After scoring down low last year despite double teams, LaMarcus Aldridge will have a chance to step outside.
Once an elite running team, the Blazers finished last in the NBA in fast-break points (645) for the second straight season, though they raised their average fast-break points from 6.3 in '06-07 to 7.9.
Record: 41-41 (10th in West Points scored: 95.4 (T-27th in NBA) Points allowed: 96.3 (8th)
A shooting guard is the one shining light for a franchise in the midst of major rebuilding
LaMarcus Aldridge, a 6-foot-11 power forward, finished up a recentpostpractice workout as he had many others during preseason -- with a barrage ofthrees. So are they going to be part of his repertoire this season?
"A lot of them were going in, right?" asked Aldridge, smiling. "Coach [Nate]McMillan told me if I worked on [my three-point shot] and gained confidence, hewould let me shoot it -- if I'm open, that is."
In Greg Oden's absence Aldridge developed a solid back-to-the-basket gamelast season -- despite his size, he had always been more comfortable facing up andeither driving or making his move. "I could dribble real well even when I wasyoung," says Aldridge, 23, who came to the Blazers in a 2006 draft-day tradeafter being picked second out of Texas by the Bulls, "so my coaches let me playoutside. I actually ran point guard as a senior in high school." He smilesagain, before adding, "Not that Coach needs me there. We have enough ofthose."
Perhaps if he did become the league's tallest quarterback, Aldridge wouldcommand more attention. Blazers brass insist that he is part of the team's BigThree along with Oden and guard Brandon Roy, but Aldridge is often a forgottenman. He still stews quietly (stewing loudly is not his style) about the TVcommentary at the June draft, which included mentions of several of histeammates, but not him. "I'm comfortable just being a part of the Big Three,"Aldridge says, "and I know which part I am. It goes Brandon, Greg, then me. Butmy coaches and teammates know what I bring to the table." This year, that couldinclude a long-distance game. -- Jack McCallum
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.