Tag: Blazers


Earth to Houston: LaMarcus Aldridge is a problem. Is Howard the answer?


Earth to Houston: LaMarcus Aldridge is a problem.

That bit of information is obvious to the most junior of fans, but Kevin McHale and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard have yet to get the memo.

Howard finished ninth in this year’s DPOY voting and probably deserved to finish somewhere in that ballpark.  But he and McHale have yet to embrace the challenge that Aldridge presents by allowing Howard to put those defensive skills to work.

Out of 80 possessions we tracked in Game 2, Howard was called upon to defend Aldridge just 25 times. Most of the remaining defensive possessions went to Omer Asik, who clocked in at 51 assignments, with the remaining four going to Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons. About a third of Asik’s covers happened with Howard off the floor, and Asik dominated the fourth quarter covers.

Make no mistake, hitting 18-of-28 shots in Game 2 it didn’t matter who was covering Aldridge – he was torching them. He beat Howard on 5-of-6 challenges and the only thing that saved Asik was a series of eight consecutive misses by Aldridge – though the tape would show it had less to do with Asik than it did the fact that mere mortals can’t make every shot. Prior to that Asik gave up points or fouls on 9-of-10 chances against Portland’s big man.

Any way you slice it, with Aldridge averaging just under 45 points per game so far and setting records for his fast start, something has to change. Kevin McHale would prefer to keep Howard on Robin Lopez in order to protect the defensive glass, and a close second to that is keeping Howard out of foul trouble. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and being down 2-0 heading into Portland tonight would fall into that bucket.

On the other end of the floor, the Rockets have spent considerable time using Howard against Lopez on offense, and true to season-long form that has been productive for them. But in Game 2 the Rockets’ pair of wings in James Harden (6-of-19 FGs) and Chandler Parsons (5-of-15 FGs) didn’t get many easy looks as a result of it. While Howard’s offensive game has improved this season, it’s still not to the point where it consistently makes players around him better. Taking a page out of everybody’s book against the big man, the Blazers are more than willing to let Howard beat them if it means that threes aren’t raining on their heads.

Playoff adjustments usually determine the winner in a closely-matched series. If Howard is the defensive player many folks say he is, it goes without saying that the Rockets need to go all-in with the superstar assignment. Aldridge isn’t going to continue shooting at his current high-volume 60 percent from the field, but one more big game tonight and the series is all-but over.

Even though Howard is facing-up Lopez at will, the Rockets would be wise to open up the game plan by unleashing Harden and Parsons with high pick-and-roll action, since both guys are having a hard time getting penetration against sturdy defenders Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum. If Howard is the defensive player folks make him out to be, he should be both willing and able to make his matchup with Aldridge a wash. With Patrick Beverley effectively slowing down Damian Lillard, and Howard theoretically doing the same to Aldridge, the rest of the Rockets’ pieces should be able to outscore their Portland counterparts.

But Houston has it backwards right now, saving Howard for offense when he is needed on defense. It begs the question of whether or not McHale believes he can answer the call against Aldridge. If he can’t, it may be time to re-evaluate where he stands in the league’s defensive pecking order.

Today in miserable, miserable Greg Oden news: Greg Oden is not healthy enough to have surgery yet

Greg Oden

From the invaluable Blazersedge comes this nugget of awful news about Greg Oden:

Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan: After 2 weeks, C Greg Oden is still not cleared medically for L knee surgery because of ankle blood clots

From the sound of that, it could be a long while before the #1 pick in the 2007 draft is actually playing basketball again. Hopefully Oden can make an NBA return at some point down the line, but the day will come soon when the Blazers will have to decide how long they want to keep their ultra-talented but stunningly brittle young center, especially since he’s still making good money.

Raymond Felton would like to sign an extension with the Blazers

Ray Felton
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From Hoopsworld’s Lang Greene:

At the end of this season the Blazers will once again have to make a major decision regarding their backcourt, as Felton is in the last year of his current deal and is set to become a free agent.

Felton readily lets it be known if the decision were up to him, he would be donning a Trail Blazers uniform over the long term.

“They [Blazers officials] know I want to be here,” Felton told HOOPSWORLD. “I’ve told them that and we talked about it earlier in the summer so they know that already. I love it here in Portland. I want to be here leading the team. I feel like we have a winning team here, so hopefully we can get something done.”

If Felton wants a long-term deal with the Blazers or any other team, he’s either going to have to take a large pay cut or start playing a lot better. The 27-year old Felton currently has a career-low PER of 10.31, which is well below the league average of 15, his true shooting percentage is an abysmal 41.8%, and his turnover rate is also worse than it has ever been before. And his salary for this season is 7.6 million dollars.

Felton says that adjusting to a new team after the lockout has been tough, but even if he “returns to form” it’s debatable whether he’s worth anywhere near 8 million dollars a year, especially as he gets closer to 30 — the 09-10 season and 10-11 season were the only ones where Felton’s PER was above 15, and he’s never been a particularly efficient scorer, even in Denver’s offense-driven system. It’s understandable that Felton wants some job security going forward, but it’s tougher to understand why any team would want to give Felton a long-term deal that pays anywhere near his current yearly salary.

Blazers to keep Oden, extend one-year, $8.8 million offer


The Portland Trail Blazers are not willing to give up on Greg Oden quite yet.

The team offered the oft-injured center a one-year, $8.8 million qualifying offer for next season, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo, on twitter. Oden can sign the offer (and well may), but just by offering it the Blazers reserve the right to match any offer for him. (While the rules may change in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with this transition class they will almost certainly still have matching rights.)

Basically, think of this as step one of the process. The Blazers can also offer other contracts along with the qualifying offer (hypothetically, say three years $12 million, so less per year to the team but more money overall to Oden, and if he does recover they would have him locked up).

When he’s healthy, Oden has played well and shown flashes of why he was drafted No. 1 overall. But due to knee injuries he has played just 82 games total in four years.

He’s injured again currently and while he is doing rehab he may well not be back on the court until January.

The Blazers had hinted before this offer was coming, that they were invested and were willing to pay again to see if he can get healthy, if he can get right. It’s not a terrible risk, if you’re willing to spend the money. Apparently the Blazers are.

Oden needs to be fully right before he steps back on the court. This comeback, this chance could well be the last one. But he’s going to get paid one more time.

Expect Roy to be back with Blazers. Playing all 82… we’ll see

Brandon Roy
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Chad Buchanan got thrust into the Portland general managers job without much if any warning. Without much time to plan or think about it. Rich Cho was unexpectedly out, he was in.

But this is his time of year, he’s a scout so the draft is his thing. He’s in his comfort zone with that, he told Portland radio’s Jay Allen on 750 The Game‘s The Daily Wrap (as transcribed by Blazers Edge). Good interview.

What caught our eye was this comment about Brandon Roy.

We all recognize — if you watch Game 3 and Game 4 of our playoff series — that Brandon Roy has still got some game. We are very conscious of that. People have counted him out but I think we all recognize that Brandon can play at a high level. Whether it’s for 82 games or not? I think that’s something that Brandon is still trying to figure out with his body and where he’s at. I think for our coaches and for Nate trying to figure out best how to utilize him knowing his health moving forward. I think we’re both kind of in the feeling now: How is this going to work moving forward?

What may be the biggest challenges going forward is getting Roy to accept reduced minutes, days off, taking some rest. He could be a sixth man of the year candidate, if he can accept that role. Roy is a competitor by nature, he wants to power through this knee problem (even if it is not getting better). In his head, he is the Brandon Roy from the fourth quarter of Game 4 against Dallas. We may know that he cannot sustain that level for 82 games, but Roy doesn’t think that way.

By the time next season starts, whenever that is, everyone in the Blazers organization needs to be on the same page about this. And make sure Roy joins them on this page.