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Behind Enemy Lines: Portland Trailblazers

The Hornets continue a pretty rough stretch of opponents and take on the Portland Trail Blazers tonight. After the jump, Dave from Blazers Edge helps us preview the match up.


At the Hive: From what I've seen of Rudy Fernandez thus far, he looks pretty terrific. What are the odds that he could become the go to scorer for Portland in a year or two?


Blazers Edge: That depends on what you mean by “go-to scorer”.  He is all-world at moving without the ball and creating space for himself thereby.  He’s also among the best in the league right now at finishing the play when he gets the pass because of that space.  You can see it not only in his quick release on the consistently open threes he gets, but also in the alley-oops that Sergio Rodriguez throws him at least once a game.  (I think the latter is printed somewhere in his contract.)  However when you just give the ball to Rudy up high and say, “Go to it, young man!” so far the results have been inconsistent.  He’s not generated penetration off of his own dribble.  Taking tough jumpers has been more the norm.

If by "go-to scorer" you mean "favorite guy to pass to because you know it’s an automatic good look and probable assist" he’s already there.  But if you mean the guy handling the ball and creating looks for himself, that’s going to be more Brandon Roy or even Lamarcus Aldridge.  Even if Rudy did want to develop that part of his game, I’m pretty sure the Blazers would prefer his current style.  A ton of guys can score 20+ if you give them the ball and tons of shots.  How many can score 20+ while allowing others to handle the ball and only taking 13 shots per game?

@tH: A glance at B. Roy's stats indicates that he's been involved on significantly more plays than last season (29.3% to last year's 24.9%). Why is this?


BE: Simple.  To make room for Rudy (and because point guard is among the weaker Blazer positions) Brandon has been playing the point sometimes.  Even with a true point guard in Brandon gets plenty of chances to set the offense once the ball has been brought up.  The Blazers love the idea of an accomplished finisher who is also unselfish enough to dish assists like a point guard.  That’s Brandon.

@tH: People have been whispering it since his name was called on draft night... explain to me why Greg Oden is not the next Sam Bowie.


BE: Had Sam Bowie played for Golden State the comparison never would have been made.  The only thing linking the two is the fact they were drafted by Portland and have suffered some kind of injury.  Bowie broke his leg on a regular basis.  Oden had arthroscopic knee surgery last year and suffered a semi-minor foot sprain in the opening game of this season (which would also have been ignored had the knee surgery not gone down).  Bowie was known to have leg problems when he was still in college and that’s exactly what went wrong with him.  Oden’s own injuries (wrist, knee, foot) didn’t have anything to do with each other, let alone any medical trend.


In a primitive culture if the sun rose on the day you had a flood and then next month the sun rose again on the day a volcano erupted, pretty soon you’d blame both on that darn sun.  Then if the next day a coconut fell on your head…guess what?  That’s about as much connection as Oden’s troubles have had with any kind of curse or similarity to Sam Bowie.  (And by the way, Bowie played ten seasons and totaled 14,098 minutes in the league.)

@tH: In your eyes, what lessons has Portland learned from last season and been able to implement in the early going this year?


BE: The transition has been disjointed because the Blazers spent all summer and pre-season preparing for life with Oden--a major change from last year--and then lost not only Greg but Martell Webster (2/5 of the starting lineup) to begin the year.  However a few carry-over points are universal:


1.  Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge are for real.


2.  Unselfishness on offense helps everybody.


3.  Getting back in transition defensively prevents blowouts, which gives you a chance.


4.  If you believe you can play with a team on a given night you usually can.

Thanks a ton to Dave for his answers! You can check out my responses over at Blazer's Edge.