The Mavericks will face off with the Trail Blazers at 9 p.m. tonight, and they'll see a refreshed, youthful squad that is very different than the Blazers of a few years ago. Known as the "Jail Blazers" for several years in the early-to-mid 2000s, it's obvious now that the Blazers are finally coming full circle in their efforts to start over and clean up their franchise image.
The final cog that helped that merry band of knuckleheads, Zach Randolph, was shipped out on draft day this year for what amounted to a bag of peanuts. They acquired Steve Francis (whose contract they quickly bought out) and Channing Frye, a young, slightly promising jump-shooting center while shipping Randolph off to basketball purgatory in New York, far, far away from rookie Greg Oden and all the other youngsters Randolph would have likely infected with his lack of hustle and defense had he stuck around.
That same day, they drafted Greg Oden, the piece they expected to carry their franchise for many years to come. With Brandon Roy handily winning the Rookie of the Year award last year and Oden vying for the award this year, things were looking rosy at the Rose Garden. Then the other foot dropped. Oden would undergo microfracture surgery on his knee and his season would be done before it started.
Now, they will look too develop their youngsters some more, with Oden always on the back burner and hopefully ready to play next season. Even without Oden, the Blazers aren't bad.
With LaMarcus Aldridge having a good season thus far, averaging 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks, they will have a player who is even more polished to pair with Oden in the post. Coming off a 30-10 game against the Grizzlies last night, Aldridge will be looking to repeat his strong night.
Brandon Roy is also having a fine season, averaging 18.4 points and 5.8 assists, and will be looking to score in bunches if the Mavs give him any space to work.
Quite possibly the most pleasant surprise so far this season is third-year player Martell Webster, who has been the Blazers most efficient and consistent player after two disappointing seasons as a seeming draft lottery bust. The Blazers had been getting grilled for picking Webster with the sixth overall pick in 2005, but Webster's 17.2 points per game thus far is helping quiet them down.
Their point guard situation is also decent with Jarret Jack coming off
back-to-back 20+ point games and developing into a solid player. Starting point guard Steve Blake is playing an efficient as always and provides a much-needed pass first game for some of the Blazers big men who sometimes have trouble creating their own shot.
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd