Archive for the ‘away game’ Category

The Bright Spot

83006021SD004_PORTLAND_TRAIEvery kid in this league hits their rookie wall at one time or another. On Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Nicolas Batum broke through his.

In a game where Portland ran the table in the first half, only to return lackadaisical in the second half against the Lakers, Batum was the bright spot through 48 minutes for the Blazers. He did all the things – and more – that endeared him to the Blazer faithful the first few games of the season or even back in late November in wins over Miami at New Orleans at the Rose Garden.

He went for 15 and 12 points respectively in those two games. Sunday night he posted a career-high 17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, grabbed a steal and went 6-6 from the field.

His defense on Kobe Bryant was trademark. Would have made Ruben Patterson proud. Real proud. Hustle, aggressiveness; the court savvy; the timing of it all.

With no Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw struggling for his second-straight game, Batum did his part two-fold. And in Roy’s absence for the next 7 to 10 days – maybe more in the end – Portland is going to need everyone at their best, even Batum. This was his best.

It almost makes you forget Nicolas going “0-for” in eight of his 30 starts this season.

It’s normal for both Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez to get their due praise, but you can’t pass up the chance to rain a little love down on Batum when it is well deserved. Despite another Portland loss, it’s games like Sunday where you see why the organization is so high on this kid. His name will get around the league before too long.

Then again, I think Pau Gasol knows his name already….


Update on David Lee: If you’ve read this blog before, or happened to catch Friday’s Talkin’ Ball on Comcast SportsNet Northwest, you’ve heard me talk about the Blazers and their need for the play of the New York Knicks David Lee.

Now – after reaching out to sources close to the teams and one league source – it appears the two teams have hit a dead end. Touched on that today over at HOOPSWORLD….

Could getting a third team involved be the u-turn for Portland acquiring Lee? That’s being floated out there too, but the bottom line is this: the Knicks may not be ready to part with their double-double machine after all.

pic via: daylife

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jerryThere have already been four head coaches fired eight weeks into the regular season. No wonder the unemployment rate is soaring in this country. But there is one guy who seems to always have job security: Gerald Eugene Sloan.

“I know how volatile this business is,” Jerry Sloan said recently. “I just think how lucky I’ve been to be here for so long.”

You win, you stay.

It’s that simple and Sloan – despite a couple losing seasons in his 21 years coaching in the NBA – perhaps knows that better than any coach in this league. You don’t become the first coach in league history to reach 1,000 wins with one team by throwing junk against the wall and hope that it sticks.

There has to be a commitment to what you believe in and how you carry that message out.

It’s no wonder Nate McMillan considers Sloan a blueprint for his coaching style. Right now McMillan has coached in 641 games, posting 306 wins and 335 losses. Okay, so he doesn’t have John Stockton and Karl Malone. But he does have Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge….and that Greg Oden fella. Only 694 more wins for McMillan as head coach of the Blazers and he’ll join Sloan in a distinguished class.

Then again, Sloan will probably have another 1000 wins under his belt by then.

Can Portland rebound on Thursday night at Utah? Or will the heartbreak from Hedo Turkoglu hang over their heads?


Shameless plug time: We – and when I say we, I mean HOOPSWORLD – rolled out a new feature series this season called “Life As A Rookie”. Jerryd Bayless shared his story last week, and this week it’s Courtney Lee of the Orlando Magic. I got with Lee on Tuesday night and it’s easy to see why he’s a natural fit in Orlando….

In other “shameless plug” news…..

For you boxing purists and history buffs, the Northwest Examiner is running a feature I wrote on former heavy weight champion Jack Dempsey, who in the mid-1930’s stepped off a passenger train in Portland to fight four guys in one night at Multnomah Stadium.

The story is available in PDF (sorry, but that’s how the NWE rolls) and begins on page 13.

pic via: drunkenboozer

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Bulls Trail Blazers BasketballChange is a good thing. And on Sunday afternoon in Toronto the Portland Trail Blazers will begin to dabble in some minor alterations. Not only is Martell Webster suiting-up for the first time this season, but his return to action also creates a ripple effect throughout the rest of the roster.

I addressed this recently at HOOPSWORLD but failed to include someone in the “Webster returns” equation: Ike Diogu.

Diogu has barely sniffed the floor this season. Actually, I think you and I have played more minutes than Ike so far this year. Yet with Webster getting reacclimated with minutes here and there– briefly now and logically a lot later – perhaps this is the time for a change in whom – along with Travis Outlaw – helps back up LaMarcus Aldridge. Maybe it’s time to get Diogu in the fold before long?

Think about it.

Portland has missed a rugged bruising forward since the days of Brian Grant. Channing Frye isn’t going to provide that presence anytime soon, and since it appears he’ll have his minutes cut the most with Webster back, why not see what Diogu can give you with more than mop-up minutes?

I can hear Nate McMillan now: it depends on the match-up. Well, why not create a mismatch? Let the other coach adjust. At 6-9 and 250 pounds, all Ike would be expected to do is rebound and bang – you know, add a little toughness down low; an attribute many surely agree would be a welcomed change and shouldn’t be only expected of Joel Przybilla.

Change is a good thing.

Update: Apparently Nate has other plans….Diogu was placed on the inactive list to make room for Martell.

pic via: nbanoise

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big-three2Sorry to be a voice of objectivity but it is probably best Portland lost to the Boston Celtics on Friday night. They won’t forget that loss. In fact, it will make the Blazers that much stronger as the season grows older – as the team grows older together.

We are, after all, talking about the Boston Celtics. The NBA Champs. Going into their building and beating them on national television is as difficult as trying to beat the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night at the Staples Center under the bright lights.

Wait a minute.

Never mind.

No doubt about it: these were growing pains. This is a level Portland is trying to reach – a peak already reached by Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. But even by standing on their tip-toes thanks to an impressive six-game-win streak, this was a night where Brandon Roy couldn’t save the day. A night when Greg Oden reached and the Celtics teached. A night when Rudy Fernandez couldn’t hit a three. A night where the Blazers seemed allergic to rebounds. A night where a combined 30 points in the second and third quarter didn’t cut it. A night that Portland will eventually look back on knowing they learned a lot from a big loss in Beantown.

The good news – Sunday is another game.

Toronto – after firing their head coach Sam Mitchell on Thursday and being trounced by the Utah Jazz on Friday night – is a team Portland should beat, even on the Raptors floor. It’s not the loss against Boston they have to worry about now. It’s coming out with a hangover in Toronto. If and how they bounce back will speak volumes about the Blazers.

If not….it could be more tough love.

pic via: nba.com

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odenWhile Nate McMillan was busy giving referee Joe DeRosa the business, his young Blazers were two minutes away from another growth spurt.

On a night that saw Brandon Roy’s late game heroics continue, Greg Oden flash promise and Portland take care of the Washington Wizards on the end of a back-to-back, it’s clear the second youngest team in the league is coming of age during this East coast swing that has seen the Blazers win three in a row and six-straight games.

Roy has the uncanny ability to will his team to victory, proof positive by a 22 point outing. But Oden showed and proved; he finally gave McMillan a reason to keep him in the game late in the fourth quarter, where usually he’s been relegated to the bench down the stretch. That’s been Joel Przybilla’s job. Well, on Wednesday night in Washington, Oden received a little on the job training. He showed he belonged.

Each game out Greg will grow. Some nights slow (New York). Some nights fast (Washington).

It’s almost as if he shed his security blanket at one point in the game.

When Przybilla went down and out (briefly) with a sprained left ankle, Oden had no choice but to earn his keep. Maybe somewhere in the back of Greg’s mind he finds comfort knowing Joel is all-everything defensively in the middle for Portland. Then again, maybe he saw an opportunity present itself and decided to take full advantage. A double-double later (13 points and 10 rebounds), Oden basically gave everyone the “Gas Face” – 3rd Base style.

Kick ‘em in the grill Greg….


Quick plug for a HOOPSWORLD feature on Jerryd Bayless, from Alex Raskin – who along with Tommy Beer – covers the New York Knicks and grabbed time with the Blazers rookie while in New York. It hasn’t been an ideal situation for Bayless but he’s making the best of it….

pic via: o-live

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NBA/Mike D’Antoni knows how talented both Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez are. The New York Knicks head coach – formerly of the Phoenix Suns– helped draft and subsequently trade both Sergio and Rudy to Portland at different times of his tenure in Phoenix.

The Suns selected Sergio as the 27th overall pick in 2006 before trading him for cash considerations that same day. A year later, Phoenix snagged Fernandez in the first round (24th overall) only to turn around days later and trade him along with James Jones for cash considerations.

On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, D’Antoni might have been calling for a couple draft day do-overs.

A good hour after the “Rudy-Rudy-Rudy” chants faded from the Garden and a first quarter that saw Portland shoot an abysmal 29%, Fernandez slowly shook-off a case of the “clanks.” He hit his first two shots of the game – both from beyond the arc – only to miss his next three attempts.


Rudy hasn’t delved into too many funks this season. And he didn’t stay that way for long. You just had a feeling he was going to get it going on a big stage like New York with a large Spanish contingent on hand. His two enormous three-pointers early in the fourth quarter contributed to a 14-0 Blazers run, which in essence salvaged another Portland win – their fifth-straight. Very impressive final numbers for Rudy: 18 points, 5-11 from the field, 4-8 from three 4-4 from the line in roughly 21 minutes.

More chants.

Let’s not forget Sergio’s role in Portland overcoming a Knicks 10 point lead. Setting up Rudy is one thing, but getting into the lane and hitting a stop-and-pop off the glass over Tim Thomas late in the fourth was nothing short of smooth. That is unless you count Rodriguez’s step-back three minutes later. He put together a solid yet non-flashy game: 5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 0 turnovers in 19 minutes.


In the end though, victory over New York didn’t come easy for Portland. There probably isn’t a scrappier eight player team in the NBA than the Knicks right now. They just wore down. For the Blazers, they need to get a good night sleep with Washington up on Wednesday. The Wizards won in New Jersey by 20 points and now both Washington and Portland prepare for a little back-to-back action after a quick flight to D.C. 

Can the Blazers make it 7-6 on the road?


Okay, so Portland didn’t make it on the short list of the NBA’s “Biggest Surprises In November” (a rundown story that ran yesterday on HOOPSWORLD). But with their winning ways, Brandon Roy’s wow factor and the typical cliche’ of an all-around nightly team effort, they are worthy of an honorable mention….

pic via: daylife

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reggie1Sam Amick has covered the Sacramento Kings for the past four seasons (and some change), so who better to help scout the Kings than the beat writer from the Sacramento Bee.

In what has become a sporadic game day tradition, various beat writers, bloggers, online journalist and columnists will join me throughout the season in bringing you an inside look at teams from around the league as they prepare to take on the Portland Trail Blazers. Today it’s all Amick with the Blazers (7-5) visiting the Kings (5-8) on Friday.

Man, Reggie Theus looks like a young Lando Calrissian in that throwback….

Is this how you thought the season would start for you guys?

Well I’d obviously be a liar if I said yes. The injuries (Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia mainly) have opened up minutes for some of the young guys, and they have mostly surprised in a big way. Rookie forward Jason Thompson has been very good, fellow rookie Donte’ Greene just broke out for 15 points in his first start and second-year center Spencer Hawes has taken a quantum leap from last season.

Now as to their recent Jekyl and Hyde road trip (lose to Memphis and beat New Orleans) that happened time and again last season when they fell to horrible teams and downed great ones.

That was my next question….the Kings lose to the Grizzlies and then turn around and beat the Hornets. Who are these Kings right now?

It’s something else though, that phenomenon. On the one hand, you’ve got to call it a lack of focus against bad teams and some complacency there. On the flip side, I wonder if the lack of pressure or expectation when they face good teams allows them to play much more free. I can’t explain it, though.

You mentioned Martin and Garcia, who else should Portland be concerned with?

I’d say (Jason) Thompson. Considering there was a time not too long ago when the Kings were pondering ways to get the Blazers’ own LaMarcus Aldridge via trade, they’re now hoping the rookie out of Rider University is the answer to a power forward problem that has been there since Chris Webber left town.

Portland and Sacramento last met in the preseason at the Rose Garden when Greg Oden had his way with both Spencer Hawes and Mikki Moore. How do they contain him this time around?

I think they may just ask Greg to lighten up a bit. Other than that, there’s not much they can do other than agitate him right when he gets the ball on offense and surround him on the glass with the intent of poking the ball wherever he’s not. The Kings have been getting killed by the three-ball, so you won’t see much doubling down low.

Last one for you….former NBA point guard Kevin Johnson was recently elected Mayor of Sacramento. How does Johnson being in office benefit the Kings’ future in Sacramento? Or does it?

Without knowing all of his politics (I don’t vote because I live outside the city), I do see it as a good thing. On image alone, he brings a major boost to a city that needs it right now. What’s more, the backdrop is that of an incumbent mayor in Heather Fargo who is widely perceived as solid but far from dynamic. I know the Maloofs love the pick, as it certainly doesn’t hurt their efforts to get a new arena built in Sacramento if only because Johnson places great value on the Kings being here. It’ll be interesting.

Big thanks to Sam Amick for his time. For the latest out of Sacramento make sure to check out Sam on the Kings Blog on sacbee.com.

pic via: nbrpa.com

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