Monday, March 26, 2007

Wrapping up this tournament weekend

I had to include this from the Sports Guy, even if it is a little late. This should be considered even more strongly after UCLA won to get back to the final four, Oregon put on a great effort against the defending champions, and USC built a huge lead (only to remember they were being coached by former Bulls skipper Tim Floyd) over the weekend.
2. Greg in Oregon argues, "You can dismiss all of us 'Pac-10 doesn't suck' posters but even if Kansas and Texas A&M played in the final, that doesn't NECESSARILY mean the Big 12 is better. It could mean they have two excellent teams ... and maybe 10 bad ones. Best league (to me) means best teams top to bottom, with at least a few making a deep tournament run. Washington finished seventh in the Pac-10, a very good team this year. Six others made the tourney and three into the Sweet 16. That's a good league (at least it doesn't deserve 'Pac-10 sucks!') in any book."

That's an excellent point. You're right, under that definition, the Pac-10 definitely doesn't suck. And the fact that USC (the fourth-best team in the Pac-10) crushed Texas (the third-best team in the Big 12) killed my long-standing argument that the Big 12 was definitively better than the Pac-10. So you know what? I'm waving the white flag on this one. Yes, WSU was overrated, Stanford and Arizona weren't worth a damn and nobody else in the conference mattered -- but UCLA and Oregon were good all year, and the fact that USC came together in the tournament submarined my argument.

Upon further review, the Pac-10 didn't suck this season. I will swallow my pride and admit being wrong ... as long as we can all agree that the Big Ten royally sucked. Thank you.
I could not agree more. I don't have much to say about the Oregon-Florida game, but there are a few things:
  1. I was glad that the officiating was much more even than it was during the UNLV game. Sure, I felt like a few extra fouls were called against Oregon than there should have been, but it didn't seem like the consistent attempt to undermine the Ducks that was happening on Friday. And yes, I might have exaggerated that just a little bit.

  2. I was really happy with how our bigs played in that game. My friend J-Lew pointed this out, but Florida really is only as good as their back court. We forced Green and Humphries to beat us by making it really hard for Noah, Horford, and Brewer to do what they wanted inside. And those two guards did a great job of hitting their shots.

  3. We disrupted them and they disrupted us. We've been known as an outside shooting team, and most of our points came from the inside, since they wouldn't let us have a good look from beyond the arc. As I just said, their big guys were held in check, which is where they usually get their points, but their guards took advantage of what we gave them.

  4. As I said in the running diary, this team loses only one of its main contributors, Aaron Brooks, and one decent role player, Adam Zahn. If they can come back with great intensity next year, look for the Ducks to improve on their finish in 2007.
I'm on spring break now, which is fantastic. I'm going to put the blog away and start reading The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem.

Friday, March 23, 2007

NCAA championships

6:38 pm I’m writing this from the Carlton homestead in Roseburg, Oregon. (Which is for sale, by the way, if anyone’s interested.) My friends Joe and Brian have joined me to watch two NCAA events. We’ve been watching chunks of the NCAA swimming championships, and we’ll return to that after we watch the Oregon sweet sixteen game against UNLV. Joe is the teacher I’m working with this term, and he has been involved with swimming for 20 years. He also coached some at Roseburg High School. Brian is a sophomore at RHS. He is also a swimmer, and he’s watching the swimming championships for the first time since he was at the event watching his older brother win an individual championship. Oh yeah, his brother is my friend Patrick who won the 200-yard butterfly championship. And my apologies beforehand for not naming UNLV players or the announcers. I was too lazy to get the names.

6:45 pm We’re watching the 200-yard freestyle final after stopping the recording to catch the end of the Florida and Georgetown games. Those endings were both pretty good. I’m a little worried that this could be considered a bit of a letdown game for Florida, so that they’ll be absolutely sure to bring it against Oregon on Sunday. Yikes. We’ve already watched a bit of the swimming, which has been fantastic, and we’re getting ready for the Oregon game. Tip-off is in a little over five minutes. One of the events we watched already was the 100-yard butterfly. Patrick was sixth in that event. That’s his bad event, and he got sixth place in the NCAA. Yeah, it’s pretty sweet.

6:50 pm I’m still watching swimming. Right now the 100 backstroke is on, an event in which I was absolutely terrible. My excitement for the Ducks is building…

6:52 pm Seth Davis just picked Oregon to win this game, which might be a bad sign. Clark Kellog said the game will come down to the stars from each team and nothing more. Umm, really? Seth disagreed with that pretty strongly.

6:54 pm They just showed the starting lineups for the two teams, and I had forgotten that UNLV has a small lineup. That’s good for Oregon, since we also have a small lineup.

6:55 pm First foul of the game. Wow. The keys to the game: Oregon needs to “widen the lines.” I guess that means keep enough space on the floor so that the lane is open. Have they watched Oregon play this year? That's what our offense is. And then Leunen tapped in a missed three pointer. Nice start for Oregon.

6:57 pm Aaron Brooks just did what he loves to do: ran through three guys to make a finger role.

6:59 pm We just found out that Kruger is a graduate student who went to Arizona State. Yeah, I’m glad that loophole was closed. The shots are not falling for either…scratch that, Leunen just made a three. Nice. I love his game.

7:02 pm A pre-game scene from the Oregon locker room was just on. Let me cover that for you: shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure shot pressure. Yep, that covers it. It seems like Oregon's focusing on defense today.

7:04 pm Nice pass from Catron to Bryce Taylor, whom I love. Then UNLV answers with their first three. Both teams are still shooting poorly. And Brooks just had a lay-up blocked. Yikes.

7:07 pm They just showed the field goal percentages: UNLV was at 25%, Oregon was at 40%. See, I told you…okay, maybe Oregon’s shot percentage isn’t too bad, but they need to do better. And Catron does a good job to draw the foul and then score on the ensuing possession.

7:09 pm Catron is playing better than usual, and he’s playing more than usual. Good box out by Hairston, and then the foul gets called. And remember what I’ve been saying about the shooting percentage? UNLV has made several three-pointers since they showed the stat.

7:13 pm Oregon just did a great job with more offensive rebounding to get second chance points. If they keep doing this, they’ll be tough to beat. I just noticed that USC is beating North Carolina by five. If these two Pac-10 teams keep their leads, we’ll get three of ‘em in the Elite Eight.

7:15 pm Tajuan Porter just made everyone for UNLV look slooooow, then he found Hairston, who couldn’t get the shot to fall and ended up missing out on a three-point play.

7:17 pm That did NOT look like a foul to me, but apparently Brooks grazed his arm when he stripped that ball. Porter pulls up for a quick stop three and gets crushed. First free throw: good. Second: good. Third: good. We can count on Porter at the line.

7:19 pm With over seven minutes left, Oregon is up by two. Last I saw, USC was still ahead too. Oh my, here comes the Pac-10.

7:23 pm Catron just flew in for a board. He does NOT usually play this well, let me repeat that. Then Porter gets it for the open three. He doesn’t miss many of those.

7:27 pm The Ducks just got another turnover, but they called an offensive foul on Bryce Taylor as a UNLV player pushed him into a set teammate. Now UNLV gets the opportunity for a three-point play. Ugh, tie game.

7:29 pm That was a perfect introduction to Tajuan Porter for anyone who hasn’t met him yet. Brooks passed it to him on the sprint, and Porter drained the three. Porter gets two more on a crazy floater. AND ANOTHER THREE!!!

7:31 pm Another phantom foul called on Oregon as UNLV nails a three-point response to Porter.

7:34 pm Porter scored Oregon’s last 14 points in five minutes. Have I mentioned yet that he’s a freshman? Oh, and he just drained a three in some tall guy’s eye.

7:36 pm The Ducks are starting to hit from beyond the arc. They are good. And then Hairston works hard for a loose ball.

7:41 pm Leunen misses a long jumper to make the lead six going into the half. Oregon is up 37-33. Not a great first half, but I’m excited to see how Porter does in the second.

7:43 pm We’re watching the 100-yard freestyle final right now. This is fast swimming, and very impressive. Geez, this is unbelievable. I might be missing a live look-in right now, but I don’t even care. This kid Cesar Cielo from Auburn just won another race. He is really good.

7:46 pm Back to basketball and I was quite surprised to see Hansbrough without the schnozaroo. Good to see that USC is still ahead. Ew, a terrible shot by the Tar Heels, and then USC gets foul shots.

7:48 pm An and-one for USC that I convince my friends was not a travel. Seriously, he was stepping as he caught the pass, took a full step, and then he took off on the last one. Not a travel, right? Right? Maybe I watch too much NBA.

7:55 pm Catching the 200 backstroke before going back to the Oregon game. I also just checked online to see that Portland won their third straight game…without Zach Randolph. I’m still against trading him, but sheesh, that’s impressive, even against bad teams. It’s more impressive because the Blazers didn’t shoot very well.

7:57 pm I forgot to mention that USC was ahead at the half 42-33. Did Jeff Green travel? Clearly, according to Clark Kellogg. Seth Davis agrees. I guess I can’t argue with them both.

8:03 pm Tajuan Porter had 17 points in the first half. Yeah, he’ll be back next year with three other starters. Including Bryce Tayler and Maarty Leunen, who just made a great play for the score.

8:04 pm TAJUAN PORTER with 20 points, IN YOUR EYE. Leunen hits his own. This brings up my main point about this team: the starting line up is made of five guys who can score from anywhere on the floor. When the Ducks are playing at their top level, they can beat anyone in the country. I truly believe this to be the case.

8:06 pm That Holiday Inn commercial with the fake rodeo clown is frightening. I mean, his freaky chins and that crazy twisty hat-bow tie combination are very scary.

8:09 pm Another phantom foul called against Oregon. That was terrible, and Wink Adams is at the line to convert the three-point play.

8:11 pm The Ducks keep turning it over, which is pretty frustrating. If not for those, this game would be further apart than the ten point lead Oregon has.

8:12 pm I just mentioned that I’d be okay with Oregon and USC both winning by ten, and Joe and Brian called me on it. Really? As much as I want that, I would much rather just get an Oregon win. And Tajuan Porter just pulled up for another three-pointer. He is REALLY good. Timeout, and Oregon is now ahead 53-38. I hope you guys are all watching my team right now.

8:15 pm We just saw an ad for Letterman that included Gerber Red Bull baby food. Yeah, that’s some funny stuff.

8:18 pm Another foul called against Oregon. Blech.

8:19 pm Nice non-call as Leunen tried to get the rebound on a bad Porter shot as the 35-second clock expired.

8:20 pm As I started saying that Hairston must have ten rebounds, the announcers let me know that I’m right. Then the refs finally make a call against UNLV. Leunen plays with the ball, passes it off, and then Brooks finds Hairston for the dunk. Hairston follows that by working really hard on the defensive end. Oh, and now they're showing a graphic that says Hairston only has nine. Nice job by the announcers on that one.

8:22 pm Porter just hit another three. Let’s run through the returning players for Oregon next year: Porter, Leunen, Hairston, Taylor, Catron, and Oguchi. Each of those guys has played really well for Oregon at one point or another, and four are doing a great job in this game.

8:26 pm An ugly free throw miss for UNLV, followed by a make. They then get a jump ball, but if Oregon doesn’t let down they should be able to hang onto this game.

8:28 pm Everyone in the room agrees, the officiating has been pretty bad n this game. You should know, I’m the only real Oregon fan. Joe grew up in Alaska, went to Montana State for college, and spent much of his youth visiting his grandparents in Kansas. Brian’s two oldest siblings went to Stanford, his older brother Patrick is a senior at Cal, and his other sister is a freshman at UCLA. So he roots for the Pac-10, but not Oregon.

8:30 pm Oregon hasn’t been doing that well since I made the “game in hand” comment. Oops. Time to pick it back up. Another foul was just called on Oregon, prompting Joe and Brian to go crazy.

8:34 pm “Everything in her life was perfect, except her past.”
Brian responds: Umm, everything was perfect except her life up to this moment?
Me: Yeah, everything.

8:36 pm Another bailout call as a Rebel falls down. This is painful. You know what’s not painful? Tajuan Porter making another three right there. Then good defense by Oregon to force UNLV out of bounds.

8:38 pm Aaron Brooks just legitimately broke someone’s ankles, but Porter can’t capitalize. Wow, Brian and Joe are still laughing, as they try to figure out who sniped that defender from the stands. 63-49, Oregon.

8:40 pm Malik Hairston makes his own three, followed by a UNLV make and another TERRIBLE call against Oregon. Really, was that off the Ducks?

8:41 pm Ugly shot-clock violation against Oregon. I don’t think I’m being a homer when I complain about the number of calls against the Ducks. That last out of bounds seemed pretty ridiculous, and quite a few of these fouls have been pretty bad. Ugh, this is ugly.

8:44 pm Boo, USC is about to lose their lead. Stupid Trojans.

8:46 pm Hairston with another big rebound. He’s been playing well during this game. And the announcers just mentioned that this was Oregon’s best season since 1939, when they won the inaugural NCAA tournament. I wondered when that would be mentioned. Mark it down, they said that with 2:43 left in the game.

8:48 pm This exchange just happened between Brian and the announcer:
Announcer: if Lon Kruger were going to do an autopsy of this game…
Brian (interrupting): Is this game dead?

8:49 pm Oregon is now apparently running my favorite offense: turn the ball over as soon as possible.

8:51 pm Kruger just made another free throw to cut the Oregon lead to nine. Oregon finally gets it down the court and then draws the foul. Time to hit shots from the charity stripe. Brooks is good on the first one to bring it back to ten. And he makes the second.

8:53 pm Malik Hairston, Oregon’s worst free throw shooter, makes both. Oregon is still perfect from the line.

8:54 pm Another phantom call as Leunen slides by the UNLV player on the dunk.

8:55 pm After not rebounding, UNLV makes a three. It is now a six-point game. The turnovers have been frustrating, but the stripes are hurting pretty bad too.

8:57 pm You can see the Ducks playing as soft as possible so they don’t get called for ticky-tack fouls. That’s how the officiating can affect a team. Four point Oregon lead.

8:59 pm Porter goes to the line for the free throws, which is good for Oregon. He makes the first. In and out, even the rim is conspiring against Oregon.

9:00 pm Bad shot by UNLV, and Porter gets the long rebound and then tries to throw up a ¾ court shot while being fouled. Nope, they only give him two shots, and he hits both. Leunen avoids getting called for the foul and gets the rebound. Now he’s at the line.

9:02 pm Leunen misses both, and UNLV responds with a three pointer. Porter gets fouled and goes to the line for two more. He only makes one, then UNLV makes another three to cut the lead to two.

9:03 pm The Ducks get it in, and Taylor runs down the line and gets fouled. At the line with .9 seconds left. He makes both. That’s the game. Oregon has made it to the Elite Eight for second time in five years.

9:04 pm USC is going to lose this game, and we’re going back to swimming now.

9:06 pm We just watched the recap of the 800-yard freestyle relay, which was amazing. And now we get to see the recap of the mile, in which the NCAA record of another RHS graduate is missed by .08 of a second. Yeah, that’s not much time in the mile, especially in swimming.

9:09 pm Alexandrov’s disqualification “really kinda” opened the field in the 200-yard breaststroke. That was my best stroke, but I never swam a 200. Polyakov won that race. I’m sure that neither of those guys is Russian.

9:11 pm We’re now watching the 200-yard butterfly, the event that Patrick won. I’m the only one that’s seen this (other than when Brian was there). It’s still awesome to see Patrick win.

9:13 pm After the first 100 Patrick is in the middle of the pack, but halfway through that 25 he takes the lead. Then he burns everyone on the kick outs of the fifth, sixth, and last turns. As Joe said, Patrick just swam a smarter race than everyone. The announcer is saying a bunch of stuff about Patrick’s swim that we already knew.

9:16 pm I’m done with this running diary. It’s been a good night. We got to see Oregon pull out a close game, Portland won in overtime against Atlanta, and we’re watching some great swimming that includes our boy Patrick winning an individual championship. Now I get to look forward to Oregon playing against Florida. As long as the Ducks come to play, it should be a good game. I think we can pull it off, but we won’t know until Sunday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

So much to do

My computer is finally back. In fact, I'm writing this quick post from the couch in MyCoffee on my way to the last day of my winter practicum at Shasta Middle School. I have a lot of paperwork to get done for this term, and a question that needs to be answered sometime today for a class that I might not pass (long story, and I need to get to school). Then I have two more papers due on Thursday. But the good news outweighs the bad, even if something that falls into both categories is that I need to clean my apartment and move out in the next few days.

So much to do...

Monday, March 12, 2007

NCAA tournament odds and ends

Once again, I have too many things to do this week NOT to post a blog about the best Oregon basketball team I've ever seen. First, here are a few quotes that get me excited for the road to the Final Four. From my friend J-Lew on the morning of March 10th:
Having watched 1 of my 2 allotted days at the Big Ten Tournament, I must say that it will be a mistake for anyone to select a Big Ten team to go all the way this year. This brand of basketball is the ugliest basketball I have ever seen. I feel like this tournament is setting the game of basketball back 30 years.

On the bright side, I was able to purchase a pretty sweet looking shirt to commemorate my time here....
And this is from J-Lew later on that night:
After 2 full days of action, I am more convinced than ever about the Big Ten. Of course, now that I watched Greg Oden play in-person (and grab 19 freaking rebounds to go along with 4 sick blocks), I am now convinced he would be my #1 pick. Part of the reason that his numbers aren't guady (besides the one-handed thing), is that Thad Matta has a horrilbe offense that involves 3 guards taking turns over-dribbling at the top of the key before having to rush to get a shot up as the shot clock expires...
I put his quotes first so that everyone knows he said it before the Sports Guy said this:
As for the Big Ten, its second-best team (Wisconsin) isn't as good as Kansas, Texas or Texas A&M, and I wasn't even remotely impressed by Purdue (a No. 9 seed), Indiana (No. 7) or Illinois (No. 12), although I do think Michigan State (No. 11) has a chance to crack the Sweet 16 because of Tom Izzo and Drew Neitzel. Regardless, how did the Big Ten send six teams to the tournament when most of its games had the same disjointed, scrappy, uncomfortable flow of a woman's basketball game? Did you ever watch a Big Ten game that didn't involve OSU and think to yourself, "Wow, this is some high-caliber hoops!" Oklahoma State would have been the third-best team in that conference and it's headed to the NIT. Same for Kansas State. And Syracuse.

Final note: Anyone who toggled between the OSU-Wisconsin and Texas-Kansas games knows which conference was better this season. That Texas-Kansas game was the most hard-fought basketball game I've seen since the Heat-Mavs NBA Finals last June ... and Texas was running on fumes. Meanwhile, OSU and Wisconsin were having the basketball equivalent of a rock fight on CBS. Gimme a break. The Big Ten is awful. Don't say I didn't warn you...Other than dunking, is there a noticeable difference between a game involving two Big Ten schools and a high-caliber women's basketball game?

I didn't get to watch Oregon's games this weekend, but I did get to read a lot about them (not the same thing at all), listen to parts of them, see highlights of them, and hear the commentary others were making. I've also watched more than a few of their games this year, so I feel like I can say the following things.

In 2002 I went to the Oregon-Kansas Elite Eight game in Madison and watched Oregon lose. That Oregon team had three great college players on it. That Kansas team was also amazing. The Oregon team this year is better than that Oregon team. Part of the reason for this is Ernie Kent deciding to use the players he has the way he wants to use them. That 2002 team had there players who could run and shoot with anyone, and then two token bigs to fill out the starting five. Robert Johnson, the starting 4, could rebound okay, but he and Chris Christofferson, the 7'2" starting center, couldn't run with the other three guys and weren't that strong inside. This year Kent has started his five best guys almost all season. Oregon starts four guys who are considered guards:
  1. Pac-10 all-freshman guard and Pac-10 tournament MVP Tajuan Porter (a 5'6" freshman from Detroit who bettered Jason Kapono's freshman record for three pointers in a Pac-10 season)

  2. first team all-conference and Pac-10 all-tourney guard Aaron Brooks (a 6'0" senior who hit game-winners against UCLA and Arizona and led the conference in scoring)

  3. 6'6" wing Malik Hairston (who fought injuries much of the season but still managed to become the 10th Duck to ever reach 1000 points for his career during his junior year)

  4. and Pac-10 all-tourney guard Bryce Taylor (a 6'5" guard who was 3-3 from the free throw line, 7-7 from the 3-point arc, and 4-4 on all other field goals to score 32 points in 31 minutes in the Pac-10 championship game against USC).
The only "big" man in Oregon's starting five is Pac-10 honorable mention forward Maarty Leunen, a 6'9" junior that Lute Olson suggested should have been the 10th player on the Pac-10's all-conference team. He does a good job of defending and rebounding while still running with the four guards and hitting 40% of his threes. He averaged 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for the season.

The bench is okay, but the most important thing about this team is that all five starters can make you pay on offense. The second most important thing is that the starting five can--and this weekend did--play really good team defense. They have great conditioning, as they showed by winning their three-games-in-three-days by an average of 20.3 points. They're led by a senior who got to play with "the Lukes" (Ridnour and Jackson) and three juniors who have finally been living up to their billing as the best recruiting class Oregon's ever had (back in 2004--if you follow the link Oregon's class for that year is ranked sixth, right behind Indiana and UCLA and right ahead of Louisville and (ahem) Florida. This team won road tests at Arizona and Georgetown and came back from a mid-season slump to ruin the rest of the Pac-10 in the conference tournament. I'll end this section about the Ducks with another quote from the Sports Guy. He's talking about how bad the Pac-10 is, but what's more important is the company in which he puts Oregon:
Anyway, watching all these games and comparing the conferences to one another, I don't see how anyone who knows anything about basketball could argue that the Pac-10 and Big Ten are better than the Big East, ACC or even the Big 12 (my vote for "most underrated conference"). UCLA, Oregon and Ohio State are all good. After that? It's a suckfest.

I've decided to post my bracket here so that people can hold me accountable. I picked it the best way I know how: as fast as possible. Over-thinking ruins all brackets, I say. I might change one thing before the tournament starts on Thursday, which is to pick Southern Illinois over Holy Cross, but I think that the Salukis are going to miss the underdog status they've had in recent years and blow it in the first round. So here are the pictures of my facebook bracket, which I will be using in all pools I might enter this month. Click on the picture for a clearer view.

You'll notice that I have Oregon beating Florida in the Elite Eight (a game that should be amazing to watch), getting revenge against Kansas in the final four, and defeating Georgetown for the second time this year to win the whole thing in Atlanta. I know that a lot of this is wishful thinking, and I've talked myself into it based on how they played this weekend. But if they continue to play the way they did in the Pac-10 tournament, I really believe that they could pull this thing off.
I watched most of Portland's game against Golden State last night. I know that the Warriors were without Baron Davis, but it was so good to watch the Blazers play with energy and poise. There isn't much to say other than the guys I already like keep making me like them even more: R-O-Y, Randolph, Udoka, Rodriguez, and Aldridge. It's also fun to see Freddie Jones, a member of that 2002 Oregon team, dunking on people for Portland now.

Alright, I need to finish my Unit Plan that will serve as part of my final in a really lame class tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not my vidas...

I have to go to class in a few minutes, but I needed to at least link to this and make a quick note. At the Daily Dime on they did a 10 Greatest Centers Ever list. I was a little disappointed that Arvydas Sabonis didn't make it, but he was actually the second guy left off the list. The Sports Guy gave his reasons for not participating, and I think it raises some good issues. Of course I'm biased, since Sabonis is my favorite basketball player ever, but if I had to pick one guy to build around (with health and age not a factor) I would probably pick him, even over Walton. One other note: since Malone was technically a Blazer for a little while, we could have potentially had three guys make that list. That's pretty ridiculous. I'll hopefully write some more about Sabonis when my computer is back, which should be soon since the box is coming in tomorrow.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I was on the phone for half an hour yesterday getting my MacBook squared away. I should be receiving a box today or tomorrow in which to send my computer to Apple. Then it should be back, in proper working order and in my hands, in another five to seven days. This is good news because the term is ending, but it's also good news because I've missed blogging. I'm still frustrated that I've been posting so infrequently, but I think that has mainly been because of the computer problems.

While I've been recovering from my ear infection and my cold, and my computer is getting ready to recover from its severed head, my fantasy basketball team and the Blazers are going the other direction. In two of my three leagues I've had at least one big injury (Dwyane Wade) and at least one or two other tough injuries (Baron Davis--forever, Lamar Odom, Carlos Boozer finally came back, as did Antawn Jamison). As much as I care about fantasy basketball, I care more about the Blazers. That makes the injury situation tough for me to figure out. I really like Joel Przybilla, and I think he can get back to top form, but his injury and Raef LaFrentz's combine to give LaMarcus Aldridge a bigger chance. Of course he took full advandtage of that chance on Thursday last week against the Bobcats. But it also eases some of the tension that might have been building because of Jamaal Magloire not being traded. Now Mags is the only real big man other than Aldridge and Zach Randolph, so his minutes will be higher than they would have been otherwise. He still scares me most of the time he's in the game, but we didn't trade his expiring deal for junk and now he'll be happier and still playing hard so he can sign with someone during the offseason.

It has been good to have Sergio Rodriguez back, who is so much fun to watch (more on this in the next paragraph). And I'm happy that we get another chance to see what Travis Outlaw can do, even if I'm already leaning toward letting him walk this offseason. The one injury I forgot to mention is Martell Webster's shoulder. He left the Kings game on Saturday night hurt, but I haven't been able to find more information. I think that means he's probably alright. We need more from him.

Yesterday I watched a Phoenix Suns game just for the pleasure of seeing Steve Nash play. I lived in Phoenix for a year and couldn't stand most of the Suns fans, so this made me really dislike the team. I also didn't think Nash deserved either of his two MVP awards. I stick to all of that, but I also say this: I think Nash does deserve the MVP this year. I think that his help defense is a little better than his man-to-man defense, but I've come around to the consesus that his offensive game is good enough to make up for that. Even the turnovers he makes--which he does make, despite the way the announcers were talking yesterday--are made in a way that you know he was doing the most he could to get his teammate into great position to score. I had already floated the "Rodriguez is a little like Nash" line earlier this year, but after having seen quite a few of Rodriguez's highlights and some full games and then comparing them with the Nash I watched yesterday, I don't think that's too much of a stretch. This kid could do those same types of things for his teammates. Of course, it doesn't hurt Nash that he's playing with my other favorite guy to watch in the NBA, Amare Stoudamire. Can LaMarcus bulk up and turn into that sort of presence? Can we get the makeup lottery we deserve and land Oden or Durant? Does it even matter, now that this nucleus has shown their possibility? It really is good to be a Blazer fan again, and part of it is that these questions are fun instead of just frustrating.