The continued development of the youngest Blazers
Though some may find fault with the starters’ minutes or the team’s transition defense, there should be little criticism about player development. This season, coach Terry Stotts has surprised with his rotation — giving the 10th through 15th guys a chance. At one time, Luke Babbitt played as a fourth-quarter clutch performer and Victor Claver elevated from a ‘DNP’ scratch into a replacement starter. So by the time this season concludes, don’t expect to hear “We want NO-LAN!” chants. Everyone has had a chance and for better or worse, Blazer fans should be familiar with each player’s capabilities.
Also, in the recent absence of LaMarcus Aldridge, Stotts took it a step further and found two opportunities to play all five rookies at the same time. Even more interesting, the young lineup closed out the first quarter against the Memphis Grizzlies. Good minutes played against three Memphis starters, and positive feedback received from one Blazer veteran player.
“It’s fun to watch,” J.J. Hickson said of the five-rookie lineup. “Everybody got their turn to prove something, playing within themselves but also proving that they belong in this league. We know it’s fun to watch. I feel like every second you’re out there, you’re definitely learning something as a group because there’s nothing like playing five-on-five in this game.”
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Damian Lillard winning his fifth consecutive Western Conference Rookie of the Month award
Not only has Lillard reached new territory within the organization by becoming the first Blazer rookie to win in five consecutive months, but also he’s closing in on prime NBA real estate. Only Los Angeles Clipper Blake Griffin (2011), San Antonio’s David Robinson (1990) and Houston’s Ralph Sampson (1984) have won Rookie of the Year as the unanimous choice. After his fifth monthly award, Lillard should be a lock to earn every first-place vote.
Booing Greg Oden
Last Wednesday, the Rose Garden welcomed back an old face. “Like (seeing) a ghost,” Aldridge said about encountering Oden, the Blazers’ former No. 1 draft pick. Apparently, some fans don’t like ghosts because when Oden appeared on the overhead scoreboard, audible boos could be heard.
Oden never lived up to expectations, and that was solely because of his knees. The guy was unlucky — why boo him?
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While we applaud the Blazers for commemorating worthy initiatives like Green Week and Veterans Day, we warn against the temptation of wearing the theme-night sweatbands. Last Friday, for the first time this season, Lillard wore a headband, a green one, and the Earth-conscious rookie missed eight of 12 shots and finished with 11 points.
Back in November, Aldridge, who usually goes sans headwear, adorned the NBA’s American-flag band and only shot 4-of-13 for 14 points.