FanPost

34. Run and Fun: The View from Houston

Snips and clips from the Houston camp, plus:

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  • 2011 Bedge Wish List
  • Western Conference Power Rankings
  • Haiku Game Review
  • Fried Rice
  • Blazers/Rockets Recap
  • Popcorn Machine + TBJ

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(1)

Not a Good Start

posted by fanoflosingteams to The Dream Shake gameday open thread

Well this isnt a good way to start the year.

They look like the Clippers out there. But at least the Clippers have entertaining moments and dunks.

Rockets can't make a shot, stop them from making shots, and they can't rebound.

What to do? Watch Ram/Seahawks or watch the Rockets continue to play like drunks?

 

(2)

Embarrassing

posted by twinkilling0303 to The Dream Shake gameday open thread

Brooks should be embarrassed.

Actually all of them should be

 

I'm embarrassed, and I'm not playing!

posted by TheChuckwagonisrolling

 

(3)

That Sucked

by Xiane, The Dream Shake (SBN) gameday open thread

Well. That sucked.

Anyone eager for a recap?

I'll get it tomorrow or after a few scotches maybe.

 

(4)

Worst Game of the Season

posted by Sasaki to Red94 talk of the moment thread

Worst game of the season.

Patterson aside, EVERYONE played terrible, especially Brooks who was acting like Mike James. Combined with some lucky bounces, and Aldridge just jumping over everyone, and that was a bad night.

 

(5)

Shame

posted by NateNate to Clutch Fans message board game thread

The loss is bad enough but now we give them chalupas... Shame!

 

(6)

Rockets Blown Out By Portland, 100-85: Ten Takeaways

by Tom Martin, The Dream Shake (SBN)

About that offense. It didn't show up Sunday night. Perhaps Portland and their 95 points allowed per game had something to do with it.

Kevin Martin had one of his rare poor performances, taking 17 shots to score 15 points. Luis Scola attended the game for a little while, but mostly to turn the ball over four times. He did make five of eight shots, but um, he only took eight shots.

Aaron Brooks played the role of bricklayer, going 3-10 from the field and 1-6 from range (sidenote: doesn't it seem like Brooks constantly misses his open shots, yet makes the tough, contested attempts?). He also declined to give much effort on defense against Patrick Mills, who absolutely torched him.

Jordan Hill seemed disinterested after making a few buckets in the first half. In fact, we'll cut to the chase and point out that Jared Jeffries and Terrence Williams each got playing time. Eight minutes each.

Yup, this thing was done early. The only positive in the result is that the starters got an extra eight minutes of rest in preparation for the Denver Nuggets tomorrow. That's the positive. * * *

 

(7)

Trail Blazers Pound Rockets in Paint: Aldridge, Camby Dominate Undersized Squad

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

* * *
Unable to match the effort or intensity of the team they are most immediately trailing in the standings, the Rockets where dominate inside and outworked everywhere else, with the Portland Trail Blazers blowing the game open in the third quarter then cruising to a 100-85 rout Sunday at the Rose Garden.

"They played with more sense of urgency," guard Kyle Lowry said. "We can't do that. We're not 20 games over .500. We're one game under .500. We got to play with a sense of urgency every single night." * * *

"Just a poor effort, about as bad as we played in a long time," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "We were a step behind all night. They were quicker than we were. We weren't ready to play. They just attacked us. It's the first time we've had that kind of effort in a while.

"We didn't guard them. We let them do what they want to do. From the very start of the game you could see we were reacting to everything they did and not going out and playing our game." * * *

 

(8)  This is a very interesting piece by the Houston Chronicle's beat writer and is highly recommended.

Big Game? Winning Record? Why Bother? Rockets Show Up Just Enough to Get Blown Out

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle NBA blog

* * *
The Rockets had pointed to January for weeks, knowing that as much as they could make up ground in December, they would be tested and measure in January.

The Blazers led the Rockets by just a half-game. Win and the Rockets would have their first winning record of the season and a place of (albeit premature) honor among the Western Conference's elite eight.

If ever there was a game in which the Rockets would be overflowing with intensity and energy, this was it. * * *

The Rockets might have been tormented by the Blazers' wealth of inside strength. Even with Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla out, Portland still had a 7-footer who would be perfect for the Rockets, with Marcus Camby showing his passing skills even more than usual to rub it in. LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 in just three quarters. Camby had 13 rebounds and eight assists.

Jordan Hill, starting with Chuck Hayes out and with young, springy legs that Camby can barely remember, had all of four rebounds and often seemed lost defensively. * * *

 

(9)

Size Matters

posted by RAL to Jonathan Feigen Chronicle blog comments

Another proof that HEIGHT IS MIGHT in basketball. The Trailblazers dominated the paint because they have tall line up of players.

If the skills are almost the same, the team with the taller players has the edge. Don't tell me that CRAP that height has NO advantage in basketball!

The trailblazers have dominated the boards and ran their offence with speed.

They have at least 4 seven footers in their line up that can both defend and shoot. Scola's scoops became useless with those long arms. Those tiny 6-0 point guards of the Rockets couldn't penetrate the lane....

Even if Hayes was playing, this team couldn't win. Patterson who is 6-9 became small in the middle. * * *

 

(10)

Two Drink Minimum — Rockets Charred by Blazers

by Xiane, The Dream Shake (SBN)

That winning record certainly is elusive. The Rockets has a much better chance of beating the Miami Heat than they did of defeating the Portland Trailblazers tonight. The Blazers played a very good game, and the Rockets answered them with a very bad one. The Rockets shooting was simply horrible in the 3rd quarter, and the Blazers, in turn, did everything right. Sure, there were some bad calls, but that's not the story at all.

The story is not hitting open shots, not grabbing rebounds and not playing defense. * * *

Despite Nicholas Batum being a guy I wish we'd had a way to keep and Wesley Matthews being more than the middle finger raised to Utah I thought he was, it's hard to see either guy bringing the wattage of (sadly, I think, done) Brandon Roy. As for LaMarcus Aldridge, well, yes, he's more assertive, but no, I'm not frightened. * * *

 

(11)

Rockets Daily: Monday January 3rd, 2011

by Jacob Mustafa, Red94 (TrueHoop)

Sunday night, everything seemed a little too perfect before a ball ever touched the Rose Garden's hardwood.

Houston entered the New Year as one of the league's hottest teams, 8-2 in its last 10 games and finally back at a respectable .500, and seemed primed to overtake the flailing Portland for the 8th seed, a sweet, reassuring sight in the nightly standings had the Rockets pulled out this vital, rare road win.

The NBA even televised this one nationally for the world to see Houston's return to relevance. But of course, the Rockets have never been fans of formulaic plots and came out Sunday night with all of the energy of a band of depressed teenagers with lungs full of clove cigarette smoke. * * *

 

The Bottom Line:

1. Yeeeesh. This was a huge game and our Rockets laid an egg...

2. This is going to be a very rough month for the Rockets and our guys really needed this one. It wasn't even close.

3. This loss is particularly galling since we're trying to sneak into playoffs in a 7 or 8 slot, just like the Blazers. It's hard to give away games like this to direct rivals.


 

 

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Welcome to 2011.

New Year's Day is a traditional time for people to take a look at where they have been and to suss out where they want to go in the coming annum. On a personal level, this generally takes the form of New Year's resolutions, but it's also not a bad time to take stock of the other institutions playing a part in one's life.

Continuing with a tradition I started a year ago, here's a quick look at the traffic levels of Dave & Ben's blog and a quick little wish list for Blazers Edge for the coming year.

 

Blazers Edge Traffic Statistics.

 

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As you can see from the above numbers compiled from the BE site meter, Blazers Edge visits have grown by over a third from the previous year, heading fast for an average of 20,000 visits a day, 365 days a year. While the rate of increase in BE traffic has clearly slowed from the explosive growth rate of 2009, the blog has nevertheless continued to post double-digit increases in traffic over previous-year levels. The blog has never in its history shown a monthly decline over a previous-year monthly figure — impressive testimony that regardless of the travails of the Blazers on the court Ben and Dave are certainly doing things right in a very big way.

How is Blazers Edge doing in comparison with other NBA blogs? In a word: superbly.

BE visitor traffic has actually topped that of Sports Blog Nation's big bopper, CelticsBlog, in each of the last 5 months. Despite being surpassed in every month of the 2010-11 NBA campaign from Summer League on, CelticsBlog nevertheless ended calendar 2010 with an average daily traffic of about 1800 more than BE, posting a monthly average traffic of 632,951. Still, 5 straight monthly "wins" leads me to the strongly substantiated opinion that Blazers Edge is today the more heavily trafficked of these two digital publications.

While the traffic counters for blogs that are part of  ESPN's TrueHoop network are concealed, I believe that the SBN blogs are generally more heavily visited than their TrueHoop counterparts. This opinion is admittedly impressionistic, but, having been around the neighborhood a few times, I think it is also accurate. One possible exception is the new ESPN-owned Miami Heat team blog, Heat Index, for which several of the company's heavy hitters are writing periodically and which is probably the beneficiary of copious in-links from heavily trafficked parts of the TrueHoop edifice. This one blog may well have sustained traffic levels which rival or surpass those of BE — there is really no way to know for sure.

With this single proviso, it logically follows that it is quite likely that Blazers Edge is today the most heavily visited NBA team blog in the world. Congratulations to Dave and Ben for the publication's continued excellence are in order.

 

P.S. This is also a good time to note an interesting phenomenon about not just Blazers Edge, but other basketball blogs in general. Rather counter-intuitively the peak month for traffic for NBA team blogs is the off-season month of JULY. BE has shown significant traffic spikes in July for each of the four full years of its existence. I have seen a similar pattern in the traffic figures for other NBA blogs — with CelticsBlog topping the 1 million visitor mark this past summer. This off-season traffic bubble is very interesting to me...

 

A Wish List for 2011.

Bigger can always be better and I do have some definite ideas as to how this blog might be improved.

It bears mentioning once again that I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor do I desire to be, a member of the editorial staff of Blazers Edge. I'm just one of thousands of readers of the blog that hangs out here and does my thing, DIY style. I'm happy doing what I'm doing like I'm doing it... When it's no longer fun I'll go do something else.

That said, here's what I'd like to see of Blazers Edge in the coming year. Again: I've got one opinion and zero votes as to what actually comes about...

1. Expand the Editorial Staff.

A year ago I expressed a wish that Dave and Ben would delegate regular tasks to others, particularly with regards to the Gameday Open Threads (which used to be auto-launched by means of a timer — ugh!) and with regards to daily links. Half of this has come to fruition, with Bedger Timmay! now serving as a de facto third member of the BE editorial staff in charge of the gameday threads.

Daily links have gone by the wayside. This shortcoming should be corrected, in my opinion, through the addition of a de facto 4th member of the editorial staff assigned the task of compiling each day a group of Blazer-related links from around the blogosphere. This task should ideally be assigned to someone on the East Coast who could hit the ground running each day 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time so that a finished links article could be up fresh daily in time for West Coasters to peruse with their morning coffee.

Best of all possible worlds would be if International Hoops Supergenius Norsktroll were to be offered and to accept such a position. That would be MUST reading for more than just Blazer fans...

2. A Photographer, Please.

One of my greatest disappointments of the past year is that Ben & Dave didn't take steps to get a second press credential for an official BE photographer — someone from the Portland area who could attend games, primo camera in hand, to create candid and fresh images of the game experience from a fan's perspective. One would have to think that this blog has sufficient clout with the Trail Blazer organization to make that happen if Dave and Ben made it a priority.

Last year Ben was clicking pix, which may have made the idea of a photographer seem duplicative. This is no longer the case. A talented photographer with press credentials at the games would absolutely, positively improve the visual quality of this blog. Whether this photographer were to sit on the already crowded baseline every night or to float around the building without portfolio, so to speak, is neither here nor there. The potential improvement of the blog through the contributions of an official Bedge photographer, however the concept is executed, seems axiomatic.

3. Find a Backup for Ben Golliver.

From the first time we reveled in his work, we knew that Ben Golliver was something special — a professional journalist on the rise. Nothing is forever, however, and Ben's entry into the ranks of CBSSports.com may be safely read as a warning flag that he won't these parts doing this Blazers Edge thing forever. What happens if Ben gets a promotion and an assignment elsewhere tomorrow?

A quick succession on the fly is something for which Dave and Ben need to plan. They should round up and train a "reserve journalist," I reckon, rather than face searching for someone under duress at some future date. Maybe they're already on the case, I have no way of knowing...

4. Implement a program to foster regular sidebar contributions.

One of the beauties of the SBN software is its ability for anyone with a computer and an internet connection to create content. For a hardcore adherent of the DIY ethic such as myself, it is a dream come true — every fan, with the expenditure of a little time and a little effort, can publish their ideas in place where other interested individuals may see them, read them, and respond to them. It's enormously democratic.

In previous seasons there were a goodly number of "Bedge regulars" who created regular FanPosts. This year: not so much.

This trend towards sidebar apathy needs to be reversed — so MAKE IT HAPPEN, kind readers. If you have season tickets and attend every game, make it part of your post game ritual to write up your observations and experiences and publish them before you go to bed at night or early the next morning. If you're a stats person, identify something interesting and do a little research. If you're a fan of a player, write up a biographical bit on them. Explore an aspect of team history and commit it to digital publication. Use your imagination!

Blazers Edge is a great resource for YOU — yes, YOU — to publish on the sidebar.

I hope to do a little FanPost dealing with publishing FanPosts shortly which might be of some help. The SBN software is a bit squirrelly and they don't do a good job with tutorials for such things as inserting graphics, wrapping test, centering images, and inserting video... But don't wait for me — GET GOING!!!

And Dave and Ben: a little personal push from you to one or another reader and commentator to "write it up as a FanPost" might do wonders in making it happen and helping to revitalize the flagging content of the sidebar.

5. Time for a Message Board?

I'm not sure if the continued presence of a 1500 comment daily Junk Drawer is a great achievement or a huge problem. Neither or either or both... I am pretty sure, however, that the answer to whatever shortcomings have emerged is not to start a parallel 1000 comment "Blazers Only" mainpage Junk Drawer to siphon off content from a 2000 comment "No Blazers Allowed" sidebar Junk Drawer.

It seems to me that a possible alternative might lie in the establishment of a "Blazers Edge Message Board." Our friends (cough, cough) at CelticsBlog have long been doing something like this with the regular old SBN software under the heading of "Forums," which may be seen via THIS LINK.

While a 30 screen-long Junk Drawer thread with 2000 posts might be too vast for all but the most hearty to navigate, it is quite possible that reorganizing the constantly perking on- and off-topic reader comments via a message board may make it possible for more casual readers to actually locate and access material of interest.

It is an idea that merits consideration, at a minimum.

Thanks to all for your attention and thanks in particular on behalf of all Blazer fans to Dave and Ben for their outstanding work in 2010!

 

*   *   *

 

Well, January 1 means another month is in the rearview mirror. Two months down and 3-1/2 to go... It's time again to take a look around The Only Conference That Matters to see who's up, who's down, and who's stuck in the cellar because they're the Sacramento Kings... Yes, it's time for

 

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(Through games of December 31, 2010...)

 

1. San Antonio Spurs (28-4)

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Rank Last Month: 2

December Record: (13-2)

December Wins: T-wolves, Hornets, Warriors, Hawks, Blazers, Bucks, AT Nuggets, Grizzlies, Suns, Nuggets, Wizards, Lakers, AT Mavericks.

December Losses: AT Clippers, AT Magic.

Comments: Before anyone goes anointing Grandpa Bankshot and Tiger Parker and The Hairpiece as Western Conference champs, bear in mind this elderly team's 13 win December was puffed up with a ludicrous 11 home games. On the road, these guys were a mortal 2 wins and 2 losses for the month, including a big L to the mighty Clips. Popovich & Co. have recently proven they've got the ability to roll into Dallas and beat a Dirk-free Maverick team, 99-93. Color me unwowwed. Home and away wins against the Nuggets are nice, and SAS put the fear of Jee-uh-zuz into the staggering Lakers with a 15-point smackdown, but talk to me at the end of February when the NBA schedule catches up with the angel cake sugar fluff bunny sprinkles of a schedule that this team has had to thus far navigate... I have NEVER liked the Spurs and it thoroughly pains me to slot them #1 in the Western Conference, however briefly — but that's the only place one can reasonably list a 4-loss team at this juncture.

 

2. Dallas Mavericks (24-7)

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Rank Last Month: 1

December Record: (11-3)

December Wins: T-wolves, AT Jazz, AT Kings, Warriors, Nets, Jazz, Blazers, Suns, AT Heat, AT Magic, AT Thunder.

December Losses: Bucks, Raptors, Spurs.

Comments: If Dirk stays healthy, the Mavs remain the team to beat in the Western Conference. Phrased differently: if the Blazers sneak into the 8 slot, this team stands as the odds-on favorite to be their playoff foe. A club with a deep and talented roster, the Mavs have the Best Billionaire Owner in Pro Sports™ and look almost unstoppable on nights when things are clicking. They can be jumpshot-oriented, however, so there are other nights when things don't go quite so swimmingly. Still, they have the NBA's MVP, whether you want to admit this truth or not, and that makes them the favorite against anyone anywhere coming down the stretch in a tight game. Nowitzki's recent absence has not accidentally coincided with a two game losing skid, including a painful L to the arch-rival San Antonio Spurs at home in Dallas. But bear in mind that in the previous 18 games the mighty Mavs were 17-1, which is, ummmmm, sorta good. They'll soon be kicking ass and taking names when the Large German Man recovers from his strained knee and gets his unguardable 24 ppg 7-foot greatness back on the floor.

 

3. Los Angeles Lakers (23-10)

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Rank Last Month: 3

December Record: (10-5)

December Wins: Kings, Wizards, AT Clippers, AT Nets, AT Wizards, AT Pacers, AT Sixers, AT Raptors, AT Hornets, Sixers.

December Losses: AT Rockets, AT Bulls, Bucks, Heat, AT Spurs.

Comments: We all remember Mike Rice's recurrent whining about the "soft schedule" of the Lakers at the start of the season, but how many times did he subsequently mention that the same team was on the road for 10 of 15 games in December? I'll tell you, me being a regular parser of The Wild One's quotes — ZERO. Despite the frequent flier miles being amassed, it isn't road losses that have shaken the quasi-mystical faith of the Lakeshow's followers, it has been back-to-back-to-back 15+ point drubbings at the hands of the Bucks (!!!), Heat, and Spurs — two of which took place at Staples Center. The team has subsequently staggered back to its feet, with PJ moving oft-injured Center Andrew Bynum back into the starting lineup and shiftling the multitalented Lamar Odom to his accustomed role as 6th man extraordinaire. Still, long time Laker fans are very, very uneasy at this juncture, with homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs slipping out of reach and the team frequently looking highly mortal on both offensive and defensive ends of the floor. The old Black Mamba, he ain't what he used to be... LALA can still get hot and win their three-peat this season, to be sure, but there are a number of other equally likely outcomes which one may envision in this 2010-11 campaign.

 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder (23-11)

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Rank Last Month: 6

December Record: (11-5)

December Wins: AT Nets, Warriors, AT T-Wolves, AT Hornets, Cavaliers, Rockets, Kings, AT Bobcats, Nuggets, Nets, Hawks.

December Losses: AT Raptors, AT Bulls, Suns, AT Knicks, Mavericks.

Comments: This remains a 3 man team built around an over-hyped volume scorer. I guess that's fine, the Thunder are starting to put away an impressive list of lesser teams, but this is in no way an elite NBA club. Truth be told, it's Russell "Triple Double" Westbrook who's the drum major of this jumper parade — woe be to OKC if they lose his services to injury. Westbrook's penetrating ability helps make the space for Durant's shooting possible. Durant will continue to accumulate his regular gaudy scoring lines — using 25 shots a game will easily get you to 25 points a game, after all — and Jeff Green will continue to toil magnificently in obscurity. OKC has benefited from an extremely soft December schedule and can be expected to have the letter L engraved on their collective foreheads a number of times in January. Still, this is a team pulling towards the front of the pack in the Western Conference horse race and their new #4 ranking is reflective of this fact. We'll talk again next month when they're back to #6... This team is two bigs short of a full deck...

 

5. Utah Jazz (22-11)

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Rank Last Month: 4

December Record: (8-6)

December Wins: Pacers, Grizzlies, Magic, Warriors, AT Bucks, AT Cavs, AT T-wolves, AT Clippers.

December Losses: Mavericks, Heat, AT Mavericks, AT Hornets, Blazers, AT Blazers.

Comments: If it weren't for the fact that the faced the epically inept Cleveland Cavaliers out of sequence and beat them handily, this is what the Jazz's December would have looked like: W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L. Are we noticing a pattern here? Fortunately for the slumping Jazz, they DID play the Cavs, and their mediocre month managed to avoid comment and criticism outside of the obscure Bedge sidebar. The Jazz have been dinged with injuries, as we know, most recently missing Mehmet Okur (again) and Andrei Kirilenko. An All-Star Point Guard will get you some wins, but he does need a supporting cast, after all. Unfortunately for the Jazz, the loss of Carlos Boozer and Wesley Matthews has left the formerly deep dish Jazz as thin as a Dominoes crust. This fact has yet to sink in with many Utahns, but as the team's .500ish win pattern of late becomes more clear, the inevitable sense of dread will start to sink into now optimistic minds. There seems to be trouble ahead for Jerry's kids...

 

6. Denver Nuggets (18-13)

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Rank Last Month: 7

December Record: (8-7)

December Wins: Bucks, Clippers, Grizzlies, AT Raptors, Magic, T-wolves, Blazers, AT T-wolves.

December Losses: AT Bobcats, AT Celtics, AT Knicks, Spurs, AT Spurs, AT Thunder, Sixers.

Comments: The loss of Carmelo Anthony to deal with family business following the death of his sister has given the Denver Nuggets a glimpse of their Melofree future. It's a workable proposition. The Nuggets have a terrific front line, featuring the athletic Brazilian Nene, the aggressive scorer Kenyon Martin, and the multicolored numbnuts Chris Andersen. Aaron Afflalo can shoot, PG Chauncey Billups is a steady veteran hand with considerable scoring pop of his own, and the Nuggets still play half their games in Denver, where they are able to face a steady stream of back-to-backing, psyched out opponents. Loss of this team's superstar to the Knicks will not be a terminal event. That said, December has been rough for the Nuggets, as the formerly 10-6 club took it on the chin nearly half the time. The wins have been mostly at home and mostly against second division opponents, with only a win over the Magic and a blowout of the exhausted and depleted Blazers qualifying as even slightly impressive. The good teams that the Nuggs faced generally beat them. Denver will need home court advantage to make noise in the playoffs, and they'll need to figure out how to put it together better than they've been doing lately to get there.

 

7. New Orleans Hornets (19-14)

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Rank Last Month: 5

December Record: (7-9)

December Wins: Bobcats, Pistons, Kings, Jazz, Nets, Hawks, AT Celtics.

December Losses: Knicks, AT Spurs, Thunder, AT Sixers, AT Heat, AT Pistons, AT Pacers, AT T-wolves, Lakers.

Comments: Just when you're ready to consign the faltering New Orleans Hornets to the 2011 NBA draft lottery pool, they roll into Boston Garden and defeat the Celtics. Go figure. Still, December has not been kind to the future Seattle SuperSonics, with team's fast start now a fond and fading memory. The team's wins have been almost exclusively at home, generally to crappy teams. On the road, the bees have been whacked — including an embarrassing 15-point drubbing at the hands of the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. Another month like this and the Hornets will be out of the money in terms of Western Conference playoffs and their gym will start looking as empty as that of Memphis. The Hornets live and die with Chris Paul and David West and no amount of defensive magic is going to change that fact. Head Coach Monty Williams is a religious man and no doubt he is actively soliciting supernatural aid to the continued physical well-being of his tiny core. I know I would be if I were him, because the only place further south than NOLA is the Gulf of Mexico and that 's where the season would be heading if either of the team's All Stars go down.

 

8. Portland Trail Blazers (17-16)

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Rank Last Month: 10

December Record: (9-7)

December Wins: Clippers, Suns, Magic, AT Suns, T-Wolves, Warriors, Bucks, AT Jazz, Jazz.

December Losses: AT Celtics, AT Wizards, AT Spurs, AT Grizzlies, AT Mavericks, AT Warriors, AT Nuggets.

Comments: It was the worst of times. It was the best of times. The loss of young Center Greg Oden combined with the downward spiraling Brandon Roy saga was akin two minibikes ridden by Guinness Book of World Records fatties using the groins of long-suffering Blazer fans as a jump ramp. ("That's a double ooch!" as Drooper the Banana Split would say...) Just when it seemed that fans could take no more, something miraculous took place. Channing Frye-wannabe PFINO LaMarcus Aldridge suddenly discovered that  he could not only survive with the NBA's big boys in the paint — but that he could jump higher than them, run faster than them, cut quicker than them, and score the ball with more skill than them. BING!!! — on popped the light bulb for the first time, illuminating the entire arena. Just when the collapse of all Portland hopes and dreams had seemed near, the team had its authentic new franchise player... Other magical things took place. The ostensibly overpaid free agent 6th man Wesley Matthews revealed himself to be a budding young NBA star if given a chance to grow in the clearing vacated by a fallen big tree. Crafty veteran PG Andre Miller was given a real chance to ply his trade for the first time since his arrival. Rudy Fernandez was freed from his futility and funk by time and space to move on the floor. Deficiencies remain, we know what they are, but on nights when they are clicking and the shots are falling, the plodding Portland Trail Blazer team is now, dare I say it, actually fun to watch! The Blazers were 7-0 at home and 2-7 on the road in December. That's progress forward, actually.

 

9. Houston Rockets (16-16)

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Rank Last Month: 12

December Record: (11-4)

December Wins: Lakers, AT Grizzlies, Pistons, Cavaliers, Kings, Grizzlies, AT Kings, AT Warriors, AT Clippers, Wizards, Raptors.

December Losses: AT Bulls, AT Bucks, AT Thunder, Heat.

Comments: If the New Orleans Hornets are headed down the charts, the Houston Rockets are soaring in the opposite direction, powered by a better-than-the-Lakers 11-4 record in December. Of the team's four losses, two were against Eastern Conference powerhouses Chicago and Miami, and a third came against the always-tough-at-home OKC Thunder. That's as good a record of achievement as any other team in the Western Conference for the month. Yao Ming may well be gone for good, but GM Daryl Morey's plucky and overachieving Rockets will be just fine, thank you very much. Kevin Martin is the man, of course, averaging over 23 points per game, while Luis Scola is only a small chunk of hair grease away from being a 20-and-8 sort of Power Forward. The rest of the lineup doesn't cause soiling of the shorts, but they play together as a team and believe that they can beat anybody, which is fully 3/4 of the battle. The team remains short one or two Bigs from being an authentic contender in the rough and tough Western Conference, but don't be surprised if the Rockets are in the money at the end of the year. GM Morey has at least one more master machination up his sleeve, I'm guessing...

 

10. Phoenix Suns (14-17)

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Rank Last Month: 9

December Record: (6-8)

December Wins: AT Warriors, Pacers, Wizards, T-wolves, AT Thunder, Pistons.

December Losses: AT Blazers, Grizzlies, Blazers, AT Mavericks, AT Spurs, Heat, AT Clippers, Sixers.

Comments: No matter what happens to Phoenix this season, at least they are free of four years of the albatross known as Hedo Turkoglu, and that's cause for celebration. Of course, him being on the roster in the first place was a self-inflicted stupidity that would be a firing offense in about 20 NBA cities, but hey, we're talking about the Phoenix Suns here, so all is forgiven as long as the team turns a profit. PG Steve Nash is one month older than the last time we visited. Now he's got Vince Carter in addition to Grant Hill on the lineup to help make him look Not Quite So Washed Up and Not Quite So Old, respectively. This comical collection of 3-point slingers has seen good play from Jared Dudley of late, but with Vince Carter, Channing Frye, and Mickael Pietrus dominating the discussion, good luck buying him a legitimate chance to shine. Goran Dragic has frequently been terrible this year and Marcin Gortat has not shown himself dominant as either a scorer or a rebounder. The Suns are 3 wins and 8 losses in their last 11 games — LOOK OUT BELOW!

 

11. Memphis Grizzlies (14-18)

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Rank Last Month: 8

December Record: (6-8)

December Wins: AT Suns, AT Clippers, Blazers, Bobcats, AT Pacers, Raptors.

December Losses: AT Hawks, Rockets, AT Nuggets, AT Jazz, AT Rockets, AT Spurs, Nets, AT Kings.

Comments: The Grizzlies remain the most dangerous of the 2nd Tier Western Conference teams and with every loss that accumulates for them, Blazer fans should celebrate a little. The Grizz are streaky as hell, losing 4 games to open December, then winning 4, then losing 3, and you get the picture... They've got enormous firepower at the wing with O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay, Portland favorite Zach Randolph is the undisputed king of the offensive rebound and the putback bucket, Marc Gasol is a highly competent Big, and Greg Oden's buddy Mike Conley is worth half what he's actually getting paid, which means he's pretty good. The Bears' bench sucks truly and totally, however,  and therein lies the rub. Still, if you don't think that starting five can beat any team in the NBA on any given night, you need to partake of the Grizzly experience a little more frequently to enlighten yourself. In addition to their deficient bench, Memphis's other two problems are being saddled with one of the dumbest General Managers in recent memory (Chris Wallace) and the absolute #30 worst home crowd (using the term loosely) in the entire NBA. Seriously, the Grizz play 41 road games and 41 games on a neutral court every year — and that makes it hard to get any kind of momentum rolling. Until they move to greener pastures, including a new owner, new city, and new front office, the Grizz will always remain a slightly more talented incarnation of Donald Sterling's San Diego Clippers of Los Angeles.

 

12. Golden State Warriors (13-19)

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Rank Last Month: 11

December Record: (5-9)

December Wins: T-Wolves, AT Kings, Blazers, Sixers, AT Bobcats.

December Losses: Suns, AT Thunder, AT Mavericks, AT Spurs, Heat, AT Jazz, AT Blazers, Rockets, AT Hawks.

Comments: Monta Ellis is good at basketball, pass it on. I loves me some David Lee, too. And Steph Curry can shoot, let there be no mistake. And did I mention Dorrell Wright, who's also pretty okay as well? Very well, now riddle me this: Is that a basketball team or an accumulation of good players? The latter, methinks. New Head Coach Keith Smart is doing his darnedest to instill a novel new concept called "defense" upon his charges, albeit with limited success. Fortunately for their cause, the Warriors have some of the best fans in the NBA, which provides them with an outstanding home court advantage and help keep things at even keel, even when the Blazeresque injury bug from which they suffer bites 'em on the buttocks... After dropping 6 in a row to open December, the W's won 4 of 5 to finish, so there is a bit of anticipation brewing by the bay as the squad starts to get healthy for the first time in forever. Oakland will lay wood to a bunch of good teams in coming months, you can take that to the bank, but they are missing too many pieces and lacking too much internal integration to be considered a legitimate playoff contender this year. Still, one could do worse than to build around Monta Ellis, a guy who may be terrible riding a Vespa but who knows how to put the orange globe through the round ring with the best of them.

 

13. San Diego Clippers of Los Angeles (10-23)

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Rank Last Month: 13

December Record: (7-8)

December Wins: Spurs, Kings, AT Pistons, AT Bulls, T-wolves, Suns, AT Kings.

December Losses: AT Nuggets, AT Blazers, Lakers, Grizzlies, Magic, AT Sixers, Rockets, Jazz.

Comments: How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways... In a just world Donald Sterling would be taken for a balloon ride and used as ballast, but if that happened the Clippers would no longer serve their purpose in life: standing as the most obvious physical manifestation of the reality of a concept called karma... Sterling is an obnoxious cheapster who seems to use the team as a profit center and as long as he remains associated with this franchise, their fate is sealed. Etch that in marble. However, since the Clips ALWAYS suck, they will always have some of the brightest young stars in the NBA on their roster. These same guys whoinvariably can't wait to paddle their little legs to get out of town ASAP, ditching the AAA team and its seedy owner so they can play ball in the big leagues, helping assure that the Clippers will always suck. This is what economists call "equilibrium." PG Eric Gordon is a legitimate superstar PG that could and should be mentioned in the same breath as Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, and Russell Westbrook. Blake Griffin is an entertaining and powerful low post force as a redshirt rookie. Outside of that, god bless ya... Chris Kaman has regressed to the mean of his career, which is to say: not very good. Baron Davis is a financial and on-court catastrophe, Ryan Gomes is a 40% shooter, and the scoring options go downhill from there. Still, the Clips managed to rip off 5 wins in their last 7 games — testament to how good Messrs. Gordon and Griffin actually are. I wish those two gentlemen the best in their forthcoming escape from Donald Sterling Loserville via free agency.

 

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-25)

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Rank Last Month: 14

December Record: (4-12)

December Wins: Cavaliers, Pistons, AT Cavaliers, Hornets.

December Losses: AT Mavericks, AT Spurs, AT Knicks, Thunder, AT Bulls, AT Warriors, AT Suns, AT Blazers. AT Nuggets. AT Clippers, Jazz, Nuggets.

Comments: At times the reliably inept Timberwolves have been plenty bad enough to look like the worst team in the Western Conference; it's just the Kings are even more terrible... With their freakish-looking me-first gunner Michael Beasley relishing the role of big wheel in Minneapolis, I wouldn't wanna be laying too much money on them turning things around any time soon, either. There is actually hope for the wretched though, with Kevin Love breaking out this season as one of the more dominant low post players in the NBA. Love is averaging 20.8 points and 15.5 rebounds as of this writing, which means an All Star appearance — no matter how much hype Blake Griffin is generating. Marty Webster is back in action and kicking in 14 ppg off the bench, while Luke Ridnour is performing passably, so to speak. The biggest surprise is the strong, steady play of big man Darko Milicic, formerly a Jay Leno punchline to a very funny joke known as the Detroit Pistons but now developing into a skilled offensive force. (Yes, I just wrote that line, and without a trace of irony.) While Kevin Love's continued gobbling up of every available rebound makes it difficult to judge Darko's board-gathering acumen, it does seem that he ranks among the league's most improved players. If the T-wolves are able to flip Beasley to someone even dumber (Hello, Grizzlies and Suns!) for a team-first sort of leader, there may yet be hoop happiness in the Twin Cities. That's putting the onus on GM David Kahn to do something other than be stupid, however, which would seem to be setting the bar unreasonably high...

 

15. Sacramento Kings (6-23)

Kings_medium

Rank Last Month: 15

December Record: (2-11)

December Wins: Wizards, Grizzlies (at the buzzer!).

December Losses: AT Lakers, Mavericks, AT Clippers, Heat, AT Rockets, AT Hornets, AT Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, Bucks, Clippers.

Comments: Poor Kings, they suck so bad... Trading Kevin Martin = really not smart. Tyreke Evans is a talented player, sure, but he's a Tracy McGrady-style gunner that's never gonna be a winner. I doubt that the Kings' front office is clever enough to realize that the path forward is to double him up by making him go away. Omri Casspi is a SF rucker that can play on any team of mine, but he's like a sixth or seventh man role player on a good team. The perimeter pansy Spencer Hawes has been bu-byed, but Samuel Dalembert isn't cutting the mustard and PF Jason Thompson is playing like septic tank flotsam and often riding pine. The Kings simply have a really Double Not Good Roster and need to make magic happen by turning Evans into two legit starters and a couple draft picks. The Kings were fun to watch overachievers last season. This year: not so much. If I were Rich Cho, I would be on the phone to Kings GM Geoff Petrie every morning at 9:00 am, listening to his woes, consoling him, and trying to steal Omri Casspi...

 


*   *   *

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It seems long ago

Isolation inertia

Now this team can run

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Here's some more wackiness from the twisted tongue of goofy Uncle Mike...

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Mike Rice, International Man of Basketball...

Rice: "Most New Zealand guys jump quick — let's see if Marks can do it."

Marks wins the tip...

MB: "You look like you're surprised Marks won the tip..."

Rice: "I was."

 

A promotional feature by any other name would smell as sweet...

Rice: "...And passing out of the double team is our Coors Highlight of the Night."

MB: "It's called 'Freeze Play,' but that's all right."

 


Game 34.

Rockets 85 at Blazers 100.

January 2, 2011.

Blazers' record is now 18-16, the Rockets are 16-17.

I've got a big box o' bullets for my pearl-handled bang bangs, baby...

  • Comedy Gold courtesy of Rip-City Live: the Oregonian's beat reporter, a regular guest on the pregame show, is introduced as "Jason Quick the All-Knowing."
  • The pregame show, "Rip-Cty Live," teases the post-game show, "Talkin' Ball." Be sure to watch because there are going to be two comedians on the show — some local standup guy and Antonio Harvey, who "thinks he's funny," notes RCL host Chickiepoo. Quick responds with a barb for Tone: "Well, his career was funny." Ouch.
  • Chickiepoo calls Aaron Brooks "Mr. Aaron Brooks" in the pregame, which is what I call him. It's a play on an old NFL/United Way commercial featuring linebacker Mr. Derrick Brooks.
  • MB: "Kind of a new Big Two for the Trail Blazers — LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews..." They're gonna need more than that, but it's a good start.
  • Nate selling cars... Do people that buy BMWs really watch Blazer games?
  • MB lies: "...130th consecutive sellout at the Rose Garden..." Ummmm, no.
  • Michael Holton chimes in with a really dumb observation on the post-Roy Blazers: "Look for the guys who are available to step into larger roles." Really?!?!
  • It's GAMETIME!!! Can I have a "Woot! Woot!" brothers and sisters...
  • Camby throws up a brick from 14 feet, a clear violation of my NEVER, EVER, EVER LET CAMBY SHOOT FROM MORE THAN 10 FEET rule.
  • Jordan Hill with a very nice baseline move for two against LMA. On the other end, the very same Rocket picks up his 2nd defensive 3 seconds technical foul of the first four minutes. Andre lamarcuses that one though.
  • Blazers opened the game clanking from the perimeter, but LMA cut the lane for an AND ONE to tie it up despite the team's lack of perimeter touch at 7:44.
  • Kevin Martin is good at basketball. The Kings traded the wrong guy. I was just looking up what his exact deal was and found a report by THIS NIMROD who thought the Rockets were getting jobbed...
  • Nic drives and stuffs and splatters, trying to grab the rim after a dunk and missing. He embarrassedly sticks out his tongue on the way back up the floor, his butt and his pride somewhat the worse for wear.
  • At the first TV timeout, it was Blazers up by one, 17-16. In the intermission film of Blazer coach Bob Ociepka notes that the new Yaoless Rockets are running and cutting and passing. Sounds like some team we know...
  • "THAT'S WHY CAMBY IS THIRD FOR CENTERS IN THE NBA FOR OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS." Which Blazer announcer dropped that stat? Anybody want to guess?
  • Greg Oden in the house at the end of the Portland bench.
  • A mi me gusta el juego de Luís Scola.
  • Stupid no-look Rudy pass stolen and converted into an Aaron Brooks trey to end the quarter. So much for closing strong...
  • END OF THE FIRST QUARTER: PDX 27, HOU 25. Houston shooting 42%, Blazers 48%.
  • "THE ROCKETS ARE NUMBER TWO IN THE NBA FOR ASSISTS." 
  • The dreaded Mills-Marks unit opened the quarter. Blech. I feel like I have a case of the Australasian flu.
  • Actually, tonight not so bad... The Blazer second unit had a pretty good run, powered by Patty Mills, Patty Mills, and Patty Mills.
  • Blazers lost Chase Budinger in the corner for an easy trey. Rudy tried to get it back with an airball, which is worth zero points.
  • Patty Mills did a nice job of checking the speedy Aaron Brooks, flustering his attempts to drive and dish.
  • At the first TV time out the Blazer lead was 6 and Patty Mills and his mates got a nice hand from the Almost Sold Out But Probably Not Quite Rose Garden crowd.
  • Patty Mills: 9 minutes, 12 points. That's his career high.
  • Rudy goes backdoor to extend the Blazer lead to double-digits at 5:48.
  • At a TV break, MB is really happy about "the Blazer bench" and its 18 points. True enough. The scoring is not very evenly distributed among them, mind you.
  • Budinger has a nice, soft touch around the rim.
  • Budinger lost again on the arc for a wide, wide, wide open second chance trey. Swoosh.
  • LMA nails a 20 footer, which is weird-looking these days. "I'd like to see him do it a little more, and I didn't think I'd say that," says Rice. I'm not so sure. Once or twice a game is fine.
  • Funny line in the studio tease from Adam Bjaranson: "Right now this is Patty Mills' world and we're all just living in it."
  • MB goes out of his way to praise the "nice job" that Sean Marks has been doing during Joel's absence.
  • Houston 4-for-9 from distance, which kept them in it.
  • Inside of two minutes, the Blazers' 12 point lead had become just 3.
  • Wesley is fouled by K-Mart while shooting a trey. He heads to the line and hits the FTs with the net making the same sound that a really, really good shooter makes: Pop-fwisssh.... Pop-fwisssh.... Pop-fwisssh.... One of the most promising things of the night, actually.
  • Blazers did a nice job of playing playoff style basketball, driving the lane and collecting foul shots.
  • HALFTIME SCORE: PDX 54, HOU 48.

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT: Green Day "My Generation" (c. 1989) — NSFW Lyrics Advisory

 

  • Tonight's Kia card is for a Blazer coach who hails from Belding, Michigan. "I think that's in the Upper Peninsula, where it snows a lot." Are you buying that, or is Ricey BSing us again? First vote and then CLICK THE LINK to see..
  • Second successful lob to LMA at 10:00.
  • Marcus Camby is a really great lob passer. Him and Andre in their prime for Denver back in the day must have been something...
  • LMA goes for the oop again and Shane Battier fouls him. Aldridge hits them both, foiling my attempt to again use my new favorite word, lamarcusing. (Actually, come to think of it — he did not either...)
  • The Yaoless Rockets and the Royless Blazers are fairly similar teams, style-wise. Which is good news when you are playing them at home...
  • Blazers were ultra-super mega sloppy with the ball but lived to tell the tale, up 7 at the first TV time out.
  • Nutrition break. Chicken and rice stuff. Yum.
  • New Blazer slogan: "PERSEVERE." Dunno how many people are gonna want to spend megabucks on season tix to watch "PERSEVERE" happen...
  • Nic can run like a deer. Around 3:00 he ran out and finished to stretch the Blazer lead to 13, biggest of the night.
  • Crap, I'm not gonna be able to eat tonight. Another Nic-at-the-races finish, which causes a Houston time out. My wife hears me hooting and watches the replay, impressed. "If the big guys don't watch out these guys are going to outshine them," she says — bear in mind she only absorbs a little BB through osmosis. It was a 10-0 run and a 17-point lead...
  • The Royless Blazers are more fun to watch than teams of previous years.
  • END OF THE THIRD: PDX 79, HOU 62. Enormous Portland rebounding advantage.
  • Blazers open with a couple misses, but Mills picks Mr. Aaron Brooks, winding up in a two-handed Dante jam on the break. Then another break for two.
  • My wife: "They're looking like they're having fun tonight, which they haven't done for a while. Is Houston not that good?" I acknowledge that this seems to be true.
  • Mr. Aaron Brooks head fakes Marcus Camby into the air to draw contact. He quickly learns that this is not the best idea, survival-wise, earning two shots and one bruise.
  • Nic scores again and the lead is now 20, Nic with 21 quiet points.
  • It is very good to have a small speedy PG like Patty Mills to guard a small speedy PG like Mr. Aaron Brooks.
  • Time out at 5:13, Portland up by 22. MB: "The Blazers continue to play arguably their best basketball of the season."
  • New Blazers sponsor: Sports Authority with an ad for sports bras. I suspect this will sell more stuff than Nate McMillan droning on about the service of BMW dealers.
  • This makes the 6th game that Joel Przybilla has missed with his sprained ankle.
  • Camby pulled at 2:21 for Sean Marks. Thirteen rebounds and 8 assists. LMA had been sitting for the whole 4th Quarter.
  • Fans worried about lack of cholesterol-laden fast food items as the Blazers got stuck at 97 for a protracted period. The Rockets closed the lead to 13 points just inside of 2 minutes. No worries.
  • Rudy with a trey for chalupas out of time out. Goggles.
  • Luke Babbitt in for Wesley at 1:19 and that's the end of the story.
  • FINAL SCORE: ROYLESS PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 100, YAOLESS HOUSTON ROCKETS 85.
  • Eight straight wins at home for Portland. Patty Mills with a career high 14 points for Portland off the bench.
  • My wife, watching the Patty Mills postgame interview: "What's his size?" I tell her he's listed at 6'0" but he's actually about 5'9". Maybe shorter.
  • A very nice win over a team that is going to be fighting Portland for the 8 slot in the playoffs.
  • LMA scored 25 points but he was not efficient tonight, going 10-for-22 and using 24 shots, counting trips to the free throw line.
  • NBA.com BOX SCORE.


Let's take at this thang graphically, shall we?

Popcornlogo_medium

 

Well, it's time to go CLICKY CLICKY and take a look at some super-smooth graphs...

1. Blazers owned this game from late in the 2nd Quarter on.

2. Wow, Rick Adelman absolutely shut down his starters late in the 3rd Quarter. How did I miss that?

3. LMA racked up his 25 points and 11 rebounds in three quarters, plus a 2:12 stint to open the 4th Q. This was a good game for him, but I don't think Mr. Snake was moaning tonight because he used a Durantian number of shots to get to his scoring level.

4. The Rockets had three guys off the bench in double figures. Unfortunately for them, they didn't have so much help from the starters tonight.

 

 

Finally, let's gather round for another installment of THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD, eh?

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The Basketball Jones is a NBA blog and video/audio podcast, written and recorded five times a week by J.E. Skeets, Tas Melas, Jason Doyle and Matt Osten. Assume that there will be a couple Not Suitable For Work words used in any given episode.

 

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