Monday, February 28, 2005

It's a Difficult Time to be a Blazer Fan

That pretty much says it all.

It's been awfully hard to watch or write anything about the Blazers that's positive over the past week. I think many of us were watching the on-court debacle and getting through the first 2/3 of this season by telling ourselves "this season appears to be lost -- but we've got some very attractive trade assets, in the form of quality players and expiring contracts. We've got an imbalanced roster that needs serious adjustments, but we have some very nice pieces -- both in place and as possible trade bait. Though the team isn't playing well now, with a few tweaks, they could be very good and I'm excited to see what the trade deadline has in store."

And? Nothing.

Nothing! How is this possible? I'm truly disappointed at the Blazers front office. Not a single deal was made.

I don't buy the argument that we'll be able to pull off a major sign-and-trade once the season is over. None of our expiring contracts are attractive enough players to warrant that. We still don't have a shooting guard, we still don't have a backup point guard for next season, we still haven't signed Pryzbilla to an extension, and we've got only the mid-level exception to get all of this done.

Rumors had Portland making a very nice offer to Milwaukee for Michael Redd. The Bucs were confident that they could re-sign him, so they backed out. Was there no backup plan? How can you have all of your eggs in one basket in this type of situation? Give us something. Anything. Even if it's minor. At least show us that you care. This basketball team is in dire, dire need of a shooting guard who can knock down a jumpt shot. We've needed this for two and a half years. What more needs to happen before the upper management makes something happen? We've been waiting to make final judgements on John Nash's job as General Manager for a year and a half. Even when the Rasheed trade was made, the common sentiment was "it will be very interesting to see what Shareef brings us." Apparently, that's going to be nothing.

What are Blazer fans left to look forward to now? The existing team -- at home, mind you -- just snuck out a one-point victory over one of the worst teams in teh league. They're 0-2 against the second-worst team in the league. Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, and Theo Ratliff -- the three big contract extensions from last season -- have all taken their respective lumps this season ... Zach's been injury-prone and is starting to gain a selfish rap, be it fair or not. Ratliff has been flat-out ineffective all season long and has lost his starting job to Joel Pryzbilla. And Darius Miles looks uninterested on the court and is blatantly mailing it in for the season. Four turnovers against Atlanta in 21 minutes. And we've got $35 million in expiring contracts that will save Paul Allen some salary money, but because of salary cap rules won't allow the team to replace them. The team's message is clear: they care more about the bottom line than they do wins and loses.

My man Bill Simmons from's Page 2 said it best:
Here's what they have now: A lottery team with Ratliff signed for $45 million through 2008; Miles signed for six years, $48 million; Randolph signed for an $86 million extension that doesn't kick in until next season; $35 million in contracts (Stoudamire, Van Exel and Shareef) getting wiped off after this summer; and no cap space to sign a marquee guy. They should have to pay reparations to Blazers fans for everything that's happened over the past five years.

So when does my check arrive in the mail?

***** *****

The team is in utter shambles, both on the court and off. And as if it weren't enough that the front-office did nothing to address the situation, the veterans are still getting all of the playing time. I can't figure this out for the life of me.

More on this later.

However ... forget the Blazers for a moment. Let's talk about real basketball teams: teams that are proactive, teams that give their young players opportunities to get playing time, and more importantly, teams who's front offices upgrade their team's rosters by making trades. Here is a look at a few of the major deals that went down.

1. Chris Webber, Matt Barnes and Michael Bradley to the Sixers for Corliss Williamson, Brian Skinner and Kenny Thomas

Yikes. This deal shocked everyone. I'm sure you've read plenty about it by now, so I'll say this ... if Sacramento wanted to get rid of Chris Webber because they thought he slowed down the offense, he didn't get along with Stojakovic, he held back Mike Bibby's open-court abilities, he breaks down easily ... fine. I can live with that. But that's the best that you can do? If I'm a Kings fan, I'm angry right now. Sacramento got some nice bench players in return, but they didn't get any cap relief, took back an awful contract (Thomas), and couldn't even manage to pry one of the Sixers' attractive young assets like Kyle Korver or Samuel Dalembert from them. Just a bizarre trade. Winner: Sixers

2. Warriors acquire Baron Davis from New Orleans for Dale Davis and Speedy Claxton.

Obvious salary dump by New Orleans, and a very nice pickup for Golden State. Along with Jason Richardson, Davis now joins the most explosive backcourt in the NBA. Add those two to Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, Nikolai Tskitishvili (whom they acquired in another nice deal, for Eduardo Najera) and a top-5 pick in the upcoming draft ... that's a nice little team they're starting to put together. Granted, the chance that Davis spends the last five years of the contract on and off the injured list because of his bad knees or back is 50-50, but Golden State had to make this deal. New Orleans on the other hand will have a boatload of cap room this offseason ... but will they be able to spend it? Winner: Golden State

3. Celtics trade Gary Payton, Michael Stewart, Tom Gugliotta and a first-round pick to Atlanta for Antoine Walker

Nice move for the Celtics. I'll leave the commentary on this deal once again to my man Bill Simmons over at

Here's my question: Why not? What did they have to lose? This was a .500 team that seemed to be getting worse by the week. After Philly fleeced Sacramento for Webber, there was about a 100-percent chance that the Sixers were taking the Atlantic. So why not roll the dice? GP had been subpar since the holidays -- his FG% was down, he seemed disinterested at times, and he couldn't have stopped Red Auerbach off the dribble. Antoine will be taking the minutes of Mark Blount, Jiri Welsch and Tom Gugliotta -- in other words, that's an ENORMOUS upgrade for 30 minutes a game.

My personal opinion? This trade might be good in the short-term for the Celitcs, but it also exposes Danny Ainge for what he is: A lost, in-over-his-head GM who doesn't appear to have a clear plan for building his team. Not only has he traded away and then reacquired 'Toine, he's managed to saddle himself with LaFrenz's awful contract in the meantime. Nice work. However, there's a catch ... rumor has it that after Atlanta buys him out, GP might be right back with the Celtics. How is that allowed? Winner: Boston.

4. Isaiah Thomas -- the worst GM in Sports

Relax, Blazer fans -- as long as Isaiah Thomas is around, we aren't the worst-off sports fans in the NBA. There is a team out there with a worse General Manager. Isaiah must be on the take. That's the only explanation. He trades a good backup center for an undersized power forward, adding to his team which already had two other undersized power forwards. Oh, he also relieved the Spurs of an awful contract and helped them bolster their front line for the playoff stretch. Maybe Isaiah just hates Phoenix for saddling him with Stephon Marbury and this was his revenge. In the other bungling, panicked trade that Thomas made, he sent Moochie Norris and Vin Baker to the Rockets for Mo Taylor. Taylor is -- you guessed it -- another undersized power forward. Nice work, Isaiah. And how about the Rockets? They did a nice job of picking up two decent role-player PG's to address their biggest need. Winner: Anyone who trades with the Knicks.

5. Dallas acquiring Keith Van Horn from Milwaukee for Alan Henderson, Calvin Booth, and cash.

Nice work, Mark Cuban. Yes, they're vastly overpaying ($16 million) for a role player, and yes he's under contract for next season. But Keith Van Horn will add a very nice compliment of shooting and rebounding to the Mavericks, and his game fits their style of play very well. Say what you will about Cuban, he clearly doesn't mind overpaying when a player produces. As for Milwaukee, they clear a bit more money to try and re-sign Michael Redd this offseason. Winner: Dallas.

What do you think? E-mail me your thoughts on any of the deals that went down this trade deadline and we'll put some of the more interesting responses up on the site.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Whitsitt vs Nash

I've always been a believer in what you do on the court speaks loudest about your value to a team. Hence, I've always been a fan of Bob Whitsitt's work as the Blazers' GM. Say what you will about the character he brought in, the team was an elite contender while Whitsitt was here. I believe his style of GM'ing ... that you put pieces together like a fantasy team ... probably isn't the idea way to build a team, and can only last so long: but it will create for a contender.

Trading emails regarding the floundering of John Nash as Portland's GM with another Blazer aficianado known only as "Lochi", he had this to say:
At least Bob was willing to shoot big, and frankly his decision making on players was not that horrible, character issues aside. He traded a bunch of nothing for Damon, a bunch of nothing for Pippen, took JR Rider for basically nothing and then ended up dealing him for Steve Smith (hey, a 2 that can knock down an open shot, imagine that), decided that Brian Grant wasn't worth a max contract even though all the fans lovedhim (myself guilty as charged), how are any of these things bad moves? Yes, Kemp blew up in his face and when your team is in character shambles it's probably not a good idea to give a long term deal to Reuben Patterson. Yes he was lenient on some players that he probably shouldn't have been, but the worst year when he was here they were a playoff team and close to 50 wins, the best they've been since he's been gone is just under that.

I think Lochi is correct on all counts. This doesn't even take into consideration that Whitsitt brought in Rasheed Wallace who -- again, say what you will about his character -- while playing under Mike Dunleavy was one of the top 3 forwards in the Western Conference and an NBA All-Star. All of that at the cost of Rod Strickland.

What do you think? E-mail me your thoughts, either pro or con, regarding Nash or Whitsitt's performance and we'll break it down in closer detail later in the week after this year's trade deadline.

Will Portland Make a Trade?

Portland is playing awful basketball and with the team having no participants in any of the all-star festivities over the weekend, that leaves us with only trade rumors to talk about.

First off, there are lots of rumors flying around that Nash is content to "stand pat" and not make any moves. I'll say this one time: I don't understand how anyone could possibly look at Portland's roster and think it doesn't need any changes. It just doesn't make sense. We've got an extra power forward, three quality expiring contracts, and no discernable shooting guard on our team to speak of. Our left-handed backcourt hoists up 40 shots a game and is killing the offense. This team doesn't need to make any moves? I received this email from a reader of mine who's a big Blazer (and huskies, unfortunately) fan:

I'm just a bit concerned by the whole "the status of the collectivebargaining agreement makes us think that it's safer to just let thesecontracts expire rather than taking on any players". That to me is agiant middle finger to your fans. It's basically saying "We care aboutthe bottom line and not the W column."

Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm willing to give Nash the benefit of the doubt, assume he's posturing, and wait until the trade deadline has passed to make any final judgements. However, if Portland has the same roster as of 3:00pm EST on Thursday as it does now, we've got serious problems. For one thing I'll need to figure out how to pad my apartment's walls, and for another thing, that would solidify another season of crappy hoops from our friends at the Rose Garden.

Anyhow, back to the trade speculation. Speaking of trade speculation, how about David Aldridge rising from the dead to drop that "Odom for Stojakovic" rumor on us during the all-star game? That was fun. As for Portland, I try very hard not to give blowhards with unrealistic trade ideas too much mic-time, but here are a few of the trades being floated around.

  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim and a draft pick to Milwaukee for Michael Redd and Keith Van Horn. First off, I don't believe that Milwaukee is going to trade Redd. Yes, he's probably a second-option for any team. Yes, he's made public notions about playing in Cleveland. However, Miwaukee can offer Redd the largest -- by far -- contract of any suitor, and they know this. It's hard to see Redd leaving $20 million on the table to play for another team. That said, there have been rumblings about a Shareef-plus-a-draft pick for Redd and Van Horn deal. Two words: no way. Milwaukee would want a lot more than an expiring contract for Redd. I don't think they send Redd to Portland in any deal not involving Zach Randolph. Likelihood: zero.
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Minnesota for Wally Sczerbiak and Ervin Johnson. This deal makes sens for both teams -- Rumors are that Nash doesn't want to take on the last few years of Szcerbiak's deal. Understandable, but it's tough to see Portland finding a better SG for the price of only Abdur-Rahim. Portland gets their starting 2-guard for the next few years, Minnesota adds SAR to their front-line of Garneet, Olowokandi, and Griffin and looks good to grab one of the last playoff spots. Likelihood: mild.
  • Damon Stoudamire to Miami for Eddie Jones. What's in it for Portland? They aren't playing Damon 42 minutes per game to trade him for another expiring contract. Even if it would temporarily upgrade the team at SG, Jones is a free agent at season's end and this deal doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Likelihood: slight.

Do I hope Nash will make a trade or two? Yes, I truly do believe that he's posturing and there are several items in the works. Do I think he will? I'm not sure. He'd better. Or we might end up having to re-name the blog "SERENITY NOW".

Thursday, February 17, 2005

NBA Trading Deadline: One Week Away

That's what I keep telling myself. It's getting really, really hard to watch Blazer Basketball these days. The mantra that's repeated around these parts is: "Mo is just playing these vets because management wants him to increase their trade value."



Ugh. Let's hope so. On Monday, we talked about the possible 2-guards that have been rumored to be available. I haven't seen, heard, or read any updates on that front. One thing I would like to caution everyone on: please don't listen to Chad Ford's ridiculous trade idea on ESPN that involves Portland sending Shareef, Ruben, and Miles for Latreel Sprewell and Szerbiak. Yes, it addresses our 2-guard need, but what Chad fails to note is that it creates a giant hole at the "3". Really can't see that happening, and I also don't think there is a chance in hell that Portland goes out and gets Sprewell. Can you imagine the public backlash?

Back to Portland's current situation. Got this email this morning from a buddy of mine who's a big Blazer (and Seahawk) fan, subject line was "Serenity now":

"So they trail by 9 when Telfair comes in late in the third, trail by 1 after he hits a 3 (71-70) and as soon as they get within 1 Van Exel comes back in the game, and the Blazers don’t score for another 4 minutes. Just fantastic. Theo had another sweet line, 24 minutes, 0 points, 2 boards and a block. However, what can you say about Pryzbilla, what the hell has happened to that guy? He’s racking up 18 and 17’s like it’s high school. He even had 6 blocks to go with his 18 and 17 last night. Yowza. Anyway, I get more and more frustrated watching Telfair turn games around only to be sent back to the bench and watch the team go to hell. It’s like Mo is trying to lose games on purpose."

I couldn't have said it better myself. Nice to see 65-year old Reggie Miller torch Portland for 36 points last night. Oh, and did I mention that earlier in the week Portland eeked by with another three-point desperation win over an expansion team on Monday night?

The team is off for the next six days, at which point they'll hopefully return to action with a spanking-new shooting guard and one less point guard. And they'll need it, because the schedule in March gets brutal. I'll be posting any legitimate trade rumors and Blazers news as soon as it comes across, so feel free to check back often. I'll close today's column with the following note about Portland's last two games and let you figure out for yourself who should be shooting more and who should be shooting less.

1. Van Exel/Stoudamire: 23-of-58 (39%)
2. Pryzbilla/Patterson/Miles: 44-of-77 (57%)


Monday, February 14, 2005

Blazer update: team stinks; trade emminent

I won’t get into how awful our basketball team is right now. This weekend's losses speak for themselves. Let’s just stick with these quickies:

  1. In the last three losses our starting backcourt has taken 83 shots. Yes, that’s right, 83. They’ve made 27 of those shots for a shooting percentage of 32%. That’s not the way I was taught to build a basketball team.
  2. Nick Van Exel has made four out of his last 30 shots. Yet Mo has given him 121 minutes of playing time over the past three games. I don’t understand it either.
  3. Six of the team's next seven games are against playoff teams (Indiana twice, LA Lakers, Minnesota, Detroit, and Phoenix, with Atlanta being the non-playoff opponent). That ought to officially polish off the season.

What the hell is going on here? The only possible bright spot that can be gleamed from this catastrophe is that Damon is averaging 24 points-per-game over the past few weeks; perhaps that will increase his trade value. I know it’s a stretch, but it’s about all we’ve got. I guess the only reason to remain calm about this whoe thing is that we haven’t reached the trade deadline yet. Between Damon and Shareef, the team should be able to land a very significant asset in return. If we wake up on February 25th (the deadline is midnight EST on the 24th) and there hasn’t been any roster changes, then we all as Blazer fans deserve the right to peel our own skin off of our bodies. I’m willing to let upper management have at least that much slack … I do understand the philosophy of waiting to see what the best offers come in at.

Let’s take a look at next year’s projected lineup, starters listed first:

PG: Telfair, veteran backup
SG: Player X, Sergei Monia
SF: Miles, Patterson, Khryapa
PF: Randolph, Outlaw, Ratliff
C: Pryzbilla, Ratliff

This is making a couple of assumptions; mainly that the team signs a veteran backup PG to split time with Telfair, and that they make a trade for a shooting guard (player X).

Who might they be able to land? One name that has been floated around is Boston’s Paul Pierce. It’s worth nothing that Chad Ford from is saying that Boston has decided to hang on to Pierce, but given that source, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it.

I have never really like Pierce's game. And if you have to take Raef LaFrenz’s contract to get him, as is the rumor … ugh. For a 2-guard, he dominates theball more than he should, and shoots too many threes. I believe he’s under 30% for the year. I'd rather have a guy like Mike Miller from Memphis. Unfortunately, looking at Memphis' depth chart, they don't really need a PF because they already have Pau Gasol and Stromile Swift. What they do need is a center. What about Theo Ratliff? Would you trade Ratliff for Mike Miller plus any fillers? Assuming the team can re-sign Joel Pryzbilla, I’d make that deal. I’ve never been a fan of throwing out and speculating on wild trade rumors that are unsubstantiated, but I think it’s worth our time to talk about some of the shooting guards around the league who might be available. Other names I’ve heard bantered about:

  • Wally Szerbiak, Minnesota Timberwolves. Following their coaching change (can we now add Flip Saunders to our list of possible candidates to coach Portland next year?), Minnesota is looking to shake up their personnel. We know they offered Wally for Shareef over the summer, and Portland passed. Abdur-Rahim is just the type of guy Minnesota is looking to add … think the Blazers might like to revisit that deal?
  • Michael Finley, Dallas Mavericks. Rumors have had Dallas shopping him around all year. A very solid player, but his skills have declined a bit over the past few years; not to mention that he’s got over $50 million left on his contract and it’s very hard to see Portland taking that on.
  • Mikeal Pietrus, Golden State Warriors. Not as big of a name as the other two guys, but a very underrated player. You may not know much about him, here’s the link to his profile. Golden State is a bit overloaded with all of their swingmen, and with Michael Dunleavy playing like an all-star for the past two weeks, they may be willing to move Pietrus. Fanning the fire more on this deal … Golden State is looking for a big man. That’s one thing that Portland has plenty of.
  • Ronald Murray, Seattle SuperSonics. The Sonics have bigger issues on their mind – like figuring out what to do with Ray Allen – but Murray is a guy who is a free agent this summer and is having trouble getting off their bench, so they've got motivation to make a deal. Seattle knows they'll need a little more front-court depth come playoff time. Murray is a bit undersized for a “2” but has shown an explosive scoring and shooting ability in the past, and would be a nice piece for Portland to add. Since he's a free-agent, I'm not sure he'd be a long-term solution ... but he's good, he's available, and he's a helluva lot better than Derek Anderson.
  • Jiri Welsch, Boston Celtics. Welsch is another guy who’s shown a very nice ability to shoot the ball in the past (43% FG this year, 36% from 3pt). He doesn’t make much money, so a trade for him wouldn’t cost Portland a lot. If Boston doesn’t trade Pierce, they’ll likely make one or two smaller moves, and Welsch will definitely be a part of that.

Personally, I think Portland is much more likely to land a guy like Peitrus or Welsch than they are to do what we all want them to do – trade some serious assets for a guy like Mike Miller. What do you think? Email me your ideas and we’ll post the more interesting and feasible ones here.

Editor's note: I've received a few emails asking why Mike Dunleavy wasn't mentioned. Let me get something straight: I would be thrilled if Portland brought in Mikey D. Unfortunately (and the only reason I've noticed this is because I live in San Francisco), Dunleavyhas played like an all-star for the past two weeks. 20+pts, 8 rebs, 6 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals-type boxscores ... basically doing what we thought he would eventually do in the pros. All year, the Warriors have been debating whether to trade Dunleavy or Pietrus and it looks like it's going to be Pietrus, hence him being mentioned.

As a side note, it's really too bad that chris mullin had the worst offseason of any team in the NBA last summer, because with Jason Richardson, Dunleavy, and Troy Murphy, you really could have anice nucleus for a team that could step into a western conferenceplayoffs once teams like LA and Sacramento and Seattle finally start crapping the bed. Too bad they screwed themselves over by giving ridiculous contracts to Adonal Foyle and Derek Fisher while not re-signing Eric Dampier. Typical Warrior maneuver.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Expanded: Blazers pull advertising from Oregonian

As reported below, the TrailBlazers have announced that they're pulling all of their advertising from The Oregonian.

What do you think about this?

Pulling all of your advertising in the city's only paper with legitimate circulation ought to work wonders for turning up the dial on the 28th-lowest-attendance in the league. Is the team trying to wage war on the paper? Seems ridiculous to me. Yes, Canzano and Quick are very critical of the team. So pull their credentials.

People who are hard-core blazer/nba fans such a ourselves don't necessarily get our blazer information from the newspaper. But there are thousands of fans in the Portland metro area who -- unfortunately -- get their sports information via the Oregonian and from the 60 seconds of sports on local news. These are the people who attend anywhere from 0 to 3 games per year -- and these are the people that the team is trying to reach. Folks like us will watch the team and attend games regardless -- folks like the people I'm talking about actually make decisions about the team based on this crappy information. Actions like the Blazers' last night will be very negative towards trying to reach those people.

Clearly, the team at this juncture is saying that leveraging its product to try and halt some of this negative press -- or at least get an apology out of the the Oregonian and make them think twice about publishing some of this stuff -- is worth the cost of eliminating one of its mediums to meet this audience.

Some might argue that the Oregonian's columnists have become so negative that they've lost perspective and objectivity, making this a good move. What do you think?

Catching up on a few things ...

First item of business: Blazers get pounded at home last night by the worst team in the NBA. Good times!

Portland was down as much as 14 in the first half. Rookie JR Smith had a great game, as did PJ Brown and Dan Dickau. Question for you Blazer fans: how do Smith and Brown dominate inside when we've got arguably one of the deepest front lines in the NBA? Somebody please explain this. Anyhow, Damon Stoudamire attempted another 19 shots, going 3-for-9 from three-point land and dropping in 30 points. Maybe this will increase his trade value. Nick Van Exel on the other hand went 1-for-13. And apparently Maurice Cheeks fell asleep on the bench, because Van Exel still received 40 minutes of playing time.

Yes, that's right, 40 minutes. Apparently the one shot he made (a three-pointer in the second quarter) was enough for Mo. Telfair on the other hand -- the team's leader in +/- -- played 17 minutes.

Personally -- and I posted this on's Blazer Forum today -- I do not believe that having a PG that is shoot-first or leads your team in scoring is the way to build a basketball team. Look at guys like Stephon Marbury or Steve Francis and show me -- have they ever had any kind of legitimate team success in the NBA? You could even lump Baron Davis into that mix. One might point out that he was the starting PG on a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals one year; but he wasn't the team's first option ... Jamal Mashburn was. That was also, coincidently, the year that Baron had his highest assist-to-turnover ratio.

Anyhow, back to Portland's situation. Their PG leads the team in scoring, the starting backcourt jacks up 32 of the team's 75 shots, and the Blazers ends up doing their best Charlotte Bobcats impression -- ending up with a whopping 80 points on the night. Against the worst team in basketball. To put things in perspective, PJ Brown, Rodney Rogers and George Lynch outrebounded Theo Ratliff, Ruben Patterson, and Joel Pryzbilla 32-16.

Good lord.

We'll close today's column with a quick run-down of Portland's +/- rankings amongst its regulars. I think you won't be too surprised who's at the top.

  1. Telfair, +4.4
  2. Pryzbilla, +4.3
  3. Van Exel, +2.1
  4. Miles, +1.5
  5. Randolph, +1.3
  6. Patterson, +1.2
  7. Abdur-Rahim, -0.1
  8. Ratliff, -0.5
  9. Stoudamire, -1.2
  10. Anderson, -2.9

I think the numbers speak for themselves. If you're a moneyball-type person, this means we should be going with a starting lineup of Telfair, Van Exel, Miles, Randolph and Pryzbilla.

What do you think?

Second item of business: Trade Rumors!

Chad Ford of ESPN is reporting that Portland and Houston have agreed, in principle, to a trade involving Derek Anderson and Mo Taylor. However, the deal is contingent upon Portland receiving a shooting guard in exchange for Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

I've said this before and I'll say it again -- I don't buy it. It makes a little more sense if it's after a Shareef deal -- but not enough sense. First of all, I highly doubt that NBA teams run around promising trades to each other contingent upon something as vague as "if we get a shooting guard in exchange for a current player on our roster". Seconldy, Houston needs a point guard, not a shooting guard. DA is a bad basketball player. He can't shoot, he's not explosive anymore, he's bad on defense.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see him dealt -- I just don't think it will happen in this manner.

2:47 pm

Update: The Portland Trail Blazers have pulled all of their advertising from The Oregonian. Clearly, this is the team's response to John Canzano's article from yesterday's paper, claiming to have posession of a document in which Portland was proposing to Darius Miles that they re-pay him for the two games he was suspended following the spat with coach Cheeks.

The Blazers already get roasted by The Oregonian (and it's mediocre-at-best sports page) on a daily basis. Pulling all of its advertising really ought to repair that damage. This also ought to help the team out with its 28th-in-the-NBA attendance average. *sigh*.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

If the Playoffs started today ...

Let’s take a look at what the NBA conference standings look like right now. As you’ll see, there are very few spots that have solidified. Not that this should be a shock considering that we’re just past the halfway point.

First, the bad guys ...


Currently, the standings look like this:

1. Miami
2. Detroit (-6.5)
3. Washington (-6.5)
4. Cleveland (-7)
5. Orlando (-9.5)
6. Boston (-11)
7. Chicago (-11)
8. Philadelphia (-12)

Others: Indiana -12.5, New Jersey -14, Toronto -15

Assuming that things stay the way they are, you’d be looking at a Miami/Philly matchup, with the winner going against the team that emerges from Cleveland/Orlando. A potential second-round meeting between Miami and Cleveland is very intriguing and would be great for the NBA. On the other side of the bracket, Detroit and Chicago would face off, with the winner stacking up versus the Boston/Washington matchup. Depending on what you think of Washingon, this would appear to give Detroit a fairly clear path to the Eastern Conference finals.


It looks like Miami’s got a firm grasp on the #1 seed in the East and don’t look for them to lose it, barring an injury to Shaquille O’Neal. The next three teams have followed different tracks to get where they’re at. Detroit started off the season playing awful basketball, playing just well enough to hang around, and have really come together. Expect them to stay at the #2 spot. Washington and Cleveland on the other hand have been somewhat of a surprise this year; especially Washington. I think most of us expected Cleveland to compete, but not to be in the running for a top-3 seed. Watching these two teams battle it out will be very fun to watch for the rest of the year.

What will also be interesting will be to see if Indiana or New Jersey can climb up and grab one of those final spots. Obviously, Indiana looks much better with Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson back. If I had to predict today, I’d picture the Pacers able to climb up to the #6 slot, with Boston or Chicago falling out of the race.


Current Standings:

1. San Antonio
2. Phoenix (-.5)
3. Seattle (-4.5)
4. Sacramento (-5.5)
5. Dallas (-6)
6. Houston (-10.5)
7. Memphis (-11)
8. Los Angeles Lakers (-13)

Others: Minnesota -14, LA Clippers -15, Denver -16.5, Portland -17

Again, assuming that nothing changes, the first round matchup of San Antonio and LA is interesting. The winner will then play whomever emerges from arguably the first-round’s most interesting pairing of either conference, Sacramento vs Dallas. Both of these teams probably expected to be in the top 3 seeds going into the season and are loaded with talent. On the other side of the bracket, Phoenix/Memphis and Houston/Seattle are the fancy foursome, with Phoenix likely having the easiest path to the Western Conference Finals of all of the top four seeds.


First of all, the fact that Minnesota is out of the playoffs right now is astounding. It’s amazing how much difference it can make when two of your four best players go into the season with a bad attitude. Personally, I still have confidence that they can grab a playoff spot – probably the 7th – and be a very scary matchup as an early-round opponent. Kevin Garnett displayed last year his ability to will his team through playoff series, and if I were a #2 seed, I wouldn’t be too happy to see him on the other side of the first round.

Which team drops out? To me, the obvious candidate is Houston. Memphis has been playing fabulous basketball over the past month -- I'm always a sucker for those teams who play disciplined and together. Los Angeles will have Kobe Bryant back soon and will likely get a boost. As the season comes down to the home stretch, watching Memphis, LA, and Minnesota jockey for position among those last three spots will be very fun to watch. Not to be lost in the fold either are the Denver Nuggets. With George Karl now at the helm, they could be a darkhorse team to go on a mid-season run. Likely not happening without some sort of personnel change, and they could be a team that's interesting to watch come the trade deadline.

*** ***

Before I get a few ranting emails on why this topic wasn't broached, we might as well address it. I know what most of you are thinking: can Portland possibly move up and snag a playoff spot? And if so, would it be a good thing?

As much as I'd love to have a reason to fight for every game ... the answer to both questions seems to be "no". As it stands now, Portland is four games out of a playoff spot. The Lakers, Memphis, and Minnesota (all teams they'd be potentially competing with) have nowhere to go but up. Memphis is just starting to jell and put all of its talent together. LA has been able to hang around without Kobe, and you know he'll be coming back with a vengeance. Minnesota *could* potentially move even further down the ladder if they decide to pack in the season and trade off some of their veterans -- there are rumors of both Cassell and Sprewell being out the door -- however, they've got enough talent where they really should be in the mix. I don't think you can put Portland in that categor yet. Yes, they've looked better of late ... but do wins over the struggling Nuggets and Clippers, or escaping at home versus an expansion team, really mean anything? Until the Blazers start actually running plays on offense, shooting the ball effectively, and putting significant winning streaks together, I can't find enough reason to get on board.

Who will coach Portland in 2005-06?

I was going back and forth with a friend over email today, speculating on who will coach the Blazers next season. We came up with several ideas.

First, I'm not assuming that Maurice Cheeks will be fired, so he's listed as one candidate. George Karl is obviously off the market, and assuming that Cheeks is fired, you really can't expect Portland to go with another former-player or college coach with no NBA experience. That said, here's our list, in no particular order:
  • Jeff Van Gundy. With Houston's struggles this year, and Yao and T-Mac not playing as well together as they'd hoped, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see Van Gundy let go. Van Gundy's fascination with a pass-first point guard, low-post offense, and tough D might be a good fit for the personnel Portland will have next season.
  • Phil Jackson. Very unlikely, but you can't talk about an NBA coaching vacancy without mentioning his name. It seems to me that Jackson would only take a job with a team that he could immediately win a championship with, and Portland is probably 2 years away from being a serious contender.
  • Jeff Bzdelik. He had some real success with Denver's younger players during his first season; but lost the team this year and they stumbled out of the gate with very lazy and lacsidaisical play. He's available, and has proven he can get a team to overachieve. Perhaps he's learned something from the Denver experience? The guy deserves another chance at some point.
  • Eric Musselman. Much like Bzdelik, another young guy who has had success getting players to overachieve. Unlike Bzdelik, he hadn't lost his team when he was erroneously fired after two successful seasons. A panic-move by a terrible franchise. What else would you expect from the Warriors? I'd put Musselman as probably the most likely of anyone on this list.
  • Rick Adelman. He's in the same boat as Jeff Van Gundy -- not meeting expectations, be they fair or not. If you ask me, Adelman has done a nice job, considering that Sacramento is currently a top-4 seed. They've been hit hard by injuries to Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson, and have no bench. Tough to see Portland bringing in someone they fired 10 years ago, but you never know.

And finally ...

  • Mo Cheeks. I don't think there's a very good chance that Mo is back. Nonetheless, he is the current coach and the possibility does exist that he won't get fired this offseson. With the level of conservativeness that the front office has shown this year, would it really surprise you? There are a couple of reasons why we might see another year of Mo Mo the Clown. First and foremost, we don't know who is calling the shots in terms of playing time. Ruben Patterson alluded to as much back in early December prior to Mo changing the starting lineup, when he said something along the lines of "Mo knows who needs to play. He just needs to get the okay from headquarters upstairs before he can put us into the game." If Patterson and Nash are telling Mo who to play, that alleviates some semblance of Mo's responsibility for the team's results, and there's a chance they could recognize that. Secondly, some of the younger players -- Miles, Telfair, and Pryzbilla -- have made some serious strides this season. How much of this is due to Mo is very speculative, but you could argue that he's due some credit for that. Personally, I'd like to see Cheeks fired the day after Portland's season ends, but you never know.

Those were the quick ones we came up with. Email us any ideas you have and we'll post them here.

Weekend recap

Nice time for the Blazers to pick to get hot -- the weekend when all of us are paying attention to another sport's big game. If any of you happened to be paying attention to the teaser I recommended betting on for the Super Bowl (Pats -1, Over 41), it came out a winner. Nonetheless, plenty of Blazer news to catch up on.

Friday - Portland 101, Charlotte 89

The day we've all been waiting for: Sebastian Telfair's breakout game. I have to admit, that when Telfair started coming into his own, I expected that to be reflected in his assist increase and turnover decrease. The learning curve was anticipated to be something along the lines of inconsistency with flashes of brilliant passing in year one, consistent 8+ assist games in year two with the scoring starting to come around with more consistent playing time. Well, apparently that's not the case. Telfair broke out with a 23-point game on Friday night, leading the Blazers to a win over the Okafor-less Charlotte Bobcats.

We expected Portland to win this game, but not in this fashion. Telfair played in tandem with Damon Stoudamire (who also had 23 points and a very surprising 5 assists) for most of the fourth quarter, with the two taking turns hitting big shots. Sebastian's final box line:

24 minuts, 7-12 FG, 3-4 3pt, 7-8 FT, 3 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls

Not too shabby for a 19-year old rookie point guard. The areas where critics thought he'd struggle the most -- shooting, free throws, and defense -- are the areas he has been shockingly effective at. He's probably Portland's second-best on the ball perimeter defender (to Ruben, who's defense has been reinvigorated this year), and he's far better than either Damon or Nick Van Exel. As for his low assist totals, I've got two theories on this. The first being: Mo's offense.

Has anyone watched Portland's set plays lately? They don't have any. they're awful. The only time Telfair gets an assist is when he creates one by penetrating, drawing a double team, and finding the open man. Portland doesn't run any type of pick and rolls (how good would Telfair and Randolph look running that?), back door cuts, motion ... it can get tough to watch.

The second theory for why Telfair doesn't rack up as many assists is because nobody on this team can shoot the ball. Think about Portland's scorers: Randolph, who gets put-backs and post-up moves. Damon and NVE, who basically pound the basketball into the ground for ten seconds and then chuck up a long-distance jumper. Patterson, who gets all of his points via hustle and running. Not a lot of opportunities for assists there. What do you think? E-mail me your ideas on Telfair's play so far and we'll open up the discussion.

Anyhow, Portland played a very medicore game and it was actually a four-point game with about four minutes left until Telfair and Stoudamire bailed them out.

Other notes: Telfair hit a half-court three pointer as time expired to pad Portland's lead and tick off some of the Bobcats ... Derek Anderson's DNP was changed from "dental pain" to "sinus", I wish they had betting pools for stuff like this ... Miles and Randolph both came off the bench and were arguably Portland's two most effective players, with Randolph pulling down 12 boards and dishing out 5 assists (?) in 22 minutes ... Charlotte attempted 15 fewer free throws and only shot 36% for the game ... Worth noting: Stoudamire's 23 points came on 20 field goal attempts. Telfair's 23? 12 attempts.

Saturday: Portland 114, Sacramento 108

Didn't see the game. Was out enjoying San Francisco's nightlife. A few observations from the box score:
  • Starting 5 was once again Van Exel, Stoudamire, Patterson, Ratliff, Pryzbilla. I can't tell you how effective these guys were, but it looks like Portland was up 12 at the end of the first quarter so something must have gone right.
  • Nice of Mo Cheeks to reward Telfair with 12 minutes of play after bailing Portland out the previous night. But hey -- at least Stoudamire and Van Exel combined for 84 minutes and 34 shots.
  • Randolph had 28 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block in 33 minutes. Think this guy shouldn't be starting? Ratliff, who started in his PF slot, chimed in with 5 points, 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.
  • Damon Stoudamire dropped a 30-spot on the Kings, apparently trying to keep up with Mike Bibby who had 35. He also had a surprising 8 assists. According to the recap, Portland was up 18 in the first half and then basically held on throughout the second half.

We're at five-out-of seven wins for the season. And for the second consecutive column, I'd like to add that I really don't want to hear any talk of the playoffs for this team. Regardless of whether they've got the talent to do it, it's not going to happen. Yes, they're only four games back, but until they put together more than a week's worth of quality play, I don't buy it.

Portland is off again tonight before finishing up the home stand vs New Orleans tomorrow, then it's off to Memphis, Houston, Charlotte, and Indiana. We might learn something about this team over the next week.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Portland knocks off Denver; Trade Winds A-blowin'

What happens when you have a floundering head coach running a floundering team playing against a bunch of underachievers who just had a fire lit under them? Normally, not good things if you're a Blazer fan and are stuck on the bad end of that deal.

However, that was not the case. The Denver Nuggets and their spanking-new head coach George Karl came into town on Wednesday, and the Blazers actually showed up -- despite Mo's mistakes.

I think a lot of folks came away thinking "Thank goodness that we have enough talent to overcome Mo Mo the Clown's completely inept in-game management".

Behind 26 points from Nick Van Exel, a 4th-quarter spark led by Sebastian Telfair, and fantastic defense by Ruben Patterson, Portland eeked out a 97-94 win over Denver on Wednesday. Patterson blanked Anthony for much of the game, limiting him to 7 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Ruben was able to play very tightly on 'Melo thanks to the imposing presnce of Theo Ratliff, roaming the middle and putting in what appeared to be a solid defensive game. He started the game at PF (Zach came off the bench for 19 and 9 in 28 minutes), and Ratliff and Pryzbilla combined for 5 blocks and 19 rebounds. Very well done. Against a team like Denver that has a fair amount of front-court depth (Anthony, Kenyon Marton, Marcus Camby, Nene, Nik Tsikitishvili), starting a lineup of dual-centers and brining Zbo off the bench is one of few moves this year that Mo Mo the Clown has gotten correct. Nice job, Mo.

However, this was quickly nullified when Mo reminded us why he's Mo. Following a rough first-half, Sebastian Telfair entered the game in the fourth quarter with Portland down three points. Telfair abuses Andre Miller, racking up 9 points, an assist, and getting to the basket at will. Denver calls a timeout and Mo send Telfair back to the bench. "Thanks for giving us the momentum, kid -- now have a nice night."

Hey at least he played 15 minutes. Mo Cheeks might be learning slow, but at least he's learning.

One last thing ... I have to admit that I didn't see the entire game. My girlfriend and several of her friends have a "book club" meeting once a month. What happens is they all go read a book and then meet to talk about it, although what they really do is drink wine and gossip. Why am I telling you all this? There is a point. A few of us 'gents whos ladies participate in this have our own little meeting at the same time, at a different location; we call it our "Bookie Club". A few of these other fellas share the same ... "enjoyment" ... as myself in that they also like to place an occasional wager on a sporting event. And with this weekend having a fairly significant football game in store, there was lots to talk about. The end result of this meeting was that much like the rest of the world, we like the Patriots, especially if you tease the line down to -1 (along with something like the over, which drops to 41 on the tease bet. Easy money), and also like the "over" on New England's rushing yards. What do you think? E-mail me your Super Bowl gambling ideas and I'll post the more interesting ones here.

But, I digress ... a few final notes about the Blazers for today:

  • Now that they've won 2 of the last 3 games and will probably beat Charlotte tonight (gotta like Portland -8 by the way, with the Bobcats losing both Emeka Okafor and Jamal Sampson, two of their best frontcourt players), that will likely make three wins in four games for Portland. If I hear one media hack start trumping "playoffs" for this team, I think my head might explode.
  • Did anyone else notice that D-Miles didn't start last nigh? He only played 19 minutes, tallying 8 points, 4 rebounds, and an assist. And I'll admit that I can't tell if Mo is screwing up or doing the right by limiting D-Miles' PT.
  • Does anything crack you up more than seeing all of these "DNP -- Dental Pain"'s next to Derek Anderson's name? Good times.
  • As for these Derek Anderson-for-Mo Taylor trade ruomors, I don't buy it. Three reasons: 1. DA is in the freaking hospital. The guy has lost 10 pounds because he's sick. Something tells me that's not exactly the most enticing asset for a team to acquire. 2. Mo Taylor is a power forward, and last time I checked, between Zbo, Abdur-Rahim, Pryzbilla, and Ratliff, we were doing okay on the front line. 3. DA and Taylor make roughly the same amount of money, but Taylor's contract is for one more year longer than DA's. What is Portland's motivation?

As always, feel free to send in your thoughts or post a comment -- the more participation, the better.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Blazeres vs Lakers tonight! *ALSO* roster news ...

Big game tonight. Well, at least, big only in the sense that for those of us who hate the Lakers, it would be damn nice to beat them in their own house (speaking of which, I'd like to nominate all of the "we have got to protect this house!" commercials as the dumbest in the history of tv ads but that's another story for another day). Anyhow, this will be Portland's first game against them this year. Did anyone notice that Portland only plays them three times this season?

Probable Starting Lineups ...

PG - Van Exel
SG - Stoudamire
SF - Patterson
PF - Randolph
C - Ratliff

PG - Chucky Atkins
SG - Caron Butler
SF - Jumaine Jones
PF - Lamar Odom
C - Chris Mihm

For any of you who have a gambling problem such as myself, the blazers are 3.5 point underdogs. I'm not saying you should bet against them because it's bad karma. I'm just saying that LA will probably cover.

In other news, this might be Rudy Tomjanovic's last game as the Lakers' coach. ESPN is reporting he may step down, due to a combination of the team's performance and health issues.

UPDATE: The Blazers have activated Viktor Khryapa for tonight's game. You all will remember that Khryapa was one of the club's first-round draft picks this past offseason, at #22 overall. He broke a foot during the Rocky Mountain Review summer league, and I had thought he'd be out for the year. Apparently not. Khryapa is a 6-9, 210 lb forward. This may explain the non-tender of James Thomas. Here is an exerpt from's summary of Khryapa:

Strengths: Versatility. The way he plays the set offense as a wing player
is impressive. He somehow finds a way to score. His repertoire includes blowing
past a defender for a monster dunk, hitting the trey if he has the time to set
his feet or making the double team pay with a perfect pass (including
spectacular ones). Back door cuts have become a useful weapon which indicates he
is adept at the strategic side of the game. He knows how to play the low post
game when matched up with a smaller player. A player of certainly more than one

Weaknesses: Inexperience. Has not had the chance to demonstrate his ability
on the top level. Even though there have been rumors that big clubs in Europe
(Real Madrid and Barcelona) are after him, he has not seen any top level
competition to this point (20 years). Considering the fact that the shift of
interest to European players is partly due to their acquisition of high level
competition earlier than most US players, he does not have it.