BLAZERS PREVIEW PART 3: A TREMENDOUSLY EXCITING LIST OF PLAYERS

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

(Presented in alphabetical order)

LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

 

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.

WILL BARTON

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

NICOLAS BATUM

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

 

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.

 

STEVE BLAKE

WHO IS HE: Your stepdad.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

 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.

VICTOR CLAVER

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

 

ALLEN CRABBE:

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

 

JOEL FREELAND:

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

 

CHRIS KAMAN:

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

WORST POSSIBLE SEASON: Injury-ridden.

 

MEYERS LEONARD

WHO IS HE? A human being in the NBA.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

 

DAMIAN LILLARD:

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

NOTABLE PIECE OF INTERNET EPHEMERA:

(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.

ROBIN LOPEZ:

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

IS HE GOOD AT SOMETHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO MENTION?

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.

WESLEY MATTHEWS:

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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.

 

CJ MCCOLLUM

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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

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

 

THOMAS ROBINSON

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

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

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

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

 

DORELL WRIGHT

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.

A PASTEL RENDERING OF HIS SOUL:

HEY CAN WE SEE HIS WEDDING PICTURE AGAIN? Oh, absolutely:

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.

 

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.

 

SCHRUNK THE SALMON

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.)

TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW PART TWO: OPTIMISM!

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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!

FOUR: THEY KNOW HOW TO WIN NOW, INTANGIBLE THINGS, EXPECTATIONS ARE GOING TO BE MOTIVATING! EXCELLENCE BREEDS EXCELLENCE! Just kidding, I don’t believe that. Sports are poetry, not fiction.

 

TRAIL BLAZERS SEASON PREVIEW PART ONE: PESSIMISM

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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!

 

TRAIL BLAZERS 119 – CLIPPERS 114: CHILLS

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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.

MEDIA DAY WRAP-UP

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

LILLARD

“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?”

LAMARCUS:

(VIA)

“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.”

SOTTS 

“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.”

KAMAN AND BLAKE:

(VIA)

“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.”

BLAZE:

(VIA)

“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.”

MEYERS:

“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.”

WES MATTHEWS:

“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:

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

ON THE OCCASION OF HIS 40TH BIRTHDAY, A BRIEF CONSIDERATION OF RASHEED WALLACE’S RECORD SETTING 2000-01 SEASON

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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.

SPAWNING THE REVOLUTION: THE CASE FOR SCHRUNK THE SALMON

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DATELINE: PORTLAND, OR, MARCH 13TH, 1970.

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.

“TWO WORDS? HOW AM I GOING TO WRITE HEADLINES!?”

“I AM VERY ANGRY THAT MY SUGGESTION, “THE BEAVER PELTERS,” WAS NOT PICKED.”

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.)

HANDSOME STUFF!

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DATELINE PORTLAND, OR, JUNE 20th, 2015:

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.”

SUMMER LEAGUE RECAP: KNICKS 71 – TRAIL BLAZERS 69: KING OF COUNTRY

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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?

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS SUMMER LEAGUE PREVIEW, BROUGHT TO YOU BY FIELD ROAST:

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Another July, another half-hearted blockbuster Summer League roster from the PORTLAND MICHAEL BAYBLAZERS. I can’t be the only one tired of all these explosions and so called “Witty” lines and whatnot. I much prefer the prestige basketball of fall or the quirky indie college players performing to Belle and Sebastian in the early spring. But I am a basketball critic and Summer League basketball is the dominant financial engine of the industry so I am obliged to write about it, I suppose.

Because their bench is “Under-performing” and young the Blazers are bringing A LOT of NBA-players to Summer League for reps. Six of their players played for the team last year, two of them in relatively major roles. The rest of the guys are all weirdo Euro prospects, and I will discuss them as well.

DUDES YOU KNOW (In alphabetical order):

BARTON, WILL:

WHO IS HE? A dynamic guard in his third year on the Blazers. Athletic, rangy, possesses a good shot but either has been robbed of his birthright minutes by Mo Williams or too inconsistent to crack the rotation. The official position of this website is the former but I encourage people to read literature on either side of the issue.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS? Will has talked about playing point guard, which is probably not going to happen in the actual NBA, but he will hopefully get some cracks at running pick and rolls and seeing if he can make something out of it. He should also be features on defense, taking whacks at perimeter scorers and exhibiting development on that end, if he has any.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE, BROUGHT TO YOU BY FIELD ROAST BRAND SEITAN BASED MEAT SUBSTITUTES: A very jaunty headband.

CRABBE, ALAN

WHO IS HE? A three point shooter.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS? Shoot threes. Try to play replacement level defense.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE An eerie lack of accessories that make you feel unnerved by their absence. Who is this man? Does he feel? Does he sweat?

FREELAND, JOEL

WHO IS HE? A power forward/center on the Blazers who was actually pretty good at the beginning of the year, playing a brand of grinding defense that you wouldn’t expect from a gentleman of the British Isles. He had an MCL sprain halfway through the season and didn’t get back into the rotation when he was healthy.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS? Before he came into the NBA, Joel’s main selling point to any team that signed him was a tremendous pick and pop jumper. Expect to see him try and get that going again. He will also get postups because teams think that kind of thing is funny in summer league.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: A totally hilarious basketball with fire coming off of it that he has claimed he is going to get removed because of how silly it looks. It’s like if a there was a cartoon tiger who has basketball themed stripes. Hopefully he replaces it with a big-ass bulldog wrapped in a British Empire flag weeping over Queen Victoria’s grave.

LEONARD, MEYERS

WHO IS HE? A tall person who flails a lot on NBA courts. A person I’ve made so much fun of that I have dreams where he beats me up while I cry and apologize.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS? Not flail so much. Resemble an NBA player.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: An unnervingly perfect pomade structure fixed on the top of his head.

MCCOLLUM, CJ

WHO IS HE? An aspiring NBA journalist who is occasionally a small combo guard in the NBA.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS: Resemble an NBA player. CJ being injured for a lot of last year was not good for his getting used to the league, but when he did play, the results were really underwhelming for a four-year player. If he can help the summer league offense go he will go a little ways towards proving he belongs.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: A faint mustache, the sort preferred by a man trying to make love to your wife at your bowling night.

ROBINSON, THOMAS

WHO IS HE? A power forward who does hustle shit. Was regarded as skilled in college but hasn’t shown anything in that vein in the NBA.

WHAT ARE HIS SUMMER LEAGUE GOALS? Board, try and exhibit the kind of skill shit that will buy him more NBA minutes.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: A cat-like reaction to being sprayed with a bottle

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OH MAN, this has been a real work-a-day typing out all this stuff about summer league. I better take a break and have some of the new FIELD ROAST BRAND MAPLE BREAKFAST SAUSAGE. All the flavor of breakfast sausage, none of the pig. Soy and GMO free!

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DUDES YOU DON’T KNOW (And for this section, certainly the most important section, please welcome PRS Summer Leaguer James Fillmore who will be providing extra insights on players you will never think of again after these two weeks.)

The goal of every undrafted player who plays in Summer League is to attract the attention of scouts, be they NBA or D-League or European so I won’t expound on that as much in this section.

APPLING, KEITH

WHO IS HE? JAMES: Keith Appling, a smallish man by basketball standards, played point guard at Michigan State, a college in Vermont. He averaged 3.3 assists — this in college ball, mind you, where all they do is pass for 39 seconds then huck it up — and 2.2 turnovers. That’s an assist-to-turnover ratio of Lousy. He also shot .283 from the shorter college three-point line. This is better than I could do.

CORBIN: A 6-1 point guard guard who played at Michigan State. His DX profile is not terribly kind: the word “Vanilla” is involved. It does compliment his defense, though. In this Youtube video, the ESPN YouTube guy calls a move he made “Nasty,” but he just kinda dribbled behind his back without any particular flair and drove to the rim. College basketball types: raise your standards for nastiness!

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: A wristband on his left hand. This probably indicates that he is left handed, which would be VERY useful if he were a baseball pitcher.

BERRY, DAVION

WHO IS HE? JAMES: Davion Berry can shoot, which is nice for him, because he is 6’4” and 185 lbs, just about the worst possible size a professional American basketball player can be. Like Damian Lillard and Jack London, Berry is from Oakland, a town that could pass for Baltimore in the second season of “The Wire” (the one with boats) and is known for its tough-as-nails point guards such as Lillard, Payton, Kidd, and London (“The Sea Wolf” would be a cool NBA nickname, or maybe “C-Wolf”). Like Lillard, Barry also played at Weber State, so the two can reminisce about doing beer bongs in Utah. He looks, in photos, like a very nice young man who should probably give up basketball already, since he is the wrong size, yet I can’t judge. I was pretty confused at 23, and maybe Barry could use basketball to live in Poland. The Blazers might sign him for the Idaho squad, because he can shoot, but Poland is better, Davion. Really.

CORBIN: A Webber State product who went undrafted this year. Statistics and height (Real GM lists Six-Four, DX suggests he is six-two and a alf without shoes) suggest a that he is a guard by trade. He doesn’t have a DraftExpress profile. Played at Cal State Monterey for two years before transferring to Webber.  Here is a highlight package. Probably got the slot because of his connection to Lillard, which is fine and the way things work.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: Had dreads when he was a younger man.

BRACKINS, CRAIG

CORBIN: WHO IS HE? A 26-Year old forward, height-ed Six-Ten. Drafted in the first round by OKC in 2010, then traded to the Sixers where he didn’t play much for two years. This makes him one of many people (see also Evan Turner) who thirst for Doug Collins’ sweet, sweet blood because he ruined their careers in some way or another. He deserved to lose that medal for the mid range shooting he enabled later in his life. Played in the D-League for a while, spent last year in the Polish League, doesn’t seem like he played so great or so much (1.9 rebounds a game, yeesh.). A man on a mission for a new European home.

JAMES: Craig Brackins, a largish man by any standard, played forward at Iowa State, where they helped invent computers and nuclear bombs (not while Brackins played there). He shot three-pointers better than the ostensible point guard Appling, at .292. He had a handful of games with the 76ers, did time in D-League, went to Israel, Italy, and Poland. The Polish city he played in sounds totally friggin’ awesome. His D-League minutes (yes, there are people who record such things) went down every year. So hopefully he likes Poland. I would.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLEA rubber band on his leg.

BRYAN-AMANING, MATTHEW

WHO IS HE? CORBIN: A 26-year old, 6-9 British forward, whose mother was self-assured enough that she insisted on a hyphenate. Played college basketball at the University of Washington, the school the other author of this blog attended. In an interview conducted over Twitter dot com, Joe said that all he does is dunk off screen and roll action.  Was on Britain’s hilariously slapdash, Luol Dung led Olympic team. Last played in France, I think? 20-ish MPG, respectable numbers. Here is a highlight mix.

JAMES: Matthew Bryan-Amaning is from Surrey, England, and has two last names, meaning he certainly grew up on a diet of Roasted Peasant and stayed warm in his huge drafty castle by reading histories of the Punic Wars by fireside. He ended up playing in America after a tragic duel in which he wounded the future Earl Pearl-Monroe (who turned out to be his own illegitimate half-father) and to flee the estate. He went to college in Seattle, was undrafted (athletic, tall, can’t shoot, it’s not uncommon), D-Leagued it, then landed in Turkey, Serbia, and most recently France, where a team website lists his position as “Interieur” and says he “est un joueur actif tant en attaque qu’en défense” AKA not very good by NBA standards at anything, but probably an interesting chap, life-story wise. Just don’t use the wrong salad fork or say the queen should “sod off” in his presence.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: Polo with an undershirt, a Washington State staple if there ever was one

BROWN, BOBBY

WHO IS HE? CORBIN: My favorite basketball player ever.  A Six-Two, 29-Year old point guard coming off a stint with the Dongguan Leopard of the Chineese Basketball association. Cal Fullerton product. Played for four NBA teams between 2008-2010. Has he played in Summer League before? You’re goddamn right he has, he’s played in Summer League every year since 2007. This man is a Summer League animal. His job on the team will be to teach the young, non-NBA level guns, how to conduct themselves if they want to attract the attention of the Guangdong Hongyuan Southern Tigers.

JAMES: Bobby Brown was named after a vicious Frank Zappa song (not the vicious R&B singer) and is a living testament to how this undrafted-to-Europe-to-NBA thing sometimes, against all odds, can happen. He went from Cal State-Fullerton to Germany to four years in “The Show,” getting decent minutes for indecent teams. Then he restocked his SIM card and had bad stretches in Poland, Germany, and Italy, a good stretch in Greece, and scored 74 in a game for the Dongguan Leopards in southeast China. If you think I’m going to try and decipher his stats from that website, you think highly of my abilities and I thank you for this but you are wrong. He is a point guard who will be 30 by the time the NBA season begins and he will probably not be part of that season.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: An infectious smile!

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CARNEY, RODNEY

WHO IS HE? CORBIN: A 30-Year old, Six-Seven small forward. Played in the NBA from 2006-2011, was last on Sporting Al-Ryhad Beirut, like the Beirut in Lebanon. Here is a video of him dunking on Dwyane Wade.  He logged a 21.83 PER with Memphis in two games played in 2010-2011, which is pretty funny. He was kind of a crummy shooter in the NBA. Will be interesting to see if he has developed on that end to get back into the league. This is his first Summer League since 2007.

JAMES: Rodney Carney is the Crash Davis of Portland’s Summer League squad, drafted way back in 2006. Another wrong-sized guy, he had some success as a defender at the 2/3 for the Sixers, before getting traded to Minnesota, the kiss of death for any NBA career. After a few more seasons bouncing around the NBA, he actually wound up in Beirut (that had to be deflating, but fascinating), and has the single most depressing Wikipedia user edit I’ve ever seen:

“On May 28, 2014, he was played for Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters as an import replacement for Othyus Jeffers who had a problem on his NBA contract. Carney first game as an import for the texters was not easy due to not enough rest for almost 24 hours He scored 13 points . But On his Second Game Against San Miguel Beermen (Philippines) He Scored 28 points and 9 rebounds . And They Win Over the San Miguel Beermen (Philippines)”

There’s more about the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters on Wikipedia. A lot more. All written, I suspect, by the same really enthusiastic aide for the team owner (his page is huge, too.) Or simply by a Filipino basketball fan who could put your meager Blazer fandom to shame. TO SHAME.

To sum up, Rodney Carney IS Crash Davis. He’s seen it all, man. If you have a chance in Vegas, meet this person. And convince him to start writing his book.

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: Modest facial hair.

GIBSON, JONATHAN

WHO IS HE? JAMES: Jonathan Gibson graduated from New Mexco State in 2010, and since then has the world tour down to a science, whirlwinding it through China, Italy, Israel, Iran and Turkey (Turkey being the toughest international league, according to Jonathan Gibson) In college he majored in General Business, a first for any athlete anywhere. He grew up in West Covina, CA, part of the indeterminate Los Angeles megapolis. So we know he can drive a car. But can he drive the lane? Flourish as a creative passer? Well, these too are skills one learns driving LA freeways, so I’m hazarding the answer is “yes.” In regards to NBA basketball, most likely “no.”

CORBIN: 26, Guard, Six-two. Played college ball at New Mexico State. Scored… HOLY SHIT 32.46 POINTS PER GAME for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association last year. (That team also featured FORMER BLAZER LEGEND Chris Johnson, out there snatchin 11.39 rebounds per game.That’s American power, flexing its mighty muscles in China.) Will his INSANE SCORING PROWESS translate to the NBA Summer League? Watch and find out!

TRADEMARK SUMMER LEAGUE STYLE: Points, he scores so many of them that he just wears them on his body. So many goddamn points, guys.

 

LEBRON JAMES SPURNS PORTAND

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Today, in an article in Sports Illustrated, LeBron James announced that he will be returning to Cleveland, Ohio to play for the Cavilers. This ends a years long flirtation between the king and the Portland Trail Blazers, who have long coveted James.

“Am I disappointed? Absolutely.” Portland coach Terry Stotts spoke to Portland Roundball in an exclusive interview at his North Portland home. Stotts is looking tan and rested in a seersucker shirt and cutoff jorts but was slouching with palpable disappointment. “LeBron would have really helped our defense and our shooting and ball movement and our mid-range shooting and our ability to get takes at the rim. He would have made LaMarcus a better player and also Damian and Wes and Chris Kaman.”

“When we picked up The Big-Steve-Man (Blake), I thought we were in like Flynn, to be honest.” Stotts took a sip of a homemade mint julep and readjusted his Portland Beavers fitted cap, a sweet thrift from a local Goodwill (Four bucks, man, can you believe that?), “But I suppose that the pull of his hometown and all that; you know, we were a better situation but he was aimed at a ‘higher purpose’ or somethin’. You want some quinoa? Katie (Stotts’s live-in girlfriend) just whipped some up, lemon and cilantro, the good stuff. We got a bouch’ (A slang term for Kombucha, a drink made from fermented black tea) we just finished, too, we’re living the good life out here.”

DID THE BLAZERS DO ENOUGH?

James has semi-publicly complained about not being properly compensated for his talents as a function of the max salary in the CBA. Jeff Sullivan, writing in Fangraphs yesterday, tried to construct a baseball player with as much value to his team as Lebron has to whoever is blessed to be paying him and created a player who hit 438/.527/.820 played the shortstop position as well as anyone could possibly play it and was also an obscenity of a starting pitcher, who sported a 1.67 FIP. In short, an impossible player. But Lebron still makes less money than practically any baseball player worth mentioning.

Should Paul Allen have circumvented the CBA and paid LeBron in clandestine battleships? LeBron has long held ambitions of becoming a naval power. You would have to imagine that Paul Allen making that dream come true would have outweighed his “responsibility to lead,” or “My relationship with Northeast Ohio.”

Why has Paul Allen become such a miser with the Blazers’ roster? Is it the Seahawks? Do you love them more than us because they gave you the ring? Please, Paul, look us in the eyes. We can’t take it anymore. Why didn’t you buyLeBron his ships?

SHOULD WE RESENT BATUM?

Had LeBron come to Portland, he would have taken the place of rangy forward Nicolas Batum. Should we spend the year resenting everything that LeBron could do that Nic couldn’t? Some people might say no, but I have a different position: yes, absolutely.

The next time you see a guy beat Batum off the dribble, make sure you tap your child’s shoulder and say “LeBron could have stopped that.” Batum misses a midrange shot? Groan audibly, look at your wife, and tell your wife “Goddamnit honey, why isn’t he LeBron!? It makes me absolutely sick.” Put up signs with pictures of LeBron in Batum’s yard, to let him know that you don’t appreciate his bullshit and that he will never be good enough for you or for the city of Portland. Buy him train tickets back to France. If Amtrak insists that there aren’t any trains that go directly to France buy one to Vancouver, WA, then cross out the destination and write in “Frenchytown, Paris, in France, where you belong.”