One picture said it all tonight. The ball is in his hands. His team is down two. The clock is nearly expired. The General Manager that traded him less than a year ago is looking on not 40 feet away. His friend, Brandon Roy, is looking on from perhaps half that distance. His former teammate, Travis Outlaw, is flying past him. It's a clean look. 20,000 people who loudly cheered his pregame introduction wait in silent anticipation.
A chance to be a legend.
That's what this picture shows.
Here's a bigger version to take in. It's worth the extra seconds it will take to download and you might need to click on it to enlarge it if your browser resizes it down.
A chance to be a legend. Tonight was Jarrett Jack's chance to enter the "Remember when" oral history that Blazers fans share. But it wasn't meant to be.
Indiana controlled much of tonight's tightly fought contest, a game which featured more intense defense from the Blazers than the Pacers' 105 points on 51.8% shooting would lead you to believe. Indiana couldn't miss. At least until the final few minutes, when they went long possession after long possession without a bucket.
That late-game failure to execute set the table for some good ole Brandon Roy magic. Roy's two free throws broke a 105 to 105 tie with under 2 seconds left, making up for an inexcusable foul from Nic Batum on a Marquis Daniels corner 3 attempt and a shocking open court turnover from Steve Blake that led to a Daniels layup.
The Pacers then took a timeout and that set the table for Jack.
His first game back in the Rose City.
The clean look.
But Jack simply couldn't deliver. His desperation 3 at the buzzer to win the game sailed wide right. The game ended with Roy's free throws the final difference: a 107 to 105 victory for the Blazers.
Random Game Notes
- I took that Jack picture with my new camera lens. I am proud of myself.
- The Blazers took their official team photo about 90 minutes before the game. The entire team and management staff was sitting around patiently (and impatiently) waiting as a basketball sat on an empty seat in the front middle of the group. Who were they waiting on? The man this entire city waits on: Paul Allen. When Mr. Allen showed up, he took his place in the empty seat, clutched the basketball like a baby, and had no trouble producing a pearly-white smile for the camera. The photo shoot ended quickly as the Pacers were ready to take the court for shootaround.
- Before the game, Brian Hendrickson of the Columbian came up to me wanting to know if I'd heard a report from a national source that Greg Oden will have surgery this off-season. I told him I'd heard that rumor but figured it wasn't coming from the Blazers so it was most likely inaccurate. Hendrickson then told me he spoke with team officials about the rumor and they were dumbfounded by it as well. For his effort, Hendrickson came away with this classic quote from KP that should probably be someone's signature.
- For the first time that I can remember, my customary seat for shooting warmup photos (near the 3 point line at the visitor's end) was occupied by the time I got there. Occupied by whom? Larry Freaking Bird. That's enough to make your head spin. If the kix pix are subpar tonight, you know who to blame.
- I tweeted this during the game but my favorite line up of the season so far was one we saw tonight in the third quarter: Rex, B Roy, Batum, Outlaw, Aldridge. Just amazing versatility and athleticism from 1 to 5. That group has some obvious limitations, sure, but there's no limit to the joy it produces in my soul.
- Actually now that I think about it, I'm going to run that group past Shoals and see if that's not the most Free Darko playoff-calibre lineup in the league. If not, what tops it?
- How about that first half for Travis?
- OK, so we can agree that we all miss Jack. But do we really MISS Jack? I'm not so sure. JJ certainly got a lot of love and attention from his former teammates and coaches (he was playfully dragged away from Monty Williams and Travis Outlaw by a Pacers assistant who wanted him to put up some pregame jumpers) and he played a hell of a game: 17 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 0 turnovers. He demonstrated improved decision making but, to my eye, didn't show anything that made me regret the draft day trade in the slightest. Of course, I couldn't possibly be more biased given my opinion of Bayless so I'll let this bullet pont end here.
- To protect the guilty I'll leave names out of this vignette but it was one of the funniest things I've seen in the Blazers locker room over the past 13 months. A media member was in the locker room stuffing a can of Coke into a travel bag. A high-ranking Blazers management official saw the media member doing this and looked at me incredulously, as if to silently say "Did this media member just pocket a Coke from the team supply?" Rather than let it go, this management official called out the media member and jokingly asked if the whole bag was being filled with stolen soda. The management official then left the locker room and, shortly thereafter, a higher ranking management official came back, pretending to be in a huff, and opened up the media member's bag to reveal the soda. This mangement official then reclaimed the soda, cracking jokes along the way. At this point, I couldn't help it and busted out laughing, probably ruining a nearby television interview with LaMarcus Aldridge. This did not faze the management official or slow the gag in the slightest. The management official, against the media member's protests, then placed the purloined soda back in the players' refrigerator and exited the locker room. Shortly thereafter, the media member, with a head shake, once again took back the soda back and exited the locker room.
- The point of the previous story was to illustrate how light and jovial the locker room atmosphere is after these big, anxiety-reducing wins. Make no mistake: everyone in the organization, from the very top down, feels the playoff pressure right now. When the streamers drop after a close win it's a totally different sensation than if the victory was assured by a wider margin.
- See below for Nate McMillan's comments about Nathan Vredevelt. Here's an excerpt from a Press Release the team just sent out. Pretty incredible stuff...
In an overwhelming show of community support, fans attending and watching tonight's Portland Trail Blazers game against the Indiana Pacers raised $21,346.58 to assist the family of Portland-area teen Nathan Vredevelt.
Vredevelt, 16, was injured as he attempted to cross I-5 near the Rose Quarter Sunday evening and remains hospitalized in critical condition. The family is without medical insurance.
Trail Blazers staff, alumni and volunteers representing the Vredevelt family's friends and church communitysolicited the donations at ingress and egress of tonight's game at the Rose Garden, and also staffed a table on the 100-level concourse throughout the evening. Fans donated what they could, in amounts ranging from $1 to $2,000.
The Trail Blazers pledged on Tuesday to match donations made by fans at tonight's game, up to $10,000. Southlake Church, a church attended by the Vredevelt family, today responded in kind. The matching $10,000 donations will result in a total donation of more than $41,000 to help the Vredevelt family with medical bills.
Nate's Postgame Comments
Joe Freeman typed them up again. So here's your link. Nate had an emotional statement about Nathan Vredevelt, a young man who was hit on Interstate 5. That's a must read. Also Nate had a funny response to a question about why he goes to Brandon Roy (and seemingly only Brandon Roy) down the stretch.
Click through for Kix Pix!
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- Ben (email@example.com)