Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Koponen! Akeem Scott! More from Finland!

Seriously, what kind of NBA blog posts updates from Finland when the playoffs are in full swing here in the States? One that has a sweetpotato as a mascot.

BlueForest chimed in and reduced my fears of The Finnagler being snared in a Joel Freeland-like horrible situation with a Euro team next year. BlueForest (I assume forests are blue in Finland) assured me Koponen has enough support with enough people to avoid the situation of a horrible buy-out clause and limited minutes/development. Whew.

H.T. also sent along a nice recap of the Espoo championship game that featured a surprise injured-Koponen appearance and chants of "Who the fuck is Akeem Scott?!?" He also sent along some nice video documentation. Watch as Akeem Scott breaks out a celebratory Bird, Koponen drops someone with a crossover, and good times are had by all.


it was a storybook ending.

Petteri Koponen broke his thumb in Finnish league semifinals. Honka Playboys
coach Mihailo Pavicevic had no other possibilities but to enter Koponen's
substitute PG, Akeem Scott, into starting line-up for the finals.

Akeem struggled with playmaking but showed incredible confidence, turning
two of four final series games into Honka victories with some last minute
heroics. Akeem scored Honka's last seven points in 70-68 game two victory
and scored a grand total of 36 points in deciding game 4, including a
running jumper with three seconds remaining which gave Honka 72-71 lead and a W.

But even Koponen got his share of shine in the finals. When Akeem Scott got
his fourth foul with eight minutes remaining in game 4, coach Pavicevic
entered injured Koponen. Koponen hadn't been able to practice in two weeks
because of the thumb but his presence was needed: Koponen stabilized Honka's
offence and gave Akeem a couple minute breather before the nitro ending.

Honka had a great opportunity to win the championship in game 3, but Kouvot
took a 67-66 lead with Corey Smith's low post basket with four seconds
remaining and Akeem Scott travelled in Honka's last possession. In game 4,
Akeem truly showed what he was made of and more than made up for his game 3

Throughout game 4, Kouvot fans harassed Akeem chanting: "Who the f*** is
Akeem Scott, Akeem Scott, Akeem Scott / Who't the f*** is Akeem Scott, he's
a loser", but as you can see, Kouvot fans should've been more careful with
their words..

"Who the f... is Akeem Scott? He's a winner!"


Monday, April 28, 2008

DeceptivelyQuick will welcome our Asian Overlords

Not too long ago, China got interested in basketball. Soon after, we saw an endearing 7'1 small-forward by the name of Wang Zhizhi hang around in the NBA for a while. What a cute and harmless little example of globalization, arrogant Americans thought. Wrong.

After the 7'1 SF, we saw a sliiiiightly better 7'6 Center. Then a 7'0 SF that can play. I don't want to freak you out too much, but China has a 6'9 guy on the way that can play pointguard. It really is only a matter of time before the Chinese Olympic team consists only of players over nine feet tall (the center will be 15 feet tall). Trust me, they have 1.3 billion people and those intense baby athlete training programs like in the movies. They will do it.

And China's ambition must be inspiring other Asian Countries. Observe this footage I stumbled across at the NYTimes (yep). We see Japan once again using some ingenuity to outdue the Americans, this time it isn't about car production, its about basketball.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Whats next for Koponen?

An email from BlueForest got my mind off the playoffs and back on The Finnagler.

The season in Finland is over, and Petteri Koponen has won another
championship with Honka Playboys. Unfortunately his participation in
the playoffs was marginal after the thumb fracture he suffered 2 weeks
ago. After missing the previous final games, today he entered the game
in the 4th quarter when Honka was in foul trouble and helped them to
hold on for the W and 3-1 victory in the series. Streaky Akeem Scott
caught fire for 36 points and hit the winning basket with 3 seconds to

I hope this was the last we will see of PK in Finland. If he can't
earn a contract in the summer league, he will likely move to some
European big league club. He has improved here every season with coach
Pavicevic, but now is the time to move on. Honestly I'm not sure if he
can fit on the Blazers' squad, but at least he deserves a chance to
run the team in Vegas and not be played off the ball again. If he
makes the League, it will be as a pure point with size.

Congratulations for a wonderful season in Portland, and best wishes
for the future that looks so promising!


I'm definitely looking forward to Vegas this summer, assuming we'll get our yearly check in with both Koponen and Joel Freeland. The odds of either one playing for the big team in the fall seem unlikely at present, but things could change. If they don't make the team, it will be interesting to see what route they take. Koponen seems ready to move on to another Euro league, but sometimes that can lead to frustrating situations for NBA-drafted young players. Ask Joel Freeland how that has been working out. According to this source, he was glued to the bench once again in the ACB League.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rooting for Sergio Rodriguez

I wasn't going to crawl out of my hole today (its a nice hole), but Jason Quick (he's our third cousin but won't admit it) had to go and write an article I felt obligated to share. (Booooooo!) We've been enthusiastic documenters of the journey Sergio Rodriguez has been on with the Blazers-go ahead, DIG. To this outside observer, it has been an intriguing mix of hype and frustration. After reading the article, I think for Sergio its been mostly frustration lately:

"I want to have fun playing basketball," Rodriguez said. "I want to enjoy the game like I used to enjoy it."

And on his relationship with Nate:

"Our relationship is good," Rodriguez said. "It is a correct and professional relationship. He has told me many times before in the past what I have to work on. It's not one or two things, it's everything. And I want to be the best player I can be, so I will have to work on everything."

Nate on his relationship with Sergio:

"The thing is, everybody is not going to like you," McMillan said. "I think it has been professional, and it has been tough for him. I know that. Everybody wants to play, and somebody is not going to be able to play, that's coaching. I try to talk to him and explain to him what we are doing, and let him know when I want to play him and why he is not playing."

You've got to feel for the guy. Just a season ago, he was tantalizing a city with that flashy wide-open play. Then he came out and basically got outplayed frequently when given major minutes, in summer league. He followed that up with a year on the bench, and now is afraid he won't make Spain's Olympic team.

When the Sergio hype got out of control in Portland, I had a knee-jerk reaction that was inappropriately directed somewhat at Rodriguez. Now I am really pulling for him as the deck seems stacked against him. He will never be a "Nate guy," in fact he's close to the antithesis of Nate's whole concept of the position. He is being asked to subvert his entire identity to become a player he is not, and it is draining the enthusiasm and confidence out of him. Here's one young piece that would probably benefit from being traded to another team, and maybe he'll be freed this summer. Keep your head up.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

DeceptivelyQuick: Obscure unnoticed sphere of influence expanding

I was a little late to catch this, but a little Jack Brown flavor has snuck into the blog of one Mr. Channing Frye and his efforts to document Portland's weirdness. The DeceptivelyQuick connection was omitted, understandable considering my deep connections to the Finnish Underground leave some weary. I am a fan of the Buffet of Goodness, the enthusiasm with which he embraced the team and the city is hard to resist. And the fact that he is Nick Cannon's older brother amuses me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

LaMarcus Aldridge is not most improved

This entry has been gnawing at the corners of my mind for too long. It is only just now seeing the light of day because I've made peace with icky feelings of disloyalty. I feel better when I remember I've done this sort of thing before. I love Rip City, and want all due accolades for the team and players, but sometimes the fans and media go slightly overboard (I plead no contest). A major reason this blog started was because I was frustrated that so many fans were wanting to keep Z-Bo. Then we at DeceptivelyQuick pissed off a large segment of the local fans and media when we called bullshit on the Sergio Rodriguez hype. Pretty soon I won't have any friends left.

This is not LaMarcus hating. If you've hung around here much, you know I'm probably incapable of such acts. This is documenting another possible case of Blazer hype gone unchecked in Rip City. I love rampant homerism as much as the local TV commentators, but I'm getting a little tired of listening and reading claims that LaMarcus deserves to win the most improved player award this season. Yes, his improvement has been great. No, he doesn't deserve the award.

The Trailblazers are excellent at campaigning on behalf of their players. The Roy Leatherman tool (part of the Roy for ROY campaign) and the iRoy were both clever marketing campaigns that got people talking. They've created a slick website for LaMarcus as MIP, definitely not the Roy treatment, but still sort of cool.

Over at the official Blazers blog, Casey Holdahl declares the award is Lamarcus's to lose. A shocking stance for an official Blazers blog to take. He cites that while guys like Rudy Gay and Hedo Turkoglu had nice seasons, the improved team record tips the scale to LaMarcus. Fine, except that the Magic actually improved their record by 12 games over last season to the Blazer's 9. Not his fault, maybe they have wikipedia blocked (1 2) at the Rose Garden.

ESPN took a poll of twenty of their NBA folks and nine different players were selected on individual ballots as winners of the award. None of them were LaMarcus. You can't convincingly make the "nobody pays attention to us cause we're small and in the Northwest!" argument anymore since Roy's All-Star appearance. Plus, LaMarcus was ESPN's preseason pick for the award. It isn't that they aren't paying attention, its that there are more deserving candidates.

On a purely numbers basis, you could make an argument either way. LaMarcus is finishing his second season, his first with major minutes. Hedo has been around 8 seasons, playing over 30 minutes a game for the last three. If you compare stricly this season to last season, LaMarcus takes a statistical edge. Of course his minutes increase of 12.8 per compared to Hedo's 5.8 mean he had a lot more opportunity for dramatic season increases by sheer opportunity.

If you compare this season's statistics to career statistics, Hedo seems to get the edge. But this is likely due to the fact that since LaMarcus has played only two seasons, his current season is having a much greater influence on his career numbers.

The take home on the statistics battle: This season to last season, advantage LaMarcus. This season to career, advantage Hedo. Both had good statistical improvement. Both were crucial contributors to teams with improved records. So why Hedo?

Conceptually, what is improvement? We can use statistics to make us appear more objective, but it has a lot to do with performance relative to expectations. That is where Hedo surges forward in this discussion. He was a mid-first round pick in 2000 and had solidified his place in the NBA as a decent role player. This season he broke his own mold and became a force, a playmaker, a go-to guy, a clutch performer, a star.

LaMarcus was the #2 pick in 2006. We saw his talent bubbling last season despite a role, a team, and an injury or two that acted like a boa constrictor on his game. The more obsessed among us saw even more of it during his brief adventures in summer league. With Zach out of town, and later with Oden hurt, we expected big things. No doubt he performed, but it was expected. It had been clear for a while that LaMarcus was supposed to be a star. Ah, maybe that preseason award wasn't all that great after all.

Walking the path to your destiny is not the same as completely hijacking everyone's beliefs about who you are and what you are capable of. Fair or not, real or not, that is the perceived story on these two players this season. Hedo's violent transformation is too startling to go unnoticed. Stop insulting my intelligence and exploiting my team loyalty by trying to convince me LaMarcus deserves this award. If it makes you feel any better, he has bigger things ahead.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

2007-08 Regular season officially dunzo

Now that regular things are all finished, its time for the playoffs. It is gonna be crazy. It will also be crazy if I somehow manage to not ignore everything else in my life and avoid having my world crumble around me.

Outside of the playoffs, we can start cranking up the meaningless speculation on one Portland Trailblazers organization. Yahtzee.

On the draft front, Portland has one lottery spot and three (or more?) second round picks.

As far as player development, don't forget the team has The Finnagler and Joel Freeland still developing in Europe. Both are reportedly progressing well, we'll get a chance to see for ourselves during summer league. Odds are we won't see either one in the upcoming regular season, but the much drooled over Rudy Fernandez will probably be here.

Which leads into another interesting topic, roster spots. The NBA maximum is 15. The Blazers were full this season. Add Fernandez on for next season (I think they cleared his spot by waiving Big Pun). After that things get messy and speculative. According to HoopsHype, Blake, Wafer, and McRoberts are not under contract after this season. I'm not sure that Steve Blake contract is correct, as it was reported as a three year deal when he signed. Plan on him being here next season.

All of these factors are being juggled and you can bet KP and crew are discussing a whole mess of possibilities. Trades? Who stays? Who goes? Who arrives? Interesting times ahead.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Final Game: Portland at Phoenix

The season that was the jumpoff for this city rediscovering that Blazers love is coming to a conclusion tonight. They play a Phoenix team that is both elite and motivated. All the playoff seeding possibilities are confusing (to me), but we know that Phoenix will not have home-court advantage in the first round if they don't beat Portland tonight.

With Portland's late surge they've achieved the ahead of schedule feat of 41 wins, guaranteeing at least a .500 season. Of course they will be pumped at the opportunity to secure an above .500 record. For the youngest team of in the league, the way the Western Conference is this year, I'd say even being so close is remarkable.

Unfortunately, the game is at Phoenix. Portland is still trying to figure out how to win consistently on the road (13-27) and against Phoenix (0-9 over last nine). Factoring in a Suns squad that will be more amped than they usually get for the Trailblazers and the odds of a Rip City win seem remote. So be it. This team has overachieved all season. Given their taste for overcoming odds, I wouldn't be surprised at a Blazers win tonight. It would be a perfect end to this season, sending one more blip on the basketball radar that this team is turning into a serious force.

That is the sappy fan in me. The reality is that this season has been a huge success regardless of what happens in the desert tonight. Things are good in Blazerland, and somehow getting better. I'm just enjoying the ride.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Darius Miles Waived

What many thought was going to happen has taken a formal first step, the Blazers have requested waivers on Darius Miles. It really has been a masterfully executed effort by Blazers management to successfully keep Big Pun a safe distance away from the team's promising young talent all season. I've poked some fun at Darius (1 2) and am relieved as any Blazer fan to see this separation finally taking shape. Some of his problems have been his own fault, some have not. But keep in mind the guy largely responsible for the whole DMiles Blazers experience has been none other than Paul Allen. Honestly, anyone who can put up with this without punching a few teens in the face can't be that bad of a person.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It has been feeling sort of revolutiony around here

No doubt Nate McMillan has been a major factor in this better than expected season. His values and beliefs on things like hard work, discipline, and defense have permeated the team-culture and the results have been impressive. We know this.

What we don't know is what celebrity he most closely resembles. (Awesome segway) So we at the DeceptivelyQuick Institutional Center for Knowledge (also known as DIC...never mind) took on the challenge of finding Nate's celebrity look-a-like by utilizing cutting edge, validated technology*. Without further delay, here are the results:

Obviously, Nate is a dead ringer for Che Guevara. Yet the similarites don't stop there.

Nate was hired in 2005. (They gave away free hotdogs at the press conference, it was awesome) His first tour of Blazerland included a bad team (21 wins), some legal issues (21 convictions), and a smattering of organizational issues (21 front office douches). It was upon observation of this and the resulting Blazer fan suffering that Nate had an epiphany. Drastic action was needed. Che had a similar yet slightly more intense experience and started a revolucion. The Blazer revolucion is unfolding before our very eyes. Viva Nate.

*I first applied the comparison to pictures of myself. The first time I got a random Asian guy I didn't know. The second picture came up with Penelope Cruz. I'm a white guy. In layperson terms, the thing works.

More like a Re-Up

These last few days I have been in a basketball-less void due to some travelling for work. Terrible what they did to me. So the Blazers beat Dallas? Wow. Now only Memphis and Phoenix stand in the way of 42 wins. The team has overachieved this season already and is still finding ways to impress. A beautiful thing.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Canzano article a must read

That makes back to back headings that I never thought I would write. The Big Lead has an absolute must read interview with Oregonian columnist John Canzano (found via SLAM). There are a lot of juicy stories about how bad things used to be in Blazerland. Reading reactions to the article, people are having a good time learning these anecdotes. I agree there are fun moments (who knew Nedzad Sinanovic was so gangster?) but there is definitely some heavy stuff from those very dark days. Being a Blazer fan, that era is still a little too fresh in my mind to get that sheer enjoyment out of this. I experienced that tense, creeped-out feeling going through Canzano's stories. It is comparable to watching There Will Be Blood, where you are simultaneously totally engrossed but feeling that unease circulate through your system. Seriously, you need to read this. I would "borrow" excerpts, but wouldn't know where to stop.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Steve Blake gets no respect

Thats a headline I never thought I'd write. But in a season where Jack has disappointed with his inconsistent ability to run the team and Sergio hasn't been able to convince Nate to lend him decent minutes, Blake's competence at pointguard has kept this team watchable.

No, he is not the dream starting pointguard fans have been pining for. He's undersized and probably better suited as a quality back-up, but it is scary to think of what this season would have been like if the Blazers didn't sign him last summer. I was lukewarm on the deal at the time, to say he won me over is a bit of an understatement. I abandoned all logic and just started referring to the guy as The Port of Miami. Stick with me. The 305 roots, the bald head & beard, and you know, every day he's hustlin'. Just another day in the life. With his steady play and the stagnation of Jack, I was a little surprised when I noticed this shirt at a local store:

No, it wasn't on clearance. Yes, it likely will be this summer.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

On Webster's Heart

It was scary when we heard Martell Webster missed the Houston game due to "flu like symptoms and dizziness" and was being held in a hospital for observation. The early statement of an irregular heartbeat is a little more frightening. A big chunk of this fear is coming from the fact that we know so little at this point. We remember the heart problems of LaMarcus, that were supposedly easily taken care of. Hopefully we'll hear some positive news next week. Martell, while still trying to find consistency, has had his best season so far. He has been able to show Blazers fans a little more of his immediate value and that he is still improving. This city has no reason to give up on the guy drafted straight out of highschool. By all reports I've heard, he has always been a hard worker and a good person. It would be sad to see a positive year end with sad news. Good luck Martell. I find this clip is always good for a boost in spirits:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Whats with all the news?

Unless your team is playoff bound, the final stretch of the season is usually pretty dull. The most upbeat fans might manage to get excited by watching the guys who didn't play much all season get their time. For the rest of us, the drop in enthusiasm and quality of play gets draining. So we check out until draft time. Understandable.

But there has been an unusual amount of Blazer news lately. These gifts are providing us all a paddle through the doldrums:

  • Rudy Fernandez said he's 90% going to be a TrailBlazer next season. Duh. Hopefully the more neurotic of Blazer forum posters will calm down a bit.
  • Assistant Bill Bayno (who I fell in love with here) is going to coach Loyola Marymount. Probably a good move for him, but I would've thought an NBA headcoaching job would have presented itself if he hung around for a few more seasons of Blazers success. Who knows, maybe that isn't his goal.
  • Brandon Roy, the Roybot, the Everything, may come back this season. I know a winning record would be nice, but I'd rather Roy not attempt to help save the short-term goal. He's had a great year, the team has had a great year. Roy, take the time and get totally healthy. Please. We have a long trail yet to travel:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The race to 500

It wouldn't mean much in the standings, but the Blazers completing the season with a winning record would be a nice symbolic statement that this team is emerging on the landscape of basketball relevance. More directly, it would be a nice encouraging reward for this young team that has been working so hard. It would also serve as a positive end-note for fans who have endured some rough times. Puppies and sunshine, I'm telling you.

For a time it felt like the team would eclipse the 42 win mark. Then the team came back to Earth, and the odds of making the mark seemed like a push. Next the team lost Roy, and wins are harder to come by without your Everything.

As of tonight, the team sits at 38-37. There are seven games left, with four wins needed to get to .500. Here's a quick at the final opponents: Houston, San Antonio, Lakers, Sacramento, Dallas, Memphis, and Phoenix. Five Western Conference playoff teams, fighting for seeding and not likely to overlook the young Blazers. Memphis and Sacramento are both playing better than usual, both with five wins over their last ten. Sadly, there appears to be no gimmies.

The ray of hope is that these are home games with the exceptions of at Sacramento and at Phoenix. This Blazer team remains especially capable at home. The players want to reach at least .500. Will it be done? Conventional wisdom would say probably not, but this team wasn't supposed to be in this situation in the first place. One more burst of overachievement would be the perfect end to an excellent season, and yet another precursor of greatness to come.