Pick and Scroll

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

• Have you seen this yet? Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw got into a scrap with the Bucks last night. Now, we Portland fans know that Steve Blake plays with a chunk on his shoulder (when it’s that big, you can’t call it a chip anymore), especially against Milwaukee, a team Blake blames for never giving him a fair shot, but how about Travis Outlaw getting up in Andrew Bogut’s face? You can see the Blazer-forged bond in action as Outlaw runs up like Blake is his only friend in the world and just shoves the 260 lb Andrew Bogut back. Now I’ve seen Outlaw in tussles before, usually involving a Laker, but I’ve never seen him strike first and never with such desperation. Travis Outlaw = Enforcer?

One more thing I’d like to say about Blake and Outlaw (or, “our dearly departed duo” as I like to call them). They are Blazers. They may be wearing Clipper uniforms and I may have to root against them when they play against Portland, but they are Blazers and I’m sure that down the road we will see them back in Portland in some capacity. I could see Blake working as an assistant coach after he retires.

• Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian says the Blazers should beat the Knicks tonight. If that happens—couple with losses from Houston and Memphis—Portland is in the postseason. How great would clinching be if it happens on the Rose Garden court? Pretty damn great.

• Sheed from Bust a Bucket agrees with Mr. Arnold. However, Sheed thinks that Harrington may win the matchup with Aldridge because he can “grab a ton of boards and push people around inside.” To be honest, I don’t see it. Al Harrington is only 230lbs and has never averaged more than seven rebounds a game. Harrington has averaged 14/4 against Aldridge over his career, which compared to Aldridge’s 13/6, don’t seem like a world beating number. However, Harrington is shooting 45% from beyond the arc against Aldridge, so LaMarcus should perhaps consider closing out.

• For the New York perspective on tonight’s game, check TrueHoop Network sister site Knickerblogger.

• Coup from Rip City Project has been watching tape again, this time, Coup analyzes Portland’s defense on Durantula.

• Over at the TrueHoop Motherblog, John Hollinger thinks that the Blazers could move all the way up to 5th and that Portland could see Dallas (good, good) in the first round. I guess what I’m trying to say to the Blazers is don’t just stand there, bust a move.

• Joe Freeman from The Oregonian reports on Portland’s bench woes. As McMillan tightens the rotation leading into the playoffs, Rudy, Martell, and Jerryd have to find a way to produce in limited minutes.

Blazers vs. Knicks – Preview

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Of all the beat writers for all the New York City publications that have followed the Knicks over the past few years, how is it that none of them have written a screenplay documenting the most entertaining team in league history? Isiah Thomas’ (unintentionally) hilarious reign, the franchise secretly bugging reporters, Larry Brown’s buyout, Z-Bo’s legendary step-back three, Stephon Marbury getting sexy in his backseat… there are just too many moments to describe. This article alone provides the material for a trilogy of wacky comedies based on the bumbling Knicks, any of which would make make all other NBA teams seem boring by comparison. 

While the Knicks have spent the past year or so polishing the furniture to make their home look nice for when a certain Cavs player starts looking for some new digs, we all know that this team is just as likely to end up with Jawad Williams as they are LeBron James. It’s a risky endeavor—to sacrifice multiple seasons in order to woo a player who very well might not change uniforms in the off-season—but one could say the same thing about trading an unprotected first round pick to the Suns (who passed it along to the Jazz), and that didn’t stop the Knicks from doing just that in 2004. (Four years from now when you see Evan Turner win a ring for the Jazz, be sure to stab another pin in your Isiah Thomas voodoo doll.)

But before you just tally up another win for the Blazers, keep in mind that the shell of a team that is the New York Knicks is still a worthy opponent. It just depends on what night you catch them. This month alone the bipolar Knicks have defeated Denver, Philadelphia (twice), Detroit, Dallas (on the road), and Atlanta. Impressive, right? Well, there were also the nine defeats; including a 16 point loss at home to the Nets, a 27 point defeat in Cleveland, and last week’s 36 point embarrassment in Phoenix. This isn’t a good sign for Portland, who, of the eight teams jostling for playoff position in the Western Conference, have the worst record (16-13) against the East. Of those 13 losses, few hurt more than an early December 93-84 defeat in New York. While it seems unlikely that the Knicks will sweep the season series for the first time since the 1999-2000 season, Portland should be cautious and hope that when it comes to playing the Knicks this month, they’re more like the Nets than they are the Nuggets. 

Tip-off: 7 pm
TV: KGW
Las Vegas Line: Portland -10
TrueHoop Network Blog: Knickerblogger

Pick and Scroll

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

• Geoffrey C. Arnold of The Oregonian reports that with San Antonio’s loss to the Nets last night, Portland is in 7th place, for now.

• Sophia Brugato over at Bust a Bucket is not happy with the play of the Trail Blazers reserves:

Now, I know what you are thinking, “leave it to Sophia to find something negative about the team when they have clearly been playing so well”. Although the team has been playing extremely well overall and there have been brilliant flashes and clutch plays from bench guys, lately the second unit has been more consistently bad than good and this is a serious concern. And it should go without saying that no team goes far in the playoffs without a solid bench and reliable role players in the second unit.

• Dave Deckard over at BlazersEdge answers some mail. Topics include elephants, gazelles, angry church members, and the silkiness of Ben Golliver’s hair.

• The Lakers lost last night in New Orleans. The Lakers have not played especially well lately, and neither have the Nuggets who are struggling without the swinging elbows Kenyon Martin and leadership of George Karl. So far, Portland has had Dallas’ number, and I think the Blazers would have a reasonable shot against Phoenix over a seven game series. As long as Portland manages to avoid playing Utah in the first round, I think the Blazers are getting hot at the right time and might be able to make some noise in the playoffs, or at least give somebody a bad scare.

• Here is my vote for what the Blazers should do with the Mid-Level Exception next season, or the season after, whichever. Josh Childress is a smart player and a better outside shooter than his reputation suggests. I’d love to see him coming off the bench and playing backup combo forward for Portland. Perhaps if Portland looked to be a contender, he’d be willing to play for the MLE. Alternatively, Portland could trade Martell Webster and some parts or picks to Atlanta for the rights to Childress and hope that he’d be more amicable to signing in Portland than he is with Atlanta.

• Chad Ford will be chatting at 1 PM EST.

• Tomorrow Portland plays the Knicks. If the Blazers win, that’s one victory closer to a good playoff seeding. If Portland loses, well, it does push the Utah Jazz (owners of New York’s unprotected {!} pick in this year’s lottery) one step farther away from John Wall or Evan Turner. Not exactly a “win-win,” maybe more of a “win-meh.” 

The Ex-Pat on League Pass Broadband

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(Editor’s note: Former season ticket holder Bill Ryan, the Ex-Pat, currently lives in Manhattan. He’s been trying to follow the Blazers, but logistically, it’s not easy. As someone who has been making the move away from TV to getting all my own programming online, I came inches away from getting NBA League Pass Broadband myself this season. After hearing Bill’s travails, below, I’m wary, and would love to hear any Portlanders experience with the service as pertaining to blackouts and the like. Enjoy Bill’s column and please, share your stories in the comments.)

Two things I purchased and immediately felt stupid in the buying: $50 Monster “Gold” cables that the salesman guaranteed would make music sound “crisper” and “clearer” than other cheap cables (and made no difference whatsoever), and the $80 half-season subscription to NBA League Pass Broadband.

Why? Well, for example, here’s tonight’s schedule on NBA Broadband: MIA/CHI – 8 PM ET (watch on TNT), LAC/HOU 8:30 PM ET, DAL/POR – 10:30 PM ET (watch on TNT). No big deal, right? it’s one day out of the week. It’s to be expected, the stupid broadcast rights and the old contracts, and networks completely befuddled with how to deal with high-speed internet.

Ok, then, take the other night: the Blazers weren’t one of the two games televised on ESPN, so I was gearing up for their game against Toronto. Ran down the six flights of stairs to my local bodega for some cheap beer and ramen, and then back up to bury myself under the covers for a little comfy day-ending hatred of Hedo. Come game-time, suddenly the game was blocked. Why?

NBA.tv has a fan poll to decide which game will be “nationally” televised that evening. Because Portland fans kick ass, they voted it up. They also robbed me of watching the only game I gave a crap about. Check that—Portland fans didn’t do anything. It’s the NBA broadband access that screwed me. Between TNT, ESPN, NBA.tv, MSN, and YES, I’m officially punked. Nationally-televised games, whenever NBA.tv arbitrarily decides to pull a match, and any game (regardless of whether it’s home or away) that involves the Nets or the Knicks? Blocked. Blacked out. So sad, too bad, go buy a TV and pay for cable like a good American.

Of the next five Blazer games—against Dallas, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, New York, and Denver—I get to watch one of those games from the comfort of my own glorified walk-in closet. One. Sure, I could go out and watch the game at a bar and have a fine time, but my internship’s monthly stipend would scream and faint if it saw the bill for a night out at a local watering hole. I bought the damn broadband service because I can’t afford cable. Because I can’t afford to drink in a bar.

So, instead I logged into my favorite internet “broadcasting” website and watched the game. Lower quality, unreliable, but at least I got to watch my team of choice. It’s maybe a cousin of the war software and video game companies are fighting against hackers, and the nefarious RIAA against the newest generation of mix tapes. I don’t know what the solution is, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, I’m voting with what few dollars I have and won’t be renewing my subscription (their “NO REFUNDS” is highlighted in my League Pass subscription management screen). I suggest you do the same. And for the love of god, don’t believe the salesmen.

Pick and Scroll

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Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

Portland vs. Oklahoma City

• Mike Barrett says it best:

What a weekend for the Trail Blazers, who have gotten red hot at exactly the right time. It should remind you of last season, where, at this very same time, Portland got in a rhythm, and closed on a tear.

• The Oregonian’s Jason Quick reports that Portland’s recent infusion of experience is serving them well:

Remember, it was just last season when the talk around the Blazers was how the roster was so young and inexperienced. But with offseason signings of Miller and Howard, and a midseason trade that netted Camby, the Blazers are starting to look like the perfect blend of youth and savvy. 

“We are in a rhythm,” Miller said. “I’ll say that. We are finding our rhythm.” 

• Kelly Dwyer says the Blazers did it with defense. Let me take a second to say that I really appreciate how much Dwyer advocates pace-adjusted statistics. Every single time Dwyer does a “Behind the Boxscore” on the Blazers he mentions pace-adjusted statistics, and I’m grateful for it because of the off chance that a play-by-play announcer or a beat journalist will read it and learn something. Perhaps then I won’t have to cringe when an announcer calls Portland “One of the best defenses in the league,” and cites points allowed, or when a journalist claims that the Blazers’ offense needs work while their defense is stellar. These guys have one job, and that is to keep fans informed about basketball. Mike Barrett does a fantastic job of incorporating pace-adjusted statistics into his play-by-play and every time I listen to a particularly bad opposing announcer, I silently thank him for it. Also, if anyone is looking for a play by play announcer, I’ve been working on my “Bill Walton voice.”

• Ben Golliver from BlazersEdge recaps the Blazers’ “huge road victory.” I’m surprised Ben had time to spend writing a recap with all the time he’s spent on TV as of late.  

• SJ from Rip City Project says last night, Portland always had an answer. Which was good, because Kevin Durant was damn sure asking some hard questions of the Blazers’ defense in the third quarter.

• Sebastian Pruiti of TrueHoop Network sister blog NBA Playbook breaks down exactly what happened on the Thunder’s last possession. Sebastian does not care for the time-intensive plays that Oklahoma City coach Scotty Brooks has been drawing up at the end of games.

• For the Oklahoma City perspective, check TrueHoop Network sister blog Daily Thunder. Did I ever mention that I had the misfortune of being born in Oklahoma? Well I was, and it wasn’t my fault. I got out as fast as I could.

Portland vs. New Orleans:

• There was another game this weekend, and it was beautiful, unless, of course, you’re a Hornets fan. Check TrueHoop Network sister blog Hornets247 to reminisce how it feels to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. It’s a recent memory that many Portland fans have not forgotten.

• Coup from Rip City Project has been breaking down film as of late and says that Aldridge and Miller are not too shabby at defending the Pick and Roll.

• Wendell Maxey thinks the Blazers might go for 50 wins. We agree.

• Dave from BlazersEdge breaks down the seeding battle and takes into account tiebreakers like the division title, an empty crown according to Henry Abbott over at the TrueHoop Motherblog.

• NBA.com’s David Aldridge has a must read article on the embattled Kevin Pritchard.

• Word on the street is that the Blazers could be interested in Oklahoma City Assistant GM Rich Cho, which confirms the rumor Ben Golliver reported shortly after the Tom Penn firing.

• Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post reports on Portland’s rumored interest in Mark Warkentien. However, in another example of someone paid to inform a fanbase simply not taking the time to practice due diligence, Dempsey gets his facts wrong. First, Dempsey claims that Larry Miller was fired and that LeGarie is Miller’s agent as well: 

Currently, Kevin Pritchard is the Trail Blazers’ general manager. But after team president Larry Miller was recently fired, Warren Legarie — agent for Miller and Pritchard — openly wondered if his other Trail Blazers client was next. (Emphasis Added)

To his credit, Dempsey did correct his article, however, he got it wrong again, this time elevating Tom Penn to Team President and again claiming that Miller’s agent is Warren LeGarie: 

Currently, Kevin Pritchard is the Trail Blazers’ general manager. But after team president Tom Penn was recently fired, Warren Legarie — agent for Miller and Pritchard — openly wondered if his other Trail Blazers client was next. (Emphasis Added)

I’ll be honest, after a few minutes on Google, I am still not sure who Larry Miller’s agent is, or even if he has one, though I’m sure that if I send an email or two to people who know, they will direct me in the right direction. However, I’m pretty sure Miller’s agent isn’t LeGarie, because surely Jason Quick, Dwight Jaynes, or somebody would have mentioned Penn, Pritchard, and Miller sharing an agent. Do you see what I did there? I took the time to check my facts before publishing something, and since I wasn’t sure of the answer, I made sure to include a statement to that effect. 

• Now, I know that if the Spurs had lost it would bode better for Portland’s playoff seeding odds, however, I just can’t root for the Celtics. I just can’t. That is why I jumped for joy when Manu Ginobili crushed Kevin Garnett’s soul.

• Confused by who owes whom what picks and under what protection? DraftExpress has you covered. 

Miller and Camby Help the Blazers Knock Off the Thunder, 92-87.

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Deciphering the NBA playoff tiebreakers is like trying to figure out the rules of Fantastic Mr. Fox’s whackbat (“Basically, there’s three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners…”). But following an impressive 92-87 victory over Oklahoma City in the Thunder Dome Ford Center, the Blazers now hold a decisive tiebreaker (at least for a few more days) against the Thunder. 

Now 14-3 in the latter half of back-to-backs, Portland’s tempo was consistent throughout the night; the Blazers took a respectable lead (about eight points or so), then blew said lead (usually on Durant slicing the key and dunking through/over anyone in his path), and then Portland regained the lead once more. The two teams kept it close into the final minute. Portland had the ball and a three point advantage—following James Harden scooping up a clutch block from LaMarcus Aldridge (read that again, it sounds so weird) and converting it for an easy layup—so naturally the ball was given to Brandon Roy. Off the dribble Roy came up with a faceful of elbows but not the basket or a whistle. Following his miss, Roy pounced on the loose ball in the scrum, and the Blazers had the possession arrow. Oh sorry, too much NCAA tournament watching. It was actually a jump ball, which Marcus Camby tips in the Blazer’s favor. It didn’t result in any points, instead it was an equally-as-valuable clock killing double possession. On their last look, Kevin Durant was initially covered by Camby (denying him the ball early), then Miller when he launched up a three that didn’t fall. The rebound fell to Portland and that was it.

While not as impressive as last night’s pop-a-shot shooting performance against the Hornets, Portland starters were a model of consistency against a Thunder defense that held the Blazers to 77 points (on 40% from the field) the last time these two teams crossed paths. All starters hit the double digit mark except Nicolas Batum (he had nine), and Portland was lead by Miller’s 26 points, plus 14 for Aldridge, and 20 from a cold shooting Roy. The product of wide open looks off the double teams, Camby’s shots were falling all night (his tattoo is Japanese for “ugly jumper”), and he notched his third straight game with a double-double. The team has now won 12 of the 14 games that the newest Blazer (um, sorry Travis Diener) has started. While Roy struggled throughout the night, it was Miller and Camby that directed the team to victory. Thanks to acquisitions like that, Portland GM Kevin Pritchard should… “get to the end of the season and you evaluate what has gone on.” Oh sorry, I let Larry Miller finish that sentence for me. My apologies. 

Thunder Preview: BTO Edition

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There are few teams I’d like to see more—and am forced to see less—than the Thunder. How the pitiful, plodding and painful to watch Chicago Bulls got nine appearances this year on TNT to Oklahoma City’s NONE makes my brain hurt.

And last time we got to see Kevin Durant in person, ugh. Damn. The Thunder just laid such a ridiculous whooping on the Blazers that the joys and marvel of watching Durantula were all but washed away. They clamped down on the Blazers like truckasaurus.

Sunday’s matchup in Oklahoma City may not be much better. Which is not to say the Blazers should be picked to fall, it’s just that the matchup between the division rivals and closely grouped playoff jockeys is so tight. There’s so much at stake one cannot root for Durant to do those ridiculous things we all want to see so badly.

A single game separates the Blazers and Thunder. Oklahoma City (44-27) currently hold the sixth spot while Portland (44-29) are just .003 percentage points out of seventh. The two teams have played twice this year, each winning on the other’s court. A win for Portland Sunday would guarantee at least a season split. They meet again at the Rose Garden for the fourth and final time in the Blazers’ second to last game of the year on April 12th. Should the teams finish with equal records, the first tie-breaker is head to head record. The second is record in the division, where Oklahoma City holds an edge, making Sunday’s game all the more important.

The Thunder are coming off one of their biggest wins as a franchise. At home on Friday they destroyed the Lakers 91-75. Obviously their confidence is boiling up out of the pot. The Blazers too are playing some of their best ball of the season. Since picking up Marcus Camby, Portland are 11-2. It should be one hell of a game—think playoff atmosphere.

Maybe the best way to sum this weekend’s back-to-back is with the sweet tunes of BTO (Bachman Turner Overdrive, you fool, and no, I’m not a baby boomer). The first one represents the win in New Orleans (picture the Blazers as these sexy cleaning ladies and The Hornets as the dirty floor):


This next one is what the Blazers hope for in their Oklahoma future (watch this it’s AWESOME—one day Jeff Pendergraph is going to show up in one of these outfits, I swear):

Tip Off: 4:00PM

TV: Comcast 37

Vegas Line: Portland +5

The Big Easy

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In New Orleans Saturday, the Blazers dealt with the Hornets much the same way as Team USA dismantles a clearly inferior opponent—say Slovenia. Every player in black, silver and scarlet scored at will. They Blazers shared the ball, more even than was necessary, and whoever ended up taking the shot, they simply nailed it. And like Team USA, before the game was over, it was over.

The final score, 112-101, doesn’t do justice to how one-sided this matchup was. For most of the contest, Portland shot over 60% (they finished at 57%). Portland led by as many as 26, and only in junk time—where Blazers Travis Diener and Jeff Pendergraph saw minutes—was the gap whittled down.

The two hottest Trail Blazers were, by far, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Together they combined for 52 points, making 23 of 30 attempts from the field.

Roy came out of the gates smoking and the smoldering never stopped. He scored 12 points in the first quarter, and 16 in the first fifteen minutes. Roy’s efficiency was off the charts. His stunning 12-14 attempts from the field netted the Blazers’ star a game-high 28. Roy did not play in the fourth quarter.

Aldridge was close behind. On 11-16 shooting from the field he finished with 24.

For the second time in as many games, Marcus Camby piled up a double-double. The lanky center grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with 11 points.

From end to end, the Hornets either could not or would not defend the Blazers. Their poor effort was continually frustrating to New Orleans star Chris Paul, who had just seven points while dishing out 10 assists in between bursts of shouting either at teammates or the refs. One imagines Paul can’t wait for this his injury-cursed season to end.

Portland’s defense wasn’t much better—actually, by the numbers it was worse—but it didn’t matter. One would believe that, if they had to, Portland could’ve buckled down against the Hornets, who shot 58.6% from the field.

Still, the Blazers went into New Orleans and simply took care of business. They beat a broken Hornets team, who, with the loss, were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. For the Blazers, the magic number is now four—any combination of Blazer wins and Memphis losses equaling that number will secure Portland a spot in the playoffs.

NOTES:

- The Hornets 25 rebounds was a season low for a Blazers opponent, and just two off the franchise record.

- The win was the Blazers 20th on the road, matching last season’s total.

Blazers vs. Hornets – Preview

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This picture sums up the season for the New Orleans HornetsFor the first, and only, time this season the Portland Trail Blazers have the opportunity to bury a team. The New Orleans Hornets reside in the Southwest Division cellar and with one more loss they will be eliminated from the playoffs. (Of course, if they were in the Eastern Conference they’d be a few percentage points out of the 8th seed, but pointing that out to a team headed to the gallows is just plain cruel.) If anything, the Hornets should serve as a cautionary tale to Blazer fans everywhere; how a young, small market team can go from the envy of the NBA, to a faltering organization weighed down by bloated contracts and desperate for cap space.

But before you get the weakness tissues and shed some eye water, keep in mind that the Hornets still have Chris Paul. Granted, they have little money to give him anyone to pass the ball to, but the team’s future isn’t entirely sunk, even if they’ve become that fabled city’s other sports franchise. Paul is in rarified air, one of the NBA’s best players and after he was fed after midnight—or got wet, I forgot how this works—he sprouted Darren Collison. A backup PG like no other, Collison absolutely dominated during Paul’s 25 game stint on the bench following a left knee injury. Now that there season is headed towards nowhere, it’s a perfect time for head coach Jeff Bower to experiment with a Paul/Collison backcourt.

Despite their season teetering on the brink, and dropping 12 of their last 16 games, the Hornets are a very respectable 22-13 on their home hardwood. With just ten games to go, a Portland victory in New Orleans will help the team avoid a postseason date with the Lakers.

Tip-off: 5 pm
TV: Comcast
Las Vegas Line: Portland -2.5
TrueHoop Network Blog: Hornets 24/7