There are finally some Blazer games to pencil into your desktop 2011 calendar, and as I can’t say enough, it’s about time. This afternoon, the team officially confirmed that 2011-12 preseason lite will consist of Portland hosting the Utah Jazz on December 19th at the Rose Garden, then traveling to SLC to play the Jazz a second time on December 21st at Energy Solutions Arena.
The union cards are in, NBA.com has returned current player photos to its front page, and NBATV has cancelled most of its gimmicky movie night programming. The deal hasn’t been completed, and the regular season schedule hasn’t been finalized, but it’s safe to say that this is really happening.
I won’t get too deep into breaking down Portland’s match up with Utah just yet. There will be time for that in the coming days, and you know that it will be as soon as game previews and season kick-off posts start flying that Paul Allen will run into David Stern’s office and single-handedly resurrect the lockout. I’ll say this though, Portland is in a good position to claim a much coveted and meaningful undefeated preseason.
In truth, though, a shortened camp and an almost non-exist preseason means that the first few weeks of the regular season, maybe even the first month, will be the time to iron out kinks in the offense, and decide which guys are going to play which positions for how long on any given night. Expect December 19th to include some kind of overture to the fans, and expect both preseason games to be basically meaningless.
On that note, let’s move on.
Today and yesterday have been crazy free agent rumor days. Chris Paul wants to play with two guys that don’t pass the ball on a team that hasn’t been relevant for at least a decade, and is thumbing his nose at the franchise that without him probably will fold in on itself. Deron Williams hates fixed gear bikes, urban farming, and HBO’s Bored To Death and will not be joining the Nets when they transition to their new digs in Brooklyn. Dwight Howard wants to play anywhere as long as it’s not Orlando, and he wouldn’t mind getting with CP3 if that can be worked out.
Portland has avoided much of that major talk, which is good because it distracts NBA generalists from weighing in on the Brandon Roy situation (here’s a hint folks HE IS NOT GOING TO RETIRE), but there still have been a few names kicked around today of players that might be Blazers at some point in the future.
Here’s my take on the the three players that came up the most while searching through the days tweets, and a fourth would-be that we’d all love to see for good measure.
Jamal Crawford: This is an interesting case. Crawford is 11 years into his career, he’s been short listed for the Sixth Man award the last few seasons, and he would bring some scoring punch to Portland’s bench. Those are the obvious upsides. The downsides are that he’s flat out too expensive for the Blazers, even with using amnesty on Brandon, and he’s more of what Portland already has. For the last few seasons Portland has been almost entirely a team of streaky perimeter shooters. Jamal Crawford never met a jumper that he didn’t like. Sometimes that’s good; other times it’s downright awful. Not to mention Crawford’s scoring numbers last year were his lowest since 02-03. True he is down after averaging 20.6, 19.7, and 18 a game in 07-08, 08-09, 09-10 in that order. But in the first two seasons of that run he was a starter. Crawford would probably not crack the starting five in Portland. Beyond that, he would compete with a couple of up and comers for time (notably Elliot Williams) that could probably make better use of game time minutes to develop into real contributors. Crawford did make a splash at the Rip City Basketball Classic, and fans would probably be into his game. But logistically I just don’t see it happening.
Chuck Hayes: Here is a guy that could very well help the Blazers. For the last few season Portland has been very thin in the front court. Greg Oden isn’t coming back anytime soon, Marcus Camby isn’t getting any younger, LaMarcus Aldridge can’t really play the center position nor should he have to. Chuck Hayes is the kind of scrappy big guy that will get rebounds and make a lot of hustle plays. The downside to Hayes is that he’s basically a non-factor on offense. Last season Hayes averaged just under eight points per game in just over 28 minutes played. Backing up the four or five position in Portland he won’t get nearly that many minutes on a nightly basis, and his 7.8 points per game last season was an increase of more than two points per game over his previous best, meaning seeing less action probably won’t make that number go up. Portland needs reliable offense off the bench, and Chuck Hayes doesn’t really fit that bill. However, he’s not nearly as expensive as a scorer like Crawford, and signing him might mean the Blazers can make a shot at a guy like Jeff Pendergraph and back up the front court by committee. This signing wouldn’t be horrible.
Carly Landry: Like Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry is the kind of player Larry Miller is talking about when he says the Blazers need big men. Landry is a tough guy, he can make plays, and he isn’t afraid to bust some heads in the paint. Landry’s offensive numbers are all better than those for Hayes, and he’s younger. The major drawbacks are that he’s a bit undersized, and his price tag might be a little larger than Hayes. The difference in price won’t be much, and signing Landry probably means Portland doesn’t have to immediately amnesty Brandon, and might have room still for another super cheap guy (again JEFF PENDERGRAPH). I wouldn’t mind seeing Landry in a Blazer jersey, and I think this would be an excellent pick up.
Joel Przybilla: Joel’s name got kind of tossed off this afternoon. Apparently there are a number of teams interested in him, and why wouldn’t they be. Wherever he goes he’ll sign for super cheap, he’s huge, and he plays hard ALL THE TIME. His health is in question, but like I said with Joel you know you’ll get a guy who will play hurt and do everything in his power to help his team. If he came back to Portland there would be a parade, and the day he stepped off the plane would probably be officially sanctified as Joel Przybilla Day. I’m sure Joel would love to be a Blazer again, and I would welcome him back with open arms, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
That’s it for now. There is no way that the free agent and trade talk has ended, or will ever end, and I’m sure there are as many different opinions out there as there are people. At this point the only thing you can do is sit back and enjoy the craziness. Who wouldn’t love to see Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, and Chris Paul on the same team? It wouldn’t make any sense, but it would be hilarious to watch.
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