PICK & SCROLL: TUESDAY, JAN .31, 2012. NICOLAS BATUM: The Next Chapter in the Blazers Injury Saga

|

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

The Blazers fell to the Utah Jazz 93-89 last night.

But the real story may be what happened to Nicolas Batum’s knee. He’s scheduled for an MRI today. 

After watching the Frenchman writhe in pain after an awkward plant on his left knee, it’s become easy for me to be cynical and superstitious. Thoughts such as “the Blazers front office must have seen this was coming,” help me justify why Batum wasn’t signed to an extension. Of course, that’s a ridiculous notion. Almost as ridiculous as the coincidence that every player PRS chooses for banner/logo goes down to injury (Roy on last year’s banner, and Greg Oden on our button logo). Ugh.

The 6’8” forward has said he is optimistic the injury won’t be too severe, but the (above) video is a cause for concern. 

Before I ruin too much of your Tuesday, Links:

  • The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman recaps last night’s action between the Blazers and the Jazz, and gauges Batum’s knee-pain, “I don’t think it will be too bad. But we’ll see tomorrow,” Batum said.
  • Down in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune’s Brian T. Smith attributes the Jazz’s success to point guard Earl Watson. Watson was unbiased with the stat distribution, doing a bit of everything. But it’s his attitude off the court that’s helped the Jazz most because:

 “He tweets words of inspiration. He constantly says an unproven Utah team can be anything it wants to be. He preaches 100 percent effort and respect for the game, demanding the Jazz not give in to lesser temptations.”

  • Back at The O, Joe Freeman gives us a view of Wesley Matthews’ mindset with his recent shooting struggles. Matthews is regarded as one of the hardest workers on the team, if not the hardest working. Despite his work ethic, Matthews doesn’t know why he’s struggling.

“The worst part is I feel great. My body feels good. I feel excited. I’m genuinely happy to be here. I understand the blessing I have to play this game. I’m excited every time I go to the arena. I feel good at the tip. My shot feels good and then it’s just like, miss, miss, miss, miss. Keep shooting. Miss, miss, miss. It’s just like …” 

Thoughts, ideas and challenges to 1-on-1 games, are happily accepted in the comments section. 

Rapid Reaction: Blazers 89, Jazz 93

|
Portland Trail Blazers 89 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Utah Jazz
Gerald Wallace, SF 40 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 4 AST | 9 PTS | -7

Nine points and nine rebounds sound nice, but seven field goal attempts just doesn’t feel like enough to get the Blazers going. Also, Wallace was swatted by Gordon Hayward in the final two minutes, which resulted in a Utah basket. I guess making fun of Hayward yesterday was out of line?

LaMarcus Aldridge, PF 39 MIN | 11-20 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 25 PTS | -7

Another well-rounded, competent game goes AWOL down the stretch.

Marcus Camby, C 28 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | 0

Out-dueled in the battle of the boards vs. Utah’s bigs.

Raymond Felton, PG 30 MIN | 2-9 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 8 PTS | -3

The quintessential Raymond Felton play: corrals a miraculous, athletic steal, and on the ensuing possession takes and misses a bad three.

Wesley Matthews, G 25 MIN | 3-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +6

Three point field goals attempted: 5. Three point field goals made: 0. Would suggest that Matthews be sent to the bench, but not in the mood to add insult to injury…

Jamal Crawford, G 24 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | +2

Passable. Still, just feel like Crawford is still capable of so much more… Maybe he’s worth putting in the first unit to see if playing sixth man can light a fire under Matthews? But then, who would handle the ball?

Nicolas Batum, SF 31 MIN | 5-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | -11

A cruel twist of fate that, after Batum finally gets hot from distance, hitting three consecutive threes, he twists a knee. MRI coming in Portland Tuesday.

One Thing We Saw

  1. Utah, like the Blazers, are tough at home. But when comparing the two rosters—on paper, at least—shouldn’t Portland be head-and-shoulders above the Jazz?

PICK & SCROLL: MONDAY, JAN. 30, 2012. Salty Road Record Makes for Interesting Trip to Utah

|

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

 

Road games in the NBA can be a sore subject for teams. 

This season, for the Blazers, the road has been a diaster. Part of that can be blamed on the breakneck pace of a condensed season. But for a team that boasts a 9-1 home record, one would figure that same team would float around .500 on the road. At 3-7, Portland doesn’t fit the bill.

Again, short season, rapid games; I get it. 

Which is why tonight’s game will be unordinary. Tonight Rip City takes the hardwood with two full days rest — the first time this season that’s been the case. 

Portland not only needs to prove to themselves that that they can beat a solid Utah Jazz team on the road, but also needs to prove to the entire league that this team can be formidable away from home, especially given the circumstances.

Links: 

Only two teams in the Western Conference have a better nightly average point differential than the Blazers’ +4.9 nearly a third of the way into the season: Denver at +7.2 and OKC at +6.2. But the Blazers’ ongoing road struggles and inconsistent guard play are getting more attention. Justifiably so, Blazermaniacs? 

Thoughts, ideas and challenges to 1-on-1 games, are happily accepted in the comments section.

 

The Still Thorny Utah Jazz

|

Jerry Sloan and Tyrone Corbin

Perhaps more than anything accomplished by last year’s lockout and re-imagining of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Little Guys may be buoyed by the fortunes of Utah and Denver, two small-market teams who traded their star players and received a windfall of talent in return. Indeed, the Jazz and Nuggets are doing far better than the teams who received the stars.

For Denver, it was apparent at the time of the deal that they were receiving an absurdly high level of talent in the handful of players received in exchange for Carmelo Anthony (and Chauncey Billups).

Utah, however, after losing coach Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams, appeared forlorn last season—ready to finally sink to levels of futility that a NBA team in Salt Lake City would seem to warrant.

Yet here they are, at 11-7, percentage points ahead of the Blazers in third place in the stacked Northwest Division.

Like the Blazers—and typical of Utah teams past—the Jazz are tough to beat at home, where they are 9-3.

Unlike the Blazers, who are coming off a seemingly rare stretch of back-to-back days off, Utah played Sunday, beating the Kings despite 31 points and nine assists from Tyreke Evans. The Jazz were led by Gordon Hayward’s 21.

Let’s go over that again: The Utah Jazz were led by Gordon Hayward’s game-high twenty-one points.

Huh. OK. I guess…

Despite Hayward’s relative anomaly on Sunday, the Jazz are a real team—more than the sum of their parts. Utah is a club without a superstar and they play like one: tenacious, hardworking, unselfish basketball.

Portland, meanwhile, again find themselves in the familiar position of trying to bring Rose Garden prosperity to the road.

But I’m still interested in the Jazz. On paper, Utah’s roster suggests a high-picking lottery team, yet they’re playing over .500 ball in a stacked division. Could the Jazz really keep it up and challenge Portland down the stretch?

Regardless of what happens going forward, credit is due for Tyrone Corbin, Utah’s head coach and a longtime assistant to Jerry Sloan. After Sloan’s abrupt resignation, it would not have surprised have the team gone into complete tailspin. In fact, it seemed destined. Yet here they are.

Now, certainly there was a lot one could’ve learned from the Jazz’s—and should I say, the NBA’s—legendary coach. Perhaps Corbin was a great sponge. If this is true—and Corbin picked up not only Sloan’s brilliant eye for the game, but also his salty, unpretentious, working class attitude and fiery, unmatched competitiveness—perhaps the Jazz will continue to hang tough in the Northwest Division for many more years to come, forever a thorn in the Blazers’ collective side.

TIP OFF: 6:00PM

TV: Comcast

RADIO: 750AM

VEGAS LINE: Portland +2

All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…

|


I know I’m late, but I realized today that Brandon Roy is Roy Batty from Blade Runner. It’s taken me one quarter of the season to realize and rather than write what’s already been said, I just have this image.
“The light that burns twice as bright burns for half long – and you have burned so very, very brightly Roy.”
The full size is here:
SPORTZ ILL-USTRTED

What’s Eating Raymond Felton?

|


Note these stats were taken before last night’s blow-out game, but it still has merit. Also I’m getting the hang of this interface, so if you click through to the image you have to scroll with the directional arrows on your keyboard.
SPORTZ ILL-USTRTED

A Blowout Win

|

This one is going to be short and sweet.

At the Rose Garden, where they have been dominant all year, the Portland Trail Blazers took care of a vastly inferior Phoenix Suns team with ease. And that’s it. It was a blowout win against a squad that will finish the year near the bottom of the Western Conference, the kind of win that good teams put up against bad teams.

Marcus Camby had twenty boards in just over twenty minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge put up his standard twenty-three points. Wesley Matthews finally found his range from distance, knocking down four three-pointers in the third quarter. And if you need any indication as to how tonight’s offense was flowing, Jamal Crawford dished out ten assists. Ten!

After holding the Suns to a minuscule nine points in the second quarter and twelve points in the third, Portland found themselves up by thirty plus at the end of three. The Suns were just completely outmatched.

It was Portland’s first true blowout of the season. Coach McMillan didn’t even have to wait until the end of the fourth to rest his starters—Aldridge and Camby both sat after the first three quarters.

That this Suns team was the same one that defeated the Blazers by twenty-five a mere three weeks ago seems absurd. “The looked like we did in Phoenix,” said Coach McMillan, but in all reality, Phoenix looked even worse tonight. There was nothing about their performance, Steve Nash included, that indicated any of these Suns belonged anywhere other than the D-League. The Idaho Stampede would have put up more of a fight, and they have Antoine Walker on their roster.

The visitors locker room was empty by the time I made it over there. No big surprise. With another game coming up tomorrow, the Suns players surely wanted to put this one behind them and get onto the next one.

The Trail Blazers locker room was no different. The team was out of there about as quickly as I’ve seen all year.

“We won, we have tomorrow off, so I’m happy,” said Camby, summing up the mood of the evening. A Friday night, after a commanding win? It’s time to get out there and celebrate.

Blazers vs. Suns Preview: 5 Questions With Andrew Lynch of Valley of the Suns

|

The Blazers host the Phoenix Suns tonight in an attempt to avenge the 25-point shellacking they took in Arizona recently. To preview this game and give background on the Suns’ season and future, I asked my buddy Andrew Lynch, a colleague of mine at Hardwood Paroxysm and contributor to our TrueHoop sister site Valley of the Suns, to answer a few questions, some more serious than others. You can check out his answers below, and be sure to follow Andrew on Twitter at @AndrewLynch.

The Suns embarrassed the Blazers the last time these teams met a few weeks ago. Does that strike you as a realistic possibility to happen again?

In the words of one of my favorite philosophers, anything is possible. I can’t see the Suns even managing to beat the Blazers again, though, let alone embarrass them. Markieff Morris has regressed since joining the starting lineup, Channing Frye will likely have to bac kup Marcin Gortat with Robin Lopez suspended, and the Blazers are just too good and the Suns are too bad.

Who’s been worse of late, Raymond Felton/Wesley Matthews/Jamal Crawford or Shannon Brown/Sebastian Telfair?

I’ll answer your question with a question – why must you hurt me? Because while I never want to put my eggs in a basket that Crawford is likely to launch toward the rim as soon as he touches it, I can’t take Brown and Telfair over anything. I’ll take the Portland Power Trio.

Is Steve Nash only continuing to play well because he’s auditioning his services to the Knicks, or will be settle for the Lakers also?

I hate you. Also, if we’re going down that road, might as well include the Heat and the Thunder and the Clippers and every other team that will have title aspirations over the next two years.

…if he ends up with the Lakers and punishing both of our favorite teams for the next several seasons, I blame you.

Is Marcin Gortat an All-Star?

I’ll hedge on this one. He’s playing at an All-Star level, but I don’t know that he’s more likely to make the All-Star Game than Marc Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Nene or even, given the nature of the selection process, DeAndre Jordan. I think an argument can be made that he’s playing better than most of those players, but that doesn’t guarantee an All-Star bid; right, LaMarcus Aldridge in 2011?

What is this team going forward? They’re not good enough to make the playoffs and they’re not in the Wizards/Bobcats tier of high-lottery contenders. What’s the game plan?

I wish the game plan were productive, but I think this team is what it appears to be. They’re going to be bad, though not bad enough to give them a significant chance at a top 3 pick in the draft. Steve Nash will likely be with the team until the end of the season – when he’ll leave – but his presence won’t buoy a team that, by his admission, doesn’t have the talent to win consistently unless they play above their heads every night. They’ll win some games, but either too many or not enough, depending on one’s perspective.

PICK & SCROLL: THURSDAY, JAN. 26, 2012. Blazers Still Can’t Find Road Recipe

|

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

MC Hammer—yes, that one—attended last night’s contest between the Trail Blazers and Warriors.

ESPN—as it does with all games—released a photo gallery of last night’s 101-93 loss for the Trail Blazers versus Golden State Warriors. ESPN’s first photo for the series was the photo featured above of MC Hammer; the man notoriously known for garnering success and the riches accompanying it, then promptly losing everything.

Not too different from the Blazers.

Not to say Rip City has lost everything, but Portland’s early season success and prominent rise to the top of the Northwest division was short-lived. The Blazers started the season off on fire and were the hot pick to win the west. After over a week of road struggles, the Blazers aren’t a topic of discussion within NBA-circles, nor do they deserve to be. 

But with plenty of time left this season, Portland, like MC Hammer, is fighting to remain relevant and reverse past bad fortunes.

Hammertime:

  • Portland’s first back-to-back-to-back slate of games this season ended with a loss. The Oregonian’s Mike Tokito writes about Golden State’s bewitching Portland during their visits to Oakland. “The loss was Portland’s 12th in its last 13 trips to Oakland, a mysterious hex that has continued even in seasons when Blazers clearly had the better team,” he writes.
  • The Oakland Tribune’s Michael Thompson II adds the Oakland perspective of last night’s game. Last night was a first in many departments for the Warriors. They “set season highs with 33 assists and 11 3-pointers while snapping a three-game losing streak and getting their first win against a Western Conference opponent.”
  • Ethan Sherwood Strauss over at Truehoop Network sister site warriorsworld.net interviews several Warriors after their first Western Conference victory last night. 
  • Nicolas Batum may not be a Blazer beyond this season. The Blazers and Batum failed to reach an agreement by the 9 p.m. deadline last night, reports The O’s Joe Freeman
  • Ricky Rubio will be featured in February’s GQ magazine. Even if you’re not interested with a look into the Spanish phenom, at least watch this video
  • Via ESPN Insider: Ryan Corazza says that, “If [Joel] Przybilla does decide to return at all this year — or even next season when [Marcus] Camby’s contract will be up — the Blazers may have the inside edge due to [Chad] Buchanan’s relationship with the center.” 
  • Forbes has your top-earning NBA athletes. Portland Public Enemy #1 ranks first. 

Thoughts, ideas and challenges to 1-on-1 games, are happily accepted in the comments section.