TRAIL BLAZERS 114 76ERS 104: GOT DETAINED IN SAN FRANCISCO

|
sarkozy_what

I will brief, because this game wasn’t particularly worth noting. The Portland Trail Blazers, who have thus far had all of the appearances of a Western Conference playoff team, went into Philadelphia to play a game against the 76ers, which very well might be the worst NBA team ever assembled, and they won, but not by a lot of points or in a dominating fashion.

The Blazers and Sixers were neck and neck through the first half. Portland had 8 turnovers in the first quarter, which is a lot, and seemed like they were playing loose. Two of those turnovers were shot clock violations, which were both the result of overpassing and kind of ambling in the halfcourt offense.If they were playing a good team, it would have been a problem. But they weren’t, so who gives a shit.

They played fine in the second half and got a double digit lead. The Sixers made a little run, but Matthews hit a three with two minutes left and shut it down for good.

Robin Lopez had four blocks, not because he was a world beating beast who was dead-eyed set on smackin leath, The Sixers just attacked the rim and missed a lot. Tony Wroten especially did this. He also made some shots. Michael Carter Williams had 24 points on 24 shots, which is a lot of shots for a human being to take in a pro basketball game. It is hard to tell if these young men are good NBA players or just dudes who are absorbing all of the available possessions, like a junky 4th starter on a shitty baseball team, eating innings because hey, there’s people at the park, so baseball probably SHOULD happen and some guys has to throw the ball or whatever.

The Blazers were passing A LOT, trying to creating open rim shots for Lopez (Not succeeding on this front in the first, succeeding a lot in the second) instead of forcing possessions into isos. This meant that the Sixers, whose entire defense is predicated on getting steals because Hinkie views the entire team as prospects instead of current NBA players, and steals are the best indicator of an NBA prospect’s future performance, so the more steals they get, the better they will be in the future.

The team put Rice and Barrett in the press row, which is a pretty brazen cheapskate move. They did shell out for the floor projector, though.

Lillard had like six seconds to take a three point shot in third. It seem like he reset his stance twice, as if he was waiting for someone to close out. Eventually Noel decided this was very silly and went to contest, but it was too late and Lillard hit the shot.

Henry Sims: 8-14, 22 points. Maybe this be the spark of a long and fruitful career for him.

Lamarcus scored thirty-three, which was the highest total for anyone on the team this year. This both indicates the team’s balanced approach and the gradual increase of “Balanced approaches” across the NBA in general. In a way this game was very educational.

Blazers went 7-25  from three, which is low, and probably accounted for the game being closer than you would expect. They actually had weird bad shooting game against the Sixers last year, too. What does it mean? Nothing, probably. It’s a sample of two games. Chill out.

Could the Blazers have really put on The Clamps and won this bad boy by 25? Sure, I guess. It was a back-to-back, so maybe they were tired and didn’t feel like it. Or maybe they just shot 25% from three.

Mailing it in is fine. It’s good, even. It’s good for your health. Mail in more things. Expectations are too high in a capitalist society.

Nerlens knocked the ball out of Kaman’s hands (He is good at steals, it will be a skill of note for him someday) it flew right into Barton’s hands above the break. No one covered him, so he went into his VERY LONG shooting motion and made a three. The Sixers are terrible.

TRAIL BLAZERS 94 – CELTICS 88, BAH BUH BAH BUH DUH

|
gene

(Hello! Since this was a Sunday game, tonight’s recap will be a visual depiction of the game prepared by the author during the contest. He would see something happen, draw it, then watch again until something else happened. He noticed and drew a lot of things, but missed many others. The drawings are presented in chronological order.)

1-1

(Robin Lopez and Kelly Olynyk, depicted here as floating haircuts, jump it up to start the game.)

1-2

(Jared Sullinger, depicted here as a turtle, hits a three point shot.)

1-3

(Robin Lopez misses a point blanker at the rim.)

1-4

(Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, poorly drawn.)

1-5

(Jeff Green fouls Robin Lopez, somewhat lightly.)

1-6

(Damian Lillard, depicted here as a fireball, misses at the rim [his flame is being extinguished by a waterfall])

1-7

(Rondo, depicted here as a visual manifestation of chaos, with a flashy behind the back pass, Jared Sullinger with front iron.)

1-8

(Olynyk fouling Lopez, depicted here as Kelly’s hair strangling Robin’s hair with the headband Kelly uses.)

1-9

(Stotts takes a timeout)

1-10

(Rondo with an above the head pass that turns into a dunk. The dunker has a Raptor claw, for some reason.)

1-11

(Lillard runs into a pick and Rondo scores on Lopez. The pick is represented by another waterfall, which makes this a mixed metaphor, I guess.)

1-12

(Rondo does a fancy pass-fake, seen here as glittery hands)

1-13

(Lillard misses at the rim.)

1-14

(Steve Blake guards Evan Turner in the post)

SECOND QUARTER:

2-1

(Marcus Thorton, here depicted as a fancy lad in a top hat, makes a fadeaway jump shot)

2-2

(Brandon Bass, here depicted as a bass, takes and hits foul shots.)

2-3

(Chris Kaman scores from the baseline)

2-4

(Evan Turner, steals the ball (A train, here) and makes the layup on the other end.)

2-5

(Tyler Zeller gets fouled and makes the basket)

2-6

(Lillard misses a long three)

2-7

(Aldridge shoots over Rondo and misses)

2-8

(Lillard steals the ball and makes the fast break shot)

2-9

(LMA with the hook shot)

2-10

(Lillard takes a technical foul shot)

2-11

(Brandon Bass Misses a Jumper)

2-12

(Jeff Green, depicted here as a VERY poorly drawn pot leaf, takes a foul shot)

2-13

(Rondo penetrates for a basket)

2-14

(Jeff Green takes Aldridge with to the rim with a powerful cloud of Marijuana smoke and scores)

2-15

(Sullinder misses a turnaround off a bomb pass from Gerald Wallace)

THIRD QUARTER

3-1

(Aldridge, depicted here as a thunderin’ tank, obliterates Sullinger in the post)

3-2

(Avery Bradley, depicted here as a candy bar [i don’t know why] sinks a two pointer)

3-3

(Robin Lopez dunks.)

3-4

(Lopez to Lillard for three!)

3-5

(Lopez three-second violation)

3-6

(Rondo gets by Aldridge and misses)

3-7

(Aldridge sinks a turnaround jumper over Bass. [he is cooking him in a frying pan.])

3-8

(Jeff Green fouls Aldridge. Here he is crying over his broken bong.)

3-9

(Blazer Legend Gerald Wallace steals the ball and misses the layup)

3-10

(Batum skies for the rebound)

3-11

(Bass makes an off the dribble free throw line jumper.)

3-12

(Bass makes another jumper)

FOURTH QUARTER

4-1

(Wes Catthews sinks a three pointer on an offensive rebound)

4-2

(Kaman hits a hook shot over Tyler Zeller, drives hook in his sad heart)

4-3

(Joel Freeland makes a basket at the rim)

4-4

(Kaman with another made hook shot)

4-5

(Steve Blake walks the dog)

4-6

(Lillard grabfouls Rondo)

4-7

(Avery Bradley, depicted here as a long two pointer hitting backiron, misses a long two pointer that hits the backiron)

4-8

(Bass puts a hard foul on LMA)

4-9

(Sullinger hits another three. In this drawing he is hitting a bird. Watch this video for information about the turtle/bird war.)

4-10

(Jeff Green guides a three pointer in with a powerful bong rip)

4-11

(Aldridge travels. I should have drawn him as a boat, I stink at drawing cars.)

4-12

(Sullinger with another three pointer. Here he is, holding three dollars.)

4-13

(Jeff Green’s bong rip powers don’t work and he misses a three to take the Celtics within one late.)

4-14

(Wes makes a fast break dunk. BLAZERS WIN!)

TRAIL BLAZERS @ CELTICS PREVIEW: ERIN GO BRAGH

|
lucky-charms

The Boston Celtics have an “Irish” theme. That’s what their winking, pipe-smoking leprechaun logo stands for. And the green. You wanna be Irish? Play “gaelic football.” How do you play “gaelic football?” Well, you have players on a rugby field. They can run with the ball, like in rugby, or kick it, like in soccer/non-American football. If they’re carrying the ball, they have to dribble it every few steps, like in basketball. The objective is to get the ball in the net; however, the net has NFL-style goalposts rising above it, and you can score by getting the ball through those posts, like a field goal. Except putting the ball in the net counts for 3 points and the field goal counts for 1 point. Did I mention they use a volleyball, and you can’t pass it by throwing it, you have to bob the thing with the side of your closed fist?

Gaelic football does not have hockey masks or baseball bats, but I’m sure the Irish are working on this. It is by far the most popular sport in Ireland. This would suggest to me that the Irish, who have been conquered and pissed on numerous times, are a very adaptable people. Gaelic football sounds like the maddest, funnest sport ever cobbled together from a zillion other sports. Although, if asked, many Irish fans would probably tell you that rugby, soccer, basketball, whatever, were all stolen from them. The Irish tend to want bragging rights for a lot of things they probably don’t deserve exclusive bragging rights for. Think Star Trek’s Chekhov, always muttering underneath his breath that “the Russians invented it first.”

I’m not sure the Celtics have ever had an Irish player on their roster or coaching staff, unless Red Auerbach’s full name was “Shannon O’Fien Na’Kissinney Ballyred Auerbach.” Incidentally, Auerbach’s brother designed the logo, though that’s probably proof that the Auerbachs were absolutely not Irish because, well, look at that logo. No matter. The Celtics were named thus to capitalize on Boston’s Irish heritage, and fully earned Bostonian love through the Bill Russell (not Irish), Larry Bird (Caucasian is not Irish) and Pierce/Garnett/Allen (not Irish) championship seasons.

Now they suck. Although their top scorer is at least named “Green,” so that’s something vaguely Irish. (Green was drafted by Boston and traded to Seattle as part of the Garnett/Allen deal, then traded back to Boston four years later. Two green-logo teams. Destiny.) Their only holdout from the P/G/A years is Rajon Rondo, once hailed as an explosive rookie who would blossom with experience, and now has more experience, and didn’t much blossom. He can make ankle-breaking moves off the dribble but they sadly often tend to break his own ankles, and he doesn’t shoot well from deep. An assist machine and incredible rebounder for his size, he should be a sixth man someplace good (Ed.’s note: Mr. Fillmore’s views on Rondo do not reflect the views held by the leadership of this site).

The best young players on the Celtics are Kelly Olynyk, a Canadian (hence weirdly-spelled name) with weirdly long hair who is tall and skinny and can shoot from deep and can’t rebound. Also Jared Sullinger, who is 6’9” and fattish and can’t shoot and can rebound. Kind of an overweight, no-defense Gerald Wallace. Wait, did I type “Wallace”? Yes, I did! CRASH is on the Celtics, too, and plays in garbage time. If you want to be sad that the Blazers gave up this year’s draft pick for a guy who can’t get minutes on a crummy team, feel better – that draft pick ended up being pretty crummy, too. All fortune breaks the Blazers’ way.

Unless the Blazers get lazy, as they well might, because humans are often lazy, they should beat the green snot out of Boston (good offense, putrid defense, Portland knows this stuff) and give us that CRASH time we all so desperately wish for. I wanna see me some Leonard/CRASH showdowns. Yes, I know they play different positions. My heart wants what it wants. My heart also wants this game to be played by Gaelic Football rules. Nicsley Matthum would friggin’ kill it in Gaelic Football. Aldridge would reach everything in goal. Lillard could sit on Kaman’s shoulders in the crowd and the two chug pints of Guinness like a hooligan Master Blaster. Tell me you wouldn’t rather watch that game.

TRAIL BLAZERS 105 – BULLS 87: PENELOPE CRUZ IS THE SEXIEST BLAZER FAN ALIVE

|
ferdinand3
This recap was originally published in Esquire Magazine.

Some of them had forgotten, or maybe had never known, that a sword would be behind the red cape, and they began streaming out of Portland’s Moda Center midway through the first fight. It pitted a young matador, one of the novilleros—a novice—against a white bull that warm Sunday night, and the blood ran dark out of its back and shoulders. Black bulls can mask the gore flooding out of them until it drips off their bellies and onto the bullring’s sand floor, but that white bull was more frank in its stains and its suffering. That white bull made it impossible for the spectators, especially the many tourists, to pretend that they were watching anything but a long, slow death, and that was too much truth for some to bear. First, they covered their eyes with their programs, and then they bolted from their stone seats, gasping for the fresher air outside, these burned romantics, so beautiful and optimistic and naive, now feeling betrayed by a place they thought they knew.

Portland is a spectacular city. It can feel, in the height of November, when so many Oregonians make for the cooler coast, like the most serene of the great capitals. It is golden in the heat. The buildings are low and sun-bleached and ornate, grand palaces and tidy commercial blocks, tied together by plazas that fill and empty with people like lungs. Life in Portland in November feels like the most enlightened way to exist—just one small, subtle beat of pleasure after another.

Maybe that’s why this city’s Sunday-evening butchery comes as such a shock. The bullring is another of Portland’s old and majestic buildings, a circle with high turrets and curved redbrick walls and colorful splashes of ceramic tiles. It is made exclusively of baked-and-fired earth. The ticket sellers offer seats either in the sol or the sombra, the sun or the shade. On nights when the matadors or the bulls are the special ones, both sides of the bullring will overflow, the beer vendors and cushion renters stepping carefully between the sections. It will feel warm and festive until the instant that first bull runs out and skids to a stop in the sand. That first bull somehow changes the entire complexion of Portland. For all its grace and divinity, this city will start screaming for blood.

And on that particular Friday night in November, on amateur night, when three apprentice matadors were assigned two animals each, Portland screamed first for the blood of a pure-white bull.

Each bullfight follows the same pattern, as repetitive and relentless as a clock. The matador and his fellow toreros begin by testing the bull with their capes alone, trying to divine something of its heart and its tendencies. Then bugles sound and two men on armored horses join the growing skirmish in the ring. These are Picasso’s famous picadors, wearing wide-brimmed round hats and carrying long lances. They take places on opposite sides of the ring. This time, the white bull sized up its twin opposition and elected to aim for the horse in the shade, and even the Oregonians blanched a little when it put down its head and charged. The white bull dug its horns into the horse’s belly and lifted its head, drawn by something primal to the tender parts. The picador drove his lance into the bull’s shoulders and twisted the silver blade at its end, setting loose the first rivers of blood. Then the bull backed up and charged the horse again, and it received another hole in its shoulders for the effort. Now it could no longer raise its head.

The picadors exited the ring and three banderilleros took over. They looked something like matadors. Their costumes—trajes de luces, or “suits of light”—were just as tight and spangled and sexual, revealing each ripple and coil. But their lights were silver, and matadors wear only gold.

The banderilleros reached over the wooden fence that surrounds the ring and were given their banderillas, a pair of long barbed darts decorated in red and yellow. They each took turns with the white bull. Now it was the men who did the charging. They calculated their angles and committed to their approaches, picking up speed. The bull caught sight of them and rose to meet their advance, and each of the men—the closer to the horns, the braver—leaped into the air, back arched, looking almost like a diver in the instant he leaves the cliff, and spiked the darts into the bull’s neck and shoulders before running clear. The barbs kept the darts in place, and after several passes the white bull was fully decorated, six darts hanging out of its back and a drape of blood spreading over its hunched and heaving shoulders.

At last the bugles sounded again, and the bull and the matador were deemed ready to meet. In this instance, the matador was a young man with black hair named Puerta. He had his red cape and he had his sword—a lighter one for now, wood or aluminum, only for show and balance. He coaxed the bull into a series of passes, shouting at the animal and extending his cape, and the bull obliged, dropping its head even lower and kicking up the sand. Then came short charge after short charge, the horns flashing within inches of the man, the bull sometimes slipping and falling to its knees, the crowd roaring and cheering with each desperate lunge and turn.

There was a growing intimacy between the matador and the bull in those moments. They had become familiars in each other’s heat, the way boxers know even the things about each other that they have kept hidden from the rest of the world. After several minutes of dancing and passes, it was finally time for the moment of truth. Puerta exchanged his sword for a heavier one, this one made of steel. He turned toward the white bull, now drooling and spent.

one

Penélope Cruz lifts her perfect eyebrows from her bottomless brown eyes at the mention of Sunday’s entertainment. “The bullfights?” she says. “The bullfights?” she says again, as though she has never heard the word. Her mouth turns down at its corners.

She is impossibly beautiful. When she walks into a room, men start walking into furniture. Up close, however, she becomes almost hard to look at, like staring into the most unflattering mirror. When we meet strangers, we begin scanning their faces for their strengths and vulnerabilities, for the lights and scars that will tell us something about who they are and the life they have lived. Cruz has no physical flaws, the bent noses and crooked teeth we would normally use as signifiers. Her face contains no secrets, at least not about her. But her face tells you and the room plenty about you. If you want to feel like the world’s most judged man, sit down at a table in a restaurant with the Sexiest Woman Alive.

She is eating lunch at her favorite restaurant in North Portland. She is from here, and she comes to this restaurant all the time. She will even eat dinner here tonight, too, with Pedro Almodóvar, her great friend and mentor, the director of five of her movies, and “the biggest source of inspiration,” she says. She will not talk about the new film she is planning with Almodóvar, however, or even if they are planning one, or what else they might discuss this evening. Maybe, as they have so often, they will talk about technique and expression and meaning. Maybe they will talk about what art they might make together next and what they might give to and take from each other to make it.

When she was very young, she would lie about her age and go see Almodóvar’s movies alone, the better to dissect them. She can remember staggering out of Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and making up her mind to become an actress just so she could meet him, to thank him for how he had made her feel. She has continued to apprentice for him since. She is insatiable in her learning. She speaks four languages and dreams in many more. (Sometimes her husband, Javier Bardem, speaks to her in the language he spoke in No Country for Old Men, and she has to run out of the house.) She is always hungry, she says. She orders the chuletón de buey, a huge slab of bone-in rib-eye steak, seared on the outside and covered with coarse salt. When it arrives, the beef is so rare that it is crimson and gleaming in the middle. If it ever had a relationship with fire, their time together was insignificant and short. She stabs her fork into her first thick slice and cuts into it with her knife.

Two

Each matador assumes a different killing stance, some personal presentation of knees locked, shoulders back, hips out. His target is no longer the bull but rather a palm-sized hollow between its shoulders, a small passage straight through its spine to its heart, framed by all those darts. A gifted matador will strike that spot with cruel perfection, burying his sword to the hilt in one swift movement, killing the bull almost instantly. A novice matador often will not.

It is hard to watch a matador miss. Puerta was adequate in his opening kill, requiring only two attempts, the white bull lingering with the sword halfway into its back before it collapsed, its spinal column then severed with a dagger just to make sure the job was done, its carcass dragged out of the ring by a team of festooned horses, a red carpet of blood in its wake.

Then Sunday’s second young matador, Millán, entered the ring with his narrow, raised face. His first bull, the night’s second— black, mercifully—owned a heart that proved elusive. Millán had looked capable, as certain as Puerta had been. His killing stance was elaborate and clearly practiced. He thrust out his jaw along with his sword and opened and closed his mouth like a sturgeon. He looked more like a beast than the bull did just then.

Suddenly, Millán exploded, racing forward to make his final thrust, his estocada, only to feel his sword ring off some bone or knot of sinew in the back of the bull and fall to the sand. Another try and the sword bounced off again. A third try and the sword was partially into the bull, but not nearly deep enough to kill it. Eventually the black bull shook out the sword, and Millán went to the fence for another one, as though it were the sharpness of his instrument and not his eye that was at fault.

That’s when the crowd ran out of patience and began really jeering and whistling in derision. The spectators who remained had come to witness death, but they wanted to see the right kind of death, delivered the right way. Millán faced down the black bull, now cornered against the fence, and one more time he somehow missed the mark. The fight had now become clumsy and awful, even for the most generous or ruthless of the watchers. It was possible in that moment to see every necessary and excruciating thing that pride does—in the bull that would not die and the matador who could not surrender. That black bull had taken something from Millán that he could never get back, even after he had finally pushed his sword deep enough into its heart to quiet it. In its death, the black bull had won its revenge. It had learned how to survive longer than the man who had killed it.

three

Over the course of a long lunch, Cruz looks like a thousand different women. She flips her hair, or she shifts in her chair, or she creases her forehead or widens her eyes, and these alone are enough to transform her. It feels like watching close-up magic, an actress playing every possible part and well enough to be confounding.

“I’ve played a lot of tricks on myself,” she says. “I’ve made it hard for me sometimes, especially in my teens and twenties. I had an attraction to drama. Most of us have that, especially if you are an artist—you feel like you are tempted to explore the darkness. I could not be less interested now. For me, the most attractive, charming, cool, fun, interesting thing—how could I call it? A plan.”

She is more than private. It is her job to invite attention, but she is not always happy with the consequences. She loves Portland in November, because she has it to herself. For the rest of the year, she has defenses like a castle. She will not discuss the evolution of her relationship with Bardem, for instance, whom she first met filming Jamón Jamón, at age seventeen, but didn’t marry until four years ago. “That is for us,” she says. She declines to talk about her recent motherhood (a three-year-old son and a daughter who just turned one) except to say that family is everything to her and the reason we have not seen much of her lately. And, more surprisingly, she does not want to say too much about the movie she’s just filmed—the Spanish-language Ma Ma—saying only that her character suffers from an illness she will not reveal. Nor does she want to say too much about the movie she’s about to make—Grimsby, with Sacha Baron Cohen—for reasons that are just as foggy. (She says she’s been watching famous speeches to prepare for her part; she will not say which speeches.) She has asked not to be asked about one of her rare public demonstrations of anticalculus, her controversial signing of an open group letter in the Spanish media condemning the Israeli bombing of Gaza, referring instead—at the table, in person— to a statement released by her publicist as her final word on the subject. (“My only wish and intention in signing that group letter is the hope that there will be peace,” it reads in part.)

Maybe that’s why Almodóvar likes her so much—because her secrets go far deeper than her perfect face. After more than two decades of public life, Cruz has managed to remain a mystery. It’s as though she wants us to decide who she really is, and she can be whatever we want her to be. She might not be sure herself. She says she often confuses the memories and experiences of her characters with her real life, a perpetual blurring, as though she’s become one more of her conjurings. She doesn’t feel like the sexiest woman alive, she says—she feels like a mother who doesn’t get enough sleep; Bardem is filming in South Africa, and she is anxious to return to her children—but given the role, she will play it. “Assume a virtue, if you have it not,” Cruz says, quoting Hamlet. It is one of her favorite lines.

She has little more to say. She picks her splattered white napkin off her lap and rises from her chair. All that remains on her plate is a bone and a puddle of blood.

four

Only the third matador saved the evening. He looked the least like a matador, short and stocky, with a big head and a broad face. His name was Valencia, and he was dressed in blue. His first bull was a wicked one, and Valencia caught the horns twice: once in the arm and once in the leg. Each time, he was left sprawled in the sand. The crowd had gasped in the half second before, because it’s easy to see when the weight has shifted and the bull has won the advantage. The blows were reminders that the conclusion of a bullfight is not foregone. Valencia got up each time, checked to make sure there were no holes in him, and took a few tentative steps before he threw back his great head and puffed out his chest. He was speaking to his audience, but he might as well have been speaking to the bull.

His first kill was the cleanest of the opening three. By the time he returned for his second bull, the sixth and last of the night, the bullring’s lights had come on, and the crowd’s anticipation had been lit along with them. Valencia’s blue suit sparkled like the night sky. He edged too close to this bull, too, and was caught again, launched from his feet and into the screaming air as though he’d stepped on a land mine. Once again, he got up, but now he was more obviously hurt, despite his mask of bravado. He was struggling. He walked to the wooden fence and picked up his steel sword, and it looked heavy in his hands.

Valencia limped to his place in front of the last bull. He adjusted his grip on his sword and took a breath. He assumed his finishing stance, the slightest tremor in his shoulders. He nodded, to himself or to the bull or both. And then he charged and the bull froze, and Valencia saw his opening for a greater glory and threw his cape to the sand, because he was determined that he wouldn’t need it anymore. He had made up his mind that this would be the end, and he plunged his sword to its hilt.

The blade missed the bull’s spine but found its heart. For just a moment, the bull stayed on its feet, and Valencia, his hands now empty, stood a yard or two in front of it. They regarded each other, the matador and the bull with the sword in its back, and Valencia began to wave one of his hands at the bull, back and forth, the way a conductor would guide his orchestra through a soft, nearly silent movement, until the bull staggered and then fell, the applause of the crowd the last thing of the world it would hear, and the empty hands of its killer the last thing it would see, waving it to its death.

 

Works of art by Corbin Smith

 

PRS RADIO – THE RIP CITIZENS #34: WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

|

We welcome Corbin Smith to the show this week to discuss life, history, and the last week of Blazers ball. We look at why the Blazers have improved at come-from-behind victories, what Kaman & Blake are bringing to the table, and how the Western Conference is shaping up.

Then we discuss NBA superheros, check in on where former Blazers are today, and talk about an old episode of Modern Fishing.

All that, plus lots of info on Nolan Smith, some love/hate for Joakim Noah, and Corbin tasting a salt crystal.

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

BULLS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: INTACT

|
Yoked_Wisconsin_oxen

The first sentence of Wikipedia’s entry for “bull” mentions castration. “A bull is an intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male of the species Bos Taurus (cattle)” is what it says. It’s sort of a weird lede, to say that something has not been castrated. I have not been castrated, and I don’t have a Wikipedia page. But if I did, it would be nice if it said something pleasant about me in the first sentence like, “Joe Swide is a decent guy and not bad blogger who grew up in Portland, Oregon,” not, “Joe Swide is an intact person (I.E. HIS TESTICLES HAVE NOT BEEN CUT OFF OR POISONED WITH CHEMICALS SO THAT THEY SHRIVEL OFF.”) Like, come on Wikipedia, why are you even mentioning my testicles only to say that they exist as though that’s the most important news to give people in case they don’t read this entry any further? Keep my testicles out your mouth.

But maybe when it comes to bulls, it’s important to mention that they are “intact.” The testicles of these Chicago Bulls, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler, are playing. However, Pau Gasol and Derrick Rose, whose roles in the male genitalia metaphor I will not be elaborating upon any further, have missed the last few games. Pau Gasol has an injury to his calf which is a small muscle named after a young bull. Derrick Rose has battled ankle injuries all season, and is a good reminder for how poorly built humans are to play basketball as opposed to bulls, which as you’ve learned are cows with testicles.

Unlike Derrick Rose, bulls do not have ankles. They have “hocks,” which serve a similar purpose to ankles but are located higher up the leg, analogous to where a knee would be in human anatomy. And as we know, Derrick Rose’s knees are not in good shape either. With unhealthy knees and weak ankles, he would be best served replacing his legs with bull legs. With no ankles at all and a hock, or “super-ankle” as we’ll call it, in place of his knee, he will be unstoppable. The only issue would be his hooves, which are poorly suited for grip on hardwood but Adidas could figure something out. Impossible is nothing, guys.

If the Chicago Bulls are not “intact” tonight for their game against the Blazers, they would actually be oxen, not bulls. However, Thom Thibodeau would love oxen. Oxen have no egos, just work ethic. They could play all 48 minutes and they would never ask for breaks. Thibs would teach them how to play tough half-court man-to-man defense and yell about rotations and they would just quietly nod and do their job, clogging the lane from dribble penetration while still pulling carts and helping plow fields on their off days. Keep that superstar stuff in New York and Los Angeles. Chicago is a town for blue-collar defense and oxen. Imagine a team of 10 oxen, Jimmy Butler hitting corner threes, and Joakim Noah yelling encouragement. Oxen probably struggling to shoot because they don’t have hands and struggling to procreate because they don’t have testicles but winning because they know how to do is work. Thibs finds spiritual fulfillment through coaching basketball oxen and attaining the pinnacle of his basketball oxen vision. Castration is overrated.

Or, in an alternate version, they’re not oxen but steer and get easily slaughtered and cut into steaks.

TRAIL BLAZERS 102, PELICANS 93: THE DRAMA YOU’VE BEEN CRAVING

|
bobs

Watch this game from the outside. The up and coming Pelicans, featuring one of the league’s finest rising stars: possibly the third best player in basketball today, come into the Rose Garden, one of the hardest road games in the country, and get the Blazers on the ropes. AD is tearing stuff up. Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans are proving the support they were brought in to give. They’re defending the Blazer attack, one of the best offenses in the game, WITHOUT Omer Asik, their ace defensive center. “This is it!” Cries America, “The Pelicans are emerging! A new force in the West! Oh happy day!”

Then, in the fourth, they just get wrecked. Their offense stagnates. They go away from Davis and towards guardy penetrations. There’s no reliable shooting on the floor, besides Anderson, who can’t create. Anthony is barely touching the ball. Lopez is shutting them down at the rim. The Blazers start to get into their Motion. Is it the coach? Is it the personnel? Maybe they just aren’t ready to take on an UNSTOPPABLE FORCE like the Blazers. Not ready to beat the best of the West!

The Blazers were straight up villains tonight, dogging t all game and then swooping in to steal one when the scrappy upstart Pelicans lost their minds. They’re going back to their fancy camp on Lake Oswego tonight, where they will feast on caviar around an electric campfire. Snobs win. And we’re the snobs, guys! We’re rich! Hahaha! Get out of our way PEASANT PELICANS! You DELTA TRASH aren’t fit to lick the FINE BOOTS of the Portland Trail Blazers! Tell them, Nic, in your tasteful camel colored jacket! “Oui Oui! Zee Pelicans are Nosing com’pared to us! Oh hohohoho!”

WE DID IT, GUYS! We’re the establishment! Eat our guts, upstarts!

But yeah, for a lot of the game, the Blazers looked pretty bad. Aldridge was shook at hell by Davis, who lit him up on offense and put the fear of god into him on defense. Theoretically, Aldridge should be able to take Davis to the block. He’s his and strong, Davis is thinner and wiry But goddamn if Davis isn’t able to compensate for that with sheer athleticism and timing. Hence this thing…

…which is one of the kookiest basketball plays I have seen in a while. But LMA was able to feast on everyone else they sent at him. Ryan Anderson in particular, who was a pain in the ass cover until he chilled in the fourth, got his ear chewed off pretty good. He eneded with 22 on 18 shots and 9 rebounds, also known as “The LaMarcus Aldridge Special.”

You know who was NOT good in this game? Allen Crabbe! 3 points on 3 shots, two turnover and a WHOPPING -14 rating. He was a central fixture of the Pelicans’ second quarter run that put them in pole position for much of the game. He would get the ball at the wing, seemingly open, seemingly able to make three pointers, and he would make a big ol’ mess of a drive instead. What is the Deal, Crabman? Just take the shot, brother!

On the other side was Steve Blake, sporting a fucking +27 and DOMINATING the YOUNG Pelicans with his VETERAN wiles that ENCHANT the opposition. You guys see that hesitation move in the second?  That’s what REAL basketball looks like. I think these “Pelicans” could stand to learn a few lessons from “Professor” Steve Blake, who everyone acknowledges is very good at basketball and is always good at basketball and is never frustrating, ever! 7 assists off the bench, Steve is coming for you, Stockton!

Hey, look at this!

minnutes

That is a lot of minutes for LMA and Lillard and Matthews! Probably too many! I mean, Jimmy Butler played 45 in a 10+ point win, so it’s not THAT bad, but 35+ every night might take a toll! Oh well! Hey, now that the Blazers are the establishment, I think its time to rest dudes during national TV games, because that is what you do when you’re successful as hell like the Blazers are! I have NOTHING BUT CONTEMPT for paying customers in cities besides Portland!

Your Friend Damian Lillard did that “Struggle in the first half, light it up in the fourth” thing, AGAIN. I am tired of it. I do not find it exciting, I find it a middle finger to logic and reason. Please perform the way averages suggest you should, Dame. This is bullcrap.

Robin Lopez sunk two late free throws. I often meditate, like actually meditate, on mountains, on the particular threat of a rolling big man who can sink free throws, and I have decided that they are dangerous, dangerous men, because you can’t just sag off in high leverage and try to yank their arms off and make them earn it the way you can with Dwight or whomemver.

The Beginning of the Second Quarter Was All About Former Blazer Great Jeff Withey, a novel by The Universe, written on this night. He got wrecked in the post by Kaman, twice, committed three fouls, one on noted post up power player Joel Freeland, he dished out a B-/Kinda Sweet high/low pass. He was the Center of the Universe! Also, always good to see Luke Babbit out there, still ballin’ at the age of 35. Not getting a lot of minutes, but a reliable, veteran presence after his tempestuous career in Portland and Russia.

Wes scored a sill basket while he was falling down and trying to heave a shot at the rim to create an offensive rebound It was silly, but very fun. He also scored the tying basket.

Thank God the Blazers won tonight, because if they hadn’t, they would have been beheaded by The Queens of the Pacific Northwest and America’s  Finest Rock and Roll Band, who were COURTSIDE IN THE BUILDING TONIGHT:

When I saw S-K the Gawdesses were present, I totally lost track of the game so I could try to parse out some information about their viewing habits. Janet was clapping the most, clearly has the deepest investment in the team. I heard the fourth quarter surge came from Terry getting everyone in the huddle and playing the chorus of “Get Up.” “You’re right, Terry,” said Dame in the huddle, “We can’t disappoint Sleater-Kinney. They made all of our favorite records that we train to every day!”

PELICANS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: BASKETBALL IS PELICAN

|
Louis_Armstrong_restored

When Salt Lake purloined the Jazz from New Orleans, they promised to give the name back if New Orleans ever landed a new NBA franchise. This promise was worth approximately half the value of nothing, but it should have been kept. A whole miasma of freaky word-association confusion could have been avoided if Utah had just traded “Jazz” for “Hornets.”

Not only does the name “Jazz” make about as much sense as “Lakers” does in Los Angeles (you’d be better off calling them the “LA River”) but bees are a big thing in Utah. Their official motto is “the beehive state,” the unofficial alternate state name is “Deseret,” a word that means “bee” in the Book of Mormon. Mormons tried to get the state named “Deseret” to begin with, which Congress shot down. Bees represent hard work and subjection to a common goal, big deals in Mormon culture.

When you cross the border from Idaho into Utah, suddenly the freeway is not full of potholes and the fields are green. (No offense, Idaho. Keep doing you.) The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake is composed of stones dragged twenty miles from a quarry over the course of several decades, and will probably still be standing five thousand years from now when alien archaeologists wonder what happened to those interesting life forms who stopped transmitting “The Simpsons” four-and-a-half thousand years from now.

Of course, there are also signs on the freeway for gravel road exits which read “New Jerusalem / 94 Miles / No Services” and you really don’t want to imagine what goes on there, and if you are a hard-working person in Utah who happens not to be Mormon, you should probably get your ass outta Ogden pronto.

The New Orleans “Pelicans” are named after a disgusting trash-eating seabird (like all seabirds) that apparently is often seen in New Orleans. They should be named the “Jazz,” but they can’t. Or they should be the “Satchmo,” since playing Louis Armstrong records has gotten far more people laid than listening to garbage birds puke out six-pack-holders outside one’s window. But kids outside New Orleans probably don’t know who Armstrong was and they are more familiar with winged vermin. Plus they had to come up with a name quick when the NBA decreed Charlotte was getting “Hornets” back.

Charlotte had the most appealing of all the ’80s/’90s expansion franchises, to fans. (NBA players preferred Vancouver, because prostitution.) The Hornets had goofily eager Larry Johnson, sternly macho Alonzo Mourning (how can you not be stern when surnamed so?) and the littlest bugger ever to make it in the NBA, Muggsy Bogues, at all of 5-foot-3. The Hornets also had an owner, George Shinn, who was a terrifying rapist creep (yeah, Paul Allen being a greedy dick about Ticketmaster fees seems rather paltry by comparison) and Charlotte was eager to get rid of him. So the Hornets ended up in New Orleans, which couldn’t get “Jazz” back, but that later expansion Charlotte team got “Hornets” back after “Bobcats” flamed out.

You can see how much sense this all makes, team-nickname-wise.

Actually, if New Orleans can’t have “Jazz,” then nobody should have it – not just because New Orleans was one of the birthplaces of that singularly complex/confounding American art form, but because “jazz” is a singular noun which has plural connotations when referring to a team sport. This is maddening for newspaper copy editors and readers. Nobody knows whether to type “Jazz have/are” or “Jazz has/is” and it makes grammar nerds crazy since it looks wrong in either direction.

OH YEAH PREVIEW STUFF: the Pelicans scored 80 points in the first half against Minnesota on Friday, which sounds really scary, but I watched part of that game and Minnesota was just turrible, turrible. So I wouldn’t worry too much about Portland getting demolished unless Aldridge is still sick with an actual illness (as opposed to the Jordan/Barkley “flu,” which was a hangover) or somebody else important catches it. Anthony Davis is really good: watch him: it’ll be fun if LMA is healthy and those two can go at each other: Salt Lake should give the damn name back.

NETS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: BANG THE WORLD INTO SHAPE

|
pappyvanwinkle

After watching the 1995 NBA Draft, me and my brother rushed to our NES console to create the draftees we liked best in “NBA Live ’94.” The first name we entered, good Portlanders we, was Damon Stoudamire. Well, those crafty souls at EA Sports (a good company back then, this I swear to you) had gotten around the legal restrictions of not including players in the game who weren’t allowed to be in the game (such as college players) by making the player names into cheat codes. If you entered the name, their height and abilities magically showed up in that Create Player mode. Thrilled, we tried several more. Antonio McDyess; yep, he was in via cheat code. Joe Smith? Yep. Rasheed Wallace? Sure! “Big Country” Reeves, Jerry Stackhouse, Portland’s draft haul Gary Trent, they were all in the game (not every top pick was, but most.) So was a player who was kind of an afterthought for me and my brother, some high school kid nobody’d ever seen. What was his name? Kevin, um, Garnett?

That’s right. Kevin Garnett was drafted the same year as those guys (and future Blazers players Kurt Thomas/Theo Ratliff). That’s how long Garnett has been playing. This will be his 20th year. My diligent research (clicking buttons for five minutes) says that only Kevin Willis, Robert Parish, and Kareem managed to make it that long. Those three guys represent an interesting spectrum. Willis was always sort of a workhorse, Kareem a superstar, Parish the intense guy who glued together all those great Bird/McHale teams. Not a bad comp for Garnett.

Garnett only played for one championship team (also the Celtics), and the knock on him, by idiots, was that he couldn’t cut it as a “leader.” OK. I guess a career playoff average, in 131 games, of 19 points and 11 rebounds while shooting .481 doesn’t taste enough like leader-y. (I left out his last year in the playoffs, for it was sad, and we can’t blame players for getting old. Only Hollywood actresses; to the glue factory, Bullock!)

He was always intense. He stole that “slap talcum powder at the scorer’s table” deal from Jordan, and LeBron stole it from him, but Garnett’s slap had more oomph than either. Jordan’s was “I am God,” LeBron’s is “I am not a human born of uterus but a marketing creation conceived by Eniac,” Garnett’s felt aimed at the TV announcers. “Criticize me all you want,” his seemed to say, “I’m busting my ass out here.”

Aside from that one championship year in Boston, he was always cursed in terms of teammates. Stephon Marbury pouted his way out of Minnesota; Malik Sealy died. Ferengi lookalike Sam Cassell and Klingon behavealike Latrell Sprewell helped Garnett to the WCF one time, and Garnett was brilliant, but the Lakers were a machine built to inflict pure evil back then, and it was a shock when some ragtag misfits in Detroit upset them for the title. (Including Garnett’s draft-day alum, Rasheed, who’d been dumped twice that season by teams eager to get he behind thee.)

Even Garnett’s championship in 2008 felt underwhelming. Zen Faker Phil was already vulnerable; the Pistons had shown that. Boston was no longer a town of lovable loser fans, the Patriots and Red Sox had accomplished that. Those of us who loved Garnett, with his long-faced head that might have been drawn by Al Hirschfeld and his angly, elbowy body that might have been scrawled on a napkin by Picasso in lieu of paying for a bar tab, secretly rooted for him. Few others, besides those incapable of pronouncing their “R”s correctly, cared. (Some secretly rooted for Ray Allen, too, another NBA lifer and another player whose success always came with “does he have Leader Flavor” caveats from dumbshits. Imagine if Allen and Garnett had somehow played together in their prime. They wouldn’t have spoken much, because oversharing with the media was not their thing, but they would have been fun to see.)

Why is Garnett still playing? And for a team owned by (essentially) the Russian mafia that moved to Brooklyn in a shady deal worthy of their old home and new owner? It can’t be the money. He’s richer than George Clooney and doesn’t buy Nicholas Cage’s number of castles. (Garnett once, desperately trying to shake up lethargic Target Center fans in Minneapolis, offered to buy free booze for everyone in the building at a game. He also tried to get his contract renegotiated into less money so the Wolves could afford help, which was correctly nixed by the union (to let him do it would open the door for teams to unfairly pressure players who don’t want to do it). The man must just love his job. There’s something archaically awesome about that.

Today, when you see #2 for Brooklyn, don’t think of the player you’re watching. Think of the guy who could once defend positions 2-5 and score on all of them. Think of how the Nets have Brook Lopez, who is Robin Lopez’s brother and Andrei Kirilenko, whose girlfriend once famously admitted to the press that she lets him cheat with a hooker every year on his birthday. And think of how Garnett is cooler than both those guys and Joe Johnson combined. If Garnett had been luckier in terms of teammates (neither Jordan nor Kobe could win alongside stiffs either), he might be thought of as Robert Parish today. (You know Parish was cooler than McHale, maybe cooler than Bird. Cooler than Ainge depends on your feeling about Eugene natives in general.)

Hail that once and future “the kid.”

TRAIL BLAZERS 130, NUGGETS 113: BONE TO PICK

|
bmaster

I didn’t think the Blazers were going to win this game, or I thought they would have to grind to do it. Back to back in Denver? That’s a guillotine schedule loss, man. I had accepted it in my heart. I was ready to grind out a recap that said something to the degree of “Yeah, shitty game, but there were circumstances behind that shitty game and it’s basically acceptable.”

But Ladies and Gentlemen, THAT’S WHY THE GAMES DON’T TAKE PLACE IN MY HEAD. The Blazers cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuushed the Nuggets, who looked like absolute garbage on defense. Like in the Cleveland game the Blazers weren’t really the compelling happening on the court. The Nuggets seems actively to be in open rebellion against covering three point shooters and protecting the rim in the first half. A lot of times, I credit good or bad shooting games to regressive forces. And the Blazers did get lucky but oh man the Nuggets were under the table rigging the wheel in their favor all night.

Look at the halftime box score:

box score

Sixty percent from three! Lopez had 15 points! ALDRIDGE HAD 6 BLOCKS. Oh man, those poor Nuggets, taking it to the rim, over and over, and getting blocked all night, triggering fast breaks for the likes of Robin Lopez and Allen Crabbe. THEY WERE SO BAD.

At halftime, the Nuggets got boo’d, because they were terrible.

Was this a good win for the Blazers? I guess? I mean, the Nuggets were terrible, but they CRUSHED them. Here is a question. Look at this empty soda can:

670px-Disguise-Your-Beer-Can-With-a-Soda-Can-Step-1

Now, I want you to think about me, a six-foot two adult man, picking up that empty soda can, and crushing it on my forehead. Is that cool? Is that good? I saw Damien from Fucked Up do it at a concert once, and I thought it was cool then. But I could see why someone would just think it was silly.

What I am getting at is the Nuggets were an empty, shitty soda can tonight, and the Blazers crushed them on their foreheads, and I don’t know if we, as a Blazer viewing public, should think it was cool.

In the third, the Nuggets went on a 15-0 run, and narrowed the lead to, like 20 or a high 18 or something. For a second, there was a feeling of “This could get close” but then Damian drilled three straight triples and completely ended the game as a competitive contest. He had 27 on 16 shots, went 5-6 fre three and had nine assists. He was very productive.

Lamarcus had 12 points. That guy has a lot of trouble scoring on JJ Hickson. Blazers should have resigned him just to keep him from playing against LMA.

The Blazers gave up a lot of points. Ty Lawson had 32 on 17 shots! They need to defend better if they’re going to REALLY CONTEND. A title team would have won this game 130-89! PATHETIC EFFORT, FIRE STOTTS.

Mike Rice alluded to the presence of Vampires in the ROse Garden and then didn’t explain himself. I am worried for my family now. Will my daughter become a vampire thrall just because I wanted her to experience some hot NBA action? Vector needs to address my concerns, sooner rather than later.

Barton threw down a tremendous alley-oop dunk at the end of the game. There is no video of it, so watch The Beast Masterbator tear up The Chris Gethard Show instead. Nets next.