Saturday, March 29, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks post-game about the loss to the Bobcats

Not a whole lot to say after a loss like that. When you out-rebound your opponent 57-32, you can usually assume you're going to win the game. Not the case tonight.

Here's what Nate McMillan had to say after the game.

Photos: Bobcats 93, Blazers 85

Nike Hoops Summit guard wins dunk contest

DeMar DeRozen, a senior out of Compton High School who's on this year's USA Basketball Men's Junior National Select Team, makes a lot of high percentage shots. Actually, he makes a lot of shots, period. While leading Compton High to a 24-6 record this season, DeRozen, who has signed to play for Tim Floyd next season at USC, shot a ridiculous 89.0 percent from the field. Not from the free throw line; the field. And he's a 6-5 guard/forward, not a 6-11 center.

A guy who makes 89 percent of his shots must get a lot of dunks, so I'm guessing DeRozen had plenty of time practice before winning the McDonald's All-American dunk contest.
On a night that saw the biggest cheers go up for Julius "Dr. J" Erving, the father of the slam dunk and one of the celebrity judges in attendance, DeRozan, a 6-foot-6 senior from Compton, Calif., drew some noise of his own with two perfect scores on his final dunks.

For his first dunk of the finals, he stuffed the ball under one leg while on the way up and slammed it home.

For his final dunk, he approached from the right wing, bouncing the ball hard off the ground and then the backboard, slapping the backboard with his left hand and then dunking with his right.

"I call that 'tap the baby,' DeRozan said, perhaps in honor of Erving's famed "rock the baby" dunk of years gone by. "You tap the backboard soft, like you're tapping a baby."

Sounds similar to one of Dwight Howard's All-Star Weekend dunk contest-winning jams. Below is a montage of DeRozen's winning dunks from this year's contest. He might not have the opportunity to break out the more difficult dunks at the Nike Hoops Summit on April 12 at the Rose Garden. Lower bowl tickets are only $6 if you buy in advance.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nip it in the Budinger

The draft is still months away, but the speculation is already running wild. I guess that makes sense though. NBA scouting staffs never stop evaluating and the NCAA Tournament provides big-game situations that scouts love to watch when forming a comprehensive opinion of a player.

Chad Ford, the guru at ESPN on all things NBA draft, answered some questions about NCAA talent this season, with one of those questions coming from a Blazer fan:
Kory (Rip City): I noticed that on your mockdraft lottery that you have portland taking Budinger. Do you think my blazers will draft a small forward, a point guard or package the pick and players in a trade.

SportsNation Chad Ford: I think they're priority is point guard, then small forward. However, they might not be able to get an elite point guard at No. 13. If Augustin or Westbrook are on the board, they'd probably take them. If not, I think they'll switch gears to small forward. Budinger's a good fit because of his shooting ability, athleticism and the fact that he doesn't need to be the man on every possession.

I think Ford is right on the first point, and way off on the second.

First off, Kevin Pritchard is taking the best player available, period. Point guard, small forward, center, it doesn't matter. The best guy on the board when KP makes his pick will be a Trail Blazer. Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if they were focusing on point guards, if for no other reason than this draft is stocked with quality guards.

But Chase Budinger? He's been hyped since he came to Arizona, but I don't really understand why. He's athletic, but not crazy athletic. He knows his way around the court, but again, his hoops IQ isn't off the charts. He's got a decent stroke, but nothing spectacular. I can't figure out for the life of me why he's even coming out this season (if in fact he is). Is he ever going to play over Travis Outlaw (more athletic than Budinger), Martell Webster (more athletic and a better shooter than CB) or James Jones (also a better shooter than Budinger)? I just can't see it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paul Allen sees Rudy Fernandez firsthand

Paul Allen, owner of the Trail Blazers, doesn’t miss too many games at the Rose Garden, so it was a little surprising to see that he wasn’t in his customary courtside seat for Tuesday night’s 102-82 victory against the Washington Wizards.

As it turns out, Allen’s reason for missing one of the Blazers’ most emphatic victories of the year was so that he could catch a glimpse of what the Blazers future may hold.

Allen traveled across the Atlantic to the city of Badalona, Spain, to watch Rudy Fernandez (whose NBA rights are held by the Trail Blazers) and his current team, DKV Joventut, defeat MMT Estudiantes 97-89 in an ACB League match. Fernandez made Allen’s trip more than worthwhile, leading all scorers with 30 points in 30 minutes of work while adding four rebounds and three assists in the win. Rudy’s impressive night was helped by going 5-of-11 from three point range and 13-of-15 from the free throw line.

Along with getting a chance to see Rudy play in person, Allen also had a chance to talk to the 6-6 forward’s father during the game. Allen joked that, despite being the owner of the team, he was simply fulfilling the duties of an advanced scout for the Trail Blazers.

The trip might have come as a surprise to Fernandez, but the news was hardly surprising to Trail Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard, who talked to Allen on Wednesday.

“He was pretty excited,” Pritchard said. “His trip reinforced what we already know, that Paul is the best owner in professional sports. He loves this team, and is committed to doing whatever he can to ensure our success.”

Video: Brandon Roy talks about his injury

Here's what Brandon Roy had to say today after receiving treatment at the practice facility. He was in good spirits despite the painful groin pull.

Video: Nate McMillan at practice

The Trail Blazers had a light run at the practice facility today. Neither Brandon Roy (groin) or LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) participated. Roy is definitely out for tomorrow's game against Golden State and he'll most likely be out between one and two weeks. Aldridge could play tomorrow, but that's still a gametime decision.

Here's video of Nate McMillan talking about the injuries and tomorrow's games against the Warriors.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks post-game about the win against the Wizards

Anyone who tells you they've got this team figured out is a liar. After last night's embarrassing loss to one of the worst teams in the league, the Blazers, without LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, come out and put an old fashioned whipping on a Wizards team that had won nine of their last 12 games. Go figure.

Martell Webster had an awesome night, providing much needed sustained scoring and defense over the course of the entire game. Same for Travis Outlaw and Jarrett Jack. With Roy and Aldridge out, Nate McMillan needed these guys to step up, and they did.

And what can you say about Joel Przybilla? 17 rebounds, with eight of those coming on the offensive glass, is monstrous. He's on a mission.

There's really only one negative thing that came out of tonight's game: the groin injury to Brandon Roy. It looked nasty on the replay, but Roy tried to play through it despite being in obvious pain. Numerous people after the game noted how hard it can be to get over a groin strain, so at the very least I wouldn't expect Roy to play on Thursday against Golden State. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that he'll be out even longer than that.

But enough of my thoughts. Here's what Nate McMillan had to say after the game.

Photos: Blazers 102, Wizards 82

Aldridge out, Outlaw in against the Wizards

LaMarcus Aldridge, who rolled his ankle last night during the loss to Seattle, will not play tonight. Travis Outlaw will start in his place at power forward.

More Duncan, less dunking's David Thorpe has some advice for the rookies of the NBA: Study the veterans. Thorpe runs down who the top 22 rookies should attempt to emulate in order to improve their games. David's advice to Greg Oden: Check out the Big Fundamental:
When Oden returns next season, we'll all be reminded of just how athletic and big he is. But he's still somewhat raw offensively. So learning the low-post game from the fundamental master, Duncan, would go a long way towards getting Oden closer to being the offensive force he's destined to become. Oden should also mix in some Amare Stoudemire tapes, reminding him that sometimes he can just dominate people with his physical talent.

That's great advice, as long as Oden doesn't try to mimic Tim Duncan's eye-bulging look of disbelief every time he's called for a foul.

Like him or not (and aside from the whining, how could you not like TD?) Tim Duncan has arguably been the most valuable player in the league for the past decade, making him the perfect role model for any aspiring bigman. If Oden, whose athleticism is far and away superior to that of TD's (past or present), could add Duncan's repertoire of bank shots and up-and-under moves to his game, he'd be unstoppable.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Silence haters, vote Roy

Dime Magazine (the online version, that is) has been hosting a vote as to which players would win in one-on-one games to 11. Brandon Roy, despite not being the kind of player most readers of Dime respect (i.e. style before substance), has managed to make his way to the Western Conference Finals after beating Allen Iverson in the last round. Now he takes on Carmelo Anthony, with the majority of the votes picking Melo while decrying the perceived slight to AI.

So strike a blow to the Brandon Roy haters and vote for our boy over at Dime. You don't have to register, but you shouldn't cheat either.

(Tip o' the hat to my boy Sean)

Today in links: March 24

Quite a few interesting stories out there today, so I've decided to dust off my old-school link-driven blog hat. Enjoy.

- Writing for HoopsWorld, Sam Amick comes up with a list of Most Improved Player candidates, and our starting power forward makes an appearance:
Portland power forward LaMarcus Aldridge – At some point last season, the Kings inquired about finding a deal to bring the rookie power forward to Sacramento.

And while they weren't likely alone in that department, chances are the Trail Blazers execs aren't taking those kinds of calls anymore. Aldridge is as big a part of Portland's surprise season as any, with his scoring increasing from nine points per game to 17.8 in the sort of output that went far beyond the proportionate rise in minutes (22.1 to 34.5). He would lead the league in the increased-scoring category if only he qualified, but there is a 70-game minimum from the season prior and Aldridge only played in 63 games in 2006-07.

There's a couple interesting things to note in that excerpt. First, it doesn't surprise me that the Kings have asked about LaMarcus, but I had never heard that prior to this column. Secondly, I was unaware that you had to play 70 games to qualify for the league title in increased scoring average. 70 games seems like a really high threshold to meet. Moreover, who knew that the increased scoring average award was so high sought after that they had to make a minimum games requirement?

If it wasn't for Hedo Turkolu, I'd think LaMarcus would have a damn fine chance of winning MIP this season. Hedo notwithstanding, I think L.A. has a better than average chance.

- The Columbian's Brian Hendrickson writes about Aldridge's improved play. If Aldridge had been this good all season we'd be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer has a rather pessimistic take on Darius Miles' knee injury situation. The collective bargaining agreement can be a bit ironic sometimes.

- Writing for, Steve Aschburner ponders the Roy for Foye trade. You've heard the story before, but Aschburner adds an interesting thought I had neglected to ponder:
"I think that happens with every draft, picks that are right next to each other and how they develop four or five years down the road,'' Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "Certain people are always going to bring up [Darko] Milicic over Carmelo [Anthony, drafted second and third in 2003].''

This one, though, is different. This one is almost too easy, like tipping that barrel over, then simply picking up the fish by hand as they flop around on the sidewalk.

In this one, Minnesota already had the better player. It chose Roy and had him -- had him! -- right up on that stage with commissioner David Stern, a Wolves cap tugged down over his youthful, smiling face. Then McHale got ... creative. He traded Roy minutes later to the Trail Blazers for Foye and $1 million, delighting his owner with both the free cash and another $1 million saved in paying the seventh pick rather than the sixth. At that point, the Wolves announced that they had preferred Foye all along. "We just felt Foye had more juice and was quicker,'' McHale said, "and was just such a ball hawk and such a defensive presence and such a tough kid. We just really wanted to get him.''

So how's that working out for the Wolves?

Since that draft, Portland is 6-2 in head-to-head meetings, including a 4-0 sweep this season. Roy, the 2007 Rookie of the Year, made it to New Orleans last month as a member of the Western Conference All-Star squad. He has led the Blazers in scoring 34 times this season and in assists 37 times, and has scored at least 25 points in 20 games. He scored 22 or more in all four meetings with the team that drafted him.

Who knows, if the league's best newcomer had clicked instantly with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota a year ago, the entire look of the NBA might be different right now.

So it's Brandon's fault that the Celtics are so good. Thanks B-Roy, thanks a lot!

- If you haven't seen it yet, here's video of Greg Oden shopping for Groceries in the Rise With Us blog. I spent much of my collegiate summers stocking beer and wine at that Haggen's in Tualatin. They run though booze in that joint like you wouldn't believe.

- More Oden. Jason Quick had a story in yesterday's Oregonian about Greg running hills in Tigard. Certainly worth the read. I only wish they had the picture that ran in the paper available online in which you can see an out-of-focus Jason Quick trying to run up the hill after Greg and Jay Jensen. Hilarious. UPDATE: Here's the picture.

- Tonight's game against the Sonics might be the last in Seattle. I think Clay Bennett probably will be allowed to move the team, but I doubt it'll be by the start of next season. Here's some quotes about the Trail Blazers/SuperSonics rivalry.

- Here's a thought provoking piece from Ben at Blazer's Edge about the best duos in the NBA. By the way, I know for a fact that neither Dave nor Ben live in their mother's basements.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks post-game about the win against the Clippers

This one was a game of alternating quarters. First quarter was great, second quarter wasn't. Third quarter was awesome, fourth quarter stunk.

In a lot of ways, tonight's game was similar to the last game against the Clips in Los Angeles. Jump out to a lead, relinquish, take another lead, relinquish again, then finally hold on to win. You'd like to think the Blazers could beat this particular iteration of the Clippers by more than five, but we're in no position to start complaining about wins.

Here's Nate McMillan's post-game comments. Lets do it again tomorrow, shall we?

Photos: Blazers 107, Clippers 102

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Travis Outlaw on the Mississippi State Bulldogs: 'We big down there'

A little disclosure: I’m an alumnus of the University of Oregon and a bit of a Duck homer. I don’t wear the thickest prescription of green-colored glasses, but I’m definitely biased when it comes to my alma mater. So it should come as no big surprise that I’ll be rooting hard for the Ducks tomorrow in their first-round tournament game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Travis Outlaw will be rooting hard too, but it won’t be for my beloved Ducks. Before deciding to go pro, Outlaw intended on playing for Mississippi State, which also happens to be in his hometown of Starkville. Travis has a lot of love for just about everything in Mississippi, and the Bulldogs are no exception.

So being that Outlaw is the only person that I know from Mississippi, I decided to pick his brain a bit about what my Ducks should expect tomorrow. His reply?.

“Ya’ll gonna’ lose," Outlaw said. "Mississippi State going to whip you. We bad. Ya’ll ain’t physical like us. We just big, you know what I’m saying? They produce studs, like myself. The state of Mississippi produce studs."

But what about all of the Ducks tournament experience from making the Elite Eight last season?

“What you calling ‘experience?’ Aaron Brooks was the big key to that team. Forget about that ‘experience.’ It’s all basketball at the end of the day. You still got to put the ball through the hole.”

So what’s the story with Javaris Varnando, the NCAA leader in blocked shots?

“Triple-doubles in blocks and stuff. That’s how they do down there where I’m from. We block shots.”

But the Ducks are three-point sharp shooters. How are the Bulldogs going to counter that?

“You’ve got to be able to get it off! Everybody taller than ya’ll! We got people that’s bigger and faster.”

As far as a score prediction goes, Travis was a bit hesitant. But the bottom line from the Mississippi native and self-described Bulldog fan is that the Ducks are in trouble.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a high scoring game,” Outlaw said. “It can be, but I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be one of the grind outs. That why I think we going to beat ya’ll cause we big down there. We gonna’ beast ‘em!”

The game should be getting over right before the Blazers tipoff against the Clippers, so if you don’t get a chance to see the final score before leaving for the Rose Garden, you can probably figure the outcome by looking to see what kind of mood Travis Outlaw is in.

Channing Frye is messing with your mind

In a league where seemingly everyone is eminently talented, any little edge you can get on your adversary can be helpful. Some guys talk trash. Others take the opposite approach, softening up opponents by talking nice before the game in hopes that said opponent won't be as physical or aggressive. It might sound childish, but whatever works.

Channing Frye, on the other hand, prefers to make a statement with his actions rather than his words. You’ve probably seen him engage in a kind of physiological warfare without even knowing it. His weapon: the deadball blocked shot.

Often after the whistle blows, a player will put up a shot knowing full well that it won’t count. Some players do it to stay in rhythm, others simply to get in a practice shot that they might not have otherwise been able to take. It’s debatable whether or not hitting a meaningless shot attempt actually helps, but Channing Frye isn’t taking any chances. When that shot goes up after the whistle and Frye is on the floor, he’s sending it back.

“Mentally, it makes them know that I’m paying attention to them,” said Frye. “Usually guys (take a shot after the whistle) when they’ve missed a couple shots. So I just block it so they can’t mentally see the ball go through the hoop. And it’s just really annoying.”

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. So much of the NBA game is predicated on confidence, so why let your opponent get even the slightest bit of swagger?

Frye might not know for sure that it has an effect on his defensive assignment, but he knows from personal experience that it makes a difference.

“It kind of helps me when I shoot the ball and see it go in,” Frye said. “That makes me think the next one if going to go in. But if a couple haven’t fallen, the last image I want is of someone blocking that shot or that ball not going in.”

“I’m a jump shooter, so they’ll do it if I’ve made one or two and then they’ll go up and swat the third one. So now I start thinking about them instead of about thinking it was going to go in anyway.”

Frye’s obviously not the only player who employs this tactic. Both Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan goaltend deadball shots as well. Nevertheless, it doesn’t sit well with all of the Trail Blazers staff.

“Coach Monty hates when I do it. He thinks it’s so stupid, but I’m going to still do it anyway. It’s all good. It’s a big joke now. He thinks it doesn’t do anything, but I know it does.”

Gatorade Player of the Year coming to the Rose Garden

The Nike Hoops Summit, the country’s premiere annual basketball game featuring America’s top senior boy high school players going against a World Select Team comprised of the world’s top players 19-years-old or younger, is set to be played at the Rose Garden on April 12. It's a great chance to see a ton of future NCAA and NBA talent.

Jrue Holiday, the 2008 Gatorade National Player of the Year, is one of those players. Holiday averaged 25.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 4.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game this season, leading Campbell Hall to a second straight California Interscholastic Federation Division IV state title. Here's a little more information about Holiday.
A McDonald's All-American Game and Jordan Brand All-American Team selection, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior submitted a dominating performance against San Joaquin Memorial in the Southern California Regional Division IV title game, where he scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and collected 11 rebounds, nine assists and seven steals in a 76-45 victory. Holiday scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in the 83-61 state championship victory against Saint Mary's. He led Campbell Hall to an incredible 126-8 record in his four-year varsity career.

Holiday has maintained a B-average in the classroom. A member of the school's Gospel Choir and the percussion section leader in Campbell Hall's orchestra, he also teaches basketball fundamentals to youth players in association with the American Cancer Society's Coaches vs. Cancer charity and raises funds to benefit cancer research through the Concern Foundation. Holiday has also traveled to Japan as a youth ambassador on behalf of the Shepherd of the Hills Christian Church, in addition to donating his time at Campbell Hall as a tour guide on Perspective Student Days and as team manager for the varsity girls’ tennis squad.


Holiday has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at UCLA this fall. He joins 2008 Pac-10 Freshman and Player of the Year Kevin Love (2006-07, Lake Oswego High School/Lake Oswego, OR) and two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis (1996-97, Crossroads High School/Santa Monica, CA) as UCLA recruits to be named Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year. Recent Gatorade National Boys Basketball Players of the Year include two-time winner Greg Oden (2004-05 & 2005-06, Lawrence North HS/Indianapolis, IN), Dwight Howard (2003-04, Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy/Atlanta, GA) and two-time winner LeBron James (2001-02 & 2002-03, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School/Akron, OH).

Impressive. And check out the list of other past Gatorade POY winners. I count seven NBA All-Stars on that list.

Tickets are already on sale for the Nike Hoops Summit. For more information, check out the Nike Hoops Summit site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Don't miss Trail Blazers Courtside

Trail Blazers Courtside, the almost always weekly show focusing on all things Trail Blazers, airs this Thursday starting at 6:05 p.m. on KXL 750 AM. Mike Barrett, Brian Wheeler and Mike Rice recap the previous week's games, preview upcoming contests and answer your questions about all things Red and Black.

Guests on this week's show include Coach Nate McMillan, David DuPree from & Percy Allen from the Seattle Times. Trivia questions will be asked and answered. Prizes may or may not be given away. Mike Rice will say something funny and/or crazy. So be sure to tune in starting around 6 p.m. Thursday.

If you missed last week's show, you can still listen to the podcast.

And just in case you're unaware, all of the podcasts that we do are available here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks post-game about after losing to the Suns

This is one of those games that just wasn't meant to be. The Suns are really starting to hit their stride since for the first time since acquiring Shaq and the Blazers simply couldn't counter when it counted.

The Blazers will have one more chance this season to break what is now an eight-game losing streak to the Suns. They'll have to do it in Phoenix in the last game of the season, which seems unlikely after losing both games at home, but you never know.

Here's Nate's post-game remarks.

Photos: Suns 111, Blazers 98

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vote early and often for the BlazerDancers

While you're filling out your NCAA brackets, consider jumping over to to vote for the BlazerDancers in the 2008 NBA Dance Team Bracket. Our ladies in Red and Black have a first-round matchup with the Nuggets Dancers.

From the looks of the pictures provided, the BlazerDancers should beat the mile-high ladies handily, but don't leave it up to chance.

Podcast: 03.14.08 Edition of Trail Blazers Courtside

If for some reason you missed it, here's the podcast from yesterday's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside, your weekly radio show for all things Trail Blazers hosted by Mike Barrett, Mike Rice and Brian Wheeler. Guests on this week's show include Oregon beat writer Jason Quick, Portland State coach Ken Bone and Phoenix Suns radio analyst Tim Kempton.

And just in case you're unaware, all of the podcasts that we do are available here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks post-game about the win against the Timberwolves

It was nice to not have to sweat out a win for once. The Timberwolves kept it close up until the end, but you never got the sense that the Blazers were going to lose this game after the midway point of the third quarter. Congratualtions to the entire team on win number 35 and another congrats to Nate McMillan on coaching career win number 300.

Here's what Coach McMillan had to say after the game.

Photos: Blazers 107, Timberwolves 96

Friday, March 14, 2008

Channing Frye wins the battle, Sacramento wins the war

Last night's game was a tough one. And by "tough" I mean miserable. We never led, Ron Artest had more steals than the Red and Black combined, we shot 38% from the field and our starting lineup committed 16 turnovers. But hey, we did out-rebound the Kings 43-37. That's something ... I guess. Basically, we got served.

But there was a small bit of vindication that took place in Sacramento. Channing Frye, after taking a bit of heat from John Q. Kingsfan for saying California's capital was a less than enjoyable destination, found out first-hand that his impressions of Sac-town were basically right on the money. From Jason Quick's Behind the beat blog:
The two (Channing Frye and Bobby Medina) went to see "The Bank Job" at a theater that Frye couldn't recall, other than to say it was within walking distance of the team's downtown hotel and near a set of train tracks. When the movie started, Frye was comfortable with his popcorn and soda when Medina excused himself briefly. As Medina left, Frye swore he saw something scurry underneath his seat, but he dismissed it.

When Medina returned, another flash of movement rustled underneath their seats, prompting Medina to ask "Did you see that?"

"It was a rat,'' Frye said.

The two moved and reseated themselves near the top of the theater ... in front of what Frye described as a "passed out homeless person". Intrigued, Frye illuminated his cell phone and leaned back to get a closer look at the man.

"He was just out, head to the side,'' Frye said, shaking his head.

After the movie --"it was OK", Frye said-- the two returned back to the hotel on foot, albeit nervously because of the number of homeless people.

"I have nothing against homeless people, but these guys were crazy,'' Frye said. "We were turning our heads back every few steps.''

I've got two questions.

First, how does a theater showing first-run movies have rats? Maybe at one of those $1.50 theaters (though I've been to many a cheap movie and have never seen any rodents), but at a legit operation in a downtown area? That's disgusting. If I were Channing and Bobby, I would have asked for a hantavirus inoculation and my money back.

Secondly, they let the homeless sleep in theaters in Sacramento? Is that some kind of experimental program to reduce panhandling? Did he have to pay admission? Don't they have ushers at theaters in Sacramento? I can understand sleeping in a bus station or in an abandon building, but at the 10:45 showing of "The Bank Job"? That's unbelievable.

I'm sure Sacramento has more to offer than rodent infestations and movie-going indigents. It has to. But after reading this story, I think some of those Kings fans who left the unsavory comments on Channing's blog owe him an apology.

Oden practicing is nothing new for Webster

Everyone was talking yesterday and the day before that about Greg Oden working out with the team. The news was surprising to some, not so surprising to others. Martell Webster, for example, says it's old news.
The swift and zealous reaction to reports Greg Oden practiced with the Trail Blazers for the first time wasn't much of a news flash to his Portland teammates.

They laughed when headlines across the world that reported it as breaking news were mentioned to them.

"It's not the first time," Portland forward Martell Webster said Thursday before the Trail Blazers faced the Kings at Arco Arena. "It's just the first time the media's got to see him out there."

Thanks for the heads up Martell.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stat bag: Third quarter scoring since the end of the winning streak

I'm not one of those hardcore stat guys. I'm not nearly smart enough to look at numbers for longer than a few minutes, but I do like perusing through the integer side of the game every now and then. And since I've got nothing to do before the start of tonight's game against Sac-town, I thought I'd look into a question that "natedogg" asked in the comments section of this post. Natedogg asks ...
... how many points have we been out-scored by in the third quarter since we finished our streak of 17 of 18 in January?

Well, we've played 30 games since the 17 out of 18 streak ended back on January 13 against the Raptors. We've been outscored in the third quarter in 16 of those games, outscored our opponent in 11 games, and tied in the third quarter three times. All in all, the Trail Blazers are -62 in the third quarters of games since the end of the streak. Suffice to say that the Red and Black haven't been stellar over the past two months in the third frame.

But lets go a little deeper. In those 30 games, the Blazers have won five times when winning the third quarter, but they've also won five times when losing the third quarter. They've lost six times when winning the third and 11 times when losing the third. Confused yet?

What does all this mean? I have no idea. It's obvious that they've lost more often than not in the last 30 games when they lose the third quarter, so we can probably extrapolate that out to declare that winning the third quarter is a good thing, though we probably didn't need any numbers to back up that claim.

Can any of you readers out there wrap a definitive statement out of these third quarter numbers? If so, lets here it.

It's (almost) G.O. time

Great news out of Sacramento (first time for everything, I suppose) that Greg Oden, at least in earnest, has begun working out with the team. Intrepid Oregonian reporter Jason Quick has the scoop.
There was even a little drama to Oden's surprise practice. When coach Nate McMillan announced the players he wanted on the court to run through offensive plays, he named Raef LaFrentz, Sergio Rodriguez, Josh McRoberts, Von Wafer . . . and Oden.

"There was somewhat of an uproar by the team," McMillan said. "Some of them said 'Greg?', and I was like, 'Yeah, Greg.' I think everyone was just excited to see him on the floor, just moving with the team."

Even though Oden said he went through the drills at about half speed, he looked much like the fluid, agile and coordinated big man from before his September surgery, when he was considered a can't-miss prospect as the No. 1 overall selection in the 2007 NBA draft.

"It's nice to see him get to this point, and to do it during the season," McMillan said. "If he is at this point right now, he should be in good shape come training camp (in October)."

That's fantastic news. Quick notes that Oden managed to dunk on Assistant Coach Maurice Lucas' head a few times.
After running through some offensive plays, Oden went to another court and worked one-on-one with assistant coach Maurice Lucas. With Oden on offense taking entry passes from Steve Blake, Lucas pounded the rookie's back with his forearm and slapped at his arms as Oden worked for a shot. Nearly every time, Oden backed Lucas down and finished with a dunk, including one in which he dunked two-handed and slapped the backboard with both hands on his way down, prompting Blake to whistle an imaginary technical.

The one-on-one workout was watched intently by his teammates, and was surprising in the intensity and speed in which Oden went after Lucas. In fact, McMillan said he didn't expect to see Oden jumping and dunking.

"Yeah, I got a couple of dunks, because at the end, coach Luke was just getting out of the way,'' Oden said. "But coach (McMillan) didn't want me to go hard, because I'm not cleared to go all the way hard. It's jut me getting out there and learning the plays. But I'd like to start doing that more often.''

Get those in now Greg, because Mo wouldn't allow that to happen if you weren't still rehabbing, at least not without throwing a few elbows.

Once again, stellar news. It's been a long time coming, and there's still a long ways to go, but Greg Oden is (almost) back.

You can also check out the video of Oden dunking during the Knicks pre-game warmups.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Brandon Roy gets boastful

It's not often that Brandon Roy talks about how good he is, but he should make a habit of doing it more often. The new Nike SPARQ campaign heavily features B.Roy doing all kinds of things that my tendons can only dream of. You can watch a short video of Brandon doing his thing here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When up is down

Something happened during last night's game in Cleveland that got me thinking about the way the Blazers perform when they get early leads. Fueled by a nice start by LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers got the game going in stellar fashion, eventually finishing the first quarter up 25-14. Good news, right?

Wrong. The Blazers were outscored by Cleveland in the second, third and fourth quarters on the way to an 88-80 defeat. Another early lead blown. Another chance at getting back into the playoff race thwarted. Frustration ensues.

And it's hardly the first time this season that the Blazers have blown a substantial first quarter lead. After the end of the first quarter of last night's game a friend who I was watching the game with noted that the Blazers were setting themselves up nicely for the rest of the game by taking an 11-point lead into the second quarter. I said that I wasn't so sure the Blazers having a significant lead at the start of the second frame was really a good thing. Turns out I was right.

Counting last night, the Blazers have lead by 10 points or more at the end of the first quarter seven times this season. So in a little more than 10% of their games this year, the Blazers have taken a double-digit lead into the second quarter. That's not a huge number, but it's not insignificant either.

And on the surface it seems like a good thing. After all, the goal of the game is to score as many points as you can in hopes of scoring more than your opponent, but when it comes to this team in these situations, something goes amiss more often than not. The proof? The Trail Blazers are 3-4 when taking a double-digit lead into the second quarter. Once again, that's not an incredibly significant margin, but it would stand to reason that you should win more games than you lose when you start the game on a good run. By contrast, the Blazers are 0-4 when they are down by 10 or more after the first quarter. We should be doing to other teams what other teams are doing to us.

When looking at the teams played in those games in which the Blazers take a double-digit lead into the second quarter, the reasons why Portland ends up losing those games more frequently starts to make sense. The four losses accrued after being up 10 in the first quarter came courtesy of the Orlando Magic, the Boston Celtics, the L.A. Lakers and most recently, the Cleveland Cavaliers. What do those four teams have in common? They're all divisional leaders and locks for the playoffs. The three wins the Blazers managed to pick up after being up by 10 after the first came against the Golden State Warriors (in that early January game in which GS was run out of the building), the New Jersey Nets and the L.A. Clippers (and we came real close to losing that Clipper game, by the way). Both the Nets and the Clippers are at the bottom of their respective divisions.

As for why the Blazers keep giving up these leads, I'm quite certain there's no one answer. Do the Blazers play differently when they've built a nice lead? Probably, but I don't think anyone on the roster thinks this team can coast to victory even with an early lead (at least I hope no one thinks that). It also likely has something to do with the veteran nature of the teams that they end up losing to. Guys like Kobe, LeBron and Garnett know how to will a team back from being down big. The Clippers and Nets (and to a lesser extent, the Warriors) don't have the players who can get their teams back into games by sheer determination.

Once might ask: Should the Blazers refrain from building big first quarter leads against the best teams in the NBA? Should Nate McMillan put the breaks on when the Red and Black come strong out of the gate?

Eh, probably not. You have to learn how to play with a lead, and these young Blazers are finding out the hard way that the difference between the good teams and the great teams often comes down to playing the same way every minute of the game. Being up early isn't worth a damn if you lose the game. Teams at the top of their divisions get better as the game goes on, especially when facing adversity early on. Frankly, the Blazers aren't there yet.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bill Simmons says Blazers better off without Chris Paul

Well, he doesn't say that exactly, but in his column today, ESPN's Bill Simmons breaks down the debate that we've all argued at one point since the 2005: What if the Trail Blazers had taken Chris Paul?
On the day of the draft, Portland traded that pick to Utah for the following package: The No. 6 pick (Martell Webster); the No. 27 pick (Linus Kleiza, eventually traded to Denver); and a 2006 No. 1 (which turned out to be the No. 30 pick, Joel Freeland). I'm going out on a limb and saying Portland would love a do-over on this one.

Just for the hell of it, let's say the Blazers took Paul. They're still a lottery team the following season, although probably not as bad, so maybe they end up with Rudy Gay at No. 8 instead of Aldridge at No. 4. They're definitely better in '07, maybe a fringe playoff team, so let's take Oden away from them and give them the No. 12 pick (Thaddeus Young) that year. Which foundation would you rather have if you're a Portland fan?

Scenario A: Oden, Aldridge, Webster, Roy, Travis Outlaw, Jarrett Jack, Joel Przybilla, the rights to Rudy Fernandez.

Scenario B: Paul, Roy, Gay, Outlaw, Przybilla, Jack, Young, the rights to Rudy Fernandez.

Hmmmmmm. Paul and Roy as your backcourt for the next 12 years? Would that have even worked when both guys need the ball in their hands? (Possibly.) Would they have had enough size? (From the looks of it, no.) Would they have played more like a Golden State-type style, and would it have worked? (With the talent on hand, I say yes.) Anyway, if Portland takes Paul, that sets off a crazy chain reaction: New Orleans ends up with Deron Williams instead of Paul; Utah never gets its franchise point guard; Oden and Aldridge land in other cities; maybe Roy doesn't turn into a franchise guard playing second fiddle to Paul; and maybe Paul isn't quite as driven because he's not as ticked off for the next few years after three teams passed on him. I have to say, I like the way it worked out.

I'm a little surprised by Simmons' siding with history. Maybe he's still stinging from all the hate mail he received after arguing the Blazers should trade LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez for Mike's Conley and Miller. Maybe Simmons didn't want to provoke your ire once again.

I'm still not positive which one of those scenarios I would prefer. I lean towards what we have now, but Chris Paul, Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay as your starting 1-2-3? That's a real good team. Two All-Star and one probable All-Star in your starting five.

But on the flip side, I'd be surprised if Aldridge and Oden don't end up as Top-5 players at their respective positions within the next five years. So it boils down to relying on talented bigs or talented guards and wings. I think you typically defer to size in these instances, but the league is changing a bit.

It's all moot of course, unless one of you Chris Paul-loving super-geniuses somehow manage to master time travel.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

When choosing between ROY and future ROY, take Roy

I'm sure we all got our fill of the Oden vs. Durant debate last year. I know I did. But what about the debate between the reigning Rookie of the Year (for those of you living under rocks, that would be Brandon Roy) and the presumed 2008 Rookie of the Year (that would be Kevin Durant)? The folks at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram break down the competition.
They are each cornerstones of their respective Pacific Northwest franchises. Brandon Roy was the 2006-07 NBA Rookie of the Year for the Portland Trail Blazers; the Seattle SuperSonics' Kevin Durant will probably claim the honor this season. They are both fine talents just beginning their professional careers, but who would you rather have?

Brandon Roy

Pro: In his second season, Roy, 23, is already one of the best all-around players in the league. He has point-guard skills, is an elite defender and is the leader of a young team that has exceeded expectations. While he isn't a jaw-dropping athlete, Roy's balance and near-perfect footwork make him difficult to stop, and he is good at just about every facet of the game, averaging 19.3 points, 5.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

Con: Roy, 6-6, 229 pounds, missed 25 games his rookie season because of a heel injury and has missed seven games this season with a severely sprained ankle, so he hasn't proven to be the most durable player. Because he is such a well-rounded player, there isn't one specific skill in which he is better than anyone else. Can he get better, or has he maxed out as a player?

Kevin Durant

Pro: Durant, 19, is a tantalizing talent with a power forward's height, a shooting guard's skills and a center's wingspan. The 6-9, 215-pounder is a fearless shooter who is learning the NBA game on the fly, but still managing to average 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists. At this point in his career, Durant isn't close to being a finished product, and that may be his best quality.

Con: The flip side off all that potential? Durant has a lot to learn and a long way to go. He needs to get stronger, work on his passing and floor game, and improve his ball-handling. Heck, he needs to prove he has an actual position. And can his narrow frame take on more weight? Tough to say. But at this point no one can predict if he's going to be closer to Kevin Garnett or Glenn Robinson.

The verdict: We'll take Roy. Despite not being a big man or being blessed with special athleticism, he has the intangibles that can't be taught or developed. He is a winner who understands pace, flow and spacing. He is the player every coach wants, even if most GMs don't realize it. How else do you explain Adam Morrison and Shelden Williams being selected before him in the 2006 NBA Draft.

An interesting debate, though I'm not sure which player it says more about. Is Brandon Roy so good that he wouldn't be traded for a player considered one of the most can't miss prospects in the last 10 years? Is Durant now considered that bad?

It's a tough question to answer. Would you trade Roy for Durant? In the end, I think I would stick with Brandon Roy as well, though I'm obviously biased.

David Stern: 'What do I know?'

NBA Commissioner David Stern uttered that line numerous times when he was in Portland this week. I imagine that the Commish knows a lot more than he would let on.

But you can listen to a bit of what David Stern knows. Here's Brian Wheeler's one-one-one interview with the NBA's top dog. But there's more! Here's the audio of Stern's media availability that took place before the Suns game on Tuesday. Lots of interesting tidbits in both of those mp3's.

Listen: 03.05.08 Edition of Trail Blazers Courtside

If for some reason you missed it, here's the podcast from yesterday's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside, your weekly radio show for all things Trail Blazers. Guests on this week's show include NBA Commissioner David Stern, Assistant Coach Monty Williams,'s Marty Burns and Trail Blazers Dancers coach Dee Dee Anderson.

And just in case you're unaware, all of the podcasts that we do are available here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Fathers, Fernandez and shows on FoxSports

None of these links are probably strong enough to stand on their own, but when combined together they form a powerful post.

- Mike Tokito wrote a story about the relationship between Nate McMillan and his son Jamelle, who's a freshman playing for Herb Sendek at Arizona State.
The McMillan family decided that Nate would move to Portland, where he would be charged with rebuilding a struggling franchise, while Michelle, Jamelle and daughter Brittany would remain in Seattle.

Jamelle told his father that Portland was a great opportunity, but Nate, who never knew his father, realized the move would forever change their relationship.

"I knew it was the last time I would live with him, and that bothered me," Nate said. "But we talked about it."

Nate essentially was saying Jamelle, then 17 and between his sophomore and junior years, would need to become the man of the house, something Nate had to do growing up with no father, little money and five siblings in Raleigh, N.C.

Nate, who preaches responsibility and accountability to his players, now did so to his son.

"It came with more responsibilities that, ultimately, I'm going to have to face anyway," Jamelle said. "That definitely helped me out for where I'm at now, being on my own in Arizona."

Nate would have had a chance to see Jamelle play in Corvallis and Eugene this week, but the Trail Blazers leave tomorrow on a five-game road trip. Life in the NBA can be tough on the family.

- The legend of Rudy Fernandez continues to grow at an exponential rate. His performance in the ACB this season has lead at least two writers to proclaim that if they re-did the 2007 draft, Rudy would have gone much higher. So says Stan McNeal:
Without playing in the NBA, the Spaniard's stock has climbed. He's 6-6, Ray Allen-thin and likes to dunk. Is he ready to play meaningful minutes next season? "Oh yeah," says an evaluator who has scouted Fernandez this year.

And my main man, Bill Simmons:
At No. 8, unquestionably, the Warriors would take Rudy Fernandez because he has more value than anyone left on the board (and they'd just wait a year for him).

- Finally, make sure to check out Brandon Roy tonight on FoxSports' "In my own words." It airs tonight at 8:30 on whatever channel FoxSports is these days.

Notes and Quotes: Suns 97, Blazers 92


Phoenix 34 of 42 from the free throw line both opponent season highs vs. Blazers (Old 30 made at Atlanta 1/21 and 38 attempts at Boston 1/16) . . . Standing room crowd of 20,595 is 17th straight sellout and 16th of 20,000+ . . . The Suns have now won seven in a row and 11 of the last 12 in the series, and four in a row in the Rose Garden.


Nate McMillan
“I thought we missed some easy point-blank range shots early in the game. In the first quarter they pretty much got what they wanted, the first half, they were knocking down threes and getting to the basket. It seemed like we had open looks they came down and scored pretty easily. We looked tight. I thought we started to tighten up and they got what they wanted and built the lead that was tough to dig ourselves out of.

“I thought in the second half we came out and played the way we are capable of playing. Maybe you’re down and you’re a little more relaxed and we got ourselves back in the game and had a chance to win it.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say we were fatigued. Brandon looked a little bit fatigued, winded with his minutes (42) but other than that everyone else played average minutes. There were shots you can’t hesitate on and though we hesitated more than taking those shots. We had some looks when you’re open and you’ve got to shoot the ball. A couple of our guys hesitated. … if anything I thought they fatigued with them playing seven guys I thought we wore them down and they started to fatigue and we got more open looks. They were the aggressors in the first half and we came out and turned it around.

“We missed shots and I thought defensively the first half we weren’t physical enough. I thought we allowed them to make their cuts freely without contact, without grabbing so they got to the basket. Penetration was there. We left three-point shooters open and we were 2-for-15 from the three. We’ve got 25 attempts from the free throw line but they were the aggressors with 42 attempts.”

Channing Frye
“I don’t know if they’d agree but I think I messed up at the end. Everybody makes mistakes. When coach puts me in, he’s trusting me. But I messed up. Overall the second half we did a good job playing defense and limiting them to one shot (per possession). During critical moments we were not able to execute when we needed a bucket.”

James Jones
“The last 24 (games) teams are positioning themselves for playoffs or they’re positioning themselves for next year.For the teams that aren’t making it to the playoffs, well, we’ve got to give every team the best shot we can. This showed when teams take the initiative early, it makes it tough for us.”

LaMarcus Aldridge
“I started the game thinking I was doing everything right. I was trying to get to the basket. I was getting jump hooks close to the rim and they weren’t going in. It was frustrating. It kind of made me get passive then it was downhill from there. The dunk over Amare? I felt like I was trying to quick-shoot it. I think the whole night I was rushing it. That time, I just told myself to take my time and dunk it."

Mike D'Antoni
“You have to give them credit, they looked good. They are playing very hard and Nate is doing a great job. Speaking on us, I thought in the first half we were great. I told them that was the blueprint at how we want to play. That’s it right there. Can we extend that to 48 minutes? Can we even get better within that? That’s our goal.

"There is no reason why we don’t score points. There’s no reason why we don’t fast break. There is no reason that we aren’t efficient in the half court offense. Those things will come along as I get a better feel for the guys. That will come. We’re going to expand our rotation a little bit. We made 7 out of 29 field goals in the second half. If you do that, teams will come back on you.

"We got lucky at the end of the game. We’re fighting and we’re not comfortable yet and so I think we missed some wide open looks. We had some opportunities to ice the game but we just didn’t get it done. Again I’m just going to focus on the positives and there were a lot. We’ll just take another step forward tomorrow night. I thought Shaq made his presence felt, especially in the first half. We used him the way we want too. He’s comfortable with that roll. He was huge in every sense of the word. They shot 41 percent and he’s a big reason for that. We just have to keep running and tighten up our defense on the perimeter.”

Amare Stoudamire
“The first half we did a great job defensively. We got guys out of their comfort zone and were very aggressive. We played passing lanes and got a lot of deflections. That led to a big lead.

"The second half Portland came out aggressive. They really tried to change the momentum and they did that. Their fans did a great job at helping them. In the fourth quarter we held on. We scrapped defensively and we were able to get the win. I think we could have been more aggressive attacking the paint, but we’re a jump shooting team at times. We did get shots from the perimeter. We could have had more chances to get to the basket. It’s tough in the west and we have a tough schedule down the stretch so we really have to buckle down and play as hard as we can. We have to give it all we have for the last 24 games.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Video: Nate McMillan talks postgame about the loss to the Suns

Once again, not a whole lot you can say about this one. They dug a deep hole, battled back to within a few points, then couldn't seal the deal. It's been a common theme this season, one I'm sure everyone is plenty sick of. All they can do now is regroup and get ready to take to the road for the next five games.

Here's what Nate McMillan had to say after the game.

Photos: Suns 97, Blazers 94

Good things happen when you get physical

In most instances, being described as having finesse is a good thing, but in the NBA, "finesse" is a code for "soft." Being described as a finesse team (which the Trail Blazers often are) is often another way of tabbing a team as physically weak, pushovers. It's not an entirely fair assessment, but it is what it is.

To be perfectly honest, the Blazers are probably too "finesse" for Nate McMillan's taste. Coach has noted more than a few times this season, usually after a loss, that his team was unable to match the physical intensity of the opposing team. It's not that surprising when you think about it. There's a certain amount of toughness that every player brings to a team, but it's something that must be taught as well, especially to a young team like the Trail Blazers. Jason Quick had a great blog post that spoke to this point.
Regardless of whether the Trail Blazers make the playoffs this season, I think this two-month stretch to end the season will be one that Blazers players and coaches look back at as the time when the team gained valuable experience.

Already the team has witnessed how good teams pick their game up a notch in February (see Houston, Utah, San Antonio, the Lakers). And all of the players have experienced about fighting through fatigue (a majority of the rotation players will easily establish career-highs in minutes this season).

And right now, they are learning how the pace, physicality and the official's whistles change in March and April, when many of the games are played in playoff atmospheres.

Inconsistency is still a problem, at least when it comes to playing physically night in, night out. But on some nights, when the mood hits the Trail Blazers just right, they're capable of banging with the best in the league. We got a bit of a taste of that last Friday, when the Blazers out-muscled and out-toughed the Lakers. Phil Jackson, coach of the Lakers, noted as much afterwards.
"There was some comment after the Portland game that the way they were physical with us was distracting our players," Jackson said. "They thought our players were wusses and they weren't going to be able to stand up and take a physical game.

"The challenge was sent out to our players. We talked about having to play the kind of game where the referees are not going to make a call. They have to let the physical nature of the game take its course, and you have to play through it."

If the Blazers are going to have any chance of making the playoffs, they're going to have to make every game a physical one. If that can bring that intensity every night, they've got a better than average chance in every game.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Talk to the boss tomorrow

In case you missed the half-page graphic on the front page of, NBA Commissioner David Stern will be in town tomorrow to check out the goings-on here in our fair city. What's more, he'll be participating in an online chat during which you can ask him all kinds of questions, which he may or may not answer. If you're by a computer tomorrow at 2:45 p.m., consider checking it out.

Blind item photo

This photo cracked me up this morning. Some teams implore their home fans to chant "Defense!", "get loud," or stand up. At Oracle Arena, they ask you to eat food.

Photos: Warriors 110, Blazers 104

If the Trail Blazers end up missing the playoffs by one game, this is going to be the game they look back on with contempt. As Mike Rice said during the broadcast, this game was there for the taking. We just couldn't take.