Bloggers Talk: Portland Trailblazers

The Portland Trailblazers may have one of the savviest online fan-bases in the NBA. And a lot of that is due to the greatness of the Blazers blog, Blazers Edge. Benjamin Golliver on BE was nice enough to enter today’s Bloggers Talk hotseat to talk Nets/Blazers tonight. Be sure to follow him tonight, and any time you want Blazers updates and thoughts, over at his Twitter account.

NAS: The storyline coming out of Portland right now seems to be their stunning collapse Sunday night against the Utah Jazz. From an outsider’s perspective, the Blazers look like a team that knows how to deal with adversity. From your perspective, do you see the team recovering from this setback, or could this be the game that sets the season into a downward spiral?

This team has proven to be fairly resilient and it’s finally starting to get healthy, so I’m not sure there’s a huge concern that things are going to spiral, at least in the short-term.  If anything, I think the team is looking at this upcoming road trip — which starts in New Jersey — as an opportunity to stack some much-needed Ws, as 3 of the 5 games are against non-playoff teams.  If the Blazers don’t exit the trip with a winning record, or if Brandon Roy suffers another health setback, I think the urgency level will ratchet up immediately.  People will flip out, no question.

On the bright side, the team’s March schedule slows down some (13 days in 31 nights) and the quality of competition drops (just 5 current playoff teams) so there’s still some upside potential for this group although that feels difficult to type coming off back-to-back brutal losses to the Celtics and the Jazz.  With a healthy Brandon Roy (but no Greg Oden), this team is probably the 6th best in the Western Conference. Without a productive Roy it could drop as far as 11th.  So anywhere in between those two poles is still in play.

NAS: How has Marcus Camby looked early on?

I was joking the other day that the Blazers gave up playing with a healthy center for both Ramadan and Lent this year.  Now that Camby is here it’s time to gorge.

It’s been the fairly typical mixed bag play you would expect from a mid-season acquisition.  He’s looked lost at times on both ends of the floor and committed some turnovers by sending up-tempo outlet passes to places where the slow-down Portland guards were not expecting them. But he’s made an immediate impact on the boards (he had 18 on Sunday night) and brings highlight-reel quality swatting that the Blazers haven’t had at the 5 spot since both Oden and Joel Przybilla went down with injury.  Nate McMillan has admitted that he’s still limiting his offensive playbook when Camby is in the game but the hope is he will have all the information picked up sooner rather than later.  He seems to be a quick study and has been very receptive to coaching, his teammates and fans here in Portland already during his first week in town.

The big question on offense for Camby is whether he will be able to lay off his inefficient midrange shot.  If he can do that, he should fit well as he’s mobile on the perimeter and has shown the ability to set some good screens.  On defense, he’s such a big upgrade over Juwan Howard that it’s not even worth nitpicking.

NAS: How concerned are you over the long haul with Brandon Roy’s hamstring injury?

Long-term, not that concerned at all.  With a summer of rest, rehab and recovery I think everyone expects Roy to enter camp next year 100%.

If you meant long haul as in the rest of this season I think that’s one of the top two questions facing this Blazers team, the other being the inconsistent play of its role players (Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum).

Roy has repeatedly reported worrisome symptoms after recent games — pain, soreness, tightness, discomfort — and perhaps most disconcerting has been his regular statements about a fear of or concern about suffering a re-injury.  In a January game against Philadelphia he re-aggravated the hamstring on a drive to the basket, which caused him to miss the All Star Game and led to the last month of downtime. His play recently has been tentative and non-explosive, as if he’s concerned about making demonstrative moves with the ball in his hands because they might lead to another pull.

He did seem to show an ability to adapt to playing with the injury on Sunday against Utah, as he scored 23 points.  He’s really smart at finding ways to score that require limited effort or impact on his hamstring (face up jumpers, free throws).  But he’s been a shell of his former self right now on both sides of the ball. That’s obviously a concern as he’s the team’s franchise player and their go-to option in just about every 4th quarter.  Should Roy not be able to play out the season or only be able to play in a limited capacity, more of the offensive load falls to Andre Miller and Martell Webster, who have stepped up admirably at times this season but simply are not reliable scoring threats like Roy is.  If he’s not able to impact games meaningfully, this is a borderline playoff team at best.