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

|
ferdinand3
This recap was originally published in Esquire Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

one

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

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

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

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

Two

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

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

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

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

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

three

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

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

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

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

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

four

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

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

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

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

 

Works of art by Corbin Smith

 

PORTLAND ROUNDBALL MAILBAG, JUNE 10TH, 2014 EDITION

|
Dear-diary-mailman-sure-hunky

From: Famous Writer Ben Golliver

Subject: Mailbag Question

If your goal was to go 0-82 next season, how would you configure the Blazers’ starting lineup (no positional considerations required)?

CORBIN: My answer to this question begins and ends with Robin Lopez at the point. Meyers would probably be a more popular choice here, but he is pretty athletic and has at least pretended to develop something resembling guard skills (I’m gonna shoot threes this year!). Lopez is an excellent basketball player who has gotten that way by narrowing his focus to exclusively doing big man stuff. He drops back on pick and rolls to cover his limited foot speed, he boxes out, he sets screens, and he never does anything else, at all. He doesn’t even really pass from the elbows. And that’s great! But man the Blazers could really rack up some losses if they put the ball in his hands. Just think about it: Lopez gets the ball in the backcourt, takes two VERY high dribbles, gets stripped immediately, fouls whoever stripped him on the layup, hangs his head in frustration because he is knows how out of his depth he is, two foul shots, gets the inbound, repeat forever.

At your two-guard, gotta go with Mo “Maux” Williams. Mo is out here looking around at the options here and deciding that Mo WIlliams is the key to this game. Gunning for thirty every night. Coming off staggered screens, probing for a second, backing up, and jacking up a contested mid ranger with 10 seconds left on the clock. And no one is going to stop him: he’s a veteran! He’s seen the wars! Headbands command authority! The Modern NBA’s first 30 Point, 13 PER player.

Meyers Leonard is a natural losing small forward. Your ideal modern NBA three is a Swiss Army knife — passing, shooting, cutting, defending multiple positions — and Meyers is not good at any of those things. Imagine, when the Blazers need to match up with Tony Parker, and Robin just isn’t up to the task, Terry sticks a Meyers Leonard out there above the key to slow down his penetration. We’re talking about broken ankles everywhere, multiple Meyeri emerging from the original just so they can fall down on the hardwood and injure themselves. A true bloodbath.

Allen Crabbe at power forward. He is short and it does not seem like he can jump very high. He would get blasted in the post all game and be completely outmatched on rebounds. He might turn into an actual crab under the pressure.

At center: LaMarcus Aldridge. Say what, Corbin?! Lamarcus is a pretty good option at center! He has range to stretch opposing defenders, he rebounds well and is tall and strong enough to bang in the post. Yes, I say, but he just hates it so much. After the Blazers lose their first ten games, Aldridge, the leader of the team and the Blazers’ highest paid player, would justifiably become a locker room cancer. Imagine that you are the L-Train and not only is the team a nightmarish mishmash, but you’re crushed in the post all night when you would rather be playing power forward. You would LIVE in front of reporters, complaining about everything you could think of until someone traded you (The water in the cooler is too goddamn cold!). When you are building a losing team, lack of production is important, but so is the intangible badness you get from a poisoned locker room environment.

JOE: I would actually leave the standard lineup the same, but over the offseason I would bring them all to the IKEA in Renton, Washington, because the IKEA in Renton, Washington, has a restaurant at which a person get 15 delicious meatballs, mashed potatoes, some kind of cream sauce, and lingonberries, all for $4.99. Hopefully I would even take them there around the time of some Swedish holiday when the IKEA in Renton, Washington, sells some kind of fun Swedish holiday drink that tastes a lot like if you poured a Coca-Cola into a glass, put that glass in the refrigerator, forgot it was in there, then thought it was bacon grease and tried to cook something with it on the stove, then when you realized it was Coca-Cola, you put it back in the bottle and drank later to celebrate some fun Swedish holiday. The point is, Ben, the team would eat that delicious meal and realize that the pinnacle of human experience costs $4.99, and they would lay down their basketball arms to happily go 0-82 and spend their time at the IKEA in Renton, Washington. They also have a 99-cent breakfast plate which I’ve never had but I assume it’s great and there’s a Baja Fresh like a short distance away and its maybe a top-8 Baja Fresh, of the Baja Freshes that I’ve been to.

From: Dane Hansen

Subject: Question

Portland possesses the lyrical talents of Damian Lillard, and yet it’s been 15 years since Bust A Bucket. What’s up with that? Is the front office committed to bringing fans a Grammy or not?

JOE: Hello, Dane. Thank you for your questions. Before I answer them, I would like to first point out that the Blazers did, in fact, release an EP in the time since “Bust-a-Bucket.” In 1999 I believe, the Trail Blazers, in conjunction with Z100 and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Portland Metropolitan Area, released an EP titled Can I Get A Headband?, which featured the hit title track along with the b-side “It Ain’t Easy,” as well as extended mixes of both, and a fifth track simply titled, “Headband Fan’s Mix,” and for the life of me I have no recollection what that final track contained (I have a vague memory of listening to “It Ain’t Easy” and it being pretty forgettable).

Also, “Bust-a-Bucket” was performed almost entirely by someone called Dan Reed. Granted I hadn’t even begun elementary school at the time of the release and this was the early ‘90s, so weird dudes with cutoff t-shirts tucked into jeans could very well be professional athletes, but I’m pretty sure that Dan Reed was not a player on the Blazers. Therefore, not counting the choral section of assorted Blazers, the only player who truly performed on the song was Jerome Kersey, who delivers a stirring vocal solo with the commitment and gusto of a man who clearly knows his way around the Boyz II Men anthology. By contrast, “Can I Get A Headband?” is performed entirely by players, but since you forgot that one, maybe having players perform a song isn’t really the way to achieve success.

To answer your second question: no, I don’t think they’re committed to bringing fans a Grammy. They are a basketball team. They probably haven’t even discussed what’s required to win Grammys.

CORBIN: I have never heard “Bust-a-Bucket” OR “Can I Get a Headband” before I got this question, I have basically no interest in ephemeral radio-promotional music, I am afraid. I think coming to this cold gives me a fresh perspective. “Can I Get a Headband” is very bad, but it MIGHT feature the lyric “A Robot of God/Who said he was homeless”. As far as the Blazers’ stubborn refusal to bless us with a sequel to the slightly better “Bust-a-Bucket,” men like Dan Reed who wore black tank tops and sang weird fake-y rap songs over electric guitar riffs and drove the local novelty sports song economy all sublimated into gas the second Malkmus bought a house here.

From: Yoni Rapaport

Subject: Mailbag question

If the blazers were a rap crew, which one would they be? Who would be in what roles?

CORBIN: The Allman Brothers Band, circa 1971. Damian is Duane, Lamarcus is Gregg, Nic is Dicky Betts, Wes is Berry Oakley, Robin is Jai Johanney Johnson, Barton is Butch Trucks. Brandon Roy is Elizabeth Reed.

JOE: Corbin just answered the question with precision so I have nothing else to offer, except a couple runner-up analogies.

Public Enemy

Chuck D = Aldridge, Flav = Lopez, Terminator X = Lillard, Professor Griff = Matthews, the S1W = Barton and Robinson

Wu-Tang Clan

RZA = Lillard, GZA = Aldridge, Raekwon = Matthews, Ghostface Killah = Batum, Method Man = Barton, Inspectah Deck = Robinson, U-God = Mo, Masta Killa = Freeland, ODB = Lopez

A$AP Mob

Rocky = Aldridge, Ferg = Lillard, Yams = Stotts, Ty Beats = Olshey, Bari = Ben Falk, Illz = Batum, Nast = Matthews, and the rest of the Mob can be Claver, Crabbe, CJ, and Dorell Wright.

From: Douglas Corpron

Subject: Questions bout stuff?

Hey PRS,

Which Blazers are the most talented?  But not like basketball talent, u want to know about the real talents- who is the best singer, best dancer, best at writing poetry, who tells the best jokes, and other important talents.

Thanks!

JOE: If anyone with the Blazers is reading this mailbag, then this is a good time to mention that should you credential us going forward, these are the kinds of journalistic tidbits that you could expect us to uncover: who on the team is most talented in the most important ways. As it stands now, we have very little first-hand experience (I saw Meyers Leonard waiting in line at Salt & Straw once, he was very tall), so we have to speculate.

As for the speculation though, I think the obvious candidate for talents is Nicolas Batum, since he’s French. But, given that he’s French and that we still haven’t seen much, if any, of his off-court artistry in really any fields at all, I think we have to look elsewhere. For that reason, I think Victor Claver would have to be most talented. Still European so he presumably possesses the same continental flair for art history and music critique and the culinary arts, but because he’s Spanish he doesn’t fit the easy stereotype of a Frenchman, which is why we haven’t seen these talents. We haven’t been looking for them. Granted, he’s not the most talented at basketball, but he’s actually pretty good at all basketball tasks if taken in isolation, so I imagine that his well-rounded skill-set carries over into life as well. I imagine he has basic shoe-cobbling knowledge, for instance.

CORBIN: I would say we have at least a little evidence that Robin Lopez is the team’s most accomplished writer though I wouldn’t be suprised if Wes was an on the D/L poetic soul. I was reading the Marquette University student written literary journal in 2007, where I encountered a blank verse work by “John Basketpoem” (A pseudonym; records do not indicate any Basketpoems attending Marquette at the time) that interested me deeply:

THE LIFE:

Compete everyday

And try to get better

 

That’s how you do it

How you step up and put the ball in the bucket

 

Get me on the block coach

And I will build a castle fit for basketball gods

 

Certainly SOUNDS like Wes, though I wouldn’t want to presume.

From: Brian Richter

Subject: Question

Did Bill Walton love disco?

[insert image of Disco Stu chart]

Cheers,

Brian

 cRzjXWQ

CORBIN: Probably not. I think we have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of what Bill Walton’s taste in music is and it’s mostly weedy jam-rock blues stuff. Gotta imagine he wasn’t one of those veiled-homophobic “Disco Sucks” dickheads, though. I’ll bet he would like LCD Soundsystem if someone turned him on to it, though he might think it was a little arch.

JOE: The chart is strong evidence, though I have a hard time accepting on faith that Bill Walton is purely responsible for disco sales booming in 1977. Even if the Blazers were, at some level, responsible, how do we know it wasn’t Bobby Gross, or Lionel Hollins, or even the fierce Maurice Lucas, who loved the sweet sounds of disco music? Poring over Disco Stu’s raw data would be necessary to make any statements with certainty.

From: Tim Sartori

Subject: Yo, guys

Hey, I’m Tim Sartori (@Tim_NBA on twitter, we have had some humorous interactions a few times).

Just wanted to submit a question, if you’re still taking those?

There’s been a lot of talk about those ‘you have $15 to build the best team you can’ things, and I’m basically wondering, who is on the Blazers’ one of those?

Keep up the great stuff, I’ll be looking out for this post.

CORBIN: First off, excellent job pushing your Twitter handle, this is high grade social media strategizing at its finest. I would never answer a question like this using subjective whims, so I went into Basketball Reference, looked up every position, sorted them by descending total Win Shares produced for the Blazers, and arranged them here:

POINT GUARD:

$5: Terry Porter (79.3 Win Shares)

$4: Damon Stoudamire (37.7 Win Shares)

$3: Rod Strickland (32.7 Win Shares)

$2: Dave Twardzik (21.8 Win Shares)

$1: Damian Lillard (15.4 Win Shares. Given, in two seasons. I didn’t say this method was perfect!)

SHOOTING GUARD:

$5: Clyde Drexler (108.7 Win Shares)

$4: Jim Paxson (50 Win Shares)

$3: Brandon Roy (37.5 Win Shares)

$2: Larry Steele (28.2 Win Shares)

$1: Wesley Matthews (24.9 Win Shares)

SMALL FORWARD:
$5: Jerome Kersey: (59 Win Shares)

$4: Calvin Natt: (34 Win Shares)

$3: Kiki Vandeweghe (33.9 Win Shares. Neck and neck with Calvin Natt!)

$2: Nicolas Batum (32.2 Win Shares)

$1: Bob Gross (30.4 Win Shares)

POWER FORWARD

$5: Rasheed Wallace (61.3 Win Shares, three lifetimes worth of dominance over squares)

$4: Lamarcus Aldridge (60.8 Win Shares)

$3: Buck Williams (50.4 Win Shares)

$2: Clifford Robinson (46.8 Win Shares. Cliff’s position is up for debate, but whatever, positional revolution, man.)

$1: Mychal Thompson (39.9 Win Shares. So is Mychal’s, but moving him to center wouldn’t have gotten Lucas on so I didn’t bother.)

CENTER

$5: Arvydas Sabonis (47.3 Win Shares. Pretty impressive, considering he started his NBA Career at 31 and was injured a lot.)

$4: Bill Walton (26 Win Shares)

$3: Kevin Duckworth (25.5 Win Shares)

$2: Joel Pryzbilla (20.5 Win Shares)

$1: Chris Dudley (R, Oregon. 12.6 Win Shares)

Did this method leave Maurice Lucas in the cold and suggest that Sabonis had a better Blazers career than Bill Walton? Absolutely! But science is not an affair, it is a marriage and even you you get a result you may not approve of, you don’t just take her to court and split up your beautiful family.

JOE: I would like to submit Corbin’s “objective” monetary assignments as an example of the fake objectivity and false promise of equality that are inherent in capitalism. Any list that says Jim Paxson is more valuable than Brandon Roy, while also ignoring the contributions great WORKERS like Walt Williams and Greg Anthony and Stacey Augmon, is clearly the work of fascist neoliberal militaristic oil magnates and I for one will not consent to their rule. Para todos toda, para nosotros nada.

CORBIN: How dare you call me a neoliberal. I don’t need to answer to scum like you, but here is PROOF of my progressive economic bonafides:

Displaying IMG_2731.JPG

From: David Brown

Subject: Re Hi

Hai, we want u in our team!!! Thankss.

CORBIN: When Joe told me this was a spam email, I was crushed. I have always wanted to be a part of a team.

JOE: I actually don’t know for sure that it is a spam email. There was no ask for a reply, or a link, so it’s possible David Brown is an enthusiastic fan of the blog who wants us on his team.

From: e

Subject: s

Beloved Family of Ira Curry announces their donation of the sum 600,000.00 USD to you. Send

Name—

Address—

Mobile #—–

Age—–

Occupation—–

Have a wonderful day

JOE: My name is Joseph Swide and I don’t really have any of that other stuff right now. But if Ira is so inclined, I like to eat breakfast at Fuller’s, near the park blocks, so maybe he can find me there.

CORBIN: NAME: Corbin Aquamaniac Smith. ADDRESS: 1245 NE ProudToLiveInClarkCounty Circle, Vancouver, WA 98685 MOBILE #: 3604206969 AGE: 15 OCCUPATION: Very successful blogger on the topics of women and plant trellising.

From: Famous-But-Not-As-Famous-As-Ben-Golliver Comedian Ian Karmel

Subject: where my subnglasses is

 

*suglases
*sunglasses

JOE: Corbin, I don’t want to make jokes about this one. Clearly, this came from a man in crisis. We need to find this man’s sunglasses. Many comedians have dark inner lives and right now Mr. Karmel’s is a bit too brightly lit. The clues here are in his type-ohs. Let’s examine the first one, “subnglasses.”

CORBIN: Probably indicates that they are on a submarine.

JOE: Or a submarine sandwich, maybe one that was served on a submarine. Maybe the Blueback down at OMSI. Do they serve sandwiches?

CORBIN: No, but they do serve comfort food cooked by southern women who call young men, like Mr. Karmel here, “Sug.”

JOE: And a summer day in which he would wearing sunglasses might take him to OMSI, a place many summer loves have been kindled. Yet the most revealing part of this email is that not only did he start by typing his message into the subject line, but then when he made a mistake, he didn’t delete it. He just typed the correction in the message field, then made another mistake and did the same thing, again not going back to delete it. Clearly, this is a man who lives his life fast, like a meteor hurtling through the atmosphere, a fireball that doesn’t look back. So while he probably left his former sunglasses at OMSI, probably on the submarine, those sunglasses are in the past, behind him, and so they are no longer his. His sunglasses must be in front of him, not yet purchased, sitting on the rack at a 711 out towards Gresham, the ones with flames shooting down the sides, of course, just like he lives his life.

CORBIN: The life of a road comedian. Tragic stuff.

(HEY if you want us to answer YOUR QUESTION about the Blazers or whatever (Corbin know a lot about plant maintenance, for instance.), shoot us an email at portlandroundballsociety@gmail.com

 

BLAZERS-SPURS SERIES PREVIEW

|
Sarcophagus_with_Scenes_of_Bacchus_-_Getty_Villa_-_Collection

Ed.’s note: Corbin and I once again had a rich conversation about the upcoming series, and out of respect to the Spurs, their names are all spelled correctly this time.

JOE: Corbin, how many championships will the Blazers win this year? One championship would be nice but I think it would be befitting their greatness if Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge both left this postseason carrying lots of Larry O’Brien trophies like that time Lauryn Hill won like 4,000 Grammys. How feasible is that?

 

CORBIN: It’s funny you mention Lauryn Hill, Joseph, because the Blazers’ next opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, have something in common with hip hop and rap artist Lauryn Hill: they are practitioners of the dark art of witchcraft. If the Blazers are going to carry the trophies and banners all people desire for them back to Northern Oregon, they’re going to have to battle valiantly against forces beyond the comprehension of normal human beings.

 

JOE: Wait, witchcraft?!!! Shouldn’t basketball be fun and free of dark arts? Well first, I guess I should ask, are they fun Bette Midlery witches or evil witches?

 

CORBIN: Complicated question. Watching Gregg Popovich sass on some sadass sideline reporter is the height of Bette Midlerism in basketball, of course. But the way the Spurs transparently channel unknown powers to give supernatural boosts to weird NBA semi-washouts? It’s unsettling and scary. For instance, do you remember Patty Mills?

 

JOE: Of course! I have been a champion of Patty since he “torched” the 2008 USA Olympic Team and I also like that he refers to the Spurs as just “Spurs,” like the North London soccer team, and how he calls the Oregon Ducks, “the Duckies.” He’s so endearing! Are you saying that he is actually the evil product of some kind of Wiccan ceremony?

 

CORBIN: Wicca is a form of white magic, not powerful enough to do what Popovich has done with Patty Mills: a towel waver on the Blazers who later played in Chinese exile before he was signed by the Spurs and their blood magicians and is now a suitable backup point guard with an 18.7 PER who even occasionally plays in two guard lineups with Parker. Or consider Boris Diaw who was out of shape and nearly washed out of the league to force his way out of the Worst-Team-Ever-Bobcats. An injection of Spurs’ goats blood has turned him into a reliable playmaking and shooting stretch four who ably guarded Lebron James in the finals. You should practically see the dark energy pouring out of him as James tried to dribble around his ample frame. Not to mention the Spurs’ older-men Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli, who continue to be more than suitable NBA players despite being very old. They are paced and rested throughout the season by Popovich, who is both a brilliant tactical coach and manager of big picture goals. Or they are drinking the blood of the young. Or both.

 

JOE: Did you know that people are still murdered for suspected witchcraft in Papua New Guinea? In rural villages, there have been instances in which illnesses like AIDS are not understood and thus the resulting deaths are blamed on sorcery, and the men or women who are thought responsible are burned alive, hung from trees, etc. It’s completely horrible and totally preventable. So before we tie Gregg Popovich to a tree and burn him alive, couldn’t we figure out the scientific reasoning for why the Spurs are good? At this point, isn’t trusting in science the only option for the Blazers? Because if it is in fact witchcraft that fuels the Spurs, would Portland even have a chance?

 

CORBIN: All of the known scientific measuring instruments break when you try to measure the Spurs’ production, suggesting satanic interference. In the regular season they scored at a rate of 110.5 points per 100 possessions, the 7th best mark in the league, and allowed 102.4 points per 100 possessions, the 2nd best mark in the league. Basketball Reference’s SRS statistic, a measurement that takes point differential and strength of schedule into account, said that they were the best team in the NBA this year. But they didn’t even really play their best players super significant minutes in the regular season. This year’s Spurs were the first team in NBA history to have no players averaging more than 30 minutes a game. So far in the playoffs, Duncan, Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Manu Ginobli are all averaging more minutes in the playoffs than they were in the regular season.

 

JOE: OK so science calls them the best team in the NBA but they don’t even play their best players very much and they gave relatively heavy minutes to Boris Diaw and Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli? Maybe you’re right after all about this witchcraft. Russian folklore tells of a “Baba Yaga” who lives in a hut in the woods, has bony or chicken-like legs and a keen nose for one’s “Russian scent.” She sometimes tries to eat people and she also gives heavy minutes to Boris Diaw.

 

CORBIN: That sounds like Coach Pop to me, definitely.

 

JOE: Well here’s the bad news, Corbin. It doesn’t appear from my superficial reading that anyone ever destroyed “Baba Yaga.” The only thing that one could point to as her downfall is the decreasing number of Russians who believe in a witch that lives in a hut and is something of a matriarch for various woodland creatures. So maybe the Blazers could win the series by choosing to no longer believe in forest witches and not passing folk tales down to their children about Popovich’s ability to smell someone’s “Russian scent”?

 

CORBIN: Well, the Blazers might be blessed with holy powers, because they’ve played the Spurs relatively well in the LaMarcus Aldridge era. Since the 2010-11 season, the Blazer have gone 8-6 against the Spurs, a genuine achievement against the best team in the league, record-wise, in that time, and especially impressive considering the Blazers have gone through two lottery seasons in that time. This year, they went 2-2; a 115-105 Blazers home victory on November 2nd, a 109-100 Blazers road victory on January 17th, a 111-109 home loss on February 19th, and a 103-90 road loss on March 12th (remember the 4 game losing streak?). In the three games where the matched up with the Spurs, Lamarcus Aldridge shot 54%, 64% and 50%. Damian Lillard averaged 25 points a game.

 

JOE: I respect numbers and basketball tactics but I have some information here that might startle you. According to the Wikipedia article on Paculla Anna, a Roman priestess to whom the historian Livy attributed responsibility for the growth of Bacchanalia festivals, Paculla Anna made these festivals much more frequent, allowed all types of people to participate, “and made wine-fueled violence and sexual promiscuity mandatory for all initiates.” WINE-FUELED VIOLENCE! WINE, CORBIN, WINE! GREGG POPOVICH LOVES WINE! “WINE-FUELED VIOLENCE” IS THE TITLE OF THE 2013-14 SPURS MEDIA GUIDE! DON’T YOU SEE? GREGG POPOVICH IS PACULLA ANNA!

 

CORBIN: Especially concerning for locals: Pop is a part owner of A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, Oregon. Gotta imagine he is bringing some “wine-fueled violence” to the locals there.

 

JOE: HE’S PROBABLY BEEN USING THAT AS A BASE FOR HIS TAKEOVER OF OREGON FOR YEARS! What can the Blazers and the fine people of Newberg do to rid themselves of this sorcery? The Romans were able to crush the debauchery of the Bacchanalia festivals with brutal laws that led to the executions of about 6,000 people, but as for Paculla Anna, it says here: “Paculla’s fate is unknown.” Well, I think we found her. She is the lovably impolite man who sits on the bench for the premier organization in the league.

 

CORBIN: If that’s true, the Dallas Mavericks, who took the Spurs to seven games in the Spurs opening round series would be the Greeks to the Blazers’ Romans. The Mavs were more creative and eccentric and sexually liberal while running the same offense and using a mid-ranging power forward who gives most teams fits. But the Blazers have been more consistent and better organized, and this could make them better at empire building. The Spurs use a lot of different lineups (If anyone ever tells you that a coach “needs his guys” tell them they’re full of shit: Pop uses all different kinds of lineups for all different kinds of reasons and that kind of intellectual flexibility is why he is the best at coaching.). But with Aldridge at power forward, San Antonio has to stay away from Matt Bonner and maybe even Boris Diaw. Tiago Splitter is better than you think he is, but he isn’t their best offensive option.

 

JOE: So in your heart of hearts, do you believe that Aldridge can do what the Roman Empire at its very zenith could not, and destroy Paculla Anna and her wine-fueled violence once and for all?

 

CORBIN: I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. The Rockets were probably as good as the Blazers and they killed Portland in the regular season, but a combination of luck and weird mismanagement on the part of the Rockets gave the series to the Blazers. The Spurs are decisively better than the Blazers and will absolutely not pursue a sub-optimal strategy in trying to beat them. I could imagine Tony Parker spending five games burning the Blazers with picks and giving San Antonio an easy series win. But the Blazers haven’t been overwhelmed by the Spurs in the way other teams have over the last few years. I just can’t bring myself to be like the bearded men in brewpubs across Portland, making up reasons why the Blazers will absolutely win (“The Spurs are old!” Yeah, no shit, buddy, that didn’t stop them from making the finals a year ago.), but I don’t think the Spurs victory is a foregone conclusion.

 

JOE: Also, girdle-measurers used to tailor the size of one’s girdle based on whether or not they thought that person was under a spell from any number of fairies. What effect, if any, do you think that will have on the series?

 

CORBIN: Can’t be good for Mo, whose ability to navigate around a pick is already a problem. If Patty plants some spirits in him, a tighter girdle will leave him out of breath almost immediately. On the plus side, more Earl Watson in this one.

TRAIL BLAZERS VS ROCKETS – SERIES PREVIEW

|
bittersweet-farms-making-pesto-0011

Ed.’s Note: In lieu of a traditional preview, Corbin and I discussed our thoughts on the series as well as our hopes, fears, dreams, aspirations, dreams, hopes, and fears. Also, we are well aware that we did not use the proper spelling of the opponent team’s name or the names of its players, but this is the playoffs and disrespecting opponents’ humanity begins now.

CORBIN: Joe, I gotta say, I am FEELING very good about this series for our trusty Portland Trail Blazers.

 

JOE: Really? I feel good about this series but my feelings should not be trusted. I once believed that Meyers Leonard and J. J. Hickson were a match made in frontcourt heaven (think of the high-lows!). I need you to tell me how crazy I am. I need you to squash my hopes.

 

CORBIN: Well, Joe, normally I would do that. I am a bitter and sad man whose only joys come in the form of old Baseball Prospectuses and seeing the things I love crushed. For instance, I might normally say something like, “The Blazers have a terrible defense, and an especially bad pick and roll defense, one that has been lit up by teams like the Losetown Sock-its, and in fact, the Socks themselves, all year.” But, I dunno, I just have a good FEELING about this one!

 

JOE: I expected you to appease my swirling thoughts with math and reason, but you’re saying that feelings are all you have? Feelings are all I have, Corbin, but I had hopes for you. I thought you were an analyst.

 

CORBIN: I was, until I learned about girls, yessireebob! The old me would have looked at these teams’ regular season matchups: a 116-101 Smocks victory in November, a 111-104 Blazers victory in December, a 126-113 Pet Rocks victory in January, and a “pretty devastating” 118-113 Blazer overtime loss in March, and determined that the Blazers’ crummy defense (107.4 points surrendered per hundred possessions, 22nd in the league) is going to have trouble keeping up with the Lockets’ atomic powered spread screen and roll attack (111 points per hundred possessions, 4th in the NBA.). BUT THE NEW ME is looking at that Damian Lillard guy and saying “Hey, who can guard that dude!?” Now that point guard P-Lick Blurry has been arrested by the NSA!

 

JOE: *imagining P-Lick Blurry being waterboarded in a secret prison until he admits that Damian Lillard didn’t actually touch his face that one time* *also grinning*

 

CORBIN: And hey, the old me might point out that Sugar Land stars Fright High-Fjord and Japes Hard-Ones averaged FIFTY FIVE AND A HALF POINTS against the Blazers this year and that Robin Lopez doesn’t have the horizontal foot speed to guard them on screen and rolls or the strength to cover Delight in post-ups. But the new me, the me that is a hit with the ladies and a friend to all my brosephs, thinks, “Hey that Lames Larden with his, frankly, girly flopping and his ‘shooting into contact’ and ‘gunning for high value shots, like threes and foul shots’ might seem useful to eggheads, but is it really honest? And do people really win sports championships when they’re dishonest? Not to mention that D’Wait How-Weird character–so what if he looked terrific this year after his mishaps in LA? Give me a tough dude who scowls all the time, like that Kendrick Perkins, WHO HAS A RING over some JOKER who “gets an insane number of rebounds” or “blows up pick and rolls” or “blocks shots at the rim.” If he had a winner’s attitude, would he want Kobe to yell at him? Isn’t that how JOBS work? Isn’t Chamber Parsnips a little PRETTY to go all the way?

 

JOE: Sorry I got kinda lost there in the dream of P’Tricky Boo Fairly getting tortured until he admits that he’s evil. In my dream, the prison was in Illinois and Meyers Leonard was there. He was wearing a mask. He was eating an ice cream cone. But anyways, yeah, so the Blazers are gonna win because they represent a more traditional stereotype of masculinity?

 

CORBIN: Absolutely.  Joe, lemme tell you about men. Men win basketball games, and other games. LaMarcus Aldridge is a man. Damian Lillard: Man. Robin Lopez: a longhair, for certain, but still a man. I crunched some numbers, and the Blazers are worth exactly 5 MUPs more than the Grouseton Flock of Kids; that’s Men Ubove Replacement, Joseph.

 

JOE: I think I might be the baseline for a replacement-level man. Last night I got a little choked up at the end of Friday Night Lights and then again during Jurassic Park when the one Velociraptor watched the T-Rex kill the other Velociraptor because Velociraptors just seem to value relationships so much and seeing one left to survive alone just tugs at the heartstrings and–HEY! HOW ABOUT THOSE MATCHUPS HUH? YOU THINK LILLARD HANDLES POLICE BEVERAGE’S PRESSURE? WILL LAMARCUS STRUGGLE AGAINST THOSE STRETCHED FOURS OF HOUSTON?

 

CORBIN: If they can keep from being ground into pesto by the giant spikes on his ass!

 

JOE: Whose ass are we talking about? And are you sure that’s how you make pesto?

 

CORBIN: Yes. That Tear-quince Moans character will get starts when he’s not harassing the local homeless, and he’s been like a -200 against the Blazers because LaMarcus dominates Moans’ small and weak body. Home-Free Castle-Pee also has a small and weak body, but he can shoot threes so he’s more useful than Moans. Cranberry Spittoons, a very handsome young man who starts at their other wing is a dilettante power forward who will get minutes against Aldridge. He would probably be able to get LMA out of his comfort zone by shooting all those threes if threes ever went in, in the playoffs. The Blazers could try to matchup and go small with Dorell Wright, if they decide to adopt the coward lifestyle.

 

JOE: Is there any possibility that the Blazers could convince LaMarcus to play center, thus matching the Rockets small lineups while pulling Howard away from the basket too?

 

CORBIN: No. If LaMarcus plays center even once, I will regard the series as won.

 

JOE: If only the Blazers had another 7-foot athlete with a big body and a pretty jump shot who could bang with D’Right Showered on one end and drag him outside on the other end…

 

CORBIN: Yeah, if only. …wait, what about…

 

CORBIN AND JOE: MEYERS LEONARD!!!!!

 

JOE: WHAT IF HIS WHOLE SEASON HAS BEEN A WAY TO HIDE HIS TRUE PURPOSE AS PLAYOFF SECRET WEAPON AND NOW WE WILL SEE HIM UNVEILED IN ALL OF HIS GLORY?

 

CORBIN: Joe, it’s not a what if, obviously. It’s an “It was.” I mean, Rasheed Wallace would purposely avoid using his post game so that it wouldn’t show up on post-season scouting reports, or that’s what he told people! I can’t believe Meyers sacrificed his regular season stats for the team like this. So brave.

 

JOE: I hope he gets his own flavor of ice cream at Salt and Straw for such courage and I hope it tastes like the sacrificial blood of a virgin.

 

CORBIN: Joe, is it possible that you just want Virgin Blood flavored ice cream?

 

JOE: Enough about me, what role do you see Will Barton playing in this series?

 

CORBIN: Frankly, I think he will shoot lightning bolts of of his fingers and guide the ball into the basket.

 

JOE: Ooooh, I read about that in his Draft Express profile.

 

CORBIN: I am a little worried about Nico Batum assassinating the mayor of Boosieton in the name of French independence from British rule. The Mayor of Boosieton is a member of the Royal Family.

 

JOE: Sorry I don’t see how that’s a concern. What I’m seeing is a girly basketball team inhabited by under-replacement level men in a soon-to-be leaderless dystopia, while the Blazers will have Meyers Leonard shedding his Clark Kent act and Will Barton shooting laser beams from his fingers and LaMarcus making pesto with his ass spikes. I mean, how could the Blazers even lose this series with all of that? My only remaining concern is Mo Williams. This might all hinge on the play of Mo, right?


CORBIN: …you know, I am afraid I don’t know who that is, and I need to get to a Bar Mitzvah and I forgot how to use Basketball Reference altogether. Hella gone! *Jumps out of window*

WEEKLY ROUNDUP: WHAT CINNAMON WOULD DO

|
gunsmoke

HOORAY SCORING, HOORAY HISTORY

Corbin Smith: Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had a career-high 41 Points in a loss to the Kings on Tuesday. Let’s take a look at some other career-high scoring nights in Blazers history:

JANUARY 4TH, 1997: TRAIL BLAZERS 110 – MAVERICKS 104

Future Basketball Hall-of-famer Arvydas Sabonis scored an NBA career-high 33 points as the Blazers took down the Mavs at the Reunion Arena. “Good game, I had a good game, but more importantly, we got the win.” Said Sabas to assembled reporters after the game. “I gotta be honest, I am BUSHED. I can’t wait to go back to the forest, set down my roots, and spend the night in some nice warm soil. Wait. I mean, a bed, and getting sleep and eating human food. I am 100% a human being, not a tree/person hybrid designed by Soviet scientists to be the ultimate energy-sensitive basketball big man. Get out of here! I don’t even speak English! I mean, Aš nekalbu angliškai, gauti šias kameras iš čia!”

MARCH 6TH, 1985: TRAIL BLAZERS 121 – BULLETS 127

New Mexico State product and Trail Blazers rookie point guard Steve Colter went 14 for 20 with 3 three-point shots for a career-high and team-high 35 points in a loss to the Washington Bullets. “Look, I’m just out there trying to do what I need to do to get a win for the team and the fans,” said Colter after the game, “It’s good to have a good game, but when you’re competitive like I am you would rather get the win, for sure. I would also like get a band together, something hardcore punkish, but shorter and a more aggressive, like thrash-y type aggression. Work in some experimental music type stuff. Definitely really political.” In 1990, Colter would meet Claremont, California-based guitarist and tape artist Henry Barnes. Together they formed the legendary powerviolence unit, Man is the Bastard.

Even if the Blazers lost that game, Steve Colter’s dreams on that night came true.

APRIL 9TH, 1982: CLIPPERS 104 – TRAIL BLAZERS 124

Carl Bailey notched his career-high in a blowout win over the San Diego Clippers. After the game he grabbed several reporters. “ALRIGHT EVERYBODY, LISTEN UP” bellowed the big man, “IT’S THE BEGINNING OF THE CARL BAILEY ERA IN PORTLAND. SEE THIS GUY?” He pointed at his seven foot frame, “HE’S THE FRANCHISE NOW, AND HE WILL BE PAID, FED, CAR’D, WOMAN’D AND LOVED LIKE IT.” Carl pumped his fists in the sky. “CARL BAILEY IS A FORCE OF NATURE, A DAMNED HURRICANE, YOU GUYS CAN PRINT ‘DAMN’ IN THE PAPER, RIGHT, A 7 FOOT MONSTER WHO WAS BUILD BY JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF TO DOMINATE ON THE COURT AND IN THE BEDROOM. CARL BAILEY IS BIGGER THAN NAPOLEON AND THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD AND ANDY WARHOL AND HE WILL BE RECKONED WITH.”

Those career high points were, unfortunately, the only two points Carl’s career. He would be waived by the Blazers on June 23rd and not receive another opportunity in the NBA.

INSTAGRAM IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS: MO GOTTI EDITION

Game 36 by @hideokibespoke #freeboosie #s/o2trobforthesocks #dresseddownitsraining #stillgotswag #stayfreshbestdressteam #toomanyhashtags Gotti out

Let our Boosie go.

Behind the scenes of the commercial today. #ripcity

Art is sacrifice.

Get on this now people

Hersey Hawkins sounds the alarm but are you listening?

Me and @damianlillard #gametime #weherenah #thatboygrowingup #hecleantoo

It’s a walk-off.

#49ersnation

#VeinyMuscles&GoldFootballs

SLANTED AND ENCHANTED

Grady O’Brien: In case you don’t know who Stephen Malkmus is–wait, this is a Portland blog, you know who Stephen Malkmus is. Anyway, Malkmus, who has a new album out with his band The Jicks, went on a Grantland podcast not too long ago and used most of the time to talk about the NBA (and his Blazers’ fandom). If you’re a fan of Malkmus and the NBA, this podcast is a dream come true.

Then, Malkmus followed it up by going on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on Monday and playing a couple songs from the new album. During the second performance (a web exclusive), his guitar player is wearing a Blazers hat!

 

THOMAS ROBINSON LAYS WASTE TO ORLANDO

 

reign-of-fire-original

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF PAUL ALLEN: JANUARY 11TH, 2014

Joe Swide:

6 AM: alarm.

6:01 AM: snooze (it’s Saturday).

7:13 AM: arise.

7:49 AM: eat breakfast prepared via elaborate Flubber setup (note: it’s the actual setup from Flubber – money is no object).

8:50 AM: select velvet jacket.

11:47 AM: so much velvet.

12:03 PM: arrive at Century Link Field to walk around during warmups before NFC Divisional Playoff.

12:04 PM: take off velvet jacket because rain and velvet are not friends.

12:05 PM: put on funny hat.

1:40PM-4:00 PM: watch Seahawks defeat New Orleans Saints to advance to NFC Championship.

4:01 PM: take off funny hat and replace with new, Trail Blazer logo’d, funny hat.

4:02 PM: put back on velvet jacket.

4:03 PM: mmm…velvet.

4:11 PM: travel to Portland via underground submarine tunnel.

5:11 PM: send submarine selfie to Patty Mills, “hey Patty! miss u!”

5:12 PM: oh, that Patty Mills, he’s adorable.

6:30 PM: arrive at Moda Center.

6:51 PM: meet date for first time.

6:52 PM: yeah, she’ll do.

7:05 PM-9:45 PM: watch Trail Blazers defeat Celtics.

10:00 PM: write in diary, “Hi haters…” (addressing haters in a personal diary is rather unconventional, to say the least, but who am I to question?)

10:01 PM: “…today I am an emperor…”

10:02 PM: “…Bill Gates can’t even solve global health but I built simultaneous contenders in two major sports with nothing but fists of cash and funny hats. Me, Paul Allen.”

10:03 PM-11:59 PM: dreams of velvet.

LOOK BACK UPON THE ASHES: WE’RE NOT FOR REAL EITHER

|
Ashes_texture

THIS WEEK IN COLD WEATHER

Corbin Smith: It was very cold in the PDX metro area this week. So, here is a look back at Blazers cold weather games of the past:

 

JANUARY 6, 1976: KNICKS 112 – BLAZERS 97

Spencer Haywood scored 26 to lead the Knicks in a winning effort against the hometown Blazers. “We have to credit Red (Holzman) with this victory” said Bill Bradley, who notched 18, in his postgame interview, “When he saw that we would be playing in snow, he went to the tire store and bought studs for our sneakers. The extra traction was definitely the advantage tonight.” Bill Walton, who led the Blazers in scoring with 18, told reporters after the game that he wasn’t used to playing in weather like this. “It’s so sunny in California, I’ve never had to play a game in the snow.”

(http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/197601060POR.html)

 

FEBRUARY 3, 1984: BUCKS 110 – BLAZERS 116

Calvin Natt notched 32 Points as the Blazers edged out the Bucks at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Natt credited his performance with his Alaskan upbringing: “Playing in the snow, it ain’t no thing,” said Natt to gathered reporters after the game, “Back home in Anchorage, we all love basketball so much, you see it’s snowing, you get your friends together, you set up the 9 foot hoop at the frozen pond, and you just play for love of the game.”

(http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/198402030POR.html)

 

DECEMBER 29, 1991: HEAT 96 – BLAZERS 129

Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, scored 22 points to lead the Blazers in a blowout victory against the visiting Miami Heat, but credit for the win goes to backcourt partner Terry Porter, who spent the night building and rebuilding snowmen to act as screeners against the Miami defenders. “I’m just trying to take any advantage the game will give us” said Porter in his postgame comments “Back at Wisconsin-Stevens, coach would start every practice by having us build 20 snowmen. You don’t think a little fundamental thing like that is going to help, until you see your defender fall over one on the snow and roll.”

(http://www.basketball-reference.com/boxscores/199112290POR.html)

 

SADNESS ON THE LARGEST SCALE

 

YES THAT IS WHAT TOM COVERDALE LOOKS LIKE NOW

Jack Ward: Top 5 headlines I would have believed more had I read them instead of “Blazers’ Joel Freeland, Luke Babbitt “Exchanged Blows” During March Practice” last year.

 

1. “Nolan Smith Wows Coaches With First Triple Double”

2. “Jared Jeffries Begs Coaches To Let Tom Coverdale Join Blazers: ‘He’s In Best Shape Of His Career‘ Jeffries Pleads”

3. “Reigning Western Conference Player Of The Month Will Barton Vows: ‘Keep Grinding'”

4. :”The Price Is Right For Ronnie, Hitting Career-High 8 3-Pointers In Win Vs. Spurs”

5. Sasha Pavlovic Wins 2013 People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Of The Year”

(Ed.’s note: as far as I know, the voting for that award is not yet closed.)

 

BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT

Joe Swide: Some lovely quotes from Chris Haynes’s piece about the Freeland-Babbitt fight, with annotations in italics.

LaMarcus Aldridge: “Joel is probably the toughest European player that I’ve played against.”

LaMarcus uses the most worldly definition “European” here, encompassing the British Isles and not simply defining Europe as the people of the continent, and the western half of the continent at that. Either that or he’s from Texas and thinks that anyone who can’t recite the menu of Pappadeaux must be one of them “Eur-o-PEE-ans.”

 

Aldridge: “I never questioned his toughness at all. He’s just getting a chance to show it now.”

When Joel first arrived in Portland, he went straight to Aldridge and Freeland produced a homemade knife and silently, without a flinch, carved the Blazers’ pinwheel logo into his arm.

 

Aldridge: “Yeah, you don’t want to mess with Joel.”

Just don’t.

 

Joel Freeland: “You can’t back down to anyone in this league.”

It’s like prison. Kill the biggest guy. Make someone your bitch.

 

Freeland: “That’s the way I’ve been always brought up and that’s the way I’ve always lived.”

Joel treats everything in his life like prison. Even when he was a kid. Even pre-school. Kill the biggest guy. Make someone your bitch.

 

Freeland: “I’ve always played the same way but maybe I wasn’t being as a aggressive as I should have. I’ve always played tough. I’ve never shied away from contact. I wouldn’t put it down to that one incident but I’m just getting comfortable in my place.”

I would question the “always played the same way” remark but like LaMarcus, I know not to mess with Joel Freeland. He showed me the necklace that he made out of Luke Babbitt’s teeth. I need my teeth.

 

Freeland: “I’m not trying to come into the league and suddenly think I’m a tough.”

It’s how Joel lives your life. Kill the biggest guy. Make someone your bitch. So we’ve heard.

 

Freeland: “I’m just getting back to playing how I like to play.”

He’s talking about growing his reign by violence.

 

Freeland: “I know how to stay under control when I need to.”

There’s a time to kill.

 

Freeland: “A game is one thing but if something like that happened somewhere else, it’s another situation.”

He’s saying that he’ll kill you.

 

A TESTAMENT OF YOUTH

Grady O’Brien: We’re suckers for lists, aren’t we? That’s why ESPN frequently rolls these things out. Power Rankings, Future Power Rankings, Bill Cowher Rankings (ok, I’m just riffing at this point). But we’re inundated.

ESPN’s latest is the NBA 25 under 25, which details the best 25 players under 25 years of age. See what they did there?

On this list, Nic Batum ranks 16th. And when I saw this I was astonished! But not for the his rank, necessarily–I’m not going to trifle with the rating system, I’m a human with a few better things to do. No, I was more surprised by another number.

24.

Nic Batum is as old as I am.

This opened up a flood of questions. How is this guy who is in his 6th NBA season and has played 350 games only 24? Doesn’t it seem like he should be much older? Does Nic like the same things I do as a 24 year-old, namely chocolate and watching himself play basketball? Would Nic hang out with me? Would he be mean to me? Is he thinking about me right now? Probably not, right? Maybe?

Anyway, we spend so much time dissecting every action, every stat, every quote from these NBA guys, but often forget that they’re just young people, like we are (or once were). And in Nic’s case, there are plenty of people I’ve wanted to nut-check on live TV, Spanish or otherwise.

I guess what I’m ultimately saying is I wish Nic Batum would hang out with me. Holla at me, dawg.

 

DEMOCRACY REQUIRES AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY

The early returns on Western Conference All-Star voting:

FRONTCOURT:

1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 607,407
2. Dwight Howard (Hou) 295,120
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 292,925
4. Kevin Love (Min) 275,506
5. Tim Duncan (SA) 217,271
6. Anthony Davis (NO) 149,579
7. Pau Gasol (LAL) 133,199
8. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 132,818 
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 109,745
10. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 89,093
11. Chandler Parsons (Hou) 77,179
12. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 60,923
13. David Lee (GS) 60,015
14. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 55,023
15. Omer Asik (Hou) 53,827

 

Backcourt:

1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 501,215
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 393,313
3. Stephen Curry (GS) 327,449
4. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 240,404
5. James Harden (Hou) 198,667
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 149,065
7. Tony Parker (SA) 112,423
8. Ricky Rubio (Min) 63,096
9. Steve Nash (LAL) 60,782
10. Damian Lillard (Por) 55,847

 

FOR REAL

 

#4BARFRIDAY

Smith:

Ungh, the Deamon Lillard bloods and guts of Angels spillard

The devil is calling “Dame burn these fake killers”

Then Dame turns around, says “Fuck you clown”

And stabs Satan then buries him underground

 

Bill Walton kicks back in a beach cabana

says “Honey do we have any bananas?”

Lori says no, better go to the store

Bill rides his bike there, to get car-di-o

 

Wesley Matthews, tending to his garden

Pulling a weed “Damn, this is a hard one”

Gets out his spade, “It’s time for pain”

Throws it in the compost, he’s got a hot one.

(“Hot composting” is a method of composting that kills weed seeds. It involves frequently turning your compost and specialized heat producing enzymes. It’s a pretty expensive setup, but Wes is a rich man and a lover of gardening. He could afford the equipment.)

 

Nicholas Batum, Sitting in a room,

Drinkin’ brews, watching cartoons

“Shit! John Carter of Mars is on”

“Time to join my friends in Barsoom”

LOOK BACK UPON THE ASHES: WE’RE USED TO VIOLENCE

|
Burnt_Forest_2_(8548402955)
This is the first post in what will be a recurring weekly wrap-up series titled Look Back Upon The Ashes because a trail has been “blazed” and the Blazers’ offense is like a dragon scorching everything in its path and whatever, you get the idea.

MIKE RICE FAN FICTION

Lance Stephenson walks towards the sideline and slams his fists in frustration on the table in front of Mike Rice and Mike Barrett, causing Rice to say, “I’m used to violence. I’m from Detroit.”

That actually happened, but Rice continued:

“I can remember a cold day in 1949, when my neighbor Tommy O’Malley and I were playing knucklebones — what you call ‘jacks’ nowadays — in the living room of my family’s house. Tommy accused me of cheating, saying that I was picking up the knucklebones after the ball had already bounced a second time. So I did what any true competitor would do. I smashed my bottle of Faygo root beer against the wall and swung the jagged, broken end at Tommy’s neck. Tommy dodged my lunge and sprinted out of the house, but I chased after him until he slipped on the icy steps of our front porch and fell onto the snow-covered grass. Like a lion with Przyzbillian focus, I leapt on top of him and thrust the shards of glass — still glistening with droplets of root beer — repeatedly into his soft flesh until he finally lay still, bloodied and unconscious. I’ll never forget the sight of his warm blood dripping from his abdomen onto the fresh white snow. I left him there — this was Detroit, after all — and went back inside the house to finish the game. Tommy was right. I had been cheating. But I still won. It’s one of my fondest childhood memories of Christmas.”

Careful where you slam your fists, Lance Stephenson. You may not get them back.

 

WE’RE JUST HAPPY TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVE FRIENDS

 

A LETTER FROM A FARAWAY LAND THAT ISN’T THE EASTERN CONFERENCE

Grady O’Brien: I just moved to a very small town in North Carolina. I mean a very small town. Like, the population density of this place is greater than the actual population (do the math). I think I could pay my rent in Confederate money and not turn any heads.

Now, with this small town living comes advantages (low rent, peaceful neighborhood), but also setbacks. I lived my first four days there without internet before the Time Warner people were able to arrange a visit. I know, I know, four days of unglamorous, off-the-grid, roughing it. It was excruciating.

It was made all the more difficult on Monday when I had to follow the Pacers/Blazers thriller through only tweets and the NBA Game Time app (I still had my smartphone, I’m not a heathen). Based on the razor-thin sliver of the NBA internet I was able to follow on Monday (the majority of which was our editor’s twitter feed), I assume this was the single greatest sporting event to have ever taken place. Basically it was every March Madness buzzer beater crossed with that one old football game with Kathy Lee Gifford’s husband. I assume that when the game was over, all the players agreed to give up any further playing of basketball because they had reached true enlightenment and the pinnacle of human fulfillment.

Meanwhile, I watched “Ocean’s Twelve” for like the ninth time.

I have internet again and therefore LeaguePass. But I’m wondering whether it’s even worth it to continue following basketball this season, now that I missed the NBA game equivalent of the Taj Mahal and the Hagia Sophia and KFC/Taco Bell all fused into one. We’ll see.

[Ed.’s note: special thanks to Confederate stamps for making Grady’s letter possible.]

 

WE READ THE DICTIONARY BECAUSE WE VALUE ITS OPINION

soft / sôft / adj.

1. a noted aversion to touching other human beings in an aggressive manner, resulting in subpar defense, low rebounding relative to positional expectation, and a lack of shots around the basket.

2. perceived by fans to be ill-equipped for long-term survival in hypothetical league-wide bare-knuckle boxing tournament.

3. if locked in prison, would presumably steal spoons from cafeteria to make into lovely commemorative silverware with ornate detailing on handle to send as gifts to relatives, instead of whittling into shanks.

4. can recite names of all Santa’s reindeer.

5. regularly strolls through local pet store to look upon cute animals and imagines potential life together (even with the fish [especially with the fish]).

6. is not LaMarcus Aldridge.

 

BATUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUM

 

SAID DAMIAN TO THE WESTBROOK

Keep talking though, Russell.

 

WILL BARTON’S FIRST CONCERT, AN INSTAGRAMANOVELA

Drake #pdx
A star descends into the Theater of the Clouds with blinding glory and irresistible seduction.
Me and the homie @dwrightway
Melange abounds when a bench flexes.
Joel and I posted at the Drake concert. #Worsttt
A window into a Briton’s interior reveals an alien skeleton.
#Drizzy
Ego feels smaller than expectation, but an empty cup feels smaller than everything.
Me & drizzy after the show. Cool dude talked to him & his dad they say they remember me from my days getting buckets at the University of Memphis. #poweron
An empty cup learns the meaning of “Turnt.”

Former Lives: The Once-Blazer Playoff Rankings

|

The conference finals are three-quarters set and there will no doubt be more compelling basketball to come. While the 15 players on the Blazers’ roster this season weren’t able to make the playoffs, 19 former Blazers were part of teams that did participate. Here are the rankings of how these Blazers of yore have fared in the postseason.

The Old, Washed-Up Big Man Category

Juwan Howard, PF, Miami Heat

Yeah, he’s still in the league. I’m as surprised as you are.

Joel Przybilla, C, Milwaukee Bucks

Didn’t play much during the year and logged 0 minutes in the Bucks’ short-lived playoff venture.

Kurt Thomas, PF, New York Knicks

Rasheed Wallace, C, New York Knicks

Earl Barron, C, New York Knicks

Wow, the Knicks are putting together an awesome 2002 big man rotation. These guys have been solely working on their suit game this postseason.

The Slightly Less Old, Washed-Up Big Man Category

Marcus Camby, C, New York Knicks

Shavlik Randolph, PF, Boston Celtics

These guys have both played exactly 3 minutes in the playoffs. Again, is there an early 2000s quality big man the Knicks don’t have? What’s Elden Campbell up to? Is there still time to sign Scott Pollard?

Actual Guys

12. Hasheem Thabeet, C, Oklahoma City Thunder

Thabeet was basically the most unplayable Thunder big not named Perkins. Final tally: 26 minutes, -0.8 PER.

11. Jeff Pendergraph, PF, Indiana Pacers

Pendergraph graces the worst bench currently in the playoffs. He’s played 66 minutes, shot 7 for 22, and has as many fouls as rebounds. Take a seat, Jeff.

10. Patty Mills, PG, San Antonio Spurs

Mills plays exclusively in garbage time, but isn’t terrible when he does. Still, to be any higher you’d have to be able to beat out Cory Joseph for rotation minutes. 

9. Steve Blake, PG, Los Angeles Lakers

He got hurt. But, man, if he hadn’t, the Lakers still would have gotten swept. 

8. Anthony Tolliver, SF, Atlanta Hawks

Played 11.3 minutes per game and appeared in all 6 games for the Hawks. Shot 63.6 percent from 3, which is kind of crazy.

7. Jerryd Bayless, PG, Memphis Grizzlies

Bayless is supposed to be the Jarrett Jack of the Grizzlies, except he isn’t as good as Jack. He’s shooting 36.3 percent overall and 32.6 percent from 3. He’s also not a strong defender unlike most of the Grizzlies. Still, he’s an important rotation piece for a Western Conference finalist. 

6. Jamal Crawford, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

He was unconscious (in the good way) in game 2 against the Grizzlies. He was unconscious (in the bad way) for the rest of that series.

5. Gerald Wallace, SF, Brooklyn Nets

Wallace played so well that he completely justified the trade that ultimately led to Portland drafting Damian Lillard! Ok, not actually, but he rebounded decently and finally made some shots.

4. Andre Miller, PG, Denver Nuggets

Miller had the game-winning layup in game 1 and continued to be a go-to source of offensive creation for the Nuggets. Unfortunately, his defense on Steph Curry was woeful and thus the Nuggets were ousted in the first round.

3. Raymond Felton, PG, New York Knicks

Felton may be keeping it 100 in life, but he’s keeping it 3rd in these rankings. He’s not shooting all that well, but has barely been turning it over. Plus, he’s been an important part of the Knicks’ high-powered, 3-point happy offense all season, running pick-and-rolls and attacking the basket. 

2. Jarrett Jack, SG, Golden State Warriors

Jack can be frustrating due to limited court vision, which often leads to him missing Steph Curry or Klay Thompson open on the wings. He was also atrocious on defense at times. However, Jack is a great mid-range shooter and a guy who created offense when the effects of Steph Curry’s ankle injury started to show. 

1. Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis Grizzlies

Randolph has been doing his thing, creating space under the basket and rebounding very well. He was able to beat up most of the defenders the Thunder put on him. It will be incredibly fun to watch Randolph and Marc Gasol battle against Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter in the next round. 

The Offseason

|

I do think the Blazers should acquire Blake Griffin. Great idea, Neil!

The NBA playoffs are raging on, creating nightly excitement for fans across the country. For 22 teams, however, the offseason has begun. This means that personnel decisions are right around the corner and scrutiny over every contract and cap move will be cast.

It’s hard to imagine anybody being busier during this period than my good friend Neil Olshey. Portland has 8 players that are going to be free agents or subject to team options. I’ve decided to give Neil a little help by offering my takes on how to handle some of these moves. Of course tons of information and details go into these choices that are beyond my particular pay grade (available trades and players, the handling of the draft, long-term plans, rumors, etc.), but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer the most humble of opinions.

Note: For salary comparisons and value measures, I relied heavily on basketball-reference’s win shares. 

J.J. Hickson

Hickson is an unrestricted free agent and the centerpiece of the Blazers’ offseason. We know what he does well. Hickson is a beast of a rebounder and has developed an effective offensive game with a true shooting percentage of 59.1 and a better mid-range game. However, he is bad defensively and probably playing out of position in Portland. 

Hickson’s per game numbers were impressive with 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds, something other GMs are bound to notice. Basketball-reference credited him with 6.9 win shares, though the 2.3 of those that came from defense are probably overstating his impact. However, it seems like he could be in the same boat as Nikola Pekovic this offseason and could draw somewhere between 8 and 10 million dollars per year. 

Verdict: Hickson just doesn’t fit in any long-term plan for the Blazers. They need a center that can make a defensive impact. You can read here for some thoughts on who could potentially fill that role. It’s nice that Hickson might get paid in the offseason, but I just don’t think it should be by Portland. 

Eric Maynor

Maynor is a restricted free agent whose qualifying offer stands at $3.4 million. Maynor was a nice mid-season addition, taking some of the playmaking responsibility off of Damian Lillard while also being able to play along side him. He shot 38 percent from 3 in Portland, which bodes well for the 2 point guard lineups.

Maynor was good for 0.2 win shares and while that isn’t great, I think he’ll look better with more time in Portland. Plus, at 25 years old he already constitutes a solid backup and a noticeable upgrade over Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price.

Verdict: It’s hard to say whether someone will try to sign him to an offer sheet, but the qualifying offer seems fair to me. 

Luke Babbitt

How could you not bring back a guy who tied for 14th in 6th Man of the Year voting? In all seriousness, Babbitt is only 23 and is a career 36.7 percent shooter on 3-pointers. That’s only a little above average, but perhaps with a more consistent role he’ll be able to bring that percentage up. Additionally, Babbitt won’t really turn the ball over and could potentially be at least an average defensive rebounder. 

Verdict: At 0.7 win shares, Babbitt was one of the few bench players who was actually in the black. The $1.8 million he’s getting now might be a bit much, but hopefully there’s room for improvement. I would suggest bringing him back on a short, low-figure deal.

Jared Jeffries

Jeffries had no offensive value this season and was an average rebounder. He’s 31 years old and created 0.1 defensive win shares (-0.3 overall) last year while costing $1.4 million. This seems bad until you realize that Tyrus Thomas did the same thing for $8 million in Charlotte.

Verdict: The Blazers can find 0.1 defensive win shares for less than $1 million dollars, so I’d let Jeffries go and find somebody else to be the fifth big man.

Sasha Pavlovic 

Pavlovic was somewhat of a human white flag last season. He only appeared in 39 games and averaged around 13 minutes per game. He shot badly, but didn’t use very many possessions. 

Verdict: The team option on Pavlovic is for $1.4 million and considering he created as much value as guys like Kent Bazemore and E’Twaun Moore, I don’t think the Blazers should exercise that option.

Elliot Williams

Williams is a tough call due to the injuries. However, he is only 23 and a great athlete. In his one season of action he showed that, while he might not have much range, he can shoot well inside the arc and not cough up the ball. Plus, his athleticism means he has some defensive potential.

Verdict: It’s too early for me to rule him out. If Portland can bring him back at around or below the $1.4 million they paid him this past season, I would do it. 

Nolan Smith

I’m afraid he’s destined for the D-league. He hasn’t shot well (43.5 true shooting percentage) or shown an ability to create offense and played his way out of the Blazers’ bench rotation, which is saying something. Overall he was worth -0.5 win shares last season. Yes, negative.

Verdict: Hate to say it, but they probably should let him go.

Ronnie Price

Price was only slightly better than Smith (-0.2 win shares) and is five years older.

Verdict: Sorry, Ronnie.

Shawne Williams

Who?

Verdict: What are we going to do with all this extra cash?

Salary information courtesy hoopshype.com

The Good, The Bad, and The What?

|

There will be plenty of places for Blazers’ fans to turn for season retrospectives. They will no doubt be well thought out and written. In order not to pile on, I’ve decided to take a different approach to looking back at the 2012-2013 year. I compiled a few quick hits about things that were good this season, things that were bad, and things that just made me turn my head.

The Good: J.J. Hickson’s Mid-Range Game

This was a very pleasant development for the Blazers. Normally a guy who did most of his damage on put-backs or feeds close to the rim, Hickson showed he was able to step away and make a defense remain honest. Hickson hit 47.3 percent of his shots from outside of the paint while launching 146 attempts. Often Stotts would call a down screen for J.J. as an opening game play. Again, this is a radical improvement after Hickson shot no better than 30.5 percent from this range in the previous 3 years. In fact, he shot an abysmal 30 percent on 305 outside-the-paint shots in the 2010-2011 season with Cleveland. 

Going forward this might not mean much if the Blazers don’t bring Hickson back, but it was nice to see during the season.

The Bad: Jared Jeffries, Net Rating King

Who had the best net rating of all Blazers’ players? None other than Jared Jeffries.

Unfortunately, this warns us of the perils of this stat in individual funky samples because Jeffries was not actually good. He shot 29.6 percent from the floor and only converted 3 shots outside of the paint. He averaged 5 points per 40 minutes and was not very good on defense, getting torched by opposing bigs. Despite this he somehow was plus-2.8 in net rating. 

The What?: Luke Babbitt’s 6th Man Vote

I know that all the possible jokes have been made about this, but it still is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. A team that had one of the worst benches in recent memory somehow garnered a 6th Man vote. And it wasn’t even one of the arguably decent players.

Babbitt is a specialist to end all specialists. He shot 76 percent of his attempts from 3-point land and only converted at a 34.8 percent clip. This is below the league average (36 percent). Per 40 minutes he jacked 9.8 three pointers, second only to Carlos Delfino of players that played 60 games. 

Even if he had played well, he saw under 12 minutes of action per game and missed 20 games due to Coach’s Decision. I mean, Babbitt took 13 free throws for the entire year! Go home, 6th Man voter, you’re drunk.

The Good: The Playmakers

Going forward it’s good to know that Portland has 3 legitimate sources of offense. LaMarcus Aldridge is a rock and will always be able to loft jumpers over even the lankiest of opponents. Damian Lillard has shown incredible poise and scoring ability for a rookie. 

The encouraging development is Nic Batum, who has set himself apart as a great shooter and shot creator for others. His assist rate was 24.1 this year, almost double the average for forwards in the league and a huge improvement from previous seasons. Combine this ability with his 37.2 percent mark from 3 where he is good off the catch and in handoff situations and he has made himself into a dangerous wing option. For a guy who gets heralded for defensive potential, he will have a prominent role in the creation of offense for the Blazers in the future

The Bad: April Sours

It was a bad last month for the Blazers. They dropped their final 13 games and often didn’t look competitive. On the bright side, there was plenty of time for the young guys to get minutes, which is important on a team that is begging for depth. However, the defense gave up 113.3 points per 100 possessions, which is disastrous. 

The What?: On the Shoulders’ of Starters

Three teams had a lineup that played over 1,000 minutes this year. It comes as o surprise that the Blazers were one of them.

The question I have is whether this is a good thing or not. Lillard led the league in minutes and, along with Aldridge and Batum, was in the top 10 in minutes per game. These guys will have some rest over the summer, but I wonder if the heavy use will have any effects on this group next season, especially the rookie Lillard. 

The other concern is that, while relative to the other Portland lineups this group looked good, it didn’t perform well overall. The other 1,000 minute lineups (the starters for the Thunder and Pacers) were standout groups and warranted such heavy playing time. The Blazers’ starters, in contrast, had a minus-2.0 net rating and had particular trouble rebounding. 

The good news is that it was a pretty decent offensive group and the extended minutes together might mean better chemistry next season when most of these guys return.