I’m doing this out of order: I did work the Fan Fest, but I was on the gates so I only was able to sneak away to catch the first quarter. It also would be foolish to just write about one quarter when the game turned into a pretty interesting defensive stand-off. I’ll start with a game that I was able to see.
The Blazers started their season in smashing fashion, literally, on Tuesday by handing the undermanned (and sadly, still lowly) Clippers a 115-89 defeat. It was the perfect blend of Blazer domination for stretches and a game-long tutorial in Clipper ineptitude. OK, maybe I shouldn’t be that harsh, the team was down Baron Davis and World champion sharp-shooter Eric “Chipmunk Cheeks” Gordon. Not that I feel an overweight and probably ‘Mr. I Don’t Feel Like It Today’ Baron Davis would have impacted the game that much. I do feel like the ability of Eric Gordon to cast shots from 25 feet out (like he has done often against the Blazers in the Rose Garden) would have given fans and the team a better indication of their close-out defense and sticking with legitimate 3 point threats. But that’s just me.
The Blazers played some magnificent basketball, though much of it came after the 5 minute mark in the first quarter. At one point, the Blazers were middling around keeping pace, while the Clippers steadily added buckets on three straight trips prompting a Nate timeout. A fan, waiting for his wife, muttered to me, “They haven’t scored since I have been here… and I am beginning to think this talk about defense is just that.” We bandied for a moment on the subject and within a minute of the timeout everything changed. The Blazers started getting after it in all facets: they were methodic and fun to watch on offense, and a blur on defense making the ball swing from side to side hoping and wanting to go in the hoop. From that timeout on, the Clips were stomped 18-7 to end the first quarter 30-19. To the say the least the rout was on from there. Rudy, Jerryd and Wes played major in the second quarter whipping the ball and racing up-n-down the court against the bumbling and beleaguered (already in the preseason? #notagoodlook) Clippers. The defense was picking off passes like the Rose Garden was Revis Island and taking them in for easy, unabated scores which was punctuated by the Nicolas Batum impression of a pick-dunk by Scottie Pippen.
The major players were looking in mid-season form. LaMarcus Aldridge exemplified this by seeming very apt at attacking on the block. A line of 17 and 7 is what we as Blazers fans have come to expect, yet if he wants that All-Star nod and to fill Boozer’s shoes at the game he will need to get up to 20 and 9. It’s within reach. Brandon took a bit to get a shot in, but once that second half started he flipped the switch and dropped a few shots from deep and off Roy-esque dribble drives. Nicolas carried over his stellar World Championships play and showed continued proficiency from deep. Jerryd’s shot looks so much more improved, least to me, from last year. So much so that I do not cringe, gouge my right eye, curse under my breath, or look to a fan on my left and bellow, “DRIVE THE FREAKIN’ BALL MAN!” Along with this nice shooting touch, Jerryd looks so much more settled at running the offense. I feel that studying under Andre and being in his 3rd season has finally helped him see the game slower and progress through his reads more soundly.
Rudy, he of drama, continues to play stellar basketball. Taking a lead from the young gun Nico Batum, he also has stretched over his World Championship play to now. Making five three-pointers, getting in and fighting for rebounds, dropping dimes and energizing the crowd, Rudy continues to show that despite him saying he can’t play in the NBA– he actually can. The kid looked much like he had during his rookie season and he also looked like he was having fun. Another player that is a revelation and could be the best thing to happen to the Blazers since Brandon Roy is Wesley Matthews. This dude is a mean and bad man. Once he checked in after that first timeout, the defensive tone changed. If this is one of the intangibles he can bring to this team, I will take it and run laughing to the bank. Not only was he sound defensively, he was incredibly aggressive and tenacious on offense. I love what I see so far from the new #2, mostly because it is so much more dynamic and awesome than the former #2 (sorry for that dig Steve… but it is so true). The prospect of the bench being Jerryd-Wes-Rudy is tantalizing and fantastic because of their ball handling, shooting and play-making ability. You have to see it for yourself to truly appreciative the creative that abounds from those three playing together, words don’t do it justice. (Editor’s note: I realize that this comes off as a lot of positives with few negatives. That’s just how it is when you play LA’s other team and force them into 26 turnovers.) Dante and Jeff were their usually steady selves with that look of a bit more experience. Truly, today’s game against Utah will be a better measuring stick of how much the team’s defense has come along and improved. Shame it won’t be on TV. Damn you Comcast and Trail Blazers for not having your ish together.
O, I also guess I forgot to discuss the Clips beyond not so veiled shots. Well, least Clipper Darryl (dude that dressed in fantastic Clipper regalia during all of their summer league games; you had to watch the games, and listen to the commentary and back and forth to truly appreciate that reference… either that or I’m just an odd fellow) and the other 10 fans can be excited about Blake Griffin. Active as hell on the boards, can lead a break confidently and unfairly given his stature and has the most ridiculous set of hops I have seen. Check that picture, he just reached the apex and his head is probably at or a bit (a bit!) above the rim. This was a highly impressive feat after having a kneecap injury. Al-Farouq Aminu, my guy, was definitely scared shitlessly playing in his first ever NBA game. Felt bad for him at times because he looked to be pressing and also completely lost at the same time. Eric Bledsoe was cool, showed some skills in trying to run that thing called a team; Kaman was his usual effectively ineffective self, but deadly when open (whodathunkit?). Aside from that it was either guys like Rasual Butler/Ryan Gomes or guys trying to make an NBA roster—couldn’t really tell the difference. (HAHA, OK, sorry, that was a slight to the guys trying to make an NBA team… haha, I’ll stop because my side is hurting something vicious.)
We end this with a song by Curren$y, a weed rapper that keeps it realer than Vernon from Chappelle and spits truths like an infallible document. This song, “Life Under the Scope,” is a good indicator of how the Blazers should go about their business this season. Finally unfettered of the yearly hype placed on them by pundits worldwide (thank you Oklahoma City), the Blazers can keep the expectations relatively low since they themselves have no idea what can be achieved because of the continued injury woes. But hey, every year is a new launching pad to see what can be done to rectify what wasn’t done in the past. This is what I see the Blazers being capable of this season by flying low under the radar. “Car service only opportunity for rest/In between destinations a lil’ hibernation/Life under the scope I gotta stay fresh” should be the mantra between games on the road to breed the idea that you work hard and leave it on the court in one city, rest during the travel and then it’s on, on to the next one. Stay unflappable gentlemen, in win or loss, and let the hyped up teams worry about the tough questions. This season is about how much more mature the “younger” guys (Roy and Aldridge in their 5th season, Jerryd and Rudy in their 3rd) have become to match the business like nature of veterans Marcus Camby, Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla (love the guy). Welcome to the season Portland, and remember Blazers, “go, full speed, full court…press” on.
PS- I find it incredibly funny I would use a weed rapper to signify how the Blazers are entering the season because of that one foray, by a certain #7, into a weeded up music video. O, the laughs.