by Aggrey Sam
— No GreyTone on this one. We’ll be back at it soon enough.
— Before I start, let me give a shout-out to my boys Shaun Dumas and Ryan DeRousselle from Xavier University of Louisiana for winning their homecoming game vs. Wiley College in OT this evening. Heard it was a good one, and I wish I could have been there, but I guess this one made up for it.
— C.P. came into the game leading the League in dimes and steals, at just under 12 and a shade over three, respectively. One-half of the “Marquee Matchup” on the JumboTron, Rudy Fernandez (James Posey is the other half), shoots almost six treys a game. Apparently, that’s only good for 11th in the NBA.
— Most of the Blazers look pretty carefree during warm-ups, but not Greg Oden. He’s all biz and working diligently on that jump hook. Portland seems to have pretty good camaraderie in general and while their stars (Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge) keep the squad’s demeanor pretty even-keeled, they still look like a really good AAU team to me.
— The Honeybees took a step back this season.
— Ghostface Pryzbilla is getting a lot of touches early, mostly off drop-off passes, and is converting. A lot of Portland’s O is going through L.A. (didn’t Sam have a nickname contest for him a while back? Guess it didn’t stick), which is a credit to both Aldridge (quietly one of the best fours in the game) and Roy, who doesn’t need to touch the ball on every possession, like a lot of top guns in the League.
— I hear a lot of debate about who’s the fastest player in the NBA–TJ Ford, Derrick Rose, Rondo, etc. I have no doubt those cats are among the quickest, but when you think about who would win a race, some of these really tall dudes with long strides might fare better than you think. My point is, Tyson Chandler is pretty damn fast. C.P. threw a lead pass off a steal that looked like it was headed out of bounds, Ty galloped upcourt to track it down, gather it in and finish with a reverse layup. Some kinda Olympic event with non-Olympic athletes is in order, just like they used to do that Foot Locker Dunk Contest (who remembers Deion, Mike Conley Sr., Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Sanders in that?) back in the day.
— As my man Tone wrote the other day, C.P. still yells at David West a lot.
— Mo Pete with treys from each corner. He’s best suited to be that vet reserve, but who else is a legit two on the Hornets? You could say Posey guards a lot of shooting guards anyway, but if he’s cool with coming off the pine, leave him there to help out the Bees’ woeful bench.
— Rudy checks in about halfway through the period. Does that make Nicolas Batum the Portland version of Royal Ivey (token starter), circa his Hawks stint?
— Byron is experimenting. C.P. and Tyson are in with Julian Wright, Rasual Butler and Posey. I like it. Nate counters with Oden, Sergio Rodriguez, Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye and Rudy. Damn, they’re deep.
— In his first extended burn of the season that I’ve witnessed, Julian Wright shows he didn’t lose his aggressiveness from the end of last season. Mixed results. Gets a layup punched by G.O., then comes back with a pull-up over Frye.
— Hornets up, 21-19, after one.
— The Hornets’ Mini Drumline is only mildly impressive to me (although the fat kid in front did his thing), but still much better than their Junior Drumline I’ve seen in the past. Recognize these are kids I’m talking about. New Orleans made me a tougher live music critic. A year ago, they would have just been cute kids with a lot of talent.
— Hilton and Dev Brown are in with the second unit now, replacing C.P. and Tyson. Brown is technically at the one, but Posey and Rasual run the show more. Brown is somewhat of an upgrade from Mike James, but he has a habit of initiating contact with the defender’s hand the ball when he drives. That tends to lead to blocked shots. He’s not a point at all either, but he does hustle and defend, though.
— During a timeout, inflatable Air Hugo comes over to a Blazers fan, who smacks him to the ground. Mini Air Hugo somehow revives him, then Hugo No. 1 goes back to the fan and spits apparently debilitating silly string all over him. Elaborate, yet entertaining. I guess.
— Oden with a jump hook to get on the board. Practice?!
— Channing Frye is money from 16-20 feet out. I’d like to see him, Dave West and Aldridge in a mid-range shooting contest for high stakes after the game. Winner buys out Jannero Pargo’s contract from Russia or something.
— Speaking of the Hornets’ backup point-guard situation, Dev Brown gets a nice tip-in. In fairness, he’s making some plays…and turnovers. Just let ‘Sual do it. He’s not a one, either, but he’ll have a two or three checking him, and I know he can at least initiate the offense from my Philly days, when I saw him hoop at La Salle. Quick story nobody cares about: ‘Sual and my man Lynn Greer from Temple (European star, cup of coffee with the Bucks) played on the same Sonny Hill League team (big summer league in Philly) one year, right after Pepe Sanchez (where was he this summer for Argentina?) graduated. Lynn could always get buckets, but wasn’t a true point. Rasual ran the show for them and did a decent job, although he would sometimes shoot from the Owl logo (just inside halfcourt) in Temple’s old McGonigle Hall. Moral of the story: New Orleans needs a backup point guard.
— There’s no real rhythm to this game. Nate might as well free Jerryd Bayless! Gotta feel for that kid, although I can’t argue with his DNP’s on this squad.
— Frye is no match for West in the post. West is a master of angles, creating space and using a quick/high release to shoot over long, athletic big men. His rebounding, however, has been down this season.
— Rudy is a gunslinger. I overstand what Steve Blake brings to the table (remember how he used to frustrate Jay Williams in their ACC battles and run the show to perfection?), but that Roy-Fernandez backcourt has to happen sooner than later. Also, Trav Outlaw is looking expendable. Batum seems to enjoy that defensive stopper role, he’s athletic and he doesn’t need a bunch of shots. Plus, Martell Webster is hurt. When he comes back, I’m guessing he’s the designated shooter on the wing.
— There’s actually a debate on whether Peja or West should shoot techs? If Peja doesn’t shoot techs, he might as well go back across the water and work for Vlade or run a winery in the Napa Valley or something.
— Posey from the corner for a triple. He’s no Horry, but he’s making more shots than he did in Boston (and maybe Miami) early on this season. I underrated his addition to the team.
— Portland is unselfish, with good ball movement. Impressive for a young team.
— C.P. with a tough inside finish. He’s been solid, but quiet. I guess when I’m used to him getting a double-double or damn close to it in the first half, solid isn’t good enough anymore. Talk about raising the bar.
— Blazers hold a three-point lead, 44-41, at the half.
— Popcorn and cookies? Makes up for the subpar meal earlier. Almost.
— Can’t leave L.A. open anywhere inside the arc.
–C.P. with a hard in-and-out dribble to a jump stop and a floater from the elbow. As my man Killa back in Philly says, “Tuffff.”
— L.A., facing the opposing basket while setting a screen for Sergio, points out to the young point guard that the shot clock is at three, so Rodriguez makes a quick move and hits a floater at the buzzer. His only bucket so far, but he’s setting the table well. I like how he stepped up his D and cut down his turnovers after a rough rookie year in Nate’s doghouse. Feisty, too. Him and Ramon Sessions are my second-year under-the-radar point guards.
— Nate just had Rudy get up and sit back down twice in the last two minutes. Batum keeps changing his mind as he gets a little more settled in. Peja gives him some trouble, but the kid keeps fighting. I liked him a lot when I first saw him in the Hoop Summit game two years ago, and after seeing him live, I think he’ll be straight in a couple years, maybe sooner than that.
— These kid races are rigged, I tell you. Also, there’s a “Devin’s Dream Team” section?
— L.A. has the whole arsenal. I’m not saying he’s better than Bosh, but he might have more of that proverbial “upside.” However, Bosh has more killer in him. With those two, K-Mart and Kurt “Crazy Eyes” Thomas (and don’t sleep on my man Ant Randolph), Dallas is putting out some good power forwards.
— G.O. with an aggressive post move (jump hook!) over Tyson. He’s far from dominant, but he’s still a major piece (think of his role right now as Diop on that Mavs’ Finals team for now, with the potential to do a lot more as he gets acclimated; guess that makes Pryzbilla Damp) on a likely playoff team.
— Ryan Bowen hasn’t played all season. They extended him this past summer. Melvin Ely has barely touched the floor. Same deal.
— Posey with a trey and a pose. This will become a recurring theme.
— Hornets are up, 64-62, going into the final stanza.
— That scary, shaky, suspect second unit starts the quarter for N.O. Julian starts things off with a deep deuce off the dribble. I smell a trade down the line. Too many small-forward types. Peja, Posey, Julian, Rasual, not to mention Mo Pete doesn’t really have two-guard quickness anymore.
— The phrase “intense sloppiness” comes to mind right now.
— Posey with a great deflection and a steal while on his back. The man just makes plays.
— G.O. gets his first regular-season highlight, a mean drop step all over Hilton.
— The Hornets are using C.P. off the ball. Maybe it’s to save his legs, but he doesn’t get a touch on the possesion and they don’t score. Just get a decent backup.
— Posey again. Bottles up L.A. in the post, leading to an emphatic Tyson weak-side block.
— Posey with a three and a pose.
— G.O. is kinda owning the boards right now. Ben Osborne will probably say he doesn’t remember this conversation, but a little after he became E-I-C, I was in New York and he claimed Oden would be better than Dwight Howard. I still don’t agree, but health aside, I like where Oden is headed. You knew he’d be a defensive presence, he’s asserting himself on the glass, he doesn’t need a whole bunch of touches and he makes free throws. With Aldridge being such a good scorer, he doesn’t need to score 20 a night for Portland to reach his potential. And he’s such a nice guy that I feel like spazzing on the heckler who said he looked the Geico caveman.
— Posey pose puts N.O. up four. The game is basically over, but Roy hits a couple of triples to throw brief scares into the home crowd. Dev Brown and C.P. put it away with free throws, including C.P. trying to dribble out the clock, then attempting a halfcourt shot with 0.2 left to get three attempts at the line. Brilliant!
— Hornets win, 87-82.
— Talked to my homegirl Lydia Taylor, who keeps the peace in the arena tunnel, for a minute. Miss Lydia is a wonderful lady and y’all should check out her story. As Tone said, I do know a lot of the older ladies working in the arena. Seriously, she’s good people.
— Hollered at Oden for a second in the locker room. He looked a lot more at ease after the game.
“I felt all right, finally got my wind back,” said the big fella after his first career double-double (11 and 11, with four blocks) as a pro. “But I’d rather take a sorry game and win.”
“I’m getting there [back to himself], but I’m still trying to improve,” he continued. “But my old self would still rather take the victory.”
— I think the kid will be all right. With all the pressure on him, he really couldn’t be on a better team to deal with it. Those guys seem to genuinely like each other and with the Euros (Rudy, Sergio, Batum–more on him soon) and the rest of the youngsters, it’s a nice mix. And on the court, they can throw out a whole bunch of different looks. I don’t want to see them in two years.
— Make no mistake, Posey was the star of the show tonight. Nobody on either team had a vintage performance, but Posey just made plays. When the Hornets can get more depth (I harp on the backup point situation, but they need some post help, too), only then can I take them seriously as a contender–at least this year.