Saturday, April 18, 2009

Michael Ruffin On Playoffs: 'I Expect Big Things'


As the Trail Blazer faithful are well aware by this point, the team has clinched its first playoff birth since 2003. What the fan base may not be aware of is that the newest member of the team is also the one with the most playoff experience under his belt.

Michael Ruffin came to Portland by way of the Chicago Bulls in a mid-season three-team trade that sent reserve forward Ike Diogu to the Sacramento Kings, and brings 19 games of playoff experience to the Rose City. Ruffin made his first playoff appearance in the 2004-2005 season, helping the Washington Wizards reach the second round for the first time since the 1980’s.

Ruffin sees the Trail Blazers as geared up for what is coming once the postseason begins.

“It’s a whole other level of basketball,” Ruffin said. “Everyone out there is competing as hard as they can on every possession. You would think that it can’t get much louder here in Portland than it has been throughout the season, but when you get into the playoffs the energy in the building and in the games is taken to a whole new level.”

But as Ruffin knows, the first round is a long series, and regular season records don’t count for anything after April 18th.

“You have to beat a team four times, and there are little adjustments you have to make from game to game,” Ruffin said. “By the end of it you know what the other team’s running, everyone knows each other’s plays. It just comes down to slight adjustments, and your ability to go out there and execute.”

The Trail Blazers are ready, though, having had almost five seasons to prepare.

“This being the first time that a lot of players on this team have made it to the playoffs, everyone is extremely keyed in to what we need to do,” Ruffin said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and playing the game now, the focus is there.”

Ruffin, four seasons removed from his first playoff game, is excited for the young group of Trail Blazers making their postseason debuts. Nine Portland players will be getting their first post-season experience this season.

“With a young team like we have, it’s going to be an exciting experience, a growing experience,” Ruffin said. “Brandon, LaMarcus, those are two of the players that are going to be dominant in this league for years to come, and ultimately that’s a goal of theirs to be in the playoffs year in and year out.

“We’ve played well in all the big games against all the big teams. The coaches have done a great job all year, and we’ve been doing a great job preparing heading into the playoffs. I know a lot of teams really don’t want to play us right now.”

Ruffin isn’t shy about his expectations for the playoff bound Trail Blazers.

“I’m anxiously waiting to see our team get out there and compete,” he said. “I expect big things.”

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