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And the news got worse. After missing 20 games of his Rookie of the Year season because of irritation from the talus bone in his left heel, Brandon Roy was sitting out the preseason as a precautionary measure after the same ailment acted up in the team's first practice. If rest does not alleviate the pain, Roy faces surgery.
The Portland players who are healthy want to show fans that they shouldn't give up on the team. There is still plenty of size on the roster with center Joel Przybilla and forwards LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye and Raef LaFrentz, who all stand 6' 11" or taller. Aldridge in particular had an outstanding preseason and will be counted on to increase his production should the Blazers be without their top two scorers from a year ago: forward Zach Randolph (traded to the Knicks in June) and Roy. James Jones and Martell Webster are quality shooters, and there is depth at the point with Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake.
But the heightened expectations that came with winning the draft lottery have come and gone as quickly as Oden's jersey: "When I came back to the locker room at halftime, all of my stuff was gone," he says. "The next time I see it, hopefully I'll be wearing it."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Blazers
Their long-term future is pretty good with Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. Even without Oden, they can develop their identity this year. I think they want to play like Bill Russell's Celtics, with the great shot blocker and defender in the middle to get the fast break going. . . . I could see them playing Roy, Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake together, because that will give them solid ball handling and decision-making in transition, which will probably make Nate McMillan feel more comfortable about loosening the reins and letting them run. . . . Aldridge is a young Rasheed Wallace, minus the personality issues. He is versatile, he has great hands, he can run the floor and he's clearly an unselfish guy, like Wallace, and a team player who makes good decisions. . . . I've always loved Travis Outlaw's athleticism and potential, but he still has a lot of improvement to make in his fundamentals--especially his footwork--and his shot selection is poor.
In the last 10 years only two rookies, Houston's Steve Francis (1999-2000) and Cleveland's LeBron James ('03-04), averaged more points and more assists than Brandon Roy (16.8 ppg, 4.0 apg) did last season.