Watch Westbrook get a fast break dunk to end the first half. Over and over. Rub your face in it. Let’s its horror fill your face, in your mouth and your nose and your pores. Every line of your face, caked with the Blazers ignoring Westbrook leaking out after a make and topping the giant, disgusting prune cake of a first half he had with a cherry, then spitting all over the cake and throwing it into the Blazers’ faces.

The widespread game plan for stopping Westbrook during this time when he is playing without Durant will be doubling down on packing the paint and making him take jump shots. The Blazers do this anyway: Lopez drops back to the rim on pick and rolls to protect the rim and get solid get contests, blah blah blah, you know already. The Thunder came into the game knowing this, and did something different. Instead of having him dribble penetrate into the broader defense, they set Westbrook right at Lillard, sticking him in the post and running him off baseline cuts for scores at the rim and foul shots (Westbrook took a lot of foul shots, and he earned most of them). And because he is bigger and faster than Lillard, it worked. He went on an insane rampage in the first half, setting a pace to break his own career high and fulfill the prophecy of every frustrated guy in a dress shirt standing around a water cooler and saying “With Durant out, Westbrook is gonna go wild, man.”

It didn’t help that the Blazers were not good in the first half. Lillard didn’t score, at all. Batum also didn’t score, but that was not as weird because it’s fairly characteristic. Aldridge and Matthews and Chris Kaman, in his first game in a Blazer smock, played pretty well, keeping Westbrook from personally running away with the game.

Thankfully, it was an unsustainable shittiness. Lillard and Batum shot better in the second half. Batum shifted onto Westbrook and cooled him enough that he didn’t manage his career high like everyone assumed he would after the first half. The Blazers evened the game up in the third, pulled away in the fourth and went on a run that induced garbage time minutes by the end of the game. A game that seemed like it was a clusterfuck in the beginning was actually 17 point win against a colossally understaffed opponent, it just didn’t really reveal itself until the end. Cleanse Westbrook’s shoddily defended fast break dunk from your mind. It’s over now, it never really existed. Batum serving up a tasty dish to LMA on the fast break was all that happened. The bad man is gone, he didn’t manage to personally tear the Blazers limb from limb as we feared.




-This shot was a LaMarcus Aldridge three he made while trailing on the fast break, assisted by Wesley Matthews. It was the only three he took, but oh man, it was a hell of a three. I will believe that LaMarcus is shooting threes on the regular when I see LaMarcus shooting threes on the regular. But my lil’ heart had itself a little giggle when I saw him drill a trailer like it was the most normal thing in the world.

-Kaman looks pretty good. He made a sweet postuppy turnaround in the first, a slick move he learned while observing a fish, fighting for its life at the end of his line. Steve Blake was good tonight. He also had a really sweet encouraging shoulder grab after Lillard made a difficult three pointer to haul himself out of his first half shitdrums. They do studies on these things, physical contact among basketball players is a good sign. Blake played with Steve Nash, the king of physical contact, and he’s bringing that touchy-feeliness to the Blazers. By the time these guys are in the playoffs, there’s gonna be a nightly hug line. Physical manifestations of connectins that run deeper than the ocean.  I am sure Kaman And Blake will reveal themselves as irritating or somehow incomplete and frustrating as time marches on, but right now I am just happy they are competent bench players.

-Playing rotation minutes tonight: Starters, Blake, Kaman, McColloumn. Wright and Freeland both played before Garbage time, but only 3-4 minutes. Is Terry going to keep this short rotation thing going?

-The Thunder started Steven Adams. They are moving away from Perkins. A nation of people rooting against the Thunder weep for this new found common sense.

-I missed some of the beginning of the third quarter because I was watching the end of the World Series. If I missed something really important during that time, please leave a message before. I know you expect better from your bloggers, and I subcame to the fast living sexual lifestyle of baseball’s erotic touch.



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(Jason drew and colored this picture.)



Hello there, everyone! My name is Schrunk the Salmon! I am a Salmon who LOVES the Portland Trail Blazers! Every winter, I swim upstream, back from my summer home in the Pacific, so I can sit in the Willamette River, right underneath the MAX Bridge, and be close to the action! I watch every game on a TV I have underneath the water! That’s right, there’s a TV in the water! It has cable, too! As you can see, I am wearing a VERY Jaunty top hat, because I am CELEBRATING the beginning of another season of TRAIL BLAZER BASKETBALL! Normally I wear a cookskin cap, like this…


…because I am a pioneering salmon who loves adventure! Here are some of the place I have been this summer, telling everyone about how much I LOVE the Portland Trail Blazers!



schrunk picture three

First, I went to TOKYO, JAPAN! I even managed to take in a YOMIYURI GIANTS GAME!

I rooted for the GIANTS, because A. I ALWAYS root for the home team (Unless they’re playing THE BLAZERS! and B. They were playing the Hiroshima Carp, and lord knows a self respecting SALMON OF THE MIGHTY OCEAN isn’t going to cap up for an organization who aligns themselves with a crummy fish like THE CARP!

Everyone in Japan was talking about the Blazers. There is not larger nation of Blazermaniacs than the Land of 6,852 Islands. Banners in every storefront. The name “LaMarcus Aldridge” on every man, woman and child’s tongue. A cartoon rendering of Damian Lillard, dressed in a sharp black tuxedo hopped from video billboard to video billboard, selling a popular brand of luxury ramen. A series of popular skin cream commercials starring Meyers Leonard.

The Blazers are SO POPULAR in Japan that they were in the middle of a HOT POLITICAL TORRENTIAL STORM while I was there! Prime minister Shinzō Abe, in a press conference, said that he was going to “Dunk on economic stagnation, like Blake Griffin, the best power forward in the NBA!” Of course, a country full of Rip City loyal wasn’t going to take that sitting down! His office was flooded with calls, protesters lined the street, bomb threats were called in untll the Minister appeared to the media and apologized: “My deepest regrets regarding my comments on Wednesday. LMA is way better than Blake, obviously. Everyone knows it. It was a slip of my tongue.”




The people there said things like “Blimey, I never seen such a sight like a talkin salmon? An what is a Portlan’ Tral Blazer, exactly?” I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying! Australian is such a funny language! I didn’t manage to see any boomerangs, unfortunately!

Here’s hoping the Blazer’s wings, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum, have BOOMERANG seasons, running back and forth on the court, knocking opposing kangaroos out of the game and bringing home the wallabee meat from the corners and the wings!

Will the Blazers go DOWN UNDER to LaMarcus this year? I submit: only if they want to win basketball games!

Will the Blazers leave the PRISON COLONY of the middle of the playoff pack and join the UNITED NATIONS of genuine championship contention? Only if some of their young bench players take a leap forward and provide enough depth to keep the starters rested and ready for a playoff run!


Then off to Alaska, to visit my family! But on the way there, I ran into a SCARY ORCA!

I saw him before he saw me. I swam left! I swam right! I swam up and down! But right before he was about to devour my soft pink flesh, he stopped! “Hey,” he said, in the internspecies language of all sea creatures, “Aren’t you Schrunk the Salmon, the beloved and rightful mascot of the Portland Trail Blazers?”

“Why yes, I am!”

“Oh man,” said the Orca, “I LOVE THE BLAZERS. My favorite player is Damian Lillard. That guy has nerves of steel. Do you think he can go to the next level this year?”

“Well,” I said, relieved that my life had been saved by the Blazers once again, “He came into the league when he was a little older, so the idea that he is going to DRASTICALLY improve is balderdash! But if he can improve his defense, he might be on of the best point guards in the league this season!”

“Food for thought!” Said the Orca. “I’m not really a stats guy, I mostly just watch the games. But I respect where guys like you come from on that. Anyway, I better go! I need to kill and eat something today, or I’ll starve to death!

Then to the Alaskan Coast, to see my family!


You know what it’s like, hanging out with your family after nine whole months away, they have so many questions and opinions and whatnot!

“Schrunk,” they say, “How are the Blazers going to do this year?”

“Hey Schrunk, you gotta do something about that Blazer defense! We’re never taking the chip without a top ten D!”

“Brother Schrunk, what is Lamarcus Aldridge REALLY like? Is he really as cool a customer as he seems when he is drilling those 15 foot jump shots?”

“Schrunk, Sweetie, when are you going to finally settle down and spawn?”

Geez mom, this is embarrassing! I haven’t encountered the right pile of eggs sitting in gravel yet! Besides, I ain’t spawning until the Blazer take home that ring. I am a FULL TIME FAN, can’t be wastin’ precious daylight trying to explain the glory and power of the trail blazers a bunch of fertilized eggs!

“Hey, Son, does Rasheed Wallace still play for the Blazers?” (No, dad, that was like, 15 years ago! Dad is more of a baseball fan)

“You know, Schrunk, I remember when Bill Walton was on the Blazers. He would throw an outlet pass that should strip your scales right off!”

It was great traveling around the world, meeting new friends and reconnecting with old ones, discovering new cultures and narrowly escaping escaping death because I am a minor celebrity. But, as Mark Twain once said: “Home is where the heart is, and my heart, Mark Twain’s heart, is sitting right in front of the ol’ television at seven o’clock on a Wednesday night, ready to watch my Portland Trail Blazers, once again, that’s me, Mark Twain, the Blazers are my team, either whoop on some sad ass opponent or get swindled out of a game by referees, who are the scum of the earth. If the Blazers don’t win the title this year, it had nothing to do with their ability or determination, it will be because of a conspiracy to keep the out of the finals, just because they are Mark Twain’s preferred team, once again, I am Mark Twain.”


So I’m back, and ready to CHEER ON THE ONLY TEAM THAT MATTERS, from Toyko to Portland to all the oceans of the world: THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS! GO BLAZERS!



This post is PERFECT if you don’t know what players are on the Blazers:

(Presented in alphabetical order)


WHO IS HE? The starting power forward on the Portland Trail Blazers. The team’s leader in points, rebounds, and usage rate. Good in the post and from midrange, which are regarded by a certain type of basketball analyst as “The Dinosaur Zones.” Calm and serene like an ocean.



IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR EXPERIENCING HIS GAME: I once set up his PhantomCam highlights to “You Are Wherever Your Thoughts Are” by Steve Reich and it was a very moving moment.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: He is as good as he was last year, but some of the long twos turn into threes and kick up his true shooting percentage. Also becomes magically comfortable with playing center and allows the Blazers to send out offensive lineups that turn opposing defenses into the final act of Days of Heaven.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON (Barring a catastrophic injury): Slightly worse than he was last year, in a “we are not in the slow decline phase,” sort of way. I have a hard time believing anything is going to change too dramatically this late in the game.


WHO IS HE: Helter skelter bench wing with some oddball ball handling skills. “Has a lot of potential.” An aesthetic joy.


NICKNAMES: “Will the Thrill” “The People’s Champ” “The Memphis Strike Jet” “The Flying Headband” “Willions Barton”

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Becomes a consistent rotation player by:

OPTION ONE: Shooting threes at a 35ish percent clip and playing good defense.

AND/OR OPTION TWO: Working as a as a secondary ballhandling option in bench units.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Rides pine, taunting people with occasional displays of fist pump inspiring magic.


WHO IS HE: A do-many-things-well small forward from France.



IS HE WORLDLY?: This summer he went to: Brazil, China, Taiwan, Paris and the G-8 Summit, flew in a helicopter over some goddamn crater, AND was First-Team All-FIBA World Cup. Meanwhile, AT BEST, you went to Multnomah Falls.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: God, what a loaded question. A certain type of person would say “Be more consistent,” but inconsistency is, as with his fellow countryman Boris Diaw, an essential part of Batum’s makeup. Not forcing things is at the core of what Batum does night to night. I would trend more towards “Becomes a more significant defensive presence in addition to all the other stuff he does.”

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Has an existential crisis and refuses to leave the bench. Starts writing very bad poetry about meaninglessness.



WHO IS HE: Your stepdad.


 BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Relegated to respectable fourth guard when McCollum and Barton have breakout seasons.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Plays entirely too often with way too many responsibilities. Takes Lillard’s starting spot somehow.


WHO IS HE: A European guy who played for the Blazers for three years and never got off the bench.


NO, SERIOUSLY, WHO IS HE? I don’t know, for real. I think saw him hit threes once. He plays for the Spanish National Team, too, and I have watched a lot of their games and can’t think of anything he did.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: He plays basketball for the Blazers in a NBA stadium during an NBA Game.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Gets waived and picked up by the Spurs, where he wins Finals MVP.



WHO IS HE? A guy who shoots threes, probably.


HAHA CRABBE, LIKE THE SEAFOOD. DOES HE HAVE ANYTHING IN COMMON WITH CRABS? No. I guess his arms are long. Do crabs have long arms or is that lobsters?

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: He plays basketball for the Blazers in a NBA stadium during an NBA Game.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Gets waived and picked up by the Spurs, where he wins Finals MVP.



WHO IS HE? British big man who was doing solid-defense-type-stuff before he went down with a knee injury last year. Has “I’m exhausted” facial hair. Is often called “Bulldog,” despite being very tall and fairly mild mannered.


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Rediscovers his potent-in-Europe midrange jump shot and his stout, pro-basketball veteran-y defensive work from the beginning of last year and emerges as a fourth-big for the team.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Does none of these things, openly yearns for the warm embrace of mother Britannia.



WHO IS HE: Aging center with some offensive skills. Kills animals, which is impressive if you are into heteronormative stuff.


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Good backup big man, which is actually kind of a high bar, because backup big men are, by definition, kind of awful.




WHO IS HE? A human being in the NBA.


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Does… something to become an NBA player. Plays defense, shoots threes, rebounds, maybe just gets into rando fights midgame.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Sits on bench. Stares into distance, a storm in his sad eyes. Brings the storm on the court during blowouts, where he mishandles passes on offense and ambles about on defense.



WHO IS HE? Dame. Point guard. Shoots threes, takes it to the rack. Gigantic steel testicles, forged in Oakland, California.



(Parker Posey is 20 years older than Damian Lillard.)

PROBLEMATIC ASPECT: Runs into picks on defense. Just right smack into them. It’s not that he isn’t trying on defense, he just tries RIGHT into a pick. When the Blazers play the Warriors, for instance, Curry eats open looks until they switch Batum onto him. It is frustrating.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: An incremental improvement on offense (Approaching 40% on threes would be neat) and a massive improvement on not running into picks make him an elite NBA Point Guard.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: The same one he had last year, signaling his NBA plateau.


WHO IS HE? Center and box-out artist. Is into every conceivable nerd culture thing. He enjoys baseball and he once complained about Lola Bunny on Twitter. Warner Brothers cartoon snobbery is rarified nerd air, only breathed by the truest of nerds. He is in DEEP.



Yes. Protecting the rim.

Lopez is not a mega-super elite defensive center like Dwight or Chandler or Noah or Marc Gasol, because he is not quite fleet of foot enough to blow up pick and rolls or execute ICEs or any crap like that. But the Blazers just had him drop back and protect the rim on pick and rolls and he was very good at this.

He is also tremendous at boxing out, and his rebounding usefulness is not always apparent in his own stats. His skill for clearing out dudes underneath the rim made space for Aldridge to snag more than 11 rebounds a game last year; nearly three higher than his career average.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Continues being good at all that “Little things” garbage. Gets better at… uh… an offense thing, I guess. Takes threes?

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Regresses to Phoenix Robin. Seems pretty unlikely, though.


WHO IS HE: A three point shooter with other weird offensive wrinkles who seems like a very, very intense person. Might be good at defense, but eyes and numbers disagree.


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Sort of like last season, but his shooting is better. Maybe adds something with dribbling.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: The only shots he takes are backdoor lob finish attempts, doesn’t make a single field goal all season.



WHO IS HE: Combo guard! Old for a 2nd year player. Was injured and either never got his footing and a chance to prove how good he really is, or got injured and hid how terrible he really is from the world. Obviously you hope it’s the former, but rational people have to consider the latter.


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Is good, becomes first guard off the bench,

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Is bad, becomes first guard OF the bench,



WHO IS HE? A power forward who hustles rebounds. Doesn’t shoot threes or protect the rim or do Boris Diaw/Josh McRoberts high post motion stuff, which might make even an ideal version of his game an anachronism in the modern NBA


BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Becomes an “Off the bench energy guy.”

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Sits on the bench, energy dies.



WHO IS HE? A veteran combo forward who was signed to come off the bench, but got in a shooting slump and stopped coming off the bench.



BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: 20 minutes a game of competent wing and floor stretching power forward play shores up the shallow rotation.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: He gets traded for second round picks and looks awesome in his next destination, leading to an existential crisis for Terry Stotts.



WHO IS HE: The coach, for the third year in a row. Signed an extension last year. He was the coach of the Hawks and the Bucks once, then a Rick Carlisle Disciple, then the Coach of the Blazers. Installed the Blazers’ super effective motion style offense and got everyone to buy into it, which was pretty impressive. Runs a kind of bastardized Indiana defense where the team concedes long twos and and the center drops back to protect the rim on pick and rolls. The team was mediocre defensively, but that had at least as much to do with personnel as system. Likes to lean on the starters, all five of them averaged more than 30 minutes. Overuses vets, like every coach.

NOTABLE TRIVIA: Tall. Played college ball at Oklahoma. Was drafted by the Rockets, but only played in Europe. Once we got a PR email that had several weird amateur-flash-lit pictures of him looking at suit stuff.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: You can’t really separate coach success from team success so… the team is good?

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: The team is bad AND everyone plays entirely too many minutes, sort of like two years ago.



WHO IS HE: The once and forever true mascot of the Blazers, currently underground. A Pioneering Salmon who loves adventure and the Blazers.

BEST POSSIBLE SEASON: Destroys the usurper and takes his rightful place in the Rose Garden, entertaining children and uniting the fanbase, weary of cats.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Kidnapped by the agents of Big Cat Mascot, must find his way back to Oregon after being dumped in the ocean. (Thankfully, as a salmon, he is equipped for this task.)



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.


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.


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.”



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?