Will Barton: Showing Why He Was a Steal at #40

Will Barton, who the Blazers drafted #40 in the 2012 NBA Draft, was being called a steal at #40 by Blazers GM Neil Olshey and Owner Paul Allen, and in the final two games of the Las Vegas Summer League, he was able to prove that.

During the first three games of Summer League, Barton didn’t look like a steal. However, in the final two games between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat, he shined. Against Denver, he recorded 21 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists. Against Miami, he recorded 27 points and 2 assists. In the five games, Barton averaged 15 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1 steal a game.

The future looks bright for Barton.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

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Damian Lillard: A Man Among Boys

During the Summer League in Las Vegas, Nevada, Damian Lillard looked like a man among boys, and there is no denying that. On the last day of Summer League, he was named co-MVP, sharing the honor with second-year Memphis Grizzlies guard Josh Selby.

In four games, Lillard had averages of 26.5 points, 4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Selby, on the other hand, who played in all five games, recorded averages of 24.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Lillard even “out-did” a second-year player at the same general position of guard (Lillard is a point guard, but Selby is a shooting guard).

Look for Lillard to be a Rookie of the Year candidate this season. We still haven’t seen #1 overall pick Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets), as he is in London with the 2012 Olympic Mens Basketball team. I can easily see Davis obstructing Lillard’s hopes of snagging the Rokie of the Year award.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

Blazers Re-Sign RFA Nicolas Batum

It’s finally over. The drama that was the game of tug-and-war between Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn and Portland Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey is over, and in the end, Olshey won. It was officially announced today that the Blazers would match the contract Minnesota offered to restricted free-agent forward Nicolas Batum, which was rumored to be worth $46.5 million over 4 years, with bonuses potentially taking it to $50 million.

I say that the $46.5 million contract was “rumored,” for two reasons, and Olshey uncovered those reasons on Wednesday. The first problem with the contract Minnesota offered was all about the bonuses. It turns out that the league disallowed those bonuses, taking away at most $3.5 million from the contract. Secondly, the contract was actually not worth the rumored $46.5 million. It was really $43.5 million, saving the Blazers about $3 million to use in either participating in an uneven trade or in a free-agent signing. In fact, according to Olshey, with the signings of Ronnie Price (see last blog) and Batum, Portland still somehow happens to be under the cap limit.

In the first two years of his contract, Batum will make $10.7 million each year. In the third year, he earns $10.9 million, and in the final year of this contract, he will make $11.2 million dollars. With the high salary though, comes high responsibility. Olshey says that Batum will have to take on a role of responsibility and leadership, now that he is the second highest paid player on the Blazers team, behind LaMarcus Aldridge.

So what was with Batum wanting to play in Minnesota? According to Olshey, Batum has kept in constant contact with the Blazers organization, especially with Olshey, but the thing is, his agent and the Timberwolves didn’t know. Apparently Batum wanted to negotiate a deal straight-up with the Blazers, which Olshey also preferred, but Batum’s agent didn’t want that. Batum did want to go to Minnesota a little bit. His reasoning behind that was that they had a “set-in-stone” coaching staff. That means that the coaches were already there, in place. In Portland’s case, that isn’t true (I can write an article about the coaching search in a little bit). When the comments supposedly came out from Batum about his “heart being in Minnesota,” he apparently spoke with Olshey telling the Blazers that Batum’s agent and the Timberwolves set him up to it. Batum’s agent did what he needed to do to get his client the best possible contract, but he probably made himself one of the most hated men in Portland. Olshey said that the Blazers fans “should in no way resent Nicolas for this,” and I know that I won’t resent Nicolas for this.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

Ronnie Price Signs Two-Year Deal

It was announced today that free-agent point guard Ronnie Price would sign a two-year deal with the Blazers at the veteran’s minimum. He is brought in to most likely mentor rookie Damian Lillard and sophmore Nolan Smith.

In his 7 years in the league, Price has averaged 3.6 points, 1.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.8 turnovers. In his last season with the Phoenix Suns, playing in 36 of the team’s 66 games, he recorded averages of 3.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 turnovers.

After signing Price, the Blazers still have enough cap space to sign Nicolas Batum, who I can and will give an update about in my next blog post.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

Nolan Smith Suffers Concussion

Portland guard Nolan Smith was having a marvelous game in the Blazers second Summer League game against the Houston Rockets, to whom the Blazers lost 99-88. Smith had a near flawless game with 27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and no turnovers. It was all in vain, however, as he was hospitalized at a local hospital.

With about 45 seconds remaining, Smith drove to the basket, and a Houston defender Zoran Dragic came over to attempt to block the shot, as most people would try to do. As Dragic came down, his elbow accidentally and inadvertently struck Smith in the jaw/neck area. Smith ran into the basketball hoop’s support while yelling a profanity that went something along the lines of “Oh s***!” After hitting the hoop support, he took two to three “dazed-looking” steps before falling to the floor on his side. Teammate Wesley Matthwes immediately knew something was wrong and jumped off the bench, and Blazers Team Trainer Jay Jensen joined him. Doctors and medics attended to Smith for 10 to 20 minutes, before Matthews and Jensen lifted him onto a strecher. Smith was able to move body limbs (arms, legs) and was also able to follow a doctor’s finger, although the light was causing him great discomfort. Being in a NBA arena didn’t really help the cause in that case. He was also in a neck brace as well.

Smith was taken to a hospital for “precautionary” reasons and was diagnosed with a bad concussion. The good news is that he was released from the hospital late last night, but will be held out of the remaining Summer League games, which is really a shame.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

Will Barton

In my last post, I mentioned that two of the three Blazers rookies had gotten contracts. The one that didn’t as of then was Will Barton, but because of team policies, the terms of the deals were not released.

Barton was drafted #40 in the 2012 NBA Draft, although he was told he could go as high as #17 to the Dallas Mavericks, and that there was no way he would slip past #30 to the Golden State Warriors. When asked of how he felt of falling down to #40 in the draft, he said he had “mixed emotions.” He was dissapointed as every player would be if they fell as low as he did after being told he could go mid- to late-first round. He said the reason he was glad was because Portland gave him a chance.

When GM Neil Olshey was asked about drafting Barton at #40, he said that at #40, Barton was a “gift.” Apparently, owner Paul Allen wanted to trade up to #22 to get Barton, hoping he would still be on the board. Luckily, he didn’t have to, as the other 29 teams drafted just as Olshey and Allen wanted it to, letting Barton practically fall into Olshey’s hands.

Barton is a wing player who can rebound well for a guy his size. In his Summer League debut against the New Orleans Hornets, he had 5 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive, 3 defensive), 2 assists, and a steal, which I find to be good for a guy drafted where he was.

Until next time,

~basketball1367

Blazers Update: July 13, 2012

Today has been an eventful day for the Blazers. I can start off with the Batum problem I wrote about yesterday. Today, Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn took another step towards being able to offer a contract to Nicolas Batum. He waived former Blazer Martell Webster and participated in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets. In this trade, the Timberwolves sent Brad Miller and two future second round draft picks for a first round draft pick from the Hornets. Because Miller retired midway through his contract, Minnesota still had to pay the remaining salary to him. They took that off the cap by sending him down south.

Blazers GM Neil Olshey has been quoted as saying he has seen the signed offer sheet, but because it hasn’t been signed by Batum and sent into the NBA, the 72 hour timer Portland would then have (mentioned in last blog) has not yet started. Kahn is seemingly threatening to offer the contract to Batum, so that he can engage in what he seems to prefer, a sign-and-trade.

Today at about 3:40 pm PST, David Kahn spoke with press via video call, something he rarely does. Kahn said he liked Batum and he compared Batum to Chase Budinger, who the Timberwolves traded for right before Draft Day 2012 from the Houston Rockets. Kahn said Batum was the missing piece and that his 3-point shooting has improved.

Now that Minnesota has cleared the cap space, they need to wait 48 hours before they can even offer the contract to Batum so that Martell Webster can clear his waiver forms. It is expected that Batum would sign the offer sheet from Minnesota on Sunday at 2:00 pm PST.

In other news, Portland signed 4 guys to new contracts. This brings the Blazers roster to 14 including Batum. They signed J.J. Hickson to a 1 year, $4 million contract. Given the way he played for the Blazers in the final 19 games of the season, he deserves every bit of that contract. I believe Olshey even said that if Hickson played the way he did last season for Portland, he would have a spot on this team in the future. After all, he is only 23 and a half years old.

Portland also inked Joel Freeland, a power forward and center from the United Kingdom. He was drafted by the Blazers on Draft Day 2006, and has been playing in the UK for the past 6 years. His first NBA contract is 3 years, $9 million, and Freeland was quoted as saying that this offer was too good to pass up, and I see Freeland having a huge impact relatively soon.

The other two players Portland signed were rookies Damian Lillard (#6 pick in 2012 NBA Draft) and Meyers Leonard (#11 pick in 2012 NBA Draft). The details of the contract were not released. I would also expect to see Olshey sign Will Barton (#40 pick in 2012 NBA Draft), as Olshey even said the contract was guaranteed contract for Barton. I can write about the reason of the guaranteed contract to a #40 pick in the draft later, though.

Portland seems to have had a fairly positive day today, and I think the roster is beginning to fill its holes now.

Until next time,

~basketball1367