Over at ESPN, John Hollinger dropped some more Blazer content with a training camp report and some observations. The gist of the report centers around a ‘humble’ Blazer team which is keeping its goals and expectations realistic. You know the whole, “Win the division, win a first round series” soft, Quincy Jones-esque jazz. Instead of the “Yeah we’re gonna demolish the Lakers and win a title this year” noise which I guess some people think the Blazers should do. If my memory serves correct, last time a Blazer popped off to the Lakers (staring at you Ruben Patterson and Shawn Kemp) bad things happened. Within the piece, there is lot of talk about the Blazers commitment to defense in an attempt to take another step up the NBA ladder. I think this whole ‘we need to play defense’ is something that’s being underplayed. It’s that D (or lack thereof) that betrayed us at times last year. The off-season has kind of softened the memories of those D-related frustrations, but if we want to go where we all want to go, D is needed. Also, what’s a training camp piece on the Blazers without the talk of the ‘position battles’ at the 1, 3 and 5 spots. Speaking of ’5′ there is a lot of talk about Greg Oden. Quote from Hollinger:
“And that’s where we get to the other big story from the Blazers’ media day: Greg Oden. He’s likely to stay a big story for much of the season, for the simple reason that he’s the one wild card who could take this season in a radically different direction.
Most of the other Blazers are “knowns.” Yes, they’re young and improving, but Portland basically knows what to expect from nine of the 10 players in this year’s rotation. That’s what makes Oden so interesting — nobody’s totally sure what he’ll do. Plus, the area he can impact the most is the defense, the area the Blazers are trying hardest to improve.”
True that Mr. Hollinger. I could probably stretch these thoughts out to a different post, but when you think about X-Factors on this team, Greg Oden has to be on the top of that list. It’s scary to think how good this team could be solely based on if Oden improves from last year. And we’re not even talking about a drastic, 20 points, 10 rebounds type improvement. Just simple things like improving his timing on defense, finding ways to stay on the court and out of foul trouble. Yeah, scary right.
(UPDATE: While I was typing this, Coup tweeted the following: “I’ve heard what I need to hear. Oden. Left hand. Hook shot. That’s a 75% improvement on his offense already.” He’s not even lying. If you read Ben or Joe Freeman’s tweets you will trip over yourself thinking about Oden, I promise.)
Hollinger’s ‘five camp observations’ are Insider-only, and to be honest is nothing groundbreaking. Northwest division title…heard it. Position battles…getting as stale as the Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Blake being a better fit with the starters…makes me feel like Dr. Dre, been there, done that. One interesting tidbit is this whole LaMarcus Aldridge contract situation. Hollinger touches on it and how LMA could affected negatively. It’s touchy. On one hand, like Kelly Dwyer tweeted earlier today an unsigned LMA with a chip on his shoulder could be good for the Blazers. On the other hand, as Hollinger points out, he could take this personally and it could affect his play. He does still have his emo-moments after all. I’d prefer we get the deal done to avoid any potential headaches and just to get it out of the way. There’s no guarantee LaMarcus uses this in the correct way (let me go work my butt off and give them no choice but to pay me) and not the incorrect way (a slight to him from the organization).
This team has all the talent in the world but all it takes is one key piece to not buy in to make it fall apart. Everyone is talking about how many headaches Nate is going to have. He’s going to have some tough decisions, but ultimately it is on the players to earn their time. He’s made it clear that no one is entitled to anything. One thing I don’t think a lot of people are point out is that our depth actually in a sense makes his job easier. He has more options. If Andre Miller doesn’t buy in (just an example) we still have Steve Blake. If Outlaw or Webster wants to pout, the other can step in his spot. Guys are going to earn their minutes by how the produce on the court, and let’s be honest isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?