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Quick Chat Recap February 14th, 2007

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Here's our weekly recap of Oregonlive's Quick Chat hosted by Casey Holdahl.  As always this is a paraphrase of the questions and responses.  You can listen to the entire chat here.  

Hold on to your hats, because this is a doozy.

Oregonian Beat Writer Jason Quick is up first.

Q:  What about the Miami game?

A:  It was much of the same that we've seen for the last month and a half.  The team played hard.  There have been consistent performances from their core:  Zach, Ime, Brandon, and Jarrett.  I get several e-mails from people saying that they're really surprised I wrote a positive story and they think the Oregonian is finally "getting it" and that irritates me.  I read Mike Barrett's piece on Blazersedge saying, "I know the newspaper thinks negativity sells".  That's B.S.  The truth sells and what people have to realize is that the truth of this year's team is that they play hard and it's a bunch of good guys.  In the past they have been a bunch of knuckleheads doing knucklehead things.  Even last year when we were supposed to be patient as media and fans you had to be negative because you had things like Darius getting dressed at halftime and Zach leaving the arena.  You have to write that stuff.  It spurs change.  The fans need to know when they can start believing in this team and this franchise.  And I'm telling you now you can believe in this team.  The knucklehead stuff has stopped.  It just irritates me to no end how stupid people are.  I read your message boards.  [O-Live Forum Poster named here] and a bunch of bozos like him...do you not want to know when your team is screwing up?  Do you want to blindly follow these guys even though they're punching each other, even though they're smoking dope in cars, even though they're spitting on opponents, even though they're attacking refs?  I've got a whole list of things this team has done over the years I've covered them.  I think you'd want to know as fans who you're following.  That's why I write stories like last night.  You can see this team is starting to change.  They're not world-beaters yet but they're doing the right things.  Sorry to go off on a rant but I've taken so much crap from the bozos on your message boards, from the bozos in the Blazer PR department about all this negative stuff.  You guys are the ones who are producing the negative team and it's about time that things get turned around.

Wow.

There are so many levels to this I barely know where to begin.  Let me start by saying this was the most raw and honest thing I've ever heard on one of these chats and if you haven't heard the audio yet you need to go listen because there's no way I can duplicate the tone or passion of what Jason was saying here.

Let's talk about the truth of what Jason was saying first.  I think there's legitimacy in what he says about the team having actually caused or propagated some of the negative environment in the past few years.  As a newspaper person your job is to report on that...anything the public might reasonably find significant.  Some of these things surely were.  I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say the Oregonian's Beat Writer has to save us from the knuckleheads or from ourselves (and I think that maybe this came out a little differently than was intended) but we DID need to know these things.  There has also been a fair amount of shooting the messenger involved and I empathize deeply with what he must feel reading that day after day no matter what kind of story he prints.  It has all gotten a little ridiculous and sometimes we forget that there are human beings behind these positions.  I can see how Jason can legitimately claim and feel that he's just been doing his job.  I can also see where it would be extremely, well...painful to really feel like you were doing your job and to take massive amount of crap for it from people who seem to have little respect for what you've put your heart into, and sometimes little touch with reality as well.

I'm not sure how comfortable I am with specific forums or names of posters being mentioned, and in fact I have deleted said reference here.  I'd like to think that I wouldn't get to the point of using words like "stupid" and "bozo" against said folks, but then again I'm not Jason and I'm not in his position, and who knows if I wouldn't have said something three times as worse a long time ago?  (I do know those words, you know, even if I don't use them on this site.)  I can't get in Jason's head and I don't know if that's exactly what he intended to say and he's standing by that proudly or if that's just what he thought in his head and now might regret the way it came out (if not the original assessment).  I tend to think that, though understandable, it's probably unfortunate that it was said and certainly unfortunate that things came to the point where it had to be said.  This is not just an issue with Jason, but an issue with our whole fan community and what it's become in recent years, and I hope if we're doing anything at Blazersedge it's showing that it doesn't have to be that way.

As far as the individual posters or the O-Live forum, I have little to say.  I don't really know many individuals over there overtly and frankly people's monikers barely even register with me.  When I'm reading there I go by subject line far more than poster's name.  The only two names I'd even recognize are the ubiquitous England Dan (who by the way panned this site pretty hard the other day...I'm hoping it was "opposite day" for him because it's hard getting slighted by a forum legend) and Grumpa, who frankly seems like a half-senile, lecherous old coot.  (cough, cough...wink)  Of course after I heard Jason say this stuff I had to go over and gauge the reaction.  It's about what you'd expect.  The one thing I would say is that I found a fair number of people over there suddenly taking the high road of propriety, suddenly shocked that something so vile as Jason's quotes could be uttered.  I found that amusing.  I understand that Jason, as a public figure, has a higher standard of expression than random, anonymous forum posters.  But in a basic, human sense you can't lob howitzer shells at a person constantly for months on end and then cry foul when he shoots a spitball your direction.  I'm not saying for all folks--I know there are some wonderful posters over there--but for some folks this sudden concern for propriety and civility would be the first they've ever evidenced...something akin to watching a wart hog bathe with a tea napkin.  Again that has NOTHING to do with a judgment on the person specifically mentioned, as I wouldn't recognize their writing or their reaction to this situation.  It's simply a general observation.

The one aspect of Jason's answer that I absolutely take issue with is his assertion of annoyance with Mike Barrett's statement in the interview given here that negativity sells newspapers.  It's not my place to judge whether that's true or not.  But in Jason's own interview here I asked him a question about his role as Beat Writer and offered some possible interpretations.  One of them was a cheerleader for the team.  His response to that question started thusly:  "Well, I definitely don't see my role as team cheerleader. I'll leave that to the Blazers broadcasters."  (And unlike the Quick Chats, which are paraphrased, those interviews are direct, unaltered quotes.)  I am not passing judgment on the veracity of Jason's assessment either, but I will say that if he took the semi-subtle potshot at Mike, he can hardly get irritated if Mike responds with a potshot back.

The sad thing about this is that, as little as I have interacted with both gentlemen, it has come through strongly both in their dealings with me and in the interviews themselves that they are both nice, conscientious guys trying their best to fulfill the role set before them.  There is no need for the animosity, and it saddens me.  And I suspect that's true within both institutions and with most of the stuff that's gone on between them.  The sniping and insulting behavior and all that...what has it accomplished?  I really wish all the parties involved could see this.  Blazer Nation would be a far better place if a guy like Mike Barrett could say, "I don't agree with everything Jason Quick writes but even the negative stuff just reminds us to be vigilant in what we do and how we present ourselves and that's not a bad thing."  Blazer Nation would be a far better place if a guy like Jason Quick could say, "I don't agree with everything Mike Barrett says but even the overly positive stuff reminds us of the faith fans need to hold onto because it forms the basis of why we're here and why we're reading, and that's not a bad thing."  Am I the only one who sees this?

That was long so I'll take it easy on the commentary the rest of the way through.

Q:  If you had to rate your job on a scale from 1 to 10 where would you rate?  Also how difficult is it in your job not to get too close to players and coaches you're covering?

A:  I think I'm probably a 9.  I think among my peers I'm highly respected.  It's not really difficult to walk the line with players and coaches.  They know I write.  All they ask is that I'm fair.  I have to be fair because I want to get a good night's sleep and because I have to face them every day.  If I'm taking cheap shots I have to face the music.  The toughest thing is like this year when I had to write an article on Joel.  We're friends and he didn't like that.  He's over it now though.  But it's hard to see things like that in print.  Sometimes it crops up like that but I'm pretty secure in knowing what my job is.  My job is to inform you guys.  These guys are getting paid a lot of money and part of that is taking criticism when they aren't performing well.

And you know that's all true enough including, as far as I can gather, the part about Jason being respected by his peers.

Q:  Zach was not named to the All-Star team even with all the replacements.  Should he be going?

A:   It's a total joke.  It's interesting how Ray Allen and Mehmet Okur were named at the same time.  I would be interested in hearing David Stern's justification for that.  If you use the winning record thing then you can't take Allen because Portland's record is better than Seattle's.  If you use stats you can't take Okur because his aren't even in the same ballpark as Zach.  It's puzzling.  I think this really hurt Zach.  He was really subdued last night when we talked about it, almost talking in a whisper.  He said it was going to motivate him and it hurt.  People around the team thought it was a little but of a punch in the gut to him, that after four injuries he wouldn't be there.  Basically they're saying he's not a top 15 guy in the Western Conference.  That's just hard to believe.  I know he has trouble with defense and turnovers but 24 and 10 is 24 and 10 and he's doing it against double and triple teams.  He's getting beat up.  He helped the team improve and win as many games as they did last year already.  That has to count for something.  Personally I think it's a grudge the league has against the Blazers for their past transgressions and Zach's past transgressions.

Q:  So if you had one reason why Zach didn't get in it would be...

A:  His past transgressions.

Finally something we can all agree on.  David Stern sucks.  Or at least being a Trailblazer in Stern's regime right now sucks.

We said something to similar effect the other day here.  

Q:  Brandon Roy looks a little worn down.  Is he hitting the wall?  Is it his hand?  Is Nate overusing him?

A:  I don't see that.  His hand is bothering him but he says he's adjusted his shot and he's learning how to deal with it.  You saw that in Miami.  He hit 6 of his first 8 shots.  What happened in the second half was they started getting really physical with him.  It made it difficult for him to get up a shot.  You've heard Nate say that Zach has to learn how to deal with double teams.  Now Brandon will have to learn too.  The league will look at tape and see how rough Miami was and he'll start seeing more of that the last 30 games.  I'm not sure they'll double team him every time but I would bet you'll see him on the floor a lot.  He's already a guy who takes a lot of spills and hard fouls.  That will be an area of concern as his career develops.  How durable will he be?

Perfecting his outside jumper will help alleviate this.  Having some stronger teammates who would ring the bell of anyone who messes with our boy would also help.

Q:  What about officials?  Are the Blazers getting a fair shake?

A: It's hard watching it live because you seldom see replays.  However I do remember watching the game in Denver on TV and that was the most blatant job of poor officiating I've ever seen.  Jarrett Jack drove down the middle of the lane and got hacked across the forearm, a couple ridiculous fouls when we were guarding Carmelo.  I went to Nate and talked to him and he said we're getting that routinely because we're young and not expected to win.  It's a respect issue.  The NBA officiating has been very poor...every night they used to have a crew chief, a definite experienced guy who was leading that group.  They've done away with that now so we're getting these trios of very sub-par referees.  Last night it was Derek Stafford, Courtney I forget his last name, and some other guy I've never heard of.  They were pretty bad.  They were bad for both teams, I will say that.  There was a play when Martell just fell and twisted his ankle and they made a call on James Posey.  That was a brutal call.  I would tend to say over the course of a season it evens out but that Denver game specifically stands out as a game where the Blazers got the short end of the stick.

 

We all know this is true.  We all have to live with it.  I'll be more concerned when our level of play is consistently high enough that it makes a difference in the outcomes of games.  Then, believe me, I will scream as loud as anyone.

Q:  You were at the Washington game.  What was it like seeing Gilbert Arenas get shut down?

A:  It was quite interesting.  Early on the place was abuzz.  It was a sellout.  Every time he scored there would be fans chanting, "Forty-eight more!  Forty-six more!"  But he was off.  He was terrible.  He didn't just miss shots, he missed them badly.  Early on he was passive, wanting to get his teammates involved, and he gave up shots.  8 of the first 9 times he touched the ball he passed.  It wasn't so much what the Blazers were doing as his mindset.  The Blazers didn't play that great of a game.  They committed 20 turnovers and they were unforced...silly...sloppy.  I was amazed they won.  They shot a great percentage but Washington is not that good of a defensive team.  Like Lamarcus Aldridge...he scored 18 and had 10 rebounds but a lot of his points came from things like catching an airball and laying it in or a guy fumbles right to him.  There were a lot of things that went the Blazers' way in that game.  But they played hard and when you play hard in the NBA you're going to have an advantage because most NBA teams don't play hard for 48 minutes.  I think if anything has surfaced in the first half of the Blazers season it's that 97% of the time the Blazers play hard.  That's a big step for this franchise because that was the #1 concern last year.

I hope everybody realizes that this is part of Phoenix's success too.  It's not just the system, it's that those guys go at it for 48 minutes.  I'm not saying they don't take teams lightly, but even when they do they're still pretty much pounding on you.  We really, really need to develop this.

Q:  The trade deadline is a week away.  Magloire and Dixon are rumored to be on the block.  Dixon for Freddie Jones was suggested.  What do you think about the trade outlook?

A:  I've said in here that Dixon was the most likely Blazer to be traded.  I really think it will happen.  Juan is unhappy and it's not a good fit.  He's slowly being phased out.  Look from the Phoenix game on, the one that I talked about earlier, and you can see the progression.  Nate was never a big Juan Dixon fan and that was the last straw.  Last night even though Juan had a good shooting night he made a brutal play--a poor pass and then fouled Antoine Walker when he was making a bucket when the Blazers were up four.  If you looked at the bench you could see Nate throw up his hands and look at the ceiling and Juan was removed right after that.  I fully expect Juan to be moved.  I don't think Jamaal Magloire will be moved.  I think the Blazers value him more than the rest of the league does.  I think he'll stay and the Blazers will look to buy him out.  That could happen as soon as the beginning of March.

Q:  Where will the Blazers go for bench scoring if they trade Juan?

A:  This team is really waiting for Martell Webster to become that guy.  If there's been any real head-scratching disappointment this year it's been Joel Przybilla and Martell Webster.  They're waiting for them to come out and be consistent.  Joel was solid last night early on.  Martell has shown glimpses but too often he'll have 19 minute games with 2 shots and 0 points.  You can't have that from such a high draft pick.  But the X-factor is that Sergio Rodriguez may be able to provide some of that bench scoring and ignite the team as a tempo and game changer.  It sounds like he'll be able to play in that first game after the break against Utah.

I will be very interested to see the play of both Sergio and Martell the last 30 games.

Q:  Hoopsworld.com is floating a suggestion of Jamaal Magloire for Bonzi Wells.  Think that'll happen.

A:  (laughs loud)  There's not a chance in hell that will happen.  There's no way this Blazer organization would ever take back Bonzi Wells..

Thank God for that.

Q:  Orlando is the last game before the break.  Do you think we have a chance of winning?

A:  I really do.  Orlando has been really struggling.  They have a ton of guys hurt.  They're giving up a lot of points and 50% shooting on a regular basis.  Dwight Howard is the key though.  He's shooting 84% in the last four games and leads the league in dunks.  Stopping him will be a key. Orlando is without a lot of key guys so my gut says Portland is going to step in and steal this one.  I'm really interested to get a first good look at J.J. Reddick.  He's been playing more now that Keyon Dooling is out and he's been playing well.  The thing that amazes me about Reddick is that he's tiny...Juan Dixon tiny.

I think we better skip over this prediction.  Evidently Jason's gut was reacting to a chili dog or something.

Blazers TV Play-by-Play Broadcaster Mike Barrett joins the chat.

Q:  The Blazers lost at Miami.  What did you see?

A:  The fans should be happy that we were right there for three quarters with the World Champs.  People aren't understanding how bad Brandon Roy's hand is.  He finishes almost everything inside with his left hand.  He's having trouble penetrating, especially against the zone.  Dwyane Wade went out for a while and Miami actually increased their lead.  That was the time to get them and when that happened we knew the fourth quarter was going to go Miami's way.  Clearly the game was a lot closer than the final score indicated and 2-1 isn't a bad start to the trip.

This is why inside information is good to have.  I had no idea his hand was still bothering him and this could explain some of the semi-erratic behavior we've noticed out there.  Brandon goes four ways off the dribble and uses both hands to do it.

Q:  Does Brandon get enough calls or is he short-changed?

A:.It does seem to be the case.  I understand he's a rookie and I shouldn't whine, but I think eventually the calls will come his way.  If you're a Rookie of the Year candidate you should probably get more of those calls.  Brandon is a little bit like Dwyane Wade in that he usually ends up on the floor when he drives.  Of course Wade gets all those calls, which he should.  That frustrates basketball purists who say a foul is a foul is a foul but we all know that's not the way it works in the NBA.  Brandon said the one time Alonzo Mourning came across him was a hard foul.  Hopefully soon he'll start getting those calls but right now it's not happening.

Oh Lord, you shouldn't get me started on this.  OK, just a taste...  Fouls go to stars.  Stars are defined not just by talent, but by location and publicity.  As we've seen with the All-Star selection fiasco it's generally harder for a Blazer to be considered a star than someone in sexier metropolitan areas.  Therefore the star system really, tangibly DOES disenfranchise Portland more than many teams.  It's not a personal grudge as many have suggested in their more emotional moments, but it is a real and unavoidable consequence of the system they use.

Q:  What's the feeling in the locker room about Zach Randolph not getting an All-Star bid?

A:  People are upset.  On the record our executives were trying to be good and not get carried away but they were upset because they pushed hard for him during both of these replacement periods.  Nate McMillan said it best.  If you're picking by numbers there's no way you could pick Okur over Zach.  If you pick on the record there's no way you can pick Allen over Zach.  I know they play different positions but that hasn't seemed to be a big concern in this process.  As far as Zach's teammates, they're upset for him.  That says as much as anything about Zach's leadership and popularity on the team.  Those guys really wanted to see him get the invite and they were upset and outspokenly so.  Jarrett Jack was the most upset.  For all those people who think that Zach's a really selfish player who puts himself above the team, his teammates' reaction shows as much as anything.

Somebody's going to have to break the ice for this team someday.  Will it be Zach, Brandon, or Sergio?  Hey, wait a minute...that's a good poll question.

Q:  Our readers are writing in saying you write a great blog...

A:  I appreciate that very much.  It's fun to write it and it's fun to bounce back and forth and we can link to you and you can link to us.  And there are some guys who have great blogs around the area.  It's neat to see that technology has let the fans get involved.  I've gotten to know some of the people who comment to my blog and to OregonLive and I appreciate all the relationships that have been built.

Q:  Talk about your job for a minute.  You had that great interview on Blazersedge the other day talking about what you do that people don't realize.  What's the toughest part about calling a game?

A:  When I worked with Snapper for those two years he always told me to take the emotion out of it.  And I don't think he meant to go so far as to not show that I care who wins and loses because obviously I do.  I've been a fan my whole life and I'm going to get emotional in the important parts of the game and that's where Steve and I differed.  So I think part of it for me is trying to stay on a more even keel.  Sometimes I feel like I say something silly about the officials and then I get mad at myself during a timeout and I think, "I shouldn't have gone that far."  So I guess the hardest part for me is parking the emotions a little bit.

Q:  How hard is it for you to separate personal relationships from calling the game?

A:  It's a little tough but not as much as people think.  I spend so much time with these guys on the road it's impossible not to care about them, but if you do develop a mutual respect you can be critical sometimes and we are.  And sometimes a player will hear something he didn't like on the tape and he'll come and talk to us about it.  Mike Rice has had some discussions in the past and had players confront him, not so much with this group though.  It's easier to second guess the players than the coaches.  You don't want to talk about substitution patterns or play calls out of fear that the staff will hear that on the tape and wonder what you're talking about because you do want them to feel like we're all on the same team.  That kind of flies in the face of what the old-time broadcasters would say but that's what we deal with now.  I don't want to develop an adversarial relationship with the coaching staff or players.  It's a fine line to walk but I think we do it well.

Wow...Casey dropped The Edge on folks twice in, like, three weeks.  Remind me to send that man a t-shirt.

I do like how some of the questions here are either filtering out into the world or at least opening the door for such questions to be asked.  I don't know about you but I found everything Jason and Mike had to say interesting.  I still can't get that image of "Mike Bat" calling football games out of my head.  I wonder what would happen if Rice got hold of one of Mike's mom's tapes and took it to the broadcast truck?

Q:  What's Joel Przybilla's mentality like right now?

A:  He's doing OK.  Joel and Jamaal Magloire have a really good relationship.  He's alright with this and not bitter at all.  He's still starting and starting the second half.  He'd like to be playing more in the fourth but I honestly haven't seen it affect him or make him frustrated.  It started with the injury at the beginning of the season and when he came back he had missed time and didn't get a lot of minutes and he understood that.  When I spend time with him I try and keep that stuff out of it if I can, but I still don't get the feeling that he's upset.

I don't know if Mike was just being sensibly correct here or what, but I almost think I want Joel a little upset, even if that's upset and yelling at Nate to put him in.  I think we need a little of that fiery, "stare you down no matter who you are" Joel we fell in love with a couple seasons ago.

Q:  Is the morale in the locker room better now than at the beginning of the season?

A:  I think it continues to grow and that's good to see.  In recent years it hasn't really been there.  In the last couple months last year we really struggled.  There were a couple veterans just playing out the string and I think Nate sense that and he wasn't in the best frame of mind about it.  This group has more guys that Nate wants to have here. This year everybody pulls for each other...from Joel and Jamaal on down the line.  I don't think anybody's really upset about minutes or personal battles between players.  There are always problems and shoving matches and tense relationships in practice on every team but on this team there just hasn't been any of that.  We saw that in the Washington game with the coach and the star and the team not getting along, We have nothing like that here.

And I think that's a major credit to the rookies and the key veterans.  Obviously people sense that the other guys are decent people too.  Like Mike said, it's been a while since we've had that here.

Q:  Is Nate getting anxious now that we have momentum to win sooner than was originally expected?

A:   That's a fine line especially with a potential deep draft coming up for picks 1-8.  A lot of the fans think that way.  The coaches sure don't.  Nate is trying to win every game.  I think he looks back and starts thinking about the game you should have or could have one.  What eats Nate the most is that we're something like 3-9 against the East at home and 7-5 on the road?  We're a lot better against the East on the road than at home.  If the Blazers even split their home schedule against the East at home they're in the battle for the eighth seed.  I said to Nate after the Charlotte game, "Good win" but he responded with, "Yeah but we should have had that one the other night."  All coaches think like that.  But all things considered with injuries to Brandon and Joel we're happy with where the team is at.

Q:  What do you expect in the stretch run?

A.  I expect to be better than last year.  Last year was tough because teams in the playoff race were playing with a sense of urgency and we didn't match them.  Plus at the end of the year most of your Eastern Conference games are over.  But if the rookies can avoid hitting the rookie wall I think the Blazers could set a goal of playing .500 in the last 29 games.  Before the season I predicted 35 wins and I'm not sure if they'll get that because that would be above .500 but if they can hit 30 wins that's a pretty good and realistic goal.

30 would be plenty good, I think.  Next year maybe we can talk about topping that.  Like I said a couple weeks ago, I don't much care what the final record is for us as long as we play hard and look like we're learning something and getting better out there.  I'd hate to see us give up or go off track because of a couple losses.  We all know that losing is a no-lose proposition for us this year with the draft.  But the thing that would scuttle that would be seeing us fall apart in the process.

Q:  Thanks Mike.   

A:  Thanks to all the fans who listen and all the fans who keep writing in to the message board at OregonLive and the blog and Blazersedge and all of the other great websites.

Whoa...did I just hear that?  I had to go back, like, twice to make sure.  I think I may just bronze this Quick Chat.  Dang.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)