Friday, February 29, 2008

Notes and Quotes: Blazers 119, Lakers 111

Wins don't get much more satisfying than that. It's probably still a bit premature, but if the Trail Blazers can somehow carry this momentum into the next game against Golden State, maybe they could rattle off a few wins in a row and get back into the playoff race. They've got a lot of tough games ahead, but if they play like they did tonight, they've got a chance to get quite a few wins before this season is said and done.

Notes
Brandon Roy’s 12 assists career high (old 11 three times this season)

Blazers 119 points season high point total (previous was 117-113 over Bucks 12/9 in OT)

Steve Blake matches his career-high three-pointers for a game with five (of 8) in first half

Jarrett Jack ties season high with 21 points.

Portland’s bench outscores the Lakers reserves 47-23

Blazers’ 64 first half points and 37 in second quarter both season highs (previous 61 vs. Nuggets 12/16 and 36 at Hawks 1/21

Trail Blazers have won five straight over the Lakers in the Rose Garden, 11 of the last 13, and 18 of the last 22

Quotes

Nate McMillan
“I thought this was our most efficient game in a long time. We started off kind of slow defensively but picked it up in the second quarter and through out the rest of the game. Our ball movement was terrific---29 assists with only six turnovers is a great ratio. I thought we spread the floor well with our shooters, moved the ball effectively against their defense and then seeing the ball go into the basket. We had not had much of that lately.

“Having everybody back gives our guys confidence for the rest of the season. I thought we got back to that point earlier when both of our units were terrific. We set that tone when James and Jarrett came in. Our bench outscored the Lakers 47-23. I think the whole team came out and had fun like we used to be doing during the streak. We were pretty active defensively. I thought our bigs---Joel and LaMarcus---played very aggressively and made it difficult for the Lakers inside. Kobe got his points but we made him work for them. It was just a well played game. There are so many things to be talked about: James coming in after a layoff and hitting those threes and spreading the floor; Steve Blake cashing in on those threes in the first half; and Travis now being able to create his own shots.

“This is a good reason for a number of reasons: We’ve been through some rough times. I was certainly good to have everybody back and it showed in the fact that we could attack them with so many options.”

Jarrett Jack
“This game ranks right up there with the rest of them (the victories this season). Everybody was stepping up big tonight. We’re competitors. Down in L.A. we didn’t play a complete 48 minutes. Tonight was a complete game, especially the contributions from our ‘bigs,’ Joel (Przybilla) and L.A. (LaMarcus Aldridge). They were grinding down low for us. We don’t back down to anybody when you come through the paint. Joel took a hard foul. I had his back; you know me. I’m trying to get in the middle of things.”

Brandon Roy
“I think this is a great team effort. Look at our scoring: It was balanced. Our defensive effort on Kobe was great tonight. We made him work tonight for everything he got. Yeah, it was a fun game. The fans did a great job of supporting us. They’re sticking with and we’re trying to do our best to win games. Joel set the tone (tonight) but our fans really set the tonight. They made it a playoff atmosphere and we did our best to try to show up. I thinks it makes Coach feel great to go to a number of guys. Having James (Jones) back and me being back out there. It just gives us balances. It makes both our lineups strong. Its great seeing everybody back out there again. We were having fun out there. I hope we can just finish the last games the same.”

Phil Jackson
“They certainly played a good fourth quarter. We matched them most of the game. A couple little things turned the game around. They changed the momentum. We played a very good game up until the four or five minute mark. You know fatigue has an effect on the ball game, but you don’t use it as an excuse. When you see the three point shooting - that’s usually where it comes out. They play real well; this is an aggressive team. Nate McMillan is a fine young coach. They did a fine job against us defensively. They deserve to win. You know you are going lose (the winning streak would inevitably end), but you hope to not have a slippage of fundamentals, or things like that.”

“Defensively, we didn’t get the turnovers. They were able to have one turnover in the first half and they had none in the fourth quarter. Defensively I didn’t think we were aggressive enough, so we have to look at that a little bit. Offensively, we were good. We just couldn’t finish this one out. You take the loss and just try to not let it hurt your momentum.”

Luke Walton
“They’re a good young team, especially at home. They hit a bunch of shots down the stretch and we didn’t make shots. A couple times we thought we could’ve built a little lead on them, but then we messed up. The start of the first quarter was one of those times. You keep a team like that around on their home court and they’ll make you pay. It’s a crazy league, sometimes the teams got your number, up here they’ve got our number right now."

Lamar Odom
“We played good tonight, but we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We scrapped with them, until we got to the fourth quarter. They beat us; they played well. They made some big shots when they needed it… They’ve got a great home court advantage here and we didn’t play well enough to beat them on their floor tonight.

Video: Nate McMillan post-game after the win against the Lakers

Photos: Blazers 119, Lakers 111

Just do it, again

Maybe I had never noticed it before, but it seems like the Trail Blazers are getting a lot of their season series' done in a hurry this year. We played the Utah Jazz all four times this season in less than a month. Both games against the Atlanta Hawks occurred in less than a week. And then there was the Seattle home-and-home back-to-back (which I think we do every year).

And tonight we take on the L.A. Lakers for the second time in three days, which is even stranger when you consider that Tuesday's contest was the first game between the two teams this season. It seems like an odd way to put together a schedule.

But it's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, according to some on the team, it can actually be beneficial to see the same team within a short span of time.

“You can be a little more prepared for things that they’re going to do," said Blazers point guard Steve Blake. “You get, not necessarily specifics, but just kind of a feeling for where players are going to be and who does what in their offense. You just get a better feel for the game when you play someone twice.”

That probably holds true for the most part, but does that logic still apply when you're playing a team on a 10-game win streak?

“You give yourself a day or two to make adjustments but you only give them a day or two to make adjustments," said James Jones, who missed the first game this season against the Lakers. "Playing games close together, you get a chance to keep the schemes fresh in your mind and have a fresh feel for their tendencies and what they like to do and maybe go out there and counteract what they’ve done and get a victory the second time around."

Though the Blazers ended up losing 13, the still did some positive things, especially in the first half. It might have been difficult to be optimistic about their chances tonight if they had been blown out on Tuesday, but by turning in a solid if not entirely consistent performance at the Staples Center gave this team something to build on.

"We played good basketball (against the Lakers)," said Nate McMillan, "we were in the game for four quarters but they made some plays down the stretch. We know we can do some things better. We have them again in our building, so the fire, the hunger to play them again right away after losing should be in you.”

Listen: 02.28.08 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 Nate McMillan, Von Wafer and Raef LaFrentz.

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Video: Greg Oden introduces Laura Bush

The Helping America's Youth regional conference was held today at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Greg Oden was there to lend his support and introduce First Lady Laura Bush. Below is the video from their opening remarks.

Photos: Helping America's Youth Press Conference

Draft talk already?

Chad Ford mentions in a chat today that PG/SG Russell Westbrook would "be perfect" for the Trail Blazers should he be available when Kevin Pritchard makes his pick this summer. I've seen Westbrook play a couple times this season, and the Blazers could certainly do a lot worse.

OregonLive.com's Sean Meagher has a lot more information on Westbrook. Definitely worth checking out.

So do you have a horse in the early draft race? If the season ended today, the Blazers would have the 13th pick. Are you more of a Kevin Love supporter? Should the Blazers draft big, small or somewhere in between? Or are you one of those people who think we've already got enough young talent and would prefer to trade the pick? Lets hear it.

Give the blog a call

You may or may not have noticed that there's a new button to the right of this post that says "Call Me!" If you hadn't noticed it, take a few seconds to divert your eyes two inches to the right.

So what is it you ask? It's a new feature here at the Center Court Blog which allows you to send me a voice message via your phone. The cool part is that once you leave a message, I can post that audio right here in the blog. I figure it might be an easier way to leave your thoughts and comments than registering through Blogger then leaving a typed message.

So here's how it works. You click the "Call Me!" button, then enter your name and phone number, then click the smaller "Call me" tab. Then, you'll immediately receive a phone automated phone call which prompts you to leave your message. That message then goes automatically to my email box, allowing me to listen to your message and then, if warranted, post the audio of you call in the blog. Make sense?

So go ahead and give it a try. As a topic, why don't you let me know how many wins you think the Trail Blazers will have in final 24 games of the season. Who should get more playing time in the remaining games? What chance do you think the Blazers have of sneaking into the playoffs? Anything else on your mind? Let me know that as well.

Two interesting stats from last night's game

I probably uttered more curse words during last night's game than I have the entire season. If we would have lost that game, I don't know what I would have done. Relinquishing big leads then eventually losing is bad enough when you're playing top-tier teams like the Lakers and Celtics, but to do the same things against the current incarnation of the Clippers? That would have been too much to take.

But luckily, the Blazers did get the win. Jarrett Jack came up huge after a tough game the night before. Same for Martell Webster and Channing Frye. Von Wafer, in his first action as a Trail Blazer, posted career-highs in (take a deep breath) points (11), field goals made (4), field goals attempted (10), three point field goals made (2), three point field goals attempted (5), defensive rebounds (5), total rebounds (5) and minutes played (32). In fact, Wafer's minutes last night constituted 26% of his time on the floor this season. What's more, Wafer only played 21 fewer minutes last night than Taurean Green (the player he was recently trade for) played during his tenure with the Blazers. Make of that what you will.

Onto those other stats. The first comes courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN).
The Trail Blazers earned a split during their visit to Los Angeles by defeating the Clippers on Wednesday after losing to the Lakers the previous night. Portland was the 14th team to play on the road at Staples Center on consecutive days. Three of those teams lost both games: the Timberwolves in 2001 (April 12-13), Grizzlies in 2003 (March 30-31) and Hornets in 2004 (Dec. 21-22).

I'm not entirely sure what the significance of that statistic is, but at least we're not the fourth team to ever loose back-to-back games to different teams in the Staples Center.

The other interesting stat (which is only kind of a stat) comes from the AP writeup of the game.
The win was Portland's first against the Clippers on the road since Dec. 18, 2002, when they erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit behind Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace.

More good news! Another streak comes to an end this season.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Video: Greg Oden on Jim Rome

Greg, and his performance on 'Rome is Burning", speaks for itself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Every possession counts

Probably one of the hardest things for a young team to do is stay focused for the duration of an 82-game season. And as the Trail Blazers continue to struggle after the All-Star break, you might expect that a seemingly lottery-bound team might simply play out the string. It’s an occurrence that has been known to happen on occasion, but with 26 games left to go, it’s the last thing on the minds of Portland’s players.

“We’re starting that last push,” said Martell Webster. “We’ve got a chance. There’s a sense of urgency right now for us to get out here and play the best possible basketball that we can. Try to win over .500. We’re trying to go over .500 and that’s going to give us a chance to possibly make it into the playoffs.”

The Blazers are 1-3 since the All-Star break, meaning that they’d have to finish 14-12 over the final 26 games to fulfill the goal of going .500. It’s a daunting task, especially considering that 14 of the remaining games are away from the Rose Garden, but it’s still attainable if the team can get back to doing the things that made them so successful during the 13-game win streak.

So how do they do it?

“We’ve just got to get back to making every possession count” said Steve Blake, “really focusing from the start of the game to the end of the game, and that’s what we plan on doing.”

With Brandon Roy out of the lineup for at least the next two games, making possessions count is going to be paramount to getting wins.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Notes and Quotes: Celtics 112, Blazers 102

You'll notice the phrase "season high" shows up an inordinate number of times into today's notes. As you might expect from looking at the final score, most of the season highs belonged to Boston.

Notes
-- Celtics 57.9% field goal shooting season high vs. Portland (old 56.4% at N.O. 11/2) -- Celtics 14 three-pointers and 66.7% (14-21) from long range both season highs vs. Blazers
-- 65 second-half points by Celtics season high for half vs. Blazers
-- Blazers 32 points high for 1st quarter this season (previous 31 vs. Raptors 12/19)
-- Travis Outlaw’s 24 points third time in four games +20 coming off bench, averaging 23.0 ppg in last four
-- 20,554 fans Blazers 15th consecutive sellout and 20th of the season.

Quotes

Nate McMillan
“Boston’s play seemed very similar to the way they played in Boston. This time Paul Pierce was hot. He didn’t have that good a shooting night back there. But any one of those three of those all-stars (Allen, Pierce, Garnett) are capable of carrying the team. Allen and Posey can spread the floor with their perimeter game and that puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

“That team knows how to mentally get back into the game. After we had that great first quarter they just stuck with it and ended up scoring over 30 points in the next three quarter. We want to get to that point where you can be down and be calm about it, play with poise and stay calm.

“I put Raef (LaFrentz) in the rotation and played Joel more again to try to improve our rebounding but we’re still getting pounded on the board. Boston is just stronger than we are. Their pressure and physical play was just taking us out of the game. And offense, with Brandon out with the ankle sprain, we don’t have a lot of players to make up the difference. At all the positions, with Garnett playing L.A. (Aldridge) and Posey on Travis and Pierce on Roy in the beginning you don’t have an advantage on the offensive end. You certainly can see why their record is so good and they’re getting sharp for the playoffs.”

Steve Blake
“They stepped up and played well. We started slow in the third quarter which gave them momentum and we couldn’t recover from it. When we are making shots we are tough to beat. That’s what we were doing---making shots---when we were winning all those games. Lately the shots haven’t been falling as much for an entire game.”

About the mood in the locker room: “We are upset that we are losing but we’ve been in this situation before at the beginning of the year when we were losing tons of games. We just have to find a way to fight through it.

Brandon Roy
About his sprained ankle: “It seems like its getting worse and its not getting any better. So tonight its was just a little too painful to continue to try to play through it . . . I hope its just a sprain, I hope its nothing more serious than that. Earlier I took some medicine and that was helping. But today it didn’t do anything for me. I was warming up and it just felt bad. It felt bad the whole game and by the third quarter Rajon (Rondo) tripped over it and was too painful to try to continue . . . It is pretty painful so I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Maybe a week or two of rest would help. We’ll see and we’ll talk about it after we know what the MRI says . . . Its not badly swollen but its very painful.

“At the start we played good basketball. The guys played good basketball throughout the game but I wasn’t able to make some of the plays I normally try to make to help us get leads or maintain leads. I was upset the whole game, even when we were up by 16, because I knew there was nothing I could do out there.

Doc Rivers
“It was just great defense. They had 32 points in the first quarter…the defense from that point on was phenomenal. It was our energy. We eased into the game and they came out excited and attacked us. We didn’t handle it very well. We’ve talked about how teams are fired up to play you and you have to match that to start games. This is a dangerous team to get down to on the road. We were down 17 at one point and then at one point to have a 18 or 19 point lead, that’s impressive. It was our defense. Our offense was fine, but it was our defense that won the game.”

(On three-point shooting)
“We’ll take 14 even it means taking more than 21 shot attempts. We got good looks though. It wasn’t like we were forcing it up and it wasn’t like we were looking for threes. We got the threes out of ball movement. We got the ball into the post and then got it out. Those are good threes’… the type of three’s we want to take. We’ve got guys capable of making them and that’s the right way to take them.”

Eddie House
“They got up early but we cut their offensive rebounds out. We started to contest shots. We got some easy looks on the other end. We made them guard. We got good looks. When you get in your rhythm it’s a whole lot better. You feel better about yourself and your feel better about your shots. When you get them in the rhythm of the game, more than likely you’re going to knock those shots down. When you don’t, it’s more hit and miss and that point.”

James Posey
“Our defensive intensity is something that was missing the last couple of games for the most part. For a quarter and a half of this game it was still missing. But we found a way to win the game and get stops. We controlled the boards during the run and got ourselves back in the ball game. On the offensive end we shared the basketball. We made it easy on ourselves on the offensive end and we got ourselves back in the game. They had energy at the start and everything was going their way. They were shooting a high percentage and they were crashing the boards at both ends. They got more opportunities. Once we were able to control that, it was a whole different ball game. When we move the basketball we’re a great team. When we don’t we suffer a bit. During that stretch we moved the basketball and got good shots. Tonight they feel for us and we were able to get a win.”

Video: Nate McMillan post-game after the loss to the Celtics

Not a whole lot going right for the Trail Blazers these days. Any of the momentum built up during the start of the season is long gone. All that remains are a bunch of tough games. Brandon Roy's ankle is sprained. James Jones' knee is still sore (though getting better). No one seems to be playing with a whole lot of confidence. And now the losses are starting to pile up. Still hovering over .500, and at this point, I'd think it would be a moral victory to end the season that way.

Here's what Nate McMillan, a man who doesn't put much stock in moral victories, had to say after the game.

Photos: Celtics 112, Blazers 102

Friday, February 22, 2008

Lets all jump to conclusions!

In my previous experiences writing Trail Blazer blogs I've sometimes been a bit too reactionary regarding criticism of the team, especially from those outside of Oregon. The way I see it, there's no way you can accurately pass judgment on a team that you've seen maybe five times over the course of a season, which I imagine is the frequency with which most national media, especially those on the east coast, see the Blazers. That's not to say that they don't have the right to make up their minds based on those limited viewings, but I simply don't understand how those evaluations could be taken all that seriously.

And sometimes, it's probably not meant to be taken too seriously. Case in point: Boston's favorite non-athlete son, Bill Simmons. Two days ago, Simmons penned an article running down a list of trades he would consider, at least that's what I think he was getting at. His first salvo had the Blazers trading LaMarcus Aldridge, the rights to Rudy Fernandez, a first-round pick in 2008 and $3 million in cash to Memphis for Mike Conley Jr., Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and a second-round pick in 2008. Simmons theorized that Aldridge won't be needed when Greg Oden returns and that he "won't ever make the All-Star team" thus rendering him tradable. Trail Blazers fans, as you might expect, largely disagreed.

I won't go into all the reason why I don't think that trade would have made sense, but to claim that having a healthy Greg Oden somehow makes LaMarcus Aldridge expendable is beyond me. The two front-runners in the Western Conference both just traded to add legitimate power forward/center combos to their teams. Did acquiring Pau Gasol make Andrew Bynum expendable? Is Amare Stoudemire destined to be traded because the Suns picked up Shaq? It's an argument that makes so little sense that I feel kind of stupid even addressing it.

As a side note, I try to think of good questions to ask Nate McMillan during the pre and post game availability in the hopes that he won't think I'm a moron. If I'm borderline on whether or not I think a question is good, I don't ask it. Would I ask Coach McMillan if having Greg Oden makes LaMarcus Aldridge expendable? Not a chance. And not only would I not ask Nate because it's a stupid question, but also because I've heard Nate talk about having both those guys on the court together so many times that I already know what his answer would be. That goes back to the point of seeing a team more than a few times each season.

But back to Simmons. Today, he writes about, among other things, the reasons why the afore-mentioned trade could work in a effort to answer the criticism he received from Blazer fans, who he describes as "irrationally devoted." Simmons sets up a few straw men to "prove" his point, the strangest being that Rudy Fernandez (who's a guard, by the way) might not be good because Marc Gasol is the best bigman in the Spanish ACB League. That doesn't make any sense to me. Oh yeah, and Aldridge, at the ripe old age of 22, is only 240 pounds. Kevin Garnett at age 31 weights 253 pounds, by the way.

But here's the part that prompted me to waste the better half of my morning writing this post you are now reading. One of the reasons that Simmons uses to validate his argument is that Mike Conley Jr. is a future All-Star. It wouldn't surprise me if that were true, but Simmons comes to this conclusion despite the fact that Conley Jr. has played in exactly 25 games his entire NBA career. My gut says that's not enough time to properly evaluate a player.

Next, Simmons goes on to say that Aldridge is "not indispensable" because, in 35 minutes a night in his second season, LaMarcus is only scoring 17 points and getting seven rebounds. And the part that seems to disturb Simmons the most is that LaMarcus doesn't get to the line as much as he should. It's a fair criticism. I'm sure everyone, including LaMarcus himself, would like to see him get more trips to the line, but is that really a reason to trade him for a guy like Conley Jr., who in his best month as a pro, averaged 10 points, 5.4 assists, 2 turnovers and 2.4 free-throw attempts per game in 33.9 minutes per? Isn't it much easier to find a 6-1 point guard than it is to find a 6-11 power forward? What has Mike Conley done to make Simmons think he's a future All-Star, and conversely, what has LaMarcus Aldridge done to make Simmons think he's not a future All-Star? Simmons then goes on to say that Aldridge's ceiling is that of 20 points, eight rebounds a night, which in Bill's world is a negative thing. Go figure.

It's foolishness to say that one guy with one year of college ball and 25 games under his NBA belt is a future All-Star, just as it's foolish to claim that a player in the middle of his first full season is not an All-Star. Most players, outside of the superstars, don't even start playing close to their best ball until they've been in the league at least four years. To point to a second year player and say, 'His ceiling is this' shows an extreme lack of knowledge pertaining to development in the NBA. And what's more, it's totally unnecessary.

Notes and Quotes: Blazers 92, Sonics 88

I didn't get a chance to post quotes last night, so I'm doing it now. There's still plenty of time to read up on what happened last night before watching what happens tonight. Does that makes any sense?

Notes
Brandon Roy 14 rebounds career high (previous 12 vs. Washington 3/20/07) . . . LaMarcus Aldridge 5 blocked shots ties career high (at Dallas 12/30) . . . Blazers 11 blocked shots season high (old 10 vs. Denver 2/4 in OT) . . . Blazers three players in double figure rebounding (Roy 13, Aldridge 12, Przybilla 11) first time since 4/4/98 at Phoenix (Brian Grant 12, Wallace 11, Rider 10) . . . Przybilla 4 blocks gives him Blazers career total of 425 moving him ahead of Arvydas Sabonis (422) and into a tie with Wayne Cooper (425) for seventh on the club’s all-time list.

Quotes

Nate McMillan
“We’ll take it. We did some good things out there. We wanted to get to the free throw line and be aggressive and tonight we did. It’s always good to get a ‘W’ and build off of that. I think another factor in our win tonight was that we made some plays down the stretch this time.

“We’re still being bothered by those five-minute stretches---this time in the third quarter---when we didn’t execute. But at the end I like the fact that we didn’t settle for jump shots. We took the ball to the hoop and we took care of the ball. But in that bad stretch we made three turnovers in a row and we didn’t make shots. If you get those open shots you have to make them. We got caught too often not knowing how much time was left on the clock.

“I was really pleased that Travis and LaMarcus got to the foul line by taking the ball to the basket. We need both of them to attack the basket and be aggressive.

“One of the reasons I had Jack in the rotation is he is one of our most aggressive guards. He’s a guy who can get to the basket and get to the foul line. Also, I’ve come to realize that we’ve got to find a way to get Joel (Przybilla) in the game because of his rebounding and shot-blocking. That’s why Channing didn’t get more minutes tonight because I kept Joel in the game as long as we could. You’ve got to give up something to get something and I felt we had to have Joel in the game to rebound.”

Travis Outlaw
“Jarrett Jack stepped up big time. We had everyone come in (to the game) and step up for us. It was nice. Joel (Przybilla) is a presence on defense. He really helps make a difference when you know you have a big man under there. I can gamble a little more and get up on my man. We needed it (the win). We really needed it. I think we need to go in there (Seattle tomorrow night) with a level head and play the game the right way.”

Steve Blake
“It was the little things that got us back to a win. It doesn’t matter how you do it. Get that feeling of winning again. It gets your confidence up and just makes you feel good about yourself. Hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow. I don’t think we played particularly hard but we did things down the stretch to win and that’s all that matters.”

Video: Nate McMillan Post-game

When you've lost five-straight, you'll take a win any way you can get it. Then again, maybe it was better to win this one close. If the Blazers had found a way to keep the 14 point lead they had at one point last night, maybe the Sonics would have came into tonight's game at Key Arena extra-fired up. How's that for rationalization?

Here's the video from Nate McMillan's post-game presser last night. Have a look.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Questions before the Sonics game

No telling who's going to be suiting up for the SuperSonics tonight. The Kurt Thomas to San Antonio for Fransisco Elson and Brett Barry trade is done. Barry's injured, so he won't play regardless, but I'm not sure if Elson is ready to suit up for Seattle. My guess would be no.

And even though it's not on the NBA transactions page, the word is that the Sonics participated in a three-way deal with the Bulls and Cavaliers, which result in Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West being traded for Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall and Adrian Griffin. Obviously none of those players will be available for tonight's game. That leaves 11 players by my count, which is more than enough.

But to the questions. Kevin Pelton, who works for the Sonics, answered a few questions about his team in exchange for me answering a few questions about our team (he also made a neat graph of the Trail Blazers season). Here's what Kevin had to say.
Casey: How does the trading away of Kurt Thomas and the acquisition of Brent Barry and Francisco Elson change the SuperSonics?

Kevin: In Thomas they lose a veteran who had played very well in the middle this season. On offense, Thomas' midrange game made him effective running the pick-and-pop with Kevin Durant, and defensively he is terrific one-on-one in the post and always in the right position.

However, the Sonics wanted to get young Robert Swift in the rotation in the middle as his comeback from a torn right ACL progresses, and playing five big men wasn't a possibility. Dealing Thomas moves Swift into the rotation and gives Johan Petro a chance to start. Petro, in his third year, has played very well recently off the bench and will now try to translate that production into increased minutes.

Casey: What has been the consensus opinion in Seattle regarding the performance of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green?

Kevin: Well, if you want the consensus I'm not really sure, but here's one observer's opinion. Durant has been thrust into a challenging situation, with the Sonics running a lot of their offense through him. The spotlight has been more powerful on him because he isn't sharing it with Greg Oden as would be the case if Oden were playing this season. Durant has handled it all in a manner belying the fact that he is just 19. He has demonstrated great character all year long and his game has grown over the course of the season. He became much more comfortable using Thomas' screens and has made strides defensively, where he uses his length to make up for occasional mistakes born of inexperience and create problems for smaller offensive players.

As for Green, he has been a regular part of the starting lineup since the Sonics last visited Portland in late December. The transition from a very structured offense at Georgetown where he was the focal point to playing a role in the more free-flowing NBA environment has been a challenging one at times for Green. He's learning to pick his spots and use his myriad skills to impact the game. We've seen growth this season in his outside shot and his ability to create for his teammates, which was a strength in college.

Casey: The Trail Blazers went through a similar situation with the Rose Garden as the Sonics are going through now with Key Arena. How much of a distraction has that situation been?

Kevin: I think the Sonics front office and the coaching staff have done a great job of making sure that it has not been an issue. They've been consistent in their mindset that the Sonics as a basketball team have jobs to do and the outside stuff will work itself out. The players and coaches had to deal with a lot of questions about the situation early in the season, but since then it's been relatively a non-issue. I haven't seen any kind of sign that it has been a distraction.

Thanks to Kevin for the great answers. Tip-off is set for 7:30 tonight, and it's Brandon Roy bobblehead night!

Listen: 02.20.08 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.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Watch: Nate McMillan post-game press conference

Not too many happy faces in the locker room after tonight's 105-94 loss to the Sacramento Kings. These are the game that the Trail Blazers need to win if they're going to have any chance of making the post-season. Losses to any team at this time of year are bad news, but it's even worse when you lose at this time of year to teams below you in the conference. Hopefully the ship can be righted before the back-to-back, home and away games on Thursday and Friday against the SuperSonics (who won tonight, by the way).

Here's Nate McMillan's remarks after the game. Enjoy, if such a thing is possible.

Video: Brandon Roy after All-Star

Here's what will most likely be the last All-Star video I will post until next season. It's Brandon Roy talking post-game about his performance in New Orleans. You've probably read everything that he says in the video, but it's still easier to watch than to read. Enjoy!

Rudy Fernandez first hand

We don't get to see much of Rudy Fernandez here in the states (at least not yet), but sites like Draft Express are a fantastic source of information on players playing outside of the United States. Luis Fernandez's write-up of Rudy Fernandez's MVP performance at the Copa del Rey is the latest bit of quality reporting on the Spanish shooting guard.

You just can’t concede Rudy any opportunity, because he will bury you with a barrage of shots in the blink of an eye. Enjoying NBA range, effective off the dribble and even fade-away moves, and extremely quick with the release of the ball, the only way to stop Fern├índez is to make him pay for his relatively limited ball-handling skills, especially with his left, and slashing ability. Indeed, Rudy struggles in pure one-on-one situations if he’s pressured, as it was exposed particularly in the semifinal. Suffering against aggressive on-ball defenses, he struggled trying to get rid of his opponent off the dribble, and given his prominence in Joventut’s offense, it almost cost his team the game.

Rudy needs to be already in motion or to enjoy some kind of advantage (a screen, an unbalanced defense, a mismatch) in order to break that first defensive opposition—but once he manages it, he’s extremely difficult to stop, thanks to his long strides, good footwork, and crafty finishing ability around the rim. He doesn’t need to find the layup, as he can stop somewhere in the paint to release his mid-range jumper while hanging in the air. He delivered a lot of that stuff in the final, paving his way to an outstanding 32-point outing that crowned his MVP performance in the Copa.

Having a nice feel for the game (even if he might eventually force too much trying to create his own shot, as it happened in the semifinal), Rudy can also officiate as a creator for his teammates thanks to his passing game. He sees the court pretty well, and shows a quick mind to take decisions. He did nice work here in the quarterfinal game, throwing some excellent passes, including consecutive alley-oop lobs, which fueled the spectacular aggressive and up-tempo style that Joventut likes to put in practice. He outdid himself in the semifinal, though, coming up with 9 assists to make Real Madrid pay for the defensive attention he was receiving.

Luis Fernandez goes on to note that defense doesn't seem to be a "high priority" for Rudy Fernandez at this point, but that he has the tools to be a good defender when motivated. Luis Fernandez attributes some of the lackadaisical defending to DKV Joventut's "gambling" style of defense. It'll be interesting to see how difficult that transition is to Nate McMillan's structured style of defense if and when Rudy comes over.

Dime interview with Brandon Roy

There are still bits and piece from All-Star weekended finding their way onto the internet. The game may be over, the the hoopla goes on. Take this Q&A Brandon Roy did with Dime Magazine, for instance.
Dime: What happened on that play where it looked like you and Sean Williams almost got into it?

BR: We had talked crap before the game about who was gonna get dunked on. I was just like, “I almost had you on ESPN tonight.”

[snip]

Dime: Obviously the All-Star Game gets intense near the end. But does anyone really play defense in the rookie game?

BR: (Laughing) We play defense. You try to run the floor and get back, stay in front of your man, but you don’t wanna hurt anybody either. I think that’s the worst thing you can do is have somebody get hurt out here. You play hard, but you don’t wanna play too hard where you hurt somebody. I think everybody kinda knows that. Nobody says it, but it’s kind of an unwritten rule.

Roy's got one All-Star game under his belt and he's already talking about "unwritten rules" and trash talking. The maturation continues.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The dunk that almost was

As far as All-Star performances go, Brandon Roy turned in an awesome one last night. I figured that I watch Roy get a few minutes in the first half, watch The Simpsons, then turn back to TNT in time to watch him get a few more minutes toward the end of the game. It was a nice surprise to see him play a TON, more than any other player on the Western Conference team. 28 minutes is a lot of burn for anyone in an All-Star game, let alone a first-timer and a sophomore. A cursory glance at the box scores from previous All-Star games would lead me to believe that, aside from LeBron James in 2003, Roy logged the most minutes for a first-year All-Star, but don't quote me on that.

Roy also had the best field-goal percentage of any of the All-Stars, finishing a ridiculous 8-for-10 from the field. Both of Brandon's misses came in the second quarter. One of the misses was a 23-foot three, the other a missed dunk. Chris Paul's toss to Roy was a bit hard to handle, so it's no surprise that he didn't finish the alley-oop, but even the miss made for some nice art. I liked the pics from that almost-dunk so much that I thought I'd post those in the blog.





Friday, February 15, 2008

LaMarcus surveys the competition


During the media availability yesterday, LaMarcus Aldridge was asked about how some of the other Most Improved Player candidates. Here's what the big man had to say.
Ronnie Brewer : “He’s more aggressive this year. He’s looking for his shot more. When we played them, he was more offensive minded than last year.”

Rudy Gay : “He’s doing everything better. He’s shooting it well, he’s going to the basket, he’s finishing … I think he’s just overall gotten more confidence and he’s playing like it.”

Jose Calderon :
“Solid. He’s playing more solid and he can shoot the ball well.”

Chris Kaman : “He’s been more dominant in there. He’s putting up good numbers and he’s more offensive minded and he’s trying dominate every night.”

Andrew Bynum : “Oh, man. I think he got in better shape. I don’t really know if he was out of shape, but it looked like he was in better shape. He took more of an attitude of trying to get deep-post position and trying to dominate the paint.”

Al Jefferson : “He’s always been good, to me. I just think he has more opportunities now.”

LaMarcus Aldridge :
“He’s more confident. He has more opportunities and he’s playing with more confidence.”

Brandon Roy is better than Caron Butler

Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are still a few hours away from wiping the floor with the Rookie squad, but B.Roy has already taken All-Star Caron Butler to school.
Following dinner it was actually time to cover an event, and what better way to start than with the EA Sports NBA Live 08 Video Game Tournament and Party.

Caron Butler, along with seven other All-Star Weekend participants, played in a single elimination tournament. Butler was put on the spot early, playing in the first game of the tournament against the Portland Trail Blazers Brandon Roy. Having never played this version before, Caron turned to coach/cousin, Jarvis McMillan, to give him a couple quick pointers before the game.

“He’s going to do pretty good,” said McMillian about Caron’s chances before the tournament. “He’s just learning the buttons right now. But he picks up video games pretty fast.”

Unfortunately for Caron, he didn’t pick it up as fast as Roy, losing by over 20 points.

Ha! Take that Tough Juice. The story goes on to say that Tony Parker ended up winning the tournament. If B.Roy had had the last three weeks to practice like Mr. Parker did (he's been out with injury since late January), then I can only assume that Brandon would have ended up taking the crown.

Photos: Brandon Roy at All-Star Weekend

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Watch: LaMarcus Aldridge from New Orleans

Trail Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge talks about LeBron James' clothes, Daniel Gibson, having a few days to rest with family and what he's looking forward to from All-Star Weekend.

Watch: Dr. Jack Ramsay talks Trail Blazers

Photos: Mavericks 96, Blazers 76

I'm not sure you would really want to re-live any of these memories, but it's not may place to question you motives (though I just did). These pictures are interesting because of what they show and what they don't show. They do show Dirk taking a lot of shots, most of which he probably made. They don't show the Blazers getting any buckets near the basket, because we didn't get many of those last night. Enjoy, if you dare. And happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Listen: February 13 edition of Trail Blazers Courtside

If you missed it last night, you can now listen via podcast to yesterday's edition of Trail Blazers Courtside with Jay Allen and Michael Holton. Guests include assistant coach Monty Williams and radio play-by-play announcer Brian Wheeler.

And as always, you can listen and subscribe to all of our podcasts here.

Interesting stat of the day: February 13

Haven't done one of these in a while, but there was a stat on ESPN's Daily Dime (via Elias Sports Bureau) that was too cool and obscure to ignore. Here goes:
Former Texas Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points in the Trail Blazers' 95-83 loss at Houston. It was the fourth time Aldridge scored at least 20 points in five games in the state of Texas this season (1/2 in San Antonio, 2/2 in Houston, 1/1 in Dallas). Before this season, the last player from the University of Texas to score 20 points in an NBA game in the Lone Star State was the Kings' Travis Mays, who scored 23 on December 1, 1990 at Houston.

I would bet that LaMarcus will do the same thing tonight in Dallas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Watch: Trail Blazers talk favorite NBA dunks

Since the staff that produces in-game entertainment works so hard, we thought it would be a good idea to post some of the material that would otherwise disappear once the game is over. Enjoy.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Rudy Fernandez fervor

You may or may not have heard that Rudy Fernandez, whose NBA rights belong to the Trail Blazers, led his Spanish club team DKV Joventut to a Copa del Rey (which, I'm told, roughly translates to "Cup of Kings") title, beating Tau Ceramica 82-80. There's all kinds of video of the game and aftermath if you'd like to brush up. Here's the press release from FIBA, which is the governing body of European basketball

Fernandez led all scorers with 32 points while grabbing three rebounds and handing out two assists. He was also named MVP of the cup for the second time in his career. How do you say "domination" in Spanish?

After winning the cup title, Fernandez was asked about his future in the Spanish league considering that most expect him to play for the Trail Blazers next season. Rudy says all the things you would expect him say, especially after just winning one of the prestigious basketball tournaments in Europe. When reading the quotes in that Yahoo Sports story, it's worth noting that DKV Joventut is still in the middle of the Spanish ACB season. I read his remarks as those of a player on a team not wanting to undermine the rest of his team's season by talking about the future. It's the right move.

Some Spanish speaking fans over at Blazer's Edge have also argued that the translation used in the Yahoo story is incorrect. I don't know Spanish, so I can't really speak to the translation, but from a journalistic standpoint, I think the use of the headline "Blazers G Fernandez to stay in Spain" is a bit disingenuous and not wholly representative of what is actually written in the story.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Roy test

Friday, February 8, 2008

Brandon Roy to miss next two games

The Trail Blazers are going to be without Brandon Roy for the first two games of this four-game road trip. From the press release:
Brandon Roy did not travel with the Trail Blazers to Detroit and will miss tonight's game against the Pistons due to a death in the family. Because of the timing of the memorial service, Roy will also miss Saturday’s game with the Indiana Pacers. The Trail Blazers guard is expected to rejoin the team for Monday’s game versus the Houston Rockets.

Condolences to the Roy family.

Listen: Trail Blazers Courtside Podcast

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. Be sure to listen to Antonio Harvey's interview with Sergio Rodriguez in the second half of the show.

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

Thursday, February 7, 2008

James Jones: 'My name is too plain'

There was a fair amount of complaining and commiserating after the All-Star reserves were announced. To be fair, a lot of guys who deserved to be All-Stars didn't make the squad, which is a testament to the amount of talent in the NBA (especially among Western Conference guards). Life, as my mother often told me as a child, isn't fair.

But you know what REALLY isn't fair? James Jones not being invited to participate in the three-point shootout at All-Star weekend. When I first heard that James was passed over for the contest despite having a three-point shooting percentage better than all but one of the announced participants, I thought that maybe it had something to do with his knee injury. And what's more, I thought that James might have told someone at the league that he didn't mind sitting out the contest. Turns out I was wrong on both accounts.

"My name is too plain," said Jones after the Chicago game. "It’s just one of those things. It’s the All-Star game, it’s the three-point contest and it’s a fan event. The league understands who the good shooters are and they want to put the best field of candidates that will represent the quality shooting in the league and represent the players that the fans want to see at an All-Star event."

"But James," I said, "you're no less of a name than Jason Kapono or Daniel Gibson."

"I know," replied James, "but those are the two guys out of five. You can’t stuff all of us in there. Someone is going to get left out, it just happened to be me, but from my end it’s disappointing, but for the rest of those guys I’m excited and happy that they have an opportunity to please the crowd and give the fans a nice showing."

"But would you have gone if you had been invited?" asked KXL's Jay Allen.

"I mean, probably," says James. "I figure I’ll be fine by then but it’s an after-thought. The knee pretty much preempted all of that. I kind of had a sense prior to that that it wasn’t going to happen anyway, just knowing the way things go, you could see that."

So James had a feeling all along that he was going to get the short end of the three-point stick.

At this point, Jay Allen notes that James lead the league in three-point percentage for much of the season, prompting Jones to give his opinion of the evaluation process.

"Evidently (being a league leader in three-point percentage) doesn’t matter. Or it matters very, very little. I’m not the only guy. Anthony Parker, who I thought deserved a shot to be there, you know, second in the league with a lot of makes, I thought he deserved to be there too. But, like I said, there are only six spots and so many deserving guys; somebody had to be left out. It just sucks that it had to be a Blazer."

Darn straight. If the goal is to find out who the best long-rage shooter in the league is, then the criteria should consist of nothing more than taking the top percentage guys and maybe a few of the players with the most three-point makes. To pick players based on superstar status or prior reputation is lame.

So you're free to do what you please but I'm boycotting the three-point contest, because in my opinion, there's no such thing as a 2008 Footlocker Three-Point Shootout without James Jones. In my eyes, it lacks legitimacy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Watch: Nate McMillan talks post-game

As Nate McMillan noted, the Trail Blazers can't seem to win easy. It's great that they got the "W", but something about watching this game gave me the sense that it shouldn't have been as close as it was. It's probably something that Nate and the rest of the coaches are concerned about in the long-term, but tonight I expect they're happy to head off to Detroit with another win in their pockets.

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

Photos: Blazers 100, Bulls 97

Notes and Quotes: Blazers 100, Chicago 97

The Blazers played well at some times, not so well at others, but a win is a win. And with a tough four-game road trip coming up, they really needed this one. Nate McMillan will tell you that no one game is more important than any other, but I get the feeling that losing this one would have been a big deal.

I've got no notes for you tonight, so lets go straight to the quotes.

Coach Nate McMillan
“It seems we refuse to do things the easy way. We knew since they were short handed that they would play with effort. When teams are short they really come after you. But I was pleased that down the stretch we did get the stops we needed.

“I thought Brandon just saved us tonight. If some of those shots didn’t go in I felt we would have come up tight and perhaps lost. The last couple of games, we’ve been a little flat. Tonight I thought we got a break because they had some of their main guys out.

“I changed the starting lineup inserting Jarrett for Martell largely to get more ball movement. I sort of like having three guards in the game if we can match up that way---three guys who can handle the ball. I was comfortable with the rotation even though Joel and Channing got into some foul trouble.

“As for the home stand, we had the opportunity to win two games and we didn’t we had control of both of those games---one to Cleveland, an NBA Finals team last year, and Denver, which is a good team in our division. You have to understand that we’re not a team that is going to blow you out. Some of that is because we don’t always get the defensive stops we need. This is still part of growing up. We’ve got to learn how to finish games. But overall, its been a pleasing season.”

Jarrett Jack
“It was really surprising (getting the start). I came in to shoot-around today and coach called me into his office. I thought, ‘Uh, oh. That doesn’t sound good.’ Coach said he wanted to mix it up a little bit and that he wanted more of a spark because of our third quarter struggles. A lot of the times it seems we settle for the outside shots too much. I put it on myself to draw fouls and get to the line. This game was crucial. We were able to finish good before the break. We had good energy and good effort tonight. We’ll be all right.”

LaMarcus Aldridge
“Tonight we played better as far as team defense and rebounding. We were able to pull it out. It (the lineup change) didn’t really change me as much as it helped coach have shooters in the second group.”

Coach Jim Boylan
“The guys played really hard tonight. I knew our guys would come out and give a great effort tonight. We were shorthanded but I knew the guys who would be on the court would reach down and pull out something extra. It was a good effort but we came up short. We had our chances down the stretch, it was anyone’s game for the last five or six minutes. They made some good plays. They’ve got some good young players over there. Every time they made something happen we responded. They made a couple big shots down the stretch and were able to keep that lead on us for the last minute and a half or so.”

“Thabo had a tough assignment covering Brandon Roy. Brandon had a great game. He made some tough shots that were really impressive. Thabo was on him so I don’t know what else he could have done. On the other end he came aggressively offensively. He made some things happen and was taking the ball to basket some. He was also pulling up and hitting his jump shot. It was a good all-around game for Thabo. It’s nice to see him progressing as a player on both ends of the floor.”

Thabo Sefolosha
“It was tough, were really battled. On offense they were hitting shots. At the end it was just tough and we couldn’t stop them when we needed too. We lost two of our best guards so somebody had to step up and take a couple more shots. Chris Duhon stepped up, Tyrus Thomas played well too but I knew I had a couple extra shots to take tonight. I think we did pretty good and we played hard and we played with heart. I don’t really see what we could have done different.”

Changes to the starting lineup

The Trail Blazers are going to show a different look tonight out of the gate. Martell Webster is going to come off the bench for the first time this season, with Jarrett Jack being inserted as the starting two guard while Brandon Roy moves to the small forward position. Nate McMillan noted that it wasn't necessarily because of Webster's play, but more because he's looking for "a spark." This is what McMillan had to say about moving Martell to the bench.
"I want to see if we can get the tempo a little faster and if we can balance. I just want a balance. That three position for us, we need that balance. With Martell coming in with the second group we'll have the balance I think we'll need. Offensively, we'll be able to do the same thing we've been doing.

We need more ball movement. I think right now we're shooting way too many jump shots on the perimeter. We need more post-ups and penetration so I'm going to start Jack, Blake and Roy with LaMarcus and Joel to see if we can get more movement. Because right now, even though we're getting off to slow starts and it's not on Martell so it's not 'Martell is the problem.' There's a lot of things that factors in with that. Because of the way we're playing, Brandon is handling the ball a ton, and I think that has an effect in the fourth quarter. So if we can get more ball movement, get more attack, more penetration, (Roy) won't be so worn down in the fourth quarter...

Looking at our faces the last -- I think I've been saying this since we came back off that road trip -- I think we just need a spark. It's not so much the last game as opposed to a number of games. You know, seeing if we can get a spark. A number of games, not just recently, were we're playing from behind and I just think we need a spark. But it will give us balance too with the rotations."

It'll be interesting to see if the switch results in what McMillan is looking for. It's also worth noting that the Blazers have yet to win a game this year with Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup, though in this defense, he's only started four times this year.

On the Bulls personnel side, Kirk Hinrich (ribs), Luol Deng (Achilles) and Ben Gordon (wrist)are all out tonight. That's a lot of firepower sitting on the Chicago bench. Hopefully the Blazers can take advantage.

The three-point shootout will be James Jones-less

The Footlocker Three-point Shootout participants have been announced, and James Jones isn't on the list. There's a good chance that he would have passed on the invite anyway due to lingering knee soreness so it's hard to view his lack of invitation as a snub.

I have to say that I am a little surprised at the list. Kobe is participating? I wouldn't have expected that, especially since he's shooting 35% from beyond the arc. I don't doubt that he can win it though.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Seven reasons from Wheeler

Trail Blazers radio play-by-play man Brian Wheeler calls one heck of a game. But in between the "boomshakalakas," he also makes playoff predictions. As NBA.com Broadcaster of the Week, Wheels lays out the seven reasons why the Trail Blazers are going to make the playoffs. A couple of Wheels' arguments sounded better before the loss last night, but they're quality arguments nonetheless.

If you've got any reasons why the Blazers will make the playoffs that Wheels didn't cover, lets here those. I'll be sure to pass those thoughts on.

Notes and Quotes: Nuggets 105, Blazers 103

Another missed opportunity. Winning close games has been one of the reasons why the Blazers have had so much success this season, but recently, the ball simply isn't bouncing their way in the closing moments.

Then again, it's amazing that they even had a chance to win this one with the way they played in the first quarter. I don't know about you, but I can't remember the last time I saw a quarter that bad, at least from the Blazers. They've had problems starting games out slow, but last night took it to a whole new level.

It seemed to me that almost everyone on the team ended up having a good game, but by that same token, almost everyone committed a crucial mistake that ended up costing the Red and Black dearly. Jarrett Jack had maybe his best offensive game of the year, but that last turnover(along with the other six)really hurt. Channing Frye had it going in the first half when no one else could buy a bucket, but that stolen pass turned Iverson three-pointer sucked the life out of the Rose Garden. LaMarcus Aldridge must have had at least five tipped ball resulting in rebounds for his teammates, but his shot was off all night. Martell Webster got hot, but oh, those free-throws. Same goes for Travis Outlaw. To quote the great Bill Schonely: "You've got to make your free-throws."

So that wraps the season series with Denver. If I would have told you that we'd split the series with the Nuggets at the beginning of the year, you probably would have been giddy. But expectations have already been raised and 2-2 seems like a cheap consolation to 3-1. It's probably unfair to expect that kind of production from such a young squad, but the game was right there to be taken. It just slipped away.

Oh yeah, here are the notes and quotes from last night's game,

Notes
Blazers now 4-2 in overtimes this season . . . Nuggets 2-0 in OT games . . . Denver now is 5-3 vs. Blazers all-time in extra session games . . . Portland drops to 6-2 in games decided by three points or less . . . Blazers and Nuggets split their season-series.

Quotes

Nate McMillan
“Our execution just wasn’t good tonight. We wanted to take care of the ball, but with 18 turnovers we didn’t do a good job on that and we wanted to rebound the ball. They just wiped us out on the boards. Down the stretch, Denver just executed better.

“Each game from now on the level of intensity increases. We’ve got to match that by executing down the stretch, getting better ball movement and getting better shots.

“On that last Portland possession, Jarrett thought he had an opening against Iverson but they caught up with him. Of course, the last thing we wanted there was a turnover.”

Did he think about bringing Steve Blake back? “Jack was penetrating real good and that group was scoring.

“We knew this was a big game. You’re going for a sweep and you don’t get it. We’re still in a race with Utah and Denver in the division but to lose a game like this at home makes our task more difficult.”

Brandon Roy
“Its tough when you lose on a buzzer-killer. That’s what makes them (the Nuggets) tough. That Cleveland one still stings too (LeBron’s buzzer beater). We had a chance to win the game. We played extremely hard but we just lost. I don’t know how the fans feel right now but we tried. Its just not going our way right now. The first time we played Denver they took us as a joke. This time they came in with their best effort. Allen Iverson had a big shot. It’s a tough pill to swallow. Teams are going to play us good like that rest of the season. I told the guys to keep their heads up and keep playing hard.”

Channing Frye
“We gave them opportunities. We weren’t tired. It was just our execution and that’s something we can fix. No one is making excuses. They took advantage of what we gave them. The level of competition is stepping up and this is new for everybody. We’re adapting and adjusting. We need to start the game (right) and set the tone from the jump start instead of having to hit back.”

George Karl
“Defensively we made some pretty good adjustments at the end. We zoned them a little bit. Kenyon’s block on Outlaw was huge. I thought they got a cheap call to tie the game. I’ve never seen a guy not get hit and get fouled at the end of the game. We had a lot of tough situations we could have given in on and never did. I thought defensively we were very strong at the end of the game. Our guys had courage and guts. I thought the shot Iverson made at the end of the third quarter gave him a lift. It gave him some spirit. It wasn’t a pretty offensive game for either team. It had a lot of playoff intensity. It had a lot of playoff attitude to it. They made some great runs. They got some of their guys involved in the game. Webster had a great beginning to the third. In general, defensively, they played well and we played well.”

(On Carmelo)
“I’ve never seen a guy get as beat up as he did. He didn’t get fouls and he didn’t get to the free throw line. He worked his tail off underneath the basket. I don’t think he feels comfortable out on the floor because of his ankle. He didn’t have a great game but he fought and stayed in the game. He ended up helping us win.”

Carmelo Anthony
“We knew it would be that type of game. We jumped out on them early in the game but they came back and fought their way back to take the lead. From there it was a battle between the both of us. There were some things we thought could have gone our way tonight but didn’t. We were a little frustrated but we kept our composure. We came out with the win. We won the game so I’m not going to complain. The only thing I can do is keep going out there and playing hard like I did tonight. As a result of that we won the game.”


I haven't seen anywhere near the amount of basketball that George Karl has, but I somehow find it hard to believe that he's never "seen a guy get as beat up as (Carmelo) did." It was a physical game, but it didn't strike me as that physical.

If you've got any opinions on the game, these quotes or anything else, I'd love to hear it. Hit up the comments section if you've got something to say.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Game Notes: Denver vs. Portland

Another game, another chance to highlight the work those thankless public relations folks do on the daily basis. First, the visitor notes.
-- Blazers guard Steve Blake spent part of last season with the Nuggets, averaging career-highs of 8.3 ppg and 6.6 apg in 49 games.

-- Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza was drafted by Portland with the 27th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft before being traded to the Nuggets on draft night along with the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez in exchange for Blazers guard Jarrett Jack (drafted by
Denver with the 22nd overall pick).

-- Blazers center/forward Raef LaFrentz was originally drafted by the Nuggets in the 1998 NBA Draft (3rd overall pick) and played in Denver from 1998-2002, averaging 13.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg in 222 appearances.

-- Blazers center Joel Przybilla played for George Karl from 2000-03 while both were with the Milwaukee Bucks.Denver’s Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark
Warkentien spent 10 seasons with the Blazers as an Assistant General Manager, Director of Player Personnel, Director of Scouting and as a scout.

-- Nuggets assistant coach Tim Grgurich spent the 2004-05 season as an assistant for Portland.

-- Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan played for Nuggets Head Coach George Karl with the Seattle Sonics.

-- Portland assistant coach Monty Williams appeared in one game with the
Nuggets during the 1998-99 season … Blazers assistant coach Bill Bayno was an assistant coach at the University of Massachusetts while Nuggets center Marcus Camby was an All-American Minuteman.

NUGGETS/BLAZERS NOTES: The Nuggets are looking to avoid their first losing season series against the Blazers since the 1998-99 season (0-3).

-- Despite the loss in Portland on 12/21, Denver has still fared well at the Rose Garden in recent years, having gone 6-3 since 2003-04.

-- Although the Nuggets have dropped two-straight to the Blazers, they have still won 14 of the last 18 meetings with Portland since 2003-04.


Now the Trail Blazers side of the story.
• A Trail Blazers win would clinch the season series, 3-1. Portland already won its
series vs. Utah, and is looking to own tie-breakers against both divisional rivals.

• Portland is 8-2 vs. the Northwest Division, and 5-0 at home.

• The Trail Blazers won in Denver for just the third time in the past 18 meetings and the first time since Feb. 26, 2003 with a 116-105 win Dec. 16. Portland followed that win up with a 99-96 victory at the Rose Garden Dec. 21.

• Channing Frye is averaging 12.0 points, 7.0 points and 1.0 assists in three games vs. Denver this season.

• Brandon Roy averaged 18.0 points against Denver last season, the most against
any team he faced four times. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists vs. the Nuggets this season.

• Steve Blake averaged 8.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 33.5 minutes in 49
games last season with the Nuggets, who were 25-15 when Blake started.

• Nuggets head coach George Karl (68 games) is one of four current head coaches to
face Portland 50-plus times (Don Nelson 98, Jerry Sloan 88, Pat Riley 79).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Watch: McMillan post-game comments

Wow. Yet another overtime, and yet another clutch performance by the Trail Blazers. Nate McMillan keeps saying the team is coming out flat - which they are - but they keep finding ways to win more often than not. Between the return of Zach Randolph, the technical trouble with the clocks and Brandon Roy's first career triple-double, this is a game that won't soon be forgotten.

Here's the video from Nate McMillan's late post-game press conference. Sorry for the graininess.

Watch: Nate McMillan talks after shootaround

The Trail Blazers take on Zach Randolph and the New York Knicks in about an hour and a half. Will Z-Bo go for 50? How will the Rose Garden fans treat Randolph's return? Are Brandon Roy's fingers up to the task? We'll know soon enough.

Until then, check out some of the things that Coach Nate McMillan had to say today from the practice facility. See you at the Garden.

Listen: Trail Blazers Courtside Podcast

You've asked for it and now we're giving it to you. 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. Here's the first hour of the show, and here's the second hour.

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