Tag Archives: Portland Trailblazers

Finding Thomas Robinson: Chance, Opportunity and Meaningless Expectations

“I got work to do,” Thomas Robinson said at the 2012 NBA draft.  ”I ain’t stopping for nobody.”

But that was more than a year ago, when the 22 year-old Portland Trailblazers forward was considered the steal of the draft and a cornerstone of the Sacramento Kings rebuilding effort.  It seems far longer than that, of course, considering the rocky road Robinson’s traveled since realizing his NBA dreams.

Robinson was a bit player for the Kings his rookie season, averaging 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game for a crowded Sacramento frontcourt.  He shot just 44.9% from the field, even worse from the free throw line and often appeared visibly frustrated with his role on a team and organization in constant states of flux.  The February trade that sent him to Houston was a surprise, but a good one.  The Rockets dealt Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris for financial flexibility more than to accommodate Robinson, but a gaping hole was left in Houston’s frontcourt nonetheless.  Robinson was the logical choice to fill it, going from deep reserve on a lottery team to key rotational cog with one fighting for a playoff spot.

But basketball is never that simple.  Robinson’s physical interior game didn’t mesh with a Rockets team intent on space and pace at all costs, and Kevin McHale’s reluctance to let youngsters play through growing pains compounded matters.  His role varied from one game to the next initially, before he was fazed out of the rotation altogether as April days grew longer.  Robinson didn’t log a single minute in Houston’s five-game first round loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Once summer came, the Rockets longterm goal complicated things even further.  Robinson’s name was in trade winds again, this so Houston could shed cap room for the opportunity to sign Dwight Howard outright.  His once-exalted name seemingly made immediately available to the highest bidder, there should have been a fire-sale.  But there wasn’t.

The June 27th NBA draft came and went without a trade.  Days later, the Rockets agreed to send Robinson – 12 months removed from being the fifth overall pick in a superior draft – to Portland for pennies on the dollar: the rights to Kostas Papanikolaou and Marko Todorovic, as well as two second-round picks.

So this is where Robinson finds himself in still the most formative days of his NBA career, on his third team in just over a calendar year, already a journeyman before he’s had extended game opportunities to prove he’s otherwise.  Falls this precipitous shouldn’t happen.  There were unique extenuating circumstances in both of his previous stops, but something more than broad organizational concerns have put Robinson at this early crossroads.

Deciphering why is bigger than his shooting struggles or reportedly poor understanding of basic NBA concepts.  There’s more at play when it comes to Robinson, certainly, once the rare NCAA prospect that combined an elite physical profile with production to match and room to grow.

A confluence of factors go into shaping a player during his malleable years and half of them are beyond his control.  A player’s upside is limited until he gets a chance to prove it in game situations, and extra shooting and conditioning only does so much if a player’s strengths clash with his team’s general philosophies.  It takes the right fit for all but basketball’s best to shine as bright as they’re ultimately capable, and even in ideal situations players develop at different paces.

To be fair, much has been made behind the scenes of Robinson’s questionable self-awareness, and his limited on-court opportunities confirm those whispers.  The enthusiastic player that made his original mark at Kansas by cleaning the glass and doing the proverbial little things was gone last season, replaced by a mercurial one horribly miscast as a primary offensive option.  The remaining half of a player’s trajectory has as much to do with understanding his own base strengths and weaknesses as anything else, and Robinson showed little his rookie season – in Sacramento or Houston – to suggest he ever would.

But he was the impact role player he should be during his first two years at Kansas, and showed enough shot-making talent his junior season to suggest he could be that and even a little more.  One of the reasons pundits were high on Robinson going into the 2012 draft were his fantastic collegiate rebounding numbers, and he exhibited that strength last season – he ranked seventh among PFs in offensive rebounding rate – despite a motor that ran far below his established standards.  Combined with his natural athleticism and flashes of offensive skill,  there’s definitely a legitimate NBA future  here; the crux with Robinson is properly mining it.

That means structure.  It means consistency.  A role, and an organization intent on getting Robinson to realize it to his full potential.  Groupthink permeates in the NBA, and if one team thinks a player looks, quacks and swims like a duck, others will, too.  That aspect  is another reason why Robinson finds himself on his third team in a single year.  But bucking trends, taking chances and noticing things others don’t is how good organizations build great teams.

Who knows what the Blazers see in Robinson? The price they paid to get a good glimpse is small enough it might be little.  But they have it now, and whatever it may be is just as important as how Robinson sees himself.  Both need to throw away original expectations, punt his tumultuous rookie year and look through the most basic lens, one that shows a young, 6’9” power forward with rare athleticism and rebounding instincts that needs a fresh start.

Even then Robinson still might never live up to his once lofty status as a prospect.  But he will certainly realize his chance to fulfill the draft day promise he made last year and now needs to remember more than ever.  If he does, Robinson simply has too much talent to fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Life and Death of Potential

Every year, when the season begins anew, we think maybe, just maybe, this is the year the player that has, for so long infuriated us with his inability to harness his potential, teased us with a double-double one night and a no-show the next, gets it. This is the year Anthony Randolph becomes a quicker Lamar Odom in his prime. This is the year Evan Turner blossoms into a bigger Brandon Roy. They just needed a new coach, a new city, a new situation. Hope, that pesky creature, persists.

Until that inevitable point in every underachieving player’s career, the one in which “what could be” becomes “what could have been,” and we’re left angered and confused as to why it wasn’t. A Randolph line of 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and two blocks, once inspiring, now invokes sighs and utterances of wasted potential. Michael Beasley’s Per 36 numbers of 17 points and 6.6 rebounds would have been encouraging his rookie year, igniting arguments of how many championships he and Dwyane Wade would win together. Then we look and see those numbers are worse than those of his rookie campaign, and all we can do is hang our heads.  Hope, that fickle creature, dies.

The time at which a player reaches this point varies, as does the reason.

For some, injuries hamper development or rob them of what made them so special. Rodrique Beaubois showed flashes of promise, but always seemed to sustain an injury just before we could determine if it was more than a mere hot streak. Still, those flashes were enough for the Mavericks to demand a first round pick in any trade scenario that involved Beaubois.

Also hindering development is the situation into which a player enters. The Philadelphia 76ers selected Evan Turner second, despite the fact that ne not only played the same position as Andre Iguodala, but also played it in nearly identical fashion.

Too high of a draft position can saddle a player with too-lofty expectations, especially in a weak draft. A player’s production in college may be less a sign of his potential in the NBA and more a signal of the plateau of his abilities. The Timberwolves waived Wesley Johnson just two years after selecting him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, his expected instant production never coming to pass.

Whatever the reason, the once-anointed franchise cornerstone becomes a pariah, his every appearance on the court a reminder of what isn’t. The tools were there, but the will, either of mind or body, wasn’t.

That’s not say there’s no middle ground between those who realized their potential and those who squandered it; there certainly is. In fact, it could be argued these sorts of players comprise the majority of the league, and Josh Smith is their Patron Saint.

It seems odd to point to a perennial contender for a spot on the All-Defense team as a player that hasn’t fully realized his potential, but few players leave us with such hollow want as Smith. His propensity to shoot long two-pointers is equally maddening and bewildering. It’s unclear whether he hoists them out of belief in his ability to make the shot, or defiance of everyone telling him he can’t.

The numbers are right there in front of us, staring, mocking. They show us both the Josh Smith that could be, the one that shoots 71% at the rim, and the Josh Smith that is, the one that’s launched 186 three-pointers and made only 57 of them. Synergy tells of a player that is among the best and most versatile in the league, yet also ranks below average in his most-used areas of offense.

Fast approaching this sainthood is DeMarcus Cousins. The word “if” has quickly become attached to nearly any sentence concerning the mercurial forward’s future: If he can control his emotions, if he can be in a stable environment, if he can get a coach that understands him. The problem here is that it’s a slippery slope from “if” to “if only,” indicating the past tense. If only he could have controlled his emotions, if only he could have been in a stable environment, and so forth. Should we come to speak of Cousins in this sense, it won’t necessarily mean he joined the ranks of Beasley or Randolph, as he’s already had a more successful career. Rather, it would mean the hope we once had for him to shed his immaturity no longer remains.

Reports surfaced throughout this season of Greg Oden’s possible return to the league. Once simultaneously considered the heir to Bill Russell’s throne and the savior of basketball in Portland, Oden only played a total of 82 games in his five seasons in Portland, due to a myriad of injuries, including three microfracture surgeries. Despite these clear red flags, Oden continues to draw interest from teams including the Heat and the Cavaliers. He is the definition of low-risk, high-reward. In some ways, Oden is the exception to the above “what if” cases, as it’s never felt as if we’ve truly given up on him.

Perhaps it’s because he never forsook his abilities, he just never had the chance to fully harness them. And when he did step on the court, he produced. In 21 games in 2009-10, Oden’s per 36 line read like the beginnings of a dominant center: 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks while shooting 60% from the field. Or maybe it’s that the injuries didn’t so much hinder his development as they did prevent it from ever beginning. Oden spent so much time hurt and recovering from those injuries that he rarely had time to work on his game. Then again, maybe it’s just because there’s nothing quite so compelling as redemption.

He’s spent the past two seasons rehabbing, preparing his body to handle the rigors of an entire NBA season for the first time. The tools are there, and clearly so too is the will. He’ll likely never be the once-in-a-generation center we predicted, but it’s possible he can be a valuable contributor off the bench. Hope springs eternal.

Hardwood Paroxysm Celebrates A 5-Year Paroxy-versary: Lost, not gone

I took this

Nearly a year ago, one of my dearest friends lost her father in a tragic accident, a profound loss that shook her and her family to the core. I didn’t learn about the accident from my friend. Another close friend texted me early in the morning, asking if I had heard what had happened.

This can’t be happening, this shouldn’t be happening, I thought. Not to one of the kindest, most passionate and faithful souls I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. No family deserves this horror, especially hers.

Numbness. Disbelief. Heartache. A sorrow and despair that envelops you in such thick darkness that you’re not sure if you’ll see the light of hope ever again. That’s what I felt, and it was minuscule, microscopic compared to the suffering of my friend.

Though we were living in the same city at the time, she had already flown back to be with her family before I had heard the news. As much as I wanted to do the same, I knew it would be wrong; this was the time for the family to be alone in their grieving. Still, I tried to let her know that if she needed me, she only had to say the word. A call here, a text there, just trying to be a friend. Yet every word felt flat, lifeless, and insufficient. After all, what could I possibly say that would have any meaning or give any comfort? Words, despite their awesome power, can sometimes be not enough.

But I wanted to help, wanted to be there. I’m a man, damnit, and men are supposed to fix things. My grief was reserved for my friend and her family. My anguish was directed at the one, simple, excruciating truth: this couldn’t be fixed.

Brandon Roy retired shortly before the beginning of last season.

“My family and health are most important to me and in the end this decision was about them and my quality of life,” Roy said in the joint statement released by the team. “I want to thank (owner) Paul Allen, (team president) Larry Miller, Coach (Nate) McMillan, the entire Trail Blazers organization and our fans for all of their love and support during my time in Portland. It was a great ride.”

ESPN.com – Blazers’ Brandon Roy To Retire

With those words, the once promising career of Brandon Roy, a player who brought basketball back to Portland, who restored the city’s faith in and love of a once proud franchise, who in his prime was arguably the best closer in the game, was finished. The ride was over.

I’ve written about Brandon Roy many times before, how he was my first favorite player, and how his 24-point performance against the Mavericks in the playoffs was perhaps the most bittersweet moments in the entirety of my sports fandom. His retirement was the first time in sports in which I felt a true sense of loss. It’s not as if it wasn’t wholly expected. The gradual loss, then complete lack, of meniscus in his knees didn’t lend itself to a long career. Even so, I wanted so desperately for it to not happen, for him to find some miracle experimental procedure that cushioned the bone-on-bone grinding. I wanted him to be fixed.

When rumblings of Roy’s return first appeared late in the season, I hoped they were nothing more than rumors. Of course I would have loved to see my favorite player on the court once more, gracefully gliding to the basket while defenders seemingly bounced off of him, but that player was gone. His brilliant fourth quarter against the Mavericks not withstanding, the Brandon Roy we saw in his last season was a pale reflection of his former greatness. A puzzle that, though you could see what it was supposed to be, was still missing vital pieces.

On July 31, Brandon Roy signed a two year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The news terrified me. What if he came back, only to play worse than his last year in Portland? What if he injures his knee again, further threatening his ability to walk later on in life? What if he fails, and in his failure, is remembered not for his greatness, but as just another athlete who couldn’t resist the call of one more year?

The first time I saw my friend after the tragedy was the week of Thanksgiving. We had talked off and on, never too long of a conversation, and never broaching the subject. I didn’t know what to expect as I drove to her house and walked up to her door.

She greeted me with a hug, and from there everything carried on completely normal. We watched a movie, talked about everything from dogs to running to music. Everything, except what happened. After I moved back home a few weeks later, we got together more often. We had grown apart in the past few years, and while the circumstances surrounding our “reacquaintance” were beyond unfortunate, it was great to reunite with someone I didn’t realize I had missed so much.

One night, we went out to dinner, and for the first time, she had mentioned the accident. Emboldened, I asked the one question that had previously only been met with silence.

“How are you?”

“I’m OK,” she said. Her tone wasn’t mournful, nor was it dismissive. It rang with truth and acceptance. She told tell me that her parents instilled within their children a fierce sense of pride, self-worth and faith. Those unyielding virtues allowed her to come through the loss intact.

As I listened to my friend speak about the tragedy and her father, I realized I had forgotten about her faith. Not her religion, but the absolute reality of her beliefs, her convictions, and how it had always been nearly tangible. It was also the first time I realized just how strong it made her. The loss had changed her, but not in the way I had expected. She was stronger now, stronger than I’ll ever be. She had always been full of life and passion, but now they radiated from her.

“Everything changes. And nothing is truly lost,” wrote Neil Gaiman in an issue of The Sandman.

Saturday night was the third game back for Brandon Roy, and the first I was able to watch. I was scared to watch, for fear that it would be the same song, different verse: a man struggling to accept his newfound limitations and refusing to adjust his game. What I saw, however, were glimpses of the old Brandon Roy. There was the familiar crossover fueled drive to the rim, a step-back jumper, even a floater down the lane.  But he didn’t dominate the ball every position, as he often did (and was asked to do) in Portland. He worked within the offense, moving the ball around, driving only out of opportunity, not necessity. It wasn’t the Brandon Roy from the Portland Trailblazers. This was someone new, someone changed.

The mistake in my fear of Brandon Roy coming back was the thinking that there could only be one Brandon Roy, and that this comeback, should it fail, would forever tarnish his legacy. But watching him Saturday night, I understood that just because something ends doesn’t mean it’s gone. He’s It was undoubtedly Brandon Roy on the court Saturday night, wearing that unfamiliar white jersey with the unfamiliar number three on the back. Changed, yes. But still Brandon Roy.

My friend will never be able to regain what was lost. And yet, it still remains, just in a different form. It lives on in her.

Everything changes. Nothing is truly lost.

Synergy Sessions: Debut Edition

A relatively new tool in the world of advanced statistics, mySynergySports offers much in the way of furthering the conversation, as chronicled in HP’s Understanding Advanced Stats series. Author’s note: Please excuse the funky symbols occasionally encountered in older posts — they’re simply HTML leftovers from the Malaysian assault suffered earlier this year. The relevant content is still all there. One day I’ll get around to fixing up my previous posts, but for now my bucket is pretty full.

Synergy is unique in the stats world in it’s approach, giving researchers stats and annual ranks on players by the possession, specifically Points Per Possession (heretofore referred to as “PPP”), as well as logging and categorizing every possession by every player in every game in video logs on offense and defense. The defensive part is especially helpful since defense can often be difficult to quantify by straight numbers. Used in conjunction with other defensive stats we can now get a clearer picture of which players are truly having an impact on the D end of the floor.

However, Synergy is a subscription service with a finite number of ‘scripts available, so much of the basketball world doesn’t have access to these particular metrics. Never fear, we’re here to help!

First up, expounding on the #NBArank conversation on Carmelo Anthony, I got into an interesting exchange with a couple of New York Knicks fans and a Utah Jazz writer wherein I intimated that Melo has been basically the same player his entire career.

Aside from Melo and Big Al’s BasketballReference advanced stats, let’s see what we can find from Synergy, specifically in regards to passing and defense, two of the main points of contention in the convo. Both players posted career highs in AST% last season — Melo by a little, Al by a little more — but when it comes to Synergy, we don’t yet have specifics for the assist stat aside from being the Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler. Nevertheless, we can still learn something about how these players play offense by looking at the types of offensive plays they do post at Synergy. For instance, an isolation play is exactly what it says it is, and not assisted by a pass from a teammate.

As one would expect, Melo is primarily an Iso player, going to it 35.4% of the time, scoring a relatively meager 0.84 PPP on a mere 37.4% field goals, good for only 59th-best in the NBA. By contract, Al goes Iso only 6.3% of the time, scoring 0.83 PPP, 65th-best. Synergy has only been around for three seasons, but Melo went to the Iso about 37% of the time when with the Nuggets.

Jefferson’s go-to move on offense is obviously the Post-up, nearly half the time at 48.2%, scoring 0.96 PPP on 47.5% FGs, 18th-best in the NBA. The Post-up is Melo’s second-most common O play at 13% of the time where he lands 0.95 PPP on 44.3% FGs, good for the 21st ranking in the category. Melo should clearly be posting up more and going iso less. In Al Jefferson’s last year with the Minnesota Timberwolves he went to the Post-up an astonishing 57% of the time. His first year with the Jazz that dropped to 38% of the time. Clearly, once on a team known for passing Jefferson’s game met with adjustments.

Both players post their best PPP in the halfcourt offense on Cuts, a play made by slipping a defender, moving to the basket without the ball, then being found by a teammate. This would be Al’s second-most-used offensive play, 13.9% of the time, where he lands an astounding 1.27 PPP on 63.4% FGs. His last year in Minnesota Al Cut a paltry 6.8% of the time. He’s benefited greatly from the improved offensive system in Utah as compared to that in Minny. Melo goes to the Cut only 4.3% of the time, but he’s very successful when he does, posting 1.21 PPP on 61.1% FGs.

As for defense, in 2009-10 on Minny, Jefferson was overall ranked 299th giving up 0.93 PPP. In 2010-11, his first year in Utah, he leaped all the way up to 70th giving up 38.5% FGs on 0.82 PPP and only 0.74 PPP on 35.5% FGs on Post-Up defensive plays, which was 49% of the time. Surprisingly, his best D-ranking came this year on PnR defense, ranked 36th-best while giving up 0.83 PPP, his being the target of opposing PnRs about 10% of the time. 2011-12 saw some regression on defense, Jefferson falling back to 199th overall, giving up 0.84 PPP. His Post-up D remained solid giving up 0.77 PPP, and while he was targeted on PnRs less, 9.3% of the time, he gave up a not-so-hot 0.91 PPP. Clearly there’s work to be done here on Al’s part. It may worth noting here that Al Jefferson is one the top three clutch-time shot-blockers, so we know he’s capable of a better effort when the chips are down. Utah was in a lot of late-game situations last year.

2009-10 Carmelo saw him ranked a lowly 398th overall on defense, giving up 1.03 PPP in Iso situations, 0.98 in Post-Up, and 1.01 on Spot-ups, his three most common defensive stances. Remember, there’s only about 400-450 active NBA players at a given time, so that’s really bad. 2010-11 saw a moderate improvement to 331st overall, but he was still giving up nearly 1.00 PPP in most defensive situations. As noted by both Knicks fans and Clark, Melo improved — for him — fairly dramatically on defense last season for New York, giving up 0.84 PPP overall, good for a 240 ranking. His Post-up defense was an incredible 0.52 PPP, good for 2nd in the NBA, although he is quite a bit bigger than much of his competition at the 3-spot. He showed little interest for chasing his man, however, posting a dismal 1.13 PPP on D in Spot-up situations, ranked 344th. It’s pretty clear Melo still only plays D when it suits him, and I’d bet without looking that he leaks out in transition often on said Spot-ups.

RAY’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!

With his third team in just over a year’s time, and before we bounce to PDX, it should be noted that Felton wasn’t even close to the same player in NY as in Denver, where he was a cog in the Carmelo force-out trade. Obviously, he is primarily a P&R Ball Handler, an average of 42% of the time for an average 0.81 PPP, but his role changed dramatically in Iso and Spot-up between the two locales.

In New York he rarely went Iso, only 7.8% of the time, good for 0.80 PPP. Once traded to Denver Iso became more prevalent, 10.9% of the time, but good for only a measly 0.59 PPP on 28% FGs. This negative effect was counteracted, though, by the most stark contrast to be found, in the Spot-up game. With the Knicks, Felton took Spot-ups only 8% of the time, whereas once in the Mile High City it skyrocketed to 19.8% of the time, 1.25 PPP on almost 48% FG shooting. Where Felton scores best seems to be in Hand Off situations. There were far more of these in New York where it was 9.4% of his offensive game, good for 0.95 PPP. In Denver he only did so 2.7% of the time, but hit on 1.44 PPG, on 66.7% shooting.

On defense he was again two different players between the Knicks and Nugs. As the PnR Ball Handler on D he went from giving up 0.88 PPP in NY to 0.71 in Denver. In Spot-ups he went from giving up 1.24 PPP to 1.04 PPP. But these gains were negated Off Screens where in NY he gave up only 0.64, to Denver where he failed to fight over or through screens properly giving up 1.26 PPP.

Once in Portland Felton played Ball Handler less often, 39.6% of the time where he scored poorly at 0.70 PPP, only ranked 116 on 40% FG shooting. The Spot-up trend obtained with the Nuggets continued where he did well 17.8% of the time for 0.99 PPP, but shot only 37.8%. Isolation, never a strength, was seen nealry 10% of the time, but he scored only 0.74 PPP and 33.8% FGs. The Trailblazers were a bad fit. But that’s not news to you.

Felton wasn’t awful defensively for Portland, defending the PnR Handler 45.9% of the time and holding him to 0.79 PPP, but that’s where the D highlights end. In Iso, Spot-up, and Off Screens he gave up at least 0.90 PPP, and was particularly susceptible to opposing Post-ups, giving back 0.97 PPP.

It will be interesting to see what Mike Woodson does with Felton now back in New York once again, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Hey, at least he’s reportedly less fluffy.


In case you haven’t yet been apprised of how Enes Kanter spent his summer, he spent it in a way that would make Vince McMahon proud.

Kanter posted up 112 times, 30.2% of the time he was on the floor on offense, but scored only 0.79 PPP on his man. Yes, he had trouble getting above the rim. Billed as a rebound beast coming in, he certainly lived up to that end of the deal where he’s extremely fundamentally sound, going glass 25.6% of the time, scoring 0.97 PPP on Offensive Rebounds, a massive proportion of percentage on O. He was most successful on Cuts, 17.5% of the time for 1.14 PPP. A pretty clear pattern emerges here for the Jazz, that being ball and player movement, where their big men can get easy looks.

On defense Kanter still has some work to do where he gave up 1.05 PPP in Post-ups. He showed some promise on PnR defense, but didn’t defend it enough to qualify for a ranking, and often lost his man in the screen switch.

It’s exciting to see a player work so hard to buff up in the offseason. I just hope he worked on his basketball skills just as hard.

If I didn’t get to your Synergy Session question this time keep ‘em coming, I’ll be sure to fit you in in future posts.

Send mySynergySports questions to @Clintonite33 on Twitter, hastag #SynergySession

The Lowdown: Kermit Washington

via Los Angeles Times

“Is that Kermit Washington? Oh my God, it’s Kermit Washington!”

Via Nathan Dolezal, wide-eyed basketball fan, former co-host of Ain’t it Funky Now!

Years Active: 1974 – 1982; 1988

Career Stats: 9.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 0.8 spg, 52.6% FG, 65.6% FT

Accolades: 1980 NBA All-Star, 2x NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team (1980-81)

So, there I was exiting American University’s radio station after another funky good time on Ain’t it Funky Now! with my good friend and c0-host Nathan Dolezal. As we’re strolling down the hallway, a gargantuan man with a friend of his own is walking a little aimlessly, clearly a bit lost. Instantly, we recognize this as legendary American University Eagle, Kermit Washington. He spots us and very politely asks where the student television station is. We point him in the right direction and he leave us with a simple, soft-spoken “thanks fellas.”

Now, if you know anything about Kermit Washington it’s most likely the punch he threw in December 1977. So let’s go ahead and get that out of the way. It was a terrible act that nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich and turned Kermit into a villainous figure. Context, however, is golden. Admittedly, contextualizing a brutal act of violence is difficult, but then again the 70s NBA was a brutal place. If you think Charles Oakley was tough, and he was, then you would soil your Depends with the likes of Maurice Lucas and Bob Lanier prowling the court.

For their menacing behavior, these men were lauded, praised and adored as “enforcers”. It wasn’t just the enforcers who engaged in fisticuffs though. Physical, dirty play and fights were not beyond the pale. In fact, Kermit’s teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke his hand punching Kent Benson (who cheaply caught Jabbar with an elbow) in a swing that was far more pre-mediated and meant to do harm than Kermit’s punch on Rudy T. For further priming on the nastiness of the 70s NBA, here’s an excerpt from the Kermit Washington documentary, Redemption:

In that rough and tumble environment, Kermit Washington exemplified himself as a prototype for tough, rugged power forwards. Not nasty or malicious. But stout and firm. During his playing days for American University, Kermit would become an AP All-American and averaged 20 points and 20 rebounds for his collegiate career. My research has only turned up Bill Russell, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor and Paul Silas as the other players to accomplish that. It was a testament to Washington’s will to substitute hard work and desire for the natural talent and skill he lacked. Incessantly, he would lift weights to increase his strength and undergo drills to augment his speed and agility. This same attitude also propelled Kermit to Academic All-American status.

Drafted 5th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1973, Washington would languish on the bench for his first 3 seasons. Averaging just 4 points and 5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes a night during his rookie season, Kermit’s will was tested and he was clearly disenchanted with the situation:

“It’s really seemed like a waste of a year out of my life. I had certain goals when I came into the NBA and I haven’t fulfilled them. I’ve always been able to achieve what I set out to do in the past and this year has really hurt.

“My dream wasn’t to become a millionaire, it was to become successful on the basketball court. Not in the bank. I’m very competitive person and I like to do well at anything I do. I’m happiest when I’m doing well in the game.”

Happiness would come in the 1976-77 season. As veteran forwards like Connie Hawkins and Bill Bridges retired, the opportunity for playing time revealed itself. Furthermore, Kermit worked during the off-season with Pete Newell to improve his game. The final strike in Kermit’s favor was Jerry West replacing Bill Sharman as Lakers coach, since West was more amenable to playing younger players than Sharman. In the season’s first 53 games, Washington averaged 9.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in 25 minutes as the front court complement to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. However, Kermit would miss out on the team’s playoff run when he tore a patellar tendon midway through the season.

Returning in 1977-78, Washington continued the improvement with 11 rebounds and 11.5 points and his typical defensive prowess. However, that December came the aforementioned punch on Rudy T. and it would be Kermit’s last game as a Laker. During the 60-day suspension he received, Kermit was traded to the Boston Celtics.

Amazingly, Kermit actually played better upon his return. In 32 games with Boston, Washington averaged 12 points and 10.5 rebounds along with 1.3 blocks while shooting 52% FG and 75% FT. It was an excellent fit for Kermit:

His coach calls him inspiring and the fickle Boston fans love him… Washington Wednesday scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as the Boston Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99.

[...]

On defense and off the backboards, it was all Washington; ten of his rebounds were from the offensive boards. “Kermit was inspiring. Not only did he inspire the fans, but he inspired us. He was outstanding off the boards. His style gives a lift to all of us,” [Coach Tom] Sanders said.

Despite the good situation, Washington was abruptly traded that off-season to the San Diego Clippers in a three-way trade so that Boston could  acquire Tiny Archibald. He performed well for the Clippers, playing all 82 games for the only time in his career and averaging 11 points, 9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. The Clippers had a very un-Clipper 43-win season which wasn’t good enough for the playoffs, but signaled a team on the rise.

Again, despite seemingly finding an on-court home, Washington was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as compensation for San Diego signing Bill Walton. It was disastrous for the Clippers. Walton was the better player, but getting all of Kermit was better than the small doses of Bill they would receive due to injury.

Although approaching the final years of his career, Kermit would enjoy his best seasons in Portland. 1980 was his finest season in the pros: 13 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 55% shooting. Finally, Washington would receive notice and league-wide praise for his on-court abilities. When Kansas City Kings forward Scott Wedman went down injured, Washington was selected to replace him in that year’s all-star game. Kermit would also be named to the All-Defensive 2nd Team.

The next season, 1981, Washington again made the Defensive 2nd Team. The frontcourt of Calvin Natt, Mychal Thompson and Washington led Portland to the playoffs in 1981. During that postseason, Washington was magnificent in the face of an upset by the KC Kings. In the 3-game series, he averaged 9 points, 17 rebounds and 2.7 steals. However, the grizzled 30-year old called it quits midway through the 1982 season, citing back, hip and knee pain.

Physically, Kermit was strong as an ox, impossible to move out of position on the boards and, likewise, he could move you with impunity.Mentally, that determination pervades him still. The day I ran into Kermit Washington was really no coincidence. He had set up a camper on the campus quad to raise awareness, money and materiel for Project Contact Africa, a group he was working with to feed and clothe destitute Africans. He has also worked with NBA rookies on managing their money in a responsible manner:

Contrary to prevailing wisdom, he’s a real sweetheart, that Kermit.

The Lowdown: Jim McMillian

Jim McMillian

Jim McMillian (#5) between Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain (#13) and Bob Dandridge (#10) / Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Photo via Sports Illustrated for Kids

“An 18 point forward, he is as unnoticed as the butler in a mystery… It’s also unnerving to play someone who looks as if he’s just playing solitaire on the kitchen table all night. Is it put-on? McMillian shakes his head. ‘I have to keep my composure or I can’t be effective. I can’t play if I’m upset.’”

Via “McMillian Out of Character in Laker Basketball Uniform” by Jim Murray

Years Active: 1971 – 1979

Career Stats: 13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 48.2% FG, 83.2% FT

Accolades: 1972 NBA Champion (Lakers)

Selected 13th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970, Ivy League standout Jim McMillian had an inauspicious start as he rode the bench behind Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Also on the team were PG Gail Goodrich and mammoth center Wilt Chamberlain. With 4 future hall of famers, Jim’s services weren’t much needed until Jerry West was lost to injury midway through the season.

The 6’5″ McMillian slid into the starting lineup and was a refreshing revelation, especially as the playoffs began and the stout Chicago Bulls awaited in a titanic 1st round struggle. “I felt all year that once Jimmy got a chance to play, he’d show what a fine basketball player he is.” Well, Gail Goodrich was right. Jimmy showed the world to the tune of 26 points in Game 1, as LA won a nail-biter 100-99 after being down by as much as 17 points. The Bulls were stunned:

Continue reading

Greg Oden: Basketball Tragedy

Tragedies happen in basketball that transcend the sport.

I’m not talking about the passing of Maurice Lucas or Hank Gathers collapsing on the court or Len Bias overdosing on cocaine.

Those aren’t basketball tragedies. They’re real life tragedies that happen to be related to basketball in some way. While it was cruel for Reggie Lewis to be taken away from us at an early age or for Bobby Phills to have died while racing his car or for Malik Sealy to have been killed by a drunk driver, they have very little to do with tragedies in basketball and everything to do with life just not going the way you thought it should.

However, horrific and career-altering injuries are true basketball tragedies. When Shaun Livingston’s knee has an out of body experience or Danny Manning just can’t seem to All The King’s Men his health back together again in order to be the league-changing talent he’s supposed to be, those are real basketball tragedies. And the rancor of basketball tragedies has once again befallen its favorite victim – Greg Oden.

Microfracture surgery again for Greg Oden.

Those words mean so much pain and suffering in the relative basketball sense. Yes, there has been pain and suffering in basketball past. The Kings getting bested by the Los Angeles Lakers was extremely frustrating for Kings fans. John Stockton and Karl Malone getting out-legacy’d by Michael Jordan in back-to-back NBA Finals was its own form of suffering. Kevin Garnett not being able to take overmatched team after overmatched team out of the first round was a crappy basketball experience for eight years.

But there is a huge difference in what happened in those situations and what is happening with Greg Oden and Portland Trailblazers fans. Those chances for greatness or legend or some type of validation were thwarted time after time over the past decade and a half. Hopes rose up into the air and then got smashed back down by the hammer of shoulda-woulda-coulda. Greg Oden, on the other hand, never got a chance to get off the ground.

He’s been a punch line for years now. It’s been customary and downright cliché to make fun of his age by throwing out the name Benjamin Button, or make a veiled/blatant comparison to the ghost of Sam Bowie’s past, or talk about the time it appeared he was doing telemarketing through text message while trying to push this product (NSFW). After this latest blow to the start of his career, I find it hard to believe any decent person could find any humor or lighthearted nature to his latest setback.

Greg Oden is going to miss this entire season. It will be his second entire season in four years that he misses. And just to be realistic, let’s assume he’s not going to be around for the 2011-2012 NBA season because he’ll be rehabbing and taking another cautious approach to coming back at full strength. That just sucks.

When I was gathering my thoughts for trying to bring myself to write this piece, I just kept getting more and more depressed about what is supposed to be of his career. John Krolik and I briefly GChatted about this Wednesday night and remembered that Dwight Howard was supposed to bridge the gap from the last great center, Shaquille O’Neal, until Greg Oden was ready to take over. THAT’S supposed to be Greg’s legacy. He was the next big thing.

So many of us were so sure about it too. Greg had all of the makings of the stuff legends were sculpted from. He had an impossibly big frame that moved amongst the trees like the Predator big game hunting California’s future gubernatorial punch line. He was the protective device behind the emergency glass you were supposed to break on defense if someone dared to approach the basket. Now, he’s getting unfunny Mr. Glass references thrown his way. Nobody should ever be subjected to M. Night Shyamalan movie references.

This hits a sore spot with me because I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the birth of the next great big man. That big man was supposed to be Greg Oden. Like many Blazers fans, I’ve been sitting here in the refuse of injury after injury with him, just anticipating the day when he was going to prove us all right and take his place amongst the dominating forces in the NBA. I attempted to wax poetically about him a long time ago and try to make the case (poorly I might add) that either I was a freaking genius about what he would become or just plain insane. Turns out I was naïve and insane.

What’s that old joke? How do you keep an idiot in suspense? The punch line used to be that you just waited in silence after stating the question and the person waiting for the answer that was strategically not going to come was the idiot. Now the answer is to get that person to believe Greg Oden can still be something someday and watch as I take spoonful after spoonful of this pipe dream.

You can make the case that if you give up on Greg Oden then you might as well give up on Andrew Bynum because he too is injured and unaware of when a comeback might happen. He too is sitting on a volcano of untapped potential and leaving us all wondering when it’s finally going to erupt. So if you’re going to write off one 22-year old wannabe phenom in Oden, shouldn’t you write off the other 22-year old phenom center who is battling knee ailment after knee ailment?

But Bynum isn’t exactly there with Oden right now. He’s not out for another two seasons. He’s in knee injury purgatory while Greg has been shipped right back down to patella hell.

When I was gathering my thoughts for this piece earlier like I mentioned above, I decided to go for a run and throw on the music in my iPhone. I didn’t care that it was nearly midnight. I strapped on my knee band, put a brace over my ankle, threw on a hoodie and took off for a little 40-block excursion. I decided to push myself a bit, despite not stretching at all, because I wanted to feel like I was working. Maybe in a way I was trying to empathize with what Greg was going to go through AGAIN. There’s no doubt in my mind Greg Oden will have the surgery, get back in the rehab process and try again. He’ll work his tail off one more time, and try to get back to a position in which he can be a functioning member of the NBA society.

Where will that leave him? What’s the best-case scenario for Greg, his psyche and his potential for making something out of his career? He works his ass off, gets the benefit of a lockout shortening next season so it doesn’t seem like he missed so much time? The NBA resorts to another 50-game season and by the time the next full regular season is upon us in the fall of 2012, he is back with a tryout as a free agent somewhere? Doesn’t that just suck?

When I was running through darkness and the light fog tonight, attempting to make sense of such a cruel joke being played on one of the kinder, gentler giants of my generation, I threw on some Biggie Smalls to try to get my head in the right frame of mind. Somehow, I accidentally hit the “Genius” button on my phone and it created a playlist of allegedly related songs. Randomly, “Many Men” by 50 Cent came on as I hit my full stride. This part of the first verse stuck out for me:

“Now these p**** n***** putting money on my head
Go on and get your refund motherf*****, I ain’t dead
I’m the diamond in the dirt, that ain’t been found
I’m the underground king and I ain’t been crowned”

Doesn’t that kind of sum up Greg Oden completely right now? It feels like the basketball Grim Reaper has put a contract out on him. But he’s still not dead. At least, I’m hoping he’s not. In my mind, he’s always been this diamond in the dirt since the knee injuries started to pile up and I claimed I had found him last year. Except he still hasn’t been found. In my mind, he was always the underground king, waiting to sit atop his big man throne, but he hasn’t been capable of taking his crown yet.

Greg Oden has become the answer to a trivia question, instead of the answer to Portland’s prayers. It turns out I was dead wrong about him. Maybe he is good when he’s healthy, but that idea/argument has been vaporized. It doesn’t matter what he’s done when he was healthy because health isn’t a luxury you get when describing the situation of Greg Oden. I’ll still hold out hope that he can come back and matter in the NBA because I’m just stubborn like that.

It’s not about not wanting to be wrong. I am/was wrong about Greg Oden. A lot of us were.

It’s about holding out hope that at some point this guy can catch a freaking break. That Blazers fans can finally enjoy watching this guy game after game. That the NBA die-hards can rejoice in watching him master the art of protection.

Some guys never get that break though.

Some guys are just destined to be basketball tragedies.

Get well, Greg.

Brandon Roy In “Despicable Me”

Once upon a time, music videos were things people actually looked forward to. For those of you under the age of 25, this probably sounds like a “When I was your age, movies were only a nickel and they put music on compact discs that you’d play in your Walkman. They held no more than 18 songs!” kind of talk. But there was seriously a time in which MTV, VH1 and BET were showing music videos that people wanted to see.

They enjoyed the music and the spectacle of how it was being presented. Directors of music videos were almost as well-known as the artists themselves and you could often find a certain level of cinematic flair in each one. Now, we’re relegated to the latest subtle masquerade of our own Josie and the Pussycats moment as we get bombarded with questionable music, celebrity cameos to distract us from the questionable music and a lot of good looking people to make us think this wasn’t a complete waste of three minutes. Everything has moved to VH1 and MTV showing crappy reality show after crappy reality show and whatever the hell BET does (when Bruce Bruce stopped appearing on BET, I hit the eject button).

In today’s world of music videos, celebrity cameos might be the most interesting part of the whole extravaganza. Primarily in the Hip Hop community, we often see professional athletes filling these appearances. Sometimes, it’s as simple as the bewilderment of seeing Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. getting ready to race luxury vehicles in the middle of a Jay-Z video. Other times, we get to see DeJuan Blair auto-tuning his way through a tribute to a friend of his that has passed away like the following video (H/T – Project Spurs):

I think we can all agree that these cameos are nothing negative in any way.

But when Brandon Roy ends up in a music video made by old friends of his and that music video is seemingly promoting the non-medicinal usage of marijuana, that seems like something that would probably raise some eyebrows. Check out the video first and foremost:

What’s weird about this is you literally see Brandon Roy for no more than 10-12 seconds in the video and that’s if you count all of the times in which he’s barely viewable in the background. I noticed Jamal Crawford in this video a lot more than I did Roy. I couldn’t even tell you what the lyrics said in the video because when I watched it, I was trying to find where Brandon Roy was so prominently involved and I kept thinking either Cali or Cavalli (I don’t know which one is which, although I’m sure there is a bitchin’ MySpace page that could sort it out for me) was actually O.J. Mayo. I didn’t even notice there was weed in the video because I kept wondering if Mike Conley was going to stroll on into the shot.

Nevertheless, Brandon felt the need to get out ahead of the story – or at worst, take a leisurely jog with it side-by-side – to make sure he stayed with his history of being a stand-up type of role model for his fans and kids everywhere. Brandon admits that he didn’t go about this experience the proper way and does so without making excuses. He takes full responsibility for not finding out what he was becoming a part of during this process of helping out some old friends. And even though it seems completely unnecessary for him to do so because he’s not really ALL THAT big in the video, he still made sure to disassociate himself from the video.

Isn’t this why we love guys like Brandon Roy? He’s just a good guy. He screwed up (sort-of but not really) in getting involved with this video and instead of doing the typical pro athlete thing of making excuses and trying to save face, he came out on his own to make sure he owned up to what he did and explain why it was wrong. This is what we want from the stars of the NBA. In a time in which the headliners are out just trying to make headlines no matter what it does to their image (Let’s face it, LeBron — you’ve basically become the Paris Hilton of the NBA), seeing a guy act in this respect because it’s just the right thing to do is pretty damn refreshing.

Personally, when I watched the video for the first time I didn’t think much of it. I definitely didn’t think Roy was committing career suicide or letting down the fans of the Blazers. I was more concerned with trying to figure what this guy was all about:

However, it’s good to know we can trust Brandon Roy to be a positive influence despite extremely minor hiccups here and there.

Don’t beat yourself up about this, Brandon.

NBA Playoffs, Suns-Blazers Game 2: In Phoenix, No One Can Hear You Scream

For the Suns, it’s that simple: all they have to do is play the same way they’ve been playing over the last two months, and they’ll win the series. As the better team (or in this case, the healthier team), they have the luxury of showing up when and where they want to as long as they can do it four times. Be it in Portland or in Phoenix, the Suns will have the advantage whenever they hit the floor, particularly now that Nicolas Batum (strained shoulder) can be counted among the wounded. The Blazers had their card and they played it. Now it’s the Suns’ turn, and their offense is more reliable (than the Blazers’ without Roy et al), their pace is more coercive, and their healthy players more talented.

If I may, the Blazers are Ridley Scott’s Alien. The film is predicated on two things: the build-up of suspense through an extension of the ordinary and the grand reveal of the titular creature. A surprising amount of the film’s running time is designated to portraying the characters going through seemingly ordinary sequences of action, which naturally makes the audience uneasy because they’re (1) aware that they’re watching a movie in which something interesting is supposed to be happening and (2) cognizant of the fact that the damn movie is called Alien, yet there have yet to be any aliens. The injury-plagued Blazers are very much the same, in that even the team’s most talented players are seemingly ordinary. Andre Miller is hardly perceived as an elite point guard, despite the fact that he’s been incredibly effective in Brandon Roy’s stead. LaMarcus Aldridge is considered a solid four, but lacking in some fundamental element of superstardom and thus inferior. Marcus Camby is a nice shot-blocker, but he’s been deemed well into his decline and though he’s a difference-maker, he’s hardly considered a defensive anchor. Nicolas Batum, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez — all fine role players, but nothing more.

This is all, of course, before a little alien with Nate McMillan’s face comes bursting through your chest at the dinner table and ruins a perfectly good time.

It’s powerful and it’s shaking, largely because the status quo as it were only acted as a mechanism for the reveal to manifest itself. Miller wants you to think that he’s incapable of being a force, so he can can blow by you on his way to the rim by using the quickest slow (or is it slowest quick?) first step in the league. Aldridge wants you to think that he’s incapable of providing star-level offensive production as a primary option, so he can toss turnaround jumpers over your head from the low block, drop 20+, and call it a day. Camby will lurk behind on the break to rock a weak layup attempt, or emerge from the darkness to contest an otherwise open look.

The only problem is that once everything is in full view, the power of the reveal is gone. Portland may have caught Phoenix by surprise in game one, but now that the Suns know the secret, the result will never be the same again. That initial reaction can never be quite replicated, regardless of how expertly the Blazers execute.

The Suns, on the other hand, are more akin to James Cameron’s Aliens: the tension is built by putting highly combustible elements (trigger-happy marines, a literally explosive setting, and an entire alien species) in close proximity, and watching the sparks fly. It’s made with what seems to be an easily replicable formula, yet it stands above. The most important component of Aliens here, though, is what separates it from the first installment: there is no mystery. Everyone knows exactly what Phoenix wants to do. That doesn’t stop them from being effective or their performances from being repeatable, especially when they rebound and defend as well as they did last night. The Suns are just a different kind of product than the Blazers, and their success has little to do with what you don’t expect from them and more about what you do. If Phoenix is as persuasive as they’re capable of being — and as they were last night in stomping Portland 119-90 — then Portland will end up running with them. That’s not a good thing. I don’t buy the argument that the Blazers can play at the Suns’ pace over the course of the series. Not without Brandon Roy, and if Nicolas Batum misses any time as well (he considered himself 50-50 for Game 3), that certainly doesn’t help.

It’s not that the Blazers can’t run at all or even that they’re not effective in doing so. They’re just not as effective as the Suns, who practice this style and running their lanes and making the right passes in transition all year long. ‘Seven Seconds of Less’ may not rule the day, but just look at how quickly Phoenix was triggering the break last night. The Suns were down the court and set along the perimeter often before the Blazers’ defenders could even make their way into the broadcast view.

I’m not saying that Portland won’t win another game. They very well could. But the way this team operates is just too predictable and preventable. The Suns shift Grant Hill on to Andre Miller, and ‘Dre is held to just 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting and three assists, compared to 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting with eight assists in Game 1. Phoenix threw double teams at LaMarcus Aldridge to force the ball out of his hands, and he finished with 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting after dropping 22 in Game 1. I’m sure Nate McMillan will do a great job of making some adjustments for Game 3, and change up where Miller and Aldridge are getting the ball, where and when the offense should attack, etc. Unfortunately none of that will change the fact that the power and impact of their initial reveal is gone. The Suns may still be affected when the Blazer offense figures out new ways to showcase the same things, but they’ll be waiting for it. They’ll be anticipating it. They’ll stay frosty, clinch their fists, and sense it coming. The magic may still be there, but the mystery is gone.

NBA Playoffs Blazers-Suns Game 1: Darkness Obscures The Blade

Thoughts on Blazers-Suns Game One:

  • Shellshocked. That was the one word I wrote in my  notepad file for the first half, and it carried over. The Suns apparently read and listened to everything that we were saying. That Portland had no chance. That without Roy, they were toothless. We were dumb for saying so. They were inexcusably dumb for thinking that even if it was true that they could come out and perform like that.
  • Amar’e is largely to blame, and we’ll get to him. But Nash has a hand in this as well.
  • How can Nash have the blame after 25 points, 9 assists, and only 2 turnovers? He was one-half of the pick and roll failboat that set sail. The Blazers countered the pick and roll by going under the screen, fronting Amar’e, and sending a secondary pressure on Nash to force him to the other side.  And Nash went along with it. Instead of dribble hesitating to look for an oop or under pass to Amar’e, Nash circled around and tried to drive and kick. Over. And over. And over.
  • On the other end of the floor, the Suns were prepared to let Aldridge shoot. Good strategy. but in a running theme of the night, the Blazers had things goin their way. And Aldridge killed them for 22 points. The main problem with the Suns’ defense was the mass confusion. Multiple times the Suns were simply bamboozeled as to who they needed to be guarded and where. They overextended, under-ran, and generally didn’t get anyone  in a Blazer face on multiple positions. The Andre Miller three was especially egregious to me. People immediately responded with “He only hit 16 all year!” And like I said in the Bucks’ notes, you have to choose someone to live with. But you don’t just concede. The Suns always seem to play okay defense for long stretches and then simply fail to get a hand in a guy’s face. Any attempt from Jason Richardson and Miller misses that shot, and you’re in a much different position.
  • Anyone who says Jason Richardson had a good game is out of their gourd. I heard the argument that Leandro Barbosa, one of the few Suns who was forcing the issue on offense that Miller was eating him alive. Guess what? 33 points, you’re getting eaten alive by a F-Lion. But Richardson was not only tossing up bricks, but got lost on defense and looked clunky in the flow of the offense. Fail.
  • For the Blazers, Bayless. Man, Bayless. You knew Miller was going to get his. The guy just gets buckets. What’s that? I said he was going to be a horrific bust as a free agent in preseason? I dogged on him for the first half of the year? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. Andre Miller’s spirit animal is obstructing my hearing as it humps my ear.
  • But Bayless continues his emergence. It seemed like the Suns finally had started to figure out the Blazers, then Bayless comes in and tears things up. Huh, speedy fierce small guard comes in and forces the issue and is the difference. Wish the Suns had someone like that. OH WAIT.
  • Marcus Camby is the human equivalent of the AT-AT. That’s all I got.