Found October 31, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Rebound or Rebuild for PDX? The 2011-12 Portland Trail Blazers saw their fair share of ups and downs, and in a lockout-shortened 66-game season, they could only muster 28 wins. Needless to say, they experienced more downs than the aforementioned ups. However, Portland went in to full-on rebuilding mode at the trade deadline by shipping off Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace, axing coach Nate McMillan and setting themselves up for a couple of lottery picks in the 2012 draft. So while regression wasn’t expected at the beginning of the season, it was welcomed by April. The 28 wins were the lowest a Blazer team had won since the 2005 season (21 wins), and as a result, Portland missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2008-09 season. Much was left to be desired, and while change was on the horizon, many question marks surrounded the team and which direction Paul Allen and company would lead the Blazers. Portland’s Busy Offseason Terry Stotts and Damian Lillard are two of the newest additions to the Trail Blazers family. Photo: Associated Press After Allen put the team in the hands of Los Angeles Clippers GM Neil Olshey, and hired Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Terry Stotts to head coach, the Blazers‘ 2012-13 season started to take shape. Portland added Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard through the draft, re-signed swing man Nic Batum, brought over Victor Claver and Joel Freeland from overseas and signed veteran point guard Ronnie Price in what was a very busy offseason for Olshey and his crew. So now that the dust has settled on the offseason, will the changes be enough to make Portland relevant in the 2012-13 season? Let’s take a look. Roster Breakdown and Projections Portland returns just a handful of players from a season ago (LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Nolan Smith, and Luke Babbitt), and the offseason changes should provide a new dynamic for this year’s squad. Many teams in the NBA have begun shifting to a “small ball” approach when fielding a starting five, and Portland’s opening day lineup will be very similar to this philosophy. The starting lineup for the Halloween showdown against the Lakers should be very familiar to Blazer fans (aside from the addition of Damian Lillard). *Here’s a look at each of the likely starters, along with my 2012-13 stat projections* PG: Damian Lillard (14 points/gm., 7 assists/gm., 4 rebounds/gm.) Lillard was essentially handed the keys to the offense upon being drafted last June, and figures to see the majority of the minutes at the point guard position. Portland’s success may very well be tied to the progression and maturation of Lillard as a competent point guard, a position the Blazers have so desperately needed to fill for some time now. Comparisons to Derrick Rose and Chauncey Billups have been made, and Lillard’s arrival in Portland has been met with open arms and giddy anticipation. If Lillard can live up to the hype of his rookie season, he figures to be in the conversation for Rookie of the Year. SG: Wesley Matthews (14 points/gm., 2 assists/gm., 3 rebounds/gm.) Matthews burst on to the Blazer scene two years ago and justified the contract Portland extended to him. However, 2012 saw a bit of a step backward for the guard out of Marquette, as both his three-point percentage and field-goal percentage took a little bit of a dive. Matthews won’t be expected to lead the Blazers in scoring this year, but the consistency from the 2011 season would be a welcomed sight. SF: Nicolas Batum (16 points/gm., 3 assists/gm., 5 rebounds/gm.) One of Olshey’s biggest moves this offseason was to retain Portland’s French swingman Batum. Batum’s interest in joining the Minnesota Timberwolves was no secret, but after Olshey stood his ground and brought Nic back, he embraced the return to Rip City. Now that Portland is shelling out a 4-year, $46.12 million contract for the forward, he will be expected to shoulder more of a load moving forward. Nicolas Batum was a frustrating part of the Portland roster last year, and by season’s end, many fans were wanting Portland to end the Nic Batum experiment. Aldridge is the one true playmaker night in and night out for the Blazers. Photo: Associated Press Now that it’s back in full-force, the pressure to perform will be high, and Batum needs to prove he’s worth every bit of his big contract. PF: LaMarcus Aldridge (22 points/gm., 2 assists/gm., 9 rebounds/gm.) Aldridge, Portland’s one true playmaker night in and night out, is coming off an All-Star season and figures to repeat his 2012 success. For the last two years he’s been one of the best power forwards in the NBA, and is now seen as the bona fide leader of the Blazers. Terry Stotts’ experience with Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki will no doubt benefit Aldridge’s game this year, and word is, Aldridge will open up his offense and include more outside jumpers (easily his forte). Aldridge is in his prime, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Expect another huge year from L.A. C: JJ Hickson (12 points/gm., 1 assist/gm., 8 rebounds/gm.) J.J. Hickson won the starting center position in preseason, and coach Stotts has been more than confident that Portland’s waiver pick-up from a year ago will be a valuable asset to the Blazers. At 6’9″, Hickson figures to be out-sized by most centers he’ll match up against across the league, but he’s displayed a knack for being active on both the defensive end and in rebounding. Portland ranked just 25th last year in rebounds per game, so Hickson’s efforts on the glass will no doubt benefit the Blazers. The Bench Players After Portland trimmed the roster down to the required 15 players, the bench rotation started to become a little more clear. With Hickson getting the starting nod over rookie Meyers Leonard, the Blazers find themselves with a decent amount of size coming off the bench. Leonard (7’1″), Joel Freeland (6’10″), and Jared Jeffries (6’11″) should all see a fair share of time this season, with Leonard and Freeland getting the bulk of the backup center/forward minutes. Ronnie Price, one of Portland’s free-agent signings, should also see some run at both the point guard and shooting guard position off the bench, splitting time with Nolan Smith at either position. Smith, Portland’s first round draft pick in 2011, has showed glimpses of solid play, but figures to be just a backup as he’s no real threat to take over the starting job given to Lillard. Victor Claver, Sasha Pavlovic, Will Barton and Luke Babbitt all will see a handful of minutes here and there off the bench, but don’t provide enough of a punch to deserve a bigger role. Babbitt, who should be the eighth or ninth player off the bench, has shown his deadly three-point range in the past, but his prolonged bouts of cold shooting could drastically reduce his minutes as the season progresses. Depth is always a question for any basketball team, and while Portland does have a few recognizable names in their second unit, it won’t be their strong suit in 2012-13. Olshey has repeatedly said he is building for the future, and not looking to just win right now, so don’t expect Portland to be very active at the trade deadline if they aren’t contending in the standings. Get used to the current roster as it sits today; these guys will be donning the black and red all season. Season Prediction The Western Conference is stacked this season, and teams like the Thunder will look to keep Portland out of the playoffs. Photo: Reuters The West is packed. It always has been. If Portland has any shot at earning one of the eight playoff spots, they have a lot of work ahead of them. Sadly, with the competition as stiff as it is, I just don’t see where they can get into the postseason. In their division alone they face an uphill battle with Minnesota getting better in the offseason (even with Love and Rubio hurt), Denver added Andre Iguodala and should continue to play at the high level they were operating at last year and Oklahoma City is, well, led by Kevin Durant,so you know what you’re getting there. And let’s not forget that San Antonio returns their solid core from last year, the Lakers added Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and the Clippers might very well be the deepest team in the league with the additions of Jamal Crawford, a healthy Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler—and another season of the Lob City duo, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Again, the West is packed. I predict the Blazers to finish the season 35-47, putting them at about 10th or 11th in the conference, missing the playoffs by two or three spots. Even though they’d be missing the playoffs, 35 wins is a step in the right direction for Portland, and such a young nucleus should set them up for success in the future. Be Patient with Portland It is widely known that this year will be a struggle for the Blazers as they will not only be grooming rookies into starters, but also as they search for their new identity under head coach Terry Stotts. Wins will be at a premium, but this team is headed in the right direction after a successful offseason. No city—or fanbase—wants to see their team in rebuilding mode, but this process is necessary to ensure success down the road. Portland will be spending the next few seasons seasoning their young talent and gearing up for the eventual playoff run, but patience will be required with this team. The Blazers open up their 2012-13 campaign with a home game on Halloween night as the new-look Lakers come to the Rose Garden. Tip off is scheduled for 7:30 pm. CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!

Portland Trail Blazers decline options on Williams, Smith & Babbitt

PDX looks toward future The Portland Trail Blazers are in the midst of a massive rebuild, and as a result, a few of the young prospects on the team now find themselves in a year of uncertainty. The Oregonian’s Jason Quick announced nearly 24 hours before the team’s season opener that the team has opted to decline team options on Elliot Williams, Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt for...

Batum and Lillard lead the Blazers to season-opening victory

The Blazers came out with massive amounts of energy on opening night in the Rose Garden, and a balanced team effort led by Nicolas Batum and rookie Damian Lillard sparked the Portland Trail Blazers to a 116-106 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.Head coach Terry Stotts' team-oriented motion offense is a far cry from former coach Nate McMillan's plodding, isolation offense...

Episode 4 of Blazers rookie Damian Lillard’s web series “License to Lillard”

Wednesday night the Lakers face off against the Portland  Trailblazers. If you’re wondering who you should be checking out for the next generation of the NBA, Blazers rookie point guard Damian Lillard should absolutely be on your list. In the mean time, take a peek at episode 4, “Orientation” of his web series “License to [...]

Nicolas Batum throws down on Dwight Howard

When he’s not attempting to punch dudes in the junk during the Olympics, Portland Trail Blazer, Nicolas Batum, spends his Wednesday nights posterizing perennial defensive players of the year. Watch Batum take Pau Gasol to the hole and finish hard in the face of shot-blocking extraordinaire, Dwight Howard. Yikes! This jam by Nicolas Batum came with about 7:00 minutes to go...

The Portland Trail Blazers Season Has Arrived

The Portland Trail Blazers opened the season last night hosting their longtime rival, the Los Angeles Lakers. The crowd fed the Blazers energy early on and carried it throughout the night. A happy Halloween it was for Rip City as the Blazers held on for a 116-106 victory. A big key to last night’s game was the aggressiveness of the Blazers. I saw little to no hesitation in these...

Game 1: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers prediction & preview

Let the season begin The 2012-13 NBA season has finally arrived, and the Portland Trail Blazers are set to take on the new-look Los Angeles Lakers in their first contest of the new year. Matchup: Portland (0-0) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-0) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:30 PM PT Date: Oct. 31, 2012 The Rose Garden Arena is going to be as loud as ever come Halloween night, and the...

Improvement Is Crucial For Portland Trail Blazers This Season, Not Wins And Losses

It's amazing what a difference six months can make. It was just over six months ago when the Portland Trail Blazers played their last NBA regular season game. It was a loss at the hands of the Utah Jazz, which left the Blazers ten games under .500 and eight games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The loss also meant that Portland had ended the season riding...

Lakers-Trail Blazers Preview

The Portland Trail Blazers suffered three straight first-round playoff losses before their failure to qualify for the postseason in 2011-12 resulted in major changes for the franchise. The Los Angeles Lakers' famous newcomers, meanwhile, didn't produce a victory in their much-anticipated opener. The Trail Blazers begin their season at home Wednesday night against a Lakers...

All Eyes On The Future Of The Portland Timbers

In the midst of the fervor and hoopla surrounding the state of Oregon's two undefeated college football teams last Saturday, in the midst of the countdown to the start of a conservatively promising Portland Trail Blazers season, during the climax of the World Series, and hidden behind the looming disaster of a ferocious hurricane and upcoming elections, the Portland Timbers...

Nicolas Batum dunks over Dwight Howard, leads Blazers over Lakers (Video)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum dunked over Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard in the third quarter of Wednesday night's NBA game at the Rose Garden. Batum dribbled around Devin Ebanks and Pau Gasol before finishing the play with a two handed slam. Batum scored 26 points and 6 rebounds in the game to lead the Blazers in a 116-106 victory over the...

Lakers vs. Blazers: NBA love ‘em & hate ‘em breakdown

New Look Blazers take huge win in opener The Headline: with double digit points from each starter, the Blazers put up 116 points in this win to kick off the 2012-13 season. Portland Trail Blazers 116, Los Angeles Lakers 106 When: 10:30 ET, Wednesday, October 31, 2012 Where: Rose Garden, Portland Officials: Leon Wood, Tre Maddox, Bill Kennedy Attendance: 20,401 Love ‘em 1. Damian...

Trail Blazers 116 , Lakers 106

PORTLAND -- The Los Angeles Lakers may yet work themselves into position to be a bonafide contender for the NBA championship. They're a long way from that point now. Portland forward Nicolas Batum scored 26 points and got plenty of scoring help from his teammates as the Trail Blazers toppled the Lakers 116-106 Wednesday night at the Rose Garden. It was the second loss in...

Nicolas Batum dunks on Dwight Howard (Video)

While the Lakers have started 0-2, the new look Portland Trail Blazers scored their first victory of the season at the Rose Garden. In the third quarter of the game, watch as Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum throws down this nasty dunk on Lakers center Dwight Howard:
NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.