PRS RADIO: THE RIP CITIZENS – THE OSCAR ROBERTSONS

|

After taking All-Star week off, the Citizens are back to break down the past week of Blazers basketball. We discuss the increased dependence and delivery of the Blazers bench, a string of much-needed wins, and a slew of highlights to put on the end-of-season reel.

Then we move on to the inactive trade deadline for the Blazers, debate the mascot culture in the NBA and how Blaze measures up, and – with the Academy Awards this weekend – hand out our “Oscar Roberstons” to the Blazers.

All that, plus Steve Blake’s wilderness heroics, Terry Stotts ripping up stuffed dogs, some love for Teddy Pendergrass, and a generous helping of puns.

If you don’t want to bother with this SoundCloud gadget, you may find the iTunes subscription option a helpful one.

THE MASTER GARDENER’S GUIDE TO THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, 2013-2014

|
Earthcare-Silva-NFY-2011-13

Did you know that I am a certified Master Gardener? I almost am, anyway. I have to complete 50 hours of community service (I think I’m at about 27) and finish nearly all of my bookwork, which I didn’t do barely at all when I was actually taking the class back in the fall. I was wicked depressed, what can I say.

I have to get the reading done before the end of March, so I’ve been killing the handbook lately, knocking out two chapters a day whenever I don’t have anything else to do. And I’ve been trying my damndest to connect all of this to the Portland Trail Blazers. The metaphor is for the WRITER, of which I certainly am one, as the SPADE and SHOVEL and the HANDFUL OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER are for the gardener: a TOOL to make THOUGHTS GROW in the readers’ MIND.

PLANT FACT: Trees need good soil and drainage to thrive.

BLAZERS APPLICATION: This year coach Terry Stotts had created a healthy soil for the Blazers players, a soil filled with the nutrients of passing and three point shooting and the drainage of Aldridge and Lillard’s tough shot-making. BUT: are there enough trees in the soil? This recent stretch of centerless play has shown that perhaps some of the non-playing players on the Blazers have something to contribute. Should Stotts give Will Barton a planting, and see how much he grows? Would Dorell Wright and Victor Claver improve the team’s windscreen, and lower the house’s energy bills? Don’t we already know how tall Mo Williams is going to get? Is there another tree Sotts could plant that could maybe provide more shade?

PLANT FACT: Homegrown strawberries DOMINATE store bought ones in the taste department.

BLAZERS APPLICATION: It’s good that the team stuck with Batum and Aldridge through the bad days because it’s even sweeter now that the team is winning with homegrown talent.

PLANT FACT: Beneath “grass” as we think about it, there is a second layer to our lawns known as “thatch.” Thatch is a collection of stems, roots, and leaves that develops at the soil surface, a buffer between the grass and the growing grass and the soil. A thin layer of thatch is important for impact absorption and insulating soil from cold temperatures, but too much thatch means a  thatchy, ugly lawn.

BLAZER APPLICATION: LaMarcus Aldridge is thatch. He is the team’s best player, absorbing the impact of poorly developed possessions and cool temperatures of high level defense possessions. But the team risks ugly brown spots in the offense when they rely on him too heavily. His True Shooting Percentage this year is only .513, a career low and not a terribly high figure in comparison with the rest of the league. All four of the Blazers other starters have higher True Shooting Percentages.

I’m not suggesting that Aldridge is “overrated” or any inflammatory nonsense like that. His place on the usage curve is just a little high. He and the team would be more efficient if the team did just a little dethatching, maybe take out those black spotting long-two-turnarounds or a few of those mossy long twos to get a little more air and water permeating the soil of the team’s offense so we can have the healthiest green grass they possibly can.

IMPORTANT SIDETRACK: Speaking of grass: I am trying to promote a new idea for basketball courts across America and the world. Grassketball. It’s basketball, but you play it on an immaculately maintained grass court, like Wimbledon, but for basketball. You ever watch Wimbledon? Those balls bounce pretty damn high on that grass. I imagine you start with a few exhibitions, then eventually establish a separate Grassketball league in the summer, so basketball can finally compete directly with baseball like we’ve always dreamed. Perhaps everyone is required to wear white, like at Dub-dons? Guys who take a lot of charges would be called “Greenbacks,” because of all the grass stains on the back their shirts. Just keep it in your heart.

PLANT FACT: Over-watering plants drowns the roots and runs nutrients out of the soil.

BLAZERS APPLICATION: Mo Williams is water, and he has to be applied more responsibly because precious nitrogen is running out of the offense when he runs screen and rolls.

PLANT FACT: Pests like aphids and slugs can harm or kill your plants. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can help.

BLAZER APPLICATION: The other team are insects, and their scoring occasionally ruins the Blazers’ blueberry plants. IPM lays out six principles for controlling animal pests:

1. Establishing an acceptable pest level. The other team is going to score from time to time, they’re professional basketball players. Don’t focus on denying them shots on every turn, or you will contaminate local groundwater with all the pesticides you use and all the fouls you rack up.

2. Preventative Cultural Measures. Pests feast easily in an environment that isn’t well maintained. Remove diseased plants, responsibly prune your trees, hide poor individual defenders on one-dimensional spot up shooters.

3. Monitoring. Observe and record the pest activity in your garden and observe the other team’s strategies and schemes in the film room.

4. Mechanical Controls. Kill bugs yourself (your rose trimmers should show slugs who the boss is), set out bight yellow pheromone traps, set good strategic traps on guards that can’t handle double teams, and play lock down on players on the perimeter. The Blazers’ perimeter players need to cut a few more slugs to improve the team’s 19th ranked defensive rating. However, it’s not always effort: sometimes the sharpness in the snippers simply isn’t there.

5. Biological Controls. This includes ladybugs or other beneficial predators to devour pest insects from the outside  or microscopic fungi and nematode sprays to give them diseases on the inside. You have to play aggressive on defense with insects. Get The Ladybug, Earl Watson, in there to goon them a little. Some trash talking nematodes to get in their heads. Defending the paint, and your blueberry crop, is all about attitude.

6. Responsible use of synthetic pesticides. When all else fails, you need a little chemical pesticide or an elite defensive center to do the dirty work in the garden or the court. The Indiana Pacers’ league-best defense is good because they follow the first five principles of integrated pest defense, but they great because when all of that breaks down and great goes to ear their blueberries right out of the rim, they just spray the opponent with half a bottle of DDT Hibbert.

Robin Lopez does great work on box outs and good work on stopping some action at the rim. But he doesn’t have the chemical potency of DDT, the ability to move side-to-side and cover guards on switches, really get up straight for blocks or blow up screen and rolls the way the league’s nastiest pest controllers do. If the Blazers someday really want to get into the bug killing business, are they going to have to dispose of RoLo’s admirable but limited work and find a bug murdering, groundwater contaminating, honey bee killing, go-to-the-doctor-because-my-eyes-hurt-from-getting-revenge-on-every-last-goddamn-bug-in-my-garden pest spray of a center?*

(*Absolutely never use DDT. It kills honey bees and contaminates groundwater. Only use chemical pesticides responsibly and only as part of a broader IPM strategy.)

PLANT FACT: Perennials are plants that go dormant every winter and re-emerge every spring.

BLAZERS APPLICATION: The NBA is a perennial plant, except active in the winter and dormant in the summer. Not a perfect metaphor.

PLANT FACT: Compost, the decomposed and worm/microbe eaten and poo’d out detritus of organic material is the best soil amendment there is.

BLAZERS APPLICATION: When Gerald Wallace, whom I adored, was traded to the Nets for the pick that became Lillard, Wallace became detritus, eaten by the worms of the NBA and turned into rich, fertile Damepost. I am a little uncomfortable with this one because Gerald Wallace is not dead and I don’t want to suggest composting people is a good idea. Do not stick the bodies of your loved ones or elderly wing defenders into compost bins.

TRAIL BLAZERS 124 – NETS 80: THE ONE MAN ARMY

|
cny

I’ve been waiting for this since July, when I completely fell in love with Will Barton’s maniacal get-the-Roomba-drunk-and-strap-some-weaponry-onto-it game in Las Vegas Summer League. But yo, forget about me for a minute. I’m just a dude with a computer who likes basketball and dragons or whatever. WILL BARTON! THE PEOPLE’S CHAMP! 20 POINTS AND 11 REBOUNDS TO LEAD THE BACKUP-CENTERLESS BLAZERS TO A 44-POINT VICTORY!

Let that sink into wherever that sinks into. Your body is a quicksand pit. Nah, Will Barton is the quicksand pit and you’re just happily relaxing those limbs and letting the pit swallow you whole. Maybe there’s a mastodon at the bottom!

WILL BARTON HAD A PLUS/MINUS RATING OF +39! OH WUT UP MR. MASTODON HOW DO YOU DO?

Ok I’m back. I’ve compared Will Barton to a lot of things over the time that I’ve been writing about the Blazers into my computer. I’ve called him a snowflake, singular in nature. I’ve called him Rajon Rondo, as piloted by Nate Robinson. I’ve paraphrased Method Man’s etymology of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, “There is no father to his style.” I’ve said that he looks as if he fell off a Josh Howard production line at some point in his youth and was finished out with spare parts in a California desert town, a rat rod Josh Howard, and Barton somehow making Howard seem mass-produced is an achievement in its own right, and to be honest, I wonder if rat rod isn’t even a strong enough descriptor. Will Barton is to Josh Howard as Mad Max terrorizing biker gangs across a post-apocalyptic Australia is to Tiger Woods driving around suburban Florida in a Buick Regal.

Because dragons are, you know, MY THING, I’ll even provide you with a gratuitous dragon comparison. Will Barton is one of those human-driven fake dragons that parade through the street for Chinese New Year, and maybe other holidays too, I don’t know, but like Barton, the mere sight of one of those dragons is a clear signal that it must be some kind of party. Also like Barton, or vice versa, they move in a transfixing herky-jerky slither propelled by nearly invisible sticks. Children or imaginative bloggers can see in such dragons – as they can Barton – something that looks every bit like a real monster capable of all manner of fury, but using its power instead for joy and reverie. Adults – the kind of folk that can’t see Santa Claus either – tend to see the limitations, that this “dragon” is really just made out of cloth and sticks and an inconsistent (at best) jump shot, and that all of its movements are just people to the side maneuvering those sticks or poor help defense. But sometimes, on rare and special nights, even those adults can forget about their “maturity” for a quick moment and get swept away in the stunning light-filled beauty of that dragon rising and dipping in erratic synchronicity above the rest of the parade.

More than anything, Will Barton is fun, like genuinely fun, like I can tangibly see the amount of fun that Will Barton derives from playing basketball, like he hasn’t yet been worn down into another faceless cog in Gregg Popovich’s vast army of hyper-efficient dots on a SportVu schematic devoid of all emotion, like Barton’s game is still raw and pure and totally imperfect and filled with personal expression, and it’s fun. Running a one-man fast break, tumbling around and through defenders and somehow magically ending up in a perfect position to lay a pass off for Victor “Como Se Dice ‘Stretch 5?’” Claver, Barton makes basketball look so simple, and so much more complex than it ever needed to be, and that’s the point. Barton’s Razor is “the most fun solution, which might not actually be a solution at all but will be pretty fun regardless, is best.”

LaMarcus Aldridge will probably be back for Saturday’s tilt against Denver. Maybe even Meyers Leonard too. The return of the excessively tall people, Aldridge especially, looms like the end of a vacation. I know that Aldridge and the theoretical existence of a backup center are critical to the Blazers’ hopes, both long-term and short-term. I get that. I do my taxes and sometimes eat vegetables, too. But I still wish that tonight, and its suspension of all conventional thinking with amazing result, could stay for a bit longer. I’m not ready yet to see the Blazers for their limitations, the cloth and the sticks. I just want to ride out on Australia with Mad Max, meet imaginary mastodons at the bottom of an imaginary quicksand pit, watch Victor Claver play center, and see those cloth and sticks as a spectacular and powerful dragon. I want to watch Will Barton have fun, because it’s fun to feel like a kid.

 

NETS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: MY TIME OUTSIDE THE WOMB

|
romantic-dinner

TONIGHT, on LOVER’S LANE in PORTLAND, OREGON! The visiting Brooklyn Nets (26-28, .481 Winning Pct.; Offense: 105.3 points per 100 possessions, 17th in NBA; Defense 107.5  points allowed per 100 possessions, 19th in NBA; 6th place in the Western Conference) will take on the PORTLAND LOVE BLAZERS (39-18) in a basketball game for the LOVE CUP, a giant heart shaped trophy given to the winner of the season series between the Blazers and the Nets! The Nets won the trophy back last year by sweeping the series against the Blazers. The Blazers have already won against the Nets this year, a 108-98 Victory on November 18th of Last year. But a season series split will mean that the trophy reverts to the incumbent, the Nets, who swept the season series last year.

The Love Cup was forged in 1978, when the Nets moved from Nassau Coliseum to the Rutgers Athletic Center. At the time, Oregon and New Jersey were engaged in a bitter cross country public relations war over which of the two was the “Most Romantic State in the Union.” Classic avatars of romance in Oregon and Jersey were pitted against each other in romance love matches! John Ballantine House vs. Pittock Mansion! The Willamette vs. the Passaic! Ken Keesy vs. Philip Roth! The states were at a dead heat, and the merger of leagues provided a perfect tiebreaker. There is, after all, nothing more sensuous than a winning basketball squad. You think all of those college kids are painting their faces and yelling like jackals are appropriated nationalists!? NO! They are cheering for a community that overflows with love!

Portland and New Jersey split their season series in the trophy’s inaugural season, so it remained unrewarded. On January 11th, 1980, the Blazers came into New Jersey. The 18-26 Nets’ lagging attendance was cured, when the people of Newark swarmed the stadium with signs of support: “JERSEY LOVES, PORTLAND LUSTS!” “NE♥ARK” “I FEEL THE LOVE IN MY (Winford) BOYNES!.” When the Blazers won, 128-107 behind 30 from Tom Owens, the city was heartbroken. During the trophy presentation, Owens was lustily booed when he lifted the trophy and spoke into the Public Address Microphone: “WE GOT THIS VICTORY FOR AMERICA’S REAL LOVERS! EAT IT JERSEY!” Maurice Lucas then  threw several buckets full of rotting rose petals in the face of New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne, a spontaneous gesture at the time that has become an important part of the rivalry.

The Nets took the trophy, and the title of America’s most sensuous state, in 1985, in a 118-106 home victory propelled by 33 points on 17 shots from “Sugar” Michael Ray Richardson. After the game, Richardson addressed the cheering crowd. “HOW SWEET IT IS TO BE LOVED BY YOU! I CAN’T POSSIBLY IMAGINE ANYTHING THAT COULD FEEL AS GOOD AS BRINGING THIS TROPHY WHERE IT BELONGS, TO THE GOOD, SEXY PEOPLE OF NEW JERSEY! ALSO, IS ANYONE OUT THERE SELLING ANY WHITE TISSUES? WHITE? TISSUES? FOR MY NOSE? I CAN MEET YOU BEHIND THE STADIUM OR WHATEVER!”

When the Nets didn’t win the trophy in 1993, following a 110-94 loss in Portland, exiled Blazer guard Dražen Petrović carved, in Croatian, “THIS CONTEST IS BULLSHIT, AMERICANS KNOW NOTHING OF LOVE OR HATE” into the floor of the Veterans’ Memorial Coliseum with a spoon he sharpened by shooting it at the rim, over and over. Legendary work ethic. That panel now sits in the Dražen Petrović Memorial Center in Zagreb, Croatia.

Since the Nets moved to Brooklyn, the rivalry hasn’t meant as much. Last year, when Deron WIlliams threw the golden bucket with Maurice Lucas’s face carved on it full of rotting pedals into Governor Kitzhaber’s face it just didn’t have the same meaning like it did in the past. All of those year of the US’s two most passionately loving states, New Jersey and Oregon locking horns like bulls fighting over the mating cow of love, awkwardly shifted over to Brooklyn. No one in America could possibly think that Brooklyn is a more romantic place than Portland, but we persist in the rivalry, much as the Giants and the Dodgers did when they moved to the West Coast.

At least issues of love will be on people’s minds this year: Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay active player, will be playing his second game for Brooklyn since being signed to a 10-day contract on saturday. Feel free to cheer if you’re in the building.

Aldridge traveled with the team to Denver last night which suggests that he was progressing enough that he at least thought about playing last night. The Nets’ awful record is somewhat misleading. They had an apocalyptically bad start to the season but have since crawled their way back into the Eastern playoff picture. There are a lot of veterans on the team who are having the worst years of their careers: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Andrei Kirilenko are all registering career lows in PER, and Joe Johnson’s 14.2 is about as bad as it gets for an All-Star guard. But Garnett and Andrei can still defend, and weird dudes (Andray Blatche) and young players (Mason Plumlee) have had pretty good years. If they face the team without Aldridge, they would have a good shot. It’s hard to imagine they’ll give Portland too much trouble if LMA does play, though. It’s sort of hard to make assumptions about the Blazers when they’re marching out lineups like this.

TRAIL BLAZERS 100 – NUGGETS 95: AND THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE

|
Moon

The era of free love and mind exploration, of innocence, of expression, of Will Barton dunks and Thomas Robinson bigger dunks, had faded into the past. The mind-altering drugs that had before been used out of joyful experimentation were now the tools of addiction for poor, burned-out, strung-out Blazer fans and coaches with nowhere else to turn, as they continually worked deeper into their arsenal of chemicals, searching for some kind of balance within a suddenly bleak existence.

This was how Jenny, Forrest Gump’s special lady, found herself climbing onto a second quarter ledge tonight and staring down into traffic, wondering if there was any other way to escape this ugly, self-destructive, Jan Vesely-filled experience.

What Jenny failed to appreciate was that she still had someone who deeply cared about her, as far away as that groin-afflicted person might have seemed at the time, that the Trail Blazers still led in the ballgame, and that even the apartment that housed this terrible scene was nonetheless a pretty nice property, located comfortably in the glamorous, high-rent area of the Western Conference playoff picture.

Maybe she was proving to herself that she still had the control over her life to end it in a quick plummet of ill-advised midrange jumpers and bad turnovers, should she decide to do so. Maybe it was all about finding that feeling of control, a feeling that seemed especially clear to her when the third quarter ended with the Blazers holding a 13-point lead.

But then, her foot slipped. Maybe her foot was pushed by J. J. Hickson, as Hickson was knocking everybody around with impunity on this night. But whatever the case, she finally realized the true horror of how she got here and what might be ahead, and she couldn’t let things end this way. She grabbed the edge of the overhang above her head – Robin Lopez’s hair and Nicolas Batum’s jump shot – and steadied her footing.

She climbed down, sat in a chair on the balcony, watched the Blazers seal the win, and gazed up at the moon. Somewhere, a kind backup center that would care for her like she deserved just might have been gazing up at the same moon.

TRAIL BLAZERS @ NUGGETS PREVIEW: SUNSHINE ON MY WINDOW

|
stats

Tonight at the Faygo Center in Denver, Colorado, the Topic of this Blog (38-18) will face off against the Denver Nuggets (19-34, .491 Winning Pct.; Offense: 105.7 points per 100 possessions, 16th in NBA; Defense 107.7  points allowed per 100 possessions, 20th in NBA; 11th place in the Western Conference). Here are seven unrelated paragraphs that contain varying degrees of truth written to speculate about what may happen in this game:

*The Nuggets were the third seed in the West last year, and this year they are not good. Why did this happen, and can you give it to me in a list for easy consumption? Absolutely! 1. Andre Iguodala left for Golden State. He is awesome at defense and Denver’s defense totally turfed out and now Golden State’s defense is totally awesome with him. 2. The team signed J. J. Hickson, whose awfulness I’ve written about previously and Denver plays him for 27 minutes a game. 3. Danilo Gallinari has been out all year with an ACL injury that seems like it has been sort of mismanaged. 4. Andre Miller abandoned the team to fight in an ogre resistance movement in the hills of Appalachia. 5. The personnel MIGHT not fit new coach Brian Shaw’s ideal system, but Dr. Naismith meant for basketball to be fun, not a high stakes competition, and the very concept of coaches flies in the face of that. 6. Corey Brewer left. 7. The west allows no weakness.

*When any sports team plays in Denver’s high altitude, a writer will mention the team having an advantage in the thin air. This year the Nuggets are 14-13 at home this year and got handled by the Kings on Sunday so who cares.

*If the Nuggets’ current active roster were bank robbers, they’d be really very awful bank robbers. Randy Foye is their best lockpick and Mozgov is just too tall to slip out of a building undetected. Could you imagine how big an “Inside Man” style makeshift room would have to be for Kenneth Faried? Not practical. Not to mention that Brian Shaw would insist that certain players get smaller cuts of the loot for not robbing hard enough, and that stuff breeds contempt among bank robbing gangs (and probably NBA teams).

*My favorite Nuggets moment this year was when Andrew Bynum torched them and called Hickson, who had been guarding him the whole game, an “infant.” I will miss Andrew when he is gone, because caring about your job is secretly lame.

*This matchup would normally be kind of terrible. The Nuggets stink, the Blazers don’t, so the Blazers beat them by 10-15 points, probably. But the Portland’s ongoing issue with the rare disease EveryBigManIsInjuredsumption has made this a more interesting matchup. The Nuggets have size problems. Their only current center-sized player is Timofey Mozgov, and the power forwards who soak up those minutes are JJ Hickson and Kenneth Faried, and the latter also stinks at defense but at least puts in an honest effort. In a normal matchup, Portland would attack first and foremost with Aldridge: last time they met, he put up 29 shots and hung a career high 44 points on Hickson. But even without Aldridge and the Bleach Brothers (Leonard and Freeland, duh), the Blazers should manage. They’ve gone 2-1 and had a solid showing in every game since Aldridge went down. The Nuggets have a crummy defense and without the injured Ty Lawson they’ve got a pretty severe dearth of talent and no clear advantages over even a depleted Blazer squad. As long as someone doesn’t have a meltdown or the Nuggets don’t have a crazy 3-Point shooting BABIP, the Blazers should manage.

*I was thinking about Aldridge’s injury when I was taking a shower or something, and for half a second I though “God, he isn’t through with that yet?” LMA, your injured groin was so last week. Get with the cool kids, like me, who have strong groins and soft hands.

*If the NBA were already staged like it will be in 20 years, this would be the perfect setup. By all normal appearances, the Blazers are superior in every respect: BUT! MYSTERIOUS KNEE CLUBBINGS! Lamarcus in a worked shoot where he is wearing a 3,000 dollar suit, a neck brace and sunglasses: “I KNOW THE MANANIMAL HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THIS NECK INJURY, AND WHEN I GET BACK ON THAT COURT, I AM GOING TO PROVE IT. RIP CITY!” God, just embrace basketball Kayfabe already, it’s going to be amazing!

*Did you know that you can legally smoke marijuana for recreation in the State of Colorado? I certainly hope the Blazers don’t do smoke any “Nuggets” of pot because I am morally opposed to that lifestyle, and morality in athletes is very important to me, especially morality as it regards to things that people do in the privacy of their own homes to reduce stress. I think all pro and college and Olympic and Pop Warner athletes and most agility dogs should have cameras in their houses that make sure they don’t do anything I personally disapprove of. The sarcasm in this paragraph is didactic and condescending. I should strive to be kinder to people I disagree with and stop constructing values strawmen to make my points. Shame on me.

TRAIL BLAZERS 108 – TIMBERWOLVES 97: YOU CAN’T IMAGINE HOW MUCH FUN WE’RE HAVING

|
ghid-1

IF I WERE A TRAIL CAT WHICH I AM NOT AS FAR AS YOU KNOW BUT IF I WERE AND IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY AND I WAS TURNING 12 YEARS OLD WHICH COULD BE LIKE 7,134,593 IN TRAIL CAT YEARS SORRY I HAVE NO FRAME OF REFERENCE FOR TRAIL CATS AS I AM NOT A NATURALIST BUT ANYWAY IF I WERE BLAZE THE TRAIL CAT I WOULD HAVE HOPED THAT MY BIRTHDAY PARTY WOULD FIRST INCLUDE A NICE TRAIL TO RUN DOWN AND FROLIC AND DO TRAIL CAT STUFF WHATEVER THAT IS AND THEN ONCE SAID TRAIL HAS BEEN SUFFICIENTLY ENJOYED I WOULD THEN HOPE TO SEE THOMAS ROBINSON SIZE UP A FAST BREAK DUNK ATTEMPT FROM COREY BREWER AND THEN TREAT THAT DUNK ATTEMPT IN THE WAY THAT MOUNT SAINT HELENS TREATED GREATER WASHINGTON STATE BECAUSE I’M PRETTY SURE THAT YAKIMA IS CURRENTLY BURIED UNDER THE ASH OF COREY BREWER RIP COREY BREWER RIP YAKIMA AND THEN IMMEDIATELY OUT OF THAT ASH I WOULD HOPE TO WATCH THE BASKETBALL FIND A WILL BARTON EAGLE IN MIDFLIGHT FOR THAT WILL BARTON EAGLE TO STUFF SAID BASKETBALL THROUGH A RIM AND I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT BECAUSE I RAN HIGH STEPPING OUT OF THE ROOM YELLING WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO SO HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLAZE SORRY IT WAS A SURPRISE PARTY THAT DIDN’T START UNTIL KINDA LATE IN THE GAME I KNOW HOW SURPRISES CAN RATTLE YOU TRAIL CATS.

LET’S GIVE THAT SEQUENCE ANOTHER PARAGRAPH BECAUSE IT DESERVES THAT MUCH AND REALLY IT DESERVES A LOT MORE LIKE A SCROOGE MCDUCK VAULT OF GOLD COINS THAT ARE FILLED WITH CHOCOLATE BUT ALSO STILL VALID AS CURRENCY BECAUSE WHEN ELSE IN YOUR LIFETIME AS A TRAIL CAT OR OTHERWISE WILL YOU SEE COREY BREWER IN ALL OF HIS DRUNKEN MASTER GUY WHO TEACHES YOU KUNG FU MOVES IN THE PARK IN SHEN MUE SHOUTOUT TO THE SEGA DREAMCAST GLORY COME DOWN FOR A SEEMINGLY WIDE OPEN DUNK AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN SEE THOMAS ROBINSON IN ALL OF HIS I DON’T HAVE ANY NORMAL HUMAN ORGANS BECAUSE THE ONLY THING INSIDE ME IS FIRE LIKE THE OOGIE BOOGIE MAN FROM NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS ONLY INSTEAD OF BUGS IT’S FIRE GLORY POUND THAT DUNK ATTEMPT DOWN INTO THE NINTH CIRCLE OF HELL OH WATCH YOUR HEAD JUDAS ISCARIOT AND THEN LIKE THE ULTIMATE ECSTASY-LACED CHERRY ON TOP OF THIS I SCREAM SUNDAE WILL BARTON FINISHES AN ALLEY OOP SO QUICKLY AFTER THE BLOCK THAT THE HUMAN BRAIN HAS NOT FULLY RECOVERED FROM THE INITIAL EXCITEMENT AND THUS OUT OF SAFETY SHUTS DOWN ALL BRAIN OPERATIONS EXCEPT FOR THE ABILITY TO HIGH STEP DOWN A HALLWAY YELLING WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

THOMAS ROBINSON TONIGHT WAS SO AWESOME AND EXCITING IT WAS LIKE EATING SPICY CHEETOS WHILE LISTENING TO ALL OF THOSE EARLY MILLENIUM ROC-A-FELLA BANGERS WITH LOTS OF BEANIE SIGEL EVERYWHERE WHILE ALSO WATCHING FAST FORWARDED HIGHLIGHT TAPES OF MIKE TYSON TURNING HALF THE POPULATION OF THE 1980S INTO A GENERIC PASTE FOR ME TO EAT AND THEN USE TO CREATE A COLLAGE TO CELEBRATE THOMAS ROBINSON AND WILL BARTON MADE OUT OF STILLS FROM OLD GODZILLA MOVIES AND YEAH BARTON IS MOTHRA DUH AND VICTOR CLAVER CAN BE RODAN CUZ CLAVER HAS GOOD INSTINCTS AND CAN FLY BUT CAN BE KIND OF A LONER SO HE IS BASICALLY EXACTLY LIKE RODAN IS WHAT I AM TELLING YOU.

I WOULD SAY THAT TERRY STOTTS SHOULD LET BARTON COOK MORE BUT AS A CHEF BARTON IS LIKE THAT DUDE IN COPENHAGEN WHO FEEDS PEOPLE MOSS AND TWIGS AND OLD SOCKS AND STUFF THAT HAS BEEN ROTTING IN HIS GUTTERS FOR LIKE THREE MONTHS AND WHILE THAT GUY HAS WON THE HEARTS OF THE DANISH PEOPLE AND ACCUMULATED SOME MICHELIN STARS AND ALSO WHILE I KNOW PORTLAND PRIDES ITSELF ON ITS APPRECIATION OF THE CULINARY ARTS I WORRY THAT THE PEOPLE OF THIS FINE TOWN ARE NOT QUITE READY TO BE LED DOWN SUCH POSTMODERN CULINARY EXPERIMENTATION BY A VISIONARY TO THE EXTENT OF WILL BARTON BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT SO LET THE MAN COOK AND I BET DIRTY OLD MOSS AND SOCKS SEARED QUICKLY IN THE INTERNAL OVEN OF THOMAS ROBINSON WILL BE EVERYTHING THE MICHELIN MAN EVER WANTED TO STUFF HIS ROLLS WITH.

TIMBERWOLVES @ TRAILBLAZERS: SOBBIN’ WOMEN

|
8791

Those ol’ Timberboys (19-34, .491 Winning Pct.; Offense: 108.3 points per 100 possessions, 9th in NBA; Defense 104.1 points allowed per 100 possessions, 7th in NBA; 10th place in the Western Conference) are in town again and we ought to be worried.

Lemme tell you about these fellas. Last night they went into Salt Lake City, beat their boys in Barn Raising, kidnapped all of that city’s women, and took them to their secluded cabin on top of a mountain. At one point, while they were running from the posse Utah’s town leaders had assembled, they went through a pass that was tucked right under a high risk avalanche area. They held all of these poor women’s mouths closed while they carefully navigated the pass. Once they got all the way through, their leader, a stout, wide, bearded animal and local prodigal son Charles Love (I think) had his brothers take their hands off the girls’ mouths. Naturally, they all screamed bloody murder, which triggered a massive avalanche that sealed the pass shut and kept their just pursuers away. Sickening stuff, the Marshall service ought to bring these degenerates to justice.

Now, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t worry too much about these ol’ Timberboys and their designs on our women here in the wilderness outpost of Portland, Oregon. Our last two barn raising competitions ended in 117-110 and 115-104 victories for the Portland Barn Raizers (37-18). But a stiff case of consumption has spread amongst our tallest barn raisers, community leader Wilamarcus Aldridgeson, traveling Birtish tradesman Joseph Freeman and gentle giant simpleton Mud Leonard.

With these fellows out of the barn building, only Robichia, the mysterious wild-haired woodsman who lives on the edge of town with his various machines and books, can do a suitable job keeping that dastardly Charles Love from picking up all of the dropped boards from the around construction site and using them to build his half of the barn. Robichia is a good man who always does what he can, but Charles Love is a cruel man with obscene physical gifts. Before he was kidnapping women and stomping the heads of his enemies, legends tell that he could throw rocks 90 miles per hour when he was just 9 years old. In his last nine barn raisings he has hammered at least 25 nails and picked up at least 10 boards that fell on the ground. Last night, he even handed the other members of his gang 10 nails that they then hammered. He is building barns at a very high level, and the Razers have no clear way of stopping him.

We can thank God that his partner in crime, a mysterious sword wielding stone man from the darkest corners of the old world who goes only by “Pech” is nursing an ankle injury that the Lord can only imagine how he received and now “Pech” can’t participate in the barn raising. The Timberboys cheating confidence man Charles Martin is also out. He broke his thumb bone when he fell down while robbing a church in New Orleans.

If we’re going to have any chance to best these animals in barn building and keep our daughters safe, David Lillards is going to have to go straight at the job of building the rim of the barn, because the Timberboys have a lot of trouble keeping their opponents from building the rim part of a barn, a very common thing in a barn that everyone knows about and I didn’t make up. But I would recommend bolting your doors and telling your daughters to stay away from any men from out of town. Especially the Spanish nail-handler Richard Rubbs, a dashing and beautiful young man who is a thief who can hardly hammer enough nails to help his barnmates.

 

TRAIL BLAZERS 102 – JAZZ 94: DEEDS, NOT WORDS

|
Château de Chambord, Centre, France (Chambord Castle, Loire Valley)

The clock read “6:50” in the second quarter when the Earth shook – in both the Mobb Deep and Elvis Presley senses of that word. It was frightened, but also struggling to find a balance as its emotions felt like the contents of a shaken bottle of Pepsi (according to Wikipedia, the story goes that Shalimar Music owner Al Stanton shook a Pepsi bottle, then told writer Otis Blackwell to pen a song about stuff getting “all shook up”, and Otis obliged, and then Elvis sang it, and then like 4,000 years later here we are [Elvis actually had a different story about the origin of the song but the Pepsi bottle is a better image]). Will “The Thrill” Barton of Baltimore, Maryland, by way of the University of Memphis, likes to shake Pepsi bottles in frightening ways.

Barton stands in the right corner, nominally playing defense on some member of the Utah Jazz while Alec Burks stands with the ball out on the left wing. Barton was playing, in the second quarter, and he had to be excited. I mean, he’s Will Barton; he’s always excited. But even though the game was pretty terrible up until that point, which is probably related to why he found himself out there, the rare scenario of playing NBA basketball in a real game with the outcome very much in doubt must have made him extra excited. Maybe he was standing over in that corner thinking about how he could possibly spend this extra disposable excitement that had come to him. What’s the going rate on bouncy castles? Talking about real fucking bouncy CASTLES, not that weak bouncy “house” nonsense. Bouncy kings need bouncy castles in which to sit on their bouncy thrones from which to govern their bouncy kingdoms. Certainly, he wouldn’t be putting that excitement away in the excitement bank to save it. He’s Will Barton. He ain’t Warren Buffett.

Enes Kanter moves over towards Burks to set a screen. Kanter had 25 points and 10 rebounds so maybe he wanted a pick-and-roll opportunity. I don’t know; I don’t speak Turkish. But Burks refused the screen and drove left. Somehow, he was already past Mo Williams before even taking a step or a single dribble. Ponder that, Rust Cohles of the world. With Mo now playing trail-technique and Robin Lopez stationed back towards the rim, Burks tried a little shimmy to put Lopez off, like shining a laser pointer on the floor for a cat. Robin Lopez and cats probably have a lot in common, but an easily distracted nature does not appear to be one of them. Burks put up his “shot” AKA he saw that he had wandered into the den of a carnivorous monster while wearing Tabasco-scented cologne and immediately gave himself up. Burks sorta sat/lied down and threw the ball generally towards the object of basketball. Lopez’s tentacles – THE MAN HAS TENTACLES WATCH THE GAME IN SLOW MOTION AND SEE HIM HAVE TO TUCK THEM AWAY AT CERTAIN POINTS LEST PEOPLE REALIZE THAT HE IS A CEPHALOPOD CAPABLE OF REAL MALICE TOWARDS CRUSTACEANS AND RICHARD JEFFERSON – gobbled the ball up, as they often did in this game, to the tune of 18 rebounds and 4 blocks (I don’t know exactly how that tune goes but it’s probably something like a jam band cover of a police siren).

The ball gets knocked to C. J. McCollum, who immediately looks down the court like a young Randall Cunningham, hunting for a receiver. He has one. Because the entire Jazz roster, crashed towards the rim on the play because they’re the Jazz and they’re not very good at this basketball thing, Will Barton was at midcourt with no one in front, to the side, or really anywhere close behind him. He gathered the ball at about the three-point line, cutting a lonely figure as the only man in the television frame, and took one last peek over his shoulder before making his final ascent.

I could feel endorphins or adrenaline or whatever else Will Barton causes in people – I missed that day in health class – surging through my veins at the imminent sight and infinite possibility of a wide open Barton dunk.

Barton rose off two feet and spun around counterclockwise, almost as if he was going to turn in midair and fly back to his own hoop and dunk it there, just cuz. The rim gets a lot of attention, you know, so sometimes you gotta play hard to get. Barton knows what I’m talking about. But just before that fickle rim was ready to move on to the next player, Barton spun all the way back around and stuffed the ball home, right-handed. For a moment when he landed, he stood still and proud, gazing into the crowd. His bouncy castle was built, there was his bouncy kingdom, and here he was, sitting triumphant on his bouncy throne.

Terry Stotts, looking on from the bench in his Dr. Jack Ramsay plaid jacket and open, wing-collared shirt, had in that moment found what every man who puts on such extravagant club wear on a Friday night searches for. He had fallen in love.

JAZZ @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: HANDCART SONG

|
Herding Sheep at Brian Head, Utah

TONIGHT, in the land where the MAX lines meet, the hometown Portland Trail Blazers (36-18) will face the visiting Utah Jazz (19-34, .722 Winning Pct.; Offense: 102.9 points per 100 possessions, 23rd in NBA; Defense 109.4 points allowed per 100 possessions, 29th in NBA; 13th place in the Western Conference).

The Utah Jazz are not good on account of their many mediocre and young players, and under normal circumstances, this preview would read “The Utah Jazz are not good and will likely lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, who are better than the Utah Jazz.”

But three out of the Blazers’ four extraordinarily tall players (LaMarcus “Hell-Train” Aldridge, Joel “Bulldawg” Freeland, and Meyers “My Ears” Leonard) are injured to the point of not being able to play in a professional basketball game (respectively: strained groin, sprained MCL, sprained left ankle).

This means that the Blazers are going to be trotting out kooky/spooky lineups. Wednesday’s game against the Spurs featured fun wacky lineups. Robinson at center, deep-cut Blazers like Dorell Wright and Victor Claver, the latter of whom netted his first FG of the year. One lineup, which I am calling HONEYCOMB, consisted of Williams/Lillard/McCollum/Matthews/Robinson. They played together for 1.7 minutes and netted a +9 and an eFG% of 116%. Wes loves getting on that ol’ block, so it’s no surprise that you get results when you stick him at power forward.

The Blazers did okay under these limitations on Wednesday, but the Spurs were missing Parker and Duncan and were also throwing out sub optimal lineups to deal. The Jazz are only missing one player, defense-oriented power forward Derrick Favors.

The Blazers still shouldn’t to have too much to worry about. The Jazz are pretty well strip-mined-for-tank-parts. They have a lot of mediocre and/or young and/or bad guards and a crummy defense that should be even worse without Favors. The Blazers should be able to shoot threes and drive into the paint against even without Aldridge. They may try to post Enes Kanter as an undersized center, or try Gordon Hayward against any point guard who takes a stab at guarding him. But setting mediocre post players against apparent mismatches is the NBA’s foolsiest gold and not something to be terribly concerned about.

This is the first game the Jazz are playing since the Utah State Legislature passed a bill creating special Utah Jazz branded license plates, a 25-dollar purchase at DMVs all over Utah. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Ray, said that he has heard that many people around Utah wish the state offered a Jazz license plate. Profits from the purchase of Jazz license plates will go to charities that help women and children.

I am sure that some people have opinions about Blazer-branded license plates in Oregon. I am a Vancouver resident and a non-driver, so I do not.