Archive for December, 2008

teamDoc Rivers sat in his office in the visitor’s locker room at the Rose Garden staring at the sheet of paper. It was hard to tell if he couldn’t believe the black ink popping off the page or if he was trying to memorize it. Either way, Doc wasn’t happy.

Rivers was quick to credit a Brandon Roy-less Portland after the Blazers beat his struggling Celtics team of late. But Doc still couldn’t get over a call the refs blew (or called brilliantly depending on the team you represent) right before the half on Tuesday night.

I detailed the 10.3 seconds remaining right before the half here after the game courtesy of HOOPSWORLD’s “Courtside Blog.” Tough break Doc.

Here’s the thing: Had that call gone against Boston; had the Celtics scored with six men on the court; had Boston been on the receiving end of that bucket, Portland would shut down like another snow storm hit the city.


No, that’s not how the Blazers beat the Celtics. But let’s be real.

Portland showed up to play while Boston arrived and failed at playing their typical brand head games Kevin Garnett style. The Beantown jawing in early December when the Celtics manhandled the Blazers may have worked then, but Greg Oden – and particularly LaMarcus Aldridge – weren’t having it in Rip City with or without Brandon Roy. And in this case it was “without” Brandon Roy.

A huge win – the last of 2008. 

What a way to go out.

(Portland’s “six-on-the-floor” :48 seconds into the highlight.)

pic via: si.com

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kk1If there was ever a time for the Portland Trail Blazers to “sweep the leg”, it is tonight against Boston with the “Cobra” in town. Don’t tell me you don’t know about the “Cobra.”

Ask Jerryd Bayless about the “Cobra.” He’ll tell you. Or maybe he won’t. Ask Toronto’s Jose Calderon about the venom. He tasted it.

Kevin Garnett may not have his own dojo, but the move – or at least the name – is fresh from the Karate Kid minus sensei John Kreese’s “Kai.”

I don’t get it. Pressuring full-court and wagging your finger at Calderon is one thing. Getting down on all-fours and getting after Bayless is a whole different story, a tale where the plot stinks of unprofessionalism from an alleged “All-Star.” Surprised Bill Russell didn’t try the move back in his day. Guess he was too busy going about his business collecting rings and acting like he’s been there before.

That’s just me though. I don’t get it. So I reached out to someone who might.  

Jessica Camerato, formerly of HOOPSWORLD, now covers the Celtics for WEEI Radio in Boston and schooled me when I asked what gives with Garnett.

“That’s just KG,” Camerato said.

“Yes, playing defense on all fours against pint-sized guards seems eccentric, but this is coming from the same guy who slams his head into the goalpost while talking to himself before every game. Last season when Garnett got into the “Cobra” position – as he dubbed it – he said after the game that he didn’t even realize what he was doing.

“So while opponents may call it intimidating or a scare tactic, it’s just KG keeping his head — or losing it – in the game.”

Apparently it’s just not a point guard thing. New Orleans’ David West saw the “Cobra” up close, something I hope the Rose Garden faithful won’t have to endure.

In the end – at least for me – Garnett going to the “Cobra” diminishes who the Celtics really are: the best team in the NBA.


Shameless Plug: Staying with Boston….Sean Williams of the New Jersey Nets – who played his college ball at Boston College – is quickly becoming known as a draft day bust. After a solid rookie season in 2007, Williams is lost in New Jersey. Hours after I ran a feature on Williams at HOOPSWORLD yesterday (“Searching For Sean Williams”), the Nets shipped him to the NBDL – a move I professed to be wise for both sides.

Besides, the next move Williams could see after a short stint in the D-League is being dealt at the trade deadline in February.

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basnowI’m not sure when it hit me. Could have been when I was digging around the snow drift to my car. Or maybe as I was chaining up, eager to break the family bout of cabin fever with a trip to Target. Then I got the text message– that’s when I knew.

The show must go on.

“The Trail Blazers have boarded a bus enroute to Eugene where they will fly out later this afternoon for their Monday night game at Denver.”

It’s come to this.

Just what Nate McMillan and his team need: more snow, complete with elevation. But after a nice full week – and even fuller weekend of the fluffy stuff  in Portland – it was time to get back to work. I’m sure the last thing McMillan and especially Brandon Roy wanted to do was move on from his 52-point performance against the Phoenix Suns and the “M-V-P” chants echoing from last Thursday at the Rose Garden.

There are no rain outs – or snow outs in this case – in the NBA. The show must go on. That goes for Portland, who has to play Denver on Monday before traveling back to Portland to play the Nuggets on Tuesday, and that goes for me too.

I’ve got my own agenda to keep.

Family is coming to town for the holiday, where a gripping adventure to Central Oregon waits. But not before my wife and I head to the hospital in the morning to see if we’re having a little boy or little girl come May. Either way I’ll be teaching the pick-and-roll at some point in the next 10 years….


Shameless plug: What is a guy to do when he’s surrounded by ten inches of snow outside and a continuous loop of “Finding Nemo” inside?

After a few emails on Friday and Saturday from a person close to the Indiana Pacers, it became clear Jamaal Tinsley is in for a long season. It’s a topic I launched into – “Will Tinsley Play Again?” at HOOPSWORLD – knowing there’s a chance Tinsley will be back on the court, just not any time soon.

In staying with the “point guard” theme….the Phoenix Suns are holding a workout Monday to fill a roster spot to find a suitable back-up point guard (“New Point Guard For Suns?”), with six free agents vying for the job. A quick teaser…..two former Blazers round out the participants.

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Trail Blazers Suns BasketballCompared to Brandon Roy’s historical night, Travis Outlaw will be back page news come Friday morning. But he should at least get a sidebar mention in the win over Phoenix on national television.

As Roy stood with the game ball under his arm after finishing with a career-high 52 points, Outlaw slowly slipped into the tunnel towards the Blazers locker room. Portland sure needed this one. But Outlaw needed it even more.

He hasn’t been himself lately, even before the sore tailbone which has hampered Travis since Utah. Heck, even the trade rumors probably took their toll. No newsflash here: last year’s “Mr. 4th Quarter” has been – shall we say – a bit M.I. A.

On Thursday night though, Outlaw inched back towards outstanding. Not only did he provide the only scoring spark (14 points) in the second unit, but he remained aggressive throughout (6 rebounds). Then there was “the play.”

Outlaws ability to battle Jason Richardson for a rebound with 12.2 seconds left and Portland up by three points could have been the play of the game. Blazers ball. After fourth quarter collapses to Orlando and the Los Angeles Clippers last week, it certainly was the Blazers saving grace.

Portland has shown they can beat the dregs of the league like Sacramento. The way the Blazers make noise in the NBA though is by beating upper echelon teams like the Suns. Okay, so it’s not those Phoenix Suns, but nevertheless a difficult match-up coming off three days rest against a young team like Portland who has endured some growing pains of late.

Luckily along with Roy, Steve Blake (22 points and 10 assists) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points on 8 for 12), Travis Outlaw came to play.

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brownIt was a shady situation. After a year selling used cars in my early twenties, my sales numbers slipped. And in the car biz you are only as good as your last deal. So I was “let go”; fired; given my walking papers. But in the NBA it’s different. Guys get “waived” all the time for countless reasons.

I dove into some of those reasons –without getting too soaked in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) – today over at HOOPSWORLD with “The Way Of The Waive”.

It’s a tricky business pro basketball. That’s true if you are covering it, and even more so if you are actually participating in the business. And let’s not forget it is a business at the end of the day.

Let’s look at this in a Portland Trail Blazers light….total hypothetical situation here.  

Say Shavlik Randolph is waived at some point this season. Sorry Shavlik. You were the first guy that came to mind. For Kevin Pritchard or Nate McMillan to have that talk with Randolph is probably about us fun as going to the dentist. But for Shavlik, it’s almost like getting your wisdom teeth yanked out without any Novocain.

Chances are you’d feel bad for Shavlik. No one wants to see a guy get waived; to see a guy lose his job. That’s one side of the story though. The other has to do with bringing in a guy that essentially helped usher out the 15th man but will actually help your club immediately.

Does it cushion the blow any if Portland were to bring in an available free agent like Robert Horry or P.J. Brown – you know a veteran who can add some swagger or muscle – to help round out the roster?

That’s one of those tricky parts about the NBA.

Just thinking out loud here….

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Off The Wall

83010322JJ006_PORTLAND_TRAIOn a night when Terry Porter’s number 30 was raised to the Rose Garden rafters and Brandon Roy nearly continued his 30-plus consecutive scoring streak, Nicolas Batum decided to show-up and join the party.

The 19-year-old from Lisieux, France – who has struggled of late after a brilliant start to the season – finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and went 2 for 5 from beyond the arc in roughly 24 minutes.

Nicolas needed that game. Every rookie slumps at some point in the season. Maybe this was his slump buster.

It was Batum’s best game since November 28 against New Orleans when he finished with 12 points in 20 minutes. His outings that followed have been a combination of nondescript (Boston and Los Angeles Clippers) and scoreless (5 of the last 8 games) performance. It became glaringly clear Nicolas had run smackdab into a rookie wall.

On Tuesday night Batum ran right through that wall thanks to a regained stroke and his trademark defense. Thanks to Nicolas, the Blazers bench actually snapped out of their mini-funk with with all seven members in the second unit scoring in Portland’s 32-point win over the Sacramento Kings. 

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sergeSergio Rodriguez apparently is a wanted man….again. For the second time in three weeks, Rodriguez has been the topic of conversation with at least one New York Knicks beat writer who believes the Knicks should take a look at the Portland Trail Blazers reserve point guard.

More on that blog blurb here from good friend Alan Hahn at Newsday. It’s a quick ploy, but a ploy none the less from over the weekend.

It raises the question again: if Rodriguez is eventually moved, does Portland get a point guard in return knowing Jerryd Bayless is waiting in the wings?

Besides, the Knicks had their chance at rebuilding their backcourt back in June at the NBA Draft. Back then, Eric Gordon – who is now starting for the Los Angeles Clippers – was on the board when New York opted for Danilo Gallinari – he of injured reserve fame – instead with the 6th overall pick.

Once again, the Knicks missed the boat.

Gordon is quietly having a nice season for the Clips. Caught up with him last weekend to talk about adjusting to the NBA and where his game is at right now. The feature on Gordon – “The Rise of Eric Gordon” – is running now over at HOOPSWORLD.

Quick take on Gordon: the kid just gets it. He knows his role. He’s not one of these rookies who feels the need to take on the world like some young guards in this league.

Gordon just goes about his business.

What the Knicks would give for him right now….

pic via: elmundo

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darius1Time to save the date. Zach Randolph left Portland with a win after returning to help beat the Blazers last Friday night. Now after signing with the Memphis Grizzlies over the weekend, Darius Miles has probably already circled Wednesday, February 18th on his calendar.

That’s when Miles comes to town.

Mike Dunleavy – who is wearing two hats for the Los Angeles Clippers right now as head coach and General Manager – got a good glimpse of Miles last Tuesday when Darius worked out for the Clips. I spoke to Dunleavy before the game Friday about Miles, curious not only to see what his interest was in signing Darius but also how a front office goes about handling a player with a suspect background.

Here’s what came of that discussion with Dunleavy, holding down the Monday a.m. slot over at HOOPSWORLD.

As I wrote this story Friday night during the first half of the Blazers/Clippers game and edited it Saturday morning, Miles was getting ready to sign with Memphis. Thought I’d put my story to bed. My heart palpitations Saturday afternoon and evening reminded me otherwise. Needless to say, I left my re-write for the last minute on a snowy Sunday night around Portland just to avoid any more surprises.

Live and learn. Back to Darius real quick….

Now I’m sure plenty of die-hard Blazer fans will voice their opinions about Miles and blow-up the comment section – perhaps even more so when the Grizzlies come to town in February. That’s cool. Always curious to know what people think. Guess what I am more interested to see is how this whole storyline plays out and how it will affect Portland’s bottom line and budget if and when Miles plays 10 games for Memphis.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one….

pic via: espn.com

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baronIt’s becoming a habit….

I have a tendency when covering games to leave the media area early as games begin to drift into the final minutes and seconds. Helps avoid the mass exodus bum rush at the Rose Garden and makes for a closer feel for the action.

I opt for the alleyway down from the visitors bench.

Watched Brandon Roy hit that improbable three-pointer to beat Houston from there. How can you forget that one? Coming through the alley and towards the locker room, everyone from Rick Adelman down to Ron Artest was expressionless.

Blank. Nothing.

Saw Hedo Turkoglu shock the Blazers with a game winning bank-in-three earlier in the week. Three feet to my left Orlando General Manager Otis Smith must have died and comeback to life at least four times in those final two minutes. He was beside himself. So was Dwight Howard as he took off his jersey and tossed it to a fan.

And last night, it was Baron Davis with his step back three to send the game into overtime and eventually onto a Clippers win (pregame and postgame updates via HOOPSWORLD). Davis walked passed like he’d been there before – no barking, no smiles. Just a couple high fives.

I’ll spare the other view from the alley – Steve Blake going Chris Dudley at the free-throw line. I’ll spare you reliving how Brandon Roy is carrying the load far too much. I’ll spare you remembering when the “white unit” was red hot but have now gone pitch black.

That view from the alley may be the money spot, but right now the Blazers look a little broke.

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travisIf back-to-back games are the killer of an NBA schedule, than the Portland Trail Blazers are deadman walking. It’s bad enough to drop a game in always tough Utah. But now you have to come home against a rested Los Angeles Clippers? Brutal anyway you look at it.

“I think the back-to-back thing is by far the most overblown excuse in the NBA,” Jeff Van Gundy, who now calls action for ESPN said once.  “Why should games on consecutive nights be a problem? Because the other team’s more rested? That’s no excuse.”

Portland’s about ready to find out if he’s right. Next up Zach Randolph and the Clips – yes, the same Clips who recently worked out Darius Miles on Tuesday. Hmmm….Either way, it’s been one of those weeks for the Blazers.

Not only have they lost two-straight games – first to Orlando and then Utah – but it’s the way in which they’ve suffered those defeats.

One was a heartbreaker. The other, a head scratcher. How does Brandon Roy go for two-straight 30-plus games, resulting both in losses? How can LaMarcus Aldridge produce two of his more impressive outings of the season and Portland not come away with wins to show for them? How does the bench go from having four guys (Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Joel Przybilla and Sergio Rodriguez) all score in double-figures to barely mustering 19 points as a group?

It’s not an excuse. It’s an unsolved mystery.


On Monday, I launched into a quick flashback about Greg Oden and Dwight Howard – the whole “Greg as Dwight” angle. Appreciate those who chimed in with some thoughts by the way…..really good stuff.

Took the story and ran with it….was interested in delving deeper into comparing their rookie seasons, complete with thoughts from Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith. The end result was “The Oden and Howard Debate” currently running over at HOOPSWORLD.

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