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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Blake’

Trail Blazers Knicks Basketball

Remember earlier in the season when Portland’s intensity level was often in question? Well, the Blazers pretty much killed that theory within twelve minutes on Tuesday.

On a night when Portland desperately needed to show a division rival like the Utah Jazz how legit they are, the Blazers accomplished that and then some. They started aggressive, were active and efficient – essentially providing a glimpse of how good this team really is.

The Blazers 39 points in the first quarter was the most in the opening period this season and tied a team mark for the most in any quarter.

Intense. Exactly how Portland wants to play with the playoffs approaching.

And it went a little something like this….

10:53: Brandon Roy jumper

10:29: LaMarcus Aldridge alley-oop

10:01: Steve Blake three-pointer

9:03: LaMarcus Aldridge lay-up

8:24: Brandon Roy three-pointer

8:13: Steve Blake three-pointer

7:20: Brandon Roy fade away jumper

6:46: LaMarcus Aldridge jump shot

6:24 Brandon Roy dunk

5:49: Brandon Roy lay-up

5:03 Nicolas Batum dunk

4:47: LaMarcus Aldridge freethrows (2-2)

4:13: Greg Oden freethrows (1-2)

3:59: Brandon Roy jump shot

3:33: LaMarcus Aldridge freethrows (2-2)

1:42: Greg Oden freethrows (2-2)

1:02: Greg Oden dunk

0:05: Sergio Rodriguez three-pointer

Three quarters later, Portland finished off Utah with a 125-104 win – their third straight victory of 20 plus points.

Who would have thought Portland would be sitting a game and a half back of the number two spot out West? Crazy.

Now if the Blazers can only show up on the upcoming road trip to Oklahoma City, Houston, Memphis and San Antonio.

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The Latest: Oh, how the shameless plugs pile up….let me count the ways.

Plenty of Western Conference playoff talk go on over at HOOPSWORLD, and guess who has received those assignments?

 And finally….while the Phoenix Suns are quickly fading in the postseason picture behind Dallas, questions about the offseason are already taking place.

Will Grant Hill return? Will Alvin Gentry be back?

After speaking to both guys, it’s clear they want their journey in Phoenix to last.

 pic via: washington post

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will1Well, that was fun for Portland while it lasted. The five-game win streak is over after losing to Dallas. So why is closing the book on a win-streak actually a good thing?

That’s easy.

It puts life out West in perspective for the Blazers.

The last thing Portland needs right now is to rattle off 10-straight like the Boston Celtics, then have everyone gunning for them to fall on their faces. Forget that. The Blazers are better off flying under the radar and sneaking up on teams. That’s why they are sitting fourth out West in the first place.

It’s not that Portland has to win every game. Certainly helps, but it isn’t a must. Because right now, the Blazers are sitting right where they want to be while teams around them are beginning to hit the skids.

Tt’s more important to get and stay healthy than it is to win six, seven or eight games in a row. Wins will soon follow.

Steve Blake is preparing to return after Portland’s current road trip – hopefully Martell Webster before too long. New Orleans has lost four-straight and will be without Chris Paul. Utah is banged up missing both Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko. The Los Angeles Lakers – while not immediately fazed by the loss of Andrew Bynum – is missing a cog in their machine.

Houston is always a team with an injury waiting to happen.

Tis the season.

Forget the streak.

It’s too early for Portland to peak.

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The Latest: Hard too not think about the upcoming trade deadline these days. And what better way to get a debate going then talk about some players who should be on a general manager’s shortlist…..or at least a topic of converstation between a few front offices.

Check out “10 Players GM’s Should Call About” over at HOOPSWORLD too see who made the cut.

pic via: photobucket

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jerryd_490_080719Just when you thought Portland’s point guard rotation was back to normal with Steve Blake returning to the floor, along comes a Brian Skinner pick.

When the Los Angeles Clippers big man put a body on Blake with about five minutes left before half, a yelp and cringe by Blake said it all. Not sure what hurt more – Blake’s right shoulder or the two air balls he launched during his ten minute stint.

Actually, I’m wondering what he was doing out there in the first place. Obviously it was his call to play, but it was Nate McMillan’s decision to start him. Would Blake have re-injured his shoulder if he came off the bench? Perhaps.

But right now, the tag team of Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless are self sufficient enough to hold down the fort for a few more games. If McMillan is going to put faith in his two backup point guards, it might as well be during this stretch.

Take Sergio for example. Rodriguez passed up a wide-open three early to find Joel Przybilla all alone under the basket, and his over-the-head-no-look-pass to Greg Oden two quarters later was about as sick as a dish comes. A little stylin’ and profilin’. He played smart. Maybe Sergio’s numbers aren’t going to blow you away (7 points and 5 assists in roughly 17 minutes), but combined with Bayless’ performance the two are holding down the point.

Chances are Jerryd started the game thinking he’d be lucky to even sniff the court. But as we all know about the NBA, injuries and opportunities go hand-in-hand. Much like Sergio, his final stat line isn’t All-Star worthy either (5 points and 6 assists in just over 22 minutes), but the fact is the two point guards only combined for two turnovers, and that is solid.

Very solid.

And while so much is made of Bayless’ aggressiveness and his barking after a bucket, what about his on-court chemistry with Oden? It seems at least once a game, the two rookies are in sync with an alleyoop or quick dish for a dunk. They have good chemistry together.

It’s nice to see both Sergio and Jerryd taking some ownership at the point.

In other words, take your time Steve. Take your time.

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Shameless Plug: Couple more weeks to go to the trade deadline is officially upon us. So as we wait to see what takes place in Portland, teams like Cleveland prepare for another postseason run.

But will they make a move?  I caught up with Cavs head coach Mike Brown last week – along with Ben Wallace – and was curious what the approach is when names float around in the rumors, as they are prone to do this time of the season.

The story is running in full over at HOOPSWORLD.

pic via: nba.com

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Trail Blazers Suns BasketballCompared to Brandon Roy’s historical night, Travis Outlaw will be back page news come Friday morning. But he should at least get a sidebar mention in the win over Phoenix on national television.

As Roy stood with the game ball under his arm after finishing with a career-high 52 points, Outlaw slowly slipped into the tunnel towards the Blazers locker room. Portland sure needed this one. But Outlaw needed it even more.

He hasn’t been himself lately, even before the sore tailbone which has hampered Travis since Utah. Heck, even the trade rumors probably took their toll. No newsflash here: last year’s “Mr. 4th Quarter” has been – shall we say – a bit M.I. A.

On Thursday night though, Outlaw inched back towards outstanding. Not only did he provide the only scoring spark (14 points) in the second unit, but he remained aggressive throughout (6 rebounds). Then there was “the play.”

Outlaws ability to battle Jason Richardson for a rebound with 12.2 seconds left and Portland up by three points could have been the play of the game. Blazers ball. After fourth quarter collapses to Orlando and the Los Angeles Clippers last week, it certainly was the Blazers saving grace.

Portland has shown they can beat the dregs of the league like Sacramento. The way the Blazers make noise in the NBA though is by beating upper echelon teams like the Suns. Okay, so it’s not those Phoenix Suns, but nevertheless a difficult match-up coming off three days rest against a young team like Portland who has endured some growing pains of late.

Luckily along with Roy, Steve Blake (22 points and 10 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points on 8 for 12), Travis Outlaw came to play.

pic via: daylife

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blakeThat was a close one.

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.

pic via: nba.com

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Trail Blazers Heat BasketballNate 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?

 pic via: oregonlive

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brandon1But try to understand, try to understand

Try, try, try to understand

He’s a magic man, mama

He’s a magic man….

 

I highly doubt Brandon Roy has “Heart” shuffling on his I-Pod playlist, but after Portland grabbed their first road win of the season against the Orlando Magic, Roy is easily the “Magic Man”. After waving his wand against Houston and Minnesota at home, Roy played his most complete game of the season on Monday night with 27 points – a new season high. Presto.

Hopefully the back-spasms he suffered at the end of the game will be gone come Wednesday in Miami.

As for Monday night, Portland came out aggressive and finished strong. How many times can we say that this season?

While you ponder that one, let’s go inside and outside the box score for the rest of the goods….

Steve Blake finished with 20 points and went 2-3 from outside the arc. Blake needed this one, perhaps even more than Portland needed a road victory. And it’s not that he scored from all spots on the floor, yet it’s how many of those points came from the charity stripe where Blake went 10-11. That stat line screams one thing – aggressiveness.

-Travis Outlaw continued to show his worth by moving to the second unit three games ago. He had 20 points and had it going from outside early and often (3-5). You knew this was coming. Once he found a comfort zone back where he belonged it was only a matter of time before the real Outlaw re-appeared. And that’s a boost about his all-around game, just not his scoring touch.  Thanks to Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez, Portland outscored Orlando’s bench 20-2 to open the game. The Blazers finished with 40 points off the pine.

- I’m in no way advising Jerryd Bayless’ agent Jeff Schwartz to issue an distasteful edict against Nate McMillan and demand a trade, but it’s certainly helped Sergio Rodriguez’s minutes. After averaging 9.2 minutes per game the first five games of the season, Sergio has logged roughly 12 and 16 minutes respectively the past two games since making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Here’s the thing though – for every one of Sergio’s sweet jump-step buckets down the lane, there’s a pass into the third row that tends to void his in-game success. This just in: consistency counts. His play in the fourth quarter proved that.

- Portland only had 5 turnovers  (2 in the first half) versus the Magic’s 14….9 steals versus Orland’s 3….scored a season-high 36 points in the first quarter….and shot an impressive 52.9 % from three-point land for the game.  James Jones is smiling somewhere.

- You knew Dwight Howard was going to get his. Same goes for Hedo Turkoglu. But the fact that Portland played strapping defense – and created fouls – against Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus and Keith Bogans says volumes about Roy and Outlaw – Rudy and Nicolas Batum grasping Nate McMillan’s bigger picture: a defensive mindset.

Play of the Game: Rudy’s three-pointer at the end of the first quarter was pretty smooth. So was Roy’s bobbled-shot against Boguns down the lane in the fourth quarter. But this one goes to Channing Frye for going toe-to-toe against Turkoglu with seconds remaining before the half. After a hard foul on Howard in the paint, Hedo shoved Roy in the back and Frye wasn’t a having it. Words were exchanged. More shoving commenced. Double-technical fouls were issued. But score one for Frye and Portland for finally muscling-up. It’s about time.

pic via: usatoday

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sergio_rodriguez080305_esAs much as Nate McMillan probably wants to move on from the entire Sergio Rodriguez trade talk saga, chances are this one isn’t going anywhere and will play itself out like a reality TV show.

Might as well dub this one “Survivor”. We already know who is in jeopardy of getting voted off the island.

After five years of covering the league – three of those in New York where drama is always at a premium – I learned to appreciate where both Nate and Sergio are coming from today after Rodriguez’s agent (Jose Ortiz) demanded a trade. It’s a delicate situation. McMillan prefers Sergio to come to him if he is unhappy about his role on the team. Sergio is clearly unhappy about his role and playing time, but is hesitant to approach McMillan on the matter.

It sounds like – and I say that because I only talked to McMillan about the matter from the practice facility – the time was never right for Sergio to talk about his frustrations with Nate. He couldn’t do it the first couple games. Nate was busy dealing with a gimpy Greg Oden. He couldn’t do it on the road in Phoenix or Utah. Portland was too busy losing. But if that was the case – if Sergio was really wrestling with when and how to talk to McMillan about his role and playing time – then that’s on Sergio for not saying anything.

It’s on him still. Nate told the team today to come and talk to him if they are unhappy, not the press. Something tells me Sergio isn’t knocking down his door.

But I feel for Sergio. He’s in a tough spot.

It can’t be easy being the fourth point guard option behind (in no particular order) Steve Blake, Brandon Roy and now Rudy Fernandez. It’s like last year all over again. And the year before that. But let’s think about it: are things really going to change for Rodriguez by bailing to another team?

Besides maybe picking up a little extra playing time (maybe), is he a starter in this league? If his agent  really believes he’s not a half court point guard, what’s going to happen when/if Sergio ever gets into the playoffs where games are grinded out in half court sets? Will he be any happier watching from the bench then? If there is any beef between Sergio and McMillan, isn’t that a matter to keep in house and not to be broadcasted by an agent?

There may not be any right or wrong answers here.

Here’s one more to ponder: with General Manager Kevin Pritchard a guru at making moves in June during the NBA Draft, don’t you think he has the fortitude to make a trade happen during the regular season with a player whose interests are coming before the teams?

That question might be a little easier to answer.

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For those arriving late, here are a few links to help you along the path to the “Sergio Saga”….

Jason Fleming from HOOPSWORLD recapped the original story out of Spain where Jose Ortiz launched the trade demand….

The Oregonian’s Jason Quick spoke with Kevin Pritchard who said Sergio is going nowhere….

Nate McMillan on his “open door policy” and how he discussed the matter today with the team at practice….

And finally, Benjamin Golliver over at BlazersEdge.com transcribed like a madman to bring us Sergio’s thoughts….

pic via: marca.com

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