The New Red & Black

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The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Sun Jul 13, 2008 8:53 am

DaTruRochin - I see by your last post in the Sonics to OKC thread, that you sound like a big time Trail Blazers fan. WooHoo!!!! (Take that, geezer!) I was young, (can you believe that?), when Harry Glickman announced that Portland had its first major league franchise. Little did I realize that 38 years later, we would still only have one major league franchise. (Oh well...) No

I will post more on this thread later today. Any Blazer fan, (fairweather or fanatic), is welcome to join this discussion. Let's use this thread to discuss any and all things Red & Black! bounce bounce bounce

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Sun Jul 13, 2008 10:11 am

Oh FANatic, you know how to play with my heart strings....

I, needless to say, am pretty gosh darn stoked at the upcoming season... The draft was simply brilliant, somehow KP managed to get all the players he targeted plus throw in ex Pac 10 beast Ike Diogu and turning 3 2nd round picks into 4 future ones??? Laughing How does the man do it??

Anyway the starting lineup of: Blake, Roy, Webster, Aldridge and Oden... Yikes... that team just screams with desire and a nasty little swagger all of them were able to develop over the course of last year...

Now throw in the potential 2nd group: Bayless/Rodriguez/Kopponen???, Fernandez, Outlaw, Frye/Diogu, Pryzbilla/LaFrentz (although I see him and his monster expiring contract being traded as we make a push for the playoffs.... Basketball )

First off you have 3 potential rookies of the year in Oden Bayless and Fernandez, not to mention the very raw but talented Batum.... (and potentially Kopponen, who has the Summer League to prove himself worthy of the 15th roster spot and a potential contract)

Secondly Roy, enough said, and a steadily improving LaMarcus, who along with Frye just seemed to get bigger, stronger and better as the year progressed last year....

My biggest question of the year comes at the 3.... Will Martell ever grow into his role, or better yet be given the time on the court to showcase it?? Is Outlaw peaked??? Are we going to target someone new at this position??

That said I am pretty excited about our front court, Oden and Pryzbilla are probably the best 1-2 center combo in the league.... I think Diogu's tough scrappy style could play a nice foil to the jump shooting of Frye and LaMarcus (who conversely have both been working on extending their range out beyond the arc this summer, in addition to improving their inside game.... YIKES) And being able to bring the explosive attacking mentality of Bayless off the bench behind the calm, cool and collected Blake will be a pretty tough combo as well....

Ok I could type about this forever, I'll let someone else take the reins for a while.... drunken

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Sun Jul 13, 2008 12:13 pm

Man, Rochin, you sound as passionate about the Blazers as I am about the women's soccer team!!! And that is saying something. cheers

A quick history on the Blazers and me: I was at the first Blazer Rookie Training Camp. Fell in love with the bomb shooting Geoff Petrie and he became my sports idol for a long time. I'm telling you, if they had the 3 point shot when he played, he would not only have the single game, season and career records, but I don't think anyone would be even close to him. Sure, some of those records probably would have fallen, like almost all records eventually do, but in his time, Geoff would have stood alone as the elite 3 point man of his generation. I swear, he preferred a 25 foot jumper to a lay-up!!! He probably would have shot 50% or better for his career. I think he shot about 45% overall, but he missed more shorter shots and lay-ups than long bombs. I have stories that I could tell all night about him. But that is enough, I think, for this group. (Sounds like a fish tale anyway. But it's not!) Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

I was a fanatical, maniacal Blazer fan for about 30 years. I finally got fed up with Paul Allen and Bob Whitsett's bringing in bad dudes. I lost interest until KP, with Allen's resources, finally resurrected this once-proud franchise to where it is now.

Rochin, your post has pretty much saved me a lot of writing, because you wrote pretty much everything I am thinking!!! Basketball

I agree with pretty much everything you said. I am once again excited about the Blazers. The people of Portland, and other cities far and wide, are finally coming back to this great franchise and are ready to reignite Blazermania to a level unheard of in a very long time.

I'm getting a little tired, so the discussion will continue indefinitely, as long as people want to discuss The New Red & Black...

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Oden Is The Man

Post by FANatic on Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:00 pm

G.O. is the central figure in this team's ascent in future years. Don't get me wrong, it's always a team dynamic and Brandon Roy is my favorite Blazer since Brian Grant. But if Greg is the player that I think he is, he will lead us to the promised land by locking down the paint on defense, and by dominant rebounding and shot-blocking not seen in this area since Big Red, (Bill Walton), and the franchise's one NBA title (1977). Twisted Evil Twisted Evil Twisted Evil

I am as excited as DaTruRochin as far as the talent KP, (a genius), has assembled to start the 2008-2009 season. My excitement, however, is tempered by one thing and one thing only: G.O.'s recovering knee and his ability to play at least decent minutes in his first season. That's a very serious knee surgery to recover from and I don't believe he is scrimmaging yet. All the talk is positive but it's still just talk. I really believe we are going to challenge for a play-off spot next season even if Oden is not back 100%, or even 50%.

We are going to be good. Period. But a healthy Oden playing up to his hype, would put us in a much higher stratosphere. Cool

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:16 am

From everything I've heard, the microfracture damage and surgery required was extremely minor, even relative to Amare Stoudamire... And we've seen how well Amare recovered.... As far as Greg goes, it should be noted that in college he was only playing with one good hand and was still dominant... That said, I think the team is good enough to that Oden doesn't necessarily need to come in and dominate, he just needs to play good defense (although I am sure we are going to have to endure a few months of 5 fouls in 20 minutes until he learns the nuances of NBA shot blocking), grab rebounds and let the offensive game gradually come to him. Fortunately I think the team has enough firepower with an every improving Aldridge and of course Roy. As exciting as it is to run and score, a la the Lakers, Suns, Mavs, etc... the old adage for any sport still applies "defense wins championships".... I definitely think Oden has the potential to be the cornerstone of that rock solid defense.

Again I too have an air of caution with regard to Oden's injury, but from what I've heard from all of my "sources close to the organization" (tee hee), the Kid is willing to do what it takes to get back and take the league by force... I just can't wait to see what happens to the first guy that decides its a good idea to drive down the lane and posterize Greg... hopefully that guy doesn't leave too big a divot on the floor.... Twisted Evil

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Mon Jul 14, 2008 8:58 am

I can't believe how much we think alike, Rochin. "Defense wins championships" has been my mantra forever. We won our lone championship, (1977), anchored by one of the greatest defensive, rebouding, shot-blocking and outlet passing centers of all time. (Bill Walton.) During his prime, before he got injured, I thought he was the greatest "team" center since the lengendary Bill Russell and his ridiculous 11 titles in 13 years! Shocked

I'm happy to hear your positive assessment of Oden's knee injury. But, I'd rather see the team hold him back next season if there is any future risk involved. A healthy Oden over the next 10 to 15 years equals a potential dynasty, especially with the young talent KP has assembled around him. Multiple titles are not an unrealistic dream. However, we've got to prove it on the court, and continue to build and work hard!!! Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by Stonehouse on Mon Jul 14, 2008 9:27 am

No doubt the future looms bright for the Blazers. I am a bit concerned about scoring (I love Brandon Roy like my own brother, but I don't think he's ever going to be a big time, top 20 scorer and who knows if Oden is going to produce a ton of points), but I think Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless are both natural scorers that should develop into solid performers.

But I'm most excited about the pairing of Oden and Aldridge down low. Their games are so complimentary - Oden the bruising power guy and Aldridge the skillful finesse guy with range - that I really think they could develop into one of the best post pairings the NBA has seen in a long time. I'm sure it will take time for them to gel and to feel each other's games out (and, of course, LMA is 22 and GO is 20), but with time... the sky's the limit.

Still, Brandon is the straw that stirs the drink. It's amazing how the game looks so easy for him. He truly is a natural and will be a joy to watch for years to come.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:30 am

I agree that Brandon is the straw that stirs the drink. I just love that guy!!! He is Mr. Clutch and I love the way he takes over in the fourth quarter. Only superstars can do that. However, I do believe Brandon is capable of scoring 23 - 25 points a game. His coaches and teammates have been telling him to shoot more.

Also, the way he can penetrate, I see his free throws climbing in years to come. Great scorers usually get fouled alot; thus, they can have an off shooting night and still score 25 - 30 points. I just believe with more awareness of how darn good he is offensively, and how much his team needs him to score points, Brandon's numbers will only climb in the next few years. Basketball

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by Stonehouse on Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:57 am

True true... I think given a situation where he was THE man, Brandon could score that much. (In the same way that Chris Paul has to shoulder more of a scoring load for NO.)

But given Portland's situation where his role is more of a playmaker than a scorer (maybe even the future PG?), I just don't see him being a top-flight scorer, and I think sometimes he is a bit too unselfish. And I think everyone would agree that he's a capable shooter but not a true bomber. And when a guy like Ron Artest is on him, he can be shut down somewhat. That's what I mean when I say that I don't see Brandon as a big-time guy like Iverson or Kobe or McGrady... those guys get their points no matter what, where as I see Brandon as being a little more opportunistic of a scorer and getting his when he can. That's not to say he's not capable of it, however. I just think his game and his role is different.

You are right about his penetration skills though... he has an innate ability to get into the paint.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:32 pm

Agreed on your assessment of B-Roy... The man is more of a playmaker than a scorer, and as we saw in last season (and it will continue this year) the 4th quarter, Roy will handle the PG duties, partially because he is the best creator on the team, but also because it allows him to save up energy the rest of the game working off the ball...

I think Bayless has the potential to be that off the ball scorer, he proved he can do that in college, but at the same time he could share clutch time ball handling with Brandon some stage down the road. And again, as you mentioned Rudy is a bona fide scorer, he would have been a top five pick this year no doubt... That said, I think Brandon CAN score in the 24 ppg range, but he would best serve the team averaging 18 ppg and then utilizing his frontcourt weapons on the drive and dish and eventually his backcourt mates once they develop.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:11 pm

I agree with both of you on Brandon's role. I know he's not a pure shooter like a Kobe, but he sure can make it happen when the game is on the line! That quality is a hallmark of a champion.

The cool thing about Brandon is, he truly doesn't care about his stats. He only wants to win, and will pull out all the stops to do so. (Another quality of a champion.) The Blazers have had for so many years guys who just gotta get their points or they pout. You don't win league titles with immature, selfish babies leading your team!!! tongue

That is why I am so pumped about Brandon. He is the unquestioned leader of the team after only two seasons. Put him with Oden, Aldridge and the other pieces of the puzzle, and how can you not be psyched about this team? I'm really happy for Blazer fans who had to weather all those crappy seasons with selfish players and a GM/President you didn't have a clue about chemistry. If the guy putting the team together doesn't have a clue, there isn't much sense in taking the team seriously.

It's amazing how fans have embraced the wonder that is KP. He is by far the most popular and most trusted GM in franchise history. The team is really a reflection of two real winners: Brandon and KP! Very Happy

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Mon Jul 14, 2008 6:59 pm

KPs hard work was summed up best in a quote I read from Steve Kerr:
"I talk to Kevin Pritchard more than any other exec in this league, and the thing is, I'm sure every other GM will say the same thing." (Ok not a direct quote, but it was the gist)
The guy is an absolute workaholic dedicated to making the Blazers the best... I can't think of a better guy to turn around this storied franchise...

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:15 pm

I'll take the win for the first summer league appearance...

A few thoughts:

23 FT for Bayless!!! Wow! I'd take it the man can get to the rim, seeing him and Brandon both attacking like that could be very nice, especially come playoff time when fouls and FT often make a huge difference in tight games..

7-13 for Koponen, solid shooting... not to mention 4-6 from 3, the kid could earn a spot yet...

4 Assists... for the whole team Embarassed to go with 21 TOs... ugh... but its expected for a relatively rag tag group with very little on court time together, but I'd still obviously like to see that assist tally quite a bit higher...

Batum 1-6... 4 TO I know he is considered a work in progress, especially on offense but.... In all I would like to fully withhold judgment until I can actually see the kid play, but against Summer League competition (which is pretty much a very rough trial for players, coaches and even referees) I would like to see a bit better...

Anyway its kind of fun that all these guys are pretty much role players at this point on the squad... Although I do wish Rudy was on the roster, I can't wait to see what he can do.

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summer league game #1 & other inane thoughts

Post by FANatic on Tue Jul 15, 2008 8:43 am

I caught the first quarter of the game last night. (All games are on Comcast 37, but I doubt you get that, Rochin.)

Bayless was impressive attacking the basket. That's HUGE!!! I can never understand it when the best ballers in the world are afraid to penetrate. Granted, against an elite defense it can be tough. But against most teams you should be able to try and penetrate from time to time, if only to be stopped and dish, which can sometimes result in an easy two for the "dishee".

Maybe that's the difference between the loser players and the winners we now have on our season roster. Brandon's penetrating has been a refreshing sight. It's sooo obvious to me. You penetrate and you automatically have three options: shoot, dish or push to the bucket, which often will lead to free throws. (That's free points, guys!)

Sure, you always want 3 point specialists to spread the defense and keep them honest. (James Jones and Martell last year come to mind.) And perimeter shooting is a big part of any team's offense. But the majority of perimeter shooters on your club should be consistent in making their shots. If you don't have that outside shooting ability, you have no business throwing up bombs. (Some former Blazers come to mind here, even a very, very popular one, but I'll keep that to myself. You all probably have guys you remember yelling at the tv screen to STOP throwing up shots. Baby, you ain't got that skill. Try something else or pass!)

Petteri looked real quick and active to me. Looked like a true point guard. Nailed three 3's in a row during 4th quarter crunch time. I would't mind him getting that 15th roster spot.

Should we dump Sergio? What do you guys/gals think? We seem to have plenty of point guards and Brandon is always going to take over the point any time he wants to.

I, too, can't wait to see Rudy!!! Suppose to be a fiery leader like Bayless, who isn't afraid to attack the basket. Can shoot with range also. Wow, what a backcourt we are going to have. And not to bad of a frontcourt either, especially if G.O. is the "giant praying mantis" monster I heard he was revealing last summer until he got hurt.

Batum was probably a little nervous last night. He's a project, but when KP is intrigued by a player like he is Nicolas, I'm not going to be writing this guy off for a couple years, at least. KP just has the "magic gut" evaluated talent, I think Paul Allen said of his GM.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Tue Jul 15, 2008 12:01 pm

Oh Sergio.... So brilliant and then so flaky....

The only reason this guy is still on the team is so Rudy will come over. Period. I really don't see him in the long term plans here, he definitely has the potential to be a Steve Nash type point guard, but he plays more like a really sloppy Jason Williams. His shot is inconsistent, his passing erratic and even when he does make mistakes Nate gives him such a quick hook his confidence is basically nil.

I honestly think this guy would be best served with a new situation, new coach and a basic "reboot" on his career. If they decide to keep Koponen on the roster I would have to say Sergio's days are definitely numbered.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:09 pm

I can't believe it, Rochin. What you posted about Sergio is exactly what I feel. I swear we must have had a subconscious Vulcan Mind-Meld at some point. I wonder if we have other alike thoughts or it's just the Blazers. Basketball

(Stonehouse, or anyone else, please jump in and tell us if you're pumped about the Blazers current situation). Very Happy

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:31 pm

Haha who knows... I did watch a lot of Star Trek re-runs and whatnot when I was a young buck... But I would just say that brilliant minds think alike Wink

Oh and quick note, I just remembered that all the Summer League games are viewable for free at http://www.nba.com/summerleague2008/scoreboard.jsp

I think you just need to set up an account (which is free) and then you can watch, yay, its like march madness all over again Very Happy

But yeah, I second that... I mean as much fun as it is for FANatic and I to type back and forth what each other is already thinking... sometimes an opposing view is nice... Even if we do have to turn around and tell you why you are wrong Twisted Evil

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Game #2 - Koponen KP's Conflict?

Post by FANatic on Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:59 pm

I think KP may have a real conflict on his hands over that 15th roster spot. Forget Bayless for a moment. I see flashes of real potential from our PG from Norway. Granted it's only SL, but you've got to start somewhere if you are in his position. Man I like the fearless way he plays. His court vision and lightning quick decision-making are way above Bayless at this early stage. He's not afraid to shoot, works relentlessly and is a true, albeit tall, PG. And tall is usually good in the NBA.

KP has sort of boxed himself in here as I see it. He probably has promised Rudy that Sergio would be here for at least one more year. Plus, Rudy needs Serg to help him learn English, which is critical and a top priority for the promising Spanaird. But that's just 13 spots, including Bayless. Where he really boxed himself in is that he, according to the Oregonian's Jason Quick, has signed Batum to a guaranteed contract, (because he is intrigued by the Frenchman's potential), thus giving him the 14th spot. Although he may spend a good part of the year in the NBA's minor league.

Now, KP wants an open 15th spot for flexibility. He may look to sign a veteran free agent later in the summer. Or use the open spot somehow before the trading deadline if he chooses to ship our LaFrenz and his contract.

(Time to stop. Not sure if I'm making sense anymore...) silent

Any thoughts, Red and Blackers?

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Wed Jul 16, 2008 10:54 pm

The expiring contract of Raef LaFrentz is one of the biggest assets this team has right now... and could potentially be used to beef up this team during the run for the post season. From what I know Batum (Ba-TOOM) is still under contract in Europe but they were very likely to sign him up here for a couple reasons. First off leaving him there to season would likely produce little results since European teams often turn to vets and older more established players... whereas if the singed him here and sent him to the D-League he would be guaranteed lots of minutes and they could more closely monitor his progress. He is obviously a long way from contributing, but again I have yet to see KP's instincts on a player steer us wrong....

From every interview I've watched or article I've read the 15th roster spot is Koponen's to win or lose in the Summer League.... He is so much stronger and more poised than he looked at any of the games I went to last year and was the player of the year in the top league in Finland... (btw I gotta credit one of my friends on this, but the nickname "The Finnisher" is just too perfect). So basically if he shows he can earn a spot, why not bring him over?? Again it would be nice to have that open roster spot down the road, but at the same time if the kid is good enough... Question

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by Stonehouse on Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:54 am

OK, OK... I'll pitch in.

First things first... finally one of our Blazers has a good nickname in the Finnisher. It's perfect. The Natural is OK for Roy and the Thrilla is fine for Pyrzybilla, but Trout is awful, LA is boring, Spanish Chocolate is lame, and we don't even have one for Oden yet.

Anyway, I think we'll have to end up signing Koponen. Because if we don't, one of the European teams will sign him for a lot of money. And once that happens, we'll be in a similar situation to what happened with Rudy this summer. Petteri is a first round pick, so he'll be locked into his salary for at least three years. If he were to go back to Europe and make a few million bucks and play well, maybe the incentive to come play in the NBA will be gone. I think it would be a pretty big risk letting him go.

As for Batum... don't the Blazers HAVE to sign him? Maybe I'm mistaken, but I thought he was no longer under contract with his French team. I mean... I thought (I'm no expert) that per the Collective Bargaining Agreement the only way a team can avoid signing its first round pick is if that pick is under a contractual obligation elsewhere. And I thought that Batum wasn't.

Anyway... I have no problem with signing them both and sending Batum down to the D-League. People talk about wanting the flexibility of an open 15th roster spot, but I'm pretty sure that is talk born from Message Board GMs and Talk Radio traders, not from the Blazers. I mean, sure, in an ideal world would they like flexibility? Sure. But isn't it worth more to have a promising young PG playing against the best competition and working with the best skill development coaches in the world?

After/during this sesaon we are going to see some things happen. Raef's contract will either expire or we will have traded him for some serious value. (If Kwame Brown's contract got Pau Gasol...). I also wouldn't expect us to resign all of Martell, Channing, and Ike Diogu. Obviously Diogu is the one we will likely let walk. Sergio seems like trade bait to me... either as a fill-in on the Raef deal or maybe for future picks after the season. They have a team option on Steve Blake, and if Bayless really shows something his rookie season, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't bring back Blake either.

I like all those guys, but the time for getting better is done. Now it's time to win. And to win, you have to keep on getting more talent. And while guys like Steve Blake, Ike Diogu, Sergio Rodriguez and Martell Webster are good guys, I think the Blazers will need better to run with the big dogs of the NBA.

Anyway, long story short? Sign both. Petteri to cut his teeth in the NBA, Batum to the D-League.

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by SciFi on Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:49 pm

So here's a new question. Baring in mind that it IS still waaaaaaay early, how well do you think the Blazers will do in the '08/'09 campaign?

I say 50 wins and and the first round of the playoffs. . .

-SciFi

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:44 pm

SciFi - 50 wins and the playoffs yes, if Oden plays most all of the season and plays well. If Oden can't perform to that standard, harder to predict. Maybe 45 - 48 wins and the playoffs? That could also happen.

Trust me, if Oden is healthy and plays to his potential we are going to be a playoff team that is very intriguing! Smile

Stonehouse - Sorry to have to correct you buddy, but KP has been talking about that 15th roster spot almost daily. He DOES want to keep it open so he has options, such as signing a vet free agent closer to the start of the season. I don't believe he expected Koponen to be this improved. Now he is seriously considering signing the Finn for that 15th spot. But he sounds a wee bit conflicted to me, and that's the first time I've felt that from him since he was introduced as the new GM. Very Happy

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by DaTruRochin on Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:59 pm

Its hard to say about the win total... or the playoffs for that matter... The west is the west, so 50 wins are kind of a pre-requisite into getting into the playoffs... Do the blazers have it in them, on paper, and measuring heart, definitely... And honestly I don't think the key to this season is necessarily Oden, if he can be at least an upgrade over Pryzbilla it will be beneficial, but I see the steadying improvement of LaMarcus and the development of another scorer to further spread out defenses that clamp down on our big 2 (I don't think we will see that from Oden QUITE yet... Big men usually take a few years to refine that aspect of their game... Even Dwight Howard is pretty darn limited in his offensive repertoire.... Haha and if Greg is even a shade of Dwight... Look out...). In other words I could see the emergence of Rudy, Outlaw or Webster being the real key... But thats just me.... cyclops

I think it will be interesting this year I see Denver and Phoenix both dropping significantly, and its kind of a wait and see game with the likes of Sacramento, Golden State and the Clippers... But I definitely see Portland in the hunt with those teams for those 6-8 spots... Should be VERY exciting to watch this year!! Very Happy

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by FANatic on Fri Jul 18, 2008 8:48 am

Granted on Oden's offensive game, Rochin. But if he can block shots, intimidate penetrators, play great "D" and rebound like I think he can, I think he will have a tremendoes impact on the team. Remember, defense wins championships. Twisted Evil

Greg has the potential to elevate the games of everyone around him. Players can take more gambles on defense because they know if they get beat, their man is going to get the ball stuffed down his throat. I don't care if we average 75 points a game (yeah, exaggeration). But if the other team is only scoring 69, then we win, and we win a lot of games....

Let's agree to disagree on this one, Roch. Anyway you slice it, we are a team to watch next season, and the play-offs are finally a real possibility again. bounce

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Re: The New Red & Black

Post by Stonehouse on Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:57 am

50 wins is a nice even number. But I think it will be a fight and not as "easy" as some people are thinking. If you could guarantee to me right now that Oden will be 100% for the whole year and Rudy will be able to play right away, then I would be feeling a lot more optimistic.

But the fact of the matter is that we don't know what Oden and Rudy will be capable of, so at this point it's better to keep expectations somewhat in check.

And part of the reason I say that... the Clippers are going to be a lot better, the Kings are going to be better (if they keep Artest), the Warriors will still be tough, the Nuggets still have AI and Carmello... and if the Blazers want to make the playoffs, they have to finish ahead of EVERY one of those teams. It'll be tough.

The Spurs aren't going anywhere, the Lakers are on the rise, the Jazz haven't lost anybody, the Hornets haven't lost anyone either (though I don't know if they'll be as good as last year), the Rockets have TMac and Yao and Scola and Landry were really good rookies, the Suns are old but still have Nash and Amare... really only the Mavs seem to me to be vulnerable, but looking at their roster... Dirk, Josh Howard, Jason Kidd... they've still got a lot of talent.

Don't mean to be pessimistic... my point is that the Blazers will be in a total dogfight.

But can they make it? Absolutely. And there's no doubt that it's the goal. My big thing with the Blazers is that I worry about injury... Roy, Aldridge, and Oden have all had injury history, and all three of them will likely miss some stretches of this season at some point. In a normal year, that would be fine and they'd just deal with it, but in a season where they will need to be firing on full cylindars (sp?) to pass several other teams, it could become an issue.

Still... I'm still a wide-eyed optimist for this team. I think they could become very good very quickly if Oden is all we think he can be. Brandon Roy is a proven leader and an All-Star, LaMarcus is a 20-10 guy, Outlaw is a proven commodity off the bench, Pryzbilla and Blake are reliable and solid back-ups, and Webster can shoot and could turn into a nice player if he ever gets over the hump. Not to mention Rudy and Jerryd Bayless. There's just so many options and so much young talent. If everything goes right, this team could do what New Orleans did last year.

My prediction though? 48-49 wins and in a dogfight for the playoffs.

2009-10 prediction? Number one seed in the west.

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