Monday, December 31, 2007

The Consistent Stat

With growing interest in removing the soul quantifying basketball, the NBA has done some cool stuff like making plus/minus and "efficiency ratings" available. Pretty cool, but if you've ever had to take an intro stats class, you may have wondered why some basic and potentially insightful statistics are left out of boxscores. Among these, standard deviation sticks out as a good candidate to consider. If you need a refresher, this is a commonly used measure of the dispersion of data around the mean of that data. Or even easier, it tells you how much variation there is in the information you are looking at, a measure of consistency.

Seems useful, right? Would you rather have a player who averages 15 ppg that gives you exactly 15 points every night, or a player who averages 15 ppg but could give you anything between 0 and 30? Averages can miss how consistent a player is, and thats where standard deviation can help. It isn't perfect, but no stat really is.

You could run this on any stat, but I chose scoring since it enjoys such a glamorous life. I went through the game logs of Blazer rotation players and computed the standard deviation ("SD") of their scoring. I've also run a couple non-Blazer superstars for fun. I used the free web based software available here.

For interpretation purposes, I also put the ratio of points per game to SD. This was just to help compare players a little better, because ones with higher ppg are much more likely to have a higher SD due to their greater potential for scoring different point totals. For example, a player that scores 25 a night will have higher SD than a player that scores 6, just from working on a scale with more possibilities. The ratio between ppg and SD can be thought of as the variance relative to ppg.

I also included the median ppg of each player, which I also think is helpful. The median is the middle point if you lined up the player's points total from every game from lowest to highest. This makes it less influenced by outlier scores than averages. For example, a median higher than the average could show a player had a couple really low-scoring games.

Sorry for the long walk, who's the most consistent Blazer when it comes to scoring? Who's the least? I've arranged them in order from highest ppg ("Avg") to SD ratio to lowest:

Brandon Roy:
Avg: 19.23
Med: 21.5
SD: 7.08
Avg/SD: 2.72

LaMarcus Aldridge:
Avg: 17.48
Med: 18
SD: 7.23
Avg/SD: 2.42

Travis Outlaw:
Avg: 11.93
Med: 11.00
SD: 6.15
Avg/SD: 1.94

Martell Webster:
Avg: 11.00
Med: 11.00
SD: 6.23
Avg/SD: 1.77

Channing Frye:
Avg: 7.26
Med: 6
SD: 4.16
Avg/SD: 1.75

Jarrett Jack:
Avg: 9.87
Med: 9.00
SD: 5.95
Avg/SD: 1.66

James Jones:
Avg: 9.78
Med: 11
SD: 5.90
Avg/SD: 1.66

Steve Blake:
Avg: 7.47
Med: 6.50
SD: 4.83
Avg/SD: 1.55

Joel Pryzbilla:
Avg: 4.93
Med: 5.00
SD: 3.52
Avg/SD: 1.40

Sergio Rodriguez:
Avg: 2.86
Med: 2
SD: 2.75
Avg/SD: 1.04

To recap, the higher the Avg/SD ratio, the lower the SD relative to points per game. Higher ratios indicate more consistency.

Any surprises? The biggest might be Blake, but remember he's not really asked to do much scoring beyond what the defense gives him. That could mean a bevvy of open 3's or nothing, depending on the strategy the defense adopts, which in turn leads to lots of variance. Another note is that I rounded to two decimal places, and Jack is indeed a smidge ahead of Jones so gets the higher spot despite the equal rounded scores. These numbers include games completed through 12/31.

And here's some other guys, since I guess its sort of possible you aren't all only interested in only the Trailblazers. You can easily do this for whatever players you want on whatever stat is tracked, just fill out the spreadsheet that pops up on the link to the software used above and have at it. Data entry is where amazing happens.

Kobe Bryant:
Avg: 27.13
Med: 28
SD: 7.08
Avg/SD: 3.83

LeBron James:
Avg: 28.81
Med: 28
SD: 8.76
Avg/SD: 3.29

Yao Ming:
Avg: 21.5
Med: 22
SD: 6.63
Avg/SD: 3.24

Dwyane Wade:
Avg: 24.79
Med: 23.50
SD: 9.80
Avg/SD: 2.53

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blazers vs Philly: Lucky 13

Blazers 97, Philly 72 (boxscore)

Thirteen in a row. As has become common in the most recent wins of the streak, Portland overcame some ugly play before finally clicking in the fourth quarter. The score would seem to indicate a rare blowout win, but the Sixers were actually leading 63-62 after three uggo quarters of "basketball." Outlaw and Roy again got hot in the fourth, which in turn made everything much easier, and Portland poured in 35 points to Philadelphia's paltry 9. Love the wins, but it is somewhat disturbing to see Portland get massively out-hustled for three-quarters before turning it on. We've all been heaping praise on the expansion of the team's confidence, but if this recent trend becomes habit we may be dealing with something related to overconfidence.

But lets ignore that for now and think happy. Look here and see the Blazers tied for first in the division. Actually standings change, so here's a screen grab to immortalize this moment:

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Appreciating Aldridge

Now that Brandon Roy is getting his proper national recognition, it seems like a good time to send some love to the other unbelievable second year player on the Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge. The most impressive thing is how good this guy is at so many things, and the scary thing is his youth. If his health issues are behind him, it seems he'll at least become a perennial All-Star. He's noted for physical gifts like length and speed, and for a near automated jumper from 15-18 feet. He's an excellent finisher around the rim. His defense is improving, and he certainly has the tools to leap from occasional highlight blocker to consistent shot changer. Another nit-pick is he isn't hugely effective in the low-post with his back to the basket. Of course, he's on year number two in this league and with his attitude and work ethic its hard to argue these weaknesses will be around for long. This highlight reel shows a lot of what I'm referring to if you need a refresher. I recommend keeping the sound down unless you enjoy old-school homophobic DMX lyrics:

But none of these are my favorite Aldridge quality. He is a superb passing big man, and I think this goes a little underappreciated. I'm a little biased, I love good passers. One of my dogmatic beliefs is that this ability is related to a high basketball IQ and unselfishness. This also has me even more excited for Oden. The thought of a high-low offense with those two is absolutely sublime. Aldridge at the top of the key, with his jumper, and Oden to feed down-low. With Oden, I see Aldridge as a four assists a game power forward. It really doesn't seem fair. I beg you to watch this video and see for yourself. I mean seriously, a second year big who can throw a perfect one-handed bounce pass off the dribble?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Portland vs Minnesota: 12 in a row and vanity issues

Portland 109, Minnesota 98 (boxscore)

Twelve in a row.

There's a cliche about how winning ugly is better than losing pretty. In fact, the ability of a team to win games while playing terrible is often cited as undeniable proof of a team's legitimate competence. During the early parts of the streak, Portland was winning pretty. The recent games have been a little ugly, and as expected, we smiled and reaffirmed to each other that this was another sign of our team reaching new heights.

The Blazers adopted both styles tonight, and the outcome was yet another win. After picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, McMillan sat Roy the rest of the half. In just nine first half minutes, Roy had 7 points, 2 assists, and one steal. Once Roy and his perpetual control of the game was sidelined, things got very ugly in a hurry. I actually fell asleep at some point. Much of the crowd was apparently engaged in a similar activity, as the only real cheering came when 2007 Playmate of the Year and Oregon native Sara Underwood was shown on the jumbotron. Mercifully, with 3 minutes left in the half Rashad McCants attempted to dunk on LaMarcus Aldridge, resulting in an emphatic block and McCants on the floor. The loud thud most have woke the crowd, who subsequently slapped their hands together repeatedly in a clapping motion. Portland then drained three after three and ended up with a halftime lead. McMillan decided to let Roy play in the second half, and cheerable basketball was restored.

It was an odd move for McMillan to bench Roy all half with two fouls. Roy has well known savvy, he can play in foul trouble. There was no blow-out occuring, in fact Portland trailed at times. I like to think that the decision came from Nate recognizing an opportunity to let the team practice operating without their Everything. With opposing defenses focusing more and more on Roy, it seems like a good thing to have figured out. And while they did trail at times, it was never scary. If things got bad enough, I think we would have seen an earlier Roy appearance. Or maybe Nate was punishing Roy for picking up foolish fouls early. Or maybe he truly didn't want to risk Roy picking up an early third foul. Interpretation is fun.

Update: Just caught that in post-game Nate said something about pulling Roy so that the Blazers would definitely have him when they needed him. But my theory is more fun, so I'll go with that.

Now if only the Nuggets would lose a game to someone other than the Blazers, Portland could actually be sitting on the top of the Northwest Division. Oh, and former Blazer pointguard of the future Bassy was in the building. If you are one of the few who is still intrigued by the guy, read what I wrote here and let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

China still loves Houston

I'm over the "fans don't vote for the right people as All-Stars" rant. If the All-Star game is for the fans, its never going to be a meritocracy. I've even let go of the belief that the coaches have some moral obligation to pick those most deserving and thus bring at least some justice to the situation. Of course, if we're submitting to the tyranny of the majority, maybe they should just have the game in China from now on. It's possible.

I was interested to see how China would support Yi in the voting this season. Would we see the same dedication that has made Yao a lock since his rookie season? He came in with a lot less hype than Yao, but the analysts told me Yao's support is mainly due to his nationality. This in mind, there is probably a baseline of fame and ability one has to achieve to earn this home-country love. Sorry, Big Dodger.

Yi was a high draft pick, is starting as a rookie, and has been a meaningful contributor. Yet he comes in at just #5 in the Eastern Conference Forward voting. Note that being a highly drafted Chinese player does not guarantee you a spot. You'd have better luck as a Houston Rocket.

The increasingly China-savvy NBA has been making sure to keep the Rockets on as many Chinese televisions as possible since Yao came along. Not surprisingly, team loyalty has grown. Despite the Rockets sucking, Shane Battier is 7th among Western Conference Forwards, with rookie teammate Luis Scola coming in 8th. Take that, Durant.

Tracy McGrady is second amongst Western Conference guards, trailing only Mamba. This puts him ahead of guys like Steve Nash, AI, Baron Davis, and Tony Parker. Of course Yao deservedly leads all Western Conference centers.

Battier and Scola both have more votes than Yi. Sure, this could be attributed to votes outside of China. As far as market size goes, Houston dwarfs Chinese-hating Milwaukie. But China was supposed to wield an enormous axe in this vote. Either the Yao belief that you get on the team if you come from China with any hype has always been wrong, or has recently changed.

Many Chinese fans, like non-Chinese fans, like the players and teams they see the most of. Perhaps this is reason enough to let them watch the good teams, too. 2008 NBA All-Star Balloting Presented by T-Mobile Second Returns Announced

Travis Outlaw, 6th Man

Around the time the win streak climbed into double digits, Travis Outlaw leapt from one category of my brain to another. I was already appreciating his growth on the court, ecstatic at the sight of this consistent contributor that had replaced the talented enigma we had come to know and love/hate. He is having his best season statistically so far, but his intangibles have been the hardest to believe. He has become a player that can have a bad shooting night, but start hitting down the stretch. I’ve become enamored with those frequent awkward skyscraper jumpers. They seemingly always go in when they have to, much to the befuddlement of the defense. We’ve seen him block shots, now we see him block shots that ensure victory. He gets clutch rebounds. When the other team gets physical (always a go-to strategy against the skinny guy), Outlaw couples an awkward enthusiasm with his awkward game. Somehow this equals beautiful basketball and Blazer victories.

In my raging homerism, I started postulating that maybe these emerging attributes qualify him for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. I welcome that this is against logic. Ginobili is probably considered a mortal lock at this point. Even if he manages to fall off for the rest of the season, players such as Jason Terry, last year’s winner Barbosa, or some other guys I’ve overlooked are of course ahead of Outlaw.

Because this award is given to the best player that does not start. Right?

Something is lacking. Each and every year we sit and listen to guys on TV emphatically debate what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. Then we talk to our friends about what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. Then we take our significant other out to eat and tell them what “MVP” means, and who deserves the award. And they don’t care, so you have the conversation with the server. And your server is totally up on it because you always take your significant other “out” to that wings place with a million jumbotron TVs that show sports all day, so all employees there have heard every debate on the topic a thousand times. The sports and TV orgy is really why you keep dragging this person to this place anyways, although you continue to hold strong to the tired “the wings are amazing” line. Admirable.

Anyways, there is always a debate on exactly what it means to be MVP. Common perspectives include “Best player on the best team,” “Single player most critical to team success,” or the old standby “Best player, period.” Despite this gooeyness, nobody complains that the award is given based on a myriad of differing perspectives. The definition of what this award means remains in flux, and keeps debate wide open. Sounds healthy.

Why not take a similar philosophical argument to the SixthMOY? Do we dare look beyond that uninteresting “best guy that doesn’t start” thing? Circling back to Travis Outlaw, I think he could fit the award more than many of the automatic selections. He is a bench player, in letter and spirit. Ginobili and Terry fit the letter, that is they don’t start. Of course, they get starter minutes, starter money, starter fame, and starter respect. Barbosa doesn’t get the money, but gets those other nice startery things to a respectable degree.

If you defined this award as a means to credit the guy that doesn’t get those nice starter things, and helps his team win in the most ways, you’d have a totally different list of top candidates. There’s a lot of reasonable alternative explanations out there, but this post is already too long and I am far too lazy to think of them.

Admittedly, this started as an attempt to justify why a Blazer deserves an award he otherwise has no chance of getting. But the question that comes out of this could be more valuable. Of course, the MVP is the biggest deal as far as regular season awards go. It follows then that it would dominate debates both on TV and at fine wings serving establishments throughout the universe. But this gets old, real old. We have blogs and twenty four hour TV to talk about these things. Lets not be afraid to open it up and talk crazy talk about what the seemingly self-defined Sixth Man of the Year Award really means. And we won’t stop there, just wait until you see guys screaming at each other over the Citizenship Award.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Taurean Green back where he should be

After just four games (and only one DeceptivelyQuick check-in), the Blazers called Taurean Green back to Portland. A defeated and humiliated D-League responded with a fruit basket and genuine "Thank You." From here:

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland Trail Blazers recalled guard Taurean Green from the NBA Development League’s Idaho Stampede, it was announced today by Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.

Green, who was assigned to the Stampede on Dec. 10, averaged 19.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 9.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 37.8 minutes in four games (all starts) with the Trail Blazers’ D-League affiliate.

Prior to joining the Stampede, Green posted averages of 2.3 points, 1.3 assists and 6.0 minutes in four games with the Trail Blazers this season after being selected by Portland with the 52nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft.

The 6-0, 177-pounder spent three seasons at the University of Florida, where he guided the Gators to back-to-back NCAA National Championships as the team’s starting point guard.

Hopefully this means they intend to play him. Thanks to anonymous insider Agent Brrrrrrrrrrr! for the tip.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Portland vs Denver: 10

Portland 99, Denver 96 (boxscore)

10th straight win

And the Blazers keep winning. Maybe the most significant thing about the streak is that this team is starting to pull out victories even when they don't play their most beautiful basketball, and tonight things went far from perfectly. Carmelo and AI both had it going (34 points a piece). Denver's defense was keyed in on Roy to the point where it was getting ridiculous. There were extended periods of drought. On nights like tonight, they gut it out with toughness and show a knack for stepping up at the most critical moments. Watching this group become consistently timely is absolutely wonderful.

Roy and Aldridge contributed at a fairly steady pace. Roy had about three defenders on him at all times, so used Denver's enthusiasm against them in going 10-12 from the line. When points seemed to come few and far between, Martell always seemed to hit from outside (19 points, 4-8 from 3) to keep the Nuggets from running away.

Travis Outlaw used the end of this game to display exhibit #21378931296B of his growth this season. With Roy absolutely smothered, he became the go to offensive threat. And yes, he accompanied this with his usual collection of clutch rebounds and blocks, including the potential game-tying three.

By the way, I think its time we start recognizing Travis as a 6th Man of the Year candidate. Not that I think he deserves the award over the likes of Ginobili or Terry at this point, but I think he deserves mentioning. In the spirit of what I think the award represents, that is, the bench player that is of greatest asset to his team, he may be the leading candidate. Guys like Ginobili and Terry are more starters that happen to come off the bench, if that makes sense. They play starter minutes, they get starter fame, starter respect, starter money, Ginobili even plays in All-Star games. Do they fit the letter of 6th man? Definitely. The spirit? Not so sure.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Checking in with Taurean Green

When news broke that Taurean Green was reporting to Boise, Idaho for D-League action, I humbly offered my recommendations for site seeing. The Blazers have a jam at pointguard, so it was either continue to ride the pine or take a trip to Idaho. Green has been impressing the team (and this blog) since summer league, so it was sad to see him go. I won't rant about how much I like his game, mostly because I'm lazy. Just know this: he can play.

Through his first three NBDL games, Green is averaging: 17.7 points, 8.7 assists, and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 42% from the field and 60% from 3. And this is a guy who is often praised for his intangibles.

Another thing, check out his NBDL player profile, then toggle over to his NBA player profile. Apparently playing in the NBA adds an inch and four pounds to a person. They get better shoes, I guess.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Portland vs Toronto: No jinxes here

That was cute when I thought this obscure blog mentioning that the Blazers were the hottest team in the league would jinx the game. By my tally the Blazers TV crew referenced this joyous little distiction about 3,897 times, and I took a break to get some cereal. I would think they have considerably more jinx juice than I. In any event, none of this matters tonight:

Portland 101, Toronto 96 (boxscore)

Nine in a row.

A flu-symptoms fighting Brandon Roy had it going all night, contributing his usual all around excellence to the degree of 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists. This city knows how much this guy means to the team, as evident from the "MVP" chants as he was shooting free-throws in the fourth quarter. How long has it been since Portland fans did such a chant? Clyde Drexler?

With the schedule Portland has played, the record they have, and the way Roy has played, he deserves to be an All-Star. It has nearly zero chance of happening this season, but thats fine. We know, and the rest of the league is still learning.

LaMarcus was back after a five game break, and didn't look all that rusty. He didn't have the impact we've grown accustomed to this season, but contributed a quiet 15 and 7.

Much of the game the Raptors had the Blazers infamous zone defense downgraded from The Octopus to The Seamonkey. Only after a fourth quarter surge did Portland finally take the lead. That international collection of shooters Toronto has must have been excited to hear they'd have a zone defense to shoot over and spread out all night. That Calderon, he's a cold man.

The game was made more difficult largely because Portland's usual gangbusting second unit wasn't shooting quite as hot. Toronto has their own nice zone defense, but Portland's two big bench guns-Outlaw and Jones- didn't resemble their offensive selves we've seen during much of the streak. Despite Outlaw's cold night (4-12 from the field), he got some critical buckets in the closing minutes, which speaks volumes to his growth as a player. James stepped up and iced the game from the line. Both played good defense and made big intangible plays throughout the game, especially Outlaw down the stretch.

This is getting scary. What a team.

Hottest team in the League: Your Portland Trailblazers

Moments ago I watched an extra crafty Chauncey Billups ice some freethrows to beat the Celtics in Boston juuuuuust barely (boxscore). Portland has yet to take the floor for their game against the Raptors, but as of this moment they own the longest current winning streak in the NBA.

Am I jinxing things? Yikes. Toronto has a dynamic team, one of the few non-Blazer squads I always make sure to watch. Could they take this joy from us? On the birthday of the great stArvydas Sabonis? Should be fun, enjoy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Boom-Dizzle Christmas

Did you need another reason to love Baron Davis? Me either, but here's one anyways:

I've transcribed my favorite part for the hearing impaired:

...thats what I want on my list. Uh, some Reebok Pumps, old school. I want a bike, too (huge smile)....

And hey look, an excuse to post this!

Blazers vs Hornets: Dear God

Blazers 88, Hornets 76 (boxscore)

Eight in a row.

The Blazers are putting me in a bind, its getting harder and harder to come up with new ways to describe the complete awesomeness of this squad.

Full disclosure: I didn't exactly give the game last night the full attention it deserved. It was the I Love New York II finale, and yeah, I'm a loser that got sucked in. Shout out to Tailor Made for pulling off what should be considered one of the biggest upsets of all time.

All signs point to the Blazers finishing the season 70-12. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

ESPN: We know who Travis Outlaw is!

I just noticed this tonight, apologies if the news has been broken elsewhere. As has been well documented by every Blazers blog, Travis Outlaw's player page on ESPN featured a picture of the slightly older and more mustachioed Bo Outlaw. Well, our Outlaw and the Blazers have been on a tear of late, and Travis is now pictured on his player profile.

As much as I've complained about it, I admit a part of me will miss seeing Bo's beaming smile when I check to see how many minutes per game Travis is logging. Sigh.

Blazers vs Denver: Nick Cannon did this to you!

Blazers 116, Nuggets 105 (boxscore)

The seventh consecutive win was a mature and convincing one. Suddenly Portland is at .500 and continues to perform ahead of schedule. At this rate, the media will have to stop describing how other teams are losing to the Blazers and acknowledge that this team is straight-up beating people (Note: not tonight, ESPN is reporting "Blazers knock off Nuggets despite A.I.'s 38 points").

As has been true during this win streak, the Portland bench was an absolute force spearheaded by Outlaw (17 points, 5 rebs, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block) and James Jones (14 points, 7 rebs). If you want to see some eye-popping stats, check out James Jones by the way. I'm not sure how he keeps the ball from incinerating when he touches it.

Roy was his usual self. Despite taking a while to find his range (he started 2-10 from the field), Brandon finished his forty minutes of work with 26 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebs. When the Blazers start attracting national attention (I realize it will likely take Oden's return for this to happen), I will be excited for everyone to see how many ways this guy helps his team win. I can't say it enough, a very special player and a joy to watch.

LaMarcus sat out again tonight, but is scheduled to return next game. Starting in his place, Channing Frye took it upon himself to do his best LaMarcus impression by draining jumper after jumper from the perimeter. He had 14 points in the first 10 minutes of this game, and him stepping up helped the Blazers separate early. Frye ended up with 20 points (10-13 from the field) and 9 rebounds. It appears yet another Blazer has rounded into shape. Nate will have some interesting playing time decisions to make.

I can't talk about a Blazer win without praising that zone defense again. It wasn't featured as much tonight (Denver was pretty apt at lobbing oops over the top- Kenyon Martin threw three down on consecutive plays), but it you can tell the team believes in it and enjoys playing it. Mike Rice described it as "The Octopus Zone," which I enjoy and will use in all future references.

Oh, and as for the title of this entry...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Redefining Bassy

Remember these days? About to take over the world, it was only a matter of time:
It was Coney Island, '02, a great year for basketball, but an even better year for Sebastian Telfair. And he wanted in.

Two years later Sebastian Telfair would grace the cover of Sports Illustrated before declaring for the draft straight out of high school. There's not much doubting that hype went too far with Bassy. Now his fourth season in the league, he's already on team number three. His wikipedia entry contains entries under such headings as "2006 handgun incident," "October 2006 robbery incident," and "2007 handgun incident." His career numbers thus far? 7.6 points, 3.4 assists, 39% from the field in 22 minutes per game.

These distinctions tend to stigmatize a person. But exactly why we hold it against an individual when they don't "justify the hype," I will never fully comprehend. Telfair has always been a basketball player. He happened to be a legendary one while at his New York high school, and some observers decided he was going to be a force of nature some day.

They were wrong. And we scorn him for this.

Being a Blazer fan, I still hear the occasional talk about Portland wasting such a high pick on the generously 6' high schooler. I've probably even been an eager participant in some. Truth is, he wasn't even the biggest bust of his draft class. Rafael Araujo at #8 can now be found in a Russian league. Luke Jackson at number 10 has had a turnstile career in and out of the Association. On the all-time busts list, you won't find Telfair near the tippy.

As Bassy is in the last year of his contract, some make allusions that he will be out of the NBA soon. I doubt it. Keeping in mind that he is playing for the worst team in the league, he is pumping out career highs in minutes, field-goal percentage, rebounds, assists, steals, and points. Again, I'm aware there is some horrible-team stat inflation here, but I think his improvement is still significant. Also considering that he is still just twenty-two years old, he will have an NBA home next season.

To reiterate why all is not lost: he is still young and still improving. Force of nature may be out of the question, but solid rotation player is a definite possibility. I hope so, with the amount of turmoil already experienced in his young life it would be something of an inspiration, if we care to notice. His single most important contribution to basketball so far is Through The Fire, and that isn't likely to change. But our attitudes, like his game, can still improve.

Blazers vs. Utah: Six wins in a row

Portland 99, Utah 91

This is getting ridiculous. The youngest team in the league just keeps winning, and oh yeah, leading scorer LaMarcus sat out again. I'm trying to ground my euphoria by remembering how early it is in the season and how young this team really is. That said, they are playing beautfiul basketball. Love that zone, Nate.

Any Blazer fan should be ecstatic over Outlaw, who is averaging 19 points, 6 boards, a steal and a block off the bench during this streak. His confidence and enthusiasm is bursting at the seams, and this consistent production is a thing of beauty.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Finland Can Groove

Is there a blog out there with more Finnish-related basketball oddness? Why would there be? We bother Tim Kisner for insider updates, and get official reports from embedded agent H.T.

Today is a good day, because H.T. has more documentation of the awesomeness that is pro basketball in Finland:

I can't say that the webpage for Finnish Korisliiga team Porvoon Tarmo is
built really well, but I must say that I love the banner. Three players in
the middle of the banner (Ville-Pertti Lind, Chris Hester, Nick DeWitz)
played in Tarmo last season, but the other three guys... well, let's
say that 1970s rocked. Take a look yourself:

And since we only have ten days left before Xmas, here's an early present
for you in form of another Finnish music video. If you don't like heavy
music, just get your earplugs or turn off the speakers; the video itself is


I think I may have finally found the motivation to make a real banner for this site.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Blazers vs Warriors: still hot

Blazers 105 Warriors 95 (boxscore)

Another game against a favored opponent, another victory. Now is a good time to point out that Portland is the second hottest team in the league, only Boston has a longer streak going. DeceptivelyQuick was well in attendance for the latest improbable sans-LaMarcus victory. Because I'm lazy, I'll just throw my thoughts into bullets:

  • No coincidence all this winning has coincided with James Jones finding his groove. He continues to shoot at a ridiculous clip, and that threat has allowed other guys (most notably Brandon Roy) to operate much more effectively. Veteran savvy, deep stroke, better than you think defense, James Jones is absolutely huge for this team. By the way, in an oddly recent pop-culture reference, the Rose Garden people play a sample from rapper Mike Jones "Mr. Jones" whenever James scores. I was pleased indeed.
  • Outlaw continued his amazing play off the bench. I'm not sure I know a single basketball person that approves of all those awkward fadeaway jumpers he takes, but when they fall you just shut-up and cheer. Any team that has a guy scoring 19 a game off the bench (Outlaw has averaged about this over the winning streak) is trouble.
  • I love when Pryzbilla gets his minutes, and he got 30 tonight. In a throw-back to the Damon Stoudamire days, the Blazers actually used him on offense. Joel's no Tim Duncan with the ball, but he has proven many times that he is a capable finisher around the hoop, especially coming off a pick n roll. I hope this will be a continued option, and not something happening only because LaMarcus is out. Love that they play Thriller whenever Joel scores, by the way.
  • Roy. Roy. Roy.
  • I've been as big a Jarrett Jack supporter as there is out there, so when his shortcomings became painfully obvious, well, that sucked for me. I was relieved to see him eventually find a role. That role is not pointguard. For stretches of this game, Jack ran the point. During these stretches, the arena would hold its collective breath and grit its teeth hoping for the best.
  • I've noted the most important void left by Z-Bo's departure. In other chalupa-related news, when the team gets close to 100 the mascot is on the jumbotron starting a chalupa chant (seriously). I can't support this. Not only did it confuse the Japanese people sitting by me, its like talking about a no-hitter while its in progress. Yet another reason Blaze the Trailcat sucks, he/she/it is conducting himself/herself/itself in a manner that is conducive to chalupa-jinxing. We can't have that dammit. Stop this at once.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Baby, I'm Boom-Dizzl-ING

Portland vs. Oakland tonight at the Rose Garden, I, as well as agent Brrrrrrrrrrrr! will be in the building. I have a long history of showering Baron Davis with my man love (you're gross). From the pre-2007 playoffs declaration of "with Baron Davis on your team, you can beat anybody in the playoffs" that landed DeceptivelyQuick on TrueHoop for the first time, to my always effective NBA Live Baron-centric strategy. Surprising then, that this will be the first time my eyes get treated to Dizzle in real life. I'm giddy.

As a Blazer fan, of course, I'm still hoping for a dominant victory. As a basketball fan though, I just want to see Mr. Davis be Mr. Davis. I'm also hoping we taste some Spanish Chocolate tonight, Sergio was just made to showcase his magic against teams like the Warriors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blazers vs Utah: Mandatory Recap

Nice stats and some victories will get you Player of the Week. Tonight Roy's 16, 3, and 3 won't register a blip on the national radar, but illustrate exactly why his value far exceeds that of any weekly award. For better or worse these Blazers play like a family, and Roy is the backbone, the provider.

LaMarcus out of with plantar fasciitis, the Utah defense was intent on suffocating Roy all night. Brandon was perfectly content, allowing his teammates to feast on an unusual bounty of wide open jumpers. In 2005, Martell Webster got drafted after a mesmerizing pre-draft workout with the team. The Jazz might as well have been those chairs and cones he took to school on that fateful day as he dropped a career high 25. Travis Outlaw again contributed at a rate that ESPN will soon have to stop calling him "Tracy" in his highlights and take down the infamous picture of Bo that graces his player profile. Thanks to an accompanying flurried perimeter zone defense backed by Pryzbilla at his most gangster, Portland utterly dominated the first 2 and a half quarters of this game. Jazz fans booed their team, and had the salt rubbed in when an overweight second grader in a Brandon Roy jersey would not stop doing the robot all over his courtside seat.

When Utah got energized and mounted the inevitable NBA comeback, Roy shook off the beatings and got the most difficult and critical points of the game. We've seen this so many times before. Last season, before most of us knew LaMarcus could shine like he is doing, before Portland landed the number one pick, Roy sparked hope of a brighter future for this franchise.

Whatever embarassment of riches this team comes to be, Roy will always be at the head. He's the one most likely to end up in bronze outside the arena. The best part of a game like tonight? Knowing that we will be given many more like it.

Box Score

Taurean Green will love Boise

Yep, found via Blazer's Edge, The Columbian reported that Taurean Green is indeed headed to the D-League's Idaho Stampede in Boise. As a Green fan I guess D-League burn is better than nothing at all. He sounds professional about the deal, like a guy who is going to make the most of it. I'd like to help. He's no doubt prepared to handle things on the court, but I would like to offer the following suggestions for really getting the most out of your Boise experience. Most people know very little of the area, thats why they call it the Dark Continent. So why am I qualified? Well, for starters, I was born just 3 and a half hours away from Boise. Plus I went there once. I may be the only person who has been to Idaho that has internet access. Hi-oh!
  • For starters Taurean, you gotta hit up the zoo. Yes, there's far better enclosed animal habitats out there. But do they charge just $5 for all-day access? Welcome to Boise.
  • Go check out Boise State. Look at the football field, its blue! Thats about it for this stop.
  • Go to the mall. People in Boise will try to sell you on outdoorsy things like white-water rafting or rock climbing. Don't do it. Firstly, you could get hurt and jeopordize your career. Secondly, the mall has a JC Penny's and a Sears. What else do you need?
  • Watch the below video and get a feel for the bright lights and bustle. Being prepared should keep the shock to a minimum. They got escalators man. Escalators.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Paul Allen's gonna go broke! Oh wait, nevermind

Forbes (found via Sactown Royalty), released a list of NBA Team Valuations.

A cliche statement the experts keep saying is that "Portland is on the right path," which feels true. We all see the potential, we know we're watching something being built that can be special. It looks like the business side of things will take longer to turnaround. I forget, because most the talent on the team is still on their rookie-contracts, that the Blazers still have the sixth highest payroll in the league. Technically, the most expensive Blazer is currently putting up 6 points a game for the Rockets. The most expensive three are being paid a combined $ 36,503,750 (over 60% of what the Bobcats pay for 16 players), and have contributed 2.8 ppg and 1.3 rpg (Whaddup to all the LaFans out there!).

I know looking at the payroll like this is pretty ridiculous. Sometimes, you gotta take the terrible contract to make the trade work and your future brighter. But still, seeing that the Blazers operate at a $25 million loss (second only to the Knicks) is startling. The double wammy is achieved in that Forbes also ranks the Blazers as the least valuable NBA franchise. That tiny little graph shows that the Blazers haven't actually made money since 1998. Woo!

Then you remember Paul Allen owns your team. You know what? One of Paul Allen's yachts costs 20 milion a year, to maintain. By the way, that photo is said boat, not a cruiseliner. This is how I imagine the conversation went when somebody told Paul Allen the Blazers lost $25 million:

Vulcan: Mr. Allen, you lost $25 million this year on the Blazers.

Paul Allen: Word? Damn. I guess I'll wait til next month to get my submarine painted.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Finnagler concussed, but fine

I was a little freaked out yesterday when our manifest destiny friends at Blazers Edge reported that He, The Finnagler, Petteri Koponen, had suffered a concussion. I was also a little freaked out that Blazers Edge has a source in Finland. The Invisible Finnish Hand: No longer content with only controlling the most obscure of blogs. Ambitious and deadly as ever.

Tim Kisner, an American teammate of Koponen's, has been nice enough to give us some insider insight on the situation:

"He did suffer a concussion. From the sounds of it, kind of like a football player concussion. Remember, Doctors in Europe are much more cautious than ours I have come to find out. He is doing fine now, no problems, so I think he will miss about a week and he missed one game so that will be it. Because he is in the army though, and cannot play, he has to stay in the army full time now until he can play. So not really nice for him. He feels fine they just want him to avoid contact for a few days."

Good to hear he's ok. Interesting that he can get a break from his military service only when he's actually playing in games. Looks like its back to the barracks and ski-warfare until he can resume jump shots.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tim Kisner in Finland

The basketball career of Tim Kisner is one of those stories that shows just how interesting a path such an occupation can take one on. He was a four year starter at Central Michigan University, where left with his name all over school record books: first player in school history with over 1000 points and 400 assists, third in made three-pointers, fourth in assists and steals, Captain of the squad that won the 2001 MAC Championship. Later in 2001 he was drafted by the NBDL, and a professional journey began. He played in the CBA (alongside the legendary Olden "Golden" Poly-NICE!) before taking his game across the Atlantic to Poland, and then off again to a new country and team you probably know if you read this blog, The Honka Espoo Playboys of Finland.

He's been a teammate of Petteri Koponen for three years, and has watched him mature from a substitute with minimum PT to an NBA first round draft pick. I'm still waiting to hear back on any insights into this scary concussion business, but Tim has been nice enough to fill us in on some perspective for exactly what things are like over there.

Oh, and he has a Scottie Pippen in Finland update too. Apparently its happening. Word is, Tim and Petteri's team will face off against Scottie and the Helsinki team that paid him on January 5th. There's some buzz, but not as much as when Dennis Rodman showed up for that same team a couple years ago, Tim was there, "Two years ago Rodman came and played for the same team against us and it was huge, but Rodman is more famous over here due to his off the court stuff." I vote for Pippen to wear a wedding dress in promotion of the event.

I asked Tim some basic stuff about what Finland is like, culturally and basketball wise:

"Finland is really a small country, Helsinki being the Capital only has basically a million people, so everyone knows everyone. People are very smart here, almost everybody speaks English and Swedish along with their own language. Technology here with Nokia being from Finland is unbelievable, how far they are ahead of us. This time of the year it sucks here, it is dark by 3 in the afternoon and does not get light until about 9 or later. Summer time here is great though because it is light all day.
Basketball is about the 3rd most popular sport here, Hockey is huge. They have one of the best leagues in the world. There are 3 teams in the Helsinki area and they pack out the arenas on game nights. Basketball does not have much of a following because there has not been a whole lot of succes by teams in Finland (national teams) or by players in the NBA. They show one game a week here from the NBA so there is not that great of an influence as other places like China, or spain where games are on all the time."

Oh Finland, to know you is to love you. Expect more updates soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sweet Road Victory!

Outlaw gets the ball off a broken in-bounds play, drives, and kisses a running jumper off the glass at the buzzer.

Portland 106, Memphis 105

Old road record: 0-9. New road record: 1-9. It feels better than it sounds. Get your drink and your two-step!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Aldridge, darling.

Roy, both on merit and because Oden is currently busy with Guitar Hero, has been the face that the media attached to the new look "up-and-coming Blazers." (5-12 makes one put such things in quotes). Now, whether he is simply in a slump or we are just seeing how badly he needs more help on the perimeter to be effective, folks are starting to notice his recent struggles. I grabbed this screen shot off of a few minutes ago:

Its cold out there.

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