Same old song, different beat
TUALATIN, Ore. — No changes for the Trail Blazers Saturday night. Except, of course, for all the changes.
Everything is as it was before. You know, outside of everything that’s different.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he’s going with the same lineup he put on the court in the three previous games this week — starting Marcus Camby at center and bringing Gerald Wallace off the bench.
As for the team they’ll be going up against? That’s just going to be strange.
Portland (34-27) hosts the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday nine days after dealing them Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and two draft picks in exchange for Wallace. Przbyilla had spent nearly seven years in a Blazers uniform, and Cunningham was a locker-room favorite. So excuse the Blazers if they won’t be brimming with antagonism when staring down some of their opponents.
“I love both guys,” McMillan said. “This is a tough business…it’s like your kids leaving home. They’re both good people. I hope it works out for them.”
Patty Mills said, more than anything, that he misses his old teammates and looks forward to seeing them. LaMarcus Aldridge said his former co-workers were like family. He added, however, that Przybilla used to tell him that if he was ever traded away, he was going to shut Aldridge down.
But will he take it a step further? Przybilla is, after all, known for getting up in opponent’s faces, even upon the most innocuous of triggers.
“I don’t think he’ll do us like that,” Aldridge said. “He’s only been gone a couple weeks.”
But you get the feeling Wallace is unconcerned with how Blazers old and new treat each other upon their pending reunion. He knows a lot more people on the Bobcats than his new teammates do. Now three games into his tenure at Portland, Wallace said he’s beginning to feel more acclimated, but has plenty of motivation to elevate his game the next time he takes the floor.
“No matter what the sport, you never want to lose to your former team,” said Wallace, before singling out a television reporter. “You always want to write a better article than your co-worker, right? Especially he gets the raise before you do.”
But if Wallace is going to get the better of the Bobcats (26-34), it’s going to be in a reserve role — albeit a significant one. He confessed at practice Friday that it’s strange coming off the bench, not only because he’s unaccustomed to doing so, but because the flow of the game has already been established upon his entry.
Nevertheless, McMillan said that, for now, it’s in Portland’s best interest to place Wallace in a sixth-man role and “let him be the man.”
MORE MINUTES FOR ROY?
The man. Brandon Roy held such a title with the Blazers for years. Not so much these days. But maybe, slowly, he could start inching closer to something resembling that position.
Roy didn’t play against Sacramento Wednesday — McMillan adhering to the team’s decision not to put him on the floor on the second half of back-to-backs. However, that restriction could be lifted soon.
McMillan said Friday that he was planning on talking to team orthopedist Don Roberts about possibly increasing Roy’s minutes and/or letting him play back to backs, adding that the restrictions have forced Roy to approach the game differently.
Additionally, Rudy Fernandez, who sat out against both Houston and Sacramento this week, will return after battling a cold. The Spaniard said it was the first time he didn’t have his mom to take care of him when he was sick.
A PLEASANT SURPRISE
Aldridge admitted Friday that his recent Western Conference Player of the Month award was the greatest individual accomplishment of his career, that he didn’t think he was going to get it. Perhaps using pessimism as a defense mechanism, the power forward said that, given all the All-Star disappointment in the past, he just naturally assumed that this latest honor would elude him
He was aware he was in the running, though. And not because he was checking the stat lines of his competitors, but because Camby made sure he knew he was performing at a level worthy of the award.
“Camby started calling me ‘POM’,” Aldridge said. “He had me aware of it.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org