Damn who let the BUMS MCKENZIE onto the site yesterday?! The Blazer are going to be FINE! GREAT, EVEN! BETTER THAN EVER BEFORE! New heights will be reached, new friendships formed. Sleater-Kinney got back together and the Blazers are going to ride this new wave of optimism into a glorious future!

Lemme tell you, right now, your Portland Trail Blazers are going to be AS GOOD OR BETTER than they were last year! Read these compelling reasons!

ONE: THEY WERE ACTUALLY THAT GOOD LAST YEAR! There was some scuttlebut, in the beginning of the year, about the Blazer’s excellent record being inflated by extraordinary performances in close games. And that scuttlebutt was right! The Blazers were not as good a their record indicated when they were hovering around the top seeds in the West. But at the end of the year, the Blazers got hit with the regression bat and lost a handful of close games. Basketball Reference, faithful and true, set their expected record by point differential at 52-30, when they actually went 54-28! Only two games better! If they were EXACTLY AS GOOD as they were last year, they would still be really good!

TWO: THEIR ROSTER IS BETTER, AT LEAST FROM A TALENT BASIS! Mo Williams and his obscene defense are gone, replaced with Steve “Steven” Blake and his comparable offensive production and superior (But not Earth shattering) defense! The Blazers’ pile of not terribly useful, potential-laden backup big men has been shored up by CHRIS KAMAN, who is probably still a good NBA player. Dorell Wright is probably better than he showed last year. He can get the train back on track and provide some depth!  None of the big minutes players are at an aggressive decline age. Hell, Damian still has a year or two of incline left! And…

THREE: I MEAN, SOMEONE HAS TO BREAK OUT, RIGHT!? The Blazers’ bench has three lottery picks and WIll Barton, who has a litany of physical and basketball skill gifts. The law of coin flips dictates that SOMEONE is going to take a step forward and be a consistent contributor this year! Look at CJ, coming off that ol bench and getting buckets! Joel Freeland, solid as a rock! Thomas Robinson, BIG ENERGY! Meyers Leonard flushed YES ANOTHER transition dunk! Will Barton is out there LOCKING KEVIN MARTIN DOWN! Whichever of these sentences feels most right to most people, that is the player who has the best chance of a breakout season!





In George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novel cycle, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” magic is a real and active presence in the world. But it doesn’t happen without balance. Call on the R’hllor to kill false kings, absolutely, but you will need to sacrifice the blood of a king to make it happen. Raise someone from the dead, even multiple times, but they’re never the same; disassociated from themselves, memories lost, personality faded or outright perverted. Take on any face you want so you can hide in plain sight? Go right on ahead, but you’ll have to sublimate your own identity in the process. Magic requires balance.

The Portland Trail Blazers had an awesome season last year. Magical. But there were plenty on indicators in their performance that suggest that they won’t be able to do it again this year. A price must be paid!

ONE: TREMENDOUS INJURY LUCK. Portland was due for a season where there was a freakish lack of injuries, and they got it. Lillard, Matthews, Batum and Lopez all played more than 82 games. Lillard has already missed more games due to injury this preseason than he did all of last year. I’m not saying, “Oh man, someone’s ACL is mos def going out this year.” But 82 games from four starters who all played more than thirty minutes a game and had crummy backups is your-cliff-face-falls-out-and-you-fall-into-a-truckbed-full-of-foam-pillows lucky. The dropoff between the Blazers starters and bench players is wide and mighty, and even a (likely) routine injury could be intensely problematic.

TWO: EVERYONE WAS AWESOME. Lillard, Batum, Matthews, and Lopez all registered career highs in win shares. Lillard was VASTLY improved. Aldridge netted nearly three more rebounds a game than his career average*. Lopez played 500 more minutes than he ever had before. Our minds prefer to think of literally everything as progressive. Here is a chart that illustrates this self-lie:


In reality, players and events fluctuate based on their circumstances and the whims of luck. Remember when Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton were very, very bad on the Blazers? The next year, they were pretty good on their new teams! (Felton got bad again, don’t worry.)

The thinking around Lillard in particular is prone to hysteria. Lillard has been very good, very fast, and that is awesome. But it is also a product of his entering the NBA when he was 22 years old. Older players have lower ceilings. Age curves are dictated more by the realities of the human body’s relationship with time, not “NBA Experience” and all that crap. I don’t mean to say that Dame has peaked, but he will peak and it will come sooner rather than later.

THREE: CAN WE BE REAL ABOUT THAT SERIES? It was great. The best! But oh man it was lucky. TWO career best performances from Aldridge. Two overtime wins, and one that might as well have been stolen out of the back of a truck at a construction site. Destiny? Okay, sure, lucky destiny, maybe. Who knows? Our only true destiny is death.

This gets back to our tendency to think of everything as progressive. The Blazers were bad two years ago, but then they won a playoff series last year, so that’s like a progression of two, which mean they’ll progress two more levels this year, which means, BINGO, Finals! Oh happy day! Then again, you could just stall out like last year’s Warriors, or fall out of the playoffs like the “We Believe!” Warriors, or stall out, THEN fall out like the Run TMC Warriors. Or, hey, closer to home, you could go to the Western Conference Finals, get beat in seven behind some bullshit, then spend the next three years getting beat in the first round. Nothing is guaranteed!

FOUR: THEY HAVEN’T GOTTEN DEMONSTRABLY BETTER. Blake for Mo is probably a marginal improvement and Kaman is better than any of the 2013-14 Blazers backup bigs, but they’re both older and older players get worse and/or injured. Everyone else is a little pile of potential that could EXPLODE INTO USEFULNESS but they could also fizzle out and leave the starters spending the whole season trying to push one-ton hams into trucks on their own. There’s potential for roster improvement, but there are no sure things.

So, the Blazers are going to be very bad this year, and you should tune out now before you get your heart broken. Look at it this way: at least tickets won’t be obscenely expensive again.

*This was a function, in part, of playing with Robin “The Box” Lopez. Still, three more rebounds! That is an irrational number or rebounds to improve by!




The leaves are changing, the unclaimed bounty of the fields begins to rot. You and your family, as Pacific Northwest families have since the days of an Operational Fort Vancouver, drag your bodies inside and sit in front of the television. A new year begins in our hearts and minds. The Portland Trail Blazers, a basketball team that nestles in special nooks and crannies of the hearts of people across Oregon, are back, playing in approximately in the same place they’ve played since 1970.

Is it too early to be watching basketball? Absolutely. Would I have rather lounged in the sun and watched baseball then sat on the ground and tried to divine things to say about this preseason game? I can’t even begin to tell you how much this was the case. But we do not choose when summer dies, or when we die, or when anything dies. The NBA season starts, the Earth evaporates in the heat of the Sun’s Red Giant phase, time marches on, there’s nothing we can do.

The Blazers won this game, 119-114. Steve Ballmer, the franchisee of the opposing Los Angeles Clippers, was in attendance. At one point in the telecast, there was an extended shot of his getting up, sidling down two or three seats, and sitting down again. Even the rich and powerful have to awkwardly shuffle around in public event seating.

The three point shooting in this game was obscene, “Maybe Bob Ryan’s crusade against three point shooting makes sense,” insane. The Blazers went 17-25, Clippers 13-39. Matthews went 6-7, McCollum 5-8, Alan Crabbe 3-4. A group of concerned parents, afraid their children will emulate the three point gunning of the Blazers, posted up outside the Rose Garden after the game and handed out pamphlets:

It contained more than a few copy editing errors.

Wes Matthews was feeling himself a little tonight, 22 Points on 13 shots. I already mentioned his 6-7 shooting from three, but he also did some odd early work on isolations and even ran a semi-successful pick and roll in there somewhere. Christian James “Ceeje” McCollum got the start over an injured Damian Lillard tonight, and was very good; 19 on 12 shots, Six assists, an air of competence that doesn’t exactly prove that his shitty rookie year was an injury aberration, but was at least “encouraging.” Kaman and Blake were +17 and +16 in 20 and 22 minutes, which means the team didn’t fall into the sea when there were bench players in, which could be a good sign. Citing raw plus/minus in a one game sample is probably a drift into intellectual dishonesty.

Blake Griffin’s jumper didn’t look particularly improved, which was the word out of training camp. You don’t care, this isn’t a Clippers blog. Lamarcus took a single corner three, which he missed. I promise to be on “LaThreecus Shotrdige” patrol all year, looking for evidence that Aldridge can or cannot shoot threes. LMA shot HotGarbage% from the field, 4-13, but he also got Blake and Deandre in foul trouble and shot 8-8 from the line.

At one point, during the 2nd quarter, non-Blazer Spencer Hawes drove the lane and went to dunk on Freeland, but when he remember that he was Spencer Hawes and they just kind of mooshed together mid-air. Freeland made two long jumpers in the third (And banked one, earlier in the game) and when they went in it was like “Why don’t they always go in? They looked so perfect.’ But that might have more to do with the contours of the human mind and confirmation bias than Joel Freeland’s long two point shot being a viable basketball play.

Jamal Crawford was dancing around and skating all over the Blazers’ faces in the fourth, racking up threes and four point plays and making the Blazers’ third unit look silly. When he was doing this, Rice said something to the degree that, you know, “When he was on the Blazers, they tried to turn him into a starting point guard,” but he didn’t mention that they only did that because Felton was steering the ship into an iceberg. Darius Morris didn’t play, which feels a little unfair to Darius Morris. Let Darius Morris show off the goods, Terry! He’s just trying to make a team like everyone else! Barton and Batum were the designated ball handlers at the beginning of the third quarter, an experiment in finally killing off the point guard, who has become obsolete and must be ended as a going concern. There were also nearly 10 straight post up plays in a row in the third quarter, because it’s 1995 again.

They did run the play where Wes cuts backdoor to receive an alley-oop pass and the defense doesn’t follow him because he’s not GREAT at finishing on it. Steven Blake threw the pass this time. Wes didn’t connect. Robinson had a REALLY bad closeout on Hawes in the fourth quarter, which was probably the headiest viewing thing I noticed. I am not used to watching basketball academically yet.



An index of quotes from today’s deeply troubling Media Day:


“When I didn’t make Team USA this summer, I was crushed. Did a lot of soul searching. Am I supposed to play basketball? What if someone had put a tennis racket in my hand? I would get in the gym, ready to get better… then after an hour I would be out at the tennis court, trying to get my forehand together. I’m having a lot of trouble deciding if I should play opening night or the second round game of the AAU Tennis tournament I signed up for. I shouldn’t worry, I probably won’t even make the second round. I just can’t see the angles. Am I really an elite athlete?”



“I crunched some numbers in the off season. We’re absolutely going to regress. Someone’s going to get injured and we don’t have the depth to handle it. I am thinking about asking for severe reduction in minutes to make sure it isn’t me. It’s a contract year, gotta stay healthy.”


“Everyone is going to have us figured out right out the gate. I would be shocked if we scored 90 points in a game. I don’t have any solutions. I should be fired. Please fire me, I want to see my family again, they don’t judge me when I cry.”



“The upcoming basketball season is a lot like signing these balls, here: an interminable task that feels like it never ends and is vaguely pointless.” “I would rather kill a bear with arrows than play basketball in this city for another year, and I’m Steve Blake, a guy who doesn’t care for hunting.”



“Did you read that article that said the mascot should be a salmon? It made so much sense. I don’t think I can get the fans hyped this year, the tumultuous absurdity of my own existence is entirely too troubling to me.”


“This was a yell of despair. I am going to curl up under a blanket in my completely empty mansion, located deep in the Camas hills, until the police show up because my parents have become concerned.”


“Can I be honest? I am going to play this year, because it’s a contract year and that’s the only way I can make money. But what would be better for me, AS A BASKETBALL PLAYER? The misery and failure of a 40-42 season, or taking a backpack full of rice and a single, sharp knife into the woods, gaining strength from hunting wolves and living exclusively off their bodies and souls? The latter, in case the form of the question itself didn’t give away the answer.”


Batum just threw copies of “Being and Nothingness” at reporters.



After months in the NBA doldrums, the Rip Citizens are back in training camp (although Edwin’s pun game is in mid-season form already). We cover all the summer & offseason happenings, including Damian’s rise to stardom, the Draft, Summer League, new additions Chris Kaman & Steve “Bad Penny” Blake, and the highly, HIGHLY anticipated FIBA World Cup.

All that, plus Edwin attends a Spanish League game, Alex’s video game habits, international goal-tending rules,  and whether or not Nic Batum is a mercenary.

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


LaMarcus Aldridge works against Rasheed Wallace

In his 2000-01 season with the Portland Trail Blazers, Rasheed Wallace set the single season record for technical fouls accrued in a season. 41 techs in 80 games. .51 techs per game. “Sure,” you say, “That is a lot of technical fouls for a single player. But is there a scatterplot that can illustrate to me, the reader, the true enormity of Rasheed’s achievement?”

(VIA 538, sort of)

Rasheed Wallace out-teched most teams in NBA history, including one Bad Boys era Pistons team. He is sitting on the border between “Normal teams” and “Teams that got a shit ton of technical fouls.”

Rasheed earned his fouls by fomenting a two way relationship with the NBA’s referees that you could describe as “Combative” or “Toxic” or “Special.”

You’re seen Sheed get ejected for staring before, but watch it again. “WACK!” Why did Ron Garretson say wack? Who has ever said that? Did he have a flashback to his days on the farm, when he father handed him a dull machete and a rock and told him to thresh a whole field full of corn himself, to teach him a lesson about how to be a guy with a stick in his ass? “Get away from me Steve! I can’t handle this! There’s so much corn! Daddy, please, just love me!”

Trustworthy Person Tim Donaghy talked about Sheed’s relationship with refs in a 2009 interview with Boston Sports Station WEEI:

“ I would say, unfortunately, I know he’s on your team right now, but Rasheed Wallace was someone I don’t believe anyone cared for. Looking back, it’s probably because he’s one of the smartest players in the league. He was outspoken about how there were biases and how relationships affected the refereeing.”

Rasheed paid a price for staying woke. And he would pay it again. Staying woke is worth more than gold.

In the 2006-07 season, the NBA instituted a new rule. After 16 technical fouls, a player would be suspended for one game. Every two fouls accrued after that suspensions was served would earn the played another suspension. If these rules were in place during Sheed’s legendary season he would have played, let’s see… 41-16 is 25, 25/2 is 12.5, 82-13=69. He would have played 69 games. Ladies and gentlemen Rasheed Wallace managed to make fun of that dumb rule a full six years before it was instated.

Rasheed’s record will never be broken. It’s practically impossible. A played would have to go out of his way to get that many techs and just be totally okay with losing a shit ton of money in the process. The Blazers should design and engineer a gold plated plaque commemorating his achievement. Maybe install it in the fountain in the Rose Quarter, so playing children will always be inspired by this great man’s mistrust of authority and watched over by his benevolent gaze.



I can barely walk down the street these days to enjoy an open-air donut without some person yelling over at me, “Hey! You with the donut! The FIBA World Cup is starting soon! Whooooo! I love basketball and the Earth! But I’m a Portland Trail Blazers fan and I don’t know which country best reflects my basketball values! Rooting for America feels too mainstream for my lifestyle and a bit too casually nationalist! I mean sure, I like living in America and I eat tofu hot dogs on Fourth of July and real hot dogs when I’m drunk! But I always vote for the Green Party in elections! Except in elections when I actually care and need my side to win! And by the way, why doesn’t Cascadia have its own independent FIBA-recognized squad yet?! We have the lumber industry to support it! I just love basketball and the Earth and lumber! What do I do?! Enjoy your donut!”

“Well, child,” I say. “You asked the right fucking donut. Check my blog.”

Welcome to said blog. Now place your hand in mine and let me guide your emotional and spiritual journey into the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

First, you should absolutely not root for America. America wouldn’t even root for America. Well, maybe some parts of America would root for America, like the Steak N Shake parts. Steak N Shake’s America would root for America. But did you know that George Washington famously hated Steak N Shake? “That menu is like if Carl’s Jr. had an even sloppier descendent named Carl III, who put ‘Steak’ in the name of his restaurant to make it sound fancy to yokels who get dressed up to go to the hot dog stand outside Home Depot,” he would tell Martha.

George Washington, Whitney Houston, the old guy in Shooter who calls Mark Wahlberg “gunny,” the red-white-and-blue bald eagle in the Dipset logo, and everything else this country is built on would call bullshit on Coach K for cutting Damian Lillard to keep Kyrie Irving and generally Coach K’s hypermilitaristic approach to basketball. Guys, Coach K rode into the arena for the last game on a white horse, dressed like Stonewall Jackson. Then he brandished a saber and stabbed two fans. There’s no place for that.

So who should you root for? Unlike Coach K, I’m not here to mold your brain into my own image, but I will lay out the brief cases (curated to appeal to Oregonian minds) for each country below.



Angola spelled backwards is alognA.


Argentina is sailing to Spain for the tournament on a giant barge called Bargentina. Playing on a barge helps their muscles learn how to balance when they play on hardwood that’s attached to solid ground. Oregon also has barges, wood, and solid ground.


If you turned the Earth upside down, Australia would be in the exact spot where Oregon is now, and Canberra would be exactly where Portland is now. Basically, Oregon is the Australia of Australia. So who really are the real Australians? Is one’s Australianness just a matter of perspective? Patty Mills is injured and will not be playing.


Brazil’s portion of the Amazon Rainforest is the fourth largest forest in the world behind Mt. Hood National Forest, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and the other part of Mt. Hood National Forest. Brazil also has a river. We have upwards of four rivers, plus Fanno Creek. Brazil deserves your sympathy.


Croatia’s Adriatic coast has been called “The New Italy” in travel writing aimed at people with enough wealth to tire of the original Italy. Coincidentally, people also describe Oregon as “The New Italy.”

Dominican Republic

An entire country dedicated to miniature canned goods. Prepare for the worst, but do so without being overly wasteful. Very Oregonian of you, Dominican Republic.


You know who liked Egypt so much that he had an Egyptian tattoo on his arm? R.A.S.H.E.E.D. W.A.L.L.A.C.E.


Petteri Koponen plays for Finland and I think he might have a beard now. Actually I’m pretty sure he doesn’t but he should have a beard.


Nicolas Batum, that weird era of Marlon Brando, some other cultural stuff.


The giant inflatable octopus that has sat above that restaurant downtown forever is Greek and you wouldn’t want to let him down.


I was watching a Portland Beavers game through the fence one time and a man next to me who had long fluorescent white hair like Legolas and was wearing nothing but neon-colored running shorts said that America invaded Iraq because you could launch a missile from Iraq to anywhere in the world because Iraq was the very center of the entire world and then he told me to go home that night and look at my globe to confirm. I did and holy shit he was right. Oh wait, we’re talking about Iran?


Ha Seung-Jin will not be playing but I’m sure he will be smiling at you from somewhere because he’s very sweet.


Arvydas Sabonis, The Grateful Dead, tie-dye, the early ’90s, it’s all kind of spelled out for you there isn’t it.


The best Mexican food in the Portland area is in the back of a grocery store in Hillsboro and mayor whatever his name is should make a special jail for people who put Tabasco sauce on tacos.

New Zealand

Imagine Portland stretched into an entire country: lots of white people who like nature and hate dancing.


If the Philippines win this tournament, all of the players will be frozen in carbonite and hung on the walls of Jollibee locations throughout the country, much like Portland did after the ’77 championship.

Puerto Rico

America doesn’t even root for America.


Senegal is shaped like a head with The Gambia being the negative space of the open mouth and Dakar being Rudolph’s illuminated nose so that’s pretty fun. Root for Senegal.


More like 420_HERBia_420.


in Portland we have those eARTh bumper stickers and in Slovenia they have sLOVEnia bumper stickers.


Victor Claver is on the team. PS: miss u rudy plz come back :(


Whenever the Turkey coach calls a timeout he puts his hand on the dry erase board, traces around his five fingers, then draws eyes and a beak on the thumb part and it looks just like a Turkey are you still reading this?


A country based on ukeleles and rain! Just like Portland!


moyola project 3 c


The night the people of Portland were told what the name of their new professional team would be, the (soon to be World Champion) New York Knicks were the visiting team against the Seattle Supersonics at the Memorial Coliseum. In those days, Portland was mostly a shipping town: dockworkers, lumbermen, commercial fishermen, beaver trappers. A lot of families lived on barges. Vancouver, Washington was still technically part of Canada. Beaverton was still 80% “BEAVERTOWN,” a beaver themed theme park. The Willamette River had yet to be dug.

This is all to say, that once upon a time, the people of Portland were not basketball people, per se.

A traveling drifter knife fight in Pioneer Square? An exhibition baseball game with a viewing of Babe Ruth’s corpse during the 7th inning stretch? A group of truck drivers beating a hippie outside Powell’s? Portland was a town for all of these things, absolutely. But basketball? Too Eastern seaboard-y. I mean, Bill Bradley was playing that night, and he went to Princeton. Very fancy, Too fancy. Modern Basketball was born on the concrete jungles of New York, and Portland still was still 80% dirt roads. Basketball Hall-of-guys-who-played-pro-basketballer Mike Riordan would foul out in this game, an incidence that the PA announcer had to spend 4 minutes explaining to the restless fans who had come to see him. The culture shock had everyone in the stadium ill-at-ease as they watched the Sonics beat the Knicks behind 28 points from future Blazer player and coach Lenny Wilkens.

At halftime though, they announced The Name. Let your mind envision the moment. The mayor at the time, the Honorable Terry Schrunk, quiets the crowd. The lights dim. A spotlight follows an envelope in a little cart being pulled along by a pair of beavers, descendants of the beavers that Meriwether Lewis himself trained when he arrived in Astoria in 1805. Mayor Schrunk picks up the envelope, breaks the official seal, removes the small slip of paper and reads.

“The name of the new NBA team will be…”

A tense silence. One witness said later that you could actually hear the beavers breathing.

“The Portland Trail Blazers.”

A gasp. Then surliness. A small riot ensued. Several cars were burned in a fire in the field where the Rose Garden now stands, hundreds of basketballs were deflated and thrown into the river. Two young, coonskin cap’d children robbed an old lady in the madness. You have to understand: Portland was a town looking for any reason to riot in those days, and a sport that might as well have been soc-cer was now going to be played by a team with a name that had two words in it. It was a shocking thing.

Boos rained from every direction. It didn’t help that it was a capitulation. The team had held a “Name The Team” contest and the most popular submission, “Pioneers,” was already in use at Lewis and Clark College, then a training school for riverboat operators. (Side note: Reed was originally founded to teach failed farmers how to become speed manufacturers.). This necessitated the use of the city’s second choice, the “Trail Blazers.”

“THAT NAME IS TERRIBLE!” yelled one child in attendance.



The team’s name probably would have eventually changed, were it not for the sense of tradition that was wired into the club after the 1977 title. But as a consequence of the violent rage on night of the Knicks-Supersonics game in the Memorial Coliseum, we don’t often think about the Trail Blazers as the “Trail Blazers.” We generally  use the “Blazers” shorthand. Think of all the popular modifications of the name: “Blazermania,” “‘Zers,” “#bazers.” The red and black colors associate the team with fire and heat.

“Oh, the Blazers are ‘Blazing’ tonight!”

“There’s a real ‘Blaze’ in the Rose Garden tonight!”

This was the frame of mind behind the creation of “Blaze the Trail Cat” a very ugly and unlikable mascot that has dumb ears made of fire and nothing to do the pioneering history and spirit of the region where he works.

Blaze was introduced by the Blazers in 2002. The marketing department wrote a contrived backstory about how he was a special breed of mountain lion which makes sense if that breed is “House Cat,” which is what Blaze clearly is clearly modeled after. They even said that Scottie Pippen adopted him from a rescue shelter. You don’t adopt mountain lions from rescue shelters, you adopt house cats from shelters.

Before we continue, I would like to make perfectly clear that this is not about the performer who works in the Blaze suit, he is perfectly good at his job. It is about the very idea that the “Portland Trail Blazers” – a name once supposed to evoke the history of pioneers who came to Oregon in the 19th century – are represented by an animal that would be useless to any self-respecting pioneer. What would a domestic cat be to a group of people traveling cross country, across rivers and plains? Here is every use I could think of:

1. Maybe they kill mice at the campsite.

2. They are good for skinning and eating when things start to go south. Other than that, a cat is just gonna pick away at your rations and scratch your poor starving children when it gets bored.

Other local teams and universities have mascots that reflect the region. The minor league Hillsboro Hops baseball team have a perfectly charming mascot in Barley the Hop, a gigantic, anthropomorphised hop flower that honors the area’s craft brewing industry.

(A picture of the author with Barley the Hop)

The Portland Timbers, a local soccer team, have employed a series of “Timber” men that represent the region’s timber industry. The Oregon State Beavers take their name from the state animal, the mass genocide of whom by beating and skinning was the region’s earliest industry. The Oregon Ducks, I will concede, maybe make less sense in this regard, but there ARE ducks in Oregon. The University of Portland Pilots? Riverboat pilots from the 1930s. Portland State Vikings? That one doesn’t make sense. But this is not a Portland State sports blog, so I won’t extrapolate on this.

Nearly all of these teams have reasonable mascots that reflect the region, while the Blazers trot out an animal that not only does not represent the region, but doesn’t make even a lick of sense as a logical construct. Not to mention, Blaze is not terribly well designed. Is he as horrifying as the original Pierre the Pelican? No, of course not; nothing is. But is he attractive or engaging in any way that would make you miss him if he were gone? No!

His ears are made of fire which is unbelievably corny. He is white and grey, which I guess is the color of the weather here, but ain’t no one trying to think about that. His countenance is set in a constant smile which is disassociating in an anthropomorphization of a cat because cats are cranky and aloof animals who withhold love. Think of famous cartoon cats from history: Garfield, an open misanthrope merely waiting for death’s sweet embrace; Tom and Sylvester, put upon predator/victim of a smaller animals. “But Corbin, what about Top Cat? he has a cheery disposition!” When was the last time you or ANYONE paid attention to Top Cat? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

My friends Zak and Baylie own cats that have basically taken over their condo. They don’t even use one bathroom because they use it to store stuff they don’t want the cats to destroy. These are angry animals. Blaze’s big dumb smile is an upsetting fiction that prevents people from loving him because he is a fanciful lie. The symbol of our proud city in the arena of basketball is an animal that never smiles, “Blazing” a trail for a journey in which he would be utterly useless except as the last disgusting thing for pioneers to eat before they would eat their own children.

I have established that Blaze is horrible and must be replaced. But I did not come here to burn down the church: I came here to build new cathedrals and propose a noble animal to represent our beloved Blazers for now and forever.

Enter, the mighty salmon. The salmon will provide everything the Blazers need in a mascot. It is a local animal, a symbol of the region, a Trail Blazer by instinct and a charmer who will appeal to the the child in us all.

The Salmon is a native fish to the Oregon area. Before Europeans and capitalism arrived in the 1850s, the Columbia River was lousy with salmon. Scientists have ballparked runs at 10-16 million salmon and steelhead trout passing through the region every year.  In the 1860s and 70s, the salmon canning made the fish Oregon’s leading export after wheat and flour. A hundred years of overfishing, over-development, hydroelectric power and brutalization from invasive flora and fauna have depleted the runs significantly. The Salmon is a “keystone species” in the local ecosystem of the Northwest, an important source of nutrients for native birds, bears, and plants. Restoring salmon runs is the symbolic and practical heart of local conservation efforts. Anyone who grew up in the Portland Metro area knows about the area’s deep ties to salmon. I remember raising salmon for release into the wild in a tank aquarium in elementary school and setting up eggs to hatch in Whipple Creek in the 8th Grade. The salmon is a perfect symbol of Oregon and the Portland metro area, and one that has somehow slipped between the fingers of local sports teams looking for a mascot.

A salmon’s life, like those of the pioneers that walked the Oregon Trail, is full of adventure and travel. A salmon will hatch in a river bed and swim out to the ocean where he or she will live an adventurous life, feasting on the fruits of the sea and gaining mass. Then it swims upcurrent, back to the specific riverbed of its birth, where it will lay eggs and die. This kind of Trail Blazing is in contrast to a cat, which just hangs out in a person’s house until one of them dies.

“But Corbin,” you say, trying in vain resist this amazing idea because it overwhelms you so much. “Salmon are not cute!”

To which I say: are Catfish cute ? Tuna?  Fish hooks? No, but a good design will make it work! I solicited some designs from notable artists for you to get an idea about what a salmon mascot might look like:

Casey Jarman gave us this handsome fellow dressed more or less like a Portland resident prepared for the rain. Check out the “77” on the jersey. Casey also sent along a nice alternate logo, for marketing purposes:

(Casey Jarman is the Managing Editor at Believer Magazine and the founder of Party Damage Records.)

Dana Cox’s contribution has a grim look of mild panic, which would be relatable to all people. He is also wearing a coonskin cap, like a pioneer. He’s naked, but I think people could handle that.

(Dana makes stuff. She made this.)

Matt Hatfield’s contribution is decked out in full pioneer regalia and beautiful Blazer black and red on his scales. Your kids are already demanding stuffed animals.

(Matt Hatfield is in Drop the Root Beer and Run and performs sketch comedy and improv in and around Seattle, Washington.)




It was a hard fought NBA Finals. No one had expected the Atlanta Hawks, an underdog in every sense of the word, to bring it like that. LaMarcus Aldridge stepped up in the decisive Game 7 — 35 points, 20 rebounds, and a game winning pass out of the post to Damian Lillard, whose buzzer-beating three-pointer gave the Blazers a 101-98 victory. The whole Portland Metro area cheered in their homes. Parents and children, white, black, hipster, square. From Ridgefield to Salem, the people cheered.

The Finals MVP trophy was presented to LaMarcus Aldridge. “We couldn’t have done it without the fans. Or without that guy, right there.”

LaMarcus pointed to Schrunk the Salmon, the Blazers’ beloved mascot, named for the mayor who helped bring the team to the city. He was surrounded by laughing children and crying grown men, who never thought this day would come. In the locker room after the game, Wes Matthews, wearing a protective eye patch he earned in the heat of playoff battle, told gathered reporters that Schrunk, “Really rallied the fans…Schrunk brought everyone together. I can’t even imagine the Blazers without him.”



This was an unequivocally terrible performance from the Blazers. Like really, really bad. I hope you didn’t watch it. It was beautiful outside yesterday. I hope you were spending time with your loved ones in a grassy field somewhere and forgot that summer league basketball even exists. Please, allow me to make such sacrifices. Save yourselves.

The first half of The Basketball Game That We’re Never Going To Talk About Again After This saw the Blazers fail to establish any type of offensive continuity or rhythm. They took a lot of jump shots and missed a lot of jump shots. They didn’t move the ball well, or really at all. Their interior game was substantially weakened by Thomas Robinson being on the bench and not the floor. All of this contributed to them having 15 points and a field goal percentage in the 20s with 5:22 left in the 2nd quarter. However, to their credit, they went on a nice little run and walked into the locker room at halftime trailing by only five.

The second half was a lot like the first half, minus the last 5:22. The Blazers didn’t do anything well, and they pretty much got run out of the gym by a Hawks team that was led primarily by (Jesuit High School’s) Stephen Holt and Adreian Payne. It was tough to watch, and it was made worse by the fact that all of the guys who were playing are supposed to be relatively good. Only eight players played, and only the top 6 guys (five actual Blazers plus Bobby Brown) played significant minutes. So that kind of sucks.

Bobby Brown had a very impressive game, the only member of the squad for whom that can be said. He shot 6/11 from the field, including 3/4 from behind the three point line, and finished with 20 points. He was also once asked in an interview about his name and said, “Someone is always trying to be funny…asking me where Whitney’s at,” so that’s pretty cool, too.

Remember that time that Will Barton kinda sorta beat the Spurs in an elimination game by himself? Today was kinda sorta the opposite of that, as he scored 15 points on 4-19 shooting, and looked very much like 2012-2013 Will Barton. Luckily, nothing can diminish Will Barton’s confidence because he is Will Barton.

Fellow shooting guard Allen “Apparently my nickname is Breeze” Crabbe had another underwhelming performance, though he did shoot 3/4 from the field. Filling out a stat sheet doesn’t exactly seem to be a forte of young Allen, as his shot attempts are pretty much the only evidence that he in fact participated in this basketball game.

CJ McCollum had another game where he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (6/15, 0/3 from deep) but still managed to have a mostly positive effect on the game, due to his 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5-5 mark from the charity stripe. He also had what was probably the play of the game, in which he split two guys and hit a ridiculous high arcing and-one. I celebrated briefly, remembered the score of the game, and then stopped celebrating. It was pretty cool.

The Joel Freeland / Meyers Leonard frontcourt worked about as well as you would have expected. They finished with a combined 5 points and 12 rebounds, and really made you stop and think about the potentially devastating consequences that would accompany the Joel Freeland / Meyers Leonard frontcourt ever becoming a reality in an actual NBA basketball game. Freeland missed every shot he took and grabbed 8 of the duo’s 12 rebounds. Which, unfortunately, means that (LOTTERY PICK) Meyers Leonard had a grand total of 4 points and 4 rebounds in 31 minutes of action.

He continued to not understand basic defensive principles. He continued to look timid and unsure of himself. He continued to play basketball as if he’s simultaneously trying to do long division in his head. In other words, he continued to be the Meyers Leonard that we’ve come to know and not love. At one point, one of the NBATV announcers proclaimed, “Yeah they really need more out of him [as a franchise].” We don’t need more out of him; we need anything out of him. There were multiple times throughout the game where I thought… Can we trade him for Adreian Payne? Please? Or for anybody? How about anything? At this point, I would give up Meyers if it meant that Chalupas could come back, no questions asked.

But I digress. Now, having been eliminated from a chance at winning the prestigious NBA Summer League championship, the Blazers will head to the losers bracket to play Utah on Friday in a game that somehow matters even less than an average summer league game. Pray for Meyers. Or Chalupas.



A Summer League game between the Blazers and their spiritual cousins in the East, the New York Knicks, is always a special occasion and the two teams delivered today with a 71 to 69 point defensive monolith that left everyone in the Cox Pavilion on the edge of their seats.

I am going to level with you, the readership. Will Barton wasn’t wearing a headband in this game and Bobby Brown was, so I got them confused from time to time. Maybe once or twice I was impressed with Brown when I should have been impressed with Barton, because Barton was really good in this game. 11 Points on 11 shots, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He should have had more assists: Freeland and Robinson both mucked up some really solid passes out of pick and rolls. In the game’s last three offensive possessions, Barton attacked the teeth of the defense, got them to collapse and delivered a good to a teammate who mucked up the attempt; McCollumn Missed, Freeland bricked a pretty point blank-y take at the rim, and Brown was out of bounds on a catch after Cleanthony Early (Is his name an intentional mash-up of “Anthony” and “Cleopatra?” If so, excellent choice, Mrs. Early.) missed a layup on the other end. Bad results, but Barton’s process looked good. Also had a nice midrange crossover sink in, show your kids that action on the YouTube reel someday.

McCollum also looked pretty good. He had a nice drive to the basket, looking real quick out there kind of stuff in the 2nd even if he did end up bricking the layup (The World Cup has lowered my standards for requiring a shot to go in to be impressed, apparently.). 1-4 from three isn’t ideal, but I don’t have to tell you about the sunrise, sunset nature of three point shooting. He also got 4 steals in the first half, which the commentators were quick to attribute to some kind of new defensive mindset that is going to now defines CJ McCollum, a sort of Avery Bradley of the West. But people, let’s get real. It’s great that CJ was playing heads up but the Knicks are trotting out a Summer League lineup with a marginal amount of practice time and telling them to run a triangle offense. It was a guy bringing 20 bicycles to the park and leaving them out while he went swimming in the lake: a lot of hot opportunities for theft.

The Knicks’ triangle execution got them two (2) Jeremy Tyler mid-post turnarounds that went in and 7 more shots that didn’t. So one might assume that Joel was doing a good job keeping him on lockdown out there. But Joel also had four fouls, so let’s call that a push. It also netted them a good performance from Tim Hardaway, Jr., netting 20 points on 16 shots, a ratio I will call “Summer League Efficient.”

Thomas Robinson looked good in ways you wouldn’t expect and bad in ways you wouldn’t expect. Sinking some midrange twos: good! Netting five turnovers, primarily from bad catches and making pretty cruddy attempts at the rim on fast breaks: bad!

Alan Crabbe had a drive to the basket and missed all of his other shots. Meyers didn’t play on account of shoulder trouble, he was supposed to start. Bobby Brown wasn’t productive or anything, but when you watch him, you understand what teams keep giving him Summer League slots: he doesn’t make weird mistakes or ball hog or anything like that. It’s weirdly veteranish, like a summer league Derek Fisher. Fisher was coaching the Knicks today, I couldn’t even begin to tell you anything about that except “Yes, they are running the triangle.” Summer league has a weird scoring system that the Blazer got points out of, but it’s even more complicated than World Cup scoring and my doctor has me on headache watch right now so I’m not going to get into it.

Devion Berry played for three seconds and didn’t manage to get anything into the box score. The NBA Record for fewest seconds played while still scoring points is held by Earl Clark, who somehow scored while not recording even one whole second of play in a game against the Nuggets on January 13th, 2013. Second place goes to Joel Anthony, who got fouled and sunk two foul shots in one second of play in a game against, once again, the Nuggets, on December 30th, 2013. Third place belongs to former Blazer fan favorite Craig “The Rhino” Smith, who scored in four seconds of play in a game against, and hold on to your hat here, THE DENVER NUGGETS, on March 5th, 2011. The Trailblazer record for fewest seconds played with a score belongs to Armon Johnson in a game against, HOLY CRAP, The Los Angeles Lakers, in a game on March 5th, 2011. But you thought it was going to be the Nuggets for a second there, didn’t you?