Feb. 22 Blazer page — Report card, Fernandez, Mills
Excerpts from this week’s Blazer page that ran Monday in The Columbian, including a weekly report card and a question-and-answer profile of guard Patty Mills.
Last week’s record: 1-2
Recap: Another uneven week for the Blazers.
Portland knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers 109-87 on Tuesday, starting its post-All Star break run in style. The same day, the Blazers made waves by trading Rip City standards Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw to the Clippers for center Marcus Camby. It was a promising start for Portland during its late-season push for a Western Conference playoff spot.
But the Blazers’ lackluster performance during a 96-76 defeat to Boston on Friday erased any momentum Portland had received from the Camby trade. It also brought up a major question: How long can the Blazers survive without a healthy Brandon Roy?
Bright spot: The addition of Camby. While the 14-year veteran did not bring down the house in his Rose Garden debut — two points on 1-of-5 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks against the Celtics — he should find a groove during the Blazers’ upcoming five-game road trip. Moreover, the simple fact that Portland finally has a legitimate center after going 26 games without one should be a serious aid for the Blazers down the stretch.
Low point: The first half against the Celtics. During the first quarter, Portland gave up 32 points to Boston. During the second quarter, the Blazers were outscored 24-13. All the while, Roy hobbled up and down the court, looking more like an injury-plagued veteran on his last legs than a three-time All-Star who received a
maximum contract extension last summer.
Rudy Fernandez: The 2009-10 season has not been kind to Fernandez.
He began the season plagued by back pain. He then missed 19 games while recovering from a microdisectomy. And the second-year guard from Spain has failed to finding his shooting touch. Fernandez is knocking down just 38.4 percent of his field-goal attempts, while averaging 8.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists heading into Sunday’s contest against Utah.
Take away a 5-for-10 shooting performance versus the Clippers, and Fernandez is hitting just 27.5 percent (8 of 29) of his shots during his last seven games.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan stood up for Fernandez, though, stating that is hard to evaluate any of Portland’s players because the team has been plagued by injuries this season.
By the Numbers
Roy’s average points during his first two games after the All-Star Break. Portland’s star guard was just 5 of 15 from the field, and he never looked comfortable on the court.
Roy’s total minutes during the first two games after the break. If there was one positive to Roy’s performance, it was his ability to play through a strained right hamstring and improve his conditioning for a late-season run.
Point differential between the career high-tying 28 that Martell Webster poured in during the win over the Clippers, and the four Webster was held to in the loss to the Celtics.
Game of the Week
Friday: Blazers at Bulls, 5 p.m. at United Center (CSN, 37)
Key matchup: Chicago point guard Derrick Rose versus Portland point guard Andre Miller. Miller has struggled this season against young, talented ballhandlers, and Rose is among the best in the league. The second-year guard excels in the fast break and half-court sets. And his ability to knock down mid-range jump shots while also finishing at the basket makes the fleet-footed Rose tough to defend. Factor in that the former Memphis standout is averaging 23 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 57.7 percent from the floor since the All-Star break, and Miller will have to be on his game to keep pace.
Key stat: The Bulls rank 25th out of 30 teams in average scoring (96.6). The Blazers are fifth in league in points allowed (95.2). Once again, it will all come down to defense for Portland. Camby should solidify the paint, while LaMarcus Aldridge and Juwan Howard can hold their own against Chicago big men such as Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. But the Blazers are vulnerable on the perimeter. And if the Bulls cross the century mark, it will likely be because shooters Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Flip Murray are left unchecked.
To win: Camby and Aldridge must play big. In addition, Portland will have to receive strong nights from its two main shooting assets — Brandon Roy and Martell Webster. The game against Chicago divides a five-game road trip for the Blazers. And while two contests (New Jersey, Minnesota) are winnable, a victory ove the Bulls could give Portland a 3-2 swing and new momentum.
Name: Patty Mills
Stats: 1.2 pts., 0.5 ast.
College: Saint Mary’s
Born: Canberra, Australia
First season: “Overwhelming, exciting — all those things. I was just saying the other day that this year, my first year in the NBA, I’ve almost seen it all. From trades to injuries to (the) coaching staff. And I think it’s good for me. And I’m obviously not getting to play a lot, but I was expecting that. And I’m … coming off an injury as well. So, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Come my second year, I think I’ll be a lot more knowledgeable.”
NBA compared to college: “It’s the best competition in the world. You’ve got your World Championships and your Olympic games with the best players from around the world. But every game (in the NBA), you’ve got to step up and play; you’ve got to be on your best game to win. And night after night — that’s the most challenging thing, I think. Great players coming up to play every night, and that’s a hard thing to do. And that’s why it’s the greatest competition in the world.”
Hardest transition: “I didn’t really get an ideal start into my first NBA year. So the challenge for me was coming off my (foot) injury and just trying to fit in and show myself, to not only the coaching staff but the rest of the players as well. And I think that’s been the most difficult part, to show to my own teammates that, ‘Hey, I belong here, too.’ ”