After slump a month ago, shooting guard gets his groove back

It seems like ancient history, but remember Brandon Roy’s five-game minislump from Nov. 23 through Dec. 2, when mortal seemed a step up? During that spell, Roy was 18 of 68 (.294) from the field and 4 of 18 (.222) from 3-point range and averaged 9.4 points. Since then, he has been one part Michael Jordan, one part Steve Nash while carrying the Trail Blazers to a nine-game win streak going into tonight’s date with Denver at the Rose Garden. Roy has scored 24 to 29 points in eight of the nine games, averaging 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists while shooting .518 from the field. “We’re talking about a guy who, through a stretch of a week or so, couldn’t find his rhythm,” coach Nate McMillan says of the 2006-07 NBA rookie of the year. “Part of growing for a second-year player in this league is learning how to bring it every night. He got his rhythm back, he’s learning how to play against the double-team, and he’s just taking over games.” If he keeps this up, can the NBA just retire the Western Conference player of the week award and name it in Roy’s honor? • Though Roy is listed as a shooting guard, he is serving as a de facto point guard, handling the ball in the halfcourt offense, breaking down his defender off the dribble and creating scoring opportunities either for himself or for teammates. “I’ll take the ball after a rebound on the break, but if we’re in a (halfcourt) set, we want Brandon with the ball creating, and I’ll go spot up,” Steve Blake says. “You can’t play any better than he’s been playing. When he plays like that, it makes everyone else better. That confidence is running through the whole team.” After struggling with his shot early, Blake has caught fire the last three games, making 15 of 22 shots, including 6 of 11 treys. Many have come on set-ups from Roy. • If the Blazers get past Denver, could they run the skein to 13 games? The next three games, all at home, are against Seattle, Minnesota and Philadelphia — teams with a collective record of 20-55. • Most amazing aspect of the streak was the five wins achieved without the services of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers’ only real interior scoring threat (besides Roy on the drive or post-up). Roy has been all-world, but Travis Outlaw (16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds) has made clutch plays, and Blake, James Jones, Channing Frye, Martell Webster, Joel Przybilla and Jarrett Jack have taken turns stepping up when needed. “When he went down, it was like, ‘OK, we’re without LaMarcus for a week. We have Utah next. Don’t even think about the rest,’ ” McMillan says. “You end up learning something about your team you didn’t know you had.” • When Portland was 5-12, there were questions about McMillan’s culpability. With the Blazers now 14-12 and nipping at the heels of Denver atop the Northwest Division race, does he regard it as affirmation of his coaching skills? “No, because we still have January and February and March ahead,” McMillan says. “It’s a long season. Critics who make those comments, it will happen again.” • Jones went into the Toronto game leading the NBA in 3-point percentage, and even after an 0-for-3 night he was at .523 from beyond the arc. He also is 24 of 25 (.960) from the line. Maybe there’s a little Reggie Miller influence there. During his first two NBA seasons, Jones apprenticed under Miller in Indiana. “Reggie was my mentor,” Jones says. “He showed me what it means to be a pro. I’ve always tried to pattern my game after Reggie’s. I don’t have everything he had, but I’m a shooter and he was, too. A shooter can teach a shooter certain things. He did that for me.” • Blazer coaches and players often note that Jones is a smart player. Not a bad student, either. He excelled in the classroom at Miami, earning academic All-America honors with a 3.41 grade-point average and a degree in finance. He says he owes that to his mother, Jennifer Harris, a corrections officer, and stepfather Earl Harris. “She never got a chance to go to college, but she was my guiding light,” Jones says. “She was my inspiration. And Earl’s my dad — I owe a lot to him, too.”

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