Shootaround notes: Pistons-Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan talked about a variety of topics following a Wednesday morning shootaround at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin, Ore.

Blazers forward Travis Outlaw’s surgery Wednesday morning to address a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot was successful, according to the team. However, Outlaw is expected to miss 3-5 months, which is much longer than originally anticipated. The timetable for Outlaw’s return now falls in line with Nicolas Batum’s, meaning the Blazers could be without both for nearly the entire 2009-10 regular season.

McMillan said he plans to stick with a starting lineup featuring point guards Andre Miller and Steve Blake for the foreseeable future. “That’s our lineup. That’s where we are right now,” McMillan said. McMillan likes what he is seeing from the first unit, but added that he wants Portland’s starters to push the tempo more.

Portland becomes a bigger — but much slower — team with Outlaw out of the second unit, McMillan said. The Blazers’ floor spacing and defense are also affected. Moreover, Portland’s finishing team is significantly altered, since Outlaw is no longer available to take and make baskets. Brandon Roy and Outlaw were the only two regular finishers who could create their own shot at the end of the game, McMillan said. So the Blazers’ coach will now turn to LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden, as he tries to find another player who can “make some things happen late in ball games.” McMillan added: “It’s a huge change for us, from what we’ve been accustomed to since I’ve been here.”

McMillan said the Blazers will primarily turn to Juwan Howard to replace Outlaw. McMillan added that rookie Dante Cunningham is unlikely to see much of an increase in playing time, even though he is slated as a back up power forward on the team’s roster.

When asked whether the Blazers will try to add a new player through a trade or signing, McMillan said Portland’s roster is filled with 15 players at the moment, and that the only way the Blazers could pick up a new player would be by trading or cutting someone currently in uniform. “We’re going to go with the guys we got,” McMillan said.

McMillan on Outlaw and Batum being out with injuries:

It’s opportunities for other guys. They’ve just got to step in and we’ve got to cover for those guys we’re missing.

On the Detroit Pistons:

They’re a very similar team to Atlanta. They’re going to play small with their three guards and try to beat you on the perimeter. They are a team that does a good job of trying to control the tempo and spread the floor and run a ton of pick-and-rolls with those three guards. Those guards are really good. Defensively, they play solid, aggressive defense. Their guards are very physical and play bigger than they are on the floor. And then they have a back line that can cover for them and rebound the ball. Very similar to Atlanta in the sense that we’ve got to take away the paint and we’ve got to rebound the ball.

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