Which team are these Blazers? Are they the electrifying youth brigade led by Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge that electrified the Rose Garden last Friday evening in a 101-77 win over Sacramento?
Which team are these Blazers?
Are they the electrifying youth brigade led by Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge that electrified the Rose Garden last Friday evening in a 101-77 win over Sacramento?
Or are they the inept gaggle of players who committed 26 turnovers against those same Kings on the way to an ugly 111-87 loss in California’s state capital Sunday evening?
Or perhaps they are the team that thrilled fans in the Rose Garden with a poised 109-107 come-from-behind win over Northwest rival Seattle on Wednesday (led by everybody’s favorite Blazer, Brandon Roy, who scored 14 fourth-quarter points)?
Since it’s the preseason, no answers gleaned from any of these games is necessarily the truth, but you’ve got to like a lot of what you see so far. Forget the fact that the Blazers dropped their game in Sacramento like Britney Spears trying to take care of one of her kids, because this team is going to surprise a few people.
Sure, Roy’s return to form against Seattle was a welcomed sight, but he was never the biggest question mark. Instead, fans who follow this team understand that solidifying the small forward spot has been at the forefront of coach Nate McMillan’s to-do list this preseason.
“We’re mixing up the rotations to try and look at different combinations,” McMillan said after starting Webster in Friday’s game. “Tonight was about seeing where we are.”
Webster also made the start in Wednesday’s contest, and it’s apparent that the first-rounder from Seattle Prep is making serious strides.
After a blistering performance Friday, Webster hit the go-ahead three pointer against the Sonics and finished with 19 points, on seven of 12 shooting. Webster also brings surprising athleticism, exemplified by a thunderous alley-oop dunk during Friday’s game. With Outlaw seeming very comfortable coming off the bench, McMillan might have found his starting three-man.
But that’s not to ignore Outlaw’s contributions to the team. He led the team with 24 points and had six boards Friday, and after a miserable night in Sacramento, he contributed 13 points and five rebounds against Seattle.
McMillan said Wednesday that even if Outlaw starts, he would prefer to give him minutes with the second unit, where Outlaw becomes a go-to player instead of potentially getting lost in the shuffle with the first unit.
“I want to start. That’s just me,” said Outlaw, after Wednesday’s game. “But it really doesn’t matter. Whoever gets the position, I’ll be just as happy for him as if I got it.”
Along with LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds Wednesday, the youth movement is well underway. The team has proven it can put big points on the board, something it failed to do on a consistent basis last season when the Blazers averaged just 94 points per game.
And it sure looks as though years of picking from the lottery will finally pay off. Roy. Aldridge. Webster. Outlaw. Jarret Jack: All of these guys came to the team through the lottery, and now they have a legitimate chance to help the Blazers avoid that fate for many years to come.
Oh, and next year there’s some seven-footer coming back to the team who’ll be looking to prove he’s not a just a gigantic bust. His name might be something like…Greg Oden.