March 25, 2008 -- Blazers 102 Wizards 82
He pulled his what? He's out for how long?
Because it doesn't happen often (ever?), this needs to be said first: Did you see that sick pass from Sergio Rodriguez to Raef Lafrentz for that boom-shakalaka? For one play, up 22 points with the clock winding down in the 4th quarter, the Rose Garden faithful was treated to the next Stockton-to-Malone, a duo whose underrated-ness is matched only by its potential for greatness.
Ok, back up the bullet train; I'm sure you can pardon the ballyhoo due to the extremely unique circumstances of tonight's game. It's exceedingly rare that we:
1... Get a big lead
2... Maintain the big lead
3... Play well enough that Nate finally feels comfortable with the lead and (most difficult)
4... Nate agrees to take the foot off the gas pedal and puts in the end of the bench.
It was a sight to behold, a wonder of the modern world: The Scrubs! They're playing! And the Stars? They're on the bench laughing! And the chalupas? They're being eaten.
The giddiness of tonight's on-court escapades-- the Blazers thoroughly dismantled the Wizards on the way to a 102 to 82 victory-- gave way almost instantly to post-game horror. Remember about a month ago when the Ford Blimp crashed down onto fans in the 200 level? This was sort of like that, except in place of the Ford Blimp it was our hopes and dreams plummeting lifelessly to earth.
While Brandon Roy took a hard fall in the first quarter and seemed to bang his elbow, Coach Nate informed the media postgame that Brandon could possibly be... wait for it... make sure your kids are sound asleep... make sure you're not within range of throwing something at your flat screen... done for the year due to a groin pull.
It was shocking to say the least. Nate left the press room more quickly than usual, extremely happy with the win tonight, not wanting to go into extreme detail about Brandon.
My take: Nate seems like a "hope for the best, plan for the worst" kind of realist. He understands the severity of a groin pull, the lengthy timeline involved in properly rehabbing, and also the benefits of resting Brandon for the rest of the season. Nate did say that he would need to know before they could make a determination. However, Nate DEFINTELY isn't the kind of person to float injury rumors needlessly. So, there is sufficient cause to ponder.
It is my sincere hope that we have not seen the last of Brandon Roy on the basketball court this season. If he is indeed done, or close to it, it's time to move on to appreciating a new beauty: "Rodriguez to Lafrentz" rolling romantically off the tongue.
Postgame Reaction: (Download Audio Here)
Nate on the result: "You know, I'm trying to figure it out. It shows you what you are capable of doing if you play hard and play together. Not to say you will be able to win a lot of games but you can play good basketball. You lose LaMarcus, you lose Brandon, one of the things we wanted to do was get more movement in our offense, set screens, use each other, Martell has a big night, Travis has a big night, Jarrett shoots the ball well, 28 assists with your two key guys out. I thought we played a very solid basketball game on both ends of the floor. Washington was sitting here waiting for us, they saw that we played last night, but we came out and looked like a totally different team."
Nate on the rebounding edge: "We had control of the boards at halftime, Joel did another nice job of just controlling the paint, defending the basket and rebounding the ball. It's been a weakness... when you can get that, it definitely can help our team. It felt like we could run if we got stops and rebounded the ball, we got 11 fast break points on the half... Joel did a nice job of clogging the paint and rebounding the ball."
Nate on playing without Roy and Aldridge: "You gotta use each other, you gotta work together, we gotta learn to do that with those guys in there... we talked about the lack of movement last night... a lot of isolation, tonight there wa a little bit more movement but we knocked down shots and last night we didn't we had some very similar looks, Martell and Brandon and Jarrett last night that we didn't knock down and tonight we did."
Nate's first comments on Brandon's status:
"Groin, pretty sore, we'll see how he feels tomorrow. We'll have to wait and see with both him and LaMarcus."
Nate on bouncing back tonight: "Playing an 82 game schedule is a skill. Learning to play an 82 game schedule when you are banged up and sore and fatigued you've got to come out and play. When you are playing a team like Seattle last night, that's a skill too that we are trying to learn. It was night and day, last night and tonight, and we're learning. The bench came in and played well... for the most part they did a good job of controlling the ball."
Nate on finishing with a winning record and preparing for next year: "It's going to be tough, the schedule right now, those games we have in April with some of the top teams, I hope we are healthy because I want to see us in April playing against these teams. We are banged up, but so are they. I wanted to see us against these teams. We've got a tough road but the schedule is going to be very similar next year and in years to come. You're going to have to win games to get into the playoffs."
The final exchange regarding Brandon's injury:
Question: What is the status of the injuries?
Nate: "LaMarcus I think he will be able to come back, hopefully against Golden State. Brandon you know that injury is an injury that can keep you out for awhile. Talking about the groin. Hopefully it's a tweak. Tomorrow he will have a better read on where he's at and if he can go."
Question: Did you have that injury as a player?
Nate: "I've had a couple of those and that can sit you out a month."
Question: So he is potentially out the rest of the season?
Nate: "It could be. I don't want to talk about that. Yea, it could be."
Random Game Notes
-- The Wizards' slogan for the 2008 campaign is "ready to rule." Not quite. There's an interesting diary about "Rise With Us" that you should weigh in on if you haven't already.
-- I watched Gilbert Arenas warm-up tonight and he thankfully didn't look suicidal in the slightest. He did, however, look completely jacked. Straight diesel. Two tickets to the gun show.
-- Aldridge didn't start tonight so Outlaw took his place. Nate didn't change his standard play call, though, going straight to Outlaw who hit a jumper over Jamison on the first possession.
-- Roy burned Deshawn Stephenson on a backcut for an easy bucket early in the game. You know how you read all about the video engineers that cut and mix video for analysis by the coaching staff? You can bet that lack-of-defense will make the cut.
-- If you're a regular viewer of Blazers games on TV, you've enjoyed hearing the unique wit of Mike Rice. Tonight, during halftime, I was witness to perhaps the best Mike Rice performance I have seen. As Mike Barrett posed with his family (young kids) for a photo at the scorer's table, Mr. Rice danced and made faces behind the photographer, trying to coax a smile out of one of Mr. Barrett's children. He wasn't entirely successful at making the child smile but he did have a number of courtside onlookers in stitches with his theatrics.
-- The Wizards' Media Guide profile of Abe Pollin was stocked with a wee bit of hyperbole. First, it notes that Polin and his wife "have been at the center of every major issue in the NBA during their time at the helm of the Washington Bullets/Wizards." They have been owners since 1964. That's 44 years and A LOT of issues. I don't remember hearing their names on the national news except when they screwed over Michael Jordan. Bueller, Bueller, Pollin, anyone?
-- Cue late-night commercial... "but, wait, there's more"... One of Abe's "two goals" for building the new Verizon Center in 1997 "was to be the catalyst that turned the city around." Despite this new building, DC had the fifth highest murder rate in the United States in 2006. All jokes aside, I have heard tales of nice developments around the Verizon Center, but DC is a big city with more problems than an inanimate arena can fix. Ok, enough soapbox.
-- Blaze the mascot had two big gimmicks tonight. The first was dressing up in a construction worker's outfit with a young child holding traffic signs next to various people. Next to the cheerleaders, for example, the sign read "curves ahead." Next to a referee, the sign read "dip." (Side note: the refs also got burned tonight by being shown on the kiss cam. Tough night to wear the stripes). Blaze's second gimmick was slamming some poor woman in the face with a birthday cake by pretending to trip on his way up the aisle. What a mess, literally and figuratively.
-- Caron Butler came out like he wanted 50 points tonight. His flame was extinguished in the second half. By the way, if tonight was any indication, this man loves shooting contested jump shots more than anyone else in the NBA.
-- Brandon went to the locker room after an ugly collision with Butler at the end of the first quarter. He came back out during the second quarter to make a go of it, but it wasn't to be.
-- Martell was Ballllinnnn' tonight. No other way to put it. His 3 pointer to make the score 70 to 48 was the cue for the Wizards to start sending in the scrubs.
-- My favorite sequence started with a Nick Young flying, gliding layup which he celebrated with a cocky jog back to play defense. The next possession down, he attacked the basket aggressively again... only to be completely rejected by Joel Przybilla. Mr. Young, in 3 years when you win your first dunk contest and Sports Illustrated asked you for your "Welcome to the NBA Moment," go ahead and cite that one.
-- The Wizards really, really struggled to guard our point guards tonight. It was comical. I don't think we've won the 1 spot so convincingly all year.
-- Travis was playing hard to the end. Trying to bust his slump or pad his stats? I'm leaning towards the former. He had a really nice game tonight.
-- Best sign of the night, from a young Harry Potter fan no doubt: "Wizards have no Magic"
-- If Brandon is out for an extended period of time, I say give the 40 minutes per game to Von Wafer. Our lives will be better for having known him.