Change is a good thing. And on Sunday afternoon in Toronto the Portland Trail Blazers will begin to dabble in some minor alterations. Not only is Martell Webster suiting-up for the first time this season, but his return to action also creates a ripple effect throughout the rest of the roster.
Diogu has barely sniffed the floor this season. Actually, I think you and I have played more minutes than Ike so far this year. Yet with Webster getting reacclimated with minutes here and there– briefly now and logically a lot later – perhaps this is the time for a change in whom – along with Travis Outlaw – helps back up LaMarcus Aldridge. Maybe it’s time to get Diogu in the fold before long?
Think about it.
Portland has missed a rugged bruising forward since the days of Brian Grant. Channing Frye isn’t going to provide that presence anytime soon, and since it appears he’ll have his minutes cut the most with Webster back, why not see what Diogu can give you with more than mop-up minutes?
I can hear Nate McMillan now: it depends on the match-up. Well, why not create a mismatch? Let the other coach adjust. At 6-9 and 250 pounds, all Ike would be expected to do is rebound and bang – you know, add a little toughness down low; an attribute many surely agree would be a welcomed change and shouldn’t be only expected of Joel Przybilla.
Change is a good thing.
Update: Apparently Nate has other plans….Diogu was placed on the inactive list to make room for Martell.
While Nate McMillan was busy giving referee Joe DeRosa the business, his young Blazers were two minutes away from another growth spurt.
On a night that saw Brandon Roy’s late game heroics continue, Greg Oden flash promise and Portland take care of the Washington Wizards on the end of a back-to-back, it’s clear the second youngest team in the league is coming of age during this East coast swing that has seen the Blazers win three in a row and six-straight games.
Roy has the uncanny ability to will his team to victory, proof positive by a 22 point outing. But Oden showed and proved; he finally gave McMillan a reason to keep him in the game late in the fourth quarter, where usually he’s been relegated to the bench down the stretch. That’s been Joel Przybilla’s job. Well, on Wednesday night in Washington, Oden received a little on the job training. He showed he belonged.
Each game out Greg will grow. Some nights slow (New York). Some nights fast (Washington).
It’s almost as if he shed his security blanket at one point in the game.
When Przybilla went down and out (briefly) with a sprained left ankle, Oden had no choice but to earn his keep. Maybe somewhere in the back of Greg’s mind he finds comfort knowing Joel is all-everything defensively in the middle for Portland. Then again, maybe he saw an opportunity present itself and decided to take full advantage. A double-double later (13 points and 10 rebounds), Oden basically gave everyone the “Gas Face” – 3rd Base style.
Brandon Roy doesn’t have many off nights, but on Wednesday night against the Miami Heat there was no need for him to be on. The bench put the game on their broad shoulders.
Roy went 2 for 11 and finished with 8 points as the Blazers won easily. Yet when Portland’s second unit – aptly dubbed the “white unit” – continues their impressive play on the season, the Blazers become more than the “Brandon Roy Saves The Day Show.”
They become one of the best benches in the league. Perhaps even thee best.
According to the stat kings over at 82.games.com, the Blazers boast one of the best scoring second-strings in the NBA. They are pitching in a combined 37.5 points per game, third best in that category behind the Minnesota Timberwolves (39.2 ppg) and the Los Angeles Lakers (38.5 ppg). But scoring isn’t everything. Portland’s bench also ranks among the top in rebounds (third, 17.3 rpg), assists (fourth, 8.4 apg), (third, 3.7) and blocks (fifth, 2.3 bpg).
Another win only adds to those numbers, with a combined 49 points, 24 rebounds, 19 assists, 2 steals, and 5 blocks from the reserves in the victory. Not bad for one night of work, huh? When Channing Frye (17 points) shows off his range, Travis Outlaw (15 points) shows last year was no fluke, Sergio Rodriguez (11 assists) shares the ball, Joel Przybilla (9 rebounds) bangs the boards and Rudy Fernandez – well, he’s Rudy Fernandez (13 points) for crying out loud – it’s no wonder the “white unit” runs red hot against the rest of the league.
Enjoy the night off Brandon.
Chris Paul and the rest of the New Orleans Hornets await you after some turkey, stuffing and giving thanks.
Nate McMillan is having a hard time breathing these days.
Nate’s caught that nasty winter bug that’s been going around (I can relate) and was popping throat lozenges like a madman before the game. I’m not sure if he’s breathing any easier after watching the Sacramento Kings – the injury riddled and five-whole-wins Sacramento Kings – come into Portland’s house and basically push them around.
Greg Oden didn’t dazzle, even though Brandon Roy certainly did. Yet if McMillan was handing out game balls afterwards, the one and only should have gone to Joel Przybilla. Peep the statline: 10 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in roughly 28 minutes. Oden may have got the start, but Przybilla finished and he finished strong.
As one faithful reader commented to me last week, “it’s like having a set-up man and closer in baseball.”
We know who was who versus the Kings.
It’s hard to argue with McMillan’s decision to start Oden. As he said before Portland hosted Sacramento, “he wasn’t going to come off the bench the whole season.” Maybe so. But on Monday night at the Rose Garden, Przybilla gave McMillan every reason to keep Greg on the bench and his playing time to a minimum.
This probably isn’t going to be the most popular opinion in Rip City right now, but Joel Przybilla should continue to be Portland’s man in the middle.
It goes beyond what he was able to do against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night when he with finished 14 points and 9 rebounds. Instead, it’s about continuing to provide Greg Oden with a certain modicum of easiness after the hectic history of his oh so brief career. The truth is Oden fits into the second unit as smoothly as Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez and a fastbreak. Besides, how many players in this league spit the old cliché: it’s not if you start, but if you are on the floor to finish the game that counts.
And right now, that is what Oden is doing best – finishing. One more of those power dunks and this is bound to be the result…..
It’s only a matter of time.
The truth is, Portland has the best of both worlds with Przybilla tag-teaming with Oden. They combined for 24 points, 6 blocks and 19 rebounds against the Bulls. What could be better right now for the Blazers? Przybilla is cleaning up the garbage. Oden is finding his groove and might actually be enjoying himself. Better yet for Nate McMillan, the wins are mounting.
Portland played phenomenal to open the game. They put it away late. But somewhere in-between Greg Oden registering his first two points in the NBA in the first quarter and Rudy Fernandez’s spinning-jumper in the lane in the fourth, the Blazers nearly tanked it.
Thankfully a Steve Blake corner-three and career-high 25 points for Fernandez saved another road win.
This winning on the road thing is starting to become a habit.
Let’s jump inside – and outside – the boxscore….
-Three points in roughly 16 minutes is nothing to write home about for Greg Oden. Here’s what is though: that he played injury free. That’s what’s most important right now. He looked awkward on offense. He intimidated on defense. But Oden fit perfectly into the second unit, and once he gets his legs under and timing back, the second unit is going make some folks around the Association take notice – unless they haven’t already with Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw putting in work.
–Brandon Roy (back)may have been gimpy heading into the game, but you never would have thought so watching him play. Seeing Roy (22 points) and Dwyane Wade (36 points) go head-to-head in stretches would have made Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier blush. It was blow for blow. Might have to call that one a draw.
–LaMarcus Aldridge tends to get lost in the Roy-Oden-Rudy shadow but he shined on Wednesday night. You may never see a more hard-earned and aggressive 14 points and 7 rebounds in your life. Blake hit the three. Roy was Roy. Rudy was amazing (again). But Aldridge’s effort shouldn’t go unnoticed as the player of the game against Miami for another strong showing. He punched the clock.
– Joel Pryzbilla was solid. Along with Aldridge, Joel cleaned up the glass early and helped get easy points in the paint in the first. He finished with 7 points and 10 rebounds. Very solid. But here’s what’s most impressive: he played just under 22 minutes and didn’t commit a single foul….a single foul.
-What can we say about Rudy Fernandez that ESPN’s Jon Barry didn’t repeat over and over and over during the nationally televised game. For 48 minutes, Barry raved about Fernandez to no end, leaving viewers to recite the “this guy is fearless” mantra until Barry calls another Blazers game this season. Now the middle-Barry brother knows what Portland has already come to know about Rudy in this short season.
–Play Of The Game: Honorable mention goes out to Nicolas Batum for his block on Wade in the first quarter. Kid never gave-up on the play. Sergio Rodriguez’s lob to Rudy for a dunk in the fourth quarter also gets a nod. Yet it was Rudy’s spin move and jumper in the lane with 44.9 seconds left that put Portland up 98-92 and gave Rudy 23 points that was the play of the game. Steve Blake may have an argument, but this was Rudy’s night.
Nate McMillan likes his veterans. Kevin Pritchard likes his veterans. Steve Blake is likeable. So is Joel Pryzbilla. But does that mean Portland wouldn’t love benefiting from another veteran on the roster?
The thought crossed my mind while I was writing a “Free Agents For Hire” piece for HOOPSWORLD that is running today. And while the list of free agents – veterans of course – may not exactly fit Portland’s culture (although guys like Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter and P.J. Brown are as solid as they come), I can’t help but think about a phrase McMillan tended to repeat at the end of last season.
He said then the Blazers could use more experience. At least that was his stance heading into the offseason.
All Portland did during the summer was get younger.
I’m not saying James Jones (now with Miami and on the shelf with a jacked-up wrist) was the end-all-be-all. He had to go to turn the job over to guys like Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw. But you have to agree Jones had a knack for corner three-pointers, providing on-court leadership in limited time and being light-hearted in the locker room.
Jones is just an example. He’s what you’d want in a veteran.
The trouble is where do you put another player? Minor details. Let’s answer the first question before we move on to the nitty-gritty….does Portland need another veteran?