Notebook: Roy expected to play against Lakers

PORTLAND — Saturday could be the day for the Trail Blazers and All-Star guard Brandon Roy.

That is when Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he is “optimistic” Roy will be able to return to the lineup. If so, it will be just in time for a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Rose Garden.

Roy, who is recovering from a strained right hamstring, was held out of Thursday’s contest versus San Antonio.

He is listed as day-to-day.

Roy has missed 11 of Portland’s last 12 games due to the injury.

But the three-time All-Star was re-evaluated Thursday, and McMillan said the initial results were positive.

“He’s feeling better,” McMillan said.

Roy, who is averaging 23.1 points and 5.0 rebounds, is expected to practice Friday with the Blazers. A decision as to his status for Saturday’s game against the Lakers will be based upon how his hamstring responds to the increased activity.

“After talking to him (Thursday) morning, he just felt (he needed) another day,” McMillan said.

Paint problems

Portland’s recent defensive woes primarily stem from the team’s inability to keep opposing point guards out of the lane, McMillan said.

The Blazers gave up 62 points in the paint to Utah during a 118-105 road defeat to the Jazz on Wednesday.

The loss followed a victory Monday over Charlotte, in which Portland allowed a season-low 79 points.

But McMillan said that point total was deceiving.

“I’ve seen us in the last two weeks struggle defensively,” McMillan said.

Recent wins over the Bobcats and Dallas saw Portland hold its own against teams that lacked young, quick point guards who excel in driving the lane.

But losses to Utah, Houston and New Orleans all featured the Blazers being exploited by Deron Williams, Aaron Brooks and Chris Paul — three of the best in the game at wrecking havoc in the lane.

To McMillan, the fact that Portland does not have a center — Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are out for the season due to knee injuries — is not an excuse.

The Blazers are not playing close enough defense at the perimeter. And when Portland point guards such as Andre Miller and Steve Blake get beat off the dribble, their teammates are not rotating and offering help.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” McMillan said. “It starts on the ball. But the entire defense covering for each other — our paint has been wide open. … We’ve been able to do it. We’ve got to get back to doing it.

First to go

Asked prior to tipoff about Mike Dunleavy stepping down Thursday as coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, McMillan said he was initially unaware of the news.

But he quickly added that he was not surprised, mainly because the attempt to improve a struggling team
normally starts with change at the top.

“I’ve experienced and I know it,” McMillan said. “It’s just part of it.”

Dunleavy coached the Blazers from 1997-2001. Portland went 59-23 in 1999-2000 and advanced to the Western Conference finals before losing, 4-3, to the Lakers.

He held a 21-28 record this season while leading an underachieving Clippers squad.

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