Monday, December 31, 2007

Greetings from Salt Lake City

Salutations from the land of the Great Salt Lake. After a prolonged homestand, we're back on the road. First stop of this short trip brings us to SLC to take on the Jazz.

Besides this being my first road trip with the team, it's also my first time in SLC. It's hard to get a solid feel for what the city is like from the 17th floor of our ridiculoisly nice hotel (seriously, I've even stepped foot in a joint nearly as classy as where we're staying) but my snap judgment is that it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't neccesarrily want to live here.

In an attempt to give you a little taste of what life on the road is all about, here are some pictures that I snapped from the balcony of my hotel room.

As you can see, it's been snowing here in Salt Lake City. It's only about six inches deep, but it's a nice change of pace from the Portland rain/snow mix.

Much like Portland, Salt Lake City has light-rail transit. The train cars look a little older but they seem to move a little faster.

I have no idea what is housed in this building, but whatever it is, it looks important.

A fountain in the courtyard of the hotel. Supposidly there's an outdoor pool somewhere on the grounds, but I'm sure it's closed for the winter.

Double your pleasure, double your dunks

What a fourth quarter last night. The Sixers scored nine points in the fourth, which ties the Blazers' record for opponent points in a fourth quarter. What's more, by outscoring the Sixers 35-9 in the fourth, the Blazers set a new franchise record for point differential (26) in a fourth quarter. The biggest point differential by the Blazers in any quarter is 31, set back in 1990 in the first quarter of a game against the Spurs. Go out and dazzle your friends with that fact (which I got from PR superstar Collin Romer).

Now onto the highlights, of which the fourth quarter provided many. The play of the night came on a ferocious Travis Outlaw dunk over Rodney Carney. The best Blazer dunk of the year? Watch it again here and make your own decision.

While Outlaw's dunk was the play of the night according to, Brandon Roy's fastbreak dunk over Sam Dalembert was named dunk of the night. Check it out again here.

I've got my own opinion, but I'd like to hear which dunk you thought was more impressive. For sheer power, you'd probably give the nod to Outlaw. But then again, Roy's finish was over the No. 2 shot blocker in the league with his off-hand. That's a fair degree of technical difficulty.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brandon Roy on TNT

If you missed Cheryl Miller's interview with Brandon Roy from last night's Inside the NBA, you can watch it online here. The segment is about a third of the way through the 28 minute clip.

If you're not one of those visual learners, Jason Quick was kind enough to transcribe the entire interview, which he put in his blog. He must have stayed up well past midnight doing that.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Kevin Pritchard on Outside the Lines First Report

If you happened to have missed it, here's video of General Manager Kevin Pritchard on OTL First Report.

Praise never gets old

There have been quite a few "These Blazers are suprisingly good" articles written during this 11-game win streak (knock on wood). Are you tired of them yet, because I know I'm not. The latest piece to fit in this category comes courtesy of contributer Randy Hill. It's quite good and here are some of the highlights.

On the particulars of the win streak:
With Roy ringing in as a two-time Western Conference Player of the Week, the Blazers have defeated seven teams with winning records. Eight of these 11 triumphs have occurred in Portland.

The Blazers defense has limited the opposition to 95 or fewer points five times, including a stingy 89 and 91 in victories over the point-happy Utah Jazz. The Blazers offense has been efficient enough to produce 50-percent field-goal accuracy in five games, which is nice because Portland managed to lose the rebound battle during each of the first seven games.

The Blazers have won the fourth-quarter battle eight times, suggesting that McMillan has been putting young players in positions to succeed.

On Travis Outlaw's improvement:
One of the most important upgrades has been provided by the 6-8 Outlaw, a fifth-year preps-to-pros alum who has gone from 9.6 points and 3.2 rebounds to 12.1 and 5.2. During the streak, Outlaw is averaging 15.5 points and has scored 20 or more points five times.

His improvement can be tracked to seasoning, which — in the hands of a premium talent — always leads to better things if that player is diligent. But Outlaw also has benefited from McMillan matching him almost exclusively against power forwards, a tactic that provides an even greater quickness advantage.

Partial credit for discovering Outlaw's comfort zone should be credited to Oden, who — had he not injured his knee — would have coaxed the Blazers into using a two-bigs alignment with Aldridge and keeping Travis at the three.

On the zone defense:
An interesting bit of polished strategy is the judiciously used Blazers zone defense, which seems to have been tweaked through McMillan's exposure to the defensive insights of co-Team USA assistant coach Jim Boeheim. (On occasion, you'll also see bits of the Suns' spread system of offense, courtesy of co-Team USA assistant coach Mike D'Antoni.)

But McMillan, who played for innovator zone-maker Jim Valvano at N.C. State, also receives input from top assistant Dean Demopoulos, an apprentice to match-up zone master John Chaney at Temple.

I'd like to get some of your opinions on what the most important facet of the win streak have been. The effectiveness of the zone defense? Brandon Roy? Travis Outlaw? Something else? Lets hear it.

Interesting stat of the day: December 27

Today's interesting stat comes courtesy of's Daily Dime.
Need a win boost? Dump all your troubles on the Knicks. See how teams have fared in increasing their win totals in the season after dealing a player to New York.

Zach Randolph was dealt to New York in the offseason from Portland, which is now 16-12 after going 32-50 last season.

Win Addition by Subtraction

SeasonTeamPlayerWins Added
'06-'07BlazersZach Randolph?
'05-'06MagicSteve Francis+4
'03-'04SunsS. Marbury+33
'03-'04BullsJamal Crawford+24

Take note New York

How quickly times change. Not too long ago, pundits pointed to Portland whenever they needed an example of "what is wrong with the NBA." Whether that was ever the case is up for debate, but it was certainly the perception and as such, repeated ad nauseum.

But snap forward to today. Not only are the Blazers performing respectably on and off the court, but now they're being referenced as a team that other trouble franchises should look to emulate. Case in point: New York Sun writer Martin Johnson thinks the New York Knicks would do well to re-created the Trail Blazers revival:

The transformation of the Blazers is a testament to timing and to drafting well. The market for NBA players is in constant flux, and the Blazers have adroitly managed to maximize the trade value of their talent and get draft picks to rebuild the franchise. They drafted Brooklyn-based high school star Sebastian Telfair, and when he proved to be a disappointment, their response was textbook: Rather than dig in their heels and insist that he would become a star, they moved him while he still had cachet. They analyzed other teams to see who might be interested in a young point guard, and their research identified Boston. The Celts at that moment were struggling at both the point and in the pivot. Also, the locals were growing weary of the pace of the Celtics' youth movement. The Blazers smartly offered Telfair and veteran backup center Theo Ratliff in exchange for Raef LaFrentz and the draft pick that became Roy.

Similarly, when the Blazers saw the Knicks entertaining a buyout of Steve Francis, they moved to trade forward Zach Randolph to the Knicks for Francis, who was immediately bought out. Randolph no longer fit into Portland's future plans, but Francis's contract had two fewer years left on it, so Portland saved money and the aggravation that comes from watching Randolph, an immensely talented offensive player who sometimes doesn't even bother to join his teammates at the defensive end.

The result of deals such as these, as well as solid drafting that brought in talent such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw, as well as backcourt wiz Sergio Rodriguez, has turned the Jail Blazers into actual trailblazers when it comes to franchise rebuilding in the NBA.

The Knicks' current situation closely parallels the predicament Portland faced three seasons ago. Can someone turn the situation at Madison Square Garden around with the same speed? Possibly, but it will take execs with more acumen than Isiah Thomas and James Dolan.

I think it's a bit early and maybe a touch foolish to suggest that the Blazers have completely "turned it around." All of the pieces are certainly in place, but we're just 28 games into an 82 game season. One thing is certain though: New York would be lucky to have what Portland does.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post-Christmas press conference audio

In between your day after Christmas routine of taking back ill-fitting sweaters and planning your New Year Eve festivities, consider giving a listen to some captured audio from last night's game against the Sonics.

  • Nate McMillan gives his thoughts on the game during the post-game press conference.

  • Channing Frye talks about his 12 point, eight rebound performance.

  • Brandon Roy talks about the streak, amongst other things.

    And if you haven't done so already, listen to Brian Wheeler's post-game conversation with Nate McMillan. Wheels always knows what questions to ask.
  • Interesting stat of the day: December 26

    Today's interesting stat comes courtesy of's Around the Association.

    Throughout their victorious stretch, the Blazers have rode the back of Brandon Roy, who seemingly picks Portland up whenever it hits a rough patch. Once again the Blazers followed their successful formula as Roy fired off 13 of his 17 points after halftime to power Portland past Seattle. Jarrett Jack provided a spark off the bench, adding 17 points and four assists. "We're not looking at it like, let's not lose," Roy said. "We can win these games." With the victory the Blazers became the first team to go on an 11-game winning streak following a 50-loss season.

    A coaching change for the better

    There are lots of reasons for the Blazers successes over the last 11 games. Great production from the bench and Brandon Roy being the most obvious of those, but as people are starting to realize, the most important change might have came courtesy of Nate McMillan. So says Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times.

    But after the Blazers dropped to 5-12 following a 100-79 loss at San Antonio, McMillan changed his tone and his tune.

    For his players to change, McMillan had to change at least slightly.

    The former Sonics player and coach reminded himself that even though this was his third season in Portland, the rebuilding project was just beginning. His team still was the youngest in the NBA and the third-youngest in the history of the league.

    "There had been a lot of hard practices, a lot of screaming. I want to win and I felt I needed to win," McMillan said. "But I had to look at what I had and realize the organization wasn't putting pressure on me. I was putting pressure on myself. I had to do a lot of soul searching and realize the situation we were in.

    "I was being really hard on our guys, but I had to realize these are the youngest players in the league and we have to be patient and work with these guys and develop them and help them to grow. We've been doing a lot more teaching, a lot more video, a lot more one-on-one work. And I just kind of took a step back and allowed them to play."

    The change has been dramatic.

    Under the slightly new Nate, the Blazers have won a league-best 11 games in a row. Five of those wins came without starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and, all of them have come without the league's No. 1 draft pick, Greg Oden, who is out for the season recovering from microfracture knee surgery.

    I think coaches tend to draw the bulk of the blame when their team does poorly and less of the credit when their team does well, so it's nice to see McMillan get the kudos he deserves for his work this season.

    And I'm going to go ahead and make a declaration: If the Blazers make the playoffs this season, Nate McMillan should be unanimously selected for coach of the year. Argue against that.

    Kevin Durant never calls anymore

    Last night's game probably didn't go as either Greg Oden or Kevin Durant hoped it would when ESPN scheduled the game way back when. A lot has obviously changed since the start of the season, including, according to Kevin Durant, Greg Oden's mass.

    While Greg Oden playfully admonished Kevin Durant for not calling him on Christmas Eve when he arrived to town, the Sonics rookie couldn't help but to marvel at how much the Portland Trail Blazers' top pick had grown since their last meeting.

    "Man, you've gotten big," Durant said when the two met in the Rose Garden hallways Tuesday.

    Dressed in a ruby red blazer, dress shirt and blue jeans, it was easy to see how the 7-foot, 250-pound center has added weight during his seasonlong recovery from microfracture surgery on his right knee. The Blazers brass were concerned when Oden ballooned from 252 pounds to 282 several weeks ago and told him he doesn't need to add any more weight.

    Everyone puts on a couple of pounds during the holiday season, everyone except for Kevin Durant, that is. Dude is still whisker-thin.

    Tuesday, December 25, 2007

    Can't be stopped on Christmas

    And that's 11. No one knows when this streak is going to stop, but with the way Nate McMillan has his squad playing, I don't think anyone would be surprised to see this team roll well into the new year.

    The Highlights

    The "white unit":
    Yet again, the boys on the bench were in large part responsible for taking down the Sonics. In fact, the "hustle squad" ended up outscoring the starters thanks to strong performances by Jarrett Jack (17 points, four assists) and Channing Frye (12 points, eight rebounds, two assists). No turnovers for the bench squad either. While they may not be flashy, the Blazers second unit might be one of the most effective in the NBA.

    Joel Przybilla:
    "The Thilla" hit the boards with reckless abandon tonight, finishing with a game high 16 rebounds.

    The Blazers, not always a team known for hitting the offensive glass, did a fantastic job of corralling their own misses. The Blazers ended with 19 offensive rebounds (a season high) to 12 for the Sonics and at the 4:30 mark in the third quarter, the margin was a whopping 16-2. The Blazers also had a season-high 53 total rebounds.

    Taking care of the ball:
    The Blazers turned the ball over a season-low six times, which for a young team is about as good as it gets.

    The Lowlights

    Sophomore shooting percentages:
    LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy combined to go 8 for 33 from the field, which calculates as 24%. Not something you want to see every night, but it does disprove the notion that the Blazers "big two" have to have great nights in order for the team to win.

    Mistaking Travis Outlaw for Bo Outlaw:
    Seriously ESPN, you guys are pros. His name is Travis Outlaw. He's got hops that Bo could only dream about. And as Travis told me last week "Bo never had a jump shot." Travis most certainly does.

    What the Blazers had to say ...

    Nate McMillan:

    “We’re continuing to play as a team. We were getting stops when we had to have them. And it seems like every game we’re finding ways of winning. Tonight, when our shots weren’t falling, we just tightened up defensively, especially in the second half. In the first half we didn’t do a great job of covering Szczerbiak and Durrant but we did a better job in the second half."

    Channing Frye:

    “The coach told us to go out and play ball as if its our last game. We’re figuring out ways to win every night. We want to continue to play hard whether it’s a slow game or a fast game. We know we have to play well here at home. The fans deserve it and we deserve it for working hard.”

    What the Sonics had to say ...

    P.J. Carlesimo:

    “The single biggest thing was definitely the offensive re bounds. We did a poor job. It wasn’t just the big’s. We need our smalls down there tracking down some of them. Sometimes it’s caused by the defense itself. To that extent, they got 17 more shots. Had we done an adequate job on the boards, I think the score would have been something like 75-75. Both teams were actually struggling to score against the other team’s defense. That’s what it should have been."

    Kevin Durant:

    “They are playing very well. They have a lot of guys coming off the bench. They get a lot of bench points. Brandon Roy controls the game. He doesn’t have to score…he sets guys up for baskets. With a guy like that, you’re going to win. He plays very hard."

    What to wear on a Christmas day

    Two and a half hours until tipoff against the Sonics here at the Rose Garden. The ESPN crew is already working feverishly to get things ready for the national broadcast. And the Blazers may or may not be deciding what to wear.

    It goes like this. Being that it's Christmas, the Sonics were going to wear their green home jerseys and the Blazers were going to wear their rarely-used red jerseys. Festive, no?

    But the Blazers have gone on a 10-game win streak since that idea was conceived, so they're now faced with the question of whether or not to tempt fate and endanger the streak by switching home jerseys. It's a conundrum.

    Mike Barrett thinks Nate McMillan's superstitious nature will keep the red unis in the locker room. But I've been told that they are in fact going to wear the reds, and that all but two Blazers will also be wearing red shoes (LaMarcus Aldridge and Steve Blake being the exceptions).

    Is it a good idea to change course in the middle of a streak? Is the teams will to win stronger than a jersey color? We'll find out soon enough.

    You could of had a Trail Blazer

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all. Big game today in just a couple of hours. But more on that in a minute.

    If you haven't heard, the Chicago Bulls fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve after steering the team to an underwhelming 9-16 start. Maybe it's not a huge surprise considering the expectations facing Skiles and the Bulls this season, but I thought he'd at least make it to the All-Star break.

    So how does this pertain to the Blazers? In today's New York Post, Peter Vecsey notes that Skiles might still have a job if the Bulls had taken two current Trail Blazers in the 2006 draft.

    Three years ago, the Bulls won 47 games with the above mentioned core, plus Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. Last season they won 49 games. In between Curry forced a trade to the Knicks that yielded Tim Thomas, the No. 2 of '06 and the No. 9 pick in '07; Chandler was dealt for P.J. and J.R. Smith, and Wallace was signed to $60M, four- year free-agent contract.

    What do the Bulls have to show for that? Thomas was waived long after being sent home by Skiles. Smith was traded to the Nuggets for a pair of second rounders and Howard Eisley. The No. 2 pick was used to take LaMarcus Aldridge and sent him to Portland for Tyrus and Victor Khryapa. And last June's No. 9 selection got them Joakim Noah.

    Don't look now but Aldridge is precisely the type of player the Bulls would love to have patrolling their paint . . . and they wouldn't have had to trade two of their top six for, say, Pau Gasol.

    "Looks like we finally returned the Portland favor from 84!" a Bulls official laments.

    Brandon Roy might have also helped from that '06 draft. No, nobody knew he was going to be All-Star good when the Timberwolves tabbed him and traded his rights to Portland for Randy Foye. But we all kinda knew Roy was 6-foot-6 and a smooth operator and Chicago's backcourt remains conspicuously undersized.

    Their loss is our gain. One thing though: I don't know that it's entirely accurate to say "nobody knew he [Roy] was going to be All-Star good." Maybe no one expected Roy to be All-Star good this fast, but I'm pretty sure there are a couple of people wandering the halls here at Center One Court who had a good idea of the kind of player Roy could become.

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Tickling the twine for ten

    If you weren't at the Rose Garden tonight, you missed out on one heck of a show. Strong fourth quarters have become a hallmark of this team during the current ten-game winning streak, and tonight was no exception.

    Down by seven going into the final frame, the "white unit," lead by Travis Outlaw and James Jones, rattled off a 16 straight points to take control of the game and give the Blazers their first lead since the first half. The Nuggets countered, knotting the score at 94-94 with a minute and a half to play, but Brandon Roy's block of Carmelo Anthony's close-in attempt gave the Blazers just enough momentum to escape with a 99-96 win. Easily one of the best games this season.

    The Highlights

  • Brandon Roy: Despite struggling from the field, Roy found ways to get to the free throw line while also playing tough defense. And as previously stated, the block with just 30 seconds left in the game gave the Blazers a boost right when they needed it.

  • The "white unit": The Portland bench outscored Denver's 39-10. Travis Outlaw (12 points), James Jones (14 points) and Channing Frye (8 points) all gave Nate McMillan solid minutes, especially at the start of the fourth quarter. Outlaw's block of Linas Kleiza's desperation three-pointer sealed the win for the Trail Blazers.

  • LaMarcus Aldridge: In his second game back from injury, Aldridge scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds (four offensive) and dished out a career-high five assists. Don't sleep on the big man's passing ability.

  • Martell Webster: Hitting numerous big shots at various times in the second half allowed the Blazers to stay within reach. Without Webster's timely shooting, this game is a loss.

  • Fastbreak defense: The Blazers held the Nuggets to just ten fastbreak points. That's good against any team, but especially impressive considering tonight's competition.

  • The crowd: A legitimate sellout crowd of 20,644 had the Rose Garden rocking, especially in the fourth quarter. It's hard to tell at this point if the team is feeding off the crowd in the late stages of the game or if the crowd is feeding off the team.

    The Lowlights

  • Points in the paint: Despite having a much bigger lineup, the Blazers were outscored 42-22 in the key. You can get by doing that when you're shooting a high percentage (as the Blazers currently are), but once those outside shots stop dropping, Nate McMillan will have to find a way to get his team more easy buckets down low.

  • First half effort: Nate McMillan said numerous times during the post-game that his team thought that they could "just flip a switch" when they needed to. It turns out that they did, but a young team like the Blazers needs to play hard and with purpose from start to finish.

    What the Blazers had to say ...

    Nate McMillan:

    “Fortunately, though, we started playing aggressively in the second half, especially in that stretch in the fourth quarter. This time I thought our second unit once again bailed us out. We can’t continue to go into games even with this steak feeling so good about yourself that you think you just flip a switch and turn it on and off. This is a rhythm thing. You can lose it really easily. So you can’t let up and we don’t have the ability to just flip switches and expect wins.”

    “The key plays down the stretch of course were game-changers. The block by Brandon on Anthony was spectacular. Not only was it clean but he also recovered the ball. Just before that we had Brandon on Iverson and Travis on Anthony then we switched it. We just wanted to be bigger than they were. Our crowd was the best crowd we’ve had since I’ve been here. It was the loudest. It helps makes the Rose Garden the special place we want it to be. If we keep winning like this the fans will keep coming and the players will feed off that.”

    Travis Outlaw:

    (About slow getting started in the game): “The coach looked at me and said, ‘you gotta play.’ The players said the same. I be trying to play in the first half but I don’t try to rush it. Its an unbelievable feeling. I’ve never been a part of something like this (the winning streak). We’re enjoying every minute of it.”

    What the Nuggets had to say ...

    George Karl:

    (About the Trail Blazers) “They are very confident. They’ve grown together very quickly. They have very good composure for close games and close situations. They also have the ability to explode on you with the three ball. They are always dangerous and can hit three or four threes on you in any situation. They have a combination…there guards are heady guys like Blake and Jack. They have a lot of pieces. They have there cohesiveness faster than a young team usually does.”

    Carmelo Anthony:

    “They are a tough team…they’ve won 10 in a row. It’s hard to say they are creeping up on teams. They are a hot team and they are playing well right now. Everything they throw up is going in and they are playing together right now. They are playing extremely well. Before the game George came up to me and AI and told us to get that third person involved, but it was kind of hard out there tonight. I tried and AI tried. We came out here and played hard. In the fourth quarter Outlaw got hot. He got it started and everybody started hitting shots. When you’ve got five guys on the court who are making shots it’s kind of hard to do anything. They are the hottest team in the NBA right now.”

    So that's ten wins in a row. They'll got for number eleven on Christmas Day against the Sonics at the Rose Garden. Could there be a better way to celebrate than to watch a Blazer victory? I doubt it.
  • Marcus Camby shows respect for the Blazers

    The 2007 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby takes to the court at the Rose Garden tonight, and he does so with a healthy respect of the Trail Blazers. From his blog:

    I think Coach McMillan is doing a great job with that young team. They’re winning all these ball games without LaMarcus Aldridge who’s a big part of what they do. And also, it’s without the No. 1 pick Greg Oden, so that goes to show you that with a lot of hard work and belief in your team, you can accomplish anything. Those guys played exceptionally well. I don’t think we took those guys lightly. The night before we had a tough time in San Antonio and they caught us on the second night of a back-to-back and they jumped on us early and had that big lead. We pretty much were never able to catch up to those guys.


    When we played against Portland the other night, we had hands in these guys’ faces and they still were knocking down shots. They’re a real, real good shooting team so we’re going to have to really protect the perimeter when we play against these guys. They can really light up the stat sheet. We’re probably going to have to mix up our defense a little bit with more man-to-man and some zone to try to throw those guys off balance.

    So there you go. According to Camby, the Nuggets will be mixing man-to-man with some zone defense. Will it be enough to stop Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the streaking Blazers? We'll find out soon enough.

    Q & A with Nate McMillan

    When you're winning, everybody wants a piece of you. And the Blazers are winning, so the interview requests for Nate McMillan are coming in thick and fast. It's a good problem to have.

    Case in point: This great question and answer piece on between John Hareas and McMillan. Some of the highlights.

    On Greg Oden's season-ending surgery:

    Losing Greg Oden was a setback in a sense. He doesn’t have the opportunity to grow with this core from the start. We have to put that off for another year, but we look at it as we should be better when he comes and joins the team next year.

    On Monty Williams tutelage of Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster:

    Monty Williams kind of took Travis and a couple of our young guys – Martell Webster – under his wing when we took over as a staff. He’s basically mentored those guys our three years in Portland. You’re starting to see these guys grow and develop and improve. Each of our assistants we kind of assigned them to a couple players throughout the years and those two guys because of the small forward position – Monty played it, and knows how to play the four position – he kind of adopted those guys and he works with them.

    On the phenomenon that is Brandon Roy:

    The one thing that Brandon has and he came into the league with is a calmness about him. Whenever you have your stars or your go-to players who plays with the ball late in the game and they have to make decisions, those guys need to have a calming effect about them because it calms everybody else down. He has that.

    On James Jones:

    Teams have to respect James’ shooting. He knows that teams are starting to double team Brandon. He gets himself to the open spot. It takes the pressure off Brandon and the rest of our guys because he is helping them with their spacing and he just has the know-how that they don’t have because of lack of experience.

    There's a whole lot more that you'll miss out in if you don't give it a read. I suggest you do.

    Nate McMillan chats with Stephen A. Smith

    Coach McMillan talked shop with ESPN radio and television personality Stephen A. Smith yesterday, and if you missed it, you can listen to the first part here and the second part here.

    And if you haven't done so already, check out all of the great audio Mike Barrett posted in his blog from last night's Courtside broadcast.

    Keeping tabs on Taurean Green

    Rookie Taurean Green might currently be wintering with the Idaho Stampede, but he's still a Portland Trail Blazer. Green has averaged 17.7 points, 8.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds in his first three D-League games, including most recently a 23 point, 11 assist performance in a win against Bakersfield. Solid.

    If you'd rather listen to Taurean rather than just reading about him, give a listen to this interview from KTIK 1360 AM in Boise. Sounds like he's having a good time.

    Reality at the Rose Garden's Ian Thomsen lists four NBA reality show proposals in his Weekly Countdown column, and Thomsen thinks the Blazers season would make for good watching:

    4. The Up-With-People Trail Blazers. A feel-good story of young players and their uncompromising coach trying to make them into winners. How many times have we seen this genre (An Officer and a Gentleman, Remember the Titans, The Karate Kid)? But the fans in Portland have lost all cynicism while watching this team win nine in a row without Greg Oden (and LaMarcus Aldridge missed five games during the streak with a heel injury).

    It was a foot injury, but whatever.

    The show continues tonight at the Rose Garden with the Blazers trying to extend the win streak to ten games. The Nuggets, who beat the Rockets 112-111 in double overtime last night, are sure to be out for blood after getting run out of their own gym just 6 days ago by the Red and Black.

    It's going to be a sellout (if it already isn't) so if you want to be on hand, you better get to work on finding a seat.

    Don't hate the Rudy, hate the game

    One of my goals for this here blog is to provide updates on players playing in Europe who may one day find their way to Portland. Today, we turn to Rudy Fernandez.

    Fernandez's Spanish team, DKV Joventut, put a historic beating on English club team Guildford Heat in the ULEB Cup. DKV's 118-53 win was the largest margin of victory in ULEB Cup history. Fernandez scored 16 points, dished five assists and added a steal and a rebound in just over 19 minutes of work. What's more, DKV made 70% of their two-point attempts. That's domination.

    As you might expect, some of the Brits on the losing side were none too happy about the game, but rather than taking the blame for their performance, they decided to complain about the competition and officiating.

    Head coach Paul James, who saw his European new boys go down to a seventh successive loss, said: “I can’t say I’m happy with how we were treated.

    “While their coach did give a run to their bench, their depth is far too much for us to cope with. They’ve a few world champions in their team and they played a lot of minutes – a lot more than were probably necessary to beat us.”

    Dan Wardrope, Heat’s leading scorer with 18, agreed: “They are a great side but the level of arrogance was disappointing.”

    The guard took a swipe at one of the Barcelona-based side’s superstars, adding: “Rudy Fernandez, in particular, lived up to his reputation for thinking he’s better than everyone.

    “At the end of the game he was repeatedly trying to push me off when he had possession and I’d had enough so I gave him a bit of it back and he cried to the referee.

    “Par for the course.”

    The performance of the officials angered James, who commented: “We’ve played seven ULEB games so far and the standard has been world class – except tonight.

    “My players were held, hacked and pounded and we got to the free-throw line five times.”

    Director Phil Hardy – whose team snubbed the post-match press conference – joined in the condemnation of the Spaniards, saying: “There is bad blood between the clubs stemming from the first game.

    “They are arrogant and demanding.”

    Ouch. The thing is, Rudy Fernandez, by all accounts, is "better than everyone else," at least in Europe. Not to mention that athletes who excels in any sport almost always tend to carry themselves with an air of superiority, at least while competing.

    As far as officiating goes, good teams who play aggressive get calls. Period. When you're outclassed like Guildford obviously was, you can't expect the refs to bail you out.

    But back to Rudy for a second. Not only is he balling out of his mind, but he's also swimming in shark tanks to "convey the customary message of peace and respect for the environment." That's a fairly poor translation, so take anything in that link with a grain of salt.

    KP on PTI

    Just a quick note that General Manager Kevin Pritchard will be appearing yet again on Pardon the Interruption with Mike Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser on ESPN. He'll be on at 2:40 Pacific, so find a television at work or set your DVR before you go to work.

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Fans not Jazz'ed

    This week,'s Power Rankings listed the Trail Blazers at No. 14. Not too shabby considering Nate McMillan's young squad sat at No. 19 the week before. But for some of you out there, being ranked in the upper half of the league simply isn't enough, at least if the Utah Jazz are further up the list. From the mailbag of's John Shuhumann:

    Jason - Beaverton, Ore.: Sorry, but as much love as your showing Portland this week, you missed a big one -- Portland beat Utah TWICE this week, one on the Jazz stingy home court. And they were not close games!

    Portland IS better than the Jazz (this week!). No excuse for this glaring mistake. Period. Nuff Said. Move em up over the Jazz.

    JS: As a member of the basketball media, I'm not sure I'm allowed to admit that I made a mistake, but I'm going to do it here. You are right. The Blazers should have been ahead of the Jazz. The good thing is, I can fix it next Monday.

    Getting any member of the media to admit they were wrong is a serious achievement. Congratulations to Jason from Beaverton for representing the Blazer faithful.

    Very nice video

    Two solid highlight reels from last night's win against Toronto. The first comes courtesy of our editors here at Center One Court. If you missed it live, you absolutely have to see Brandon Roy's switching-hands-mid-air layin. Probably the best Blazer highlight so far this year based on sheer difficulty. There are also post-game interviews on that same page that are worth checking out. cut together their own recap, and it's pretty good, but somehow Brandon Roy's move didn't make the cut. LaMarcus Aldridge's behind the back assists to a cutting Martell Webster was tabbed the assist of the night.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Welcome to Center Court

    Greetings Trail Blazers fans. Casey Holdahl here at the newly-created Center Court Blog. After a brief blogging hiatus, I'm back to providing you all of the links to stories, audio, videos, pictures and everything else in between. I'll also be providing original content and commentary regarding everything red and black. Basically your looking at another source of news to fill your insatiable lust for all things Trail Blazers.

    But maybe you're asking yourself "What can this blog provide that other blogs don't?" The answer to that question is access. Working inside One Center Court, I'm in the position to give you the inside scoop on the latest goings on regarding the team. That's not to say that I'm going to be divulging Kevin Pritchard's super-secret draft strategy or Nate McMillan's game plans, but it does put me in a position to give you a unique perspective regarding the players, coaches and staff that bust their butts everyday in hope of one day bringing an NBA championship back to Portland.

    So be sure to check back here early and often as I'll be posting on a regular basis from the Rose Garden and the road. And if you've got any thoughts or suggestions, go ahead and leave a comment below.