and essentially running the offense, it’s going to be interesting seeing how he responds against the NBA Finals’ runner ups and one of the game’s quickest and defensively aggressive in Russell Westbrook. The Blazers most likely will be 0-2 to kick off the new era.

November 5 @ Dallas Mavericks:

Stotts returning to the franchise he just left may be more of an emotional game for him personally. Even though Stotts is known to be unflappable and even-keeled, playing against the team he was an integral part of for the past four years may stir up some sentiment that causes him to over coach. With the possibility of being winless at this early point of the season, this game will most likely go down to the final buzzer in favor of the Mavericks.

November 8 vs Los Angeles Clippers:

This game could be crucial to the mentality of the Blazers for the first half of the season. Players like LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and JJ Hickson have already played against every NBA team and are familiar with the daily grind of the league. Stotts is no stranger either but with all due respect, with the uncertainties at center, shooting and point guard, the Blazers could be 0-4 going into a home game against the Chris Paul led Clippers that are on a mission to prove they belong in the talks of best in the West. The Blazers’ first six games consist of the most elite of teams out West and a loss in this game is going to make things that much harder from a chemistry and mental standpoint.

November 10 vs San Antonio Spurs:

Nash, Westbrook, Paul and Tony Parker in a matter of six games?  There isn’t a point guard in the league that would ask for that schedule and for Lillard, Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price, that is the menu and they are going to have to eat. This isn’t about how bad the Blazers may be, it’s just a harsh reality of the schedule that lies ahead in the very beginning of the season with teams that are already developed and sure of their place in the NBA. Even a home game isn’t going to help the Blazers against a semi-healthy Spurs team.  Six games in and at best the Blazers might be 2-4.

December 8 vs Sacramento Kings:

The Kings are far from a team to fear in terms of their current roster but it will be very interesting to see how the Blazers react after a seven-game road trip that will be their first of the season. The trip begins with a trip to the new Barclays Center against the Brooklyn Nets and the only other real pit stops during this tenure away from home are at Boston and Indiana. Playing the Kings after being away isn’t going to be a ‘give me’ game but the competition will be evened out with two teams both in transitional stages.

December 16 vs New Orleans Hornets:

Lillard matched up against the 10th pick of the draft, Austin Rivers, who was in some circles, considered to be the best point guard available this past summer. Lillard went four spots ahead at number six and these two may very well be battling for the Rookie of the Year Award with this being their first showdown.  These two should give the Rose Garden an entertaining matchup that may see them both score 30-plus on this particular evening.

December 28 @ Los Angeles Lakers:

How the Blazers will fare in a rematch from the first game of the season is really unknown. It will be interesting to see if they are intimidated by the Lakers playing in the Staples Center, or if they will come out with a swagger that says, “we can beat you.”  Either way, playing against the league’s best is always a valid measuring stick. This is one of two re-matches on this list. The other is the Dallas Mavericks a few spots down.

January 10 vs Miami Heat:

The defending champions will enter the Rose Garden probably in full swing approaching the mid-way point of the season. The Blazers, will also be shaping into form and have their identity. Unfortunately for Portland, the Heat will be on another championship mission and this stop will probably be overlooked by the Heat. If the Blazers can make this any type of real game, the fans in the Rose Garden should be happy.

April 7 vs Dallas Mavericks:

Stotts will have his final crack at his old team, on his own turf in the Rose Garden. At this point, the playoff seeding will pretty much be spoken for and the Blazers could be fighting for a seventh or eighth seed. Coincidentally, the Mavericks could be fighting for the same seeding which would make this an intense game between friends turned foe. Then again, there really is no telling where the Blazers will be towards the closing of the season and could, quite possibly, be playing for pride.

Portland Trailblazers Season Preview 2012-2013

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As the Portland Trailblazers start training camp in less than a week, the anticipation of what is to come surrounds the team from top to bottom. What type of offense will Terry Stotts run and will Nicolas Batum live up to new expectations? Will Damian Lillard be the point guard of now and the future? Just how good are international rookies Joel Freeland and Victor Claver?

In glancing at the Blazers roster, general manager Neil Olshey has pieced together a group that is young, but through diversity, should rack up a few significant wins in what should be the beginning of a new era in Portland. Here is a look at all five positions on the Blazers’ roster that should bring their share of excitement to the Rose Garden.

Point GuardGrade B-

Watching Lillard over the summer you’d think he was the second coming of Derrick Rose and is certain to lead the Blazers to deep playoff runs at some point in his career. In all reality, though, for the ever-calm Lillard, his season will probably be filled with more learning experiences than highlights. Lillard was more of a scoring guard in college and will be learning the point guard from Stotts on the fly.

Nolan Smith was drafted to run the Blazers’ offense only a year ago and with the recent signing of veteran Ronnie Price, the Blazers have more than enough talent mixed with a decent amount of experience.  Price may be key at this position although playing a backup role.  Price plays an intelligent game and has been an understudy to some of the best in the NBA in Steve Nash and Deron Williams.

Price has vast knowledge to pass on.  Stotts may not have the best in the league running his offense this season, but certainly has the depth and potential to do more than simply compete.

Shooting Guard: Grade C-

One of the Blazers’ more questionable spots with some questions that will be answered as the season unfolds. Wesley Matthews, injured over the summer, returns to the Blazers after an up and down season last year that saw him average just shy of 14 ppg. Rookie Will Barton, like Lillard, looked promising this summer and could do much more than is expected.

Having two rookies in the backcourt at the same time doesn’t seem like the best of answers for Stotts if he’s truly looking to win now and get a playoff seeding.  Matthews needs to play with a consistency for the Blazers in his fourth NBA year.  Doing so early on could assist the Blazers younger guards in being able to find their own games.  Where Elliot Williams fits as a guard remains to be seen.  In a crowded backcourt players like Lillard, Smith and even Price could log minutes at the two for the Blazers to stay competitive if Matthews can’t hold his own.

Small Forward: Grade B

Batum will finally get the chance to show what he can do with the ball in his hands and more of a leadership role in Portland.  After a busy summer that saw him highly courted as a free agent and the summer Olympics, Batum should attack this season with a revised energy and a refreshed focus that will justify his payday. Stotts will give the majority of minutes here to Batum but a player like Claver could very well have a strong presence on the floor that justifies minutes at the two and three spots.

Claver, fresh off playing in this summer’s Olympics with a silver medal Spain, will almost undoubtedly command attention from defenses.  Claver showed an ability to shoot the three and create opportunities in an unassuming way during the international games and should bring that same flair to the NBA.  Luke Babbitt at this time is on the roster but the minutes here are pretty much spoken for.

Power Forward: Grade A-

Once again, LaMarcus Aldridge will hold things down at the four spot for the Blazers as a household name that averaged almost 22 ppg last year. Will he play too many minutes for Stotts is probably the only question as Aldridge is the clear cut leader on this team. Aldridge, more than likely, will shuffle between the forward and center position.

JJ Hickson comes off the bench as a sixth man and does his share of work with a keen sense of his own scoring presence during games.  Freeland is another rookie that will be used as a rebounder and defender in the post possibly seeing minutes as both a forward and center.  Freeland will probably be more of an observing learner to the returning Blazers as Aldridge is an All-Star and Hickson has proven himself as a real gamer in the NBA.

The recently signed Jared Jeffries will have a veteran’s respect but not necessarily the minutes in Stotts rotation but all this remains to be seen.  The simple presence of all four make this the Blazers position that is the deepest and of the least concern.

Center: Grade D

Camp will open in less than a week and ironically for Portland, the center position is vacant. The way the roster looks, rookie Meyers Leonard is set to start by default. If so, Leonard won’t be relied upon to score this season, but to provide a defensive presence down low that only a 7’1 center could have. Depending on how well Leonard plays, there could really be any combination of him, Aldridge, Freeland and possibly Jeffries and Hickson at the five for Stotts and the Blazers.

Anyway it’s looked at it, as of now, on paper it’s probably going to be center by committee as opposed to hanging Leonard out to dry against players like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. Next to the shooting guard, center is another position that the Blazers lack any real depth and an injury here, could determine a lot of what happens in the 2012-2013 season.

International Rookies Should Shine in Rose Garden

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As the NBA basketball season slowly approaches, the Portland Trailblazers have surrounded the franchise in a lot of things new.  A new coach and franchise player dominate the headlines but quietly, British power forward and center Joel Freeland along with Victor Claver from Spain will also be new additions to the Blazers’ roster that may very well give the city of Portland something to talk about.

Both rookies, Freeland and Claver will be bringing the unique skill set of international play to the Blazers which Portland is familiar with.  In the case of Freeland, he is hope for a viable backup to LaMarcus Aldridge in being someone that can split time between the four and five spots on the floor for head coach Terry Stotts.

If for some odd reason you are feeling familiarity with the names, it may be because technically, Freeland was a Blazer about six years ago and Claver about three.

Freeland, a member of the Great Britain Olympic team, was drafted by Portland at 19-years old in 2006 but didn’t make his way onto the Blazers’ roster that year by mutual choice.  Freeland had only been playing basketball for about three years and at that point in his young career, was encouraged by the Blazers to work on and improve his game internationally before stepping into a league with the world’s best competition.

Freeland now has a three-year deal at a reported $9 million and is apparently ready for his newfound and somewhat overdue tenure in Portland at the Rose Garden.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Freeland said. “After the Spain game (during the 2012 Olympics), I found out (about the offer), made the final decision and jumped over.  It’s been a great experience, now I’m just focused on the challenge ahead.”

Freeland, a big man at 6 foot 10, is almost a lock to play alongside and behind Aldridge on the court but the NBA is known as being physically different than the international game he is used to.  The success of Freeland as a power-forward and center aren’t imminent early on but through development with Stotts, Aldridge and international veterans like Nicolas Batum, Freeland should be well on his way to making a presence in the post at some point.

On the other hand, Claver and contributing right away isn’t a stretch.  Claver should play a key role as a high energy player off the bench almost immediately.  In observing him with the silver-medal team from Spain in the 2012 London Olympics, Claver should come with what are probably moderate to high expectations from Stotts and the Blazers due to his skill set.

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Claver, only 23, is similar to Freeland in that he is also a former Blazers pick, but from the 2009 draft.  Claver was selected at No. 22 by Portland and in the same fashion as his international comrade, stayed oversees to continue his games growth and development for maximum production in the NBA.  Claver comes into the Rose Garden with a winning pedigree and experience that saw him win a gold medal with the Spanish national team in the EuroBasket in 2009 and ’11.

The Blazers should be satisfied with the international pair and have a true optimistic outlook for the season and future.  Although in what is viewed as a rebuilding stage as a franchise, it is somewhat of the perfect opportunity for both Freeland and Claver coming in as rookies.

Growing into their roles with fellow rookies Damian Lillard, Will Barton and Meyers Leonard is something that won’t be easy in the fast-paced 82-game marathon of an NBA season.  Being international players, respectively, there is going to be an additional learning curve for them both on and off the court.  While at times this may be difficult, a veteran international teammate like Batum should be able to help ease this transition with some of his own personal knowledge.

For the two of them to step in and show what it is they have to offer and solidify roles as key contributors is something that will be discussed and analyzed from the start of training camp in October.  The Trailblazers have had their share of international stars starting with Arvydas Sabonis and continuing with Fernandez and Batum and in all likelihood, the continued success in drafting international players in Portland looks as if will continue with the addition of both Freeland and Claver.

Comment below with how you think the Blazers’ two new international additions will fare in 2012! Also, make sure to like us on FaceBook and Follow us on Twitter @EDN_Sports

Trailblazers Still in Rebuilding Process

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As the years tick away in the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers seem to be in a vicious cycle of rebuilding and starting all over again.  It isn’t, as some would say, that the Blazers are cursed.  What has kept Portland in a rebuilding scenario are needs over wants and a little bit of bad timing in its purest form.

Sam Bowie (left) and Greg Oden (right)

We all know that in hindsight, Sam Bowie is considered the wrong draft pick in the mid-80’s and the same thing subsequently happened again in Portland about 20 years later with Greg Oden.  This year though, the Blazers start fresh with newly appointed head coach Terry Stotts and a rookie point guard in Damian Lillard—seemingly the right pick in this past draft for the Blazers.

As of now, though, a concern for Portland, has to be the mentality of all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.  Time is of the essence and Aldridge is going on seven years deep in the league.  As of now, starting over with a new point-guard and head coach probably isn’t where Aldridge anticipated on being, but he’s only in the third of a five-year contract which means barring trade, #12 will be suiting up in the Rose Garden for a couple more years.

“I still have to prove a lot of people wrong,” Aldridge said back in December. “I still haven’t led this team to the second round of the playoffs. People still doubt that I’m a go-to player,” he continued.

Nobody has seen more in a Blazers uniform right now than Aldridge and there isn’t a player on the roster with his tenure.  Aldridge has experienced the high-times in a Brandon Roy 24-point playoff fourth quarter victory, to the down-time of never seeing Oden really be able to get in a groove and shine in the Rose Garden.

When you think about it, Roy, Aldridge and Oden could have, and would have, been the first real Big Three in the NBA.  It was during the rare moments of health that all three played together and the Blazers had 50-plus win seasons.  For Aldridge, this is the positive side of his Trailblazer career.  It is the continued hovering around mediocrity during the regular season over the past couple years that has to be getting to the seemingly mild-mannered veteran both mentally and physically.

As he enters into this season, Aldridge has to be feeling a sense of urgency and a justified want to do more than simply make it to the first round of the playoffs and exit.  The Blazers need to step up quick as teams like Oklahoma City haven’t gotten any worse in the Western Conference while teams like the Lakers have drastically improved.

Terry Stotts will have pressure to win during all-star LaMarcus Aldrige’s prime.

Although he’s already so many years in, Aldridge is going to have to be patient as there is going to be a learning curve for Stotts as a head coach and Lillard as a franchise point guard.  For Stotts this will probably be a tad easier after spending the past four seasons apart of the Dallas Mavericks organization.  Without question for Stotts, there is some valid coaching experience being brought to the table and he probably knows how to deal with a lot that is going to come his way.

“I’m very pleased to be part of a great franchise in a beautiful city with such a proud history,” Stotts said in a news release after his hiring. “I look forward to working hard with Neil (Olshey) and our players toward the ultimate goal of bringing another championship to Portland.”

Stotts, as any head coach, is saying all the right things but it takes more than words to win a championship.  Winning a championship in Portland isn’t simply about Lillard, Aldridge and the newly appointed head coach.  It’s about the Blazers in full as Batum was rewarded this summer with a four-year deal and J.J. Hickson, who also re-signed for a year, is in prime position to have another productive year in the NBA.

It is Wesley Matthews, if any current Blazer, that could take his game to another level making the team more dangerous than pedestrian.  Matthews had his ups and downs last season and to solidify his role, needs to score with consistency and continuously work on his defense because at the two guard spot, he will continuously be assigned to the league’s best.

With an improvement from Matthews and a solid season from Lillard, Aldridge should feel comfortable in continuing and possibly finishing his career as a Trailblazer.  If things don’t work out and he ends up with another team, it will be just another loss for the fans of the city and another season to rebuild in Portland.

A Trailblazers Championship Depends on Trades and Free Agency

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Individual accolades are simply for the personal resume of any athlete.  A championship though, whether team sports or individually, is widely considered what truly defines an athlete’s career.  Franchises are certainly held to the same standard and the Portland Trailblazers, although well respected as a team, have one NBA championship to show for in a 42-year existence that is older than every player on the current roster.

The Blazers are a franchise that has had their share of real history with their sole NBA title being from 1977.  Most of the Blazers’ success as a franchise came in the nineties that featured two Finals appearances led by 10 time All-Star guard Clyde Drexler in ‘90 and ‘92.  Drexler was just as important to Portland basketball as Michael Jordan was to the city of Chicago and if not for Jordan and the Bulls, Drexler and the Blazers may very well have another championship banner to show for the ‘92 season.

Damian Lillard os expected to be the next Brandon Roy, finding immediate success at the pro level.

As of now though, the Blazers keep pace with the rest of the NBA in building their roster.  The same question is always lingering prior to the start of and throughout the season—is this the group that we can win a championship with?

In all honesty for the Trailblazers, the future looks bright with promising rookie Damian Lillard teaming with veterans LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum.  At this particular time, though, for the franchise, hanging a banner in the Rose Garden doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon with a very young squad that is also taking on a brand new coach in Terry Stots.

So who can actually come to Portland and bring the championship that has now been a few decades delayed?

It seemed as if it wasn’t going to happen, but through all the drama Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will both still be free-agents at the end of this upcoming season and there’s no telling who else can be acquired via trade or elsewhere in free agency.  A sharp-shooter like Stephen Curry may be available sooner than later and an established star and veteran like Amar’e Stoudemire is always tossed around in trade rumors keeping in the line with this summer’s motto that the Blazers have options.

The free agency period is inevitable every year and blockbuster trades are bound to happen.  For Portland, scenarios like the aforementioned aren’t unlikely and would instantly put them in true contention for a championship in the soap opera world of the NBA.  This could easily be as early as the 2013-2014 season for the Trailblazers with all salary cap issues aside.

Portand is a mid-market team and it isn’t that the stars of the NBA don’t want to come out west, it’s just seems the Blazers have been in a rebuilding stage for quite some time; since the ’99-2000 season.  It was during this season that the City of Roses bolstered a high caliber roster that featured Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Smith and Damon Stoudamire.  All of which were bonafide stars at some point in their careers, if not the majority, and had a true cohesiveness together in a Blazers uniform.

Unfortunately, this is the group that also earned the ‘Jailblazers’ nickname and was up 15 points in a pivotal game seven Western Conference Finals that seemingly gave up what was the Trailblazers last real run at a championship.

Brandon Roy (left), Greg Oden (center), LaMarcus Aldridge (right) for the former Blazers’ team

Then there were the years of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy which were promising and somewhat successful in their own right, but quickly fell apart due to unhealthy knees and less-than, full-seasons.  The Roy and Oden era, unfortunately, never took off the ground and has left a stench of jadedness in the Rose Garden most notably in the case of Oden.

Which brings it back to Howard and Paul who both seem like longshots to suit up in the Rose Garden but again, in the NBA, anything is possible. Curry on the other hand, with his quiet demeanor, has made it known he wants a contract extension recently to CBS Sports and Stoudemire has been linked to numerous trades involving the Knicks since the arrival of Carmelo Anthony.

“You’re playing chess with it,” Curry recently said.  “If they (Golden State) were to take that approach to wait and I’ve had a great season, hopefully it would spark some interest across the league for the future and the price would drive up. If I were the Warriors, I’d offer a reasonable amount and sign me up now.”

With the surgeries Curry has had on his right ankle, there’s no telling where he will end up in his career in the near future.  Curry could very well become the next coming of Ray Allen in having the sole purpose as a deadly shooter, which the Blazers could surely use in the backcourt with Lillard.

Someone like Stoudemire, with a hefty contract, is what could be the odd-man out in New York.  If the Blazers could finagle him from the Knicks somehow with a couple role players, cash and draft picks, they wouldn’t be doing anything much different than franchises like the Lakers in getting a star by any means necessary.

For Stoudemire and Curry to suit up in a Blazers uniform with Lillard, Aldridge and Batum would give Portland five-potential All-Stars on one roster with more than just dreams of a championship.

If the Blazers could somehow land Howard and Paul while keeping Aldridge, Batum and Lillard, they would boost themselves into immediate championship consideration before the ink dried on the contracts.

Either way, these are legitimate scenarios in what is a continued want of a championship by basketball fans in the city of Portland.

 

Batum Not the Only Trailblazer Olympian

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Portland’s Nicolas Batum, in the early years, representing Team France.

Representing your country in any sport is phenomenal.  As the Olympics continue from now until closing ceremonies on August 12, across the world, spectators that enjoy the highest level of competition are tuned in at all hours of the day and night watching.

There is something truly special about the Olympics and only the best from each country get to compete in the many different events, which is likely the highest of honor for any athlete.  Events like track and field, swimming and gymnastics typically steal the show at the Olympics but basketball aficionados will definitely get their fix.

In watching the basketball games for the men, NBA players make up a large majority of all the Olympic rosters but not every franchise is accounted for.  The Pacific Northwest is in full effect and the Portland Trailblazers make that list of teams that are accounted for.

While the Blazers unfortunately aren’t represented on the US roster, the recently re-signed Nicolas Batum teams with NBA notables Tony Parker, Ronnie Turiaf and Boris Diaw on the France roster. Batum is seemingly worth his new deal in Portland as he is a sixth-man in the Rose Garden, but a starter on the international team for France.

Batum seems to be enjoying his Olympic debut and is a key member for Portland, just as he is for France.  The competitive nature of the games certainly stood out after a United States blowout of France, 98-71 in which Batum, didn’t necessarily play up to par.

“You got to play a 40-minute game, control the rebounds, take care of the ball and play good defense,” Batum said.  “Some teams can do it, you know. I think some team can beat them (USA), really. Spain, Argentina, Brazil. A lot of teams.”

The fact is though, even in wake of the US being highly favored to win the gold, Batum isn’t the only Trailblazer in the Olympics.  Great Britain’s Joel Freeland will finally make his Blazers debut this season after being drafted by Portland six years ago.

Drafted at number 30 overall in 2006, Freeland was encouraged to continue his development in Europe as a fresh-faced 19 year old that had only been playing basketball for three years.  Now, 25, with a deal reported at $9 million over three years, Freeland is supposedly ready for NBA waters.

Blazers Fans will finally get a chance to see the hyped Joel Freeland.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Freeland said. “After the Spain game last week, I found out (about the offer), made the final decision and jumped over there.  It’s been a great experience, now I’m just focused on the challenge ahead.”

To have one player from your franchise representing their country says a lot.  Having multiple players probably puts any franchise in another category no matter what particular country the players play for as team USA, especially in both men and women’s basketball, is always heavily favored.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are well represented in the Olympic games with four players on the team USA roster. NBA stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Sixth Man of the Year James Harden represent the Thunder for the US.  Thunder teammate Serge Ibaka is one of a few big names playing for Spain teaming up with the Gasol brothers in Pau and Marc.

The Blazers also have a 6’9” representative from and for the Spain team in rookie Victor Claver. Batum, Freeland and Claver give the Blazers three Olympic caliber players this upcoming season and let’s not forget a former Blazer in Rudy Fernandez also playing for Spain that if nothing else, keeps the Blazers franchise active and well represented in these historic, Olympic games.

Blazer Options Going From Many to Few

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Roy Hibbert (right) backs in former Blazers’ center Greg Oden. Portland must now look for other big men options.

What to do for the Portland Trailblazers now?  A few weeks ago the Portland Trailblazers had choices to make and started by offering Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert $58 million in a four-year maximum deal.  With that proposition, it looked as if the Blazers had made an offer Hibbert couldn’t refuse and one the Pacers wouldn’t match.

Since then, in what started to be an anticipated move by Indiana, the Pacers have chosen to match the offer made by Portland in efforts to keep their ever-improving center and Eastern Conference title hopes in place.

For the Trailblazers, this ends the anticipation of the 7’2” Hibbert bringing his size, winning attitude and almost certain stability in the paint to the Rose Garden in the Trailblazers attempt to keep pace in the new-look Pacific division and the Western Conference.

The options the Blazers had just days ago are now diminishing leading up to the official start of free-agency on July 11th and things aren’t looking as good as they once were.

Former Blazers’ guard Jamal Crawford in a somewhat unexpected moved, opted out the final of a two-year deal for Hollywood and the Los Angeles Clippers after one year in Portland.

That was the first of losses for the Blazers who’s offering Hibbert the maximum amount of money didn’t necessarily thrill restricted free-agent Nicolas Batum and his agent, Bouna Ndiaye.

Batum and Ndiaye recently met with Blazers officials in a meeting that in ending, pretty much spells out the fate of the Frenchmen’s days in Portland.

That is, if the Blazers choose not to match the four-year, $45 million deal Batum has in place with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It was a very cordial meeting. There were no hard feelings,” Ndiaye said. “Nicolas basically talked about his four years with the Blazers, and he expressed that maybe it was time for him to look at a place where he could be more happy.”

Multiple reports have stated that Batum wants out of Portland and in with the Timberwolves organization.

Batum, unsurprisingly, was dissatisfied with his role in the Blazers offense and has a desire to move with the ball and attack the rim more in Minnesota as a ‘Big 3’ with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

“I just want to be me,” Batum privately said to Ndiaye.  “I don’t want to stand in the corner. I’m a player with movement (and) I was locked up in the corner,” he finished in referring to the Blazers offense.

Although Batum seems intent on now getting to the Timberwolves, the Blazers have the ultimate say in this matter and the inevitable for Batum is probably a matched offer-sheet meaning more time in Portland.  For Batum, that sounds like a sentencing and for the Blazers management, that sounds like a no-brainer, business-roster move.

In all reality though at this point, that would seem a move of desperation on the part of the Blazers to match the T-Wolves offer and make Batum stay in Portland.

There are some very good players available as free-agents like the recently amnestied Elton Brand, and the three-point shooting Rashard Lewis.  Both players are veterans that, especially in the case of Lewis, could fill the void left by Batum.

There’s simply no need to create a hostile environment for anyone and there are also the possibilities of a sign and trade that could still send Batum to Minnesota and land Portland something in return like Derrick Williams or Luke Ridnour if the numbers make sense.

Apparently, there are still numerous options available for the Blazers even as they supposedly have dwindled. But your guess is as good as mine. We’ll have to wait, and see.

Blazers 2012 Draft Recap – Portland Finds PG of the Future

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The 2012 NBA Draft has come to a close, with the Portland Trail Blazers holding on to their No. 6 and No. 11 picks and selecting Damian Lillard (PG Weber State) and Meyers Leonard (C Illinois) respectively. Rumors and speculations floated about the Blazers possibly being in talks with the Houston Rockets in trading down, or possibly trading up with Cleveland. Portland stayed put, and believes it has now finally found its point guard of the future.

The 2012 NBA Draft was the first time in Portland’s history of two lottery picks in one draft. Newly appointed GM Neil Oshney waited no time in setting in place a plan for rebuilding.

“With the depth of players available, this was one of the more intriguing drafts that I’ve been a part of,” said owner Paul Allen. “I thought it was a very good night for the team and our fans. We got the guys we wanted. We still have work to do, but tonight was an important step forward.”

After Lillard with the No. 6 pick, Portland took the 7’1” C Meyers Leonard out of Illinois with the No. 11 overall pick, SG Will Barton out of Memphis with the No. 40 pick and Kansas PG Tyshawn Taylor. Portland, as a whole, filled both glaring needs in finding a solution at point guard and center, each addressed early on. From here we take a look at each pick.

Damian Lillard: 6’3” PG Weber State

The 21-year old Lillard, twice Big Sky Conference POY in three seasons, averaged 24.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.o APG in his junior season with the Wildcats.

Lillard impressed scouts, and Blazers’ management in the offseason with an impressive workout. And as the adage goes, “you only have to get one team to fall for you.” Portland appears to have their man for the future.

“I wanted to see what happened,” Lillard said about the anticipation of where he would land. “I tried not to have expectations because I didn’t want to be disappointed.”

With the struggles at the point guard position for the Blazers over the past season, there is little doubt that Lillard will be called upon early for contribution.

“Damian Lillard was brought here to be our starting point guard,” Olshey said in an interview after the draft. “He might not be that in camp, but we selected him to be the starting point guard.”

Portland will look to dish current PG Raymond Felton in the offseason. It’s time for the Blazers to move forward.

Meyers Leonard: 7’1” C Illinois

Let’s just hope that Portland has better luck with this center than their last lottery big man. Moving on from the Greg Oden debacle, the Blazers have a solid big man that will come in and contribute.

“Coming in I’m just going to work as hard as I can and improve myself,” Leonard said.

Working hard and trying to earn extra reps is probably the most Blazers fans should be expecting. With big men, early development is crucial. To expect Leonard to put up starting numbers would be unfair and ludicrous.

Portland got the No. 11 pick from New Jersey for Gerald Wallace, but that doesn’t mean that the Blazers are expecting Leonard to put up Wallace-like numbers.

“When you get a big guy with a motor and a skillset like that, you’ve got something special,” Olshey said.

Olshey, and whoever is in charge of coaching the Blazers next season, will slow-play Leonard’s time on the court.

Will Barton: 6’6” SG Memphis

Portland may have gotten a steal in the Memphis SG. As a freshman, Barton posted 12.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 2.8 APG for the Tigers. Last season, Barton increased his productivity in year two with 18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.9 APG.

That kind of productivity increase is a great sign. But, second round draft picks are almost certainly going to be viewed as developmental prospects. Time will tell if Barton can be a consistent contributor in the pros.

Tyshawn Taylor: 6’4” PG Kansas

Taylor was traded to the Nets, for cash consideration, after the Blazers selected him with the No. 41 pick. Taylor averaged 16.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 2.3 RPG as a senior with the Kansas Jayhawks.

With Portland’s plethora of point guards, the dishing of Taylor will have no negative impact on the organization. The last thing the Blazers needed was another mediocre guard.