If ever there was a reason for an NBA team to be disappointed, the loss
of top draft pick Greg Oden for the season would have to be at the top
of the list. The Portland Trailblazers, who held the No. 1 draft pick
in the 2007 NBA Draft, selected Ohio State star Greg Oden, only to see
their potential glory season hopes dashed by season-ending knee surgery.
Billed as the type of player you could build a championship team around,
Oden averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds last season as a freshman at
Ohio State, and lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game, scoring
25 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the loss to Florida.
Oden underwent microfracture surgery after having an exploratory procedure
on his right knee which had been giving him chronic pain. Full recovery
likely will take six to 12 months, the team said.
Sure, the loss of a potential superstar is huge, but the Blazers don't
have any regrets. "We picked the right kid; he cares about his organization.
And I can't [overemphasize] how bad he felt, and not because he had to
go through the rehab and all that, but because he felt like he let us down," GM
Kevin Pritchard told ESPN.com. "And he hasn't let us down at all."
Despite their disappointment, the Blazers insist all is not lost.
Portland expects extremely tough competition for at least four of
the starting spots, with forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge being the only
certainty. They also have the last season's Rookie of the Year in Brandon
Roy, a promising young talent who could become a franchise player. Portland
also traded Zach Randolph to the Knicks for Channing Frye, and picked
up guards Steve Blake and Taurean Green in the offseason.
Jarrett Jack, who started 79 games at point guard last season will be pushed
in training camp by free agent pickup Steve Blake. Jack is one of the most
well-liked players on the team, but is also said to be highly emotional. "Oh
yeah. Jarrett would definitely be mad, oh yeah, because he started all season
last year," head coach Nate McMillan told The Oregonian
I would be concerned if he wasn't. I want that fire… He knows he has to come
in and earn that position, and with the signing of Steve he realizes, more
so, that we were serious about improving that position."
Shooting guard Brandon Roy, who had a stellar rookie season last year, will
have to deal with the pressures of being the target of defenses. "This
year is going to be a challenge for Brandon," said McMillan. “Last year, I
don't want to say he was a surprise, but now, people know him, there's a respect
there. There's a lot of talk around the league, people saying 'Boy, that Brandon
Roy, he's nice.' So, for a player like that, he will see something different
because teams will prepare for him differently.
Despite the colossal loss of Oden, the Blazers have depth in their frontcourt.
James Jones, Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster will all compete for the small
forward spot at training camp. LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Pryzbilla and Channing
Frye will likely share time at power forward and center. If Raef LaFrenz can
stay healthy he could see time off the bench as well. Darius Miles, who has
had surgery on both knees, says he will be ready for a comeback by November or
McMillan would like to see more aggressiveness out of Aldrige and Frye, especially
going hard to the rim. "They are very similar in the fact that they are
both comfortable shooting from the outside," he told The
Oregonian. “They both
like to face-up and shoot. But I want them both to work on attacking the basket.
We don't want them shying away from the paint. With Greg being gone, they both
have to establish their presence in the paint and get to the free throw line."
-- Jeff Brody
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As a proven scorer at the University of Texas two years ago, LaMarcus Aldrige
could feel added pressure to fill in the offensive loss of Zach Randolph. "There
is pressure on LaMarcus," Head Coach Nate McMillan told The
because some people are looking at him as he is replacing Zach.
That was cool when Greg (Oden) was here, but now that Greg is gone and Zach
is gone, there is added pressure for him to deliver, and in a big way. We all
think he is capable, but he just lost two pieces that would have allowed him
to do it slowly. But I think a double double is something he should shoot for
-- (Kevin) Garnett-type numbers."
To achieve that, he will have to play more minutes and get more touches.
Aldridge averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 RPG as a rookie last season, in slightly
over 22 minutes per game. His season was cut slightly short in late March
after he experienced a rapid heartbeat which was found to be caused by Wolff-Parkinson-White
Syndrome. The condition was treated and not considered to be career-threatening.
-- Jeff Brody
||In the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trailblazers overcame the odds and won the NBA Draft Lottery with only a 5.3% chance of doing so. They drafted center Greg Oden, whose season ended before it began.
Eighth season, Third with Blazers
Twice, 8-8 (.500)
Nate McMillan plans to use a nine-man rotation this season, with a possible
tenth man to see limited minutes. With heavy competition for starting spots
in training camp, McMillan's goal is to get players to understand starting
isn't the most important thing.
"The best five are not necessarily the starters," McMillan told
The Oregonian. "But with a lot of guys, it's about status. The bottom
line for me is to come up with a group that starts and a complimentary second
unit, because the second unit is just as important, if not more, than the first
For McMillan, performance will determine the rotation, not any pre-determined
scheme. "If I give you that shot to finish the game," he continued, “you
better take advantage of it. If I give you that shot, and you blow it, you
miss it or you turn it over, then we are going to somebody else."
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR BLAZERS
Raef LaFrentz was named after a character in the 1969 movie "Home From the Hill."
That is a really sad story, to have that injury.
They have great young talent. I like the guys they drafted last year, Aldridge and the kid from Washington. I like Jarrett Jack.
Joel Przybilla has really come into his own the past few years and now it looks like he will be the starting center. They picked up Channing Frye from the Knicks.
Are they a playoff team? Probably not, but even without Oden I think they will have improved off last year.
I think Nate's experience and his toughness will help young guys like that, making them develop defensively and offensively. He realizes they are a young team and I am sure he knows not to put too much pressure on them, just try to get them to grow.
-- NBA Scout