Czar’s Season Update: Injury Report

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Czar Asks You

The Portland Trail Blazers are second in the league in free-throw percentage behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their clutch shooting ability from the line translated into wins this week.

In Tuesday’s 106-99 win over the Suns, the Blaze went a remarkable 32 of 33 from the foul line, finishing with 17 straight freebies in the fourth quarter. LaMarcus Aldridge sank 10 consecutive free throws in the game while Roy went 9 for 9.

Miller was sidelined against the Suns due to a one-game suspension following an altercation with Blake Griffin. But he was on a roll from the line prior to the miss, knocking down over 30 consecutive free throws, 9 of which helped cement a win over the Clips to snap a 6-game losing streak.

Miller doesn’t get to the line quite as often as Roy and Aldridge, but when he does he hits the mark. Ranked 9th and 10th overall respectively, guards Brandon Roy and Andre Miller lead their team in FT%.

All three guys will get a chance to hit some more foul shots tonight when they host the Magic at the Rose Garden.

Will Miller be able to keep his streak alive? Who will finish the season with the highest FT% – Miller or Roy?

Gameday Dish: Trail Blazers Host Nuggets

Tonight the Denver Nuggets play the Portland Trailblazers at the Rose Garden in a matchup of Northwest Division rivals. This is the first of four scheduled meetings between these teams this season.

Last season, Denver went 3-1 against the Trailblazers, and Portland has not won a season series against the Nuggets since the 1998-99 campaign. But the Nuggets have lost their last three road games so perhaps the Blaze can capitalize on their home-court advantage.

Three big stories surround this game – one immediately relevant to this evening’s contest and two Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight” influences hovering in the background.

Top Blazer and three-time All-Star Brandon Roy will be out with a bum left knee. He is Portland’s best defender and will be especially missed against Denver’s high-powered offense, which at 105.8 ppg ranks fourth in the NBA.

In other injury-related news, the Blazers announced yesterday that Greg Oden, the former No. 1 draft pick whose short career has been marred by injuries, will have microfracture surgery on his left knee and will not play this season. Though this will not squarely impact the game tonight, it’s definitely a blow to the team’s morale and adds to the Blazers’ big picture concerns. They were hoping Oden would return this season to help them down low and finally start living up to his draft expectations.

Meanwhile the Nuggets are contending with their own big-pic matters as rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s impending departure from the squad continue to loom. A Nugget for all of his eight years in the NBA and Denver’s top player for arguably that whole time, Melo continues to be badgered by media and fans as to his future plans and the growing possibility that his tenure as a Nugget is coming to an end.

Anthony refused to sign a 3-year $65million extension with Denver earlier this season. However, Melo has been a monster on the boards of late, with a total of 44 rebounds in the last 3 games – an average of almost 15 per clip. This fact should especially concern Portland because they have been one of the league’s worst teams on the glass this year and currently rank 27th in rebounding.

Both teams are coming off of Tuesday night victories – Portland over Memphis on the road and Denver over New York at home. I’ll join Marv Albert and Steve Kerr on the sidelines when Nuggets at Blazers tips off at 10:30 PM PST on TNT.

Around the League: Jump Starts

Certain teams started out the season like they were supposed to: The Lakers are undefeated, while the Heat and Celtics are 4-1. Meanwhile some other teams have surprised us. There were big question marks about the Hawks, Hornets and Blazers heading into the season and all three have gotten off to a much better start than expected.

The Hawks steadily improved through each year of Coach Mike Woodson’s six-year tenure, culminating with three straight playoff appearances and an impressive 53-win season in 2009-10. In light of ownership’s decision to let Woodson go and the absence of any spectacular improvements to the roster, Atlanta’s future seemed tenuous. But since former assistant coach Larry Drew took over the reigns, his talented bunch (led by nine-year veteran Joe Johnson who’s averaging 19.6 PPG) have come out of the gates flying to five straight wins to lead the Eastern Conference.

Afflicted by injuries, superstar point guard Chris Paul was only able to play in 45 games last year, and his Hornets had to settle for a disappointing 37-win season. With Chris Paul’s rehabilitation ongoing this summer, all the speculation surrounding rumors that he would demand a trade, and the firing of Coach Byron Scott, New Orleans was bracing for another touch-and-go season.

But CP3 stayed, and in his first NBA campaign Head Coach Monty Williams has gotten off to an excellent start. Boasting a perfect 4-0 record, the Hornets trail the champion Lakers by just one win. And their future looks bright as Paul appears back to form, averaging over 35 PPG and 9 assists for fifth in the league.

Touted as the next big thing just a few years back, the Trail Blazers were plagued with injuries last season. 13 players combined to miss 311 games including Joel Przybilla, Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. Considering Portland is still without big men Oden and Przybilla, they have gotten off to a surprisingly solid start. Last night the Blazers came up just one point short of a win over Durant and the Thunder in overtime to put their record at 4-2.

The Blazers capitalized on a fortuitous opening season schedule, catching the Knicks, Suns and Clippers who are all struggling with subpar starts. Portland is getting a balanced attack from Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller who work well together. And guys like Nicolas Batum are stepping up while they await the return of their bigs. Nate McMillan is an excellent coach. Having assisted Coach K and Team USA, he didn’t have much down time in the off-season but came back ready to go. Przybilla is targeting November 26 for his return to the lineup so if the Blaze can stay healthy, they should continue to contend.