Monday evening the Blazers will host the Utah Jazz in the glass palace that is the Memorial Coliseum in what will be the fourth game of this preseason. With three in the books, and three following the MC game, now seems like as good a time as any to recap the happenings of the last week and preview what’s to come during the final run of games that don’t count.
Starting with what’s been done: Portland came out hot in their preseason opener, running the LA Clippers out of the gym in impressive fashion, then went on the road to drop close games that nobody saw in both Utah and Denver. Portland returns home 1-2 for the preseason, and short one big man after losing Jeff Pendergraph for the season to an ACL tear.
Here is a wrap up of the major happenings over three games:
- Rudy Fernandez is playing out of his mind. In three games he’s been almost perfect from deep. Fernandez opened the season 5-of-6 from three against the Clippers, then went 4-of-6 on triples against Utah, before coming back to Earth, slightly, against Denver hitting 3-of-7. Over three games, Rudy is averaging 13 points per game, and shooting an un-godly 63% from downtown. Who knows if that percentage will hold, but even if it doesn’t, it’s clear that Rudy has come to play
- Wesley Matthews has also come to play, and thank God for that. Matthews, talked about as the stalwart of the Blazer defense, has been remarkable on offense. After three games Matthews is averaging 15.3 points per game having gone for 20 against the Clips and 21 against the Jazz. Matthews managed only 5 points in the loss to Denver, but to his credit he only saw the court for 8 mins.
- As for the Portland starters, the numbers haven’t been too fantastic. Brandon Roy sat out the loss to Denver, and scored 12 points in the opener and 4 points in the loss to Utah. Roy hasn’t found his rhythm in the early going, and he isn’t the only one. Andre Miller has yet to break into double-figures in scoring or assists in three games. Don’t start shredding your season tickets just yet, though. Roy, in his fifth year, is officially a young veteran, and Miller, with 11 years of service under his belt, is one of the oldest players in the league. Preseason is a time for young players to get out the butterflies, and new players to get a sense of the system their in. Roy and Miller don’t fall into either of those categories.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, who will likely be the center of attention for long stretches of this season, has been the bright spot in the starting unit. Aldridge is averaging an efficient 14.3 points per game, playing an average of 25.7 minutes per in his first three outings. With the loss of Jeff Pendergraph, the Blazers are thin at the four position. In order to get wins in the time before Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla return to the fold, LA is going to have to log serious minutes. The good thing about that: he looks ready.
- Speaking of injured big men, Przybilla returned to practice today, and is way ahead of schedule. Oden is still anybody’s guess. He’s out for Opening Day, he may be back by Christmas, it may not be until the New Year, whatever the case may be, the team is keeping his status pretty close. Pendergraph is done with an ACL tear. The loss of Pendergraph hurts psychologically more than anything. JP’s role on the team was as of yet undefined, certainly in the early-going he was going to see a lot of minutes, but once Joel and Oden return his spot on the roster was likely to get a little hazy. Losing JP, though, takes away a HUGE energy guy. With Pendergraph everyone in the gym knows what they’re going to get, tons of energy, and lots of hard work. The team will go on without him, but it will be a difficult adjustment.
- Everyone is about even in the rookie class. Luke Babbit came out of his shell against Denver, finishing with 18 points, 10 of which he scored in a row. Babbit’s Dougie dance has gone international, and it looks like he has a game to back up his dance moves. Armon Johnson and Elliott Williams have both had their moments. Johnson will light a fire under Jerryd Bayless if he does nothing else, and Williams may be able to find a place as an energy guy now that Pendergraph is sidelined.
- The Blazers have committed to signing a big man for the remainder of the preseason, and as of this afternoon that big man looks to be 7-footer Steven Hill. Reported first by Joe Freeman of the Oregonian, Hill participated in camp and preseason with the Blazers in 2008-09, and earned himself quite a nice little following. I’m sure the faithful will be happy to have him back.
Portland has four games left in their 2010-11 preseason campaign, with a chance to get wins back from Denver and Utah. The Blazers get a shot at the Nuggets to finish the preseason at the Rose Garden on October 21st. Before that, and after Portland’s Coliseum date with the Jazz, the Blazers get a home-and-home two-game series with the Golden State Warriors.
Golden State finished 2009-10 with a 26-56 record, good enough for 4th in the Pacific Division. The Warriors biggest off-season maneuvers were to part ways with Don Nelson, the NBA’s winningest coach, and to find a new majority owner. The Warriors also added All-Star center David Lee to the mix, letting go of Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, and Anthony Randolph in the process. The Warriors defeated the LA Clippers 127-87, in their only pre-season game thus far, getting 22 points from Monta Ellis, 18 from second-year player Stephen Curry, and 15 points from Lee.
Historically, the Blazers have struggled at Golden State, and handled the Warriors at home. With a quick home-and-home, Portland has the chance to get an early win in Oakland, which could set the tone for the regular season. Golden State doesn’t look to be a playoff team in 2010-11, but they always seem to be around to try and play the spoiler.