This is the first Blazer game I have watched in three weeks. I have been pursuing a rest cure in Pensacola, Florida and my doctors insisted that I tear myself away from the Blazers to avoid in the moment stress. When I left, they said to me, “Corbin. You need to ease your way back in. Maybe watch half a game. Maybe a third of a game. Can you tell the Blazers to do something to make you more comfortable?”


Apparently the Blazers didn’t get my letters because I am sitting here in front of my computer, coughing and shaking and crying, three weeks of work towards improving my health, destroyed by the team’s heinous performance against the Utah Jazz. The only thing keeping me from coughing my throat raw is a modest cup of Throat Coat I have prepared. I am going to need to go back after I am finished writing this recap. My flight is already booked. I will never watch the Blazers again.


The Jazz won this game with a “College Upset” strategy. They played slow and deliberate to reduce possessions and decreased the chance that a more talented team would cash in on those possessions, they made a lot of three pointers, dug for turnovers, and their insanely gifted center absolutely swallowed their opponent alive in the second half. That fourth thing might not be a routine feature of college upsets, I don’t watch a lot of college basketball.


Gobert, in his first game as Utah’s sole Young Center Of The Future, was a game warping beast. He netted a pair of fouls in the first quarter: one on Lopez, who caught the ball on a pick and roll and did excellent work pump faking and being patient with his attempt, the second on Aldridge, who caught the ball in the corner, drew Gobert out of the paint and drew a foul on a mid range attempt. But when he came back in the third, he was a smotherer: five blocks in total and keeping the Blazers paranoid in the paint. In the third, Lopez caught the ball deep, point blank attempt, but Gobert’s mere standing presence forced him to take an awkward scoop layup attempt that hardly drew rim. Lamarcus tried to shoot a hook shot over him. It got stuffed really, really hard.


Lamarcus was, like really bad in this game. His jumper, which never ever gets blocked, got tagged by both Gobert and Booker in this game. Utah was running a clever double against him on the block. Guarding him with Booker, Gobert moves over, LMA can’t shoot over that, but he can’t pass out to the weakside, either, since Rudy’s arms are gigantic. So he passes to the covered shooter, Rudy rotates back to his man real quick, there’s not enough time to repost LMA, average shot gets created. Also, this happened.


Also bad, Damian Lillard. Shot okay, 19 points on 15 shots. But his five-turnover-to-two-assists were killer. Most were the most elementary sort: pick and roll, Lillard gets his drive shut off, he tries to pass to the big man, the Jazz are ready, they get an arm in, they get out on the break. He did have a dunk in garbage time. Rudy Gobert understand when it is time to contest.


The wings were also not good. No one was good. Lopez was okay in the first half, because Gobert are the part of his brain that denies fear. The Blazers shot 4-22 from three. That is really unlucky. But there were also bad in ways that were not unlucky. Their bad play made it a loss, their bad luck made it a blowout, so to speak.


Wes got CROSSED by Joe Ingles. It was so bad the announcers were like “Oh man Wes slipped” like I can’t see what the hell is happening in front of me. CCNNW’s Propaganda machine, on the churn. Batum had a good steal and got drowned by Hayward on the fast break. This is just not his season, man.


Exum started, because the Jazz think he is the future. He probably is the future. Certainly, the outline he draws resembles the future more than the painting Trey Burke has finished resembles the future. He has long arms and he can dribble and pass and he is very young. If he can just figure out shooting and penetrating, he can probably get a stew going out there. His attempts at drives are so strange; he probes so much that the defense is never convinced that he is going to drive, and then he doesn’t drive, and he confirms their suspicion, and then later in the game, when the defense is now COMPLETELY convinced that he will not drive he continues to not drive.


Trey Burke killed the Blazers as much as you possibly can when you don’t make a single three pointer and have more shots than points. He made a lot of shots in middle range, where Blazer defenders traditionally slag off, because, you know, they’re not very valuable.


CJ was pretty bad. Arron will be eating his minnutes soon. I cannot wait to have a good backup wing, I am crying in ecstasy. How long has it been? Meyers was also not very good, even his practice three that the Jazz didn’t auto-goaltend rimmed out. But he did have a nice defensive rotation in the second quarter. Meyers, Kaman, Blake and CJ are all hovering around a -20 rating tonight. They were getting outclassed by Jazz luminaries like Rodney Hood and Baby Milsap.


When the Blazers were starting to completely lose the game in the fourth, Kaman took a face up jumper from 12 or so feet. It was a very bad shot.


Steve Blake had a new number in deference to Jerome Kersey, who was my mother’s favorite player and is missed in Portland. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Everyone in Utah has better haircuts than everyone in Portland. Gordon Hayward has a very worked out haircut. I suspect that he would not normally invest in a cool haircut, but he is engaged to a young woman who is in beauty school, and she likely has taken it on herself to use him as a modeling head. Steve Blake also had hair tonight, which was thin, like a baby’s hair. Paul Allen wears tiny little hats that look very silly on his head, and even sillier because he is a rich person who slouches.



Hey! New Blazers! I know nothing about Arron Afflalo or Wendell Gee (sorry, brain fart, old REM song in my head, it’s Alonzo Gee.) Joe Freeman of “The Oregonian” says Afflalo is “noted for his tenacious wing defense and long-range shooting,” good basketball or fighter pilot things, while being “regarded around the NBA as a good teammate and a tenacious worker, which should mesh perfectly with the Blazers’ tight-knit culture.”

Tight-knit usually refers to families, and as we know no family is all that tight-knit. Some families basically tolerate each other’s strangeness, some have knitting holes the size of assless chaps. You can see this in your family, or mine, or the plethora of family-dynamic dramatic substitutes we enjoy in entertainment (like workplace shows, or movies where griping superheroes reluctantly unite to save the universe from misplaced magic baubles.)

I have a weakness for advice columns. They’re all pretty much about dysfunctional mayhem. Inheritance fights, wedding ceremony fights, new-spouse/ex-spouse fights, childrearing philosophy fights, the works. What makes them delightful is how the writers almost always frame “I hate this person and want them shipped to Mars” sentiments in aggrieved moralistic tones.

A week ago today, Carolyn Hax printed one of my favorites. A woman planning to become a parent was considering a “sperm picking party,” where “close friends and family would come over, drink a bunch of wine, and narrow us down to the winner.” She told her mother, who “immediately said she didn’t want to be invited,” then “backpedaled and said she wanted to be there,” waffling which the writer found “disconcerting and hurtful.”

This must be the kind of letter advice columnists make burnt offerings for. Using artificial insemination is fine, if you have the resources. Having friends/family assist you in the decision is fine. Throwing a “sperm picking party” with booze is a bit kooky. Inviting your mom to participate, hey, I wouldn’t, but maybe it’s a very freewheeling relationship. Getting bent out of shape because your mom REALLY DOESN’T WANT TO GET PICKLED AND TALK SPERM yet says she will if you want her to — priceless. I want to be related to these people!

I suppose sports trades are much the same way; everyone has their own opinions on how to go about it, and gets easily annoyed if others disagree. When, really, trading for a player is like picking sperm; past faces are no guarantee of future results. Exquisitely lovely Liv Tyler was sired by Steven Tyler, the rock singer who can be said to possess a rather, um, distinctive set of features. (I demand DNA evidence on this parenthood; I’m a birth truther.)

Besides, how cute do you want your kid to be? Beautiful women are often objectified and overly handsome men are often those doing the objectification. Nicer-looking than average is ideal. (Think Neil Patrick Harris. Who wouldn’t want him for a kid?) So too in a sports trade; the perfect can be enemy of the good, as Kevin Love might currently attest.

Arron Afflalo seems to fit the bill; not too tall, not too flashy, good with kids (really; he does good charity things with kids), hardworking without being a workaholic, keeps his violent addiction to PCP-hopped Belgian Tripels under modest control. Did Neil Olshey pick the right DNA? We’ll see in nine weeks or so. I kinda feel for sports GMs. Fans tend to think of them as saviours or satans, vacillating between the extremes fairly quickly. Imagine if you cast the deciding vote at a Sperm Picking Party. Every time the kid gets its homework done on time, you’re a rock star. Every time the kid does something aggravating, it’s Your Fault The HellSpawn exists.

Well. Assuming airplanes still work, Afflalo should be in Salt Lake tonight for proud Blazer fans to coo over. (Wendell/Alonzo risks being left in a basket outside the arena, poor waif.) The Jazz apparently decided Enes Kanter was a HellSpawn, and traded him to Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins. This means nothing except that Oklahoma City was dumping Perkins because they got Brook Lopez. Yep, Robin’s brother.

You can see the rivalry already, can’t you? It will probably be over-hyped and boring, but here’s how I picture it panning out. Every time the Blazers and Thunder play, there will be one moment, after the ref’s whistle blows, when nothing can separate the two brothers and nothing can bring them together. Each will cradle the other’s head in his hands, like Fredo and Michael in “Godfather II,” whispering, “I loved you — you broke my heart. You broke my heart!” And they will circle around in a slow dance of pure anguish too mesmerizingly tragic for outsiders to dare interrupt, until the TV timeout. Never go against the family.



This episode marks two years since we started the show, and what a better way to shamelessly celebrate ourselves than celebrate All-Stars? We start with a quick recap of the Blazers mid-season finale games, then check in with Corbin Smith (on location in NYC!) to report on the atmosphere in the city.

Then we review each event and its participants, make some predictions, and throw around a few All-Star memories.

All that, plus Chilly Willy returns to give us his All-Star picks and select musicians he’d put in each event this weekend.



Greetings, basketball fans! I’m fully aware that untold millions await these previews with baited breath, beating “reload” buttons/touchscreens into utter submission. Since this will be the last Blazer game before an ever-expanding All-Star break, let’s get to it then.

The highest-paid Laker player, one you’ll remember from his roles in such films as “[Alleged] Rapist Creep” and “Giant Bag Of Asshole,” Kobe Bryant, will be out for this game. He has an injury. He plans to return eventually, as Nosferatu always does.

There are other Lakers. Carlos Boozer, an incredibly hard-working veteran whose name amuses English-speaking drunks. Jeremy Lin, a man you have to credit for seemingly surviving both his years of anonymous striving and his months of oppressive fame. (For a terrible team, the Lakers are only giving playing time to a few kids, Jordan Clarkson and Robert Sacre.)

A favorite figure among Laker observers is Nick Young. Young likes to refer to himself as “Swaggy P”; you can read about that if you wish here, along with chuckly-admiring bits about Young’s cars, mansion, Imelda Marcos-level addiction to shoes. “Doing outrageous things in the spotlight,” the writer writes. Livin’ the lifestyle! Amusing stuff.

Amusing indeed. Except, not so much. I’ve known young people who suddenly came into money (tragic family deaths), and the instant cash plus the abrupt social dislocation was ruinous; spending on dumb crap soon lent to spending it all. So I farted around the InterWeb (a lazy researcher’s bestest friend), and found, what you may already know, that athletes are frequently penniless a few years after they retire from professional sports.

An oft-referenced, somewhat disputed article by Pablo S. Torre (for the same magazine that now trumpets Young’s “outrageous things”) claimed that 78% of NFL athletes are broke two years after football; 60% of NBA players five years out. (Presumably NHL and MLB players benefit from a few years in the minors, making them a little older when the first big checks arrive, although they are not immune to the pitfalls.) Those statistics may not be spot-on but even at half the rate they’re amazing.

ESPN has a good documentary on this by Billy Corben, “Broke”; it’s streaming on the usual services. (A continuing mystery of American life is how ESPN continues to provide excellent, thoughtful material such as the “30 For 30” series while its highlight/”debate” shows progressively devolve into cesspools of shouting dreck.) The number of big-named superstars who lost it all is mind-blowing. Conspicuous consumption is some of it; a bigger role is played by hangers-on and crooked money managers. Essentially you come away thinking that nobody should ever make that much that fast without a lot of sensible voices in their ears.

A similar scenario often besets lottery winners, except that they come from a wide age/gender/personality spectrum. Athletes are invariably young, testosterone-bubbling hyper-competitive males. So when they’re showered with money, it’s pretty much “The Wolf Of Wall Street” with fewer uppers and an equal amount of sex professionals.

You might imagine that athletes in vanity-surplus cities like Los Angeles are more prone to this trap than players in smaller, less ostentatious markets. No, that wouldn’t be sufficiently depressing. Former Trail Blazers are well-represented among the broke athlete community. Point guards Rod Strickland and Kenny Anderson, to name a pair.

“Broke” suggests that colleges make athletes take financial-education courses. This is a good start and wouldn’t hurt. It probably wouldn’t help much, either. The athletes paying attention in class are probably not the ones screwed during/after their pro careers. (Like many college students, I fulfilled much of my degree requirements taking the science courses jocks were in.) The documentary mentions that players’ associations have recommended financial advisers, who pay fees to get those recommendations and receive little oversight. That’s garbage. Players’ unions should require that athletes have union-approved financial managers, those managers should have their records reviewed by outside assessors, and players should be allowed to switch managers if they wish (like an academic advisor in school.)

And to hell with sports agents. Marvin Miller, former head of the MLBPA, is featured in “Broke,” and along with Curt Flood is responsible for players getting close to 50% of sports revenues today (instead of the 1% they got before Flood/Miller). Miller hated agents. The majority of players are perfectly capable of negotiating for themselves, and can pay a lawyer to look over their contracts. A player signing a $100 million deal pays at least 10% to his agent; for a fraction of that money, you could hire Saul Goodman and the legal team from Citibank to read a contract’s fine print while massaging your feet with precious oils.

Agents might theoretically be helpful for players on the fringes trying to get in/stay in major sports leagues; this is probably rare. Agents have little reason to work hard for their lowest-salaried clients, and if they don’t represent big-name clients team GMs have little reason to take their calls. A star athlete in a bidding war for his services doesn’t need an agent to drive up his asking price; teams do that themselves, with a union watching to make sure those teams don’t collude. Basically, agents are bloodsucking vampires; some, like Angel, have souls, and some, as in “Twilight,” will be dreamy and fight for you, but most are evil Nosferatus. My brother observed the other day that Adam Silver looks a little like Nosferatu; have we ever seen him outside in the sun?

Maybe the best observation on this came from my SO, who watched “Broke” with me. The SO is prone to dreams about whatever we watched before bedtime, often combining various types of programming, sometimes happily, sometimes not. (Fantasy monster-filled material like “Harry Potter” / “Doctor Who” and adult dramas involving sexual tension are not a good dreamscape mix.) The SO woke me at 4 AM, begging me to put on another show, as the dreams about athletes getting swindled were too harrowing. So I put on a thing about people who believed they’d been abducted by UFOs. In the morning, I was thanked for the UFO show. “Oh,” I said, “I’m glad that didn’t make you dream about aliens abducting athletes.”

“It did,” the SO replied, “but they were better off.”



It’s the big matchup! The rivalry showdown! All bad blood returns! Hatfields/McCoys! Lancaster/York! Picard/Kirk! Joel/Mike! Oral/Penetrative! (In none of these conflicts can you argue “both sides have good points,” or you are a traitor.) Lives will be forever determined by what happens today. Legends will be born and hopes go to die; courage and cowardice will flourish in equal measure.

Or, yeah, another Houston/Portland game. We had one of these already. Portland got stomped. If the Blazers and Rockets met each other in the playoffs for, like, 20 straight years, that game would have meant something, to rabid hooligans. James Harden, the NBA’s scoring leader, had 44 points, and many Blazer fans consider him a dick.

Now, why do Portland fans hate Harden? Yes, I know. He “flops.” He “whines.” He “gets special treatment from refs.” He’s also really good, and some people loathe that.

Years ago, I took a friend, not a sports fan, to a sporting event. As a player from the visiting team was introduced, many fans booed loudly. Why do they boo?, my friend asked. Because he’s really good, I told her. She pondered this and replied, “Well, that’s just stupid.”

It is stupid. If you hate Harden because he’s really good, you are hating stupidly. I’m not saying you are stupid, merely that this hate is stupid. Most of us have stupid hates. I hate people who drive cars with less autistic attention to traffic laws and safety protocols than I do. Lots of those drivers are better people than me. I incur more pain in the course of my life, through various character flaws and foolish decisions, than they cause with lackadaisical driving. It is a stupid hate. I fiercely possess this hate anyway.

We can similarly assess the stupidity of Harden hate. Yes, he’s always at or atop the league in free-throw attempts. He’s also always at or atop the league in field-goal attempts, and these things often dovetail, unless you are using superpowers to magically disappear and reappear in undefended spots on the court before you shoot. I think one of the X-Persons did this in a movie, though not with basketballs.

Does Harden “whine?” Maybe. I’ve never had courtside seats in my life and never will, so I can’t say if he vocalizes high-pitched moans to officials. If “whine” means “makes expressive gestures indicating his displeasure with the call,” let me present one Robin Byron Lopez, a favorite player of yours and mine. Lopez emotes so broadly after so many calls he’s practically playing to fans in the upper-deck, like stage performers using louder voices for larger theatres. Lopez is good at this; he is good at interacting with mascots, who use oversized movements the same way. (Lopez is a born entertainer; his “mascot rivalry” shows both a willingness to ham it up for fans in cheap seats and a respect for the hardworking mascots; what a badass.)

“Flop?” No, no, NO. I hate to go “I saw a guy back when who could teach these youngsters a thing or two” here, yet I’m going there anyway. I was raised on the shenanigans of Vlade Divac, and nobody deserves to be called a “flopper” unless they’ve studied under Divac for years in a Himalayan flopping monastery. Divac would windmill his arms like he was trying to avoid toppling off a cliff, while launching his huge body backwards into whatever unfortunate piece of hardwood or human flesh lain beneath. To say Divac merely overacted is to say the poisoned soul in Munch’s “The Scream” looks kinda bummed. Today’s whippersnappers don’t flop; they fall down. This is nothing and undeserving of our notice.

It is stupid to hate Harden for these things. Is it okay to dislike Harden for other things, then? Absolutely! 100% guilt-free!

Dislike him for forcing you to imagine that beard with dribbly food bits on it. (At least Harden grooms his facial hair. Grooming, Kaman, grooming.) Dislike him for taking full advantage of the NBA’s hand-check rules, if you loathe those rules. Dislike the way he moves, his shooting stroke, the sound of his voice in interviews. Dislike his shoes or his Twitter posts. Dislike his dog’s name assuming he owns one and has publicly disclosed the name and you find it dumb.

Or like him for any of these things, should you be so inclined. You’re a consenting adult and anything you find awesome or ooky is your bizness.

It’s fine to randomly like or dislike professional athletes! They’re TV show characters, after all. Just make sure you like/dislike the character — from personal aesthetic preferences equally valid to you as for anyone else — instead of the man.

Me, I don’t dislike Harden. I really have no feelings about him one way or the other. I think he’s a gifted player whom the cheapskate Thunder owners should have kept, and I’m glad they didn’t, as otherwise the Thunder would win ten straight titles. I hate the Thunder. (The team’s theft from Seattle, not its players or fans.) I think Harden takes too many dumb heroball shots, but lots of players do that.

Harden shouldn’t be booed when he’s introduced. Silly boos should be for entertainers like Lopez who are playing “Bad Guy” to opposing fans in a spirit of fun, the way a professional wrestler would. Serious boos should be for athletes who intentionally try to harm other athletes. Or athletes who try to harm other humans in general. Or athletes who try and make it harder for women to be refs in a macho-culture sport.

Oh, wait . . . Harden won’t be introduced to booing Portland fans, as the game is in Houston. What? Three games against the Rockets and fully two of them are in Houston! It’s a conspiracy! It’s an outrage! More bad blood! (Insert band name here)’s Old Stuff versus (same band name)’s Newer Stuff!

(I also have no feelings one way or the other about Dwight Howard, injured for the next month and not playing in this game. My favorite Rockets player is Corey Brewer; he’s had to switch teams five times in the last five years, and I suspect he’s Will Barton’s future soulmate.)



For three quarters, this was a terrific game. Usually, midseason NBA games are an endurance test challenging players and viewers both. Everything is sloppy. Not this game, for a while. You had steals, blocks galore, people jumping out of bounds to save possessions. The fourth quarter became sloppy ass, and the Blazers, once holding a comfortable late lead, lost in overtime.

Just eyeballing it, it seems like Dallas had less talent but more smarty stuff. That fourth quarter was a glorious mess with subs for both teams in (Meyers trying to crossover from the corner and committing an offensive foul had me chuckling out loud, you go Meyers, we luv ya), but when the starters came back in Portland stayed stupid and Dallas went smart. I dunno, maybe the smarty-stuff thing is untrue. It feels true.

Damian Lillard started the game passing to everyone, often brilliantly. Then he hit a contested 3-pointer. Then he hit several more. Then he took more contested three-pointers, missing badly, and doing his NBA2K14 drive-layups, missing badly. Oh, Damian. I get why people adore you. You have the face of an eleven-year-old cherub, an oddly possessed and motivated cherub at that. But, dude; stop with the heroball already. Oh, well. Lillard is a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the floor. By “both ends” I don’t mean offense and defense; I mean how the hell can anyone coach this guy. You want to let him loose and you can’t possibly rein him in or his angry cherub face will get angrier. Both ends.

With 20 seconds to go, Dirk Nowitzki tied the game. That’s fine. Damian Lillard took the inbounds pass, and dribbled, and dribbled, and took a horrible shot. His dribbling made me bodily cringe. I wanted anything more in the world than for Lillard to dribble and shoot. He dribbled, and shot. The Blazers lost, as per the headline here.

Speaking of coaching, or typing about coaching as the case may be, I’m not a big fan of coaches. They understand a shit-ton about basketball that I don’t. They also often strike me as petty tyrants. The Blazers had a nice little bench run going in the second quarter, 13-0 or so, when C.J. “Convoy” McCollum made a dumb lazy pass that led to a pick-two. (Like “pick six” in the NFL, get it?) Instead of just wagging a finger at C.J. (who was playing quite well) or having an older player pat him gently on the head, Coach Stotts called a timeout to ream Convoy’s ass. Dallas regrouped, the run ended. I guess Stotts let Convoy know who was boss. At this point Lopez and Lillard each had two dumb turnovers, Kaman and Leonard one apiece. Important to stop the game and chew out Convoy, though. I’m not a fan of coaches.

I usually reference some boneheaded thing Mike Rice says, because I loathe his soul, but tonight the most silly thing I caught him saying was pretty much what every basketball commentator says. That a team is “pounding the boards.” AKA, getting rebounds. What does “pounding” have to do with positioning for rebounds and jumping quite high? “Pounding” summons to mind, for me, piledrivers or old peasants smushing corn/wheat into flour. I think of rebounds, I think of the word “leaping.” As in, “this team is leaping for many rebounds.” Why “pounding?” I guess it sounds more rough & tough than “leaping.” Rough/tough guys “pound.” Wimps “leap.” (Note: male ballet dancers are usually in amazing shape and could out-leg-press you.)

Another thing Rice said was “the Blazers have some of the runniest big guys in the NBA.” Besides this being a pure speculation, I work with disabled adults who need assistance going to the bathroom, and to me the phrase “runniest big guy” means someone large who is uncomfortably afflicted with diarrhea. Maybe that’s what Rice meant; he is a wordsmith.

In happier news, tonight CSNNW introduced a new graphic. In addition to the usual bar below the score indicating timeouts remaining, they put in a bar showing how many team fouls will trigger a penalty situation. To which I can only say, ABOUT GODDAMN TIME. Who cares about timeouts before the last 60 seconds of a game? It’s not just CSNW that uses this dumb timeout graphic; the regional Fox Sports channels, which cover a majority of the country’s NBA/NHL/MLB games, have the same stupid thing. Because the foul-count graphic is new, whichever intern was in charge of it didn’t always keep up. But, hey, intern, new unpaid duty, I forgive. I do hope this foul-count graphic catches on, and that the ubiquitous timeout graphic dies. I hate the timeout graphic. It hurts my eyeballs.

Another graphic CSNW used was above the score, just as the first half was ending. “The quarter is almost over,” it read. “Crown Royal.” I’m in favor of whiskey as the next man, and perhaps a bit more than the next man, but because “the quarter is almost over”? Shouldn’t one wait for the end of the game? This should properly be a Deschutes Brewery/Crown Royal combo ad. “The quarter is almost over: Black Butte Porter. Countdown to Crown Royal: 90 minutes.” Remember, folks, save the whiskey for after you’ve gotten shit done. I’m done writing this recap, so look out, stronger beer, I know where you hide.



This week we welcome back two different Blazers for two different reasons: Robin Lopez for playing basketball, and Rasheed Wallace for loving basketball. Robin gave us some rim protection, while Rasheed gave Portland some passion. Robin helped us beat the Suns by 20, Rasheed helped 20,000 heal the wounds of the Jail Blazer era. To say the least, it was good to have them both courtside again.

Also, we talk about Dame’s All-Star snub, toss around ideas for All-Star weekend, and debate what animated TV and movie characters we’d want to play in the All-Star game.

All that, plus Futurama quotes, Portland symbols on jerseys, and the harsh transition from a studio from Alex’s basement.



Hasn’t Portland already played Phoenix like, seventeen friggin’ times this season? No. Only two. It just feels like more. You could probably describe Goran Dragic’s armpit hair accurately to a police sketch artist. I know I could.

I like the baseball of great slowness, and it wasn’t too long ago that MLB switched to a super-unbalanced schedule (instead of playing every team in your league the same number of times, you play an actual seventeen games or so against division opponents, maybe six against other teams.) When this change happened, my friend Mark, a much more experienced baseball fan, told me I’d hate it.

“No,” I replied. “It’s a great idea! You get to win the division based on beating the teams in that division! It creates rivalry! Adventure, excitement, I crave these things! I’m not afraid!”

“You will be. You will be.”

OK, that probably wasn’t the verbatim conversation. Still, Mark was right. It’s goddamn boring as hell to play the same team a trillion times. If the teams are mismatched, it’s a dull whoopin’ fest. If the teams are evenly matched, it’s like a playoff series that keeps going on, and on, and on . . .

The NBA doesn’t go to MLB’s extremes in scheduling, but teams play the same opponents too much regardless. There’s some interest in watching Portland play Phoenix again, with how the Blazers have been lousy lately. Not a great deal of interest, though. And do you really need to see the Nuggets again this season?

The season itself is way too long and everyone knows this. There’s a short burst of excitement when it begins, then doldrums until Christmas Day, then more doldrums until the trade deadline nears.

According to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, no-one knows, exactly, why the NBA has been 80-ish games since forever. Since no-one knows, I’m gonna posit a theory. When the NBA started, the big boy on the block was baseball. Any smart new league would avoid competing with baseball, and because butts in seats were all the revenue you could raise, schedule as many games as possible. 80 would be roughly 160 days, about right to avoid baseball season. You could even put in playoffs and still only step on baseball’s toes during those cold early weeks . . .

This is probably not the logic behind the schedule. There is probably a better reason or a worse one. If your great-aunt knows someone who knew someone who heard of the real reason, don’t hold this mistake against me. My failings are more than there are stars in the sky (if you live in a brightly-lit urban area) yet inaccurate sports history speculations do not rank prominently among their number.

Arnovitz proposes a 44-game schedule instead, which is a fab idea that will never happen. Neither the owners or players would give up the ticket sales, and there’s a limit on how far you could raise prices to compensate in a stagnant economy. Plus, the owners are mostly dumb.

A shorter season would increase the importance of every game (remember 1998-1999, when the Blazers emerged from their post-Clyde slump to reach the WCF? That was a 50-game season, and it was AWESOME), eventually driving up TV ratings (and TV deals.) It might benefit the league long-term. Again, though, players don’t have many reasons to think long-term (sports careers are short), and owners are dingbat wackadoodles.

As long as fantastic schedule retools are being mentioned, here’s mine. No more unbalanced schedule. Every team plays all other teams twice, home and away. That’s 58 games. So start the season later. Start it on Thanksgiving Day; every team plays Thanksgiving Day. Stick football right up its brain-damaging, Coors-chugging ass.

You’ll note that a benefit of this rearrangement means there are no more conferences; playoffs could be seeded entirely by best records. And what’s lost by eliminating conferences? Teams travel by charter jet today, not Green Tortoise bus line. Local rivalries are fun if both teams are good (and don’t play seventeen dumb games) but that’s a rare happenstance. (Do the Clippers care about playing the Lakers right now?) With a balanced schedule, rivalries would be simple — the teams competing with each other in the standings.

Oh, well, never happen, owners are aliens from Planet Stupid dressed up in human flesh. Here’s my last, unrelated NBA reform idea. In hockey, you can’t get traded right before or after Christmas. This is a nice notion and the NBA should adopt it. Out of respect to our friends who don’t celebrate Christmas, let each player designate three days a year they can’t be traded. Yom Kippur, Eid al-Fitr, Marx’s birthday for Steve Nash, Robert E. Lee’s for Steve Blake. Make it happen, Silver!