Chris Kaman & Steve Blake Scrimmage Impressions


With training camp just around the corner, more and more Portland Trail Blazers have been returning to the city in preparation for the upcoming season. Although training camp and formal practices have yet to begin, this has not stopped the players who have returned from participating in intra-squad scrimmages, and the Blazers YouTube channel has been kind enough to upload some video from these scrimmages.

Before diving in, remember that these pre-season scrimmages are generally on the lower key side, with both effort and intensity dialed back. Players don’t want to get hurt (or hurt someone) before the season starts, and as such any analysis should be taken with a grain of salt. With that being said, these are valuable practice reps that are worth looking at, especially with respect to the Trail Blazers’ new players.

In particular, I wanted to see how Steve Blake and Chris Kaman have been doing, so I pored through the video with a special focus on them. Both were added in free agency this year in an attempt to bolster the Trail Blazers’ bench, which has not performed well the past two seasons. As veteran players they are expected to keep things under control when the starters rest, and are not needed to rock the boat much.

Both seemed to deliver on this front. Throughout the video, Blake appeared to be in passing mode, which will be more than okay. At 0:49, he whips a pass to LaMarcus Aldridge, who immediately passes it on to Wesley Matthews, who drills the three. Blake wouldn’t get credit in a box score, but this type of hockey assist (pass leading to a pass that leads to a field goal) is nearly as valuable as a traditional assist.

Blake also showed that he can get the ball to Aldridge in the post via an entry pass, at both 1:38 in the video and 1:56. This skill is not to be underestimated, as the newer, more relaxed rules on defensive spacing have made it easier for defenses to prevent this pass. Seeing as how Blake will be coming mostly off the bench, his chances to make this connection to Aldridge may be limited, but he showed the ability to do so.

Kaman also had a few noteworthy moments himself. The biggest of which was a surprisingly smooth drive and dunk on Robin Lopez that he initiated from the top of the key at 2:14. This doesn’t figure to be a large part of his game on a night to night basis, but it does show what he is capable of.

Kaman also flashed some of his inside skills by putting back a Will Barton miss (at 0:42) and making a short range jumper after a small jab step on Lopez (at 0:58). One of the biggest tasks for the bench this upcoming season will simply be scoring more points, and Kaman looks ready to contribute immediately in this area.

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On the defensive side of things, Kaman had a spectacular, but ultimately futile, closeout attempt on a corner three (at 1:32). Yes this is a practice, and yes the shot still went in, but it was great to see this sort of effort, especially from a big guy. It is not uncommon to see centers simply take a half-hearted step or two when a shooter is far away, but Kaman went all out, as evidenced below.

Ultimately, there is only a limited amount of information to be gleaned from an un-coached, low intensity, intra-squad scrimmage. From what could be seen, both Blake and Kaman appeared to perform exactly as advertised – smart, savvy veterans who know their role. The Blazers starters appear to already be one of the stronger units around the league, so if these two can help out the bench even a little, the end results could help push the team to new heights.

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