LaFrentz still can leap to action
- kerry eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
On the NBA
After Raef LaFrentz contributed six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots to the Trail Blazers' 102-82 victory over Washington on Tuesday at the Rose Garden, his body felt a little sore the next day.
'You're going to be (sore) when you go from not playing for a month to playing 19 minutes,' the 6-11 center-forward says.
LaFrentz actually had played two previous minutes in March, but you get the idea.
The 10th-year pro has the best seat in the house for every Portland game - from the end of the Blazer bench - but he rarely steps on the floor once the whistle blows.
Going into Thursday night at Golden State, he had played 223 minutes in 31 games, averaging 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds. He has played less than he did in 2006-07, his first season with the Blazers, in which he saw 352 minutes in 27 games (averaging 3.7 and 2.8) during an injury-plagued campaign.
'It is what it is,' says LaFrentz, a refrain he repeats over and over during a 10-minute conversation about his situation. 'That's really the approach I take. I work as hard as I can with the role I'm given. I try to stay in as good shape as I possibly can, but game shape is a lot different than anything you do in practice, on the treadmill or in the weight room.
'I'm trying to be professional about it. I'm trying to do the right thing.'
'Professional' is the word those around him use to describe LaFrentz, 31, and the way he has handled not having a spot in coach Nate McMillan's regular rotation. 'Raef's been a pro about it,' McMillan says.
'I respect him a whole bunch for the way he has been professional about what he's going through,' says starting center Joel Przybilla, LaFrentz's closest friend on the team. 'I've seen guys who weren't professional when they weren't playing. He works every day, he stays in shape, and you have to give him a ton of credit for that.'
LaFrentz had been a starter and solid contributor in seven of his previous eight NBA seasons. He had an 11.1-point career scoring average before the draft-day trade to Portland in June 2006.
Taken by Denver as the third pick in the 1998 draft out of Kansas, LaFrentz has the reputation of an excellent perimeter shooter (38 percent on 3-pointers) and outstanding defender who ranked second in the league in blocked shots in 2001-02.
In July 2002, after averaging 13.5 points and 7.4 rebounds the previous season, Dallas signed LaFrentz to a seven-year, $70 million contract. In November 2005, his last season with Boston, he sank 7 of 9 from 3-point range and tied his career high of 32 points in a game against Houston.
Then came the trade that sent LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and the seventh pick in the draft from the Celtics to Portland for Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and a future second-round pick. The deal allowed the Blazers to swap selections with Minnesota and draft Brandon Roy.
The only player the Celtics had in Ratliff's price range and were willing to give up was LaFrentz.
'It was obviously a salary deal,' he says. 'Anytime that happens, you never know exactly what your personal situation is going to be.'
The Blazers intended to give LaFrentz the opportunity for rotation minutes during the 2006-07 season, but the week before training camp, he tore a calf muscle, an injury that hampered him all season.
'It takes confidence away from you as a player when you lose confidence in your body,' LaFrentz says.
LaFrentz has stayed healthy this season but is behind Przybilla, LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye and Travis Outlaw in the battle for playing time at center and power forward.
'Raef knows Joel, LaMarcus and Travis are our future,' McMillan says. 'He's tried to keep himself ready by working out on his own, doing extra running on off days in case his number is called.
'A veteran like that can be a problem (for a coach), but Raef understands the situation. He's not in the rotation, but he's still getting paid and he has to keep himself ready.'
Actually, LaFrentz is getting paid a lot - $11.81 million this season and $12.72 million next season in the final year of his contract. That's more than anybody else on the Blazer roster.
'I'm making money,' LaFrentz says. 'I earned a contract at some point. Right now, obviously, my role is what it is. I don't consume myself with it. I feel like I carry on day to day as a pro, and I try to get the work in when I can. My opportunities are few and far between, but it's not always about you. I understand that.'
Does LaFrentz feel he deserves more playing time?
'That hasn't been my mind-set,' he says. 'If it had been, it would've torn me up. I see a role for myself in this league. Whether it's here or not, who knows? These last two years … I don't think I have unrealistic expectations. I'm not a dumb individual. I've tried to fill a role as good as I know how.'
LaFrentz won't seek a trade during the offseason.
'I'm not going to go there,' he says. 'You're talking to the wrong guy. I'm not going to light fires. I'm not going to make demands. I'm not here to rock a boat. If they choose to move me, that's for the front office to decide. That's what they get paid to do.'
• Przybilla went into the Golden State game with 56 rebounds in his previous three games, including the 26-board performance against the Clippers that tied a franchise single-game, nonovertime record.
'It happens once in a while, where every rebound just seems to land in your hands,' says Przybilla, who believes he never had that many in a game while in high school or college. 'I didn't realize how many I had until the fourth quarter, when Raef and (assistant coach Maurice Lucas) were whispering in my ear about it. They were telling me to go get the record.'
• The Blazers flew from Los Angeles to Seattle and spent some time at owner Paul Allen's Mercer Island (Wash.) estate. They practiced on his private basketball court, swam in his pool and dined with one of the world's richest men.
Two years ago, Allen invited the team to his home to practice but wasn't there. This time he was there and took them on a personal tour of the grounds.
'It's an amazing (basketball) court, enclosed by glass, with a swimming pool underneath,' Jarrett Jack says. 'You can look out the glass and see the pool downstairs. Some guys jumped off his platform (diving board) and went down his slide.
'We had dinner on the tennis court - some amazing food, too. Shrimp, steak - anything you can name, they had it. It was really neat.'
'For our players to see how a billionaire lives - it's different than a millionaire,' McMillan says. 'The whole thing was great. It felt like family, it really did.'