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oden

Let’s just have the conversation shall we. No foul in that. For the sake of debate: could it be Portland is actually playing better without Greg Oden right now?

Come on now. I can’t be the only one having these thoughts, can I?

As I stayed up way too late on Saturday night writing about how Joel Przybilla really is an unsung hero for the Blazers and that this whole Oden knee-jerk isn’t going away any time soon, that’s the thought that ran through my mind: is Portland better without him right now?

Ran through my mind again after listening to Nate McMillan say that the healing process is “a lot slower than we expected” before the Blazers/Spurs game.

Let’s recap: better without him right now?

Blasphemy? Reality.

Who would think such a thought? Me, I guess. Anyone else?

Come to think of it, I was all for Przybilla staying in the starting five when Oden came back from his first injury. Thought Oden should have earned that spot – and that has nothing to do with him being fragile. Now I can’t help but think – if and when - Oden does return, will he once again be inserted into the starting lineup.

The kid has to get healthy first. Then, he has to earn it.

It’s a legit debate: right now, are they better without him?

You consider what Portland has been able to do without him this season – going 3-3 when Oden missed six games to open the season and now moving to 5-2 since Oden injured his left knee cap – and it’s not a farfetched conversation to have.

I pressed the issue with McMillan recently. Wondered if Portland could rely on what they endured last season without having Greg available. Could that experience – for better or worse – benefit the Blazers during another episode of “Life Without Greg”.

Nate wasn’t having it…..I get that.

But still, I have to ask: are they better – right now – without him?

pic via: daylife

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GRIFFEY TRADE

Spring training got under way this week, and that can only mean one thing: the return of Ken Griffey, Jr. to the Seattle Mariners. And while Nate McMillan is busy preparing the Portland Trail Blazers for a postseason push, “Mr. Sonic” knows all about “The Kid”.

“I’m happy to see him go back to Seattle,” McMillan said of Griffey.

Junior was an instant fan favorite from his days as a 19-year-old rookie until his departure from Seattle after the 1999 season – leaving the then Sonics guard to keep tabs on Griffey and the Mariners.

“He was huge – him and (Jay) Buhner – we all came around that time, but my son (Jamelle) was a huge fan of his and he had the opportunity to go in the locker room and meet those guys. Griffey was the man – a great player. Things changed for the Mariners when he left. But they had some great runs with him and Randy (Johnson) and guys that were there in the early 90’s.”

But despite not making it to a playoff game in ’95 when the Mariners upset the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, McMillan said he “became a huge Mariners fan”, something many will likely do with Griffey back in town after a ten year absence.

“Hopefully he has something left,” added McMillan, knowing the city of Seattle would benefit from a Mariners resurgence.

“He’s just been quiet since he left Seattle and hasn’t had that – he’s been injured since he’s been gone and I know he went back home – but hopefully he has something left to bring back. When he left, I think a lot of people wondered when he retired, would they retire his jersey as a Mariner.

“Now he gets to come back. I think that is good.”

pic via: full count pitch

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Stick and Move….

82990649DCE_BLAZERS_SPURSSomewhere in the world Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje should feel pretty good about himself. Sure Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells ran the show, but everyone on that 2002 Blazers team can say they were around to last beat San Antonio on their home floor.

Seven years later, that unfortunate streak remains intact, as does Portland’s recent road woes. It’s now at five-straight losses on the road. 

No Tim Duncan. No Manu Ginobili. No worries.

Still, Portland can learn from the heartache….

Travis Outlaw: He went 6 for 8, finished with 13 off the bench. Loved to see Outlaw’s jumper falling, but would it kill the guy to drive to the rim every now and again? That’s when Travis is at his best – well, that and when he’s knocking down that corner three. For as much as he talks about playing more aggressive, you sure don’t get that from the sight of Travis’ constant fall away jump shot.

Channing Frye: Where did that come from? Frye went for 15 points – hasn’t dropped those numbers since late November in Miami when he finished with 17. Good for Channing. Maybe it was the increased playing time. Maybe it was the fact that Frye was close to losing whatever minutes he had left to Shavlik Randolph. Either way, the playing time should be there for Channing if Greg Oden continues to sit. But will Frye’s production be there?

Steve Blake: More of a professed pacifist myself, but I loved seeing Blake mix-it-up with Francisco Oberto in the third quarter. If only Portland showed more emotion like Blake flexed against Oberto, maybe the Blazers wouldn’t be so easily pushed around. Think about it. Who is quick to not back down from anyone – Joel Przybilla. Everyone after that is tied for a very distant second. Notice Joel was the first one to step to Blake’s aid?

If these guys plan on making their mark on the postseason, Portland has to be more physical. We saw that between Przybilla and Tyson Chandler. We saw it with Brandon Roy and David West. Guess Blake was sending that message in San Antonio.

On The Road Again: Thought for sure Portland could go 2-1 when they first embarked on this trip – perhaps beating Houston and Minnesota. But now the only thing the Blazers have going for them is meeting the Timberwolves who are 1-9 in their last 10 games and losers of four-straight on Friday.

pic via: yahoosports

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82993701JF019_Houston_Rocke

Man, how times have changed. It used to be that when Brandon Roy and Aaron Brooks shared the court, Roy reaped the praise. On Tuesday night in Houston, these two Seattle natives did a little changing of the guard.

“He’s a mismatch problem for everyone who goes against him,” Brooks said of Brandon back when Aaron was at Oregon and Roy represented Washington.

“He’s quicker than most guards.”

It’s as if the Rockets diminutive guard was talking about himself.

Roy may be the two-time All-Star, but Brooks is starting to shine for Houston – a team who has won eight-straight at home. He finds himself the point man of the Rockets future, particularly after Rafer Alston was shipped to Orlando at the trade deadline last week. And to think there were actually some who cover the Rockets that disapproved of drafting Brooks 26th overall two summers ago.

How do you like him now?

The kid could still be a legit candidate for 6th Man of the Year. If nothing else, he’ll be one of the reasons Houston makes noise out West during their postseason run, sans Tracy McGrady. 

Roy may have finished with 24 points and 5 assists, but Brooks takes home the win. He went for 20 points and 5 assists over the Blazers, who couldn’t overcome an 18-point deficit despite a third quarter surge.

While Portland is tied for the most of any team in the NBA, winning eight games – including six on the road – when trailing at the start of the final period, they couldn’t make it nine on Tuesday night.

So what do they have to show for their efforts?

Nothing more than a quick trip to San Antonio, a restless night and a back-to-back against the Spurs on Wednesday night.

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The Latest: Pretty convenient having Ron Artest on the floor considering one of the topics I touched on in a “PM Report” for HOOPSWORLD late Tuesday.

Who is the “dirtiest player” in the game today? We all know Artest’s history, but I don’t think he takes the honors. For my money, Matt Barnes of the Phoenix Suns gets the nod. See the evidence here. Apparently everyone else and their grandmother – including many players around the league – votes for Bruce Bowen.

Discuss.

pic via: daylife

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So Long Deadline….

ball

Thank the good Lord that is over with. Sorry, but in my five plus years covering the league, the weeks, days and hours leading up to the NBA trade deadline is my least favorite topic to address. Coaches don’t like to talk about it. Neither do players. And for some writers, it essentially complicates matters.

What typically ends up happening is pageviews and readership is exchanged for credibility.

But no one wants to talk about that. They want to talk about earning respect, while all along losing it.

Talk to any beat writer across the league and they will tell you what irritates them the most about this time of year is all the rumors loosely thrown around like a Chris Brown haymaker. Guys on the beat spend half of their day chasing dead end rumors. Then they spend the rest attempting to get confirmation from a general manager, someone in the front office or a team source on what – in most cases – results is mere speculation.

Somewhere in between they actually have time to write – that is – when they are not worried about the newspaper biz suffering.

Can’t help but think guys in my situation – who primarily deliver online content – are part of the problem during the ongoing hoopla in late January and early February.

But that’s not me. Has never been my angle – just to report rumor after rumor after rumor after rumor. That’s sloppy journalism.

Bushleague.

I find comfort in knowing I’m not a rumor monger. I find comfort in knowing I’ve established relationships and friendships with front offices, other beat writers and legit sources around the league who know what I’m about. And if anything, I’m about refuting a rumor instead of conjuring one up.

Have I reported about trade talks? Of course. Do I make it my goal 98% of the times I write? Hardly.

Trust me. Being told by an editor that you can’t run a story during the few days leading up to the trade deadline because it is not “rumor related” is simply infuriating. So it’s not only guys on the beat who have to deal with the winds of the rumor mill.

Such hot air is felt everywhere.

So forget the number of reasons I gave for Portland not trading Raef LaFrentz’s expiring contract….while many in the media – including some collegues at HOOPSWORLD - said that was one move the Blazers would make.

Forget how I assumed Brad Miller and Joe Smith would be on some GM’s shortlist…..and yes, Smith will not finish the season in Oklahoma City.

Forget Donnie Walsh telling me the New York Knicks didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver with trades….days before they move three guys out of town.

Forget me trusting both the Sacramento Kings and Chicago Bulls would make moves at the deadline…..boy, did they ever.

Forget all that noise.

Allow me to return to the stories of basketball and life for the love of God Shammgod.

pic via: empty the bench

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Wizards Cavaliers Basketball

I’m going to make this one quick and painless. Because I was right and I was wrong – at least for the time being.

For the past few weeks, I’ve said the Portland Trail Blazers were not going to make a move. Well they did by shipping out Ike Diogu. I also said the Blazers would wait until the summer to make major moves. And they will, especially now with the team receiving $3 million in a trade exception along with Michael Ruffin (formerly of the Washington Wizards, above).

Ruffin has been injured. He hasn’t played this season with the Chicago Bulls. And who knows if he will even report – or even yet – is waived by Portland.

For the time being, Nate McMillan shared this thoughts on the trade and upcoming deadline….running now over at HOOPSWORLD.

With the trade deadline set for tomorrow afternoon, I’m sure to have another post or two.

Stay tuned.

pic via: daylife

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U1926166

Not too long ago a former Portland Trail Blazer made headlines down in Memphis. You might have heard about it. It was somewhat controversial. But on Wednesday night when the Memphis Grizzlies take the floor at the Rose Garden no one will probably be looking at “that” man – or should I say “that” head coach.

All eyes will be on Darius Miles. Instead, they should be on his head coach.

When Lionel Hollins was named the 11th head coach in franchise history for the Grizzlies back on January 25, this former assistant with Memphis caught some flack. Major flack.

Not only was he returning to the sidelines for the Grizzlies – after posting a combined 18-44 in two prior stints – but some who cover the league didn’t even think Hollins – who was serving as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks this season - should have received the job in the first place.

With all the former head coaches looking for work, why Hollins? Is he just another short term solution? If that is the case, at least he’s getting the most out of team right now. Memphis is 4-6 since Hollins took over as head coach of the team. Not horrible for the Grizzlies who lost 12-straight before turning to grab four wins under Hollins. 

On Wednesday night, you won’t have to be a Grizzlies fan to cheer Hollins in Portland.  You just have to know something about how he helped bring a championship ring to Rip City.

Selected sixth overall in the first round of the 1975 NBA Draft by the Blazers, Hollins (sitting dead center in the above photo) earned a spot on the 1976 All-Rookie First Team and won an NBA Championship as a starter for the Trail Blazers in 1977, where he was a teammate of current Grizzlies assistant coach Johnny Davis (sitting second in on the left).

The next year, Hollins was an NBA All-Star who also named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team. In over 673 career games, he averaged 11.6 points, 4.5 assists and 1.56 steals with Portland, Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, Detroit Pistons and the Houston Rockets.

His number 14 hangs respectively from the Rose Garden rafters.

But Hollins and Davis aren’t the only former Blazers in Memphis. Hollins recently added Damon Stoudamire to his coaching staff. Stoudamire played with the Grizzlies from 2005 to 2008 and is now in his first NBA coaching position after serving as director of player development at Rice since December.

So let’s not make Wednesday night about Darius Miles’ return to Portland or the beef between Memphis and Portland’s front office. Why even go there?

Make this about Hollins. Make this about Davis.

Make this about Portland revisiting their lone championship season and the launch of Blazermania into the NBA vernacular.

pic via: pro.corbis

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Brush It Off….

greg

Every time I see an ant hill, I can’t help but think back to when I was in high school. I was a sophomore. Maybe a junior. All I know is there must have been a couple hundred ants crawling all over me and I hated it.

It was in Nebraska. I was working with my dad trying to repair a driveway culvert at the feed and seed lot one of my older brothers and my dad ran. The culvert had a hole in it. I was selected to try and fix it. Had no choice actually. My dad – likely after a long day of work in the hot summer sun – asked me to lay down on the gravely driveway to see about a hole in the culvert.

I laid down, discovered the hole and stood up to tell my dad about it.

As I did, I got a tingly feeling all over me. I had rested right on top of ant hill. I was covered with ants. Covered with them. They were on my legs, my arms, my neck. I was freaking out.

I imagine news of Greg Oden’s latest gimpy knee problem has hit a lot of people in the same way. If nothing else it is part of his injury prone legacy.

Oden missed the NBA rookie-sophomore game last night after experiencing some swelling on his left knee. The MRI revealed a chip fracture on the patella. Now every Blazers die-hard or Oden fan across the league suddenly has this creepy crawly feeling all over them. It’s like every time you think this kid is healthy, you are swarmed with discomfort.

Makes it even worse after Kevin Durant did what Kevin Durant does.

I mean, forget the ants. The injury bug feeds on this guy like he was Old Country Buffet – the wrist, the knee, the ankle, the knee.

But let’s look at the big picture here. Had Oden played Friday night in Phoenix, it would have been the back end end of a back-to-back-to-back outing. If anyone needs a break in Portland it is this kid. What truly matters is that he get some rest and be healthy for the second half of the season, not go-down in an exhibition game that doesn’t count.

No need to freak out.

As I stood there covered with ants, I’ll never forget how calm my dad was. He simply walked over to me, told me to stand still and started brushing the ants off of me.  Felt like a lifetime. But it was over before I knew it.

That’s all Oden or his fans in Rip City can do right now.

Remain calm, brush it off and move on.

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The Latest: When All-Star weekend always rolls around, I can’t help but be envious of those other writers who take advantage of their three-day-weekend. No such luck for me. While I didn’t make the trip to Phoenix, we have a strong HOOPSWORLD contingent on the ground.

Luckily, they are spooning me some interviews.

Just didn’t know one of those clips would allow me to tell how happy Allen Iverson is about this coming summer. He’s got free agency on his mind – all while having one foot out the door in Detroit.

Stay tuned….will have a feature story on Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley, as well as one on Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford running later today.  

Enjoy the weekend.

pic via: brouser

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raef

There is always a method to the madness – even when it comes down to compiling a top 10 list about an injured veteran center on the mend in Iowa. Heck, even Raef LaFrentz would probably admit he’s never been at the center of Portland’s world as much as he is right now.

Actually, the story idea – running today thanks in large part to fellow HOOPSWORLD writer Jason Fleming’s insight – came about pretty easily. It helps having fans and fellow writers tell us – two guys based in Portland – how the Blazers need to move LaFrentz’s contract.

They even took it a step further saying the Blazers should pull the trigger on the Amar’e Stoudemire trade proposal. I went there yesterday. And I don’t want to go back today….but I will.

What is amusing is the feedback we are getting on this “10 Reasons To Keep LaFrentz’s Contract” piece. If you have time, check out the comment section from the story. Love those who take time to comment. They truly make the debate lively. But I also love how funny it gets – not in a ‘ha-ha’ way, but more of a ‘are you friggin serious’ way - when people say Portland is stupid for not trading for Amar’e or not moving LaFrentz’s contract.

That’s along the comedy lines of David Letterman’s interview with Joaquin Phoenix last night.

Classic.

Now, I’m not typically a betting man, but I would bet a bag of Funyuns those same folks who say Portland is stupid for not trading LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless and Raef’s contract to the Suns reside outside the greater Portland metro area and even the state of Oregon.

Am I wrong here?

If so I would love to hear from you….

pic via: o-live

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KOSZYKÓWKA NBA SPURS SUNS

What do Amar’e Stoudemire, Major League Baseball and a heavyweight championship fight all have in common? None are coming to Portland, so can we just get back to basketball please.

I get it. The trade deadline is upon us and we are bound to hear anything and everything over the next couple of days. But let’s just leave it at this: keeping Raef LeFrentz’s $12.7 million expiring contract is far better for the Blazers than making a move simply for the sake of change.

So after the mass emails from fans, other writers and needy editors I received today about this rumors…..here is the straight dope:

I have no doubt that Phoenix offered a package for Stoudemire, involving LaMarcus Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless, and LeFrentz’s expiring contract. If I learned anything from Ken Berger – formerly of Newsday, who reported the story over at CBSSports.com – from when we both covered the New York Knicks, it is this:

The guy can work a story and his sources are legit. Portland signing off on the deal however is not.

It’s surprising Phoenix didn’t ask for Brandon Roy in return too.

Good lord.

GM’s talk all the time. They talk shop all the time. Heck, some even text trade ideas to each other. ‘Tis the season.

And just as Portland isn’t buying this deal, neither do I believe that this whole talk got started on Portland’s end. Aldridge is the second best player on the team. Bayless is a kid many in the organization see as a future point guard for Portland. As for LeFrentz, that contract isn’t going anywhere until this summer once it has expired.

To be honest, I’m not sure Stoudemire is on his way out of Phoenix just yet. Not Chicago, not Miami and certainly not Portland. If anything, the Suns are putting him on ice.

So let’s everyone cool down from this rumor.

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The Latest: Since I won’t be making the trip to the All-Star Game this weekend, I knocked out a quick story on someone who will be – adidas.

Let me explain. If you haven’t heard, adidas constructed the jerseys that will be worn at the All-Star Game on Sunday and the product is pretty insane. Spoke with an adidas rep yesterday, who endured sleepless nights the past two years to help get this high-tech uniform done.

I will let the story tell the story….”The Perfect Fit At All-Star”….via HOOPSWORLD of course.

And of course, here is the poster child for the product. None other than Superman himself….

pic via: nba noise

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