TRAIL BLAZERS 114 – PELICANS 88: GALACTIC

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Stop-the-Laziness

If you read the game previews presented below, you’ll note that I and Bobby Ohman both praised Anthony Davis while expecting the Blazers to be tired/lazy. In the actual game, Davis looked like a rookie trying way too hard, on offense. On defense, he was an ancient sageish wizard badass. The Blazers, meanwhile, looked far less lazy than non-Davis New Orleans players.

Portland won the game in the first quarter, going, “we’re tired and playing a young, athletic team, so we’ll just run set plays.” The set plays worked, and the goofy-rebound plays went Portland’s way, so the Blazers seemed to go into “dammit, if they’ll let us, we’ll run up this score a bit and coast afterwards” mode. The Blazers ran up the score a bit, because the Pelicans were super-lazy, and after that this game became a nail-biting thriller about how close the score could get before Terry Stotts stopped leaving Thomas Robinson in.

The rest of this recap will be random notes, because what do you say about this game? It was over fast. That’s kinda fun if you’re attending the game live and really invested in the outcome; you can relax because of the big lead and chat with your friends while oohing and aahing at cool athletic plays. It’s not as much fun, watching the game on your puter, when you don’t largely care. (The Blazers will make the playoffs. They will face good teams in the playoffs. The Pelicans, even when Davis is rocking it, are not a good team.)

Tops scorer for the Pelicans: Austin Rivers. Yeah, baby, yeah! It’s too bad seemingly competent coach Monty Williams isn’t coaching the high-flying Clippers, with their derivative nickname “Lob City.” (Nicknames that include the word “city” should be banned, because Schonz patented that shit and you can’t steal it.) If Williams coached the Clippers their nickname could be “Monty Williams’s Flying Circus” or some such. I hate the Clippers.

New Orleans announcers Joel Myers and David Wesley: “LaMarcus Aldridge. What a talent. Worst trade in Chicago Bulls history. By far.” Does anybody in the Blazers front office think these calm, intelligent broadcasters are less worthwhile than the sexist bloviard fuckbasket Mice Rice? Buy that asshole out and hire some new people, Paul Allen. IT’S ONLY MONEY. The Pelicans announcers, specifically David Wesley, were quite kind to Steve Blake, a player I loathe. Blake committed what looked to be like an incredibly pointless, cheap-shot, dirty off-ball foul against Dante Cunnigham and David Wesley said it was a savvy veteran move. You know what? I’ll trust Wesley on this. He knows more about basketball than I do. So does Mike Rice, but Wesley isn’t an aggressively arrogant shithead. OK. So Blake maybe isn’t all that “Deliverance” banjo-playing mutant redneck bad. I’ll try to keep an open mind.

I’m not sure the Blazers know what to do with Chris Kaman, no more than any other team has ever known what to do with Chris Kaman. He’s crazy skilled around the basket, like a flat-footed Olajuwon, or a more selfish Sabonis. (Kaman, like Sabonis, can make the amazing pass; unlike Sabas, passing isn’t the first thing Kaman’s thinking about while doing his crappy-knees pirouette moves.) No doubt many teams have tried to harness the weird power that is Kaman and failed. He slows the offense down to tree-ring-accumulation speed when he has the ball. He’s also crazy skilled. I suspect the best way for NBA teams to deal with an asset like Kaman is just fuck it, throw a bunch of cards in the air and see where they land. Why not.

Joel Freeland. The man is solid as hell. I hope his workmanlike efficiency doesn’t make Meyers Leonard cry at night thinking “why am I terrible?” I hope Meyers Leonard doesn’t care, and just wants him some NBA lifestyle. If he does care, and feels bad, then I would feel bad. Meyers Leonard is horrible at basketball and Joel Freeland has himself a ten-year career lined up for doing what he does and doing it well.

A PAIR OF PELICANS PREVIEWS!

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(We had two Pelicans preview written. I (Corbin) don’t understand how to use WordPress, so I am posing them both, right here. If anyone knows how to use WordPress, please send me a message about it, I would find it immensely useful. I also don’t know how to turn off the .docx formatting and I am VERY scared of my own shadow and girls and cars. I am actually scared of cars, that one is real. They just move so fast, it’s clearly not natural.)

 

PREVIEW ONE: BY JAMES FILMORE!

With any luck, your God, gods, inner Jiminy Cricket, family, friends, psychics, Life Coaches, fellow

AA members or drunken D&D dice rolls have steered you away from any thoughts of being an NBA

reporter. Oh, sure, there’s the money, the glamour, the fame, the sex, and the opportunity to hang

around pungent locker rooms with people who regard you as a walking toilet stain.

But then there’s also the job, which involves doing Human Interest Profile Stories. About millionaires,

who tend not to be very fascinating. This is a bearable cross, if you have no problem interviewing the

same people and getting the same quotes and finding some way your soul can stomach turning this into

material which doesn’t smell of punching a clock.

Anthony Davis, he of the New Orleans Pelicans, is a budding NBA superstar, and everybody wants

to write Human Interest Profile Stories about him. I don’t know why this is. As an avid reader and

casual sports fan, I like reading sports-related stuff. I particularly enjoy bizarre anecdotes (“he broke

a fingernail trying to steal pistachios from the hotel mini-bar”), the way I enjoy it when co-workers

tell me how their family/friends/pets do stupid things. These stories try to be entertaining, and all

we can do in this vale of tears is make stabs at entertaining one another. I’m bored by sports stories

teaching me how driven and inspiring and destined for glory sports figures are, much the same way I

tune out for co-workers describing their family/friends/pets doing wonderful, heart-warming things.

I have a heart, it’s around here somewhere. I just warm it on my own time, thank you very much.

The contributions of strangers to the ambient temperature of my heart are unasked for and largely

unappreciated.

Two Human Interest Profile Stories I found about Mr. Davis follow exactly the same template. One

does not plagiarize the other. It’s merely that Davis is new blood, and if you want to do a HIPS on him,

you’re going to use the same public-domain material. One, by Sam Amick of “USA Today,” available

here, uses anecdotes about Davis’s youthful indifference to stardom, mentions his childhood in a poor

part of Chicago, and quotes his carpenter father plus his current NBA coach, Monty Williams. The

other, by Lee Jenkins of “Sports Illustrated,” not available for free online, uses different anecdotes

about Davis’s youthful indifference to stardom, mentions the same childhood, has different quotes by

the same people. Both were fed lines by Williams comparing Davis to Williams’s old teammate, Tim

Duncan, and both used the lines.

What else could these writers do? It’s a hard gig. It’s not like you’re going to stumble ass-backwards

into a verifiable source confirming that Davis used to rip the spines from clowns at children’s parties

(not YET.) The Jenkins article contains more quotes & anecdotes, because Jenkins was given more

copy space. What do you learn about Davis from either? Nothing you don’t learn about almost any

athlete in any HIPS, and why does anyone want to learn much more? I dunno. The world don’t move

to the beat of just one drum, and I’m glad anyone out there is reading anything longer than a candy-bar

wrapper nowadays.

The Blazers play the Pelicans tonight, one night after what seems to have been a hugely fun three-

overtime win against San Antonio. I missed that fun game, having opted for food and drink with

amicable associates. Usually a choice I wouldn’t regret, but when I saw clips on the bar TV I wondered.

The Blazers will probably be tired, phone it in, and try to come back in the final quarter. I’ll watch this

game wire-to-wire. Choices have consequences, people!

PREVIEW TWO: BY BOBBY OHMAN!

Before we even discuss any future events, let’s just take a second to talk about what a cold-

blooded assassin of righteousness and poetry Damian Lillard is. He is Mufasa in Lion King. He

is Bruce Willis in Die Hard. He doesn’t use coasters. He is Neil Armstrong. He walks away from

explosions without looking back. He paid your bill at TGI Friday’s one time. On Friday, he did

things against the Spurs that it’s hard to do in video games.

That being said, there is another basketball game to be played. The Blazers now travel east to

New Orleans to play the Jazz or the Hornets or the Pelicans or whatever.

Unfortunately for the Blazers, fresh off a valiant display of war and honor, New Orleans is home

to a young superstar who seems poised to inevitably take the throne from LeBron James and

dominate the league for the next ten to fifteen years. It’s frightening how good he is at such a

young age. He has legitimate guard skills with power forward size, and his ceiling appears to be

unquantifiable. I’m talking of course about the man, the myth, the legend: Luke Babbitt.

YESSIR BABS IS BACK IN OUR LIVES AND DOING WELL. NO LONGER BANISHED

TO THE DEPTHS OF SIBERIA, HE HAS EMERGED AS AN HONEST TO GOD NBA

ROLE PLAYER ON A PRETTY GOOD JAZZ / HORNETS/ PELICANS TEAM.

These are exciting times.

The Pelicans also have a young forward named Anthony “Tony” Davis who several people who

know things about basketball are excited about. The game will be played at a place called the

Smoothie King Center, which really puts the Moda Center thing in perspective. That’s an

unfortunate name, especially when the Superdome is across the street. The Superdome is the

coolest name in the history of stadiums, like no questions asked, whereas the Smoothies King

Center has the word smoothie in its name.

The Pelicans are a weird team befitting of a weird arena name. Once they stumbled into the

number one pick that became Anthony Davis, they tried to accelerate their rebuild by about three

years, which was really stupid of them. Instead of having patience and developing other young

players around Davis (cutting the Luke Babbitt bullshit- it’s scary how fucking good Anthony

Davis already is), they made a series of trades that probably aren’t going to look like good

decisions in retrospect in five years. First, they traded for Jrue Holiday on Draft night two years

ago. Holiday is a nice player, but he most assuredly isn’t worth the two first round picks they

gave up to get him. From there they basically gave away Greivis Vasquez and Robin Lopez for

the right to pay Tyreke Evans 44 million dollars, and then this past summer they gave up another

first rounder for Omer Asik. They also used the 10th overall pick on Austin Rivers in the Davis

draft, who has been super disappointing. He’s an undersized shooting guard who can’t shoot, and

he doesn’t really play defense. And to make matters worse, their uniforms totally suck. They’re

somehow less aesthetically pleasing than the ones that Chris Paul used to wear that looked like

Pop-Tarts.

Regardless, Anthony Davis is already a transcendent player. Despite the fact that he could still be

playing for Kentucky, he would probably win MVP if the season ended tomorrow. They might

have thrown away some picks, and their pieces might not fit together perfectly, but they still

have an undeniable level of talent. If those players can learn to complement Davis, the Pelicans

will be a team to fear for years to come. However, this isn’t years to come. This is right now.

Normally, I’d say that the Blazers would have an overwhelming chance to beat any team starting

Luke Babbitt and Austin Rivers, but this game basically amounts to a toss-up. Due to the heavy

minutes starters had to play in San Antonio, the bench will be called upon to deliver. If they can,

the Blazers will probably win. If they can’t, the Blazers will probably lose. Either way

everybody’s getting a postgame smoothie.

TRAIL BLAZERS 129, SPURS 119 (3OT) – FIREBRAND

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TEN-ISH PARAGRAPHS ABOUT BLAZERS/SPURS

 

ONE: That was the best Blazer game of the year thus far. Three overtimes, a whole handful of comebacks, Amazing performence, incident after incident after incident. The only thing that could have made it better is if some hardcore shit had happened, like Terry gets thrown out by security for calling the refs “Dingleberries.” On a certain level, I am upset that I have to continue watching the Blazers play, because that is as good as it is going to get until the playoffs, at least.

 

TWO: Obviously no basketball game is REALLY a duel, because duels don’t feature ten people. But let’s say that this was a duel, because it can be fun to stick things in boxes, even when they don’t fit. For instance: a car inside a shoebox is a lot of fun for everyone except the cat. Lillard went for a career-high 43 points against Tim Duncan’s 32. In the overtimes, they traded baskets to get their team back in the game. Lillard, a valiant warrior, who needs to behead the old, over the hill Warlord who was running his village into the ground so he could take his place in the Throne of Skulls. They went toe to toe, then, in the final overtime, he drove the sword in his flesh and cut off his head. It was cleaned, and placed in a place on honor on the throne.

 

THREE: This was technically a playoff rematch. I didn’t even think about it because that series barely existed, the Blazers just got waxed over and over. As far as my memory function, Lillard hit that shot, then there was two weeks of darkness, then the offseason started and I was thinking about who they would sign.

 

FOUR: Dorrell played, and he played well! He made some threes! Dorrell not playing drives me crazy. Here is a totally reasonable document I made about it:

IMG_0083

Everything about Wright’s Portland career unnerves me. He was benched after a pretty short shooting slump, when though he fills a position of need, he was a vet free agent who was straight up denied minutes (People remember this shit!), and sometimes he plays very well and then it is, poof! Forgotten forever!

 

FOUR: Lamarcus hit a three. Is it possible that as he ages into his next contract he will become more efficient when some of his long twos become threes? Or is this utopian BlazerThought, am I subcumbing to the virus?

 

FIVE: Look, Lillard’s dunk attempt was admirable. We all want to reach for the tops of mountains, then have sex with the mountain. But, you know, if he had just laid it in, we could have avoided the three overtimes. I suppose the overtimes were a blessing. Maybe it was all for the best.

 

SIX: Steve Blake game tying threes. Do you find them spiritually edifying? Does it makes your feel warm, in your heart? I find my rebel’s heart rejecting every snap of the net. I shun basketball dad and his accomplishments, his work ethic. I reject his 9-5, just trying to put food on the table, glowering at us over tomato soup, angry at our piercings and out casual experiments with sex and drugs. I wish Steve Blake would disappear, back his father’s farm where he came from.

 

SEVEN: Rim defense still hasn’t been a massive problem with Lopez out, but they also still haven’t encountered a super high level penetrator type, what with Tony Parker out. A weary nation eagerly awaits the game that will bring us closer to conclusions about the Blazers’ defense without Lopez!

 

EIGHT: This game was probably more interesting from the Spurs side. This was the SECOND three overtime game they have played IN A ROW, for a team that goes really far out of its way to, like, not play their players all that often. The universe has decided to set their minutes straight after years of openly gaming the system. Tim Duncan played 48 and 42 minutes in two consecutive games. Tim Duncan hadn’t played 48 minutes since 2008.

 

NINE: Robinson went after Duncan on the break, and got baaaaaanged on by a distinguished older man. God Bless the effort, trying to give someone an excuse to keep playing you, but do you have no sense of vanity, man!? Just let it go! There was nothing you could do! Those are the kinds of actions that get you in someone’s Hall of Fame speech. “And in addition to all of those people, I would like to thank Thomas Robinson for jumping. I got you so good, you sucker. Your blood has given me ten extra years of life!”

 

TEN: I am not digging up the tweet, but just believe me when I say: Tim Duncan was showing off a car he built in the stadium tonight. It was a Black, car, with a matted paint job. THe tweet called it a “Punisher Car.” It did not, to my line of sight, have Punisher insignia on it. I know Tim likes the Punisher, which, pedant, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY black thing becomes Punisher branded. “Hey look at these Punisher pants.” “Check out this Punisher sack of charcoal.” “Hey, man, I am a really into these Punisher frying pans. Cast iron!”


ELEVEN: The Blazers are on a back-to-back tomorrow, which is cool, good, great. I am sure they will have tiny little bombs in their legs and they will come out and make quick work of… oh, Jesus, the Pelicans. Davis is going to embarrass them, rip off their shorts and reveal red hearted boxer shorts on every member of the team. They will be run out of all of America, and be forced to become the Vancouver (Canada) Trail Blazers. It was nice knowing you, Trail Blazers.

TRAIL BLAZERS 104 BUCKS 97: CURLY

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WIN_20141217_213148

I am going to be completely honest with you and with everyone. I have a headache. Riiiiiight in the middle of my head, a slow, sine wave throb, going whoomp whoomp whoomp whoomp. I am not a fan of this headache. It is not a good headache that is making me stronger.  I already took iBproufen and I don’t want to take anymore. At about halftime, I took a shower, which usually gets rid of my headaches, opens up up my veins or tricks me into thinking it was an actual solution or something, but it persists.

 

I think I ate too many cookies after dinner and made it kind of worse. I also spent a bunch of time staring at a screen, watching the Blazers play the Bucks when my normal headache procedure it to set them lights low and lie down until it passes. Drink tea. Listen to New Age music. Stuck a crystal on my forehead. Invite my Reiki bros over.

 

I also watched the end of that Spurs/Grizzlies game for a while. I don’t think it significantly overlapped with anything that happened in the Blazer game that was terribly worth mentioning. It was a pretty cool ending, though. Marc Gasol banked in a one handed three, Tim Duncan sunk a buzzer beater, Manu missed a shot for the win by like three and a half feet. Grizzles won, because they meant Grizzness.

 

The first three quarters of this game were a tit for tat duel between the Bucks and the Blazers, who did NOT mean Grizzness tonight. A lot of players were shooting crappily: Batum, as is his habit lately, and Kaman, who didn’t make a field goal until the second half were both particularly bad.

 

Giannis sprained his ankle. It looked REALLY bad at the time because he fell on the ground pretty hard and stayed down for a while but he got up and walked to the locker room on his own. The Bucks had to foul to stop the game. Aldridge’s shots tied it up.

 

Batum also fell down really hard in basically the same spot. Looked like he hit his head, but he came back into a game that was pretty much out of reach for the Bucks, so either he was okay or the organization is WILDLY irresponsible with players who have concussions. I m going to ASSUME the former. If anyone is a reporter who wants to get to the bottom of the issue, we will publish your findings here on Portland Roundball, no censorship. We even want your findings if it turns out the Blazers are doing  good job with concussion management. We really just want to publish findings of any kind on here. Hell, we will take science findings. What are you guys finding about science? About relationships? About people in your own life? WE WILL PUBLISH WHAT YOU FIND.

 

Lopez was out. He was wearing a black polo and a black cast, because he is a cool guy who wears black, like Zorro.  The defense wasn’t demonstrably worse. But the Bucks aren’t an accomplished offensive team, so let’s not count our chickens before they hatch on that one yet.

 

Thomas Robinson got the star in his place and he was excellent, 15 points and 15 boards. Good for him! Good job, TRobb! He was also the subject of a PROTRACTED hacking effort by the Bucks that was REALLY annoying if, for instance, you had a headache and wanted to not be watching the game anymore, much less the worst possible version of the game of basketball over a span of 15 Minutes.

 

I don’t think hacking works. Once it worked for the Blazers in the playoffs and it drove me completely nuts. I wish the Blazers had lost that game, and that series. It gave me no joy, because they hacked in game one. I am very fickle. It didn’t work for the Bucks tonight, they lost and they didn’t cover major ground while they were using it. But, man, Thomas Robinson missed a LOT of foul shots. At one point the crowd was cheering, to be supportive, and Lillard made the “Hey, calm down, Thomas is fragile and your screams will rattle him to his very core” gesture.

 

Uhh, what else happened. Lamarcus was good? He played center, kind of, since Robinson started. Before the game, I thought Freeland should have started. I still kind of think he should. Robinson was trying his ass off tonight, we’ll see if he can keep that going. Also, is he really going to protect the rim when a good offensive team rides in on their big fat pig motorcycles? How much do you really care about my subjective opinions? Me, me, me, I, I, I, think, think, think, this, this, this, that, that that.

 

Batum had a really, really good bounce pass to Lillard in the second. Tasty stuff. Lillard dunked it, too, with two hands, which is the harder kind of dunk because you need to get your whole body above the rim, not just your shoulder. Basically anyone can dunk with one hand. I dunk literally all the time. What I like to do if get a five year old on the block, then I drop step, and I dunk, then I pick the five year old up and i say “Oh man buddy, you’re next” and they’re all “ noooo noooo don’t dunk me” and I set them down and I say “Haha, just kidding, get back to the petting zoo and give that goat some of these!” Then I hand the kid peanuts, to feed the goat. Goats love peanuts.


Anyway, Spurs next. Hopefully the Grizz wore their asses out.

BUCKS PREVIEW: Regrets.

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I wish it didn’t have to be like this, Bucks. I’d been following your surprising progress all

season, and was happy that Milwaukee basketball finally had some type of hope. Tonight was

supposed to mark a happy and festive meeting of two talented young teams at different points in

their upward trajectory. But the world is a cold, cruel place, so instead of that, tonight will mark

the first time that each team has played after losing a core player to injury. For the Blazers, that

player is Robin Lopez, who will miss 6-7 weeks after breaking two bones in his hand in a game

against the Spurs. For the Bucks, it’s prized rookie Jabari Parker, who tore the ACL in his left

knee two nights ago in Phoenix, and will probably be out for at least a year. Both of these are

unfortunate, but you really have to feel for Jabari. That’s a really tough thing to go down with

this early into a career, especially after he’d been playing so well as of late.

If you’re Jason Kidd, which you probably aren’t, tonight is all about weathering the storm

psychologically. This probably wasn’t a game that the Bucks were going to win anyway, but

now it becomes important that they stay emotionally involved in the game and play hard. Getting

blown out after getting news like that wouldn’t be a helpful thing for a young team like the

Bucks, especially given the fact that they still have a ton to play for. Despite only being one

game above .500, Milwaukee still owns the 6 seed in the East. They have a lot of talent, and

they’re going to need guys to step up to fill the statistical void that Jabari’s injury has presented.

Anyway, that’s the sad stuff. For the Bucks, tonight is also about looking down at your jersey,

realizing that a buck is basically a reindeer, acknowledging that your colors are red and green,

and getting back into the holiday spirit. Let’s talk about the main guys who will try to make that

happen.

– Jason Kidd, PG Head Coach: If we’re being real here, Jason Kidd is still pretty easily the

second best point guard the Bucks have. No offense to Nate Wolters and Kendall Marshall, but

Nate Wolters and Kendall Marshall kind of suck.

– Giannis Antetokounmpo, PG/SG/SF/PF/Greek Freak: It’s all on Giannis now. This is his

chance to develop as an alpha dog for a year until Jabari gets back, and assume his destiny as a

horrifying Andre Iguodala / Kevin Durant hybrid of length and court vision and unfathomable

truth. He’s 6’11. He has a 7’3 wingspan. He can defend multiple positions. He can score. He can

rebound. He can block shots. He can run the point. He’s a big fan of smoothies. He is the Greek

Freak.

– Brandon Knight, PG: Milwaukee’s best point guard who doesn’t wear a suit, Brandon Knight

has flown under the radar while improving in each of the four seasons he’s played in since

getting picked 8th overall out of Kentucky in 2011. This probably isn’t a super popular

sentiment, but I think he’s the most underrated point guard in the league. That distinction was

long held by Mike Conley, but people started talking about him being underrated so much that

now he’s pretty much just properly rated. Nobody ever talks about Brandon Knight, mostly

because he’s played for teams in Detroit and Milwaukee, and partly because they figured that

after DeAndre Jordan dunked on him he just retired. He didn’t, in fact, and he’s quietly having a

really nice statistical year for a 23 year old: 17.5/5.6/4.7 on .434/.396./.897 shooting with a PER

of 18.80.

– Larry Sanders, C: Larry Sanders has very long arms. Larry Sanders blocks a lot of shots. Larry

Sanders loves weed. Larry Sanders is trying to prove that he’s not overpaid. Larry Sanders loves

weed.

– Ersan Ilyasova, PF: Much like myself, you may have heard of Ersan Ilyasova, but in all

likelihood you probably don’t actually really know anything him This is fine though, because he

isn’t going to play tonight due to a nasal fracture. Sorry, Ersan.

– O.J. Mayo, SG: Remember when Orange Juice Mayonnaise got traded for Kevin Love and

Mike Miller on draft night..? ‘Twas long, long ago. After leaving Memphis and then Dallas,

Orange Juice signed with the Bucks, where he unfortunately decided to wear number 00.

Wearing 00, in my completely arbitrary and stupid opinion, is like the kiss of death for a career

(sorry, Aaron Gordon). Ever since donning the 00s, he has struggled with his shot and his

weight, which both may also be related to the fact that his diet is comprised entirely of orange

juice and mayonnaise.

TRAIL BLAZERS 108- SPURS 95: SUGARCUBE

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The sun rises on a Dojo in the mountains. The Master is sweeping the porch. A wandering challenger approaches from the desert.

 

“I wish to challenge this dojo for their sign.”

 

This challenger is known throughout the country for his strength and cunning. The Master is worried. He brings his students into the hall.

 

“This man is here to challenge us for our sign. Who will accept his challenge?”

 

The dojo’s star pupil rises.

 

“I will take him, and preserve the honor of our school, master.”

 

The challenger gets a screwed up look on his face.

 

“Oh, sorry, did you think you would be fighting me? No, no, you’re going to be fighting Jim. I am very tired, from a fight I was in yesterday. He is a slower hiker than me. He will be here in a second.”

 

Jim enters the Dojo. He is not nearly as strong as the wanderer, but he does have a sort of scrappy charm.

 

“Alright, who am I fightin!?”

 

The dojo’s star pupil looked around at his cohorts, expecting someone else to take up the challenge in his stead.

 

“Uhh, me I guess.”

 

The two martial artists lock in combat. Though he lacked the wander’s raw physical gifts, he was clearly descended from his school. A smart fighter, with a keen sense of strategy. The star pupil was feeling challenged. But when he started to push himself a little bit, it was no contest. He overpowered the challenger and took him down with sweeping kick.

 

“I have won! This is a great victory for our dojo. Let us celebrate.”

 

The wandering challenger, standing with crossed arms, shrug his shoulders.

 

“I mean, you beat him, not me. I am kind of the big guy here. See all these signs I have collects from other dojos? I am a bad man.”

 

“I WOULD have fought you, you know.”

 

“Yeah, but you didn’t.”

 

“Well, I will. Let’s go”

 

“Ohh, owwww” The wandering challenger grabbed his leg. “Sorry, I can’t. Need my rest. I have a lot more dojos to challenge this year, you know.”

 

“Will you be back,then? So I can fight you?”

 

“Uhh, no, I don’t think so. How about this. My dojo is in the desert, How about you come over on Friday and we can fight then. I swear I’ll fight you there, unless I have, like a REAL injury or strain or something. Then, if you beat me, it will be a great honor for your school. Not like when you beat Jim, here. I mean, good fight, I guess, Jim’s pretty good, but, let’s be honest, he’s not,” he pointed to himself with two thumbs, “this guy.”

 

“So, I have to travel, ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY to test my strength against yours, even though you’re standing RIGHT THERE, not inured or anything.”

 

“Uh huh, yeah.”

 

“That’s not how this usually works.”

 

“Yes it is.”

 

“It kind of seems like your forfeited this fight to me.”

 

“I guess that’s what the ‘Official record’ will say but I think everyone knows that I didn’t lose here today, that Jim lost, and Jim is like a completely different guy than me.”

 

The star pupil was befuddled. He looked at the wandering challenger artist to see if he betrayed a trace of irony. He did not.

 

“Well,” said the wandering challenger. “This was fun. We’re going to leave now. Do you guys know where we can get something good to eat or…”

 

“Uhh, there’s a pizza place at the bottom of the mountain?”

 

“Excellent. Jim here loves za. Hey, Jim, want some Za’ for your effort tonight!?”

 

“Oh boy, do I!”

 

“Alright buddy, let’s hit the road!”

 

STRAY THOUGHTS:

 

-Congrats to Kyle Anderson, who had his first good NBA Game, 15 points on 7 shots. Ground Blake into dust in the post. You will probably torture the Blazers forever! Hooray!

 

-Boris had 9 assists, that guy is a real rascal.

 

-Goddamn, Batum REALLY sucked from three tonight! I wish he would get better. Maybe the All-Star break will clear his head, whenever that is.

 

-Robin broke his hand, which stinks. They will either start Kaman or Freeland in his place. Freeland is a better idea, I think, so Kaman can shore up the bench unit. Either Robinson or Leonard will get minutes too, which should be an adventure, at least.


-Becky Hammond deserves more respect than this.

TRAIL BLAZERS 95, PACERS 85- JESUS, ETC.

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(This recap is highly interactive. Just keep reading until you’ve decided that you read a comprehensive enough recap, then you can move on with your day.)

The Blazers won.

The Blazers played the Pacers even until the second, when the Steve Blake/Chris Kaman bench unit took a lead that the team never surrendered.

The Blazers played the Pacers even until the second, when the Steve Blake/Chris Kaman bench unit took a lead that the team never surrendered. The starters built on that lead even more, even flirting with a thirty point lead as halftime approached. The lead shrunk by the end of the game, but the Blazer still won.

The Blazers played the Pacers even until the second, when the Steve Blake/Chris Kaman bench unit took a lead that the team never surrendered. The starters built on that lead even more, even flirting with a thirty point lead as halftime approached. The Blazers weren’t able to maintain and build on the lead and really put the Pacers away at the end of the third. The Pacers came out in the fourth and clawed their way back into the game, but Batum hit a three with three or so minutes left that took the contest out of reasonable contention.

The Blazers, coming off a loss to the Bulls and a weird, schedule fueled loss to the Timberwolves, played the Pacers even until the second, when the Steve Blake/Chris Kaman bench unit took a lead that the team never surrendered. The starters built on that lead even more, even flirting with a thirty point lead as halftime approached. The Blazers weren’t able to maintain and build on the lead and really put the Pacers away at the end of the third, which was annoying, because this was their fourth game in five, and they could have used the rest the Pacers were trying to give them. The Pacers came out in the fourth and clawed their way back into the game, but Batum hit a three with three or so minutes left that took the contest out of reasonable contention, but even after that he fouled Stuckey on a fast break and extended the length of the game for no apparent or good reason.

The Blazers, coming off a loss to the Bulls and a weird, schedule fueled loss to the Timberwolves, played the Pacers even until the second, when the Steve Blake/Chris Kaman bench unit took a lead that the team never surrendered. Blake was SCORCHING, and Chris Kaman did some worn in the post. The starters built on that lead even more, even flirting with a thirty point lead as halftime approached. The Blazers weren’t able to maintain and build on the lead and really put the Pacers away at the end of the third, which was annoying, because this was their fourth game in five, and they could have used the rest the Pacers were trying to give them. The Pacers came out in the fourth and clawed their way back into the game. This Pacers run featured a play where Allen Crabbe was tying his shoes during the inbounds. If the Pacers were halfway competent on offense, the Blazers might have been in trouble. Batum hit a three with three or so minutes left that took the contest out of reasonable contention. But even after that he fouled Stuckey on a fast break and extended the length of the game for no apparent or good reason.

The Blazers, coming off a loss to the Bulls and a weird, schedule fueled loss to the Timberwolves, played the Pacers even until the second. The bench unit, led by Steve Blake and Chris Kaman, came out ON FIRE. Blake was SCORCHING, and Chris Kaman did some work in the post, including a really nice pump fake that got Roy Hibbert out of his shorts. The starters built on that lead even more, even flirting with a thirty point lead as halftime approached. During this run, Robin Lopez ALSO pump faked Hibbert out of his shorts, with a move that looked eerily like Kaman’s.

The Blazers weren’t able to maintain and build on the lead and really put the Pacers away at the end of the third, which was annoying, because this was their fourth game in five, and they could have used the rest the Pacers were trying to give them. Extremely stagnant Blazers offense allowed the Pacers claw their way back into the game in the fourth. This Pacers run featured a play where Allen Crabbe was tying his shoes during the inbounds; the ref didn’t give him the courtesy of not waiting for him to finish, handing the ball to the inbounder, who gave the ball to Crabbe’s cover behind the three point line. Kaman noticed this and aggressively closed out on the open shooter. Somehow, this was the second weirdest play involving a shoe in the NBA on the day. The Pacers shot a ton of airballs. If they were halfway competent on offense, the Blazers might have been in trouble. but Batum hit a three with three or so minutes left that took the contest out of reasonable contention. But even after that he fouled Stuckey on a fast break and extended the length of the game for no apparent or good reason. It was a moment that had America tapping things with their fingers, impatient for this thing to end when, really, they should have been allowed to turn out a quarter ago, when the Blazers should have thrown a manhole over the Pacers. Remember when these games were totally amazing last year? What a difference several months make!

For any more detailed recap, please consult ESPN’s play-by-play chart.

STRAY NOTE:

Because Joe insulted Wilco, one of my favorite bands, during the game, I have taken it upon myself to designate a Wilco song for every player on the Blazers. I don’t like this exercise any more than you do, but a debt must be paid. I command you listen to literally every song, or I will come to your house and make use though the use of TheWilcoMobile, an Unnofical, fanmade semitruck  have wired with massive speakers and an old iPod touch loaded with Wilco FLACs.

LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: Spiders (Kidsmoke) Maybe not the BEST Wilco song, but clearly the centerpiece of the concert, a sprawling 11 minute beast.

WILL BARTON: I’m a Wheel. Kinetic, short, weird, fun, but also a little slight.

NIC BATUM: Uhh, Outta Mind (Outta Sight). Some other French player is Outta Sight (Outta Mind). Probably Boris. There are no “French-seeming” Wilco songs. This is horrible, I’m sorry, but t had to happen

STEVE BLAKE: What is the most dad rock-y Wilco song? Passenger Side? Nahh, Hate it Here Hate is Here is so dad-rocky that there’s a scene in Boyhood where his dad explains Hate it Here to his son.

VICTOR CLAVER: Dash 7, because I don’t think I’ve even heard Dash 7.

ALLEN CRABBE: Hesitating Beauty because his shot release is a little slow. I am already phoning this in, I am phoning in a phone in, a phone next to a phone, maybe even next to a third phone.

JOEL FREELAND: Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key. Billy Bragg sings this song and Wilco plays the backup parts. Billy Brag is British. This isn’t goddamn rocket science.

CHRIS KAMAN: Kingpin, because it has a pedal steel. Also because Kaman sort of resembles a casino owner. Just stick a 10-Gallon hat on him, boom.

MEYERS LEONARD: Company in my Back, because it’s not very good. Maybe one of the late period Wilco songs I don’t listen to, hardly have any frame of reference for. Look, that band went down the tank when Tweedy decided he was done shuffling his bandmates around. He got old, man, he god old and sentimental and started keeping everyone around like they were family. He also stopped abusing pills, which I guess is good. You don’t care, why are you still reading this?

DAMIAN LILLARD: Shot in the Arm. I don’t seriously have to tell you why, right.

ROBIN LOPEZ: Which (X) is (Y) stuff drives me crazy, why am I doubling down on this? (A voice, far away, maybe in the deepest parts of my mind yells “BECAUSE YOU HAVE NO WHERE ELSE TO GO!”) Uhh, Via Chicago, I guess. Who cares. Give me my fucking money, Buzzfeed.

WES MATTHEWS: Poor Places, because it gets better year to year. What a dumb sentence. I hate you, Corbin.

CJ MCCOLLUM: Pot Kettle Black? I saw WIlco play that once, and I have seen CJ play once, I think?

THOMAS ROBINSON: God, just two more and I can be done with this garbage forever. Walken, because he’s a fun novelty with a pretty good solo by Pat, totally without consequence but also sort of charming.

DORRELL WRIGHT: Hell is Chrome, because his stint with the Blazers has been like a weird, clean Hell.

 

There we go, done with that forever. Here is the playlist. Click on it or don’t. Don’t. Spotify is a racket, don’t give them money.

 

TRAIL BLAZERS @ PACERS PREVIEW 2: THE MUSIC MAN

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Hello.  My name is Terence Goober.  I live in Indiana.  I am an idiot, and I am here to explain to you why the Pacers, in my idiotic opinion, can beat your team (the Blazers, duh) tomorrow.

First, I should say a word.  I do not pretend to be representative of Indiana Pacers fans.  My idiocy is merely my own.  It is simply what allows me to say, for example, that the Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference, and entirely disregard numbers and facts and other true data.

Granted, we have not looked like our near-championship-contending selves since January last season.  And we do not have Paul George.  I am willing to admit this aspect of reality.

I am also willing to admit that we do not have George Hill, who seems to have been put away in cryogenic stasis sometime in October ostensibly because of knee and quad problems.  We also do not have Ian Mahinmi, our very capable backup center, who is out six to eight weeks with a “torn left plantar fascia,” which I guess is part of the foot-part of the body.

But because I am an idiot, I can conclude these are only temporary setbacks—who needs a fascia anyway? Mahinmi’ll be back in a week—and appeal to the intangible elements of the core of a well-constructed roster.

I can, for example, say that the defensive spirit which has characterized this team historically is thriving.   This season, I know, it only rated 12th according to ESPN, just ahead of the Sixers.  But that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters, because I am an idiot, is the irrelevant statistic that we were rated number one in defensive efficiency the last two seasons in a row.  This allows me to ignore how every semi-efficient offense manhandles us, and how Lavoy Allen doesn’t appear to know what timezone he is in, let alone who to guard.

As this shows, though facts that matter can be ignored, other facts can be marshalled into service to make an idiotic case that suits my dumb preferences.  Offensively, our offensive efficiency is 28th in the NBA, just above the trainwreck that is Detroit and Philly.  But I can appeal to other numbers that do not at all make it seem that individually, the team’s members are not performing so horribly.

David West, for example, scores to the tune of 11.6 points a game, and averages 6 rebounds and 2.8 assists.  This is, individually, pretty solid, and only confirms me in my idiotically held biases.  Yesterday, against the Raptors, he scored 12, had 5 assists, and a remarkable 7 rebounds.  This makes me feel good inside, and allows me to ignore how these figures should really be, like, the third or fourth best on the team, and not the pinnacle of performance.

I can also point out how we have Roy Hibbert, and that he is 7’2.  I can focus on this, too, and not the fact that for almost a year now he has not been playing like an All Star, averaging only a mediocre 11.6 points and 7.2 rebounds.  I’ll can also just ignore the fact that in the last game against the Raptors, he scored 6, had 5 useless fouls, and somehow managed to grab only 2 rebounds in almost 29 minutes of play—something I would have thought rather impossible, had I not seen him in the playoffs last year.

Similarly,  I can note that our greatest scoring has come from strange players just going off randomly every once and a while—and believe that this is not at all a sign that we entirely lack any predictable offensive strategy, and is really a sign of our depth.  I am thrilled that Rodney Stuckey is our highest average scorer, with 12.8 points a game, and that Solomon Hill is our fourth highest, with 11.1 points and 5 rebounds.  This is as it should be.

 

Then there is C.J. Miles, averaging 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists.  He scored 30 against the Clippers and was instantly hailed as a “big time asset” by the Indiana Star.  I thoroughly concur in this judgment.  It is surely not idiotic—even though, in the last game, against the Raptors, Miles only scored 5 points.

So much for our offense, which I idiotically describe as “withering,” not understanding that the term could very well apply reflexively.  There is one more reaI advantage we have.  It is that we are playing this game at home.  Now, if I were not an idiot, I would not be so certain this is an advantage, because—echoing a pattern from the playoffs last year—nearly all our stats are worse in the Fieldhouse. Our 7.8 three-pointers while away becomes 6.8 at home; away our free throw percentage is 76.9%, at home it is 68%.   At home, we average less assists (20.5 at home becomes 18.8) and, crucially, less points (95.7 becomes 91.3).  But I am an idiot, so this does not matter to me.  I believe home team advantage will have a big part to play in our win!

I can also be confident that we are coming up against the Blazers at the right time.  Last time, we seemed to throw them for a loop: they even crashed their flying Ford car.  But now, even though I know that the losses they have suffered are actually pretty mitigated by circumstances—the loss against the Bulls, and against Memphis were against two of the very best teams in the NBA, and the loss against Minnesota was basically a schedule-loss—I can believe that this means there is something inherently wrong with the Blazers going on lately, and that we won’t get slowly beaten by their second and third string players.

Of course, in the end, nothing really can prevent me from acknowledging our 7 game losing streak.  But, looked at idiotically, I can be positive!  We lost each of those games by less than 15 points!  This is one of the great things about being an idiot: you can be happy when you want to be, by failing to understand or grapple with the actual state of reality and the true conditions of our existence in the world!

But even idiocy has its limits.  With slightly more use of the powers of self-deception, I could also say that we are going to beat the Blazers because we are fierce competitors this year despite all our setbacks.  I could say that we will win against your team because we have something to prove: that losing isn’t an option, even when it is in our interest!  I could say that Vogel is changing our starting rotations to get off to better starts as he said, and not at all to make winning more difficult; I could say that we are resting our players, not giving them unnecessary time on the injury list.  I could say that we will win precisely to show we aren’t in the middle of a huge tanking operation that desperately needs to happen, and which renders my confident fandom especially idiotic this year!

But that would border on being delusional, and I am only an idiot, not insane.

TRAIL BLAZERS @ PACERS PREVIEW: LIFESTYLES OF THE INSANE

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Remember Roy Hibbert? Sure ya do! The Blazers tried to get him in 2012, but Hibbert elected to remain in Indiana, saying, and I quote, “I appreciate the Blazers’ kind offer, but I’ve decided to stay with the Pacers, because Oregon generally and Portland specifically are places for total lamewad losers and I hate them.”

T’was heady days. Around that time Nicolas Batum, he of the “you can’t lose him because of his potential” moniker, was almost got by Minnesota, and in the ensuing carnage Portland ended up with one James Edward Hickson, inexplicably known as “J.J.”, playing most of their minutes at center. Many fans loved Hickson for his Grit And Moxie, but he went away, and Portland signed Robin Byron (“R.R.”) Lopez instead.

How’s it all worked out? Well, for one year Hibbert looked terrible, but since then he’s been pretty good. Lopez helped Portland to the playoffs last year. These things, however, are mere ephemera, shadows cast on the cave’s wall. You want the real analysis, who’s better, damn it, and I aim to avoid giving it to you.

 

BASKETBALL STUFF (to be read in a Stephen Hawking voice computer tone): From the 2012-2013 season on, Hibbert has a PER of 15.4, Lopez 18.0. Hibbert’s VORP is 3.6, Lopez’s is 5.3. They rebound almost identically. Hibbert is worse at offense (duh) and Lopez at defense (double duh.) I won’t cite their respective True Shooting Percentages because c’mon, that’s the dumbest stat ever, it lists Brent Barry as the greatest player of all time. ADVANTAGE: Lopez, up until now, because Lopez has cost a shitload less money. That may change.

 

WIERD INTERNET THINGS YOU FIND ABOUT THEM: Lopez is into comic books (pass), loves the terrible filmed-in-Oregon 80’s movie “The Goonies” (fail), and did theater in college (A+.) But you knew those things (except maybe the theater stuff.) Trying to lazily find out weird stuff about Roy Hibbert, I came upon this terrifying-looking link: “What did Roy Hibbert say? – NazNet Community”. Shaking with fear for the sanctity of my browser history (jesus, “NazNet”), but determined to Uncover Truth, I clicked it. It turned out to be some harmless North Dakota Nazarene Christians discussing a mild gay slur Hibbert used at one point, and – guess what – most found it a stupid thing for an adult to say. Having spent some time in both North Dakota and among hardcore Bible believers, let me say for the record that I was pretty shocked how basically nice that group was. I didn’t poke around their site for long as I have books to read about evolution and how fracking shale oil is dooming life on Earth, but damn it all, they seemed harmless. ADVANTAGE: College theater over gay slur, no-brainer.

 

MEDIA APPEARANCES: Lopez is in this car commercial which is pretty funny. Hibbert appeared on “Parks And Recreation” as window dressing for the doomed “Entertainment 720” franchise, which was either hilarious or irritating based on your tolerance level for Ben Schwartz, who specializes in playing annoying twerps. (It’s okay if you found it both hilarious and irritating, or if you’ve never seen “Parks And Recreation” because you’re under 40.) ADVANTAGE: Lopez.

 

So Lopez is better. Except I think Hibbert is better. But Hibbert costs a lot more. Except next year Lopez will cost more too. The Blazers and Pacers play tonight. The game is played in the Bankers’ Life Fieldhouse, which was once called the Conseco Fieldhouse, but skeezy financial services company Conseco went the way of most such skeezy companies. Bankers’ Life sounds better, don’t you agree?

BULLS 115 BLAZERS 106- THEATER ON THE ICY SHORES OF STEVE BLAKE MICHIGAN

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I like a lot of things about the Blazers’ bench this year; the ascent of Allen Crabbe, Joel

Freeland continuing to defiantly get minutes, general competence. But more than anything, I like

that Steve Blake is kind of like the Scrappy Doo version of Chris Kaman. This works in terms of

physical characteristics, and also because Steve Blake is just super scrappy. It’s pretty wonderful.

Also, you know how sea turtles naturally migrate back to their birthplace no matter what? That’s

like Steve Blake with Portland. He’s been a Blazer three different times! You say coincidence, I

say destiny. Plus, he kinda looks like a sea turtle. Like if there was a “which NBA player looks

most like a sea turtle” event during all-star weekend, which I don’t know why there isn’t already,

I’d like to think Steve would take home the turtle-shaped hardware pretty easily. PLUS HIS

COLLEGE TEAM’S NICKNAME WAS THE TERRAPINS! (FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO

DON’T KNOW, THE TERRAPIN IS A SMALLER SPECIES OF TURTLE WHICH LIVES IN

FRESH OR BLACKISH WATER NO I DIDN’T CONSULT WIKIPEDIA THAT’S JUST A

THING THAT I KNOW MAN BACK OFF.)

Anyway, a basketball game happened tonight!

The last time the Blazers played the Bulls, I was in attendance and experienced the

changes to the artist formerly known as the Rose Garden for the first time. Allen Crabbe dunked

all over Tony Snell’s soul, hometown hero Mike Dunleavy Jr. laid out Damian Lillard for no

reason, and I caught a t-shirt out of a gun. It was just lovely. Early on, tonight’s matchup looked

as though it was similarly destined to be a rout, as while I was eating yakisoba at my friendly

neighborhood yakisoba establishment LaMarcus Aldridge went for 21 first quarter points. It was

magnificent. The yakisoba, that is. I’d imagine LaMarcus was pretty good too though, cuz that’s

a lot of points. The Ghost of Tyrus Thomas left the building immediately after I returned to

discover that the Blazers were indeed playing basketball, however, and LMA went on to score

only 14 more points.

After they went on a run to start the second quarter, the Bulls were pretty much

perpetually up eight points for the rest of the game. This coincided with me discovering that

ESPN was also televising tonight’s contest. I enjoy Mike Rice’s commentary as much as the next

guy, but if the Blazers are playing on another channel I’m probably gonna watch it there. Tonight

Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown (aka the same tandem who announced Game 6 last year) were on

the mic. Hubie is awesome. I love Hubie. Every time I listen to Hubie talk, I learn something

really insightful and interesting about basketball. Whereas every time I listen to Mike Rice talk, I

have no idea what he’s saying.

Derrick Rose looked suspiciously like Derrick Rose tonight, which is a frightening

thought for the Leastern Conference (ha! leastern conference! classic!), but despite his season-

high 31, he was slightly outshined by Damian Lillard (35, 6, and 5 on 13/21 shooting and 7/11

from three). Unfortunately, other than Damian and LaMarcus’ twin 35 point nights, the Blazers

totally played like shit. Wesley had a pedestrian evening, Nic continued to play like Tayshaun

Prince with better court vision, and Kaman and Lopez didn’t really do much of anything. Steve

Blake was the lone bright spot beyond Dame and LMA. That generally isn’t a winning formula.

The Blazers played poorly for the second consecutive game, but it’s nothing to get

worried about. It was unfortunate to waste such awesome lines from Dame and LMA, but it was

a road game against a quality opponent. You usually lose those anyway.

So yeah. Let’s go play Indiana! They aren’t very good! ALLEN CRABBE CAREER

HIGH GOING DOWN TOMORROW IN INDIANAPOLIS YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

WRITE IT DOWN TELL THE PEOPLE.

Various asides:

-Bulls stars E’Twaun Moore and Joakim Noah both sat out tonight.

-I’m patiently waiting for Michael Holton and the InFocus MondoPad to get their own spinoff

show (featuring Mike Rice as the wacky neighbor).

-Spencer Hawes is averaging 6 and 4 for the Clippers while Chris Kaman is putting up 10 and 6 /

resurrecting his career.

-Victor Claver is wearing a suit so often that I’m starting to just think of him as an assistant

coach.