Blazers looking ahead with Roy in the lineup

Team counting on All-Star guard being in training camp

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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PORTLAND — The questions have been asked since the lockout ended: Will the Trail Blazers keep Brandon Roy? Or will they use the Amnesty Clause to release him?

But this is a new one. Will Brandon Roy ... return to the starting lineup?

That was what Blazers coach Nate McMillan hinted at Monday, when he met with the media alongside acting general manager Chad Buchanan and team president Larry Miller.

After Buchanan and Miller said several times that they expect Roy to be at the practice facility when training camp opens Friday, and that there has been no decision regarding his release, a reporter asked McMillan if he would consider starting Nicolas Batum.

This was his response.

“One of the things that you have to look at is Brandon going back into that starting lineup. That’s something you didn’t see last year due to medical reasons. Brandon is feeling better so Brandon back at the two position is something that I’m leaning towards and making our adjustments from that.”

McMillan, Roy and Buchanan met with Roy on Monday and said they were encouraged by the discussion.

Buchanan said that Roy communicated to him that his knee feels much stronger than it did at this point last year. Miller added that Roy “absolutely” said all the right things, including a willingness to come off the bench.

And while McMillan said that he was “leaning” toward starting Brandon, he acknowledged that there is no way to forecast Roy’s health.

Greg Oden, as has been the case the past few preseasons, was also a major talking point.

As it stands, Oden has the option of accepting a 1-year $8.8 million qualifying offer with the Blazers, which would make him a restricted free agent. If he chooses to do so, the Blazers would have the ability to match any other team’s offer.

Yahoo Sports recently reported that Oden is likely to take the qualifying offer, but Buchanan indicated Monday that the team would like to see the 7-footer for many years to come.

“We view Greg as a big piece of our organization going forward. We’ve shown a lot of commitment to Greg both on and off the court and I think Greg feels like he has some unfinished business here,” said Buchanan, adding that Oden has not yet been cleared to play and is not expected to be at the practice facility when camp opens.

“Long-term, we’ve talked about a lot of different things with his agent, exploring all options at this point, obviously Greg has options to be considered as do we. I think Greg is at a good place mentally right now.”

Buchanan also said that the team has begun discussing a contract extension for Batum with his agent, adding that, like Oden, the Frenchman is viewed as a major part of the Blazers’ future.

But Batum does play the same position as small forward Gerald Wallace, who started over him after being acquired from Charlotte last season.

And with a plethora of point guards and shooting guards and a shortage of big men, a question about roster imbalance was inevitable Monday.

Buchanan said that one of the team’s primary objectives when free agency begins Friday is to obtain a center.

McMillan added that he will be prepared no matter what the roster looks like.

“Well, we’ll have to make that adjustment. I think this roster is a good roster,” said McMillan, adding that most of the players are in their prime. “Last year we had to juggle and make adjustments because of injuries and the fact that Brandon, we didn’t know if he was going to have surgery ... with this lineup, I think we have a little more depth.”

McMillan also saw LaMarcus Aldridge on Monday for the first time since the lockout.

Safe to say he was happy about that.

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen these guys,” McMillan said. “I just wanted to hug him. It’s like seeing your son.

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com