Greg Oden

Blazers’ Corner: Trail Blazers Struggling, Oden Returns, Aldridge Loses Bet

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Portland Needs to Fix First-Half Struggles As Tough Road Trip Begins

The Trail Blazers just completed a 6-game stretch against some of the worst teams in the NBA and despite finishing with a 4-2 record, the team would probably be the first to admit that other than the first game against Charlotte (a 134-104 blowout), their performance, particularly in the first half of those games, was less than stellar.

Portland Trail Blazers - Getty Images
Portland looking for answers in first half. | (Getty Images)

Against the other five opponents, Portland allowed an average of 27.8 points in the first quarter and they trailed at halftime in 3 of the 5 games.  The deficits were all by single digits, but giving lesser opponents the belief that they could compete and possibly win in the Moda Center is a recipe for disaster.

The Trail Blazers seemed sluggish and disinterested to start the games despite the fact that they had multiple days off in between most of the them and this gave the Sixers, Magic, Celtics and Cavaliers the opportunity to play with confidence.

Portland is “reacting” rather than “dictating” the rhythm of the game and it isn’t until midway through the third quarter and sometimes not until the fourth that the team is playing with passion and desire.

Is this a matter of an elite team going through the motions in the so-called “dog days of January” in the NBA?  Probably, just look at Miami and Oklahoma City right now.  But Portland can’t afford to start slow in their next stretch of games.  Beginning Friday, the Blazers begin a 4-games-in-five-nights trip against the Spurs, Mavericks, Thunder and Rockets.

The good news is Portland has already beaten three of those teams and they have the second best road record (13-5) in the league.  They’re certainly battle-tested this season, but if they want to maintain one of the best records in the NBA, they have to play for 48 minutes, especially in their next four games.

Greg Oden Finally Returns

For the first time in more than four years, Greg Oden played in an NBA game.  In 8 quality but brief minutes, Oden contributed 6 points on 2 for 3 shooting, two rebounds and 2 for 2 from the free-throw line.  But most importantly, he left the court on his own power.

Oden’s last appearance in a regular-season game was Dec. 5, 2009, when he fractured his left kneecap going for a block on Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets.  The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft never played for Portland again.  Miami is hoping Oden can finally avoid the injury bug that has plagued him his whole career.

As Blazer fans will remember, the stat line doesn’t tell the whole story of Oden’s impact on the floor.  The Heat were getting blown out on Wednesday night by an inspired Washington team.  When Oden stepped on the floor late in the second quarter, Miami was down 34.  By halftime, they had trimmed the deficit to 21.

Greg Oden-Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Greg Oden playing in a game. I really happened! | (Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

 

By simply being a “presence” on the floor, Oden affected the game by doing what Miami brought him in to do.  With the team trading backup center Joel Anthony on Wednesday, the speculation has been that this will open up an opportunity for Oden as the second half of the season begins.  At least for one night, Oden showed why the Heat have been patient with him.

The Oden era in Portland will forever be thought of as frustrating, disappointing and what might have been.  But I’m sure many Blazer fans are rooting for the big man to get healthy and have a long career in the NBA.  How could you not after all that he’s been through.

LaMarcus Aldridge Pays the Price After Losing Bet

The Oregon Ducks concluded their 2013 season with a 30-7 victory over Texas in the Alamo Bowl and many people in Oregon were no doubt happy about the outcome.  One person who was not was Portland All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.

The power forward went to the University of Texas for two years before entering the NBA draft in 2006.  To make the Oregon vs. Texas game even more interesting, Aldridge made a bet with the Blazers’ basketball communications manager Collin Romer who graduated from Oregon.  The bet was pretty simple:  If the Longhorns won, Romer would have to wear Texas gear for a day, and if the Ducks won, Aldridge would have to do the same.

Well, Aldridge finally paid his bet on Tuesday donning an Oregon hoodie and a pair of Nike Lunar Hypergamer low shoes.  The kicks are an especially nice touch due to the fact that the Oregon players wore them on Nov. 29 during the Civil War game.  The University of Oregon athletic department provided LA with the sneakers as they’re not even available to the public.

Aldridge shared his punishment with fans on Twitter and Instagram.  He looks especially dejected in the Instagram photo, but hey, a bets a bet.

“I lost a bet to Collin, that my Longhorns would beat his Ducks and I lost,” said Aldridge, “so I kept my word and I wore all Oregon gear today.  It was tough, but I did it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Portland Trail Blazers Games to Look Forward to Next Season

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The NBA released the 2013-14 schedule for every team on Tuesday and here are five games the Portland Trail Blazers will be playing that you should keep an eye on. The season doesn’t start until Wednesday, Oct. 30, but it’s never too early to start thinking about matchups we want to see.

Friday, November 1: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Denver Nuggets

Why would I pick the second game of the season and not the first as the first matchup to look forward to? Because Portland plays the dreadful Phoenix Suns in the season opener (boring) and they never win there anyway.

I’ve picked the Denver game because it gives the players and fans a chance to see former Blazer J.J. Hickson, who in a short time in the Rose City, proved to be a highly productive and energetic player that the team will miss.

Portland desperately needed a legit seven footer to play the center position so Hickson was never in the organization’s long-term plans. But it will be interesting to see Hickson and how he plays against Portland and the rest of the league as some in the press questioned whether Hickson’s outstanding 2012-13 season was about improving as a player or about earning a nice fat contract.

Portland Trail Blazers
Team Logo | (blazers.com)

The Denver signing was an odd choice, considering they already have Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov and the newly acquired Darrell Arthur at the PF/C position. Plus Hickson didn’t end up getting that big of a deal (3 years, $15 million) so leaving Portland might not have been in his best interests.

Thursday, December 12: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers

Portland’s first nationally-televised game (and one of the few this upcoming season) is against the revamped Houston Rockets. Houston was one of the highest scoring teams in the league last season and with the addition of Dwight Howard, this matchup should prove to be both entertaining and challenging.

It will also be interesting to see how Thomas Robinson plays against one of his former teams. He has said that he has a chip on his shoulder due to multiple teams giving him away for practically nothing, so he should be especially energized and focused for that game.

Saturday, December 28: Miami Heat at Portland Trail Blazers

It’s always exciting to see LeBron James and the defending champs role into the Rose Garden as their last two trips there have been memorable (including Portland’s win over Miami last March).

But the fans in Portland probably won’t be thinking about Lebron this night. Instead their focus will be on seeing Greg Oden who hasn’t played in the NBA since December of 2009. Personally, I’m hoping the fans give Oden a nice reception as it has been a long and difficult road back to the court for the former No. 1 overall pick.

Portland Trail Blazers
Greg Oden | (probasketballtalk.com)

To be honest, I will be surprised if Oden makes it to the end of December healthy. He might be the most injury-plagued player in the history of sports so if he’s on the court contributing in some way, that’ll be a minor miracle.

Monday, March 3: Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers

Blazer fans have to wait until March to chant “Beat L.A.” when the dreaded Lakers come to town. Portland seems to always beat the Lakers at home regardless of the talent on their roster and this year should be even easier considering Kobe will still be recovering from a torn achilles, Steve Nash will be a year older and Pau Gasol will be forced to play more center as the newly acquired Chris Kaman will probably be hurt again.

The Lakers suddenly became mediocre in the course of a year and I could not be more delighted about that. They’re probably not making the playoffs with that roster but next year’s draft is supposed to be the best in a decade so they might piss off Blazer and Celtic fans everywhere by getting the next superstar in the draft. Let’s be honest, that’s probably what’s going to happen.

Friday, March 28: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls

On this day Portland will be finishing a five-game road trip and their tenth away game in 13 games. This could be a day that defines the team’s season and determines whether they return to the Playoffs or to the lottery for the third year in a row.

Chicago is one of the best defensive teams in the league and with the return of Derrick Rose, they will be fighting for a high seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But Portland always plays the Bulls well, especially LaMarcus Aldridge, and if the team isn’t in the playoff picture themselves, they can still play spoiler to any opponent jockeying for position.

Final Thoughts

The season can’t come soon enough. The bench is vastly improved and with one of the better starting five in basketball, Portland will be much more competitive than a year ago. This might be the first time in a few years that fans can be optimistic about the upcoming season.

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Former Blazer Greg Oden Will Work Out for Heat, Kings and Pelicans

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Greg Oden
Greg Oden

According to reports, the New Orleans Pelicans Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings are planing to travel north to Indianapolis, Indiana to evaluate former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden.

The Blazers selected Oden with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, ahead of superstar Kevin Durant. Five knee surgeries later, cries of Sam Bowie ring throughout the great state of Oregon.

The 25-year-old free agent will meet with New Orleans representatives this week who will be on hand to watch Oden in a private workout. However, the Pelicans aren’t the only team interested in the former No. 1 overall pick.

As many as 10 teams have been rumored to be interested in Oden. Those include the Boston Celtics, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers amongst others. With the Cavs signing Andrew Bynum this offseason, the like candidate appears to be the two-time defending NBA champion Heat.

Who would have thought there’d be so much fighting over a guy who may literally be made of glass?

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Former Lottery Pick Looking for Right Fit in Portland

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Thomas Robinson Lands in Portland

He had a terrific career at the University of Kansas.  He was freakishly athletic and possessed a powerful and strong body ready for the NBA.  As a result, he was the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Despite all of these alluring characteristics, Thomas Robinson is having trouble sticking with one team.  After being drafted by the Sacramento Kings, Robinson was shockingly traded midway through his rookie season to the Houston Rockets.  Appearing in 70 games, Robinson averaged ho-hum numbers (4.8 points, 4.5 rebounds), but it was only in 15 minutes per night.

So why is a 22-year-old former No. 5 pick playing for his third team in a year?  Are there signs that he’s already a bust?  Does he have character issues that drove Sacramento and Houston to trading him?

By all accounts Robinson is a good kid and it’s way too early to even consider him a bust so the answer to that first question is simple: he’s fallen into two unfortunate situations that were out of his control.

Thomas Robinson - Bill Baptist:NBAE
Thomas Robinson | (Bill Baaptist / NBAE)

The reason he’s not in Sacramento is because it took them half the season to realize that perhaps it was a bad decision to waist a top-five pick on a guy who plays the same position as DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson.  Plus it’s Sacramento.  They’ve been doing everything in their power to destroy young careers for the last handful of seasons.

His departure from the Rockets is a result of Houston’s desire to sign Dwight Howard.  In order to offer Howard a four-year, $88 million contract, they had to unload contracts from their roster and Robinson was one of the casualties.

So now he arrives in Portland.  With J.J. Hickson leaving, Robinson now has an opportunity to show people that he can play.  He’s a terrific rebounder and athlete, but he needs a little work on offense and defense.  But he has to be motivated and have a chip on his shoulder at this point right?

It’s a win-win for Portland.  They should be getting the very best out of a former No. 5 pick who can help bolster a front-line that was in need of some muscle.  They lost two future second-round picks and two foreign players in the deal but who knows whether they pan out or even come to the US?

It’s too early to say this was a steal for the Blazers because we have to wait and see what Robinson gives them, but looking at it initially, the Blazers might have gotten away with robbery here!

Teams Interested in Greg Oden

Despite having not played a game in the NBA since Dec. 5, 2009 following a series of knee injuries, former Trail Blazer center Greg Oden has a number of teams interested in him for the upcoming season.

Greg Oden - probasketballtalk.com
Greg Oden | (probasketballtalk.com)

The former No. 1 overall pick has received interest from the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies.

It’s hard to believe Oden is still just 25.  It feels like a lifetime ago that he was considered the “future” of the Portland Trail Blazers before it all came crashing down.  Has there ever been a professional athlete who has been more injury-riddled than Oden?  Forget the physical side for a second.  I can’t imagine how he has managed to keep it together mentally.  Maybe he hasn’t.  I wouldn’t blame him for deciding to give it up and do something else with his life.

After so many injuries and so much potential and promise waisted, the fact that he’s giving this another shot is admirable.  Greg Oden wasn’t a bust, just incredibly, terribly unlucky.  If he manages to stay healthy and put together some semblance of a successful NBA career, I’ll be the first in line to congratulate him.  It didn’t work out in Portland and that’s a shame, but if he manages to work his way back onto an NBA court once again, more power to him.

Longtime Strength and Conditioning Coach Bob Medina Let Go

The Blazers appear to be cleaning house when it comes to their medical staff.  It started in May when they parted ways with trainer Jay Jensen after 19 years and they’ve decided to do it again with another longtime employee.

Bobby Medina, the team’s strength and conditioning coach for the past 16 seasons, will not have his contract renewed according to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in athletic training with a minor in health education from UNLV, Medina spent five seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics before being hired by Portland at the start of the 1997-98 season.  Medina was well liked not only in the organization, but with the fans.  He would regularly give fans tours of the team’s practice facility and he worked several camps and clinics throughout the summer in Portland.

Portland Trail Blazers No. 2 on Most-Tortured NBA Fanbase Rankings

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Greg Oden and Brandon Roy (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)
Greg Oden and Brandon Roy
(AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Portland has it rough. According to SportsonEarth.com, Blazermania is the second most tortured fan base in the NBA. This ranking seems justified as not a lot has gone right during the Blazers’ 40 year history. Here are some reminders that will send any die-hard Blazer fan into a temporary state of depression.

First, Blazers management has made some of the biggest NBA Draft blunders in NBA history. They took an injury prone senior out of Kentucky who only played one above average year in college over the current greatest basketball player of all time. They acquired Moses Malone and traded him before his rookie season. And last but not least, Kevin Durant could be dominating the league in Portland if former general manager Kevin Pritchard didn’t take Greg Oden instead in the 2007 draft.

Injuries kind of go hand in hand with the draft blunders involving Bowie and Oden but they haven’t been the only Blazers who have suffered from the injury bug. Bill Walton led the team to the title in 1977 and then a 50-10 record the following year before breaking his foot and derailing his career. Brandon Roy‘s knee problems were also very disappointing.

Blazer fans also have had to endure the infamous Jail Blazers era when Blazers management paid the price for building a roster full of talented basketball players who lacked character and intelligence:

  • Qyntel Woods was convicted of animal abuse
  • Damon Stoudamire got caught smoking doobies with Rasheed Wallace and attempting to smuggle marijuana onto an airplane
  • Ruben Patterson was arrested for domestic abuse and got punched in the face by Zach Randolph in practice
  • Bonzi Wells didn’t care about his own fans.

And the list goes on…

We were the victims of the Jordan “shrug” game. The Memorial Day Miracle Miracle when Sean Elliot hit a ridiculous game winning three was tough to swallow. Kobe Bryant had one of his most clutch performances ever when he hit two nearly impossible shots to beat the Blazers on the final game of the season. Finally, game seven of the 2000 western conference finals was agonizing.

Who knows, maybe the Blazers are cursed like the Cubs. But hey, at least Portland has a championship banner to its credit.

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Portland’s Late Season Struggles Almost Ensure Draft Pick. But is That a Good Thing?

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On Wednesday night, the Trail Blazers started a total of three rookies as LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum continued to nurse injuries.  With two of Portland’s best players out and the team riding a six-game losing streak, the Blazers have finally initiated “tanking mode.”  Get ready for the Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt show!

You have to hand it to them, the fact that they were able to play relevant NBA basketball well into March shows this team is close to reestablishing itself as a playoff team.  Minus J.J. Hickson who won’t be back unless he’s willing to take far less money and come off the bench, the Blazers’ foursome: Aldridge, Batum, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews is a talented and competitive nucleus that the franchise and fan base should be encouraged about.  But it was the over-reliance on them that ultimately doomed the team’s season.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers
Photo: blazersedge

Besides Aldridge and Batum, Matthews has dealt with an array of injuries and even young spark plug Lillard has had a shoulder problem over the past week.  With all four of them being near the top in minutes played, it was inevitable that the talented starters would breakdown at some point.  But as the offseason nears and we move closer to the draft, the top-12 protected pick it looks like Portland will end up keeping (barely, they’re projected to get the 12th pick) will either produce a much-needed contributor off the bench or a bust who will be out of the league in three years.

Here’s a list of the last ten No. 12 picks in the draft:

  • 2012: Jeremy Lamb
  • 2011: Alec Burks
  • 2010: Xavier Henry
  • 2009: Gerald Henderson
  • 2008: Jason Thompson
  • 2007: Thaddeus Young
  • 2006: Hilton Armstrong
  • 2005: Yaroslav Korolev
  • 2004: Robert Swift
  • 2003: Nick Collison

Please, please, contain your enthusiasm (insert sarcasm).  Of these ten guys, only Thaddeus Young has turned out to be pretty good.  Henderson and Thompson have shown flashes (albeit on bad teams), Collison has had a productive career as a hard-nosed defender and rebounder and it’s too early to tell on Lamb and Burks.

From what I’ve concluded, the No. 12 pick like a lot of picks ends up being a total crap shoot. Kwame Brown went number one (he’s currently on his seventh team averaging 1.9 PPG) and future hall-of-famer Tony Parker wasn’t selected until number 28 by the Spurs.  A team can only do so much homework on a guy.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of being lucky.

The early word on this year’s draft isn’t particularly glowing so the chances of Portland landing a significant piece for the bench isn’t positive.  The team has several needs (center, wing player, a ton of low-post defenders) so they can either hold onto the pick or package it in a deal to land an established player.

According to nbadraft.net’s mock draft, Portland is projected to select Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse.  Here’s what they list as a weakness for Carter-Williams:  “Ceiling is considerable, but so is his basement, has star potential but also appears to be a guy that could end up playing the majority of his career overseas.”  Yeah, that sounds about right for a guy predicted to go No. 12 in the draft.

Damian Lillard 2
Photo: The Oregonian

Having a low draft pick for a young team is usually a good thing.  But that’s if the team is several years away.  Portland isn’t.  Aldridge is entering his prime, Batum is turning a corner from solid wing player to potential All Star and Lillard is already on the verge of becoming an elite point guard and closer in late-game situations.

They’ve already developed the young talent, now they need proven commodities to shore up the thinnest bench in the league.  The chances of a first-round pick becoming that solution, as you’ve seen from that list earlier, aren’t very good.

But hurray for having another lottery pick….  I think.

Greg Oden receives mixed response in return to Portland

Greg Oden, former No. 1 draft pick and often-injured center for the Blazers returned to Portland on Wednesday for the team’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Portland waived Oden last March following his third microfracture knee surgery.  It was the last straw after five injury-plauged seasons in the Rose City for Oden.  His return to the Rose Garden, most likely to support former Ohio State teammate and current Memphis guard Mike Conley, was his first appearance since 2010.

Oden was greeted with mostly cheers — and a few boos — when he was shown on the video scoreboard in the first quarter.  Oden offered a peace sign in response.

The mixture of cheers and boos is about right for a response for the polarizing figure that is Greg Oden.  Those who showed support probably did so because they were happy to see him in good spirits and on the road to yet another recovery from injury.

Before he crumpled to the floor trying to block a shot from Aaron Brooks in December 2009 (the last time he was on an NBA court) and breaking his left patella, Oden was playing better than anyone on the team.  Yes, that included Aldridge and Brandon Roy.  The center was showing much improvement on the offensive end and his already outstanding rebounding and defense prowess were drastically affecting how teams played the Blazers.

Those who chose to boo Oden probably did so because he was supposed to be the final piece to a championship contender and instead became a punch line.

Oden
Photo: The Oregonian

But to call him a bust wouldn’t be accurate.  If Oden had played the majority of his five season in Portland, didn’t perform well and ended up getting traded or released, then he would have joined names like Michael Olowokandi, Pervis Ellison and the already mentioned Kwame Brown as former No. 1 picks who didn’t live up to their potential.

But we don’t know Oden’s potential because he hasn’t been allowed to fulfill it yet.  In May 2012, Oden announced his intention to sit out the 2012-13 season to focus on rehabbing his injuries.  In January 2013, it was reported that several teams, including Miami and Cleveland, were interested in signing Oden for next season.  If that ends up happening and he goes on to have a productive NBA career, then Portland fans shouldn’t feel anger or resentment but rather happiness and good-will for the big man.

We all wanted to see Oden succeed.  Now if he does, it will have to be in another uniform.  That’s fine by me because after all the adversity this young man has gone through, he deserves another shot at proving everyone wrong.  The somewhat conflicted response from the Portland crowd on Wednesday tells me they understand this.  Hopefully one day soon he can come back healthy and perform at a level somewhere close to what he was beginning to show before that injury in 2009.  By then the fans should know whether to boo him or not.

LaMarcus Aldridge Selected to Second NBA All-Star Game

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For the second consecutive year, LaMarcus Aldridge can say he’s an NBA All-Star. Announced Thursday evening on TNT, Aldridge was chosen as a reserve by coaches in the Western Conference.

It’s always a challenge to make the Western Conference roster at the power forward position and for Aldridge to make it despite playing on a .500 team and playing the majority of his games at a later time on the West Coast makes his selection all the more impressive.

Another factor to consider in his selection was that for the first time this year, the center position was removed from the balloting. Coaches had to select four forwards instead of three and one center. It also didn’t hurt that Kevin Love has been hurt the majority of the season.

Aldridge
Thank you, coaches. At least someone’s been watching me play.

Blazers’ GM Neil Olshey reacted to Aldridge’s selection by saying, “Everyone in the Trail Blazers family is proud that the work and dedication LaMarcus shows on a daily basis to this organization was recognized by the opposing coaches in the Western Conference.”

Averaging 20.7 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, Aldridge joins Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph and David Lee as front court players selected by the coaches. The other reserves included James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Tony Parker.

At 27 and in his seventh season, Aldridge is entering the prime of his career. Barring injury and with players like Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki nearing the end of their careers, it’s conceivable that he can make a run of five or six trips to the All-Star Game.

Originally planned to be the third option on a team featuring Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, Aldridge was forced to be the number one option when both players went down with injuries. Over the last three years, he has been among the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and minutes played.

Fun facts about his selection:

The 6-foot-11 power forward becomes the 11th Blazer to make the All-Star team at least two times joining Clyde Drexler, Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Sidney Wicks, Geoff Petrie, Kevin Duckworth, Jim Paxson, Terry Porter, Rasheed Wallace and most recently Brandon Roy.

In fan voting for the starters, Aldridge finished 11th among forwards (People on the East Coast need to stay up and watch some more basketball).

Aldridge will receive a $250,000 bonus for making the team (Not too shabby).

Last year he only played 9 minutes and 45 seconds while finishing with four points, one rebound and one assist.

The game will be played in Houston, Texas which is Aldridge’s native state. He also went to the University of Texas (Get ready to buy a lot of tickets for family and friends).

The 62nd NBA All-Star Game will be Sunday, Feb. 17, televised on TNT.

Kevin Durant in Portland is Simply a Dream

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This photoshopped image has many fans cringing at what could have been.

Kevin Durant should be playing professional basketball in the Pacific Northwest.  Technically for the Seattle Supersonics, but somebody asked the other day how would the Portland Trailblazers do if KD played in the Rose Garden?  That’s really a tough question.

Many fans still see the Oklahoma City Thunder as the Seattle Supersonics.  Change the uniforms, change the venue and keep that exact same team— the Sonics still lose to the Heat in the 2012 NBA Finals.  The Trailblazers though?

There’s really no telling because it’s a matter of which Blazers team you’re talking about—this coming year’s team or last year’s team that had 28 wins.

This past year’s Blazers didn’t have much to offer athletically and wasn’t the most energetic squad in the league.  The Blazers weren’t terrible last year, but it never clicked in those 38 losses.  LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson were more than reliable while Nicolas Batum earned himself a big time contract this summer, which is very positive for Portland as there is definitely something to look forward to.

Durant on last year’s Trailblazer squad could improve that team by at least 10 to 15 wins, but they’d still only have 38-to-42 wins at that point — good for the bottom half of the Western Conference playoff seeding, maybe the mid-half. Then again, with the scoring of Durant and somewhat similar players in Aldridge and the Thunders Serge Ibaka, there’s not telling if Durant improves the Blazers by 20 wins making them a 48 win team with one of the best records in the NBA.

Chemistry is always an important issue in building a franchise and there’s no telling how Durant would mesh with last year’s group.  A situation like this may not fare well in Portland, the same way it hasn’t for the New York Knicks and Carmelo Anthony.

Players like Aldridge and Hickson need the ball delivered to them in the post to get in rhythm and feel involved in the offense.  Durant, although he seems to be a willing team player and passer, has to have the ball in his hands and create his shot.  He can play in the half court set, but to be on the move and up tempo, within that set, is a strength he is known for.

Durant is a gamer.  There’s just really no telling how Durant would move with Aldridge and Hickson being his other scorers along with Batum coming off the bench.  The mix of scoring and chemistry of last year’s Blazers squad doesn’t necessarily give the vibe of a great mix but that’s if you simply force Durant into that team and just try to make it work.

Now if Durant were a free agent that signed with the up and coming Blazers team for this season, then that sounds more dangerous.

Drafting center Greg Oden will go down as one of the biggest draft mistakes in NBA history. No fault, necessarily, of the Blazers, but unfortunate with his injury plagued career.

In this dream scenario, Durant would be able to practice with high-potential rookie Damian Lillard, as well as with Batum, Aldridge and Hickson.  A Blazers team like this with Durant could be just as deadly as the Oklahoma City Thunder are now.  A close analytic view of the Blazers current roster has very striking similarities to what has been built in Oklahoma.

Although this is hypothetical, it’s really a shame the Blazers can’t make a move for the superstar that is a leader for Team USA in London.  Durant brings much more than just basketball to Oklahoma City, and any other franchise that is lucky enough to have him in his career.

Ironically, Portland seems to only be a real superstar away from being a contender for an NBA championship.  Durant, without over analyzing, would most definitely change this group, this year’s or last’s.

Lillard, from the start of his NBA career, may be able to score like Russell Westbrook.  Fellow rookie Will Barton could fair as a James Harden type while Hickson and Aldridge fill the role of Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. This team could get scary, but this is all fantasy basketball.

Durant would bring more than just championship contention to the Blazers and the Rose Garden.  Marketability is always one of the biggest factors in having a franchise player and Durant would make cash registers ring in the Rose Garden.

A soon to be MVP, a face of Nike and a very important piece to Olympic basketball, Durant has all the revenue qualities that are sought after in a franchise player, and usually a deciding factor in their value to the city during contract negotiations.

Durant as a Trailblazer, on and off the court, would be a quality asset for the successful atmosphere that the franchise has built.  Although he could rightfully be playing in the same division for a different team right now, it’s all fantasy anyway.  But for now, it’s something to think about until the season starts up.

Where Did The Week Go…

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This past Thursday the NBA draft came and went. Following the five hour player crap-shoot; writers, bloggers, “experts,” and prognosticators began grading the draft. The Portland Trail Blazers seem to have done well as they were graded anywhere from a “B” to an “A+.”

Portland got what they wanted, a point guard in Damian Lillard and a center in Meyers Leonard, but like every team in the league, they won’t truly know how well these picks will pan out for a few years. Every NBA team has their fair share of “my bad” picks, but the Trail Blazers have a long history of making “Wow, could have won a lot of championships with that guy, instead took that guy picks.”

You’re clapping now. Let’s wait a couple of years to see if you still have that same level of enthusiasm.

It dates all the way back to 1972 when Portland selected LaRue Martin with the number one pick. Martin would play four seasons in his career (all with Portland) averaging a whopping 5.3 points per game. At the ripe old age of 25, Martin decided to hang it up.

The two players Portland passed up to take Martin: future Hall-of-Famer and scoring machine Bob McAdoo who went second, and ABA/NBA legend and also future Hall-of-Famer Julius Erving who was selected at number 12.

In 1976, Portland again had the opportunity to snatch up not one, but two future Hall-of-Famers and again failed. Instead of taking Adrian Dantley at five, Portland selected some white dude named Wally Walker who would play 75 games over two seasons for Portland. Dantley would play in six All Star games and score more than 23,000 points in his career. Oops!!!

That same draft Portland took two of the three best players in the disbanded ABA Dispersal Draft: Moses Malone and Maurice Lucas. They kept Lucas who would go on to have a solid NBA career with Portland including help lead them to their only NBA title in 1977.

But the better of the two players, Moses Malone, would be dealt to the Buffalo Braves. Malone was a three-time league MVP and twelve-time NBA All Star. Imagine Portland having Malone, Dantley, Lucas and Bill Walton on the same team. Pretty safe to assume they would have won multiple titles with that group.

In 1978 Portland again had the number one pick. (Ah the good old days when you could win a championship and the following year get the top pick in the draft). The Trail Blazers selected Mychal Thompson with their pick. Thompson would go on to have a solid career with Portland averaging around 17 points-per-game and shoot 50%. But when you’re selected first, your career should be better than “solid.” A guy they could have selected that year, someone named Larry Bird. Ouch!!

Now we fast forward to 1984. You knew it was coming. That fateful year the Blazers made not only their worst pick in franchise history, but really the worst draft decision in NBA history. At number two Portland selected Kentucky Center Sam Bowie. With pick number three, Chicago drafted some guy named Michael Jordan.

Two centers with bones made of glass.

The excuse for not taking Jordan was that Portland needed a big man. They had already taken Clyde Drexler the year before and didn’t need another scoring guard. You already know Jordan’s resume. Bowie would go on to play five seasons with Portland. The last three years he would play a grand total of 25 games or 10% of Portland’s total games over a three year period. Here’s a thought, don’t draft a walking chandelier who missed two full seasons of college due to injuries.

So up to this point Portland either picked the right guy and traded him (Malone) or picked the wrong guy (Martin, Walker, Thompson, Bowie) and saw the better guy (Dantley, Bird, Jordan) go on to have great careers. In 1986 Portland again picked the right guy, but they didn’t see him for a decade.

Arvydas Sabonis was selected in the first round by Portland. Unable to come over to the states because he was still under contract with the Soviets, Sabonis would lead his Olympic team to the 1988 gold medal at the age of 23. Once Russia fragmented in 1989 and Sabonis was allowed to leave the country, he shockingly signed with Spain instead of joining the Blazers.

Sabonis could do it all: run, jump, shoot from anywhere and pass as well as any big man who has ever played the game. By the time he arrived in Portland in 1995, Sabonis was 31. His knee and foot injuries over the years sapped his quickness. The young spry immortal was replaced by a lumbering caveman who could only lightly jog up and down the court.

I wish we had gotten the center on the left.

Sabonis did play a key role on the 2000 Blazer team that got to the Western Conference Finals, but imagine if he had come over in the late ’80s. Those entertaining, high-scoring Blazer teams featuring Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams made it to the finals in ’90 and ’92 with Kevin Duckworth at center. Replace Duck with one of the greatest centers of that era and those finals outcomes could have gone a little differently.

From ’86 to ’06, Portland had mostly mediocre drafts but it was because they were always making the playoffs and therefore never had a high draft pick. They did get Cliff Robinson in the second round in ’89 but their first round picks consisted of players like James Robinson, Shawn Respert, Chris Anstey and Erick Barkley.

They did draft Jermaine O’Neal right out of high school in ’96. But he sat on the bench for four years and eventually they traded him for veteran Dale Davis. O’Neal went on to make six straight All Star games for the Indiana Pacers.

In 2005, Portland had the third pick in the draft and decided to trade down and obtained the six pick. If they had kept the third pick, they could have taken either Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Instead they took high schooler Martell Webster. In five season with the Blazers, Webster showed flashes of great ability, but he could never consistently put it together. Williams and Paul on the other hand have been arguably the two best point guards in the NBA over that time period.

Another star Blazer who couldn’t stay healthy.

The ’06 draft was the one year Portland did everything right. They obtained the two best players in that year’s draft (LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy) and they got both of them in draft day trades. Until knee injuries ended his career, Roy was the best player Portland had since Clyde Drexler. Aldridge is currently Portland’s best player and last year made his first All Star game.

The 2007 draft will unfortunately rank up there with the ’84 draft as one of Portland’s worst. Instead of taking three-time scoring champion and recent NBA Finals participant Kevin Durant, the Blazers took Greg Oden. Oden hasn’t stepped foot on an NBA court since December of 2009 and probably won’t again until 2013. He played 82 games in five seasons for Portland. Durant has missed only fourteen games in five years for the Thunder.

So as you can see, Portland has made a few bad decisions in the draft. Of course every NBA team can say the same thing, but Portland’s in particular have been highly noted. With every pick you make, there’s going to be what ifs.

Like in ’84 when they drafted Bowie out of necessity, they did the same this year in filling holes at point guard and center. Right now they look like the right picks. But as history has shown us, wait a couple of years and then decide whether or not this year’s draft grade deserves a high score.