THE NBA Is Back In Rip City
After 149 days of being locked out, the surprising retirement of Brandon Roy and the not so surprising diagnosis of a Greg Oden knee issue, the Portland Trail Blazers returned to the Rose Garden to take on the reformed Utah Jazz.
As a Laker fan since an early age, it has always been hard to support the Blazers, especially with their epic playoff battles throughout the 90’s.
However with the loss of the Grizzlies and the Sonics, the Blazers by default have become my home team. And not to lie, but the pieces that Portland has put together over the years makes it hard not to be excited for the Northwest squad.
Blazers teach the Jazz the blues…
Although they lost Roy, the team added Gerald “Crash” Wallace towards the end of last season, helping fill the void, and most recently the addition of Jamal Crawford and Ray Felton, may be the piece that takes the team past the first round of the playoffs.
Through the power of the internet, my window has been split with the Lakers/Clippers battle at Staples and the Blazers preseason tilt against the Jazz. while it may only be preseason, the new floor general, Felton didn’t take long to drain the first jumper, sixteen seconds in.
Originally brought in last season to back up Roy, Wesley Matthews was a pleasant surprise, contributing an average of 16 points and 3 rebounds on a nightly basis.
With BRoy moving on, Matthews opened his season as the Blazers starting two guard flawlessly, hitting a pair of free throws, a couple of jumpers, a three ball and pulled in two rebounds during his first quarter run.
Finally in two minutes into the second stanza, Seattle’s own Crawford drained his first two points as a Blazer, kissing a shot off the glass as he drove through the Jazz defenders.
JC quickly followed his inaugural hoop with a floater in the lane and moments later a pull up “J” to give him six first half points, finishing the night going 4-9 from the field for 1o points and 7 assists.
While Wallace played just over twenty five minutes, scoring 10 points, 4 boards, 3 assists and 3 steals, it was Batum who posted the better stat line with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 dimes and 2 steals in a tad over twenty minutes.
What does that tell you in a preseason game?
It tells the Rose Garden faithful that the Blazers depth this season allows one of many on the roster to step up and fill in a role when called upon.
Opening up an eighteen point lead heading into the final quarter on route to a convincing 110-90 victory, the Blazers had the opportunity to get playing time for thirteen of their fourteen available players (sorry Earl Barron!).
For unknown reasons, unless it was to provide scoring off the pine, the Jazz decided to start aging Mehmet Okur at the power forward spot, instead of second year wonder Derek Favors.
However by the end of the night it became apparent that this would probably be a one time mistake as Favors decidedly outplayed his teammate, posting a double double (25 points, 12 rebounds) as opposed to Okur’s 2 points and 2 rebounds.
Although they were without forward Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson managed to hobble through eighteen minutes of floor time, the Jazz appeared to be far from the successful franchise they once were.
So what can we tell from a preseason game after six days of training camp / practice?
One of the negatives is the lack of an inside presence. If Marcus Camby, who has a history of being on the bench in street clothes and Aldridge go down to extended injuries, the paint quickly becomes bare.
, what fans can come to expect is a fun, high scoring team that is ready to put in the work and with a rotation that can go nine deep, the sixty-six game grind may not be as taxing on the team as it will be on others.
With a week before the team officially tips off their regular schedule with a three game homestand, the Blazers have kicked off the 2011-12 season in the right direction.