Blazers online exclusive preview

What follows is an excerpt from "Inside The Blazers," a Vanguard exclusive online column by Brian Smith that will feature in-depth analysis of both Blazers games and practices, interviews with coaches and players, profiles and a glimpse behind the scenes of the Portland Trail Blazers’ ’05-’06 season.

With the Blazers’ record now at 5-7 (2-3 on their current seven-game road trip), it’s becoming more and more clear that this is a team still in transition.

After beating the Atlanta Hawks 77-75 on Darius Miles’ last-second shot, Portland has yet to find either a steady line-up or an outside shooter who can carry the team down the stretch.

One game, it’s Sebastian Telfair leading the charge. The next it’s Zach Randolph. Then it’s Miles or Martell Webster. Head coach Nate McMillan is still figuring things out, still rearranging, still plotting. And he deserves all the credit in the world for having this team at 5-7, when many thought they’d be 2-10. Yet consistency and dependability must arrive fast and quick if the Blazers want to prove that they’re doing more than just rebuilding.

The bright spots for the Blazers thus far have been the play of rookies Martell Webster and Jarret Jack. Webster, an 18-year-old baller just out of high school, who wasn’t even supposed to hit the court until mid-season at the earliest, came up with 10 against the Hawks and 13 against the Heat. He has a pure shooter’s touch, a solid body and he is Portland’s future. As is Jack, who has outplayed Telfair in every other game this season and he’s averaging five points and 3.5 assists a night in only 19.8 minutes per game.

Youth, youth, youth. It’s all that the Blazers have right now. But if McMillan can keep this team together, it might just be enough.