LeBron James

Film Fanatic: Alden Ehrenreich Cast as Young Han Solo, ‘Space Jam 2’ News

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Film Fanatic

 

Alden Ehrenreich Cast as Young Han Solo

This December, Disney will kick off their Star Wars anthology films with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The next chapter in the series will be another prequel in the form of a young Han Solo movie. A substantial casting search began a few months ago and it appears the studio has finally found their man.

Alden Ehrenreich has been cast as Solo according to multiple outlets and first reported by Page Six. Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who helmed the Jump Street films and The LEGO Movie, will direct from a script written by Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon Kasdan.

Lucas Film
Alden Ehrenreich has big shoes to fill. | (Rex/ShutterStock/Lucas Film)

Ehrenreich is a relatively unknown actor to most movie audiences. His breakout role came in the since forgotten YA adaptation Beautiful Creatures. He also acted in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and he recently appeared in and supposedly stole scenes in the Coen Brothers comedy Hail, Caesar!

The thought of a Han Solo prequel has always been puzzling to me. With such an expansive universe, why go back to the well with an icon character made famous by Harrison Ford? The expectations for Ehrenreich and Lord and Miller will be enormous and I have to imagine fans will be thinking of Ford when watching the movie. Ford was 35 when Star Wars came out and Ehrenreich will be nearly 30 by the time this new version is released. Ehrenreich will likely be playing Solo in his early 20s, but it’s still hard to imagine someone else holding the blaster.

But Lord and Miller have an excellent track record so far so we will see. The young Han Solo movie arrives in theaters May 25, 2018.

 

Justin Lin to Direct ‘Space Jam 2’ Starring LeBron James

A sequel to Space Jam starring LeBron James has been rumored for a few years now with little to no progress. But according to TheWrap, James will indeed star in the film and Warner Bros. has landed a big-time director to guide the project.

Justin Lin, who directed four Fast & Furious films and the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, is in talks to direct from a script from Andrew Dodge (Bad Words). The project is still in the early stages of development, but at least this is something.

The original Space Jam was released in 1996 and starred Michael Jordan at the height of his fame. Despite Jordan’s lack of acting chops, the film still managed to earn more than $230 million worldwide thanks to the combination of Jordan and the team of Looney Tunes including Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Space Jam 2-consequenceofsound.net
‘Space Jam 2’ is finally happening. | (consequenceofsound.net)

James recently signed a production deal with Warner Bros. and part of that deal is that he will have to approve the script before officially signing on to star. It’s good to be LeBron James.

This project has always made sense to me. James is the most popular basketball player and perhaps the most popular athlete in the world since Jordan and a sequel would be a de-facto passing of the torch. James is certainly a better actor than Jordan after seeing Trainwreck and the thought of seeing James interacting with the Looney Tunes would be nostalgic and a reminder to these kids today of what real cartoons look like. Have you seen what the kids watch these days?

In addition to James, other basketball players are expected to cameo in addition to a few well-known actors. No word on whether Bill Murray will return but why the hell not.

 

Russell Crowe in Talks to Play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Last week, I noted that Universal did not have a single superhero franchise to its name. In an attempt to remedy that, the studio has begun to relaunch their dormant monsters including The Mummy, Frankenstein and The Wolfman and create a Monsters Universe because that’s what studios do now.

They’ve already landed Tom Cruise, who’s starring in the rebooted Mummy that will be released next summer and now they may have recruited another movie star to play an iconic character.

According to Deadline, Russell Crowe is in early talks to play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the ambitious and brilliant doctor by day and unstable monster by night. If Crowe agrees, he will make an appearance in The Mummy as Dr. Robert Louis Stevenson before potentially leading his own franchise.

Russell Crowe-fangoria.com
Russell Crowe playing an unstable guy. Should be right up his alley. | (fangoria.com)

But the movie star recruitment doesn’t end there. Universal has reportedly already landed Johnny Depp to play The Invisible Man and they’re courting Angelina Jolie to play Frankenstein’s Bride.

Universal has already tried to reboot some of their monsters. They successfully turned The Mummy into a trilogy of blockbuster summer movies starring Brendan Fraser, but they failed with other characters including The Wolfman starring Benicio del Toro (Who remembers that one?) and Dracula Untold which was supposed to jump-start the Monster Universe until it crashed-and-burned at the box office.

I like the idea of bringing back Universal’s iconic monsters, but it appears they’re going down the blockbuster route rather than horror. It makes sense monetarily, but fanboys of the characters will no doubt be upset.

Universal’s experiment will begin June 9, 2017 when The Mummy arrives in theaters and they have two untitled monster pics planned for April 13, 2018 and February 15, 2019. It’s risky and ambitious but movie studios are always on the lookout for more franchises because that’s where the money comes from.

The Pac-12, Not the SEC, Will Be the Conference to Beat This Year

Okay, so I write for an Oregon Ducks sports blog, so what? I’m biased, that much is obvious, but there’s actual evidence that supports the title of this piece. Now that college football has finally moved to a playoff to determine...

8 Reasons Why College Football Is the Greatest Sport of Them All

This is the week that we have all been waiting for. At the end of last season the Ducks summarily ushered Mack Brown out the door with a swift kick in the rear and the parting words “Next time bring a passing game.” Since that night, Oregon fans have been looking forward to the next season to finally get here. Well, …

For Mercedes Russell, Improvement Has Paid Dividends

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“I heard you won an award this year. I think it’s national girls basketball player of the year?” WNBA star Maya Moore said to then Springfield High School student Mercedes Russell, comically downplaying the moment while surprising her with the highly coveted trophy in front of a camera. Russell’s jaw dropped and her eyes lit up.

So awestruck and tongue-tied, Russell responded, “wooow thank you,”

Maya Moore(left) and Mercedes Russell. Photo by Susan Goldman, Gatorade
Maya Moore(left) and Mercedes Russell. Photo by Susan Goldman, Gatorade

The moment marked Russell’s initiation into an illustrious group of high school basketball Gatorade Player Of The Year award winners including Lebron James, Dwight Howard and Russell’s favorite player, Candace Parker. Also, Kevin Love now has company in the “from Oregon” category of winners.

The award solidified a fact that most people who had watched her play already knew. Russell had mastered high school basketball. But regardless of if you’re an average teen or one of the the most highly touted high school basketball players of the last five years, life is a never-ending process of maturation and improvement.

On the basketball court, not many players in college or even professionally can replicate some of the things Russell can accomplish.

“Not only is she a unique talent who is 6’6″ and can handle the ball, her basketball IQ for a young person, who is still only 18 years old, is off the charts” Springfield High School head coach Bill Wagner said.

Mercedes Russell playing for Springfield High School. Photo by Maxpreps.com
Mercedes Russell playing for Springfield High School.
Photo by Maxpreps.com

Russell averaged 25.1 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.5 blocks, 3.9 assists and two steals her senior year and was the catalyst of two state champion Springfield High School teams in her final two years of high school.

But she wasn’t always so adept at utilizing her talent.

Her freshman year, Russell averaged 13.9 points and just 2.2 assists. Wagner, who coached Russell from her sophomore year to her senior year, said that although she always could score, over the years, Russell developed other parts of her game.

“She learned how to dominate defensively and with the pass,” Wagner said.

He says she especially improved her ability to pass out of double teams.

“Over time, she began to understand defenses and learned to figure out where people were coming from and to make the right read out of double and even triple teams.” Wagner said.

By the time she was a junior, her stats catapulted to 26 points and five assists, along with 15 rebounds and five blocks. By the time she was a senior, she became the number one recruit in the nation. Because Russell played guard for much of her youth, she has the handle and jump shot of a guard, while possessing the size and length of a post player. Not to mention, she is ambidextrous.

“It allows me to finish on either side of the basket. I think I can finish with both hands pretty well,” Russell said.

“Most big men are just there to plug the middle. She is so much more versatile than that,” Wagner said.

Her rare skills prompted illustrious programs such as Louisville, Duke, North Carolina and Tennessee to offer her a scholarship. In the end, she chose Tennessee.

“Tennessee was always my dream school. I’ve been watching them play my whole life,” she said.

By the end of her high school career, her game was well polished, but her personality hadn’t yet blossomed.

“She was really shy in high school. She would be in a room and you wouldn’t know she was there,” Wagner said.

“Mercedes was more of a lead by example type of player. We had other players on those title teams who were more vocal leaders,” Wagner said.

But like many wide-eyed freshman who’re eager to reinvent themselves, her personality opened up once she stepped foot on a college campus. While visiting Knoxville, Tenn., Wagner saw a noticeable difference in Russell’s public persona.

“She’s always been a lot of fun once you get to know her,” Wagner said. “She was never immature. But I’ve seen a growth in her from high school to college. She is much more vocal and outgoing,” he said.

Russell says her transition to college has been easy.

“The weather is something else,” she said. “I really love the soul food and barbecue,” Russell added.

Plus, she was pleasantly surprised by how friendly the people of Knoxville are.

“The southern hospitality is great. Everyone is so nice,” Russell said.

Though she has adapted well, she didn’t leave for uncharted territory alone. Fellow McDonalds all-American, AAU teammate on Team Concept and Oregon native, Jordan Reynolds, also signed her letter of intent to play basketball for Tennessee.

“We’re both coming from Oregon and coming to a new experience together. It is nice to have someone there with you,” Russell said.

Suiting up for maybe the most storied programs in women’s basketball and current No. 8 team in the nation according to the Associated Press, Russell has played well at times.

Mercedes Russell is now a Tennessee Volunteer. Photo by Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel
Mercedes Russell is now a Tennessee Volunteer. Photo by Saul Young, Knoxville News Sentinel

So far this year, she is averaging 7.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and over one block per game. Against No. 17 ranked Texas A & M, she accumulated eight points, a team high 11 rebounds, one steal and one block. Also, she was named SEC Freshman of the Week on Dec. 30. However, against Alabama on Sunday, she finished with just two point and two rebounds. But in concordance with men’s basketball Gatorade Player of the Year Andrew Wiggins, who scored 29 points one game and went 2-12 from the field the next, for Russell or any 18-year-old collegiate athlete, consistency is hard to come by.

Both Wagner and Russell agree that she needs to get stronger to make a consistent impact on both ends of the floor. She says she has brought to the Volunteers squad great presence inside, but admits that along with adding strength, she must get faster and develop her post moves.

Earlier this year, another WNBA star, Russell’s idol Parker, visited her. This time not to congratulate, but to motivate.

“You need to start working now and it will payoff later,” Russell recalls Volunteer legend Parker telling the Lady Vols squad. “If you don’t work hard now, you’ll regret it later,” Parker added.

Though Wagner gushes about Russell’s worth ethic with regards to developing her basketball skills, Russell has utilized Parker’s motivation toward developing her body in the weight room as well.

“There is always room for improvement,” Russell acknowledges.

Once she reaches her potential, Wagner believes the sky is the limit for Russell.

“She is going to change the game in so many different ways. I think she could be a multi-time all-American and play for national championships.”

Not to mention, he see’s a long and prosperous WNBA career in her future.

Along with his visit to Knoxville, Wagner and Russell keep in touch by texting all the time. It’s safe to say that the two share a connection beyond the sport of basketball.

“I consider her like a member of my family,” Wagner said.

“I would do anything for her.”

I want to thank Mercedes Russell and coach Wagner for taking the time to talk with EDN.

Ducks Hoops Have Heat-Like Versatility

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Two point guards, one shooting guard, one power forward and a player so versatile, putting him under a positional box would be insulting: This was the Miami Heat’s lineup in the closing minutes of its fairly competitive 101-95 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Christmas day.

Photo by Keith Allison
Photo by Keith Allison

The two-time defending champion Miami Heat have mastered the art of relativity. In a blink of an eye the team can shovel out a big lineup with the likes of Chris Anderson, Chris Bosh and Lebron James playing at the same time. The next second, cerebral point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole can check in to run opponents in circles with speed and three’s.

You wouldn’t think a little up and coming college team that hasn’t made it to the final four since 1939 could mirror a potential NBA dynasty. But for the Ducks this season, that is exactly what they have done and should continue to do.

The comparisons between the two teams aren’t completely comprehensive, but they are telling.

Photo - Craig Strobeck/Fishduck.com
Photo – Craig Strobeck/Fishduck.com

Both teams prefer to play small, run up and down the floor, shoot as many three’s as possible and are extremely efficient offensively. The Heat rank second in the NBA in offensive efficiency while the Ducks rank fourth in college basketball.

With the return of Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, like the Heat, the Ducks can play super small or fairly large depending on the traits of the players in opposing uniforms and which Ducks are hot and which are not.

Both teams have two wily point guards who will step up when needed and take a step back when other players are flourishing. Of course, no player college or pro alike can compare to “The Chosen One,” but both teams have dynamic wings who can single-handedly get buckets and do other things to help their team. Plus, each roster includes athletic scoring forwards that are hard to leave open on pick and pops and can explode to the hoop. And a couple centers who may not pose much of an offensive threat, but will take up space and wreak havoc defensively.

Because each squad likes to play a lot of small ball, they are often overmatched on the boards. The Heat are ranked fourth to last in the NBA in rebounding rate while the Ducks are 96th in college basketball.

Photo by Keith Allison
Photo by Keith Allison

But to counter size deficiencies that stem from small lineups, both teams play aggressive defensively. However, each does so in different ways. The Heat are one of the most aggressive teams in the NBA in defending the pick and roll. While some head coaches teach their big men to sit back and wait for the ball handler to come at them, the Heat’s coach Erik Spoelstra instructs his players to hedge the pick, essentially double teaming the ball handler and forcing him to make a quick pass or attempt to run around the hedge. To go along with that, weak side defenders such as James and Dwyane Wade are taught to play cornerback and try to intercept passes out of the double team. Their speed also helps them rotate quickly if the dribbler can handle the pressure.

Because college basketball isn’t as much predicated on the pick and roll, Altman utilizes different schemes to force opponents into precarious situations. The Ducks have mixed it up a lot this year, using some half court traps and zones to go along with standard man to man defense. Lately, and especially against BYU, the Ducks have pressed early and often against opponents. Like Miami, Oregon’s superior speed and athleticism allows it to take a lot of risks.

Oregon is 34th in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in steals this season at 8.27 per game. The Heat rank No. 1 in the NBA with 9.7 spg.

Still, the Ducks defense has a long way to go before being able to be considered in the same realm of defensive execution as the Heat. UO’s defense leaves a lot to be desired. The team’s best offensive players, Joseph Young and Johnathan Loyd, are often broken down in one-on-one situations and the team hasn’t yet had the paint presence to be able to deny lay-up opportunities consistently. Oregon ranks a dismal 108th in the nation in defensive efficiency so far this season.

image - Don Olson/Fishduck.com
image – Don Olson/Fishduck.com

But it is unlikely that the Ducks inconsistent defense will continue. Though Oregon has easily learned to play together offensively, defense cohesion often takes longer to develop than offensive cohesion. Plus, led by Damyean Dotson, the Ducks have the athleticism to stay with opponents on the perimeter. And with the return of Carter, UO will be able to matchup inside more effectively.

But for every Miami Heat, there is an Indiana Pacers. The Pacers consistently dominate the Heat in the paint and on the boards and were one or two plays away from defeating them in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. If the Ducks resemble the Heat, the Arizona Wildcats mirror the Pacers.

Going up against the giants of No.1 ranked Arizona, it will behoove the Ducks to play either Waverly Austin or Carter for nearly the entire game. They will even likely have to play Moser and Cook some at the three to contain out of the gym leapers Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. If they mix in some ball ball, the Ducks have the personnel to give the Wildcats some trouble.

However, against an athletic, up-tempo team like UCLA, you might see a sizable helping of small ball and some two point guard, no center lineups from UO. Like the Heat who are much more comfortable playing against smaller teams, UO will feel right at home against a UCLA team that ranks seventh in college basketball in points per game, six spots behind the number one ranked Ducks offense.

I can see it now. Loyd, Artis, Young Dotson and Mike Moser on the court together in the closing minutes of a tight game on the road, maybe even in Los Angeles.

It could be like Christmas afternoon all over again.

Cavaliers Show Interest in Trading for LaMarcus Aldridge

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It was reported on Wednesday by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski that the Cleveland Cavaliers have inquired about acquiring Portland Trail Blazer and two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.  Cleveland has been slowly beginning to put together a plan to bring Lebron James back to his home state (James has the ability to opt out of his contract with Miami in the summer of 2014) and apparently Aldridge is a player Cleveland would like to have to persuade James to return.

But when a franchise is looking to trade for another team’s All-Star, it comes down to what they have to offer.  Looking at the Cavs’ potentially available pieces in this rumored deal, the chances of Aldridge being dealt to Cleveland are about as likely as Lebron returning to the team that drafted him (Hint: They’re not good).

LaMarcus Aldridge
Photo: US PRESSWIRE

Other than Kyrie Irving, everyone on Cleveland’s roster is available and according to Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers are offering a number of young players and draft picks for Aldridge.  While Yahoo! Sports doesn’t provide specifics, the most logical players in a prosed deal would include former top-five picks, Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters.

But guess what, even if Cleveland offered both players and their top-five pick in this year’s draft, that still wouldn’t be enough of a package for Portland to consider trading their best player.

Thompson showed great improvement from year one to year two (specifically in shooting and defensive rebounding), but he’s still not enough of a talent for Portland to warrant replacing Aldridge with.  Thompson still struggles with finishing at the rim offensively and while his defense is solid (an area Portland greatly needs to improve), it isn’t game-changing good.

With the departure of Jared Jeffries last week, Aldridge is now Portland’s oldest player at 27.  He’s in the prime of his career so why would the Blazers trade him now to get a 22-year-old player who’s still a work-in-progress?  With such a young nucleus to begin with (Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are all 26 and under), the Trail Blazers will be looking to add established players rather than more young prospects.

Waiters was a player on Portland’s radar in last year’s draft so it would seem plausible that they would have an interest in the guard.  But like Thompson, Waiters isn’t enticing enough for the Blazers to give up their franchise player.

Waiters had an erratic rookie season for the Cavs.  He missed 21 games due to injury and his terrible shot selection resulted in season averages of 41 percent from the field and 31 percent from three.  He also struggled mightily on defense — often appearing lost in reacting to screens and understanding how to rotate in space.  Portland’s two best defenders play on the perimeter (Batum and Matthews) so the only ideal reason to have Waiters would be to provide offense off the bench.  Again, not enough of a reason (no matter how bad Portland’s bench was this year) for the Blazers to depart with Aldridge.

Dion Waiters
Photo: chronicle.northcoastnow.com

And then there’s Cleveland’s draft pick.  Experts are saying this year’s draft is one of the worst in recent memory.  Case in point: a recent mock draft has the Blazers taking the once highly-touted Shabazz Muhammad at number ten.  So Portland has just as much of a chance at landing a quality player in this year’s draft as Cleveland does in the top five.

So as you can see, two shaky young players and a high draft pick that isn’t that valuable doesn’t sound very exciting.  Aldridge has two years and $29.3 million remaining on his contract.  In a couple of years he will seek another big deal and whether or not he accepts another one from the Blazers will depend on how fast the team returns to playoff contention.  On paper Cleveland’s deal sounds good: one, maybe two former top-five picks and another top-five pick in the 2013 draft.  But when you really break it down, any deal they offer that doesn’t include Kyrie Irving isn’t in Portland’s best interests moving forward.

Comment below if you think the Blazers would entertain a trade that includes Aldridge. Make sure to continue the conversation on Facebook and on Twitter @EugeneDailyNews

Overlooking This Season, the Blazers Look to Move Forward

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Getty Images
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts (right) and rookie point guard Damian Lillard (left) discuss strategy (Getty Images)

After witnessing the Portland Trail Blazers (33-49) season unravel faster than the ribbon protecting the most gargantuan present under the tree from an impatient child, it’s time to look to the future.

No matter how utterly horrendous your favorite NBA team is, every fan has the luxury of looking forward to the NBA draft and free agency. While some are calling this year’s draft the worst since the year 2000 when Kenyon Martin broke his leg into being selected number one overall, there is always a diamond in the rough (former all star Michael Redd was taken 43rd in that same draft). In the Blazer’s case, free agency might be more beneficial considering their more pressing need for proven commodities than potential.

The Blazers’ starting guards and forward situations are almost certainly set, but the rest of the spots in next year’s rotation are seemingly up for grabs. The formula for the Blazers woes this season was: NO Bench + No Defense + No Rebounding = No Playoffs. The Blazers not only had the worst scoring bench in the NBA by an astounding eight points, but also averaged 15 fewer bench points than their opponents PER GAME!!

Not to mention, the Blazers were the fourth least efficient defensive team in the NBA last season thanks to no shot blocking presence (unless you count Batum on the fast break) or elite defender on the roster. Finally, they ranked 20th in the NBA in team rebounding rate.  Suffice it to say; although the blazers have a talented core, they lack the role players to establish a consistent winner. Thanks to the NBA draft and free agency, these holes can be filled before next season. But can anyone on the current roster quell Portland’s deficiencies?

Meyers Leonard showed a lot of improvement this season, showing not only dunking ability and rebounding potential, but a feathery jumper, which could develop into a serious weapon with a summer spent in the gym. Also, Eric Maynor proved to be a useful acquisition and would be an above average back up point guard if General Manager Neil Olshey opts to keep him. Although Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland were largely ineffective cogs on the worst bench in the NBA this season, they will also have a chance to earn minutes next year. Still, the Blazers seriously need a deeper talent pool in order to establish some semblance of a respectable bench.

Considering the difficulty rookie’s typically face making a significant impact on the defensive end, the Blazers should sign defensive specialists in Free Agency. Lamarcus Aldridge cannot be the biggest player in the Blazers’ starting five for them to succeed defensively. Thus, it would be wise for Olshey to sign a true center. Although no center available is ideal in this free agent class, a few players could strengthen Portland’s frontline.

Samuel Dalmbert (Jeffrey Phelps/ Getty Images)
Samuel Dalmbert
(Jeffrey Phelps/ Getty Images)

Upcoming free agent Samuel Dalembert would compliment Aldridge’s scoring prowess with defense, shot blocking and rebounding. Dalembert didn’t receive as much playing time as he is used to due to the emergence of young bigs Larry Sanders and John Henson, but was able to average 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in under 17 minutes of action a night.

San Antonio Spur, Tiago Splitter could also be a serviceable big for the Blazers. He wouldn’t block a ton of shots, but his adept mobility, rebounding and touch around the basket would be useful. Atlanta Hawks big man Zaza Pachula could provide similar skills as Splitter, although he tore his ACL earlier this month.

If perimeter defense were the sole determinant of skill in the NBA, Memphis wing Tony Allen would be Lebron James. Allen has been the best perimeter defender in the NBA for a few years now. Not only does he shut down opponents individually, but he is also excellent at rotating defensively and causing havoc off the ball. One Grizzlies lineup with Allen at shooting guard ranked the number one defensive lineup in terms of points allowed per possession in the Association. It will be interesting to see how much money it will take to sign him considering perimeter defensive specialists rarely attract big contracts.  If the Blazers can’t get Allen, Denver forward Corey Brewer would also certainly bolster the Blazers’ defense.

In the draft however, they should look for bench scoring.

Although nothing is certain until the Ping Pong balls unscrupulously make their decision in the draft lottery on May 21, the Blazers will most likely pick somewhere between ninth and 12th. I will go into more detail about whom the Blazers should select after the draft lottery, but for now, I will provide some calculated but vague generalities based on pure speculation.

Peter Yang/ESPN The Magazine
Peter Yang/ESPN The Magazine

Big men will likely dominate this section of the draft and the Blazers could use another big considering JJ Hickson’s possible departure. Two of the best scorers in college basketball, Cody Zeller and Kelly Olynyk could both be available at the time the Blazers are on the clock.  Both would provide scoring off the bench, although both would almost certainly be a liability defensive liability.

Another guard with upside who can score off the bench could be useful as well. If UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad slips to the latter portion of the lottery, he would be a good value pick for the Blazers. Muhammed is a versatile scorer who plays with a lot of tenacity and toughness.   Lehigh guard CJ McCollum missed most of his senior season after injuring his foot in January, but their is a lot to like about the guard.  Look no further than the tape of Lehigh’s upset victory over 2 seed Duke in 2012 to find the evidence.  The guy can shoot the lights out of the gym, not only in spot up opportunities, but he made an impressive 49% of his shots off the dribble.  Still, he is a bit of a tweener who plays like a shooting guard but has the size of a point guard at only 6-3.  He may have trouble stopping NBA shooting guards but he could potentially be a quality scorer at the NBA level.

If somehow the unthinkable happens and the Blazers land a top three selection, they would go for the two most likely players in the draft to reach an All Star game, shooting guard Ben Mclemore and center Nerlens Noel. Luckily, both players play the top two weakest positions in the Blazers’ starting lineup.  Mclemore was not only a human highlight reel, but also a three-point marksman for the Kansas Jayhawks. Noel may not have lived up to his predecessor Anthony Davis offensively, but before he tore his ACL, he averaged more than four blocks per game. Once he is healthy, he will immediately make penetrators think twice before going at the rim.  Still, he will miss part of his rookie season rehabbing his torn ACL.

The Blazers also possess two second round picks. It is almost impossible to predict which second rounders will make an impact in the NBA, but I have a few I like. I think former UNC wing Reggie Bullock could be a solid knockdown shooter and tough perimeter defender in the NBA.  UCLA forward Kyle Anderson could be a rich mans Luke Walton who does a little bit of everything relatively well and North Texas forward Tony Mitchell could be a good defender and rebounder at the NBA level.

So many variables are in play that consequently, I have no idea what is going to happen this summer.  Let’s hope this off-season turns out to be more like the years we drafted Clyde Drexler or Terry Porter and completely opposite to the years we traded Moses Malone, drafted Martell Webster instead of Chris Paul or drafted the two centers who must not be named ahead of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.  But first, the draft lottery awaits.

Seattle Can Only Sit and Wonder

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Oh how perturbed the city of Seattle’s basketball fans probably feel.  At the same time, the birth in this year’s NBA Finals and the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder as a former franchise in Seattle may not have even happened had the team stayed in the Emerald city.

An important aspect to the reality of the Thunder, as a team, is that the fan base and always-talked-about energy and crowd involvement within Oklahoma City. The Chesapeake Energy Arena, in particular, is a far cry from the environment in the city of Seattle, and at the KeyArena.

Kevin Durant is arguably one of the top-3 players and the feature player of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Before going to OKC, Durrant won the Rookie of the Year award as a Sonic.

Who’s to say that the SuperSonics would be in the same position of going to the NBA Finals as the Thunder is now?

With all due respect to Seattle, the environment provided by the whole state of Oklahoma is much different than that of the atmosphere in the Emerald City.

“This means the world to our state,” Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin said. “This has touched every corner of our state.”

But the harsh reality for all involved in this basketball soap opera is that this team was and is the former Seattle SuperSonics.  Kevin Durant won Rookie of the Year as a member of the SuperSonics.  Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collision were all drafted by Seattle, not Oklahoma City.

The likelihood of this young Thunder team being in the Finals as the former Seattle team is undeniable. Most Seattle SuperSonics fans probably feel the Thunder would be in the Finals this year had they stayed in the North West.

“The first thing you do is to try not to be a hater,” former Seattle SuperSonics guard Slick Watts told USA Today. “You understand in life that things have to have a perfect setting, and right now, Oklahoma is going through a perfect setting.”

One of the worst parts about the whole fiasco, for Seattle is, that in these particular Finals, the biggest stars of this generation in Durant and Westbrook are competing against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who play for the new-age, drama-induced, Miami Heat.

A matchup like this, in terms of views and revenue, will be comparable to, and has the appeal of, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp battling Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. This is the NBA Finals we all wanted to see. For Seattle, this has turned out to be a nightmare of a divorce.

Maybe the Sacramento Kings and the Maloof brothers should try and make a move to Seattle in the near future, since they can’t seem to get a new arena any time soon. A Seattle Kings team seems to have all the makings of what could be a perfect marriage for the franchise and Emerald City.

The Kings making a move south in California to Anaheim, which is in the immediate vicinity of Los Angeles isn’t feasible economically.  Also, a move to a city like Las Vegas seems even less desirable and doesn’t necessarily fit the bill of a real basketball city in need.

Where else would a Kings’ marriage be plausible?

Seattle has an echoed emptiness without basketball and seems overdue for professional games on the hardwood. A decision to move to the North West wouldn’t be a gamble for the Maloofs, but who knows?

An admirable part of this for the city of Seattle is that truly, on the surface, the city seems glad to see head coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder’s success.

Oklahoma City has one of the biggest home court advantages in the NBA.

On the inside there may be a hint of simmering envy and who’s to argue?  The Thunder really were and are the SuperSonics.

We should be celebrating with them right here in Seattle is the rightful attitude.

“This team was built on the backs of Sonics fans,” said Adam Brown a Seattle based producer of the documentary of the franchise and city parting ways entitled “Sonicsgate”. Brown believes Seattle deserves, and will receive, an NBA franchise sooner rather than later. “They (the NBA) ripped it away, and it’s one of the biggest (sports) scandals of our time.”

“Sonicsgate” is a detailed underscoring documentary of politics and finance which ultimately caused the SuperSonics demise in Seattle.

Financially speaking, you have to spend money to make money and renovations to KeyArena would surely be reaping the financial benefits from the anticipated NBA Finals matchup of Durant and LeBron.

The cries for professional basketball returning to Seattle aren’t just money driven, though.

With assistance of former head coach George Karl and teammates Payton and Kemp in the filming of “Sonicsgate,” a want for a basketball return to the city seems to be heartfelt.

In 2010, at the Webby Awards Gala for films, SuperSonics career-leader in games played, Payton accepted the award for “Sonicsgate” as the Best Sports Film.  Payton was a special surprise guest for the producers and with his trademark charisma, didn’t disappoint.

As in Webby Awards tradition, acceptance speeches for winners are limited to five words or less and Payton chose his words carefully.

“Bring back our Seattle Supersonics!”

For Seattle, in the coming seasons, hopes are high for the possibility of the return of the NBA and the possibility is truly there.

For now, there is wonderment as to what could’ve been as the former SuperSonics start their push for what could be their first NBA championship in only their fourth year of existence as the Thunder.

With a Thunder win in the Finals, for the city of Seattle, this would’ve been the cities second championship with the first and only celebration being nearly 32 years ago.

Go Thunder.

A Few Thoughts Before I Go…

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

De'Anthony Thomas will probably rewrite the Oregon football record books before he leaves Eugene. (Photo Credit: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

Lets talk a little sports.

First off, the soap opera between the Oregon football program and the NCAA continues.  Just about two weeks ago, the NCAA came out with findings of recruiting violations between 2008 and 2011.

Undoubtedly, some of you are nervous about what that could mean for the Ducks in the near future.  Well, you never can tell until any penalties are actually levied, but I don’t think any severe harm is going to occur when it’s all said and done.

I’ve always maintained that what likely happened here is that there was stumbling into a grey area.  Do the rules need to be clarified so situations like this never happen again?  Absolutely.

But does Oregon deserve to have wins vacated as well as receive a two-year postseason suspension?  Probably not and they probably won’t.

If you’re still worried, let me ask you something: do you think Chip Kelly would’ve turned down the chance to coach in the NFL if he was going to be in a potential mess?  That’s what I thought.

No, the Ducks will be fine in the end, so you can turn your attention towards wondering how much De’Anthony Thomas will be in 2012. Considering how phenomenal he was last season, it will be interesting to see how many records he breaks in his college career.

Dana Altman and his Ducks could very well wind up in the NCAA Tournament this year. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

It’ll also be intriguing to find out how the Oregon men’s basketball team winds up in the postseason. They’ve played well enough, from my standpoint, to warrant getting into the NCAA Tournament.

I know some people will argue that the Pac-12 is a weak conference, and the Ducks didn’t measure up in top non-conference games against Vanderbilt, BYU, and Virginia.  But they weren’t the same team at the start of the year that they are now.

They didn’t have Devoe Joseph in the lineup when the opened at Vandy. It took awhile for the newcomers like Tony Woods and Olu Ashaolu to figure out how to play with Garrett Sim and E.J. Singler.

I’m willing to bet if they were to play these teams again, the Ducks would beat every one of them. (Well, maybe Virginia would be a reach, but not the other two).  Of course, if Oregon wins the Pac-12 Tournament, they’ll be guaranteed a spot in the big dance and we can end the speculating.  Can they do it? We’ll see, but I like their chances.

Jeremy Lin has been one of the top feel good stories so far in 2012. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Staying on Oregon hoops for a while longer, some people have argued that Dana Altman should already be considered one of the best coaches in the program’s history.  Now, what Altman has done so far (averaging just over 20 wins in the past two seasons) has certainly exceeded initial expectations.  By the same token, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

He still hasn’t gotten the Ducks into the big tourney yet (though he soon will). Nor has he taken Oregon to the Elite Eight a couple times as Ernie Kent did, or won the whole thing like Howard Hobson.

I’m not trying to demean Altman’s performance by any stretch of the imagination. He’s proven himself to be a solid coach, and I think he could very well go down as one of the greatest in Oregon history.  But like anything else, there are still some chapters in this story before we can provide an ending.

The same can be said for the Knicks’ sensation Jeremy Lin.  Sure, he’s given a lot of folks a reason to watch the NBA again.  With the way he’s been playing, it’s a wonder why New York even considered cutting him off the team.  Heck, what were the Golden State Warriors thinking by letting him go? (Scratch that thought.  I already know why: they’re the Warriors).

However, for people to start comparing Lin to Magic Johnson at this juncture is a little far-fetched. For one thing, Lin has to play at this high level for a full season before we can even start this discussion. Well, that and he needs to show he can do it in a playoff game or two as well.

Still, there’s no question that Lin has been one of the better feel-good stories of the year and you hope he can keep it going.  I’d certainly rather talk about him than LeBron or the despicable Oklahoma City Thunder. (Sorry, but as a long-time Sonics’ fan, I will never root for OKC).

On a closing note, this is my last column at EDN for the foreseeable future. I’m going to continue writing for various outlets while I attend to other business. I may very well end up writing a sports column for this organization again in the near future. Let’s be clear about something: I may be leaving, but I am not going away.

So until next time, I will definitely see you in the bleachers.