Kendrick Perkins and the "Icy Stare"; The New Overrated

The Oklahoma Thunder have one of the most enjoyable rosters to watch in the entire NBA. From the high-scoring Kevin Durant to the defensive talents of Serge Ibaka, they bring something to almost every facet of the game.

I would argue it largely starts with Durant. Sure, he scores a lot. Arguably he even could be considered someone who shoots a lot.  It just does not SEEM like he shoots a lot during the course of the game. He lets the game come to him and it does not feel like he is forcing shot after shot.

For that one must look no further than high-scoring guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Any time the ball is in their hand the right place to look is at them because they are more likely to take the shot (or, in Westbrook's case, make the turnover) than pass. Yet by the end of the game they both have more than respectable assist totals, thus demonstrating the depth of their talent.

Serge Ibaka is one of the most entertaining defenders in the game. His defense does not consist largely of clutching and grabbing as some noted defenders seem to do. Instead he uses quickness, agility, and some spectacular timing to tip balls, deflect passes, alter shots, and wipe away other shots with some pretty stellar blocks. I am surprised that, considering his first name, the more spectacular blocks have not started earning the name "Serge Protectors".

Less flashy but still a very solid defender, Thabo Sedolosha is a rarity among Thunder players who play significant minutes. He played in another uniform to start his career.

Well, okay, so Durant and "glue-guy" Nick Collison wore Supersonics gear for a couple years...point taken.

The other big-minute guy for the Thunder who played a significant part of his career elsewhere is Kendrick Perkins, the perpetually scowling defense-minded tough guy who was brought in to bring the trophy to Oklahoma City.

He is also the guy who almost single-handedly renders the otherwise entertaining Thunder unwatchable.

Let us start with the good. Very few people question his abilities as a defender and rebounder. His rebounding numbers are not eye-popping, but that is partially because the other Thunder players are all decent to good at board work for their position.

Now lets look at the bad. Unfortunately, that happens to be pretty much everything else. For some inexplicable reason the Thunder have been trying to establish him on the low block this season. There have been stretches in several games where they needed a bucket and eschewed the obvious ideas of Westbrook or Harden doing their drive and kick, putting Durant in a pick and roll or other actual attempts to score and instead pounded the ball inside to Perkins.

In completely unrelated news, the points per possession in those times drop precipitously compared to times the ball leaves the hands of Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka, or even Collins in an attempt to add points to their total.

Worse yet is his perpetual tantrum throwing. He routinely mauls the opposition in ways that shame mother bears separated from their cubs and, when whistle, proceeds to launch his "icy glare" at the official with the temerity to notice the obvious.

When he makes one of his futile post-up attempts and launches the ball in the approximate direction of Mecca, only to find his prayer rejected, another glare to the official for failing to see the obvious foul committed against him.

If the opposition forgets they are on the other team and grabs a rebound, here it comes; the famed icy glare.

Except it does not exactly look icy, like a glare, or intimidating.

It more closely resembles the petulant child who believes they should have anything they want denied the unattainable. I half expect to see him jumping up and down flailing his arms, tears streaming from his face, screaming, "I want it, I want it, I want it!" until, red-faced, he passes out from holding his breath in the vain hope he will get what he wants.

There have been players in the NBA who could give an intimidating glare. Charles Barkley comes to mind. Of course, Sir Charles could back it up. Who can forget him going after Shaquille O'Neal after that noted intimidator took a punch at him?

Perkins is not one of those guys. His constant whining undercuts any intimidation factor he may have once had with his petulant pout.

I am reminded of some wrestler I once heard referenced in one of the all-time great quotes in broadcasting. I was at a friends house when some wrestling show came on. At one point one of the 'roid-monsters threw the other to the mat and proceeded to drop and do some little girl push-ups. You know the ones I mean; drop about 3" per push-up and do 4 or 5 real fast.

Anyway, this ridiculous scene turned into the instant awesome-sauce of doom when the broadcaster's over-wrought voice informed us, "There he goes with those intimidating push-ups".

I still laugh at that line today. Those push-ups were many things; sad examples of a proper exercise, pointless, time-wasters. But intimidating? Yeah, like a fluffy bunny is intimidating.

I put the Perkins Pout right down there with those intimidating push-ups. If there is a player in the NBA who is intimidated by that look he should not be in the league. And the league I am talking about is the pre-pubescent 4' and under pee-wee nerf-hoop league.

There are a lot of things to love about the Thunder. This would be a great year to see a 7 game Finals between them and the Heat. There would be some epic and awesome basketball played. I just hope while enjoying that I do not have to watch a pouting child be praised for his "icy glare" even one more time.


Introducing a new performance metric; the Rudy

During the 4th quarter of the Blazers victory over the Toronto Raptors there was a moment that drove Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett absolutely crazy. Ex-Trailblazer Jerryd Bayless drained consecutive threes and hit four of them in about a four minute stretch of game time.
After the second one Barrett had his patented disgusted tone of voice as he said something along the lines of, "A 29% three-point shooter and he hits another one."
Improbably, after hitting two more without a miss, Bayless would have been surprised to hear Barrett lament, "A 28% shooter and he cannot miss." It is not often someone makes four consecutive shots and has their percentage decline.
Naturally, it had not. The issue was a player having a short stretch of game that reflected a statistical outlier. As a general rule if Bayless attempts three 3-pointers he will miss two of them. However, that is an average, not an ironclad statistical truth.
Bayless was illustrating a basic truth about basketball players. Averages reflect their results over time, not in any particular stretch. Who can forget Ray Allen hitting eight triples in Game 2 of the Finals last year? Or going oh for eight on the same shot the next night?
Neither result was truly representative of what could be expected but neither was either outside the realm of believability. Players like Allen, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, and so forth are stars because performances of high scoring outputs, usually on a relatively low volume of shots, are expected and taken as a matter of course.
When Carmelo Anthony scored 50 a few nights ago it was notable but not outside the realm of what we might expect from him. Anthony is a very capable scorer who puts up a large volume of shots. Scoring totals in the high 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s are not infrequent. A night when the ball bounces just right a couple of times turns those high 20 point night into a high 30 point night, and if he averages out a night where he missed more shots than expected with a night he gets to the foul line and makes more shots than expected we see one of those magical nights where one player puts on a transcendent performance.
Blazer fans surely have been enjoying this with LaMarcus "LaMarvelous" Aldridge as he has recently exploded for a pair of 40 point games sandwiched around games tipping into the mid thirties.
It is becoming regular enough that as one individual recently noted, his career high 42 was "just" a "quiet 30 point night" until the last four minutes of the game.
I would not go so far as to say we expect big scoring outputs but I would say we are not surprised when superior offensive players put up big numbers.

What surprises us is when lesser players have those same explosions. For example, when Bayless, carrying a robust 9.5 points per game average, entered the fourth quarter with no points the other night, who expected he would finish the night with 18? It was a huge quarter.
Of course, any Raptor fan who watched the game might easily be justified in pointing to Rudy Fernandez and saying, "What about him?"
Fernandez had a tremendous first half Friday. He was everywhere. Tipping passes. Jumping into the lane to redirect drivers. Flying out to the perimeter to contest formerly open shots.
Knowledgeable Blazer fans are nodding their heads. We have seen those nights when Fernandez controls a game in every area except scoring. Recently, however, he has been scoring very well.
This is a refreshing change, as he was expected to contribute more than nine points a game. He has been in essentially a season-long slump interrupted by occasional brilliant outbursts.
Friday was such an outburst. In the first half he absolutely erupted, burying all eight shots he attempted en route to 23 first half points.
Raptor fans who are only casually aware of his playing style were probably shocked and devastated, expecting more of the same in the second half.

Unfortunately for Blazer fans, that is the difference between players such as Rudy and someone along the lines of a healthy Brandon Roy.
It is unreasonable and unlikely to see this sort of production continue over the course of a full game. Indeed, after taking and making eight shots in the first half (including six threes) he attempted but three shots in the second half and made none. His total at the end of the game matched his total at the end of the first half.
Now, on the one hand, his play in the first half was everything and more a Blazer fan could ever want. He was active, effective, and deadly. He more or less carried a Blazer team so lethargic they managed 3 turnovers in their first three possessions to a half-time lead.
He was so effective his contributions made up for Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Andre Miller combining for more turnovers than points in the first half. He was so effective a Raptor fan could be excused for assuming the game was over at the half time.
His second half was, from a scoring standpoint, so ineffective it is nigh on unbelievable the Blazers found a way to win.
But that is just the point. Good teams often have players like Fernandez. They plod along game after game providing their comfortable single digit points, a couple rebounds, maybe throw in an assist here and there.
Then there comes a game where they have one of those outliers, statistically speaking, where they score a weeks worth of points in a quarter, game, or half.
I am reminded of the night Martell Webster scored 26 points against the Jazz. Of those 26, 24 came in the third quarter. This was in a year in which he averaged 10.7 points per game. The Jazz never saw it coming and unexpectedly lost a game when a role player had a star-level night.
Most often when players like Fernandez, Webster, and players of their ilk have big nights, they come over the course of a single quarter or half.
A case in point would be the night DeJuan Blair of the Spurs had last Tuesday. He was absolutely dominant in the first half, leading the Spurs to a five point half time advantage with 14 points and eleven rebounds.
The rebounds were not unexpected. It is a pace any NBA fan might expect him to continue. He is a smart player who uses his knowledge and timing to grab large numbers of rebounds. The points were a bit unexpected, however, and it was reasonable to assume he would end the game with maybe 15 - 16 points.
As is so often the case with role players who have star quarters or halves, however, he was even less effective in the second half, dialing up a whopping zero points and collecting just one rebound.
Therein lies the problem, if there is one, with second line players taking on major and unexpected scoring loads in the first half.
If the stars are having an off night, how they respond to the outburst often determines the outcome of the game.
Talented, winning teams like the Spurs accept it for what it unexpected and much appreciated bonus...and continue to run their offense to get their best players more attempts.
Teams with less stellar records seem to be more prone to trying to replicate the first half success in the second half, only to find that guy who typically scores ten a game is not going to have the same second half success as he did in the first half.
Unexpected success is difficult to maintain. But it sure is fun while it lasts.
There are some players who seem to specialize in it. Rudy Fernandez might be the king of impressive explosions followed by extreme disappearances. He seems to regularly have a double digit scoring quarter only to not score again for a game and a half.
So in honor of Rudy and with a nod of the head to the home of such great basketball terms as "The Voskuhl", "the Mario", etc., I propose we begin using the term, "a Rudy" to describe an outburst wherein a player scores double their average or more in a half, but is non-existent statistically speaking for the other portion of the game.
As a Blazer fan, let me say I hope to see many more Rudys from Rudy and his running buddy Patty Mills this year. They sure are fun to watch.


Are the Blazers more fun to watch without Brandon Roy?

There is an oft-cited saw among Blazer fans that, for many, has become an article of faith. It is repeated often and loudly.
The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
This is typically followed by a recitation about how they have better movement, more fast breaks, share the ball more, and thus are more entertaining.
It is stated as a basic, unalterable, indisputable truth.
The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
It is so ingrained in the psyche of many Blazer fans that on a local radio show, legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely attested to the truth of the statement, making it himself almost verbatim.

The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
Seemingly everyone has bought into that statement.

Well...everyone but me, that is.
I see basketball differently than the guy next to me. I understand that, accept that and even embrace that truth. At the same time, it is an open question how anyone enjoys the game. There are probably as many ways to enjoy watching basketball as there are fans and that is a good thing.
Some people enjoy watching post players bang. Others like watching a transition-heavy game. Others appreciate the beauty of a jump shot while still others get very engaged in checking out defensive rotations, shot blocks, steals or other defensive endeavors. Still others enjoy a well-run pick and roll or pick and pop.
Some fans follow individual teams for the entire run of their fandom. Others follow specific players. Still others follow whichever team or teams are playing the best in any given year.
There are even some people, such as Basketbawful, who take a certain perverse and highly entertaining joy in watching the incompetent side of basketball.
All of these are valid ways to enjoy the game.
Arguably, those who prefer watching the Blazers play without Roy to watching them play with Roy have a surprising amount in common with the writer of Basketbawful.
As of January, the Blazers ranked 5th in shooting. That is...5th from being the WORST shooting team in the entire NBA.
They are 25th in shooting percentage. 25th in 3 point shooting percentage. They make up for it by letting the opponent out shoot them, being just over half a rebound per game better, and having the third fewest possessions per game of any team in the league. (Admittedly these are not sorted pre-and post Roy. They were low in most categories before he shut it down and have not markedly raised them.)
In fairness to one defense against the rather twist able "pace" ranking, they do have several long possessions due to garnering numerous offensive rebounds. Rebounds, I might add, that are available due to their pathetic shooting.
The Blazers, as constructed without Brandon roy in the line-up, center around LaMarcus Aldridge on the block and a number of streak shooters.
When he gets hot Wesley Matthews has shown he is capable of making seven consecutive threes. When he is cold he will miss the same number. The same holds true for his mid-range shooting.

The same could be said of Patty Mills, Rudy Fernandez, or Nicolas Batum. Andre Miller is traditionally not going to shoot a high percentage.
They have no mid-range or outside shooter who consistently shoots a decent percentage night in and night out where the 1-for-15 debacles are unusual rather than something you expect at least once every two or three games.
The Blazer shooting is so abysmal that Real GM posited they are in fact a lottery team as opposed to a playoff team.
With that said, watching an under talented team work extremely hard to defeat more talented teams can be very entertaining. There is certainly a satisfaction to be garnered in watching a team fight and scratch and claw to snatch a victory away from a team that deserved to win.
I would key in on the nearly insignificant article in that sentence, "a", when considering how much fun it is to watch the Blazers currently.
I personally find more satisfaction in watching a game where the players are able to put the ball in the basket relatively often. I find far more enjoyment in watching a game where both teams show enough offensive skills that a three possession string of baskets does not feel like an anomaly.
The current Blazer team does provide some pleasure to watch. They work hard, they have some excellent defensive stretches, some incredible streaks of shooting, and LaMarcus Aldridge is changing his game in front of our eyes.
This season, they even have managed a better record without Roy than with to the tune of 14-8 without Roy and only 11-13 with the shell of Roy we saw on the floor this year.
Overall, however, their record without Roy is much worse. Even the majority of those saying the Blazers are more fun to watch without Roy acknowledge the team will never escape the first round without Roy.
Thus, in the current construction of the team we see a poor-shooting, mediocre team that consistently has long scoring droughts.
The argument then becomes that this team which shoots over 2% worse than last season, scores nearly 3 fewer points, and wins fewer games than they did last season with Roy in the line-up and healthy is more fun to watch without Brandon Roy.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just do not buy it.
Personally, I would much rather watch an talented player who scores efficiently, has averaged 4.9 assists per game for his career, and leads his teams to wins than watch a team that is out-talented more often than not.
It does not mean I find other people wrong when they say "The Blazers are more fun to watch without Brandon Roy". They are more than entitled to enjoy the game their way.
But it does mean that I struggle to understand it. This edition of the team, sans Roy, has all the hallmarks of a mediocre team playing mediocre basketball, unlike the team that had a real shot to advance to the second round two years ago with a healthy Roy.


An NBA Fan; Fond memories, Great performances, and Legends Passed

Maurice Lucas had more or less moved on from the Blazers by the time I became what i would call an "aware" fan.

I was too young when the Blazers won their only Championship to fully comprehend what was going on. I knew the names and felt the excitement, but was not yet a basketball fan.

As I grew older and got heavily involved in every aspect of basketball, I grew to know the players and appreciate what a special moment 76-77 had been.

Men like my Dad who were at best casual fans had been swept up in the momentum and would talk about the passing of Bill Walton, the intimidation of Maurice Lucas, the speed of Johnny Davis and so forth.

By the time the tremendous Portland teams of the late 80s and early 90s rolled around, I knew a great deal about the Blazers and, unlike my parents and their friends, was passionate about the game.

Few and far between were the games I got to attend, but in those few, I got to see some spectacular games. I was there the night Larry Bird, bad back and all, closing in on the end of his career, reminded us all why he was Larry legend, dropping 49 on the Blazers including a ridiculous, getting hammered trey to send it into overtime.

I remember buying a family four-pack, going to watch the Suns with my Dad, my best friend, and one of my brothers, Dad leaving to feed the parking meter while the rest of us saw Arvydas Sabonis, Tom Chambers and Rex Chapman hit stupendous shots to extend the game again and again.

There is something about seeing a spectacular performance or moment that makes sports worthwhile.

On the night the Blazers honored the memory of Maurice Lucas, early on it seemed we were in the presence of the makings of such a moment, of a memorable gem of a game.

LaMarcus Aldridge was firing early and often. He scored in the post. He scored on his patented mid-range jumper. He scored on alley-oops.

And then the Blazers forgot he was on the team, almost completely freezing him out for nearly three quarters.

And despite sometimes stifling, always harassing defense, Kevin Durant showed how he will leave millions of NBA fans with some great memories, including one moment when he scored from behind the basket against a triple team.

There was a time that shot and the overtime thriller played between the Trailblazers and their Northwest rivals, the Seattle Supersonics, would have been one of those special moments for many fans.
And, one might argue, even as what is really not a rivalry game between the Oklahoma City
Thunder and the Blazers was taking place, it has the foundations of a rivalry between two franchises that will long be tied together via both the Greg Oden or Kevin Durant draft as well as their status as exciting young, up and coming, hope to soon be contenders teams.
The thing is, great moments are not only had between classic rivals. To the best of my knowledge Portland and Boston have no reason to be part of any sort of rivalry...but that did not take away from my enjoyment of Bird going all Larry Bird on them.
And while Portland and Oklahoma City fans might not argue about which city has more rain or more expensive gourmet coffee, they can argue over who is better, Nicolas Batuum or Thabo Sefolosho....and enjoy the next few years of watching Brandon Roy and Kevin Durant launch some spectacular games at the other team.
Which brings me back to the Lucas thing. It is great that the Blazers will wear his #20 all year. It was a nice moment after the moment of silence when many of us performed the "Lllluuuuuukkkkkeeee" chant without the later prompting from announcer Mark Mason.
But looking around it was also obvious to me that for the majority of the crowd, the memories of Lucas were handed down, not our own. Our memories are of seeing Kevin Duckworth return to the court for game seven, of seeing Buck Williams battle Karl Malone, of Clyde Drexler launching those scud missiles that passed for three point attempts and throwing down dunks.
And for the new generation the special moments are building with things like the Marcus Camby chant from last year, the acrobatic teardrop runners of Armon Johnson, the Roy last-second heroics.
And ultimately, that is what makes being a fan not just worthwhile, but something special. Yes, it would have been great to see Portland hold on and win a game they had in hand for most of the night.
But for Thunder fans, how long will they be talking about some of those tough, heavily contested threes Durant hit to keep their early season from turning into a disaster in a game they desperately needed against a division rival?
It was a special night with some great moments that reminded me why it is cool to be a basketball fan.
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Reason 1,676,475.2 I am glad I am not a Clipper fan

One of the best parts of the first couple of weeks of the NBA season is watching game after game that has something to intrigue me.

It could be comparing the new looks of Dirk Nowitzki and Andrei Kirilenko to see what is worse.

It could be watching the Bulls, Hornets, Nets, and Celtics to see exciting, talented young point guards.

It could even be watching glorified NBDL teams to see high draft the Washington Bullets/Generals...whatever you want to call see John Wall and LA Clippers to see Blake Griffin.

Griffin is indisputably a stud and I wish him a long, healthy career with numerous highlight reel plays because he is quite enjoyable to watch.

But it says a lot about the Clippers that the following exchange, or very close to it, took place between the Clippers television announcers.

"Those shots by Kidd and Cardinal really hurt."

"Yes, take away those two shots and it is only a 10 point game."

This just in...if you are losing by double digits, it really is not all that close of a game. When your goal is to lose by nine or less, or when you bemoan shots that do not even double the deficit...your team is in for a long year.

I happen to work with Chris Kaman's cousin, and now face a serious conundrum. Should I repeat this comment to him at work tomorrow or keep my mouth shut and hope for the seat upgrade next time the Clips come to town?

I think we all know the answer to that one...


Go Away, Rich Cho; on the nature of fandom

Growing up one constant was listening to "the Schonz", Bill Schonely, call Blazer games on the radio.

Players like Jim Paxson were celebrated not for their stunning talent but because they were Blazers, drafted and developed by the team. Anyone who followed Paxson's career know he was a decent but not spectacular guard...but Schonz loved him anyway.

When the Blazers made their big run in the late 80s/early 90s, they had a fount of home-grown players; Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, Cliff Robinson and Kevin Duckworth were not only the bulk of the line-up, they were drafted or acquired extremely early in their careers by the blazers and felt like they had never been in another organization.

Admittedly Buck Williams was a key member of those teams and I am sure Nets fans still think of him as theirs, and rightfully so.

But most of the team was acquired on or around draft day.

That is what used to make the recent talented editions of the Blazers exciting. Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Nicolas Batuum, Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham were all acquired on draft day, some via draft and others by trade.

Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla made conscious choices to come to Portland for less money and felt like they were part of the organization.

Unfortunately, basketball is a business. Sometimes, it is possible to get lost in fandom and forget that.

Thus Drexler, Porter, Kersey, Robinson moved on and finished their careers elsewhere after the run was over.

And now, the run I was looking forward to watching has taken yet another blow.

It started with the trade of Blake and Outlaw for Marcus Camby. While it filled a need, it started a decline in my interest.

As talented as Andre Miller and Camby are...they are mercenaries. Hired guns. Guys with no ties to the team or my heart.

Yes, all players are really mercenaries. It is doubtful many of them would show up for these games if they were not getting ridiculously overpaid to play a game for a living. bear with me.

Now Webster is gone and Bayless has been sent packing, Fernandez may be on his way out...bit by bit, the little things that make this "my" team are moving on.

It is interesting that such a minor trade...Bayless for a draft pick...would bother me. His presence or the lack thereof will not make or break the Blazer season from the standpoint of victory totals. He is a nice second line player with potential to be a Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson type who can spark the second unit.

The thing is...if Ido not care about the players I am watching, Portland is NOT the team I would choose to watch.

I vastly prefer 120 to 115 track meets to the 80 possession grind games the Blazers put on the floor. I root for them because of A) proximity and B) likable players.

Compare that to the pseudo-local Seattle Seahawks or Seattle Mariners. They have proximity..but rotate players so quickly that I can name maybe 2 starters on either team. They do not have players I have affinity for and play boring brands of ball. As a result, my entertainment dollars are not exercised in going to their games.

When it comes to basketball, if I were to root for a team based on style it would be teams like the Suns, Warriors, and Knicks I would probably have jerseys for.

Well, not the Knicks...I cannot remember the last time I rooted for anything about New York. Not even a fast-paced style could change that.

The point is, if my reasons for rooting for the local team is more due to affinity for the players than how they play the game, then am I obligated to stop rooting for them when those players move on?

A lot of Blazer fans have an inexplicable, misinformed hatred for LaMarcus Aldridge and are constantly coming up with trades to improve the Blazers that have to do with moving him for "upgrades" with less talent and less productivity. This I do not understand.

It is not as if 17 and 8power forwards are falling out of the sky, nor is it as if the Blazers get more likable by trading a stretch forward who has never worn any other pro uniform along with more players for a head case like A'mare Stoudemire as I often saw suggested last season.

If I had my druthers, there would be no more moves for the Blazers. I despised the Fabricio Oberta signing. Yes, they are thin up front. But bringing him in does two things.

One, it adds a marginally talented import to the roster who again will make no positive impact on number of wins they pull in.

Two, it takes yet another step towards having retreads and thus makes the roster less home grown and more about "follow us because the team name is Blazer, not because you have built any attachment to the players".

I can call to mind great moments from so many of the players who have been sent packing; the Sergio Rodriguez to Fernandez alley-oops, the Outlaw game winning shot against Memphis that started the Blazers on the path to greatness, the record setting assists in a quarter for Blake, Bayless taking over when Roy went down.

While Miller and Camby have had memorable moments...Miller's dunk against Denver, his 52 against...was it Dallas? and Camby getting the "Marc-us Cam-by" chant after coming over from the farm club in Los Angeles...those moments are few and far between.

They are not organic.

All the sending off of familiar players in favor of short-term rentals has me far from excited about the season.

It should be a very good season, with 55+ wins and a run at the Western Conference Championship as the low end of where they should go. It starts Tuesday.

And this is only the second piece I have written about them in four months.

Back before the players I liked started getting sent packing, I would write four part previews of the season. Now I would rather write about teams I am starting to like more than the one I grew up rooting for.

So far Rich Cho has made two moves; signing Oberta and trading Bayless. I hate both moves.

They bring about the question; if he does make a "big move", like the once rumored Batum/Oden/Bayless for Chris Paul...a pipe dream many Blazer fans were sure was going to happen...I would pretty much be done with them.

Let us watch the players we have some history with. If it is just about watching winning teams, we would all be Laker or Heat fans. If it was about style, we would be watching the Suns.

It needs to be about more than that. Enough tinkering. Release Oberta and call it a day. Your slogan is "Rip City United". How about showing some loyalty if you expect us to unite with you?


Apathetic Blazermania

As the various packets that come with being a season ticket holder arrive in staggered increments, there has been a very confusing emotion attached.


This is rather stunning. Usually I am quite juiced about the forthcoming season. I am chatting about prospects, arguing over how many wins, win margin, which players will improve, and reliving past glory moments.

This year...instead I am wondering if I should sell a quarter season, a half season, or the entire package. Not only am I counting down the days until the first pre-season game, I am actually wondering if I want to go to any games.

With a curious reaction like that, I sat down to work through what the problem is.

I still love basketball. I like to play it, watch it, discuss it, think about it, read about it. I spend time at many of the hot-spots...True Hoop, Basketbawful, Bleacher Report, Blazers Edge, Hoop World, and numerous others I could list.

But I do not currently love BLAZER basketball.

It is singularly odd because they are arguably the best team they have been since the late 80s/early 90s glory days of Clyde the Glide Dexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth, and Buck Williams.

The optimist in Blazer fan believes Greg Oden will stay healthy, LaMarcus Aldridge will take a step forward, Brandon Roy will be Brandon smurfing Roy, and the wins will pile up in rapid fashion.

I believe anything short of 56 wins or more, a Division Title, and a trip to a minimum of the conference series would be disappointing considering the talent level.

The problem is...I just do not care.

The team I had grown to love has been dismantled slowly but surely.

The first to go was Travis Outlaw. That one hurt.

Yes, I am well aware of the flaws Blazer fans over-emphasize.

I am also aware that he was drafted by Portland, we watched him develop, and he hit arguably the most important shot of the last three years when his buzzer beater against Memphis helped the young team realize they could overcome adversity.

While Steve Blake was not drafted by Portland, he fit the team and culture well and was instrumental to the turnaround. He also took less money to come to Portland because he liked the team.

Bringing in guys like Marcus Camby and Wesley Matthews unarguably make the team better and with Oden and Camby, fan favorite and long-time stalwart Joel Przybilla is admittedly dispensable from a basketball standpoint.

The problem is...the character of the team has changed.

Now, instead of being excited about Blazer draft-day acquisitions and treasured veterans who carried the team through their growing pains, we are looking at "import-heavy" teams.

It changes my interest level.

I am not a blind Blazer fan. The organization holds a certain portion of my loyalty, but so too do the players.

It does bother me how the Rudy Fernandez situation is playing out.

It bothers me that guys like Outlaw, Blake and Przybilla are not merely considered dispensable but are basically run out of town in the eyes of some Blazer fans.

It bothers me all the negativity thrown at LaMarcus Aldridge because he plays the new millennium style of game, with a great mid-range game and developing post game instead of being the new Karl Malone...a player, by the way, I always despised for his substitution of strength and charging without getting called for it in place of skill.

It bothers me that new General Manager Rich Cho is talking about another "major move" which presumably would mean Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless or some rumors even say Oden would depart in favor of another import.

Now, on the one hand, as a Blazer fan, I am happy about seeing the team improve.

On the other hand, they are no longer as compelling a story in my opinion.

Instead of watching a two to three year period of acquiring young, talented players with the expectation of watching them play together for a decade, now we have a mish-mash of some of those players, some guys brought in for just a year or two, and a lack of continuity.

The net result is the more they change the team...the less I like it.

And the end result is that as the season approaches, my customary excitement and thrill-expectation meters are completely gone, only to be replaced by one thing.


If I stay lazy and fail to list the tickets, I will probably go the games. I will almost assuredly even enjoy them.

But it will be the enjoyment of going to a movie that turns out to be a serviceable comedy rather than a memorable laugh-inducer, in box office terms.

That makes me sad.

It also makes me can a team with rising expectations bring lowered anticipation?