Saturday, May 26, 2007

another point guard?

I know that there's been a lot of talk of making a trade to bring Mike Conley, Jr. to the Blazers along with Oden. (If we draft him, I mean)

But seriously, do we really need another point guard? I've heard that we're also interested in getting Steve Blake, or trying to trade up to get Milwaukee's number 6 pick. I just don't see why. Jack is only coming into his third year in the league, and he already looks pretty solid. I know he has his bad days, but he's still so young. And we've all seen flashes of what Sergio is capable of. I think they are both going to be excellent NBA players, they just need a little more time. I don't think Conley or anyone else we could get in the draft will be any better right off the bat.

And as for Blake, as much as I like the guy, do we really think Jack or Sergio won't be at least as good as he is in a year or two? I think they both are going to keep improving, and one (if not both) will be the right fit for the team we have now. Let's ignore all this talk about point guards and concentrate on the one position we really need to fill-- small forward.

Rashard Lewis, anyone?

greatest video ever

Talk about chills.

I'm going to be watching this this for a long, long time.

Blazers and Lakers

As a lifelong Blazer fan living in Los Angeles, I sometimes wonder which I love more: seeing the Blazers win or seeing the Lakers lose.

Don't get me wrong, I always want the Blazers to win. And I guess, if I had to choose, I'm always going to go for the Blazers victory. But there's just something about the Lakers and their fans that make me despise them with a bone-chilling hatred.

Obviously, the most glaring offense they've ever committed was beating us in the 2000 Western Conference finals. I'm firmly convinced that that loss in Game 7 changed the course of recent NBA history. If Portland had held on to that FIFTEEN point lead, we would have crushed Indiana in the Finals and Trader Bob wouldn't have blown up the team. We probably would have been able to win at least one more title with that squad, especially after such a confidence-boosting comeback. And Kobe and Shaq might have had their falling-out a lot sooner without championship rings to smooth things over. But we were never the same after that, physically OR mentally. It just seemed like the team and the town were scarred by that meltdown, and we never really threatened again. Instead, Shaq, Kobe and Phil went on to win 3 titles in a row, holding together their shaky partnership for several years before finally falling apart.

That was obviously the turning point for our franchise, and I think Jason Quick at the Oregonian already covered that downward spiral with an excellent article some time back.

The point of all this is that I have many reasons to hate the Lakers, not least of which is that win. But what makes it even worse is having to put up with their fans. I think LA sports fans in general are pretty annoying. For the most part, they seem to have this assumption that their town has a right to be the best, and should always be winning titles. But they only seem to care about their teams when they are competing for titles. And when they are good....EVERYONE is a Lakers fan. And they tell you about it. All the time.

But when they suck? Then it's a whole other world down here. And maybe the best part about Portland winning the lottery (along with Seattle, basically) is that our pick essentially guarantees that the Blazers will be a contender for the playoffs and championships for the next decade, while the Lakers are facing the same sort of massive rebuilding project that Portland endured the last few years. The difference is that LA has almost no long-term prospects of success. They have Andrew Bynum and Kobe. That's it. Odom is a headcase who's inconsistent physically and mentally, and Luke Walton is a solid role player at most. The rest of their team are a bunch of scrubs who are lucky to be a on a NBA roster.

Obviously, Kobe is still ridiculously good. And he's still got 2-3 years of top-tier basketball in his legs. Probably. But as young as he is in reality, on the basketball court, he's getting old. He's logged a lot of minutes in a lot of games. He can't keep this up for that much longer, and by the time Bynum gets really good, Kobe will definitely be past his prime. Bynum is a talent, but still very raw. He's still a boy. A big boy, to be sure, but a boy nonetheless. Greg Oden, on the other hand, is already a beast of a man, and there will be nothing sweeter than watching him eat Bynum's lunch four times a year for the next ten years or twelve years.

So yes, that draft lottery will go down as one of the greatest days in Portland history. But at the same time, for those of us unfortunate enough to have to put up with LA fans in their natural habitat, it's going to go down as one of the best days in Los Angeles history. For us, at least.

I'm looking forward to giving the Lakers a taste of "Roy to Oden" for many, many years.

God bless the draft.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a newspaper article i found...

Blazing a Championship Trail
(AP) Sunday, June 13, 2010

Portland, OR -- Thirty-three years removed from their last NBA title, and twenty-six years after they passed up Michael Jordan to take Sam Bowie with the 2nd overall pick, the Portland Trail Blazers have come full circle to win the 2009-2010 NBA Championship. This win will do much to erase the memories of heartbreaking losses and off-court incidents that have haunted Blazer fans for years. And with a young team of All-Stars entering the prime of their careers, Portland looks poised to celebrate many more such wins in the coming decade.

A Look Back:

The young Trailblazers started the season off strong, intent on building on the success of the past two years. After successive playoffs berths, Nate McMillan and his team made no secret of their desire to attain a high seed and homecourt advantage. They roared out to a 25-9 record, prompting speculation across the country as to who could slow them. However, a tough road trip just before the All-Star break brought the young team back down to earth, and only two wins out of seven games had them sitting at 27-14, and the third seed in the West at the break.

A remarkable weekend for the Portland players seemed to revive the team. After Sergio Rodriguez won the skills competition in scintillating fashion, Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge led the West team past the East in a 142-121 pasting. Oden garnered MVP honors for his 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, including several highlight-reel swats.

After the break, an energized Blazers squad started the second half much the way they began the season. Eight wins out of their first nine brought them to 35-15, and vaulted them into second place behind Dallas. Another tough road swing slowed them a bit, as they went 3-3, but winning their next five kept them just ahead of Denver in the race for the second seed. At 43-18, a mild ankle sprain to All-Star forward Lamarcus Aldridge seemed that it might slow the team. Roy responded in magnificent fashion however, picking up the scoring slack and averaging 26 points a game for the 8 games that Aldridge missed. Portland won six of those eight, and with only thirteen games left to play, Portland had a solid grip on the second seed with a record of 49-20. After Aldridge returned from injury, the Blazers won ten of their final thirteen to finish 59-23 and enter the playoffs as the second seed.

The Playoffs

The Blazers made short work of the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. An aging Kobe Bryant managed to pull his team into the playoffs in the final weeks of the season, but he was no match for the talented young Blazers. Roy dominated Bryant on both ends of the floor, averaging 25, 8 and 8 while holding Bryant to just 18 points a game on 41% shooting on the other end. After four easy wins, the Blazers moved on to face the team that ended their run the year before, the Denver Nuggets.

This time, however, Greg Oden avoided foul trouble early in the series and dominated the front line of the Nuggets. He averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in the Blazers' first four games, as the Blazers won the first two in Portland easily before stealing one of two in Denver. Back in Portland, Carmelo Anthony shook off the tenacious defense of Roy and Richard Jefferson to explode for 41 points in a hard-fought 112-109 win for the Nuggets. This success was not to last though, and in Game 6 the Blazers closed out the series with a high-flying 124-109 win.

At the other end of the Western Conference bracket, Dallas was struggling to beat a resilient Seattle team. The Supersonics, led by All-Star Kevin Durant and former All-Star Ray Allen, stretched the series to seven games with a last-gasp three by Durant to win Game 6 in Seattle. Game 7 was a tense affair, with the two teams trading the lead for three quarters. Then disaster struck for the Mavericks early the fourth when Dirk Nowitski picked up his fifth foul attempting to slow Durant. With Nowitski on the bench for the next five minutes, Durant went wild, scoring 8 straight and 12 of Seattle's next 15, opening up a seven point lead with five minutes to play. Nowitski came back in, but it wasn't enough as Durant helped his young Sonics hold on to a two-point win.

The Western Conference Finals were a hyped affair, with fans across the country salivating over the prospect of the first two picks of the 2007 draft going head to head. But while Durant and Oden lived up to the hype, the rest of the Seattle team was lacking. Brandon Roy and the Blazers ran the Sonics ragged, winning the first three games in a row, despite Durant's 28 points and 9 rebounds per game. The Sonics managed to win Game 4, but that only made it sweeter when the Blazers raced to a 21 point half-time lead in front of the home crowd in Portland, and then cruised to an easy win in the second half. For the first time in more than a decade, the Portland Trailblazers were back in the NBA Finals.

The Finals:

In the Finals, the Blazers faced the defending champions, the Chicago Bulls. Only a year before, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Kirk Heinrich had led the Bulls to their first title since Michael Jordan left Chicago. They looked set to repeat as they faced a talented but much younger Portland team. For Portland, this would be a chance to avenge history, as memories of Michael Jordan's wins over Portland in the mid-nineties still lingered in the minds of Blazer fans. However, these were two entirely different teams, and the Bulls lost homecourt advantage after the Blazers shocked the overconfident champions with a Game 1 win in Chicago. Oden terrorized the Chicago front line, while Roy and Jefferson outdueled Gordon and Heinrich.

In Game 2, the Bulls came back with a hard-fought win, despite another monster game from Oden and Roy. Game 3 was another matter though, as Portland rode the home crowd to a big win. Travis Outlaw, the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, finally broke out of his playoff slump and exploded for 18 points off the bench, 14 of those in the second half. The Blazers won comfortably by a margin of 105-93.

Game 4 was not to be as easy, as a fired-up Bulls squad scratched and clawed their way to an eight point lead going into the fourth quarter. The suffocating Bulls defense held Portland to 38% shooting through three quarters. In the fourth quarter, veteran forward Richard Jefferson showed his playoff experience and hit four huge threes. This brought the Blazers within one point, and with 20 seconds left on the clock, the Blazers had the ball with a chance to win. Unsurprisingly, they went to Roy, and as he had done so many times in his short career, he calmly surveyed the defense. With five seconds to go, he split two defenders and buried a pull-up jumper at the top of the key. WIth less than a second on the clock, the Bulls never got a shot off, and the Rose Garden crowd exploded in celebration

After the game, when asked about his fourth quarter heroics, Jefferson said, "that's just what I'm here for, man. I mean, playing with Brandon [Roy] and Lamarcus [Aldridge] and Greg [Oden], you just gotta hit the shots when you get them. I'm just glad I could help." For his part, Roy simply said, "this city deserved it. I knew I wasn't gonna miss that shot."

With the entire city of Portland amped up for a potentially series-clinching win, Game 6 was a tense affair. Chicago again brought some serious defensive intensity. With its starters stifled by Chicago's defense, Portland looked to its bench. Travis Outlaw and Portland native Fred Jones responded with a combined 31 points in the first half, keeping the Blazers within three by half-time.

At the start of the second half, Sergio Rodriguez came alive, nailing two threes and dishing out two perfect lobs to Fred Jones in the span of three minutes. Instantly, the Rose Garden was rocking. The Bulls were still clinging to a one point lead, but the momentum had shifted. Finally, after being silent for most of the game, Roy and Aldridge started hitting their shots, and just before the fourth quarter, the Blazers took their first lead of the game. As the fourth quarter began, Oden's defense shut down any interior game for the Bulls, and with Heinrich, Deng and Gordon finally looking tired, the Blazers opened up an eight-point lead. With less than two minutes left, the Blazers' win was punctuated by a Roy steal and dish to Rodriguez, who lofted a picture-perfect lob to a soaring Travis Outlaw. The Bulls were clearly broken, and with only a few free throws between themselves and victory, the Blazers and their fans began the celebration.

With a final score of 103-93, the Blazers won their first NBA title in more than 30 years, and in the words of Finals MVP Brandon Roy, "We're just gettin' started, baby!"

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blazers Post Mortem

Obviously this is long overdue, but I think it's worth looking back at the Blazers' 2006-2007 season. While we're still a long way from the top, I think there were a lot of positive signs, and the team seems only a piece or two away from making the jump towards the playoffs and some much-needed postseason experience.

Some of the highlights:

Z-Bo. Zach finally looked like the post player and leader that McMillan has been demanding the past two years. He went back to fighting for post position and hitting the boards instead of relying too heavily on his jumper, and he even tried on defense now and then.

Brandon Roy. Not much to say about B-Roy that hasn't already been said. He plays like a 10 year veteran. I'm always comfortable when the ball is in his hands, and his versatility is great. Whether it's at the 1, 2 or the 3, he's in complete control, and he never seems overmatched by the competition. And even though he's not a ridiculous athlete whose physical skills just jump out at you, he has a thoroughly impressive way of just getting to where he wants at any time. It's almost scary how quickly this guy has become the face of this franchise. He's the first guy since Clyde that the team and the town can truly rally around.

32-50. Before this season I thought that the team would win close to 40 games. Although we fell a little short of that number, without the injuries to Zach, B-Roy and others, I think we would have been right there. Obviously it would have been nice to see us win more games, but I love the fact that the team never quit, and at least now we're in the running for one of the top two picks in the lottery. If we can get Oden or Durant I might literally crap myself in pure joy. But even without one of those two, it seems like we're a lock to pick up Corey Brewer, and I think he'd be a fantastic addition. I wasn't entirely sold on him before the NCAA Tourney, but he really stepped it up and proved he's got range and guts to go along with his defense and athleticism. He's going to make a great 3 guard, and he can make an instant impact in our line-up.

Sergio Magnifico. Sergio showed flashes of brilliance at times, but I'm not completely convinced he can sustain that for an entire game, let alone a season. I know Jarret Jack seemed to lose confidence at times, and was also a little inconsistent, but it's important to remember just how young these guys are. It's a lot easier for Sergio to come in with the run-and-gun line-up and look really good in short bursts than it is to run the team for a whole game like Jack does. Obviously, we're going to have to make a choice about who we want running the point, but I think JJ has got to stay in the starting spot for now. Maybe after another year Sergio will be ready for full-time responsibilities, but he's not there yet. Still, the thought of him running up and down the court throwing sick no-look passes to LaMa, Roy and Brewer (or maybe even Durant??!!) is enough to get me ready to start the "Spanish Chocolate" chants.

LaMa. Without injuries cutting into this guy's playing time, it might have been a closer race for Rookie of the Year. And if Nate hadn't been trying to sell the league on Jamal Magloire, we might have known how good LaMarcus was earlier in the season. I didn't think Aldridge was going to be this good when he came out of school, but man I am stoked on this guy. He's got great hands, a nose for offensive rebounds, disgusting length, and a sweet jumper. A little more bulk and he'll be owning the paint for years to come. Between Roy, Aldridge and Sergio, this might turn out to be the best draft class we've ever had.

Nonetheless, as exciting as this season was, it wasn't all roses. There were definitely some black clouds hanging over the year, and going into the offseason, there are still some question marks.

Z-Bo. The strip club??!! Sometimes I honestly wonder about Zach. I love his effort on the floor, and he's got all the desire in the world, but he can still be a world-class idiot. Not to mention that he's a black hole in the post. He's gotten a little bit better at passing out of double-teams, especially now that he knows B-Roy is out there with him, but I really don't know if he's going to be a part of this team's future. Especially if we want to go up-tempo with Roy, Sergio & LaMa.

Darius Miles. Although I tried my best to forget this guy is still on the team, just knowing that he is still (technically) a Blazer makes me sick. I'm scared that he's going to get healthy (if a cancer can ever be "healthy") and start hanging around the team again. The sooner we unload him, the better. The only problem is, who the hell wants him? Even Isaiah Thomas wouldn't trade for him at this point, so who knows what's going to happen.

Jamal Magoire. Yes, the Big Cat is a professional. He works hard, fouls hard, plays hard. I understand all that. But honestly, I was ready to kick Nate in the junk for playing this guy so much. He's just TERRIBLE. I mean, he can't rebound, he can't run, he can't shoot free throws. The only things he's good at are palming the ball and making hard retaliation fouls. And he's got a ridiculously inflated opinion of his own worth.

Joel Przybilla, the Vanilla Gorilla. I'm not sure what happened to him, but the honest truth is that even when he was healthy, he looked bad. This was not what I expected when we got him signed, and I hope he can pull it back together. Without a healthy Gorilla running up and down the court, our best back-up at center is Magloire. And that's not a good sign.

Final Verdict:

It was a good year. Not great, but there were a ton of good signs. No matter what pick we get in the draft, I think we're looking solid for next year. At this point, our biggest need is experience. If we get Brewer, I think we'll be set, and if we get Durant or Oden??? Like I said, it'll be brown-pants time.

Prediction for 2007-2008:

Without Durant/Oden: 40-42, with a first round loss to the number one seed.
With Durant/Oden: 44-38, with a first round loss to the number three seed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wow...'s been a long time since I posted. Of course, that doesn't really mean much, since all three of my readers stopped reading a long while back, but it's been a long time nonetheless. As this post is mostly a way of encouraging myself to write a bit more again, I'm just going to lay out a few points I hope to hit here in the next few days.

-- Blazers' season post-mortem
-- Beavs' football offseason and upcoming season preview
-- Recent flurry of big-name signings in the MLS

Of course, sometime during this ambitious writingregimen I need to schedule some time to study for my finals, but school can wait, right?

(Oppy's note: just looked at the date on the last post and realized it was over a year between posts. When I slack off, I slack off.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Bradbury Chronicles

I recently finished The Bradbury Chronicles, Sam Weller's biography of Ray Bradbury. It is the first authorized biography of this giant of American letters, and the book definitely benefits from the author's in-depth access to Bradbury and his family and friends. Sam Weller is clearly a huge fan of his subject, and he is very up front about that fact in his book. Although this adoring tone can get a little old at times, for the most part the book is a gripping, well-written account of the life of an incredible writer.

This biography reminded me of just how much I've always loved Ray Bradbury's writing style, and with the summer just around the corner, it seems a perfect time to re-read some of his classics. It also brought my attention to many Bradbury stories and books that I've never read, and I'm excited to pick them up.

However, as much as I love Ray Bradbury the writer, this book made me dislike Ray Bardbury the man. It's hard to separate the two, but throughout this biography I found myself shocked by how arrogant and petulant Bradbury seems. And Sam Weller is more than happy to encourage this attitude. Any time that someone didn't get along with Bradbury, or critics found flaws in his work, Weller acknowledges these issues, and then proceeds to make it clear that Bradbury is unquestionably correct. And to be honest, that approach is justified a lot of the time. But the problem with being told how great an author is over and over and over again is that eventually it really gets on your nerves.

Part of the reason I generally avoid biographies of my favorite artists is that they invariably disappoint me in some way. I prefer to let their work speak for them. My experience shows that truly brilliant artists, just like anyone else, tend to be balanced individuals. If they excel in one way, they are often seriously flawed in another. I think that is why so many great artists struggle with depression. They often lack the social skills that would allow them to coexist happily with others.

I think that Orson Scott Card sums it up very well on his website:

The only serious drawback in this book is the way that Bradbury's vanity is inadvertently revealed. While Weller does not exactly gush, he clearly believes that Bradbury is a "genius" and his tone is well over the line into worshipfulness.

One of the tragedies of our celebrity worship is that some "geniuses" are aware of the difference between how they are assessed by the public and what they actually deserve, and it gnaws at them; while others are blissfully unaware of any difference, and they embrace the worship of others. Bradbury seems to be in the latter category, which I suppose makes him much happier than the former sort.

'Tis but a quibble. Bradbury is the real thing: a great writer.

Word. And as a writer, Ray Bradbury is truly one of my all-time favorites.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gospel of Judas

Although word of the lost Gospel of Judas was first heard in the 1970's, and the actual document itself surfaced in 1983, it won't be until April 9, 2006 that we finally learn about the history and contents of this piece of scripture.

National Geographic is doing a show on the 9th that will be all about the history and restoration of this ancient piece of writing, and will include details about the story it tells. It's said to contain a completel different view of Judas Iscariot and his role in Jesus' death. However, there are some experts who aren't quite sold on this document, so I've included a couple of links to articles written recently on the subject. It's pretty interesting stuff. I can't wait to see the show, as well as the reaction that it's certain to cause.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

city of books

As anyone that's ever been to Portland knows, Powell's Books is an amazing place. It's the largest used and new bookstore in the world, and you could easily spend days wandering the place without ever seeing everything it has to offer. For anyone with the slightest interest in books, or even no interest at all, it's not to be missed.

Having grown up Portland, I've always loved Powell's, and it's been a pleasure to see it thrive over the years. It's not often that such a large independent retailer can thrive in an industry dominated by big chains, but it has more than held its own. And more than being just a bookstore, Powell's is also a cultural landmark in the city of Portland. It's the type of place that locals always show to visitors, and it does a great job of tapping into the vibrant artistic environment in the city.

It's absolutely essential for the city that Powell's continue to play a role in the development of Downtown Portland and the Pearl District, and it's good to see that the owner is already planning for the future. Hopefuly, the strong management and unique vision that have made the store such a success will continue to guide it as it grows along with its surroundings.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tab Benoit

If you've never heard of Tab Benoit or listened to any of his music, do yourself a favor and check him out. You can purchase CD's directly from his site (which, admittedly, is not the most technologically advanced), and I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. My personal favorites are Nice And Warm, his first album, and Swampland Jam and The Sea Saint Sessions, two amazing live albums.

Tab's brand of Louisiana Bayou blues sounds great on his studio albums, but it really shines in his live performances. I saw him last month at Cafe Boogaloo, a great little New Orleans - style blues bar in Hermosa Beach, and like every other time I've seen him, I came away absolutely floored by the show. The guy rocks out for three solid hours, and as the singer and guitarist on all the songs, he is carrying the show from start to finish. He's got great presence and a wonderful voice, and is easily the best guitarist I've ever seen live. His style of blues is very upbeat (most of the time - he has slower, more traditional songs, too) and is great for dancing. If you enjoy the blues at all, or even if you don't, you will absolutely NOT regret picking up any of his albums or catching his next show.

For anyone in Southern California, he plays at Cafe Boogaloo three or four times a year, so you might want to check out their calendar. It's pretty cheap to get in, about 15-20 dollars for his shows, about 5-10 for pretty much anyone else. The place has good food, so it's worth picking up dinner and then sticking around for the show.