Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I'm listening to the game in Utah right now. The Blazers are going for 14 straight. Today has been a mess of a day, with me trying to figure out what's wrong with my car. There is something messed up with the transmission, which I thought was just the fluid, then thought it wasn't, but now I think it might be again. Then there's the debacle with my tire. The way the Ducks destroyed USF today was pretty good for getting my mind of the other stuff, but not completely. But if Portland can pull out this fourteenth win, well, the car worries will fade at least for a little while.

My brother Stephen and I showed up at the Rose Quarter box office around 4:00 on Friday to pick up the tickets for the game. While we were there I asked about tickets to the Sunday game with Philly. The woman at the window told me that the three levels of tickets we would have been willing to buy were all sold out already. This was on Friday afternoon. That was disappointing and also pretty cool.

We stayed around so we could get into the arena early and explore a little bit. Even though I had been to games in the Rose Garden, this was the first time I really walked around much. There were a few cool exhibits, particularly some stuff celebrating the championship team from 1977 and the finals teams from the early 1990s. Once we got to our seats we realized that dad was stuck next to a particular type of fan. This was a 30 or 40 something year old man, pudgy, with a beard. He was talking during the game to the players and coaches. Yes, talking. And he was saying some amazing stuff. "Nate, get them to play 'D.'" Stuff like that. At halftime dad moved over and sat on the other side of Stephen.

I was hoping that the rest of the crowd would be crazy, but I was kind of surprised that it was a little subdued. Well, it was subdued until the latter part of the third quarter. When the team really turned it on the crowd got rowdier, and that was a lot of fun. I enjoyed being part of the "M-V-P" chant during Brandon Roy's free throws. Most of the time that chant started in one of the other cheap sections. But there was one time that the chant was nearly automatic throughout the crowd, and it was pretty exciting. It was that sort of thing that happened often at the end of the game, and it was great to experience.

Two notes about the game:
  1. Martell Webster's game didn't look very good on offense or with his stats, but I loved watching him play. He was hustling, he was working hard on both sides of the court, he was rebounding, and I just loved it. Outlaw and Jones are great too, and they really do give us a pretty formidable trio of small forwards. But I love Webster.

  2. Brandon Roy had another ridiculous layup in this game. I don't know if the highlight is floating around anywhere, so I'll just describe it. He got the ball at the top of the key, saw an opening, and took of for the hoop. As he took off, one of the Timberwolves stepped into the lane. I think it was Al Jefferson. Roy would have been called for a charge had he continued going up that way. So he didn't. He changed the axis of his body. Imagine a clock, with the ball as the center. His body rotated from six o'clock to around 7:30. He continued gliding through the air, and finished the layup softly with his right hand. It was beautiful. We all went nuts.

  3. Alright, I know I said two, but since I'm actually putting this up long after the streak ended tonight, I'm including this part. LaMarcus Aldridge decided to show up on offense tonight. For real. He had a career high. And even though we lost, it was good to see the kid put the ball in the hoop a lot. I think that will continue this season some, but I am fairly certain he'll be doing this sort of thing consistently in the next few years.
That's as much as I really have about the game from the other day. It was great to see, and I'm glad we ran the streak to 13. Now it's important to see how the team responds on this road trip.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day running diary

5:05 pm Here I am, sitting in the house I helped my parents build, on Christmas day, getting ready to watch the first Blazer game of this win streak. I just said “this” win streak, because I believe that the streak will continue tonight.

5:08 pm I love the stat they just showed. Portland is the best team on Christmas day all-time, and Seattle is the worst on Christmas all-time. While I was typing that the Blazers got three offensive rebounds and finally put their first points up.

5:10 pm
Beautiful steal by Martell. It’s good to see him working hard like that. Now he needs to get both of these free throws. Nope, one-of-two. We need to start pushing it inside and stop relying on our poor jump shooting.

5:12 pm Just after I said that, Roy hit Przybilla for a nice dunk. It’s good to see the vanilla thrilla throwing it down like that.

5:15 pm Steve Blake is getting a lot of open looks and needs to start hitting those shots. And now the Blazers have given up the lead. They need to calm down a little bit.

5:16 pm Boom. Webster drills a three pointer off a kick out from Roy.

5:19 pm I just checked the Blazer station, but for some reason the picture n my parents’ new TV is way better on ESPN, so I’ll continue listening to these announcers instead of the Blazers guys.

5:21 pm Great pass by Channing Frye, good finish by Roy, but he can’t get the and-one. Fortunately the Sonics are terrible at rebounding and throw it out of bounds.

5:23 pm Jarrett Jack doing what he does well, driving to the hoop. And wow, Wally Szczerbiak just hit another three pointer. Thankfully Frye made a jumper. Other than the opening jitters, this has been better game than the Miami-Cleveland game this morning. That game was terrible. I expected that it would be, but still. Eww. The Lakers and Suns, on the other hand, played great basketball. That was fun to watch.

5:27 pm Did you see Roy juke Durant out of his shorts a few minutes ago? That was great. And then Brandn just rose up and put it through.

5:28 pm Sergio Rodriguez is looking good in his quick stint for Roy right now. El Mago making magic happen.

5:30 pm That first quarter wasn’t great, but 24 points for each team isn’t bad when we started so poorly.

5:32 pm Apparently there’s a new American Pie movie, and guess what: there are girls in it, and it’s about sex. Man, that sounds hilarious.

5:34 pm Jack just made another great drive. He is really good at that. And Travis Outlaw is great at shooting over anyone. He just elevated to drain that jumper.

5:36 pm WOW. Beautiful pass inside from Rodriguez to James Jones, and Jones THREW that down. As the announcers just noted, the second unit for this Portland team has been playing so well and they’re doing it again today.

5:38 pm That was a terrible call. They just called Jeff Green for the charge, but Channing Frye pushed him. Boo. Oh well, I’ll take it.

5:44 pm Jack has eight now, which is great, but Szczerbiak just hit another three.

5:45 pm Collison just completed the three point play to tie the game back up. This really does look like better basketball than the first game today.

5:48 pm Apparently Greg Oden had some sort of surgery on his knee before the season started. I also just found out that he’s supposed to be good. Man, just imagine what this team could be like with him back. (Oh, and Przybilla just made both free throws. He’s improved that aspect of his game so much.)

5:50 pm That was a terrible foul call. Przybilla played great defense on that, but they called him. Lame. The ball never lies, then Przybilla gets the rebound and gets fouled. That worked out.

5:53 pm Blake just missed another open jumper. Blech. Roy then comes back with a good drive-and-dish to Przybilla, but he was on the baseline. And now another terrible foul call when it should have been a travel.

5:57 pm Durant just made his first really pretty shot. That was nice. Of course, on his next play he traveled.

5:58 pm Blake finally hit a jumper. This one was behind the arc, where he has been shooting better than everywhere else on the floor.

6:00 pm Jarrett Jack is filling in nicely for Roy, who is in the locker room after getting hit with a Chris Wilcox elbow. We need to come out really strong in the second half.

6:02 pm At halftime we’re ahead by two, after having a pretty poor first half, so that’s not too bad.

6:06 pm Scott Van Pelt is a genius. “The Boston Three Party.” I love it. Although seeing Garnett, Pierce, and Allen do the Three Amigos salute was the best part of that commercial.

6:18 pm Red Bull is shameless. Geez. “Start with practice and work our way back to theory.” I’m sure that’s how my friend J-Lew studied biology in college.

6:21 pm Wow, Jon Barry just made two great jokes.

6:24 pm Ugh. This is a rough shooting game. R-O-U-G-H.

6:25 pm Jon Barry just made a joke about streaking and Will Ferrell in the movie Old School. This guy is culturally relevant.

6:26 pm Roy is starting to hit now. And there is LaMarcus Aldridge. Pretty basketball right there with that turnaround by LA.

6:30 pm There was a beautiful play by Roy and Przybilla, once again highlighting the progression of the big man’s offensive game this season.

6:31 pm FAST BREAK POINTS!! Portland has so much trouble getting those, it’s good whenever we can find some.

6:34 pm ESPN just showed a great stat: Portland didn’t have any field goals in the last five minutes, even though they just went up by ten. I think they had the wrong team there. Oh, and Roy is playing really well right now.

6:36 pm Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy. Brandon Roy. (I think he must have just heard that he didn’t win his third consecutive western conference player of the week. He has 11 points in the quarter.)

6:41 pm The Sonics just made their first field goal in 12 attempts. Portland has been playing pretty good defense. And there Channing Frye knocks down another jumper.

6:43 pm Kevin Durant, everybody! He just tripped over the ball and himself. No ceiling, right Bill Simmons?

6:44 pm Durant just absolutely swatted a runner by Jack. I change the tone of my last comment: now it’s slightly less smarmy.

6:47 pm Sloppy play right there by Jack on defense.

6:48 pm Shades of old Travis Outlaw on his last ill-advised jumper and poor defense/foul on a Jeff green lay-up.

6:50 pm The second unit didn’t look as good at the end of that quarter, but they’re still up by eight. Brandon Roy was so good during the third quarter, and that was great to see.

6:54 pm Nice steal by El Mago to start the fourth quarter.

6:57 pm The Sonics are shooting well again, which is tough for us.

6:58 pm I’m really excited to see Roy come in and take over the fourth quarter, but it’s also nice to see Channing continue to make those mid-range jumpers.

7:04 pm
Channing Frye just nailed another jumper. That is soooo good to see.

7:08 pm Jarrett Jack just took us shopping. It was fine until one of the announcers said that Jack is a “single male addicted to retail.” Yikes.

7:12 pm The Blazers are taking far too long with the ball, and waiting until the end of the shot clock. It’s making for some pretty ugly basketball right now.

7:16 pm I really don’t like this “wired” thing the NBA is doing now. It doesn’t really seem to add any insight, and it’s mainly just annoying.

7:18 pm It’s nice to see Jack having another good game. The same for Przybilla. He has 16 rebounds. Once again the team is getting it done by having various people step up well.

7:21 pm Well, we didn’t play that well again today. It is exciting that we keep winning when we’re not playing that well.

7:23 pm Neil Everett just said that the Blazers may never lose again. I’ll end this on that note...(merry Christmas)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A birthday blog (a day late)

Stephen and I are driving right now. We left Roseburg this morning a little after 6:00 and have been driving since then. When I say that Stephen and I are driving, I mean that I drove for a while and now he is. I’m not trying to write this post while holding the wheel.

We just finished the last episode of The Basketball Jones podcast for 2007. Again, to the few people who read this, if you haven’t yet subscribed to that podcast on iTunes, you should. They are fantastic.

Yesterday it took me an hour and a half to get caught up on all the online coverage of the Blazers after their win streak reached 10 Friday night at home against the Nuggets. They now have the longest win streak of anyone in the NBA this season, and once again they had to come back from being down by seven at the beginning of the fourth quarter. On top of that, the game was decided in the end by a Brandon Roy block of a Carmelo Anthony jump hook and a Travis Outlaw swat of a Linas Kleiza desperation three. It’s good to see guys stepping up in the fourth quarter, and those two have been doing it consistently throughout this winning streak.

All the coverage and the win really were the best things about my birthday. Not that I didn’t enjoy yesterday, but just that I am so excited about how this team is doing. Stephen and I were talking about it in the car, and it doesn’t make sense that everyone is as surprised as they are. Surprised? Yes. But this surprised? I don’t think we should be. Yeah, we traded away our leading scorer and rebounder. Yes, we have the third youngest team in the history of the association. Sure, we’re without the number one overall pick from last year’s draft and the guy many envisioned as the savior of the franchise. But the hallmark of this team is their chemistry and how much fun they’re having together, with everyone contributing. We couldn’t have expected that when the team started playing together five weeks before training camp? Shouldn’t we have foreseen this type of beyond-their-years-maturity from a bunch of guys who chose to get together, without pay, more than a month before they had to? I think so. And yes, that still makes this really surprising, but not completely surprising.

My battery is about to run out, so I’m shutting the computer down for the rest of the trip. But I wanted to share a little post-birthday thanks to the team for making it a great one, and a little Christmas cheer to anyone who makes sure I have a few readers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I forgot to mention

When I did that quick update on Roy I forgot one important note: he missed practice yesterday with the flue, and said that he was playing tonight at around 70%. That certainly isn't the same sickness MJ played through in The Flue Game, but to do what Roy did while being a little under the weather is pretty good. Especially for a second year player. Oh, and that second year player really is making a very strong case to be Western Conference Player of the week for a third straight, and then conference player of the month. If he keeps this up, he'll be battling with Aldridge and Outlaw for most improved for sure. Here's the box score for your perusal.

(Trying to settle nerves and calm expectations...)

I love listening to these games online, but I really need to get league pass when I come back after Christmas so I can watch them.

Brandon Roy is awesome

With three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, Roy has 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists. Oh yeah, and his shooting line is this: 8/11 from the field, 1/1 from the line, and 3/5 from behind the arc.

Dumping it all on you

I should really be grading quizzes right now, but I have too much to blog about.

Firstly, I have a lot of links to put up. Some aren't as new, and I forget where all of these were found, but it's just a ton of Blazers stuff.

Seriously, here we go:

This is a surprisingly good take on the team so far, something that surprised me even more because of where I found it. Yeah, that's some bias creeping in, which is too bad. This is really just one of the articles I've read that has the best perspective.

This is from the Toronto Star, and is only in a sidebar:
A scout said last week something along the lines of "in two or three years, no one's going to want to play Portland." Well, no one wants to play them now, either. The Blazers rattled off their seventh win in a row Sunday and the Raptors get them tomorrow night.
I don't think I agree with much in this article by Lang Whitaker over at Slam, but I'm happy to have people around the country arguing about Portland at all.

I really enjoyed his article about the winning streak. It's from a blog put out by the Washington Post, with this post being written by Michael Lee. I enjoy the stories that come out of DC, partly because they're good, but also because they write about the Blazers thanks to the Steve Blake connection. Because of that, they have a good focus on the role players for the Blazers, and that's been the main reason for the streak (other than Roy and McMillan, of course).

This is just another one talking about how good the Blazers have been during the streak. And this one is sort of similar, from Hoopsworld. Oh yeah, this one is from RealGM, and talks about how Portland has won all these games, too.

This might be my favorite article link of the day, because it provides a ton of insight into how the Blazers have done this, focusing on the development of Travis Outlaw (with a little Martell Webster thrown in).

Now for a few a/v links.

I called in to The Basketball Jones last night on my way to pick up my roommate Eric from the airport, and today I made the podcast. You should listen to the whole thing, but if you just want to hear what I have to say, go to the 15:45 mark. Oh, and you should just subscribe to their podcast on iTunes. It's great.

My second a/v link is to an interview Brandon Roy did with Jim Rome. I hate Rome, but there's a point in the podcast that is amazing (oh yeah, it will open up in iTunes, sorry about that): Roy mentions that Pritchard asked him what he would think of them signing Steve Blake before they did it. He also asked who they should draft, but that seems like less of a big deal to me. Roy was asked before they made a move for a free agent (a move that has looked pretty good so far this year, despite what many said about it).

And the last link I'll put here, even though I'm embedding the video. Kelly Dwyer is doing awesome things on Yahoo! Sports. So visit his blog.

There you have it. Now I'm going to listen to the Blazers' attempt at number nine. Down by two, 6-4, as of this second.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kelly Dwyer puts everything in perspective

This quote was too good not to include in a post. It's from Kelly Dwyer's blog on Yahoo! sports.
Not many NBA teams could lose enough games to grab the first pick in the draft, trade its leading scorer and rebounder, lose said number one pick for the season to injury and still roar out of the gate by winning half of its first 24 games. This is a special team, and there's no point in pushing Aldridge back into the lineup too soon just to sustain a surprising turn of mediocrity.
When he puts it that way, I can't even deal with how giddy I get about the team now and the team of the future. These kids are special, and I love being a fan. Less than ten minutes until tip-off against the Hornets to go for eight in a row. Here's hoping...

Oh yeah, and how great s it that Roy won his deserved second straight player-of-the-week for the western conference? I'll tell you how great: really really great.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm trying something new...

Here it goes, press play if you want to hear the first attempt. Here's a link to some people who do this very well.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Look! A widget!

I put a widget on the sidebar to the right so that people will vote for LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. So only use it if that's how you're going to vote.

I kid, I kid. Vote for whomever you want. But even with the poor stretch he had, I think Roy deserves your consideration. And I'm voting for Aldridge everyday because I'm a homer.

Brandon Roy is good at basketball

Understatement? Yes. I was trying to embed the highlights from, but had no luck. Instead you'll just have to click this link or the title of the post to see Roy look the way Wade is supposed to.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The signing bonus

I think I wrote about it here, but even if I didn't, I know I told most of my friends: I received a "signing bonus" for coming to teach in Compton. For some reason I remember it as $3,500 bonus per year for up to three years. Apparently I remembered incorrectly, as I went in today to actually sign for it. The sheet says that the bonus is for $11,000, but spread over four years. Oh yeah, and it's on condition of staying at least two years. So I had to sign today saying that I wouldn't apply for any other jobs or take any other jobs before my second year is up. So I did. And the whole time I was reading the fine print, I was trying to figure out if it was worth paying back later to have the money now – you know – just in case I decide to leave after one year. And that still seems like a distinct possibility. I did decide that it was worth it, because I have enough bills now that it will be good to get a little extra money in early January. That feels especially true since I just paid a bunch of those bills. Medical bills are a pain. Oh yeah, and on the sheet it said the bonus was a "recruitment" bonus, but I really know that I'm more like a star athlete than most of you, what with my signing bonus.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart

I received my paycheck today. I deposited it shortly after receiving it. I will be paying my rent for the month tomorrow. Even with all that, I'll have more money in my bank account than I have had for a long time. Usually that wouldn't do much to make me happy, but considering the predicament I've gotten myself into, that's a good thing. I still owe several doctors and the hospital and ambulance company from this summer. In fact, I'm probably slightly delinquent on payments to them. In addition, I haven't finished registering my car in California, which means I probably owe some late fees and need to get that finished. Oh yeah, and I need to start my insurance coverage down here. I'm pretty glad my brother's car is down here for me to borrow when I need it. You know, like now. I also just paid about $900 to fix several things that were wrong with my car, which was part of the reason I hadn't finished taking care of registration stuff yet. Then there's the student loans that I thought were in a grace period. Nope, that only happens once. I owe some back payments there, too. So it's pretty good that I have this current surplus, so that I can try to take care of this stuff. Of course, lastly, I still owe my parents money for all the cash they put into my move down here. If I totaled it up, I certainly owe more than I have. But I can actually make a significant dent in most of it, and that is a place I haven't been for a while. Which is why, for the first time in a long time, I'm really excited to have some money.

The title of this post is a quote from e e cummings, and it's fantastic.