Archive for October, 2008

Report: Blazers Ink Webster

The Blazers miss having Martell Webster around righ now, but it looks like they will have him for some time to come.

According to published reports, Martell Webster and Portland agreed on a four-year extension today.

Check details of the full report here….

pic via: ptb.com

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The numbers don’t lie and the rings force you to remember.

The San Antonio Spurs (0-1) come into the Rose Garden tonight for Portland’s home opener 31-13 all-time against the Blazers (0-1). Regardless if it has been a visit from Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood or Tim Duncan, the Spurs have always had Portland’s number. And four NBA titles never hurts the argument that San Antonio remains one of the elite teams to beat out West.

No doubt they are banged up. San Antonio will be without their two Argentineans in Manu Ginobili (ankle) and Fabricio Oberto (heart). Those guys keep the Spurs feisty (and Bruce Bowen) in what is usually a vanilla filled squad – nothing too flashy, no bruisers; just straight-up results.

Hence the .705 winning percentage against Portland.

We know all about Duncan and Tony Parker. But the new addition to the Spurs – and a guy the Blazers should be mindful of tonight is Roger Mason, Jr.. Very interesting journey to the NBA: drafted by Chicago in 2002 (31st overall), traded and released by Toronto, played over in Greece and Israel, before latching on with his hometown Washington Wizards (where he averaged 9.1 points per game last season in place of an injured Gilbert Arenas and former Blazer Antonio Daniels). He signed a two-year free-agent contract with the Spurs this past offseason. Mason is one of those cats you have to keep your eye on.

He’s been around – is always moving without the ball. Lose him and he’ll make Portland pay.

And then there is Gregg Popovich (insert Grizzly Adams and Z.Z. Top reference here).

How can you not like Pop (think surly grandfather and cool uncle rolled into one)?

Just ask Shaq. You probably know this story by now. Shaq recently referred to San Antonio’s “hack-a-Shaq” tactics in the playoffs last year as “cowardly”. Here’s Pop’s rebuttal courtesy of YouTube….


pic via: washington times

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I’m not going to pretend I know what Greg Oden must be feeling right now. But if I had to guess, I’d say he’s somewhere between frustrated and hopeful.

Like many of us that cover the NBA – and specifically the Portland Trail Blazers – I swapped mass amounts of text messages and emails today about Oden’s status, which we all know now is out 2-4 weeks with the gimpy right foot. But it wasn’t until probably the last text I sent to a buddy around 8ish on Wednesday night that something struck me:

Despite being almost 35-years-old, white, 6-2 and 195 pounds and a millionaire (okay, maybe not monetarily speaking…but I know I’ve got at least a million baseball cards stashed in a footlocker in my garage), G.O. and I are the same – we are both trying to make it through life one day at a time. That’s the only way to live.

Tomorrow isn’t promised. Neither are days spent playing a game.

It was a long “24 hours of Greg Oden” in Portland – note the shameless plug via HOOPSWORLD – but today is a new day.

Here’s what I appreciated about this whole Oden ordeal. It puts life in perspective for everyone involved – the fans, the Blazers organization, Kevin Pritchard, Nate McMillan, Greg, the team, the media and even those casual fans sprinkled around the league and throughout Oregon.

Perhaps Pritchard (seen above in his Jayhawk best) put it perfectly talking with the Oregonian’s own John Canzano (who does a bang-up job by the way on the Bald-Face Truth) on 95.5 The Game:

“I talk about this all the time. As important as Greg is, so is Shavlik Randolph. Believe it or not, I believe that. It may sound a little backwards but we have important players. I’m not saying they aren’t important. But we are a team. We can’t put the onus of a winning season or the playoffs on Greg Oden.”

Well said. That’s real talk. If words could heal, maybe Greg will be back sooner than we know.

pic via: k.u. media

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Growing Pains

If the first half wasn’t a rude awakening for Portland, starting the second half without Greg Oden certainly was.

By the time I finished doing a radio spot for ESPN AM1420 in Honolulu just past tip-off, the Los Angeles Lakers had already built a favorable lead, Oden had just picked up his second foul and now all Greg has to show for his NBA debut is an injured foot.

“I don’t know. I’m trying to get some information right now,” Nate McMillan said after the game.

“At halftime he tried to run on it and it was a little too sore for him to return. He might have stepped on someone’s foot. I didn’t see the play. I did see him hobbling down the floor after the play.”

Portland is calling it a mid-foot sprain on his right foot. The X-Rays came back inconclusive and Oden’s scheduled to have an MRI done Wednesday morning. (update: the Blazers will have an announcement today after 5 o’clock)

Ouch. Not good. Not good at all.

When asked how afraid he is that it might be serious, McMillan said “I hope not. He’s worked so hard to get himself back. Here we are the first game and it’s a tweeked ankle. Hopefully it’s not anything serious and hopefully in a couple days he’ll be back.” 

Greg said he wanted to play. He was running, trying to get ready to go. Said it happened during the third play of the game when he stepped on Derek Fisher’s foot. Said he tried to play on and right now it’s a “little tender”.

“It sucks. Just gotta keep on working,” Oden admitted. “It’s just a little set back. It happens.”

First the knee, then the ankle, now the foot.

Stay tuned.

Aside from Oden’s injury, Portland’s bandwagon may be a little lighter today thanks to some blatant nervousness at the Staples Center. That’s certainly not the Blazers we’ve come to know during the preseason, but let’s be honest – this is the Lakers and they weren’t in the Finals last season for nothing. Such baptism by fire is actually a good thing.

So what positives can McMillan and the Blazers take from this painful loss?

There aren’t a lot, but here’s worth mentioning….

 Rudy Fernandez (16 points) made a legit debut. It was devoid of his “Pistol Pete-esque” stylings, but he kept the turnovers to a minimum (zero actually) which is always a good thing. He was active but not crazy. Rudy also looked like a natural fit when McMillan went to the Roy, Rudy, Outlaw, Aldridge and Oden combination during the middle of the second quarter.

 While Jerryd Bayless appeared the odd man out in the backcourt, he certainly played decent when he was on the court (14:36). With the game over early, it was wise for McMillan to get the kid out there in the second half. Same goes for Nicolas Batum (3:32) late in the fourth quarter.

  Joel Przybilla and the Kobe Bryant battle lives. These two had a heated run-in at the Rose Garden last season. Back then, when I asked Bryant about it afterwards, he said that’s what Joel gets paid to do. Przybilla earned a bit of that keep (11 rebounds) when he planted a shoulder into Kobe during the third quarter. Joel kept it real, kept it physical – unfortunately Kobe went off soon after. When asked afterwards if that got him going Kobe laughed it off, “Maybe a little bit.”

 Travis Outlaw – despite Portland’s slow start – finished strong (18 points). Maybe that was due to getting a start. Maybe that was enough to light Outlaw’s fire. Maybe he’ll keep this up come Portland’s home opener versus the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.

 Brandon Roy had a little hibachi (14 points) going once the game got into the final two quarters. As the leader of this team, you know it had to eat Roy up to come out flat. But he bounced back. That says a lot about his perseverance.

pic via: getty images

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Prediction Time

The late George Carlin said it best: Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

Right on George.

It’s one of the thoughts that crossed my mind late last night as I knocked out HOOPSWORLD’s annual NBA award prediction list. See, I’m not big into lists. I’m not big into predicting awards. Yes it draws a readership and plenty of comments – some harsh, some smart – but I’d rather pen a story. What was I going to do? The job demands it – so does an Editor.

But since I ventured to pick and choose awards for around the league, allow me to play Nostradamus – using the same criteria and some new categories – Portland Trail Blazers style :

Sixth Man of the YearRudy Fernandez: Last year the award easily went to Travis Outlaw, but now with Rudy in the mix it’s hard to vote against him. Plus, had Outlaw actually been prepared to step-up into the starting lineup (how was Travis not ready?) the debate might have been between Rudy and Nicolas Batum. Even in that discussion, Rudy will be the man holding the “white unit” together and contributing the most to the starting five.

Most Improved Player– Sergio Rodriguez: Who would have thought the addition of Rudy Fernandez would have improved Sergio’s game this much? He looks so much more comfortable out there. The shot. Smart passing. Still needs to work on the “D”. Working on his shot this summer was the perfect move though. So was bringing over his fellow Spanish countryman. Those two combined help Sergio take home MIP honors.

Coach of the Year – Monty Williams: In an upset, Williams comes out of nowhere to take Nate McMillan’s given award. Not only has Monty been working diligently with Nicolas Batum on his shot – as he has done with Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster in the past – but Coach Williams can also be found working out Greg Oden in pregame drills. Batum is now in the starting lineup and G.O. is growing into game time shape. It’s the full Monty.

MVP – Brandon Roy: You just don’t mess with a good thing.

Rookie of the Year – Greg Oden: A couple weeks ago, my vote was for Rudy Fernandez. Then it moved to Nicolas Batum. But it’s just plain stupid to bet against G.O. on this one, so I’m not going to. If he can earn ROY honors around the league, surely he’s the best rookie on his own team.

Defensive Player of the Year – Greg Oden: This was another tough call. Had Martell Webster been healthy, his name would be in bold type here instead of the big fella. Also Joel Przybilla is going to give Greg a run for his money, but I’m still betting on Greg to have the most direct impact on the defensive end of things in Portland. Block party anyone?

Total Wins – 47: I’m totally flip-flopping here. The magic number has been 50, especially out West. But you take Martell Webster out of the lineup with a jacked-up foot and his absence is going to hurt Portland immensely – and their win total. A slow start – on the road and against the West – could drop the Blazers like Kimbo Slice throwing a fight. I’m going for 47. That’s my final answer.

Playoff Seed – 8th: See above. If Portland can stay healthy – now dubbed the Martell factor – the Blazers could sneak into the 7th spot out West. But with a core of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden – tossing in the addition of Rudy Fernandez and the trusty veteran leadership of Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla – Portland should return to the postseason this year. Plus it helps that the likes of Denver, Dallas, and maybe even Phoenix will have slipped this season.

You gotta like those odds.

pic via: msnvideo.uk

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Scouting Batum

I have a confession: I wasn’t that impressed by Nicolas Batum as I watched him at the Las Vegas Summer League for the first time – I’ve told that story before. But the kid has proved me wrong during the preseason and I hope during the regular season too (as it’s just been reported he will start Tuesday night against the Lakers).

Peep the posting over at HOOPSWORLD which is running today on Batum’s story, just more proof that Portland values the person as much as the player.

Speaking of which, Jason Filippi, the Blazers international scout whom helped discover Nicolas (and Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez as well) is a solid guy who was kind enough to share some insight on the whole scouting mentality.

Based out of Italy- where the Michigan native moved when he was 10 – Filippi and I spoke by phone as he was on a scouting trip in Slovenia. It was just before midnight there – 3 in the afternoon here in Portland. The 38-year-old has been in the scouting game for nine years, five of those with the Blazers. As we talked about Nicolas – who he is on the court and off and the story of his late father– we drifted to some particulars about searching for talent as a professional scout.

Filippi considers himself a veteran of the business, but he admitted the Blazers – particularly their front office and scouting directors – are different than his past clients. Different in a good way. Different in a great way.

Before, he said he was just going to games, tracking players, shooting video and taking notes. But since scouting for Portland, the focus has become finding out as much about the guys off the court as people. He credits Kevin Pritchard with enforcing that motto – a guy may be a good guy but if he doesn’t fit the Blazers mentality, it’s not going to work.  If he’s a little bit selfish and only cares about numbers, it’s not going to work.

Filippi confessed he gets almost scared because everyone can see “this kid” is talented, but he can’t leave any stones unturned. He said it’s been a learning experience. Before it was about how a player played and what he did on the court.

Now it’s about so much more.

pic via: portland tribune

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Rant: Maybe LeBron Was Right

Rant (‘rant): 1: to talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner; 2 : to scold vehemently : to utter in a bombastic declamatory fashion.

Back in the day when Tommy Beer – of HOOPSWORLD fame – and I covered the New York Knicks, we spent many nights at Madison Square Garden ranting about anything and everything. Now 2,895 miles between Portland and NYC- and courtesy of an afternoon email exchange – the “Rant” continues….

WM: After watching Kobe hyperextend his knee the other night against the Bobcats, I got to thinking: maybe LeBron was right implying he doesn’t need to play in preseason games. You know Deron Williams (it’s Deron!) wants a sip of that Kool-Aid.

TB: Eh, I can’t get too fired-up about it or jump on that bandwagon. Is there a greater chance of LeBron spraining his ankle in preseason game than an intra-squad scrimmage? Some teams/players need to practice more than others. LeBron, as result of the Cavs playoff run and Olympic competition, has played non-stop for what seems like 365 days straight.

WM: So what you’re saying then is cats that played in the Olympics don’t need to play in the preseason? Or just superstars don’t? Aren’t the fans getting shortchanged in both cases?

TB: Everybody needs to be 100% prepared when the ball is tipped on opening night.  How they get there is between their coaching staff and themselves. All any professional sports organization owes its fans is to do everything within their power to win a championship. If that means playing LeBron James just 7 minutes in a meaningless preseason game – so be it.

WM: Here’s all I know: the NBA players today couldn’t hack playing 15 preseason games like they did back in the day. Those guys were real men. And another thing- the Sports Illustrated curse lives on . Kobe’s on the cover of the NBA Preview issue and he hyperextends his knee in the preseason thanks to Josh Powell….hmmm – but apparently it’s nothing an icebag can’t fix.

TB: Players today are bigger, stronger, faster, and quicker. That is a fact. And don’t get me started on Kobe. Last summer he is whining and bitching and demanding a trade because Mitch Kupchak can’t surround him with players worthy of his enormous talent. Fast-forward eight months and the Lakers are in the Finals with Pau Gasol starting up front. And now they start this season with Pau and Andrew Bynum down low. Hey Kobe, you still want to trade Bynum for Jason Kidd?!??!  Does it bother anyone else that he never apologized (at least publicly) to Kupchak, the Lakers, and his teammates.

Regarding curses:

“I don’t believe in curses. Wake up the Bambino and I’ll face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.”

WM: Good one…..but why would Kobe recant anything? That’s not his style. You have to believe in his mind he did nothing wrong. Back in the day Shaq was the problem, then Phil. Then it was Bynum and his youth or the lack of having a player of Kobe’s choosing. But once the Lakers returned to the Finals and Kobe can’t get it done by himself, I’m guessing he’s really buying into the team concept now. He’s better off staying hush. Here you thought this rant was about LeBron and it becomes all about Kobe. It’s always about Kobe.

To read more Tommy Beer, do yourself a favor and check out HOOPSWORLD….

pic via: zimbio

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Greg Oden Is Not Hines Ward

Money may be twiddling on Wall Street, but thanks to Greg Oden money is changing hands between NBA players at an alarming rate these days.

Dunk on Oden and get paid. That’s the word on the street. Kevin Martin of the Sacramento Kings got his.

He crossed-over Rudy Fernandez, went down the lane and dunked on Oden (up for discussion – it was more like “between” Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge) nights ago during a preseason game. I dropped a quick postgame email to Sam Amick –the renowned Kings beat writer – and asked how the Blazers looked in Sac town.

He hit me back telling how Martin won a cool $1000 from Mikki Moore for the throwdown. And sure enough, “dunk for dough” made the news. This from the Sacramento Bee (not courtesy of Amick unfortunately):

Martin also won a $1,000 bet with teammate Mikki Moore on who would be the first to dunk on Oden. “I had to go get my money,” Martin said. Asked if he knew Oden and Aldridge would be there when he crossed over Fernandez, Martin laughed.”Them guys have 7-(foot)-5 wingspans, so even if you don’t think they are going to be there, they are going to be there,” Martin said. “I’m glad they were there. I got a little richer today.”

On Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, Ricky Davis added to the bounty.

This from the Los Angeles Times:

The Clippers’ Ricky Davis, taking a break from his pre-game dinner, came up with another number. Why be predictable and imitate someone else? Davis threw it down: $500 for dunking on Oden. “I’ll leave it up to you all three,” he said. That caught the attention of rookies Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan and second-year man Al Thornton.

Gordon apparently wanted the ante at $5000 before Davis laughed the rookie off the bus.

No dunk. No dough. The question now is who is next? And what is the going rate?

I haven’t asked Oden about “dunk for dough” yet – the downer about not traveling with the team and having access on the road will do that to a guy. Perhaps by the time Portland returns home to face the San Antonio Spurs in the home opener , either Jason Quick or Joe Freeman – the Oregonian’s  own – will have beat me to the punch.

I have a hunch Oden will take the Hines Ward approach regardless.

“I’m not worried about what a guy says about a bounty,” Ward said about the reported hit-parade the Baltimore Ravens have out on the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver.

“There’s nothing I can do about it.”

True. But there’s a difference in the Oden and Hines discussion here – besides Hines bringing it upon himself.

If Ray Lewis puts a lick on Ward the end result could be a coma.

“Dunking for dough” will either bruise an ego or cause Oden to be that much more of a beast when guys come down the lane – probably the latter.

I’d buy that for a dollar.

pic via: post-gazette.com

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And then there was one….

Shavlik Randolph earned the title of Portland’s “15th man” today after Luke Jackson and fan favorite Steven Hill were both waived hours before Portland’s last preseason game against the Utah Jazz.

This from the Blazers today:

“We want to thank Luke and Steven for their contributions during training camp and preseason and wish them all the best for the future,” said General Manager Kevin Pritchard. “They’ve conducted themselves as real pros on and off the court and we believe both of them have a bright future in basketball.”

I never thought Randolph would win the hat-trick with three posts here at BTB, but it was well earned.

Here’s where it started….

Then I threw this dandy in the mix….

Then again, I also thought either Hill or Jackson were locks for the final roster spot before camp even got underway. Until along came Shavlik.

You have to wonder where Nate McMillan sat on this debate. My money – which isn’t much – says he was pulling for Hill. The rest of my money – which I’m having to tap my daughter’s piggy-bank for as we speak– says Pritchard wanted Randloph.

Either way, Randolph stays on and will likely fill the void left by Josh McRoberts.

pic via: daylife.com

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Channin, Channin, Channin

Larry Brown is always good for a good basketball story or two, especially when the story is about Brown and his days coaching the New York Knicks.

Not sure what the verdict is here, but I’m thinking Larry isn’t big on recounting his brief stay in New York. I could be wrong. But I don’t think so. Yet one of the most memorable moments for me about Brown is how he used to mispronounce Channing Frye’s first name.

Every time.

Back then Frye was trudging through his (impressive) rookie and (not so impressive) sophomore seasons under Brown before he was dealt to Portland two summers ago.

Yet for Brown, Frye will forever be known as “Channin”.

Notice the missing “g”.


Poor “Channin”.

Brown – God bless his heart – thought he was saying Frye’s name the right way, but no matter what, where or when it always came out “Channin”. Now “Channin” is getting ready (spoke with “Channin” last week about returning from injury and to the floor early) for his first preseason game tonight in Sacramento, while Brown tries to figure out what he has in his first year in Charlotte (broke down those Bobcat woes today over at HOOPSWORLD).

So far he has a winless team this preseason (0-5), which conjures up another “Brown-izm” from back in the day:

“We’re playing like we don’t have a head out there.”

That was namely a dig on Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury.

And you know both “Channin” and Coach Brown remember that drama all too well.

pic via: si.com

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