You can always tell when the NBA season is drawing close.
That’s when you start fielding the most questions – at least in Portland – about the home team’s chances of making the postseason. And this year, that question actually holds a lot of weight after going for 41 wins last season and with a host of offseason additions. But before I get to my prediction about the Blazers playoff prayers, let me just say it has been a busy last few newsworthy weeks in Portland.
It’s all about injuries, camp invites and gym rats.
To bring you up to speed on the walking wounded: Greg Oden says he is ready to go this season, expectations and all; Brandon Roy’s rehab is right on track and is steadily working on getting his legs underhim, and regaining his soft touch after knee surgery; both Channing Frye and Raef LaFrentz went under the knife. Frye has about seven to eight more weeks before he’s back on the court. As for Raef – stay tuned.
He could miss the entire season after shoulder surgery and don’t be surprised if the Blazers waive him. I don’t think it is going to happen, but talk is circulating. Gotta put that out there.
Training camp opens in just under two weeks, and time will tell if Shaun Livingston will attend camp in for the Blazers. The brass watched him workout out in Tucson, Arizona late last week and if general manager Kevin Pritchard does bring him it, it could make for a very interesting setting at camp. It’s uncertain where Livingston fits into the big picture, particularly with his rehabbed knee still not near 100% (word is it’s about 75-80%).
I touched on the Blazers’ great debate heading into camp last week over at HOOPSWORLD. Then, center Steven Hill and swingman Luke Jackson were slated to go head-to-head (so to speak) as Portland’s 15th man on the roster. Some competition for camp. But now with LaFrentz’ injury and Livingston’s invite lingering, anything is possible.
Even still, where does Livingston fit on the roster if he actually makes the club? The Blazers backcourt is stacked the way it is (Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez). Livingston can play the three if need be, but even then there is a logjam of sorts with Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez, when he’s not at the two. Anyone know how this one is going to go?
Speaking of Rudy, he’s due to land in Portland this weekend….Sunday if all goes according to schedule.
Bienvenido a Rudy de Portland.
Now, it’s time for a little detail work.
Yesterday morning I covered the “Morning Report” for HOOPSWORLD – a brief rundown of newsworthy topics happening around the league. In it, I touched on how Martell Webster has been putting in his time with a personal trainer at Club Sport across the street from the Blazers practice facility. The workouts – which have included some shadow boxing, glove work, core building techniques and the like – usually last a few hours in the morning. Hard to tell how many days a week though. Anyway, let me just say, Webster is busting his hump in these workouts. It’s no joke. From the looks of it, it’s a pretty intense workout and Webster is all-in. It’s the kind of workout that makes you tired just watching. Both Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake have also partaken (as have Steven Hill, Jamaal Tatum and assistant coach Monty Williams – who looks as if he could still play) in these sessions sporadically, yet it is the work ethic of Webster that is most noticeable.
I’m not saying Blake and Outlaw aren’t going all out, although it’s clear Travis isn’t even close to being in the same condition as Blake and Webster right now. You can tell those two guys have invested the time this summer. You can tell just by watching these guys go through the various drills. Travis seems a step or two behind Steve and Martell. Again, that’s not a knock on Outlaw or anything.
It’s merely to explain how far Webster has come condition wise from the end of last season to right now. I know he is listed at 229, but that weight is pretty deceiving if that is the case. It’s not like he’s bulked up a ton or anything. But his definition has surely improved. Can’t wait to see how it translates to the court….
Now for the prediction: a 50-win season and Portland makes the playoffs. Not sure if it will be for the seventh or eight spot out West yet, but you can officially put me down for 50 wins and a trip to the postseason.
Anyone else for a glass of Kool-Aid?