New wrinkle doesnt help Blazer offense
Zach Randolph is enjoying a breakout season. Damon Stoudamire and Jeff McInnis have had their moments. Matt Carroll seems like a great kid. Rasheed Wallace tied his career high in assists (seven) Tuesday against Washington in the Rose Garden, and he has dramatically reduced his technical fouls.
See, as much as Wallace blames sportswriters for Portland's 7-7 start, the media doesn't always point out just the bad stuff.
Mr. T (anyone who won three straight NBA technical titles -doesn't get to drop the moniker overnight) might want to look in the mirror.
Portland's offense has been stagnant most of the season. The Blazers rank 22nd in the NBA with 89.1 points per game. Going into tonight's home date with New Jersey, they have scored in triple figures twice in 14 games. They are shooting .433 from the field, which is above average, but only .317 on 3-pointers, below average. Even in today's offense-challenged NBA, those aren't pretty numbers.
Maurice Cheeks says he doesn't worry about all that, as long as the opponent has fewer points at the end of a game. That wasn't the case Tuesday. Cheeks has never used a lot of set offense in his two-plus seasons as coach, opting to allow his players to freelance off transition, pick-and-roll and post-up opportunities. Now he is installing a motion offense that promotes player and ball movement. It didn't get the job done against the Wizards.
'The main thing is getting weak-side action, getting everybody involved, moving and moving the ball,' veteran center Dale Davis says. 'When we do that, we are usually pretty good. When we just stand and try to post and pound it in and nobody is moving, our offense is stagnant. Sometimes, we are hesitating and thinking about things instead of just playing ball.'
Randolph has been sensational as a starter, putting up All-Star numbers (20.4 points and 11.4 rebounds a game) and eight double-doubles.
But Wallace, a career .503 shooter, is at .427 and is averaging 16.8 points, which would be his low since the 1999-2000 season. He's no longer the go-to guy Ñ Randolph now ably carries that label Ñ but 'Sheed must keep defenses honest by scoring on post-ups and from the perimeter. He had one basket, one rebound and three points Tuesday in 40 minutes.
And Bonzi Wells must work his way back into the good graces of Cheeks, who knows he needs the guard's scoring and forceful play. Wells is shooting .398 and averaging 13.2 points, hardly the All-Star numbers he set as goals before the season.
Wallace and Wells have to show up. If they don't, chances grow that for the first time in 22 years, Blazer players will be making vacation plans in late April.
Derek Anderson has begun water workouts and reports that the pain in his back Ñ diagnosed as a bulging disk Ñ has begun to subside. He hopes to be able to begin workouts with the team in the next couple of weeks and return to action before the end of the year. 'It's very frustrating,' the Portland guard says. 'Some days are good, some days are bad. Doctors say if it gets worse, it could require surgery, but I'm not doing anything to make it get worse. They told me it would take four to six weeks, but you never know.'
Radio analyst Mike Rice, discussing Portland's problems on KXL's 'Courtside Monday Night': 'We have some cancers on the Blazers. They need to go. They are bad for our team. É they don't have the character to really get after it and win on the road. It's easy when you have the crowd behind you at home.' Rice didn't identify who he thought the cancers are. He did say Antonio Daniels, allowed to leave as a free agent last summer, and Tracy Murray, released last week, were cancers to Portland's younger players. 'They were saying things like, 'We ought to be playing,' ' Rice said. 'You just can't have that kind of thing.''
Stoudamire says the Blazers miss the presence of Arvydas Sabonis more than Scottie Pippen. 'Pip's leadership was big, but we don't miss him as much as Sabas,' Stoudamire says. 'He was a passing big guy we could run our offense through. He was an asset.'
In previous seasons, Portland has always carried three able-bodied players on the injured list in addition to its 12-man roster. 'Now we have only 12 players, and we are playing and practicing every day,' Stoudamire says. 'Dale (Davis) and I were talking about that the other day. It's not like it used to be, where you could go to practice, work hard for 30 minutes and then tell a young cat to go in there and sub for you. There are no subs standing on the sideline anymore. You understand the situation and don't make a big deal about it, but it does mean a little bit of fatigue is involved. We just have to get used to it and fight through it.'
Twice in a week Ñ against Miami and Washington Ñ the Blazers allowed a guard to drive the middle for an uncontested layup in the final 10 seconds with the game on the line. Poor man-to-man defense, yes, but where was the help?