Full Court Press

Welcome to March Madness, that special time of year where we all give ourselves migraines and bald heads simply by watching amateur teams poorly execute basic late-game strategies. Or we pretend to overlook the fundamentals and just drool over John Wall.  

Here's the official Blazersedge Readers bracket contest.  Join it now.

The Blazers are blitzing through March, 6-1 for the month and poised to stretch that number further once their Spring Break concludes on Friday.  It was a TCOB type of week for the Blazers and they didn't falter.  The frosting on the cupcake: Brandon Roy was honored today as Western Conference Player of the Week.

Here's what you might have missed this weekend...

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Kings Recap | Raptors Recap | Raptors Media Row Report

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Unfortunately, Blazers Broadcasting is struggling to keep up with its team; The picture quality during recent games has bordered on garbage.  Friday night's game on KGW was so bad the network issued a "pass the buck" apology while its viewers valiantly tried to stave off epileptic seizures.  And then the broadcast for last night's home game featured sewer slime. Blazers Broadcasting, now brought to you by the Ninja Turtles.  Comcast: Should Blazers fans call DirecTV to complain about these problems too?

Anyway, click through for the truth about Hedo's wife, a wisecracking, vendetta-possessing Nicolas Batum, some praise for Nate McMillan, a defensive LaMarcus Aldridge takes a swipe at Blazers fans, Greg Oden in the news rather than in the nude, the New York media turns on Sergio and, as always, this week's Power Rankings and Playoff Odds.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

John Canzano sets the record straight about Mrs. Turkoglu...

"Don't know who made that story about my wife," Turkoglu said. "She would love it here. Or anywhere. The last second Toronto came in and it felt like a good fit -- East Coast style. I thought I fit good. My wife never said she didn't like to be in Portland."

...

"She's never even been to Canada once," Hedo said, "you could check her papers and my little baby's papers if you want."

Andrew R. Tonry of Portland Roundball Society goes in on Hedo...

"Mrs. Turkoglu," the homemade sign read, "Thanks for Andre." And indeed, we are thankful.

Thankful for a whip-smart ball handler. Thankful for a cagey veteran. Thankful for a guy who's finally pushing the tempo (at least a bit). Thankful for one of the best rebounding guards in the league. And last, but not least, thankful not to have a big, dopey, bad-shot taking, constantly complaining, junk-food scarfing small forward clogging up his arteries, the Portland payroll and the Blazers starting lineup.

Casey Holdahl on Nicolas Batum...

It was November 10, 2008, Batum's seventh game in the NBA. The Trail Blazers were taking on the Magic in Orlando. Portland ended up winning the game 106-99 thanks in part to a 27-point night from Brandon Roy. But even though the Blazers got the win, Batum felt like Turkolgu, who scored 35 points in 42 minutes, got the best of him. For Batum, a player who relishes the task of shutting down opposing players on the offensive end, this was unacceptable.

"I got something special with Hedo because that's the first guy who kicked my ass last year," said Batum. "You can't do that again. I play against him in the summer too, France and Turkey. Boris (Diaw) wants to guard him, I say ‘No no, I got it. I got it.'"    

Mike Barrett with a good point...

As I told you at the time, and I say again now, the effect of Batum's injury to start the season was much greater than anyone believed. Where would this Blazers' team be if they would have had a healthy Batum from the start? All of the injuries were significant, but it's no coincidence that Portland is playing it's best basketball of the season, and is consistently closing teams out late in games, now that Batum is hitting full stride.

Jason Quick with a funny Batum line...

Two possessions later, he was at it again, lofting a high lob pass that seemed too high, but Aldridge corralled it for an emphatic dunk. 

"The alley-oop by L.A. and Rudy -- whooo! -- that was high!" Batum said. "In the timeout, Nate was talking, but I was looking up at the scoreboard (with wide eyes), and I couldn't believe how high. That's the only time I haven't listened to Coach."     

Here's video of the alleyoop.

In an interview with Brian T. Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge takes an unnecessary shot at Blazers fans...

It has taken the Trail Blazer power forward nearly four years to acquire the trait. Four years to put on what he refers to as a "hardhat" and develop thicker skin. But the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Aldridge said he has finally grown tougher and stronger. And with the new skin comes a new level of confidence and determination.

"As long as my teammates know I'm doing what they need, that's all that matters," Aldridge, 24, said. "Because you can't really listen to the fans all the time, because they don't know what's really going on in house, and they don't know what the team needs."

ESPN's LZ Granderson says Nate for Coach of the Year...

"Nate has done a great job of keeping this team together when we had all the reasons in the world to fold the tent," Roy said. "Despite having more injuries than probably any other team, he's managed to stay focused and overcome all of that and keep us right in the thick of the playoff race."

Kevin Pritchard, the team's GM, says McMillan is like a circus performer.

"He's an incredible juggler," he joked. "Guys fall out, new guys come in and he just keeps making adjustments based on who's available, which seems to change every other day."

Brian T. Smith quotes Assistant Coach Bill Bayno on Nate McMillan...

"The thing I think gets lost - in having been a head coach and knowing how hard it is to put a team together; to get them to be unselfish - I just think it's been lost the job that Nate (McMillan) has done with all of these injuries. I would never, ever want to have to coach a team where we had all those injuries in the preseason. Then guys come back. Then they get hurt again. So, the chemistry has constantly been a challenge; it's always been evolving. And I really think Nate doesn't get the credit that he deserves, nor do the players. These guys have weathered this. They've stayed together. We've had some unbelievable wins on the road: San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix. And I think sometimes people take it for granted."    

Frank Hughes of SI.com with some harsh words for Greg Oden...

It appears as if Oden is a bust, the calamity of untimely injuries derailing his career before it even got started, the second coming of Sam Bowie, whose body betrayed him -- and the Blazers -- in the same fashion in the '80s. But the Blazers don't view Oden as the next Bowie, the player taken ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft, a time when Portland already had Clyde Drexler and did not want to duplicate the position.

"We are not there yet," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "There is potential there. He's doing well right now. We got a year to get him stronger. We aren't giving up."

Sheed on Bustabucket.com breaks down the meaning of the last week's worth of games...

This last stretch of games was more than just 4 victories. I think roles are getting defined, guys are getting comfortable, and everyone knows it's time to finish the regular season strong. There are a couple reasons for my decision. First off, Brandon Roy appears to be 100% healthy and back to full strength in every way. The damage he did on the road against Golden State and Sacramento proved that he's ready to regain his closer status. I also think that it's become overwhelmingly clear that Nicolas Batum is our best option at small forward and Nate McMillan knows it. Webster is maxing out at 15 minutes a game off the bench while Nic is flourishing as a starter. Batum may not put up offensive numbers every game, but he's out there for his shot blocking and playmaking abilities on defense. He also showed once again tonight that he has a sweet jumper that spreads the floor for Brandon Roy to do his thing late in games.

Now the question remains for me, is this a team that can do anything in the playoffs? 

...

But can the Blazers expect a different outcome against Utah or Denver in a playoff series? I'd like to believe that this nucleus of players has enough firepower to scare any first round opponent. But we still don't really know yet.

Coup on Rip City Project writes...

Rudy Fernandez gave another performance which was at one point worthy of fist pumping and at another worthy of squinting and beard-stroking. He was great as usual with his feet underneath him on the perimeter, but evoked Martell Webster when he chose to dribble. While team's don't really have to double Rudy off-the-dribble because he can't always beat his man - and when he does he can't always finish - they are actually well served in doing so once he gets below the free-throw line extended because Rudy's exit strategy is most often passing to the nearest Blazer behind him, rather than looking for the guy the double came off of.

Dwight Jaynes has been screaming for better ball movement all season and he's starting to get it...

Love the way they're playing on offense right now - excellent ball movement while getting more players involved.

This is when they're most dangerous on offense, when they aren't just standing around watching Brandon Roy play one-on-one. Would love to see some more intensity on defense, with more attention to contesting shots, but I guess you can't have everything.

But Kelly Dwyer was not impressed...

This game? This was hard to watch. It honestly was, because the defense was so bad on either end. Both teams are slow-down scorers, so the raw score didn't reek of a 132-121 Phoenix win over the Warriors, but the defense was just as bad as those two teams at their worst.

Portland scored 109 points in an 80 possession game, and that's pretty bad. I respect Portland's offense a great deal and like that team a lot, but that's just miserable defense, Toronto. 

95.5FM's Gavin Dawson writes on Facebook...

so the worst kept secret in sportsradio is pretty much out. I'm leaving for dallas after Fridays show. 105.3 The Fan. Huge thx to the Game for giving me the shot, chad and dwight are great friends. james derby and tim mcnamara are pimps. brian jennings-radio genius. Hey entercom, thanks for firing me in 2008! Canzano might be a Richard sometimes in print and air but trust me he is a great dude. LF4L.

Best of luck, Gavin.

Quick Hits

Power Rankings

Playoff Odds

Drop anything I missed in the comments. And, please, frequent the FanShots.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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