Light vibe at the Trail Blazers practice facility. Teammates overwhelmingly voted LaMarcus Aldridge as the sole captain. Ronnie Price went half speed through new offensive sets. And head coach Terry Stotts revealed how he, Peyton Manning, led the Denver Broncos to a 34-14 win. *More on that later.
Let’s begin with Aldridge, now weighing in at 262 pounds and ready for the season opener on Wednesday night.
“I feel like opening night is always fun,” Aldridge said. “I feel like I don’t get as worked up over it as I used to. I think now, I’m just ready to play. I think in the past, I’d be too anxious and the first five minutes of the game, I would be dead tired. I think now I’m just ready to play.”
So in this nationally-televised game against the new-look Lakers, the Blazers will feature several of their “1,001” new offensive plays. That’s the exaggerated count from Aldridge.
“That surprises me that we add a new play everyday. Sometimes I think there are so many plays that (Stotts) gets confused,” Aldridge said. “There’s just a lot of plays but it’s going to be good for us this year. We’ll have more movement.”
Aldridge later amended his unofficial count, saying the playbook has about 50 sets – which still may be a little hyperbolic – but to him, the new system may seem complicated because each play presents so many different options.
As Stotts explained: “Everything that we have in right now, we need. I need to be able to get Wes and Nic shots off movement and off pick and rolls and post ups. And I need to get the ball to LaMarcus on the elbow and on a pull out, and I need to get pick and rolls for Damian and I need to get Damian and LaMarcus ball screens. I need movement sets. And I like to have more than one or two on all of those.”
What the Blazers run on Wednesday, might not necessarily pass the test of time and still be part of the team’s system come April. Heck, plays inserted earlier this camp have even disappeared off the radar. So, it’s just another example that so much has already changed in Tualatin and the Rose Garden, and will continue to evolve this season.
Aldridge was rolling through his press conference until someone asked if the team had picked captains today.
“Uhhhhh,” Aldridge said, with a goofy smile. “I think we did.”
Then, he exited stage left.
Aldridge may not have wanted to reveal that he was in fact voted by teammates as the 2012-2013 captain.
And why not pick L.A. as captain? He’s easily the most individually accomplished player in the locker room (although Sasha Pavlovic started for Cleveland in the 2007 NBA Finals). He takes the most emo Instagram self-portraits and gets the national pub on shows like Jim Rome.
But he’s not the most vocal guy in the building.
When asked if he has a speech lined up for his young teammates before opening night, Aldridge scrunched up his face at the questioner as if the guy had just spoken Martian.
“No, I’m not a speech guy. I just go out and just play basketball. I don’t want to be one of those guys that go out and (all they do) is talk. I think guys are ready now.”
Stotts knows Aldridge’s personality is not fire and brimstone and that’s OK with him. The coach simply wants his All-Star to lead like his heart is in it.
“I want him to lead and develop his style of leadership. Obviously, there’s a vocal component to it but I think when you can lead by example and lead by getting the respect of your teammates by how you approach your job and showing the passion for the game and I think he does that. Players listen to him, I know that LaMarcus’s heart is in the right place. When you lead with the purity of heart, I think that makes it even easier.”
Stotts continued: “Jason Kidd’s a natural leader. He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. He wasn’t necessarily vocal but there’s no question that he was a leader. Tim Duncan is not a rah-rah guy, but he’s a leader and same thing with Dirk. I think sometimes people put too much emphasis on that type on what they think a leader should be than who that leader really is.”
Ronnie Price sighting
Price (sprained ankle) took part in very light half-speed work near the end of practice. Price ran the point while getting familiar with some of the offense with the assistance of Jay Triano and teammates Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton, and Victor Claver.
It was the first time that the media has seen Price on the floor with teammates since his Oct. 12 injury. Although Price did not participate in full-contact drills, seeing him on the court was nice progression.
“I’ve been watching the plays on the sideline and meeting with the coaches… going over the new sets,” Price said. “It’s different than actually talking about them and seeing them than going through them and understanding the timing. So yeah, just working on some of the timing of the plays so I won’t be so far behind.”
Price has his balance but not his full range of motion on the bum wheel. He still says he’s not “100 percent confident” to play today but: “I do think there’s a chance that I can get there Wednesday. I seem to hope so.”
Blazers think their coach looks like the guy from the DirecTV commercials
As is the case in press conferences with Stotts, a lot gets thrown at him and he usually takes his time answering each query as thoughtful as possible. So despite the fact that he addressed how difficult it is to defend against the Princeton offense – which the Lakers run – and even gave an insightful scouting report on newly-traded James Harden, the best highlight came when a reporter said that Terry Stotts looked like Peyton Manning.
It all started when Aldridge described to the assembled media that easy going Stotts can rain down fire on the team when he needs to.
“Screaming. Like Peyton Manning, but mad.”
“Hey, he looked good last night so that’s not a bad comparison,” Stotts said. “I wish I did as many commercials as he did.”
When Jason Quick of the Oregonian asked tongue in cheek if Stotts was surprised how easy it was to slice up the New Orleans secondary, Stotts didn’t miss a beat. He kicked out a few football cliches Manning would have, then concluded: “We just took what the defense gave us.”
…He’ll be here all season, folks. Try the veal.