Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I want NBA Live 08

All things quiet for a minute on the Blazer front. The Garnett Trade was pretty exciting. Other than that, NBA Live 08 has been on my brain. Many people aren't so high on the franchise, but its always been good enough for me (although I admit almost sticking my head in the oven every year when I'm reminded how much Franchise Mode or Dynasty Mode or whatever they call That Mode is limited).

Here's why I'm excited:

The "as is" Blazers won't suck this year, so that should be fun. It will still be awesome to take terrible players and develop them so they can do this, makes me miss . I might actually have to stray from my long tradition of Baron Davis-centric team selection, although that will probably be better than ever also (thanks Mavs!), so maybe not.

Gilbert Arenas on the cover is the first time I've been excited about who's on the cover of a video game, my favorite result of The Year of the Takeover so far. It is odd to me though that he's in the gold alternate uni. Gross. Odd. Why?

I bought a Wii, so I guess the controls could be cool. Or they could suck. Seriously, if I want to play basketball I'll go outside. I buy NBA Live to play a video game. Apparently theres some confusion on this issue. This could be a huge mistake. There's a lot of comedy (and perhaps horror) listening to who I assume is some guy who worked on the game and has never before seen actual basketball (or the sun) describe it:

So the countdown is on to October 2. Another grown man too excited about the release of a video game. Please believe there will be a multi-post review up on release day.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Brandon Roy: Not scrimmaging with Team USA

I'm sort of bummed to read this update from Chris Sheridan about how Brandon Roy won't be participating in the Team USA scrimmage after all, due to a "scheduling conflict." It would give a great sense of validation to see a Blazer out there with the game's most elite. A nice little nod from the basketball world like "hey, we know you guys are for real now, come play with us."

Oden's one of the guys in the pool of Team USA players, which means he'll probably play for them at some point. The invitation to Roy means he's on some list of theirs too, which is even sweeter. Seeing multiple Blazers on that team might just make my body explode in a big black and red pin-wheelie prideful mess. What if LaMarcus got added someday too?

Eventually, we'll be spoiled. We'll complain that our guys are getting too fatigued from all that silly international play. Lets try to keep our perspective, or maybe just appreciate it while we can.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Qyntel Woods: still earning a living playing basketball

It seems like ages ago we had Qyntel Woods in the fold. Don't forget that for a time, we were all enchanted by the talent. 2002 was a relatively weak draft overall, but Woods was considered by many a steal at pick #21. As reality would play out, we'd find that Qyntel was one of the few who makes Darius Miles look like a success story.

We heard scouts say that at 6'8, Qyntel was one of the most athletic players in the league. I remember some Blazer staff saying he could beat anyone on the team in a game of 1 on 1, a team featuring Rasheed in his prime and a budding Zach Randolph. He mostly rode the bench his rookie season, we heard he was a little raw for primetime. Stories of his potential became urban legends, swapped and exaggerated between giddy Blazer fans.

Then came the offseason and Summer League, when Qyntel Woods lost his mind. He had that 37 point game, and lead the "league" with 28 a game. In case you don't remember, people onced described him as a "cornerstone of the franchise's future." The hope was serious.

As it turns out, Summer League wasn't the real NBA back then either. Maybe he never worked on his game like he should, or maybe he never really had much besides crazy length and athleticism, but Qyntel didn't show much that season.

Woods would lose his mind again, but not in a good way. We heard about what would become one of the most truly sad and bizarre incidents in Jailblazer history:

"He was arrested for marijuana possession and driving without a license in 2003. the original traffic stop was for speeding. When the officer smelled marijuana smoke coming from the vehicle, the nature of the stop went from routine to a full search.
It was found that Woods was driving without a valid license or insurance, had marijuana in the car, was under the influence of marijuana while driving, and was speeding. In the end the charge came down to possession, diving under an invalid license and operating a vehicle without insurance.
The court ordered Woods to pay over $1000 in fines, and the NBA benched him for several games. So how did he get in trouble for having an invalid license and no insurance? When the officer asked him the routine "license and registration please" he reportedly handed him only his basketball trading card and a credit card, unable to produce his license, insurance or registration at the time."

And we all know it got worse from there. Qyntel was arrested for running a pitbull fighting operation, before Ron Mexico made it abhorrent. A trailblazer or sorts.

Portland gave him the boot when the dog fighting came up. I guess he wasn't famous enough for people to care about his record as he got snatched up by the Miami Heat. A season later he got picked up by the Knicks and got the first real playing time of his NBA career, the next season he brought his potential to the D-League.

Of course given his past, it was crazy that he still had anything resembling an NBA career.

Those days might finally be over, but Qyntel Woods is still earning his paycheck playing basketball. Earlier this month he signed a two-year deal with the Greek team Olympiacos. A new opportunity and a drastic change of scenery, its not too late for Qyntel to make it somewhere.

As long as its not with the Portland Trailblazers, thats fine with me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Michigan wants beef

Before I go crazy, let me say that it doesn't make any logical sense for Paul Allen to sell the Blazers now. Still, Yamhill County product Casey Holdahl picked up on an article mentioning that an unknown Michigan group is trying to buy up the Blazers. He even did some sleuthing and found out the offer is something like $400 million.

Remember those days when the Blazers future was uncertain? When Paul Allen was wanting more cash from the city and supposedly trying to sell? "Broken business model" anyone? Those days sucked.

Well with all the recent moves and good fortune, we could rest easy that mess was long behind us. Just because a Michigan group wants to throw $400 million at Paul Allen doesn't mean he'll take it. Please, he spends more than that on boats. After going through some tough times, I'm sure he doesn't want to bail right as his team is poised to return to elite status.

There's some illogical alarmist insecure fan in me though.

I mean, there's always allegations that Paul Allen really wants his hometown Sonics. What if he wanted to sell Portland as some means of grabbing his Sonics, who are in their own state of flux? I know they have a new owner, but Paul Allen could throw enough cash at the anti-gay Oklahoman to make him think:

"Come on Clay, you don't want to deal with this nightmare anymore. The city hates you, nobody is going to give you the tax dollars to build that new building. Stern won't let you move this team to Oklahoma. I'll make you a real sweet deal, make this all go away...."

So why would Paul Allen sell now? With a team ready to start the take over? I don't know, but a guy who owned the Cavs sold them when it was pretty obvious the kind of player LeBron was going to be. He sold them to a group from Michigan.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ha Seung-Jin, tremendous upside-potential achieved

Its shaping up to be another slow NBA day, and all that insanse IKEA Store stuff is hopefully almost over, so I figured it'd be the day to track down our good friend Ha Seung-Jin (The NBA Profile is also pretty informative, which is a bit odd).

Our man Ha was a big fan favorite in Portland, you just don't see 7'3 305 lb 19 year old Koreans every day. His size and youth were enough to get him drafted, and everyone figured the #46 pick in the draft was worth the gamble that this guy could learn to play in the League (a potential second coming of Greg Ostertag! Sexy!).

Then he was traded to Milwaukie, despite the fact that the local Korean-Community didn't even make him a website. His marketability surely taking a hit in a place without Asians, it isn't Ha's style to complain. That and the fact that he's still trying to get his footing in the NBA. Hey, he's still young and huge. When I found this brilliant highlight footage on youtube, I realized Ha is closer to achieving his potential than we have given him credit for:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Portland is bored already

Its not like any Blazer fan has good reason to be bored. The young players developing, the trades, The Draft, I mean wow. But I've been noticing something over the last few days that hasn't happened for a while: no Blazer chatter in Portland.

Again, NOTHING to complaing about, this is really a product of Kevin Pritchard and crew being made of magic. We got used to the constant wheeling and dealing, watching this organization make one bold stride after another. We know things are always in the works, but publicly, there is reluctant silence in Rip City. As a result, I'm probably a little too excited that Brandon Roy is going to scrimmage with Team USA.

Then tonight while watching the local news, I realized I wasn't the only one. There was another 45 minute lecture on why its a little humid in Portland right now (Whaddup Typhoon Man-Yi!), followed by some couple from Michigan stuck on a log tree ride (only in Portland, my friend), all leading up to four hours of live-on-location coverage at the IKEA Store opening. Seriously, there are far too many people in tents outside of that place right now. There's also traffic tips for navigating "IKEA Traffic Congestion."

Mr. Pritchard, I don' know how the city could be more clear. Please make a trade, have a press conference for Channing Frye, put on a puppet show, something, anything. This city needs to be saved from itself.

Ok Ok Ok, Calm Down

There’s always a group that likes to scream about how the NBA is in a downward spiral towards collapse. They spend their time talking about how the league has never been worse, how everything we know is doomed. To me a particularly annoying part of the Tim Donaghy scandal is that these folks have something legit to stoke their fire and brimstone with. I was going to link to a few articles and in true blogger fashion, feature heavy quotations, but this really is everywhere. Maybe its your favorite columnist, or maybe its your favorite sports blog, you don’t have to travel far to read about the league’s impending demise. They talk about conspiracies, broken trust, and integrity forever lost. The end is near my friends. Its as if other sports haven’t recovered from worse.

No doubt, this is really bad, and has potential to be even worse. Maybe Cuban and has been right all along. The refs are in on it, the league is in on it, this whole thing really is fixed.

I guess I’m a minority on this, but it still looks like one crooked ref to me. This whole scandal sucks, no doubt, but am I alone in thinking that the league will ultimately be fine?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Milwaukie Chinese feelin like Yi

Yi (or maybe more accurately, the folks who will make a lot of bank off Yi) didn't want the Bucks to draft him. They made this very clear, but the Bucks went ahead and took him anyways. I mean why not? What could possibly go wrong?

So we've been sitting back enjoying the ensuing disaster, and guess who's stepping up now? None other than the Milwaukean-Chinese Citizens! Thats right, they started a website welcoming Yi to Milwaukie.

First item on the agenda: Convince Yi that there are Chinese people in Milwaukie.

See Yi? There are Chinese people there, a whole community of them! They got their own grocery stores and everything!

Concern over a small market team hurting marketability? Worry about the small Chinese population? Alleged issues with potential playing time? Yi's camp is running out of excuses, and I feared this circus was coming to an end.

Then, it hit me: The Race Card! A search for "Chinese" on Milwaukie's wikipedia page turned up this quote:

" In March of 1889, that city saw four days of protest and one day of rioting against its Chinese laundrymen. Sparking this city-wide disturbance were allegations of sexual misconduct between two Chinese and a number of underaged white females. The unease, and tension in the wake of the riot was assuaged by the direct disciplining of the city's Chinese."

Hey, Milwaukie is racist! Or maybe Yi likes underaged white females, and wouldn't feel comfortable causing a riot against the local Chinese Community, whom he cares deeply for after he saw the website they made for him and heard about their grocery stores.

Game on!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Etan Thomas to Andrew Bogut: THATS a knife!

Earlier this summer Andrew Bogut voiced some criticisms pointed towards "80%" of the NBA Players and American Culture in general. The statements didn't get much coverage from major sports-media outlets, which was sort of surprising. Although Bogut was basically making the same flawed sweeping generalizations (complete with possible implied racism) that a lot of NBA-haters make, he is an NBA Player, so I expected at least a little publicity on this. Not so.

Well, lucky for us, Etan Thomas is willing to voice his opinion too. In his open letter to Andrew Bogut, Etan holds Bogut's comments up to reason, where they disintegrate. When it comes to making cogent arguments, its clear who has the bigger knife. Read Etan's blog here.

I tried to reach Andrew for a rebuttal, but he was too busy making it rain, buying Bentleys, and impregnating various strippers with the Ying Yang Twins. Those 80%'rs must have gotten to him. Bill O'Reilly may have lost another ally.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

2007 Summer League: Portland vs. Seattle

Portland 84 Seattle 78
Box Score

I wasn't going to write anything tonight, I honestly believed I had gotten my fill of watching summer league. I love all things basketball, but there's only so much a man can take. Then after deciding to take a peek, I noticed Koponen was actually getting decent minutes in the first half. Even more, he was getting to run the point. I can't let Finland down, so on we go:

The Finnagler looked more comfortable than in any previous summer league game, maybe due to a combination of getting used to the atmosphere and actually getting to play his position. He sunk a couple jumpers and had numerous nice plays setting up teammates for easy buckets, which they often didn't convert. The play-by-play for the game shocked himself by exclaiming, "Koponen is seeing everything on the court." Good stuff.

After all the Sergio hating I've been engaging in (still plenty of room on the Trade Sergio Bandwagon, by the way), I should probably note that he ran the offense as well as he has all summer today, and really wasn't looking to score as much as usual. He had some of the usual defensive slips, but none of those disturbing lapses we've seen in previous games. The truth is that Seattle doesn't exactly have top-flight guards on this team, even by summer league standards. This probably had something to do with Sergio & Koponen's play tonight.

Joel Freeland is a man. This has been verified. On one baseline in-bounds play Mancinelli threw him a lob, which Freeland jammed through the hoop with two hands in traffic-and got the foul. He also canned a nice jumper from 18 feet, and even gave someone a version of Kevin McHale's slippery eel, which always gets big points with me. He continues to prove he can be as active as anyone down low.

Zendon Hamilton was again Portland's best offensive threat down-low. The man is playing to get back in the league and made a fine case that he should be. Also solid tonight was Chris Ellis.

Stefano Mancinelli showed flashes of those solid all-around skills, although he still would disappear for long stretches. He also had the assignment of guarding Kevin Durant all-night, so maybe we cut the guy some slack tonight.

Martell reminded us how beautiful his jumper is. Taurean Green didn't get many minutes (and had to play off the ball most of the time), probably so The Finnagler could get in some work at point.

Quick notes on Seattle:

Kevin Durant can play, but Jeff Green can play too- and he was the man tonight.

Robert Swift was rocking a very long, very red pony tail on the sideline. This is only excusable if you are as good as Bill Walton. Robert Swift, you have been warned.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

More on Steve Blake

It happened, and now the team with too many players added one more to the mix. Steve Blake is a Blazer after signing a 3 year deal worth $12 million with Portland. I think we all see the writing on the wall with this one, that Jarrett Jack is probably being shopped right now.

I guess at that price, Blake isn't a bad signing. There were rumors he was looking for the mid-level exception and up, which had me worried last night.

The Blazers know their personnel better than I, but I've never understood why they've seemed so eager to rid themselves of Jack. 12 points and 5 rebounds a night is very good for a second year pointguard new to the starting role. I know he was inconsistent, but I think we should give him the benefit of the doubt since he was going through some difficult times off-the court last season.

Blake by the way, is going into his 5th season, and his best stats were from the last half of the season with Denver after being traded, 8 and 6. My question is why give on Jack who is younger and, statistically at the least, better? Afraid you won't be able to re-sign?

They will tell you that Steve Blake gives the Blazers much needed 3-point shooting, but don't buy that. He shot .279 the first half of last year with Milwaukie, and .343 on a Denver team where he got a lot of open looks due to the attention commanded by Iverson and Carmelo. "Inconsistent" Jack shot .350 from 3.

Was it for defense? Jack hasn't yet shown to play the type of defense Portland has hoping for, and Steve Blake has a reputation for "working hard" on defense. Blake will work hard all night, but won't lock anyone down. Jack is still improving in all areas, and who knows?

After this we plunge into the ever sexy and mysterious "intangibles" argument, where Blake allegedly excels. I'm not sure losing Jack is worth gaining a player who's attributes make him sound like the Trent Dilfer of the NBA. I know, Trent won a ring, and Blake did in college. Still, I'm not sure you give up Jack for somebody who is basically good enough to "not mess it up."

There's the playing style argument, because Jack isn't the type of run-and-gun point that is flourishing in the league right now. Show me evidence that Blake is.

Its hard for me to buy that Blake is significantly better than Jack is right now, and Jack is still improving while Blake is the best player he ever will be. This doesn't sit well with me.

Of course, I don't know what Pritchard & Crew have in store. Maybe they can put together something tremendous with Jack. Maybe they'll blow us all away and trade Sergio instead, its not as crazy as it sounds. Especially after you watch him get outplayed by multiple players that haven't even played in the League yet (Portland notes from Summer League: game 1, Notes from game 2, Game 3). Seriously.

Pritchard has been on a wave of support and good fortune, and deservedly so. He is a smart guy who surrounds himself with other smart guys and they work together to make great decisions. This one I'm uneasy about. Whatever else is in the works has to be pretty exceptional for this deal to make sense.

Of course I could be getting irrational, and I'm aware that trading Sergio is steeply against the collective thinking right now. Looking back, I've been fearing losing Jack for a long time: here and way back in March here. Kevin Pritchard knows better than to tread softly and has the political support to be bold. I just hope he's still made of magic.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Please God No

Just heard, Steve Blake is supposedly going to sign with Portland. If true, we got ourselves too many pointguards which probably means Jack is on the move (although I wouldn't count out Sergio being shopped). I have never totally understood why so many love Blake, when I ask I hear an argument similar to how they used to describe Trent Dilfer. Is someone who's main attribute seems to be that they "won't mess things up" and is "good enough" what we need? Maybe. At a price reportedly above the mid-level exception? I don't know. I certainly think Jack can be better than Blake if he isn't already, but the peronnel staff knows more than me. I'm not passing up a date consisting of pizza and Soprano's dvds with the girl tonight, so expect a good old fashioned ranting post tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer League: Blazers vs. Lakers 1

Notes from previous Portland Summer League games: here, here, and here.

We all know the quality of Summer League play can make things difficult to watch. We accept this, and enjoy it anyways to see glimpses of our unknowns, unprovens, and hopefuls. The basketball snob in me despises NBA Summer League, but the Blazer fan in me makes sure I don't miss a thing.

So tonight, we had Portland playing the L.A. Lakers. I have to say, the Lakers have the least sexy summer league lineup of any Blazer opponent. Their most anticipated rookie is Javaris Crittenton, lets leave it at that.

Of course I can't be too critical tonight, as Portland only dressed nine players, and none of them were LaMarcus Aldridge or Greg Oden. NBA.com didn't even bother blacking out this one. The good news is that means other guys would get some burn, which could be good.


Summer League: Blazers vs. Lakers 2

To my surprise, NBA.com had the KXL guys doing commentary on the webcast. Of course the highlight of their coverage came during what the broadcast team must have thought was a commercial break after the first quarter, when the play-by-play guy (jokingly, I think) yelled "Turn down the commercials you asshole!" Awesome.

After the half KXL wasn't on the webcast anymore, I'm not sure if this was from technical difficulties or not, but still hilarious. Oh, and there was also some basketball played. Portland managed to lose this one 73 to 81, box score.

I was eager to see if Sergio Rodriguez could be the best pointguard on the floor tonight. To me, in Game 1 it was actually Taurean Green, and in game 2 it was Jose Juan Barea of the Mavs. Against Jordan Farmar and Crittenton, I thought Spanish Chocolate would finally assume the role. He decently ran the point much of the night, and was able to penetrate and use that creative play-making ability that gets us all giddy. Then you look up and realize Crittenton has 26 points. Farmar got 17 in only 13 minutes. Not all Sergio's fault, but its part of a weakness that becomes glaring when he logs major minutes. Sergio has scary defensive lapses.


Summer League: Lakers vs. Portland 3

Something I hope everyone notices that happened as a result of Aldridge and Oden being out is this: the awfulness of Josh McRoberts has been greatly exaggerated. I can't figure out why so many Blazer fans have been sending so much hate to the second-round pick, especially with more disappointing players on the roster (see above paragraph). I feel an extended blog entry on this topic coming in the near future, but for now let's focus on this game. Remember, McRoberts is 6'10 and has skills. The game saw him catch the ball at the 3-point line, pump fake to get his man off-balance, cross-over dribble, and finish it up with a pull-up that snapped the nets. He had a couple of these plays where he got to string together his impressive skill-set, and also showed his passing ability. As a complementary player, which McRoberts will always be in the NBA, he looks to be solid. Ease up Rip City.

Martell looked at his best tonight, perhaps because he felt comfortable being the man on the reduced roster. As we've seen in the regular season, if you let Martell get comfy by giving him a few open jumpers, he'll be solid all night. He was in that comfort zone tonight, and showed flashes of impressive defense as well.

It won't show up in the box-score, but Freeland showed his scrappiness again tonight. He seemed a little off all night, but didn't let that reduce his surly play. Even when he's not playing well enough to entice us with highlights, I like what Freeland brings.

You can say the same for Taurean Green as well. Its always good to have tough, hardworking guys on your team. Taurean didn't blow-up by any means, but he runs the offense and makes his man work for everything he gets.

Koponen didn't put much in the box-score tonight either, but we got some good flashes. When he runs the point, he's fast with the ball. He pushes it up court and can make nice jumpers or one-handed passes. Unfortunately also saw him play off the ball much of the time. In this position he seems anxious, pacing back and forth and mostly just watching the play develop. Its tough to see him get a lot of play at point with Sergio and Green, but it would be fun to see what he could do with more minutes at his strongest position.

Mancinelli again gave us flashes of a solid all-around game, and you could tell Zendon Hamilton knows what to do as a veteran, providing Portland's only consistent low-post offensive threat. Sad to see Portland native Terrance Green leave the team due to a death in the family.

Happy Free Agent Day!

July 11th came, and NBA teams haven't wasted much time getting all official. I'm way late on all this, but thought I would at least extend some effort (or you could just read hoopshype). Here are some of my favorites:

Darko agreed to a 3-year deal with the Grizzlies (for MORE than the new midlevel exception of $5.3 million). Is this what they meant by putting better pieces around Gasol? I'm sure he's ecstatic.

Gerald Wallace is signing with the Bobcats for 6 years and $57 million. The Bobcats will be pretty interesting this season. I hope Walter Herrmann still gets time even though its looking like the offense will revolve around JRich, Wallace, and Emeka. I vowed to forever support him after I reluctantly picked him up off waivers last fantasy basketball season, then watched him revitalize my team. God Bless Walter Herrmann.

Grant Hill is officially a Phoenix Sun. I'm a Hill fan, but not sure how this helps them get tougher or better at post defense, two things they actually need. I think Hill would have been a better fit with San Antonio, another smart vet with good overall skills, but guess he chose Phoenix. Surely he could have signed with SA right? RIGHT?

The salary cap got set at $55,630,000. I am reminded of my insignificance.

It also became official today that Steve Francis will NOT become a Blazer, as Portland officially said they agreed to a buy-out. Bigger news was that the Blazers "only" got James Jones and the Draft Rights to Rudy Fernandez from Phoenix in that big draft day trade. This ends speculation that there was some exciting unknown player in the deal that couldn't be announced (I heard Marion and Diaw most often). Still not a bad deal. The OLive Blazers Blog breaks it down.

Thats it, I'm back to watching Summer League. A Happy Free Agent Day to all!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Portland vs. Dallas: Summer League Game 2 Notes

First off, let me be clear I had problems getting to watch the game at NBA.com again. No rant about Stern this time, but still annoying. Because of these and other computer issues, I didn't start watching until a few minutes left in the second. Here were my notes for the game that Dallas won 72 to 68 (box score here):

Dallas undrafted pointguard Jose Juan Barea doesn't get much press. Its really too bad, because he can play. He's small, but showed very good pointguard skills. He also did what smaller players are supposed to do on defense, getting in Sergio's space and drawing 3 offensive fouls. The offense never stagnated with him in, and he showed just about every desirable pointguard quality you can think of. He seems to get overlooked because of his small height, but I think someone will find a spot for him.

Sergio looked a lot better during this game than the last, although the defense today was no let up from the pestering he endured from Rondo in the first game. Along with Barrera in his face all night, Sergio also got ACC Defensive Player of the year Jamon Gordon. It was nice to see Sergio play efficiently.

LaMarcus was the best player on the court on both ends, again. You can go back and read my notes of the first game, because he put on a similarly excellent performance.

Oden looked much better, and only got 9 fouls this time! He again flashed his passing ability, and reinforced the fact that everything he gets close to the hoop will result in a dunk, a foul, or both. His post moves worked better and he was playing against Diop inside, although he got a couple shots swatted.

Freeland actually got to play a decent amount today, which was nice. What's impressed me is showing his ability to do the little things that might not show up in the box score. He set picks well and would tip rebounds to his guards if he couldn't grab them. For someone who supposedly picked up the game in highschool his feel looks very good.

The Finnagler Koponen also got to play. He had one nice off the ball steal but wasn't very noticeable besides that play. It should be noted though, that he played the off-guard while Sergio ran point, so was forced to play out of position.

The only Blazer who didn't play better than their first go round was probably Taurean Green, who I dubbed the best blazer guard of the first game. Mancinelli played less but got to show his all-around game. Webster looked more comfortable but again had a limited impact. Portland went to the high-low post offense more this time, with mixed results. With Aldridge and Oden, this will definitely be fun to watch when they work it out. Overall, the game was executed much better than the opener on both sides and easier to watch as a basketball fan. The young Blazers looked more comfortable and assured, and hopefully will continue to look better during the summer league.

What I'm looking for: Portland vs. Dallas Summer League

As I'm waiting around for Portland's second Summer League game (schedule), I thought I'd post a few things I'll be looking for based off some notes I made from the first game:

  • Oden showed some nice passes to Aldridge, and some that resulted in turnovers. This stuck out to me because we haven't heard much about Oden's passing ability yet. A post that knows how to pass to the other post is a huge asset, and indicates that Oden has a great feel for the game. It also shows he may be more comfortable deferring to Aldridge (who's future nickname I hope can be "The Big Truth") in the post. Some would say this is good, and assume that Oden will take more of the offensive load as his game develops. I imagine some critics would say this shows his lack of that "dominant mentality" thing. We'll probably know more as the regular season unfolds, but for me its showing he understands how to play basketball.

  • Koponen more minutes. The Finnish Finagler got less than 3 minutes of playing time the first go round, which was a little disappointing. As a side note, about 15% of visitors to this blog over the last seven days have been from Finland according to statcounter, which I take to mean there's a country that wants to see more. Don't let Finland down! Play The Finnagler! Or else face accusations of being Anti-Finnites.

  • Taurean Green's play. It was just one summer league game, but Green was Portland's best guard that night. I know its against the collective thinking, but if he turns out to be better than Sergio what will Portland do? Will Taurean become the go to backup? A trade?

  • I'm hoping to see more of Oden, Freeland, and McRoberts and less of Mancinelli. Terrance Green actually getting an opportunity wouldn't be bad to see either. Should be interesting. I'll be watching and hopefully have a post up soon after.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Oden's Debut: Portland Notes

I just finished watching Portland kick-off their summer league in Vegas against the Boston Celtics. Oden's debut will obviously command much of everyone's analysis, but there was quite a collection of young talent on both squads to be excited about.

(Because of blogger length limitations, I've broken my Portland and Boston notes up into two separate posts: Boston Notes are here. Also, read why David Stern wants you to hate him.)

The Celtics won 74-66 (boxscore). It wasn't as close at the final score, Boston was comfortably in control a majority of the time.

Notes from the game:

Oden: Lets just say he took full advantage of the generous foul system in place during Summer League. He collected 10 fouls in 20 minutes, and was far from dominating offensively in the post. He is pretty unselfish with the ball, he gave a few nice looks to Aldridge when they ran high-low. Even while struggling, it was hard to ignore his presence. He changes games just by being on the court. Him and Aldrige showed they will play well together on both ends, it will be great to watch this dynamic develop.

Taurean Green: Sergio is obviously going to get the minutes this summer as they try to raise his consistency, but Green was no doubt Portland's best guard tonight (not bad for a guy taken #52 in the draft). He plays hard and showed his toughness getting numerous steals and rebounds. Plus its always fun to watch players that are that fast. Just like the scouting report says though, the jumper is a little shaky.

Lamarcus Aldridge: He is the truth, and it was all on display tonight. With his array of jumpers, post moves, blocks, rebounds, and ability to run the floor, Aldridge is on another level than the summer-league competition. He won't have any problems shouldering the offensive load this season down low if Oden needs time to develop.

Sergio Rodriguez: The Blazers are playing him a lot in an attempt to raise is quality of play when logging big minutes. Rondo was on his hip all night, and although Sergio managed to shake free on several occasions his teammates were often ill-prepared to do anything with his passes. A little disappointing tonight.

Joel Freeland: Gets a bullet point just because I've been hyping him up so much lately. Sadly, we didn't see much of Freeland (the pattern continues), but he had one very nice play on defense where he blocked a Leon Powe dunk attempt. I yelled, "White Keon Claaaaaarke!"

Martell Webster: Don't let the stat line fool you, Martell was mostly a non-factor until the fourth quarter when the outcome had been determined. He managed to show his potential with his athleticism and beautiful shot, but still didn't really seem like he has put it all together. He had some success when Portland would run him off of screens for catch-and-shoots (as opposed to what we saw all last season-Martell standing in the corner), maybe they'll explore that route more in the future.

Stefano Mancinelli: Wow, anyone predict this guy to get so much burn? Despite almost 20 minutes of PT, Mancinelli didn't do much. I spent the whole game wondering why he was in instead of forwards like McRoberts (4:32) or Freeland (9:46).

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of "The Finnagler" Petteri Koponen or hometown guy Terrance Green. Terrance is in the impossible position of needing desperately to impress to get on with an NBA team, but not getting an opportunity to play. Hopefully that will change, but as a 4th pointguard on the roster, isn't likely.

Overall the game was typical Summer League in that the quality of play pretty much sucked. The tempo was disjointed and there was a whole lot of fouling going on. With all these talented young players it would have been great if the teams could have gotten out and ran more, but this happened rarely. It was still nice to see how players are developing, and let us all pray for the end of internet blackouts.

Oden's Debut: Boston Notes

I just finished watching Portland kick-off their summer league in Vegas against the Boston Celtics. Oden's debut will obviously command much of everyone's analysis, but there was quite a collection of young talent on both squads to be excited about.

(Because of blogger length limitations, I've broken my Portland and Boston notes up into two separate posts: Portland Notes are here. Also, read why David Stern wants you to hate him.)

The Celtics won 74-66 (boxscore). It wasn't as close at the final score, Boston was comfortably in control a majority of the time:

Notes from the game:

Former Celtic and color commentator for the game Mike Smith made multiple blatant defenses of Danny Ainge during the game. He loves him very much and thinks he's doing a great job as GM. They have some good talent, but a great job? This guy must want a job with the front office very badly.

Leon Powe absolutely took it to Oden, or whichever Blazer was guarding him. He goes hard and adjusts his game well to make up for his lack of height much of the time. The other times, he gets swatted.

Gerald Green was the best perimeter player for the C's tonight. The ups looked as good as ever, putting up some nice highlights.

Pruitt brought it, despite very limited burn (box score shows 1:27 and 7 points). His impressive burst of points had me hoping he would get more minutes, but they never came.

Brandon Wallace can jump. I don't know much about the guy, but he had a few very nice athletic plays that got oooh's.

Basically, all the young C's can play. Powe and Green were the only Celtics to show consistency, you always knew when they were in the game. Rondo, Allan Ray, and Big Baby had shining moments, but would also disappear for long stretches.

All in all Boston fans should be happy with this group of young guys. But seriously, don't get too attached, or Danny Ainge will trade them for (insert worst nightmare here).

David Stern wants you to hate him

I just got done watching Portland vs. Boston in the Las Vegas Summer League (analysis of Portland here, and Boston here). I barely caught the game, allow me to elaborate before my head explodes:

A rant directed towards Mr. David Stern, who may or may not have had anything to do with the obstacle I had to overcome to watch this game. Whatever, I won't let this stop me from blaming him: On the schedule right here, it reads:

"*All games can be watched online, CLICK HERE. "

Well, apparently that asterisk means something along the lines of:

"*Actually, we plan to blackout the games after getting your hopes up by hyping up how cool this will be. Because we hate you, NBA fan, and want to crush your soul."

What the hell? I tried to kill some time by watching China's national team play Memphis and I got the blackout error message. I live in Portland. Which, by the way, is pretty far from Memphis, China, and Las Vegas.I felt the rage building.

Portland vs. Boston tip time rolled around, and NBA.com didn't even bother to post a link that I could take to get to the blackout message. I was a few seconds away from punching myself in the face. Suddenly, a ray of sunshine beamed down and directed me to a lovely blog that shall remain nameless. A comment was posted on said lovely blog, detailing how to sidestep the blackout and enjoy the game. I love the internet. David Stern? Not so much. You sir, are cold as ice.

If they aren't going to show the games, then don't brag about how you are going to show all the games. Wow that sounds simple. If you want to charge, cool, let us know. If you don't want to show them, hey, I can live with that. But don't build it up like you're being so awesome to your fans, only to tear it away from us. Are you trying to piss of the people that, you know, support your existence? Thats so cold it doesn't even make sense. Thats Stern.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

NBA Summer League Kickoff

Can you smell it in the air? Might wanna crack a window.

The NBA Summer League is starting today (schedule). The turnovers, the lack of organization, and the bricks, oh the bricks. This can make the action difficult to watch.

Even with this in mind, I still get excited. Maybe I'm a basketball masochist.

Or maybe its still fun to see how the draft picks look. Also, you can't be mad at the fringe-NBA Players giving it everything they've got in an attempt to beat the odds and secure a spot on a team's final roster. Plus I'm not that into baseball.

As a Portland fan, I've came up with a few things I hope to keep tabs on during my team's Vegas run:

  • Oden: Everything Oden.

  • Joel Freeland:How can you not be curious about the white Keon Clarke? Blazers drafted the mostly unknown young Englishman in 2006. He played ball in one of the top Euro-leagues last season (Spain's ACB League) and averaged 15 and 7 in 26 minutes per. Oh ya, and he's still new to the game.

  • The Oden/Aldridge dynamic in the post (oh my god!)

  • Spanish Chocolate
  • Terrance Green. A recent addition to the roster. Terrance Green is a Portland product who played college ball at Nevada and then for The Guangdong Southern Tigers in China with Yi Jianliang. There's a big shortage in roster spots this year, but I'm really hoping he will have an opportunity to show himself enough to catch on with someone.

  • Martell Webster. Does he get it yet?

  • Josh McRoberts. His plummeting stock in the draft was a popular joke at the local sportsbar. I had a big hand in that, but I'm glad he dropped low enough for Portland to pick him up. He reportedly is best as a complimentary player (which is how he got famous in highschool-playing with Greg Oden), he always will be that in Portland.

  • Petteri Koponen. The work-out wonder from Finland that we know so little about. He'll probably stay in Europe for a while, so this is a rare opportunity to get a good look. I want to nickname him "The Finnish Finagler," but Casey Holdahl of the Blazer's Blog told me its "The Finnisher." I'm not sure if he's badass enough for that nickname yet, but we'll see.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Spencer Hawes: More than just a bust

It is one of my personal favorite lines from the instantly-classic Stephen A. Smith Heckling Video from the 2007 Draft: after the sock-puppet version of Stephen A. is passed over by Spencer Hawes he (it?) looks at the camera and deadpans as only a sock impersonator can:

"Spencer Hawes is gonna be a bust."

Indeed, a sentiment echoed by many. It came from stats gurus (sorry no link, they like to make you pay for their truly divine insight), sportswriters, and bloggers alike. No doubt, the signs are there. He didn't rebound much (6.4 per) for a star 7-footer at the college level, which is scary. His athleticism is another thing viewed as an obstacle he must overcome. And lets face it, a lot of us are still skeptical of white guys, especially American white guys, when it comes to playing at a high level in the NBA.

I watched him play a few times last season, and beyond the high offensive skills (one of two positives everyone seems to agree on) and height (the other one), I believe I saw a mental toughness there that would seem to help young Hawes succeed in the NBA. Only time will tell.

In the public relations realm however, Hawes is quickly working to surpass the spectacle that even the most Tskitishvilian of busts could create on the basketball court. Its pretty common knowledge that Hawes loves George W. Bush, and isn't afraid to tell you that. Many people who support Bush these days seem to not really pay attention to his little mishaps, but there are many very smart Republicans out there who back themselves up with intelligence. I figured Hawes was admirable for not being afraid to voice his opinion, and that maybe his security even came from an intelligent mind that supported his beliefs. As I learned today, I think I gave the man a little too much credit:

Hawes Debunks Global Warming, Takes on Al Gore

Oh god. This is going to be bad.

A brief quote from his case against "An Inconvenient Truth" in a debate class:

"It's one big lie. I talked about that in my opening speech -- it's the media's liberal overexaggeration of just about everything."

I knew those thousands of liberal-ass scientists were up to no good. I guess he just flung my whole intelligence assumption right out the window. His thoughts make him seem like an idiot, no doubt. I should stop, because he isn't working for NASA, he is a basketball player. Just because he's high profile doesn't mean we should expect him (or anyone else) to be well versed on current issues. These expectations are unfair, but they exist.

And a shitstorm is going to come down on this man. Maybe not for this comment, for this he might just get ridiculed for being a jackass, which is really the best case scenario at this point. But eventually, he'll say something that will cause big-time PR damage. Regardless of his lack of athleticism, his upside for public humiliation is up there with the all-time greats.

If he becomes a good player much of what he says (unless he goes Michael Richards on us) may be ignored to a degree, as in "thats just Spence bein Spence." America is usually willing to forgive a winner. But not a bust. Play hard Spencer.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blazers get to be on TV! GLORIOUS RELEVANCE!

Things went bad for a while for Blazer fans, then a crazy tsunami of puppydogs and baby smiles swept us up and we've been surfing ever since. What took until just now to hit me is, being that the Blazers matter now (I love lottery balls! I mean that in a totally Tom Selleck -hetero-platonic way, for the record), I'll get to see more of them than in a long time. I'm salivating over the release of the regular season schedule, whaddup national coverage! I'm the dumb guy in the back on the cell phone! I'm so FAMOUS right now!

Case in point, summer league! Even though I will undoubtedly become disgusted by the horrible quality of basketball and turn away in frustration, Portland has 3 Summer League games showing on NBA TV. This means I can see some Oden, Aldridge, Koponen (somebody please tell me if this guy has a nickname), Joel Freeland (a big priority of mine lately, he had me at "white Keon Clark"), and all those summer league guys I don't know and will likely never see again. I can root for Portland product Terrance Green to play well, get exposure, and catch on with an NBA team.

Just the latest example, being relevant is so much better than being a laughing stock. Seriously Seattle, it is, you should do something about that. HEY OH!

Remix: Don't sleep on Joel Freeland!

Is it a good idea to do back-to-back posts on Joel Freeland? Mr. Oddity Unknown? The Riddler? If you like having people read your blog, then probably not. Its a good day to be an amateur!

The day after I posted the little update on English Joel, I read some even more savory morsels on the Oregonlive Blazers Blog detailing observations from his recent practice with the summer league squad:

"Oh snap! Freeland comes baseline and finishes the serious dunk on three heads. Nice ups for a guy Freeland's size."

" I didn't get to see it myself, but some of the people who got to watch the practice in its entirety said that Joel Freeland was draining shots left and right. I'm a little hesitant to make a characterization of a player from only watching an hour of practice, but it seems to me that he's got the tools and the body to stay in the states this year to play. I think the NBA D-league might be where Freeland ends up this year. Listening to him talk about his situation at Gran Canaria, it sounds like he might be willing to take less money in order to get some playing time."

Wait, wait. Freeland wasn't getting time with his top flight ACB League team? So he was getting 15 and 7 per with little PT?

Damn you Joel Freeland information, why do you always come in mysterious sugar packet sized quantities? When will we get to see what a white version of Keon Clark really looks like?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Return of Joel Freeland

When Portland drafted Joel Freeland with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2006 Draft, there was a lot of head scratching. Its an odd thing when your team picks someone you haven't heard of, when the knee-jerk rage is stifled by confusion.

We found out he was some big white 19 year old from England, which is more odd. His wikipedia entry and his NBADraft.net profile both compare him to to Keon Clark. It seems our man Joel is deceptively quick, so this blog pretty much has to support him.

He played for a team in the Canary Islands, CB Gran Canaria, this season after signing a two year contract with them last August. They're a member of Spain's pro ACB League, which is one of the top leagues in Europe and allegedly no joke. According to wikipedia (this is the depth of my research), our man Joel put up 14.8 points and 7.6 boards per.

Raw and mysterious Joel might have some serious game, and he can't buy a drink in the United States yet.

Which is sort of a bummer for him, because Joel is heading to Vegas with Portland for summer league (oregonlive blog lists the entire roster, with some cool player blurbs). Nice for us, because we get to see this mysterious young gent in action. It isn't likely he'll suit up for Portland in the fall, but the 2008 season seems realistic if he keeps improving.

Two big white guys named Joel on one NBA roster? I'm not really sure something that unusual can happen. I hope the Vanilla Gorilla is watching his back.

Here's what youtube has to say about the guy (which is very little):

Greg Oden: Man of the People

I wasn't there for Oden's rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square. This was a little heartbreaking to me, but was due directly to an excellent 2007 Draft. I got home relatively late from the sportsbar by my work that night, and had to get my blog on when I got home. Then I had to all this draft analysis to read. The result was me oversleepling Friday morning, which meant I was also late getting back to the infamous cubicle, which meant I was unable to take the needed lunch break to go stand in the rain, scream, and jump up and down at the sight of Oden. Sad.

Even more sad because the Blazers can throw a rally. I went to the press conference announcing Nate McMillan's hire. They had free hotdogs, icecream, pop, live music, and hope. With the recent trades and the draft, I'm pretty much full on hope, but a hotdog would have hit the spot.

Anyways, I read on the OregonLive Blazers Blog that Greg Oden arrived via the MAX Lightrail (no word on if there was free food). I'm not sure who had the idea for the new stud to slide up via Portland's renowned public transportation system, but its pretty cool that he did it. You can feel the city fall more in love with the #1 pick every day. Welcome to Portland Mr. Oden.

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