Friday, September 5, 2008

Newcomers: Rudy Fernandez

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy! If all the pre-Olympic hype and Olympic play were any indication Blazer fans will be chanting Rudy Fernandez's name many times this upcoming season. I was slightly skeptical before the Olympics as the only evidence of his game were Youtube video highlights. While they were impressive they fail to add any substance to the flair of his game. After watching him play in the Olympics though it is apparent he is a special player.

Rudy's game reminds me most of that of former Trail Blazer's Jerome Kersey, that is if Jerome could hit the 3. The constant movement that Rudy plays with is very reminiscent of the hustle Kersey brought every game. When the game was on the line it wasn't one of the Gasol brothers, or Jose Calderon that Spain went to, they put the ball in the hands of Fernandez and let him create. He will be instant offense coming off the bench for the Blazers this year and is a sure fire bet to bring energy and tenacity, two things that are key for 2nd unit guys. He wasn't one of those players that need a few minutes to get into the groove, he's ready to play the second his feet are on the court. The biggest asset Rudy will bring this year is a feel for the moment. He can raise it up a notch when the moment calls for it, a lot of players can't do this. He looks like another guy who fiercely wants to win and I see him getting a lot of 4th quarter minutes. Just look what he did in the last few minutes of the gold medal game, over Dwight Howard mind you; I expect him having some highlights in that season opener in L.A.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Newcomers: Ike Diogu

Ike Diogu is already being thought of as a bust after failing to live up to expectations of being a lottery pick by the Golden State Warriors. Truth is Diogu is a player that has been hampered by injuries and a lack of playing time in his first three seasons in the league. After leaving Arizona State for the NBA at the conclusion of his Junior year Ike left as the only player in Pac-10 history to lead the conference in points, rebounding, and blocks. Garnering Pac-10 player of the year honors, (not necessary a tell-tale sign of NBA success, see Sam Clancy) he seemed tailor-made for the NBA. Now after 3 years in the league and two trades you have to wonder why a lottery pick has been traded so many times. Work ethic may be a factor, the team's system as well. He wasn't suited for Don Nelson's style of run and gun offense and Indiana was in a state of turmoil during his time there. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career and could play in a role in explaining why Ike hasn't shown nearly the skills he had during his collegiate career.

On the Blazers he will fill a much needed void coming off the bench. Last year one of the biggest weaknesses the Blazers had was rebounding, specifically on the defensive end. Being able to bring in Pryzbilla and Ike to hold down the low post will be a dramatic step up from last season when the Blazers commonly went small with the second unit many times having Travis Outlaw play the 4 and Channing Frye at the 5. Now the options for McMillion will be greatly improved with how he wants to go with the 2nd unit. Diogu is probably already the Blazers second best player behind Lamarcus Aldridge as their back to the basket low post scorer. His minutes will be limited to start, but if Ike can get a scoring groove on the low post and rebound strongly he may end up playing 4th quarter minutes at the 5 if Oden see's foul trouble, or if the Blazers need more scoring. The potential for success is there for Ike, we'll have to see if he responds to his third shot on an NBA team.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Newcomers: Jerryd Bayless

On draft night the Blazers parted ways with up and down point guard Jarret Jack and drafted combo guard Jerryd Bayless. Bayless played only one season at Arizona before declaring for the NBA draft. While his college numbers do not scream starting pg in the NBA (4 to 3 on the assist to turnover ratio) a closer look is more telling in the role he will play on the Blazers. Averaging 19 points a game is great for a freshman in the Pac-10, and more importantly getting to the free throw line 7 times a game.

Getting to the line is one of those stats that playoff teams thrive on. Bayless proved in the Summer League he is not afraid to attack the rim averaging an unheard of 15 fta a game. Watching a few of these games it became apparent that his game is more suited to the NBA style. Defenders will have a hard time guarding him and the more spread out play and larger courts are only going to strengthen his strong points. As long as he doesn't fall in love with the 3 point shot Bayless should be a hard player to stop. His biggest fault seems to be his passing ability but with many young non-pure point guards it will be something he will learn as he goes along.

Defensively he is quick but gambles a lot. His physical skills all point to him being able to become a very solid defender, mostly it will be his dedication to this that will come into question. Playing for coach Nate McMillan if his defense isn't up to par he won't get the minutes he wants (just ask Sergio Rodriguez).

The untangibles are what is most impressive about Bayless. He wanted to win, and he wanted to win badly in those summer league games, and yeah they are just summer league games so that tells you something about him. Against Phoenix he took it upon himself to get the win, and this fearlessness is not something that many players have. A player that looks like he loves playing and more importantly, winning, is one that is coachable. With the team he is heading into he should bring a more consistant energy and tenacity that Jarret Jack couldn't bring with the 2nd unit. Don't be surprised to find Bayless starting come playoff time though, as Steve Blake is more suited as a backup PG that can bring a calming and veteran presence with the 2nd unit that will be sorely lacking such.

Trail Blazers Summer '08: Foreshadow of the greatness to come?

In Blazer land the offseason has done nothing but add fuel to the fire that is the optimism heading into the 2008-2009 season. A more in depth look at the Blazers new editions will be short coming but first a quick glance at what the summer held in Blazer land;

Starting on draft night The Trade Master (Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard) wheeled and dealed his way into Jerryd Bayless, Nikolaus Batum, and Ike Diogu. Bayless quickly showed heart, skill, and a desire to win in the Blazers summer camp games in Las Vegas where he earned MVP honors. Word is still out on Batum who physically looks like T-Mac but many also said the same of former Pacer Jonathan Bender, too soon to pass judgement on the young frenchman but the tools are their. Diogu was a beast in college but has failed to live up to the high expectations that surrounded him when he entered the league. Regardless of his up and down career Ike will provide a low post scoring presence coming off the bench the Blazers sorely missed last year.

The Greg Oden rehab watch has seen him graduate to full contact practices by the end of August. While many cynics have all but written GO off as another injury prone big man that will fail to live up to heaven high expectations, we Blazer Believers are keeping our mouths closed but they are closed with sly smiles. If Oden can defend the paint, and thats all the Blazers need him to do at this point, his addition will be surprisingly impactful. Oden is a defensive force playing for a defensive minded coach, a combo for success.

Rudy Mania. Rudy Fernandez came into the Olympics known only to the die hard Blazer fans and the Spanish. He left the Olympics as the next word out of everyone's mouths after Redeem Team.

B. Roy's knee durability came into question after a minor surgery to repair a faulty meniscus. He looks ready to start the season and the rest during the preseason may turn out to be a good thing. The thing about Roy is his game isn't built on his outright speed or physical dominance. He out thinks his opponents and even as he will lose a step or two over the years, players like him learn new tricks to get their shots off.

Overall training camp can't get started soon enough, for us fans and for the Blazers themselves. Sounds like all but a few have already shown up in Portland and started practicing.