When Tar Heels Babysit Blue Devils


Tar Heel now mentoring Blue Devil as Blazers look ready to contend.

Portland ready to blaze a trail in the Western Conference early on! While former Tar Heel PG now has hated Duke has-been under his wing.

There has only been 15 or so games played in the NBA right now, still some things are obvious.  In a weaker and aging Western Conference this season, some younger and deeper rosters have an opportunity to make a serious run at a title.

One of those teams is lead by former UNC Tar Heel Raymond Felton. After coming off a season that saw Felton post career highs in points and assists for the Knicks, before being traded to Denver, in the Carmelo Anthony deal.  The Trail Blazers acquired him to run the point, after he played the two guard spot mostly with the Nuggets (alongside another former Heel Ty Lawson). He continues to be one of the best passing point guards in the NBA.  With just under 7 assists a game, Felton is also averaging double digits in scoring at just under 11 ppg. I see both of those averages increasing before seasons end as Felton settles in with Portland.

Why is Felton babysitting a Puke Blue Devil, find out on page 2?

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Though January has been a difficult month for Raymond on the court , the 27 year old is still tasked with the duty of being a leader on and off the court for the Blazers.  In sad and unfaithful fashion , one of those duties is to tutor a Dookie! In former Blue Devil Nolan Smith and make sure he is prepared if and when his number is called.

The two do have a few things in common, National Championships,and playing under future HOF coaches, both enjoying successful college playing careers. Either way, despite  the rage inside one still may feel when the other wears their college pride on off days, they will have to answer when called on for the teams playoff aspirations.

Currently Portland has 6 guys averaging double digits in points and will need everyone of them as they approach a big road stretch. 8 of 11 games in January will be played away from the Rose Garden where they are 6-1 this year (7-3 overall record).  In the same stretch Portland will play 9 games in 12 days, a grueling stretch.

If they have proved one thing early on, its beating top teams at home, and occasionally on the road, when everyone’s contributing. Only winning @OKC, though home against the Lakers, Nuggets, Clippers, and Sixers were all key wins early. With a budding superstar in the one they call LA (Lamarcus Aldridge) and several wing threats who can put up 30 on any given night, Portland will shock a few. Even make a deep playoff run no matter what seed they end up.

This team continues to fight and win under coach Nate McMillan. The injuries this franchise has suffered overall, have cost them all-star Brandon Roy who had to retire due to his continuous knee injuries. And then there’s Greg Oden, who has done nothing but cost Portland money. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy since entering the league in 2007.  First Portland passed on Michael Jordan for Sam Bowie, then they passed on Kevin Durant for Oden, geez.

Yet they are on pace again to not just get to the playoffs, but to contend once they get to the dance.  Averaging 99.7 ppg and are giving up only 93 ppg are both top ten in the entire NBA. Another surprising fact, the league recently announced the Blazers have a Western Conference high six players on this years NBA All-star ballot.

As the season continues to grind and more games in less time accumulate, Nolan Smith may find an increased role behind Felton. I expect the 6.5 minute/game average to be around 10 before seasons end for Smith. If he makes his limited opportunities count, he may see  the rotation as the consensus backup PG.

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