Full Court Press

Practice report coming this afternoon.

Free Darko night was great success.  Incredible turnout.  Thanks for coming.  We are working on getting a video edited together and online here shortly.  It's being put together by a BE reader who has some serious video skills, so stay tuned.

Here's a reading recap from Ryan White at The O.

Don't you love it when a plan comes together? It makes sense (now) that Portland would show up in numbers for a basketball event at a bookstore. We love hoops here. And we love bookstores. A literate, funny hoops discussion? We're there. Still, it was fun to see Free Darko pull NY Times best seller-like numbers up on the third floor last night.    

Here's a recap from Whitewish which kind of devolves into Vanilla Gorilla fan fiction but there's a nice picture of Shoals dropping knowledge that prominently features the side of my head.

Alright, back to basketball: check out this scoop from Phoenix Stan the Man over at Bright Side of the Sun.  Who said blogs didn't break news?

Sources close to the Suns front office tell me that Terry Porter hasn't lived up to expectations and has been given a list of specific things to improve on. Failure to perform could cost him his job.

Many blame Porter for not maximizing the talent on the roster and for not gaining the respect of his veteran players. Reports include Barnes and Shaq ignoring him on the bench and demanding to be put back in the game or refusing to be taken out.

Porter has been unable to display the confidence needed to earn the trust of his players and in retrospect may have never had the experience and reputation to be successful in this environment.

A provocative question from Dwight Jaynes: is Nate throwing his players under the bus?  Dwight sees a rift between KP and Nate.  

Brian Hendrickson has 5 things for the Blazers to work on.  #5 is Committing to Rex.

Coach Nate McMillan has been reluctant to move the rookie into the starting lineup in place of Sergio Rodriguez - and one can understand why, since Portland would have three rookies in the starting unit.

But when Steve Blake returns from his shoulder injury, McMillan will face a tough decision. And at that time, it may be necessary to make a commitment to Bayless.

The combo guard saw little playing time earlier in the season, but he has capitalized on the opportunity presented by Blake's injury. He is explosive off the dribble, and his penetration has helped the Blazers' offense attack the basket more frequently. He is also a strong on-ball defender, which has helped Portland better control the dribble penetration that has consistently hurt them and allowed the Blazers to utilize more half-court traps.

There are weak points - his jump shot is inconsistent, and his off-ball defense needs work. But Bayless changes the game in a way that may make those deficiencies tolerable.    

Hoopsworld's Steven Kyler includes Portland in his recap of Amar'e rumors.

Most Blazers fans don't see why Amar'e Stoudemire would be attractive to the Blazers, and league sources say that the Blazers were one of the first teams to reach out to the Suns. The belief is acquiring Stoudemire makes sense if the price is right. The basis of any deal would involve the almost free contract of Raef LaFrentz, which is now being paid by insurance, which would go a long way towards shaving off dollars from Phoenix's payroll right now, and the loaded roster the Blazers have becomes attractive in getting young talent back in Phoenix. Blazers sources have said LaMarcus Aldridge is off the table, which begs the question where would Amar'e play if acquired? League sources say the offer on the table from Portland was Raef LaFrentz, Jerryd Bayless and a protected number 1 draft pick. The Blazers really like Bayless so that's a hard one to buy, but understanding any deal for Amar'e would have include a top shelf talent, and Bayless might be the odd man out. Portland is likely a longshot, unless Phoenix's real motivation is cutting costs. No other situation in the league gives the Suns the immediate $4.8 million savings that acquiring LaFrentz's insurance paid contract provides. The problem in this scenario is it does not insure the Suns are in the playoffs, let alone get home court. The Blazers do have the ending contracts of Ike Diogu and Channing Frye, add those contracts to Joel Przybilla and there is enough salary to work under the cap, but again lacks the assurance of homecourt in late April.    

If you haven't already, check out Ian Thomsen's profile of Brandon Roy that was in last week's Sports Illustrated.

The irony is that Roy already plays like those older guys. "He is a glider, and I remember getting on him about playing harder," says Jason Jones, who was Roy's junior varsity coach at Garfield High. "Brandon would say, 'But, Coach, I am playing hard.' It was hard to recognize at first because you never see a kid that age play that mature style."

"I would get so mad because I would be trying to run harder, but my game would never let me get out of control," says Roy. "When I went to college, right away coach [Lorenzo] Romar was like, This guy just doesn't go hard. He was just hammering me, hammering me, hammering me, and I would say, 'Coach, I am playing hard.' Even my first couple of practices with Nate, he was like, Brandon, push the ball down the court! But I am pushing it! I'm playing hard as heck out there. I'm beat, I'm tired."

Joe Freeman shores up his Team Bayless creds.

But more than most first-year players, Bayless is stretching his comfort zone and forging a bond with his coach. Almost daily, Bayless randomly taps McMillan on the shoulder on the team plane, knocks on his hotel room door on the road or pops into McMillan's office to watch film or talk about schemes.

Even when Bayless wasn't playing -- he did not play in 20 of the Blazers' first 31 games -- the inquisitive 20 year-old was a sponge for knowledge and insight. If he wasn't begging coaches to watch game film, he was text-messaging McMillan with questions or simply calling for advice.

"He just wants to know, he wants to learn, he wants to learn how to play (point guard)," McMillan said. "He comes up all the time looking for help. He's not afraid to ask. He wants information, he wants to know and he wants to get better, and the way to get better is by asking questions. It's a lot of communication, talking, hearing him, listening to him and what he's thinking, and trying to get a feel for who he is.

"He's a very competitive kid, who's fearless, who's not afraid. But he's just ... he's raw, he's very raw."

Sheed at BustaBucket.com has a great feature going about Blazers memorabilia.

One thing about being a mid-twenties Blazer fan is the question of Blazer memorabilia and its place in your home. For example I have a little Blazer shrine going in the corner of my house. The problem is that my girlfriend probably doesn't like it too much. I mean, from an adult perspective, it's pretty lame.

John Canzano has an interesting paragraph in his request for a trade.

The franchise has a motto for community service: "Make it better." The employees at One Center Court say it all the time. So, well. Yes. General manager Kevin Pritchard needs to make this Blazers team better with a trade before the Feb.19 deadline if he wants to ensure he's working for a playoff team in April.    

So, well. Yes. Save us KP!!!1111 Really?  Something here needs to be made better.

The Trail Post put together a really nice take: "Etiquette for Seattleites."

We are all in this boat together, Seattle fan. I grew up watching your teams and loving them. Did I not like that Portland didn't have baseball or football? Of course. That didn't mean I booed Griffey when he came to bat. You know why? Because that would mean I'm a psycho. We want you to come down here and enjoy the Blazers so we can show you the hospitality you showed us for so many years, especially after being screwed by Clay Bennett and almost every other owner (except Mark Cuban and our very own Paul Allen). However, if you get the idea that it would be cute to boo Brandon Roy; you're a psycho. Wear your yellow and green, we'll be doing it too. Boo the Nonics, we'll be doing it too. Pray for Squatch to show up, we'll be doing it too. Just don't be a bad guest. Portlanders want to be on your side, Seattle fan - give us a reason to do so.    

A little late on my part but here's the most recent Knicks game recap from Loaded Orygun.

Notice how it all clicked on BOTH ends. Oden blocks, LaMarcus denies, Batum denies, and on the offensive end Roy and Travis took over as they are wont in such circumstances. No fear, seemingly no concern--but a palpable urgency. Every game seems like a test of will and mental toughness, and this one was stronger than a lot this season. Most times it's not the imperfection of the success but the success over imperfection that matters, because finding a way to turn turds into china is indeed a skill. It involves focus and execution on both ends. The Blazers had that in spades when it counted, when the game was slipping away twice, and when it was desperately needed for the game. I repeat: can't ask for more than that.

KobeStoppers found an awesome picture of an old school Rick Adelman basketball card.

Kevin Durant is going to be in the Horse contest.  Win!

Power Rankings

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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