In anticipation of tonight’s matchup between the Washington Wizards and the Portland Trail Blazers, SJ, of The Rip City Project, was kind enough to answer a couple questions I had about his team. Read on….
1) Portland is second in the NBA in offensive rating, but dead last in pace. Do you think the slowed down offense better sets up the young Blazers to get deeper into the playoffs? Or with quick/wiry athletes such as Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum (but not Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla), would you like to see the team get out and run a little more?
I think the slow pace is one of the main reasons why Portland has been able to find success this early. One of our strengths so far this season has been an ability to take care of the ball. At one point we were #1 in fewest turnovers and I believe we are still top 5. The lack of turnovers can be attributed directly to the slow pace. Teams that play at a slower pace will turn the ball over less than teams who don’t. Why? The fewer possessions a team has, the fewer times they can turn it over. Not to mention that Portland tends to be super careful with the ball anyhow. I think with our personnel we can do a bit of both. When it’s time to get out and run, we can get out and run. When Sergio Rodriguez checks in the tempo seems to jump up a couple notches. But I’m perfectly fine with this teams pace. It can be methodical at times but it is the type of mature basketball that tends to do well in the post-season. Can’t argue with results.
2) Speaking of playoffs, the Blazers missed the cut last year after a great start. Right now, they sit atop of the Northwest Division, tied with the Nuggets for the second best record in the West. Assuming that the playoffs will be a lock, what are your realistic expectations as to how far they will go?
That’s a pretty big assumption to say the playoffs will be a lock, I mean right now whether it be because of injuries are struggles…a lot of great teams out West are underachieving. Houston, Utah, New Orleans…I mean shoot San Antonio is on the outside looking in right now. Still a long, long, long road to travel but for the sake of conversation I’ll join you out there. Just know that if someone gets hurt or we don’t make the playoffs I will hunt you down Mariah Carey style. Pre-season I saw us making the playoffs as a lower seed (6-8). I think with our personnel we can match up with the majority of teams in the West. And really it would come down to which team we play. There is an ability for this team to make a little noise in the post-season. Realistically the Blazers could win a first-round matchup. And I can’t believe I just wrote that, I haven’t shaken my head this much since I read how Spencer and Heidi from the Hills got married.
3) Travis Outlaw…..time to start him or like him better coming off the bench? At what point does Nate McMillan succumb to inserting him into the starting five?
Travis Outlaw should definitely come off the bench. Don’t get me wrong he brings great value but it’s clear he can’t start for this team. He fits in much better with the second unit than with the first. I like Batum a lot more with that first unit than I do Travis. And while we’re on the topic of Batum, his play is making Mr. Outlaw more and more expendable. It’s clear that with every game he’s improving and his ceiling is much higher than Outlaw’s. Blazer fans pretty much know what they are going to get from Travis Outlaw. We know he can score, and when he’s on…watch out. But when he’s off….oh no. It will be interesting to see what happens when Martell Webster returns to the lineup.
4) Ike Diogu…anything to report on this guy? I know he’s dealt with some injuries in the past, but at one point, he seemed like a pretty decent prospect.
Ike Diogu is a beast. His biggest problem is that he cannot find the right situation for him. He’s battled injuries and poor situations. I mean Golden State with Don ‘to hell with post players’ Nelson and having to sit behind Jermaine O’Neal. Now coming to Portland where there was a pretty clear rotation of bigs (Oden, Aldridge, Pryzbilla, Frye). Ike’s an excellent scorer, he proved this in college and if you look up his game log’s he’s proved he can do it in the pro’s. He just has to find a team that will play him because the talent is there, the playing time just has not been.
Thanks again to SJ from The Rip City Project. Be sure to check out the blog for the latest word on the Blazers.
[photo source: flickr/IAAFOTS]