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Behind Enemy Lines: Portland Trailblazers

Hope everyone had a good Black Friday. Today, the Hornets take on the Blazers in hope of extending the winning streak to 5 games. At the Hive spoke with Dave from Blazer's Edge for a quick preview of today's game.


At the Hive: Since we last talked, Greg Oden has gotten in Games 4 through 10 of his young career. How is he adapting to the NBA, and what are your early likes and dislikes?


Blazers Edge: I hesitate to use “likes” and “dislikes” because there’s a fair amount of weird angst among Portland fans and their impressions of Oden.  Some are saying he looks like a bust.  Others are objecting, highlighting his contributions and his circumstances (microfracture surgery, year off, etc.).  It’s become somewhat personal and “likes” and “dislikes” implies taking one side or the other.


Here’s the real scoop:  Oden was never going to be an offensive star coming out of college.  His footwork is rough and his shooting form is mediocre at best.  However he’s a beast when he gets the ball low and takes it to the hole with confidence.  His shot is starting to fall more as well.  He is hampered by his recovery, particularly in the area of lift.  That means he’s getting shots blocked now that should be dunks.  But he’s still getting an enormous number of dunks.  Ditto for rebounds.  He’s blocking shots but he’s slow in his rotations and sometimes picks the wrong rotation entirely.  He’s also fouling quite a bit.  On the other hand he draws fouls against opponents when he’s aggressive.  In short, limited offense but devastating to the extent it exists, intermittent defense, good rebounding.  For a guy who’s playing at 75% after one year of college and an entire year off because of surgery that ain’t bad at all.  I am encouraged by Oden’s play.  The raw material there is SO good.  But realistically it’s going to take a while to see the full results.  This season is a no-lose prospect for him as long as he stays healthy.  I hold on to that on bad nights and rejoice like heck on good ones.

@tH: From the looks of it, Portland has been involved in numerous edge-of-your-seat wins- by 1 vs Sacramento, by 5 and 4 vs Minnesota, by 2 vs Houston. What are the primary factors keeping the Blazers from jumping out to and sustaining big leads versus lesser teams like the Kings and Wolves?


BE: Well, we did blow out the Bulls by 42 and the Heat by 38.  There are two answers to your question, though, to the extent the premise is accurate (which it sometimes is).  First, we have a tendency to revert to jump shooting when we get complacent.  We’re a good jump shooting team, but while it’s possible to win with the jumper it’s devilishly hard to blow teams out with it.  Those shots just don’t fall all game long.  Second the Blazers are still young.  Officially we’re the second youngest team in the league behind Golden State, but if you look at the players the Warriors actually give minutes to versus the players the Blazers play it’s pretty obvious we’re fielding the youngest team in the league on a nightly basis.  Young teams ride on emotion and have a hard time stringing together 48 straight minutes of efficient basketball.  To Portland’s credit they’re far better at sustaining leads this year than they were last season.  But the Blazers are still learning that ruthless killer instinct you need to rise to the level of the great teams.

@tH: It's early, but Travis Outlaw's usage rate has declined significantly from 26% last year to just 19.7% this year and he's getting three and a half fewer shots per 36 minutes. Is he the kind of player who'd be affected by this and do you think he may speak out down the road?


BE: He may be affected, though it would be hard to tell.  Travis has been up and down throughout his career no matter how many minutes he gets and no matter what role he fills.  He likes to get touches and he loves to shoot.  If that’s not his primary role he’s being wasted on most nights.  In that sense the lack of opportunity is significant.  On the other hand he’s on a team crowded at forward and about to become more crowded with the return of Martell Webster from a foot injury.  Everybody in that bunch--Outlaw, Webster, Channing Frye, Nicolas Batum--knows the score.  Unless a trade is made minutes and shots are going to be tighter this year and if you don’t perform you’d not going to get them, period.  Either way, Travis is not the kind to speak out on anything.  He’s somewhat reclusive and non-confrontational.  You won’t hear a peep out of him.  His agent could speak up on his behalf, I suppose, but I don’t see the situation going on that long.  One or more of these forwards will be moved.