Game Details: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSNW. Radio: KXTG (750 AM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6’11″, UMass)
Projected Sacramento Starting Lineup: PG Tyreke Evans (#13, 6’6”, Memphis), SG Marcus Thornton (#23, 6’4”, LSU), SF John Salmons (#5, 6’6”, Miami), PF Chuck Hayes (#42, 6’6”, Kentucky), C DeMarcus Cousins (#15, 6’11”, Kentucky)
Tuesday’s game is going to be interesting, and I say that for a couple of reasons. Chief among them is that it marks the real beginning of this season, and might be an indicator of what 2011-12 is going to look and feel like. I’ve said it too many times to count, so what difference does saying it again make, this season is going to burn people out. Tuesday comes right on the heels of Monday, obviously, and that means there is absolutely no rest for Portland.
Game 2 has a second level to it too. Looking at the schedule when it was released, and thinking about how this season was going to play out in real time, I developed a theory. That theory is, some young teams are going to have a major advantage. Young guys don’t tire as easily as their older counterparts. There are a lot of young teams in the NBA. One of them is the Sacramento Kings, the team that takes the floor opposite Portland in the second of a three game homer to kick-off this most recent campaign.
Sacramento’s roster boasts three players born in 1990 (DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Tyler Honeycutt), three players born in 1989 (Jimmer Fredette, Hassan Whiteside, and Isaiah Thomas), and two players born in 1988 (Donte Green and J.J. Hickson). By contrast, Portland starts a guy born in 1974 (Marcus Camby), and plays another born in 1972 (Kurt Thomas). The Blazers aren’t old, not really, but they aren’t as young as Sac-Town.
Camby logged nearly 30 minutes in the season opener, which isn’t too high for him seeing as he averaged 26.1 minutes in 59 games–51 starts–in 2010-11. But with a preseason that only included one game, there’s a pretty good chance Cam’s not quite in tip-top game shape coming into this one, and will feel some of the effects of Monday’s night. That could be bad, seeing as he might have the assignment of guarding second-year big man DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins leads Sacramento’s crew of young, and highly touted players. Any team that has three straight years of lottery picks is probably one that isn’t on the right track, but disregarding that history, this is a team of ballers, and they can ball.
Just ask Kobe Bryant. In Sacramento’s home opener last night, the Kings handed Kobe and the Lakers their second straight lose of the season. Last night Sacramento was led by 27 points from Marcus Thornton and 20 from Tyreke Evans. These two are the driver behind the Kings offensive success, and will be the main focal point of Portland’s defensive scheme. However, losing sight of the inside guys would be a mistake, as would overlooking high scoring combo guard/forward John Salmons.
Salmons is on his second go-round with Sacramento, and he isn’t quite the scorer he was in 07-08 and 08-09, but he can still put the ball in the basket. The Kings are probably going to be a lottery team again this season, they lack the cohesion that takes a young group of overachievers into a real contender, but on the second night of a grueling season, coming off a pretty darn impressive win, they should be approached with caution. These guys will be able to score. A failure to win the game on the defensive end could really hurt Portland.
Here are the things that I’ll be watching for:
- Recovery: There are going to be very few times this season when teams are going to get more than one day off. Now is a great time for Portland to figure out how they play on short rest. My guess is that Marcus Camby will get fewer minutes, and one of the bench guys–maybe Jamal Crawford, possibly Nicolas Batum–will get a bit more time. The Blazers are deep. Getting fresh guys on, and keeping the pace up on the second night of a back-to-back will be a key all season long.
- Jimmer Fredette: Lots of rookies come into the league every year that register very high on the “must watch” list. Very few come in like Jimmer Fredette. He’s not the best guy in the lot, he didn’t come from one of the country’s leading basketball mills, he isn’t a college national champion. But he is a guy that has the eyes of the basketball world on him. He shoots all the time, he’s basically a one-man team, and he has the one thing that interests people more than almost anything else. There’s potential that he will fail. There is almost nothing more intriguing to NBA fans than the possibility that some big name college player will fall on their face in the big show. Don’t believe me? Why does anybody still care or talk about Adam Morrison? Jimmer went 3-of-8 from the field against the Lakers, and didn’t try a three. I bet in his second night out he’ll take a couple more shots.
- If problems have been fixed: There’s no way all the issues that came up in Monday’s win were addressed this morning, but it will be interesting to see how Portland develops from game to game. The Blazers still are a work in progress. Every minute they play together the closer they become to reaching the status of a whole team. I expect communication will be better tonight, and I also expect Portland’s slashers will finish a lot better at the rim. Other than that, addressing their early issues are what these games are all about.
email me: [email protected]