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November 25th, 2009

Q&A with Trailblazers.com

What's good, Nets fans? As you recover from last night's loss, take a look at this Q&A. With the Blazers and Nets clashing only twice a year, we ran an exchange with Max Mandel, the Sports Reporter Intern at Trailblazers.com. He does a great job blogging over there, and answered five questions about the Blazers. I hit him back with five about the Nets, which should be up on the Portland site later today.

Be easy as you can.
--BC

NJNets.com: Greg Odens putting up 11.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 24 minutes. Whats enabled him to turn the corner this season, and how does he stand to improve from here?

Max Mandel: As simple as it may it sound, it is really just a matter of Greg staying on the court and out of trouble. With his size and athleticism, there are very few guys in the league that can match up with Oden in the post. The big key is that these 24 minutes are coming in consistent spurts, which allow for Oden to get comfortable and in rhythm with the rest of the guys on the court. Another key has been the acquisition of Andre Miller. As Oden mentioned after the game against Chicago, in which he scored 24 points, Miller makes him the focal point when he is running the point, and this gives Oden a ton of confidence. Also, Miller is a tremendous passer in both the half court and transition offense, and he puts Oden in the position to succeed with his great passing.

NJNets.com: With so much talent on the roster, nine players are averaging 20 minutes, but only two more than 30. How has Nate McMillan been able to keep everyone (relatively) happy?

Max Mandel: It's really a case of when the team is winning, everyone is happy. A lot of media have tried to make a big deal out of guys not being happy with their role, or being forced to come off the bench, but this doesn't seem to be the case with the team itself. Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan has great respect and support from guys like Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldrdige, and this team is really looking to get to the next level in the Western Conference. As long as this team continues to win, then guys will be happy and continue to contribute at a high levels.

NJNets.com: The Blazers biggest offseason addition was Andre Miller, whos gone from the bench to starting alongside Steve Blake and back to the bench. How has he fit in so far? Whats worked and what hasnt?

Max Mandel: Miller has been a terrific fit for this team. After having a little confusion in figuring out his role at the start of the season, Miller has brought a whole new dimension to this team. The one thing that Miller does so well is push the ball in transition. Since being moved back to the bench, the second unit has played extraordinarily well, and the catalyst for this is Miller. In Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Joel Przybilla, the Trail Blazers have big guys that run the court at a high level. Miller does a tremendous job finding the big guys on the break and also is getting more comfortable in the half court offense.

The main reason that Miller went back to the bench is because using the three guard lineup forced Brandon Roy out of position. Roy is the unquestioned leader on this team, and for him to be at his most productive, it's obviously necessary for him to play in a position that he is comfortable with.

NJNets.com: How has Martell Webster readjusted after missing nearly all of last season?

Max Mandel: After being a fantastic scorer at the high school level, and openly admitting that he never played defense before coming to the NBA, Martell Webster has established himself as arguably the best defender on the team in the absence of Nicolas Batum. Webster has great strength and athleticism, which allows him to match up well with some of the better scorers in the NBA. On the offensive end, Webster has struggled a little with his shot from behind the arc. However, he is a huge threat in the transition game, and seems to throw down at least one highlight level dunk a game. When he starts hitting from the perimeter on a more consistent basis, he will be a nice threat on the offensive end with the starting five.

NJNets.com: I covered Summer League two years ago for NBA.com and pretty much founded Jerryd Baylesss bandwagon or at least thought he was good. Whats it gonna take for that kid to get NBA minutes?

Max Mandel: As the leader of the the Bayless bandwagon, you will be happy to know that Jerryd seems to be getting more and more playing time. Bayless is arguably the quickest and most physically gifted guy on the Trail Blazers roster, and Nate McMillan has been using him as a spark plug off the bench towards the end of the first and third quarters.

Even more important for Jerryd is the fact that his decision making is continually improving. There have been many cases where he has pushed the ball into transition or into the paint and then made a horrible decision. However, over the past couple of games he is shown much better judgment for when to slow down and let the game come to him. As the season progresses, I would not be surprised to see his minutes and production increase.




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