Pregame notes: Blazers-Jazz tidbits
No LaMarcus Aldridge tonight, but there are plenty of things to watch for in the Trail Blazers’ last preseason home game.
First, who’s going to score? I thought Nicolas Batum made the most of Sunday’s Wells Fargo Fan Fest. Not only did he get in a good sweat, he shot well from just about every spot on the floor. Batum, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews should play upwards of 30 minutes and someone in that lot will have a big game offensively. Again, I’m keeping my eye on Batum. Also, don’t expect Lillard to have to carry more of a load. Coach Terry Stotts just wants him to play within himself.
“He needs to play the same game. The offense isn’t going to change. We still need to run, we still need the pick and rolls in the game, we need to play in flow,” Stotts said.
Jared Jeffries is in the starting rotation for a front line with J.J. Hickson, but two Js don’t make an L.A. Stotts will not call any of the Aldridge-centric plays for the bigs tonight. That includes Joel Freeland and rookie Meyers Leonard.
Speaking of the talented but raw rookie, I’m interested in watching Leonard match up against 6-11 Jazz center Enes Kanter. Stotts believes all the Jazz bigs (Milsap, Jefferson) will be a good test for Leonard – who’s had trouble against Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and in specific spots, Golden State’s Carl Landry. So here come the Jazz, which will be the last bigs Leonard faces before the Oct. 31 regular-season opener against the Lakers.
“Going into the Laker game with their size,” Stotts said. “I think it’s a good warm up as well.”
I watched Leonard and assistant coach Kim Hughes near the end of their 45-minute pregame workout session. Leonard got loose at the end, attempting shots that he’ll never, ever do in real action. I could sense from Hughes, the veteran coach with gray hair, that he was digging deep within his wise soul to keep patience with the 20-year-old.
Lastly, Stotts on the state of the team as it faces preseason game No. 6 out of 7:
“It’s really hard to say where we are. We’ve gotten a lot of things in that we needed to get in, there’s more that we need to do. It’s going to be a work in progress.”
“After tonight, my staff and I will really have to hone in what we definitely have to have in going into the Laker game. I’m pleased with where we are but obviously, we have a long way to go.”
Stotts also noted the team is further along defensively, as it has not implemented wholesale offensive sets. Still, there are some elements the Blazers need to tweak defensively.
“The zone hasn’t panned out yet the way I wanted to, so we have to kinda get up to speed with that. Our pick-and-roll defense, I’m pleased with. Transition defense, we need to get more consistent with but we’ve spent more time defensively. It takes a longer, drawn out period of time to put in offense.”