Pardon the Adventures in Babysitting reference, but it was that kind of night for Portland on Monday. The Bulls routed the Blazers 110-98 on their home court, in a game that featured a career high 40 points for Luol Deng. The Bulls couldn't miss the basket if they tried, shooting 61% on the night, and Deng faired even better, draining 14-of-19 from the field (74%). Those are pop-a-shot numbers.
When not being posterized by Omer Asik (?), LaMarcus Aldridge was the lone highlight for Portland, finishing with 33 points and nine boards. The sooner the Blazers forget this game, the better. The team is in Milwaukee tonight to face the Bucks, tip is at 5pm.
In other news, Ken Berger from CBS Sports dropped this bit of gossip last night:
A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable — he’s still on his rookie contract — but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.
The most important part of that paragraph is not the Batum-for-Melo rumor, but the fact that it's now obvious to those outside of Portland that Nate McMillan's offensive system doesn't take full advantage of Batum's abilities. Which in turn triggered this piece from the ever-so-wise Bethlehem Shoals, of Free Darko fame.
Still, if you've seen Batum in international competitions, scrimmages, or other more free-flowing situations, you can see what Berger is talking about: the lanky small forward is a lockdown defender who can shoot, handle and pass like a guard, rebound, and make plays like crazy. He was born to play in ... well, any system but Nate McMillan's death slog. Put on a more up-tempo team, Batum wouldn't just be a defensive standout, or a youngster coming into his own. He would be a star.
Key words here: death and slog.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!