Monday, February 27, 2006

Portland Trail Blazers Answer the Call

In an unprecedented move, billionaire owner Paul Allen has asked all of the basketball players under his employ to work as customer service representatives for his Charter Communications cable division. After unsuccessfully lobbying state and local governments for financial assistance, executives of Allen’s Vulcan Inc. have had to look to other revenue sources to offset mounting fiscal losses.

“We’ve looked at a host of options,” commented Vulcan president Lance Conn, “and we’re of the opinion that consolidating our workforce will provide added flexibility to Mr. Allen and his investments.”

Small call centers have been set-up at the Rose Garden and at the Blazers practice facility in Tualatin to allow players to work before and after games and practices. Each player is required to fulfill a certain number of hours at their desk answering calls from customers of Charter Communications, most of which revolve around billing and loss of service questions. It is believed to be the first program of its’ kind in professional sports.

Player reactions have been mixed, though most concede that there isn’t much that they can do.

“I had my lawyer look at our contracts,” remarked PF/C and switchboard operator Theo Ratliff, “and it’s worded so that, technically, we’re employees of Paul Allen, not necessarily the Portland Trail Blazers. We’re required to play whatever position ‘management deems necessary’ so I guess that includes answering phones.”

Point guard and assistant office manager Steve Blake was less muted in his reaction.

“I think it’s crap. I mean, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make this team successful, but this is beyond the pale. Have you ever had to deal with some elderly guy who’s pissed off because his cable went out during Matlock? It can get ugly. You can’t imagine all the names I’ve been called, by old folks no less.”

“Me, myself, I don’t mind it all that much,” stated starting power forward and recently crowned “Employee of the Month” Zach Randolph. “In the NBA, you’ve always got the media and fans watching your every move. It can be a lot of pressure. But when I’m explaining the details of a customer’s bill or signing someone up for the HBO/Showtime package, it’s just me and the customer. You don’t get that kind of intimacy on the court. Of course, that recording always says that they might be recording the call for training purposes, but I don’t believe it. My game on the court and on the phone is all about going one-on-one.”

Some players were concerned that they might not be cut out for the rigors of answering angry calls and explaining the complex intricacies of extended cable service contracts.

“At first, I tell Mr. Allen that I no think I best man for job,” explained Viktor Khryapa. “My English, she is getting better, but over the phone is tough, and Americans speak with much quickness. To give me confidence, Mr. Allen had me call customer service at Dell and Microsoft. My English much better than theirs, so now I think I can do it. A good coach give worker strength and tools to do good.”

While some have been skeptical as to whether Allen is really struggling for money; it seems that, at least for the moment, everyone is doing their part to make the Trail Blazers and Vulcan Capitol a profitable venture.

“Everyone is making sacrifices at this point,” remarked Conn, “even Paul. Did you know he’s given up his daily dodo egg omelet? Can you imagine, a billionaire giving up his favorite meal just to satisfy the people of Portland? And what does he get in return? A big ‘screw you’ from city hall. I can tell you one thing, old Paul’s a real bitch to be around when he doesn’t get that omelet. I tried getting him to eat a chicken egg omelet, but the poor guy just couldn’t gag it down. You haven’t seen suffering until you’ve seen an adult man tear up at the thought of eating a regular omelet.”

How About Them Blazers?

Unfortunately, my gaming advice was right this time, though just barely. Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak were unstoppable, Ryan Gomes dominated the boards, and the Blazers lost, again, 102-96. Nate had nine guys at his disposal, one of them being Ha, a sick Darius (in the literal sense), and not much else. Martell did have a career night, playing 41 minutes and scoring 24 points, but you'd probably be a little delusional if you thought that a 19 year-old rookie could carry this team to victory.


Things didn't get a whole lot better last night, as the Red and Black fell to the Hornets 88-75 at the Rose Garden. Both Zach and Darius had good games, scoring 23 and 22 respectively, but no one else had much to offer. The Blazers shot a ludicrous 41.1% from the free throw line, which has to be the equivalent of closing your eyes and throwing the ball in the general direction of the basket. They also got out-rebounded 46 to 33. On the bright side, the Blazers did shoot a higher field goal percentage than the Hornets, so feel free to revel in the streets over that tidbit.

The hits keep coming tonight, as the Blazers take on newly acquired Brian Skinner's old employer, the Sacramento Kings. The line is Sacto -13.5, but the over/under I'm interested in is how many points will ex-Blazer Sergei Monia score tonight. I'm sure Bonzi can give him a few pointers regarding sticking it to your old team.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

In the face of a barrage of bad news, we must remember; life goes on, the world still turns, and any other apt motivational phrases turned television show names that I might be overlooking. The Blazers take on the Celtics at the Rose Garden tonight, assuming Paul Allen can borrow enough money to turn the lights on come game time. The Celtics put the serious beat down on the Blazers in Boston two weeks ago, though that was when the Blazers were still without Darius. The Celtics don't have anyone capable of guarding a healthy and motivated Miles, but who knows if that Darius is going to show up tonight.


The Blazers will be without Joel (tendonitis), Theo (bad ankleitis), Sebastian (bringing a gun on the team planeitis), and possibly Zach (bad tooth, or as it's more commonly known, the Derek Anderson Syndrome). Taking into consideration that Ruben and Charles Smith are gone and Lenard/Skinner (Free Bird!) are still in post-trade limbo, Mac-10 has eight guys to work with. So much for those problems finding playing time for everyone. If you notice Nate staring into the stands tonight, rest assured that he's looking for possible subs to work into the rotation from the general public.

Though I swore off giving sports betting advice, I have to say that the Celtics only being favored by two seems like a great way to make some weekend spending cash if you're not averse to betting against the Blazers. Bookie Randy Stafford has a great line in that article pertaining to the possibility of Zach not playing. He quips, "We were aware of Randolph but we don’t think much of him anyway." Ouch. Of course, I have a long history of being wrong when it comes to wagering and the Blazers, so here's hoping I continue that streak.

Update: Jason Quick in the QuickChat today says that Darius stayed home sick today, so he probably won't play, though he also said that Zach will be suiting up, albeit with a fat lip.

Cleaning Up


  • So, just for the record, the Blazers have traded Ruben Patterson and Charles Smith to Denver for Voshon Lenard (from Denver) and Vitaly Potapenko (from Seattle). The Blazers then turned around and traded Vitaly to the Kings, along with Sergei Monia, for Brian Skinner. Bottom line, the Blazers now have Lenard and Skinner.
  • Sebastian Telfair has been suspended two games by the NBA for coming heavy on the team plane. Thanks a lot Louis Viutton.
  • Poor little Derek Anderson, who just can't seem to get a break even though he's one of the premier shooting guards in the league, has been traded to Miami for Gerald Finch and a trade exception. The good thing is that with the enormous amount of old people in Miami, Derek should be able to get a killer deal on a set of dentures.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Portland, Can You Spare A Dime?

The AP, along with KGW and KOIN, are reporting that Paul Allen has been asking various political heavyweights if they might be willing to fork over some tax dollars to help offset the costs of running an uncompetitive basketball team. Supposedly, Allen has already talked to Governor Ted Kulongoski, and has plans on talking to Portland Mayor Tom Potter in hopes of getting some relief from a supposed 100 million dollar shortfall Allen's lackeys have projected over the next 3 years.

One of those lackeys, Lance Conn (who is a disgrace to the name Lance), is quoted as saying that "all options are on the table" regarding bring the Trail Blazers back into fiscal solvency. The conventional wisdom is that Allen might be considering moving the team if the state doesn't agree to kick in, but I have my doubts as to whether the NBA would let such a thing happen. Some coy statements by Allen during the Super Bowl media day, coupled with moves that seem to be focused more on cost cutting than on competitiveness have fueled rumors that Allen is fixing to sell. These new developments certainly won't assuage those rumblings.

Of course, this is a seemingly common tactic used by NBA owners when they get tired of losing games and large amounts of cash all at the same time. It seems more than a tad unsavory for one of the richest men in the world to go begging for handouts from a state that is battling serious budget shortfalls in education and social services, but I guess guys don't become billionaires by having shame. According to the AP, Allen's dealings have lost more than 12 BILLION DOLLARS over the last decade. You know what that means Paul? You're a shitty business man. Why would the state or the city of Portland want to go in with a partner who has already proved himself a bubbling retard when it comes to business dealings?

I love the Blazers as much as anyone, but screw public funding. If Paul wants to save some money, switch to one-ply toilet paper on the cruise liner. Blazers management has run this team into the ground over the last 5 years, and now Allen wants a bailout because his incompetent staff has given out terrible contracts, drafted not-ready-for-prime-time high schoolers, and fails miserably at running the largest venue in the state? Not on your life chubs. When you run shop like a drunken sailor, you deal with the hangover yourself.

Ruben Movin'


So it finally happened. Ruben Patterson and Charles Smith are on their way to Denver along with Reggie Evans, Voshon Lenard and Vitaly "The Potato" Potepenko (credit for that nick goes to Nuss at SuperSonicSoul) are new Blazers, and Earl Watson, Byron Russell, and Denver's 2nd rounder are on the way to Seattle as we type. I gotta say that I like this trade, as it we rid ourselves of the Rube and we don't take back much. Lenard provides a decent stop-gap at SG and, probably most importantly, comes off the books next year, while Vitaly, though basically worthless, only makes about 3 million a year and is an upgrade from our third string turned starting center Ha. Ruben had some nice things to say after the loss to the Bobcats last night regarding his situation. So for hopefully the last time, take it away Ruben:

"This might be my last one. Thought I'd go out with a bang. This is it. I mean, let me be free. They need to trade me for a big man. This has gotta be my last game. I know the trading deadline is tomorrow and nothing against the fans of Portland, but I just want to be happy. Hopefully, things go right for me. I just want to start my career over."

Yes Ruben, 30 year-old back-up small forwards are setting the NBA on fire, and I'm sure you'll be the next to do so. Besides Ruben, I'll save my sympathy for Charles Smith, as he has the unlucky fortune of having to continue to serve as your teammate, and the citizens of Colorado, as if they haven't had enough experiance with NBA players moonlighting as sex offenders. I'm guessing Rube is going to be getting the majority of time at shooting guard, because he sure as hell isn't getting his personally mandated 25 minutes a night behind Carmelo. George Karl has said that he likes Ruben's game, though Rube's game has never been the problem. Time will tell whether or not Karl will like Ruben's mouth, attitude, and his way with the ladies.

The move also reunites Ruben with his old Cincinnati partner in crime Kenyon Martin. No word yet on whether or not Bob Huggins is sober enough to be brought on as an assistant coach, but Karl is definitely going to need someone around to dole out hush money to the scores of traumatized Denver residents whom Rube and K-Mart will undoubtedly leave in their wake.

So Denver gets some defense, Seattle gets a back-up PG with a hella long contract and a decrepit Byron Russell, and Portland gets a back-up PF/C and a little cap room, and one less Ruben Patterson. Wrap it up; I'll take it. So long Ruben, don't forget to register when you get to Colorado, you scum bag.

Update: It seems as if I spoke too soon. Rumor is the deal now has Brian Skinner coming to the Blazers from Sacto instead of Vitaly, in exchange for Sergei. Potepenko supposedly is off to the Kings, and the Blazers are still getting Lenard. I liked the first version a lot better. Skinner makes too damn much. This still hasn't been finalized, so who knows what it will look like when everything shakes out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hit It and Quit It.

A big thanks to the prolific ChunkStyle23 (brother of Ravenal) for bringing my attention to this mention of Blazers Basketball at Deadspin. You'll notice that I was honored with the #1 best Blazer fan site , which probably says more about the lack of Blazer blogs than it does about the quality of this one.

Not only does Chunk help run one of the better hoops blogs out there, but he also stays up late reading this blog. Check out the time tag on the comment. Way to put in the late night work Chunk. Now that I've hit the big time, I promise I won't forget all of you little people.

When I started this lil' old web log last November, I just assumed it would crap out within a few weeks, much like ever other endeavor I've undertook. To my surprise though, it's been mildly popular and a lot of fun to work on. I've enjoyed every comment and criticism, and for that, I thank you, the four regular readers that frequent this site.

Since you've all given so much to me, I've decided I'd like to give something back. You've probably never noticed the counter at the bottom of the page, but if you have, you'll notice that we're coming up on our 10,000th hit here at Blazers Basketball HQ. I realize that's infinitesimal in the grand scheme of the internet hitness, but I'm proud of it nonetheless, especially considering that there probably aren't even 10,000 current Blazer fans in the greater Willamette Valley.

So you're probably saying to yourself, "Way to pat yourself on the back Lance, you self-absorbed jerk. What's in it for me?" We'll here it is. The first 15 people that leave a comment on this post and e-mail me at www.blazersbasketball@yahoo.com (yes, the "www." part in the e-mail address has to be included) will receive a package of Hit chocolate biscuits and a burned CD of many of the songs mentioned here on Blazers Basketball, which includes songs by artists such as Johnny Cash, The Talking Heads, Snoop Dogg, and The Gorillaz. Of course, you'll have to send me your address in the e-mail (I wouldn't put it in the comments if I were you), but I promise not to use or sell your information in any way there after. If you're not one of the first 15, you'll still get the CD, but I can't afford to give out cookies willy-nilly. So there you go; a small token of my gratitude. Here's to another 10,000 hits.

Oh yeah, the Blazers lost to the Lakers last night. Zach took one to the chops, to which I can only say: Stay away from DA's dentist Z-Bo.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Miami's Vice

Great stuff from Eric over at the OregonLive Blazer Blog. Putting in work on a Sunday? That's dedication.
If Ruben wants to go to the Heat, someone buy him a case of sun screen and put him on the first charter flight full of blue hairs to Florida. If there is actually an interest from Pat Riley, Nash should be willing to take on anyone short of Antoine Walker to get it done. A wannabe contender is the only team that is going to be interested in a guy like Ruben, and Miami certainly fits that bill. The thing is, in the right setting (Miami), with the right coach (Riley), and with the right group of dynamic, locker room heavies (Shaq), Ruben could be useful. A trade of James Posey and Wayne Simien for Rube works. This would be a great trade for the Blazers, as they get a decent, big guard whose contract is expiring, a young power forward, and, most importantly, one less Ruben Patterson. Granted, Riley would almost have to be sure that getting the Rube would put them over the top, or else it wouldn't make much sense for Miami to trade an expiring contract and a rookie, but that's for Miami to deal with. Of course, Dwayne Wade and Michael Doleac for Ruben works as well, but I doubt Miami would be willing to part with a young superstar like Doleac.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Big Get Bigger

Two things that strike me about this picture:
  1. That is easily the largest newborn I've ever seen in my life.
  2. You're a pretty lady Noelle; lay off the make-up.
No word yet on whether or not Mike Barrett has stopped harassing Joel and his happy new family. Once again, congratulations. Now if we could just get some pictures of Vladimir, Samaya, and McKinney.

Kids With Guns


Breaking news is that Sebastian Telfair has been fined and suspended for bringing a Smith & Wesson handgun on the team plane. I'm guessing that means he won't be playing tonight. It sounds like it could have actually been an honest mistake, but I wouldn't be surprised if no one believed him. It just goes to show that Louis Vuitton should come up with more than one design.
Update: The official Blazer reaction here.

One and Halfway Done

Big win against (ahem) the Bobcats on Monday. Darius "The DMZ" Miles made his triumphant return to the court, lifting the Blazers to their first win in 4 games. The Bald One, in what one can only assume was a column cranked out in the waning minutes before his deadline, asserted that Darius was the reason the Blazers were getting bitch slapped up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Way to make the Bald One look stupid Darius, though he doesn't really need any help in that department.

Tonight the "B Boys" take on the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets in their last game before the All-Star break. It would be nice for the Mac-10 and the rest of the Blazers to have some momentum going into the break, especially considering the whole team will have a lot of time to focus on the game as no one in red and black will be participating in any All-Star activity. The Hornets have been on a tear lately, winning four in a row, including eight of their past nine games. The last three wins were earned despite the absence of rookie sensation Chris Paul, who some consider the foremost reason why John Nash should get the boot after the season concludes. No word yet on whether or not Paul will be playing tonight, but if he does, you can be sure that Nash is going to keep his fingers crossed that Sebastian Telfair outplays him. The Blazers are 9 point dogs tonight. Make of that what you will, because I'm done giving out betting "advice."

Monday, February 13, 2006

Przy-Baby


Congrats on the bundle of joy Joel. I can't imagine what would convince a woman to have the child of a man who's over seven feet tall. That Noelle must be one tough broad. I'll give only one piece of advice to the young parents: Don't let your children grow up to be Canadian. Welcome to Portland Anthony.
Update: "Little" Anthony weighs in at 9 pounds, 13 ounces. That's a lot of baby.

The Best Defense...

The wheels have come off. After a brief 10 game stint in which the Blazers looked like they might be pulling it together, the team has concluded what I would consider the most embarrassing three game streak in recent Trail Blazer history. Thrice in a row have the Blazers been blown out by fellow bottom-dwelling, injury-riddled teams from the Eastern Conference. To make matters worse, the center tandem of expecting father Joel Przybilla and current parent Theo Ratliff have fallen prey to the injury bug. This leaves an already struggling defense without its two best defensive players, not to mention that fact that it thrusts Ha Seung-Jin into a prominent role, though it is yet to be seen if that will entail starting or coming off the bench. Truly, we're through the looking glass here people.


So what to do? The Blazers guards are getting abused nightly on defense, though it's due more to their small stature than a lack of effort. The Pacers Stephen Jackson (6'8), Paul Pierce (6'6) and Wally Szczerbiak (6'7) of the Celtics, and Mo Peterson (6'7) and Mike James (6'2) of the Raptors have all had their way with Steve (6'3), Juan (6'3, standing on a milk crate), Sebastian(6'0), and Jarrett(6'3) as of late. Actually, it's been pretty much all season, but now that the interior defense is failing as well, it's become that painful to watch. So in an attempt to be action oriented, I've come up with a few new defenses that might help the Blazers overcome their current woes.

The Krav Maga Defense
Fashioned on the hard streets of Bratislava by Imi Lichtenfeld, Krav Maga (directly translated from Hebrew as "close combat") is a method of self defense practiced by the Israeli army. If there's a group of people out there who know about defense and offense, it's the Israelis. While Imi created Krav Maga to protect himself and fellow Jews from marauding bands of fascists in 1930's Slovakia, it's quite applicable to today's defensive minded NBA. Krav Maga relies on five basic ideas:

  1. Avoid Injury: This seems apt enough. John Nash is going to start trolling local Park and Rec leagues for anyone over 6'5 if anyone else goes down, so staying healthy is going to have to be a primary tenet of any new defensive scheme.
  2. Go from defending to attacking as quickly as possible: That's just sound, fundamental basketball/combat theory there folks. In case you haven't noticed, the Blazers aren't exactly offensive dynamos either, so using the defense to create some offense just makes good sense. The Blazers are obviously young, so I think it would behoove whatever mix of players Nate throws out there to use those fresh legs to the best of their advantage.
  3. Use the body's natural reflexes: Again, this is another area in which the youth of the Blazers could be used as an advantage. Anyone who's ever had the unfortunate experience of driving right after the local chapter of the AARP lets out can tell you that as a person gets older, their reflexes get worse. Why not use the youth and skill of the young Blazers to overcome the old age and treachery of the NBA's elder statesmen? And who knows, maybe the opposing team would be willing to settle games by way of a Simon tournament.
  4. Strike at any vulnerable point: Granted, Imi was referring to targeting the eyes and groin, and at this point that might not be that bad of an idea, but in order to stay within the parameters of NBA rules and fair play in general, the Blazers could take a more theoretical approach to this principle. For instance, the Blazers play the Bobcats tonight, who are another young, somewhat banged-up team, with Okafor, Knight, and Felton all coming off of or nursing nagging injuries. They're tenderized right now, so the Blazers need to come out aggressive and physical; make sure that every bucket hurts. Every time Okafor gets the ball, drop Ha on his ankle. Every time Brevin Knight tries to drive, drop Ha on his knee.
  5. Use any tool or object nearby: That includes chairs, shoes, the ball, cameras, and of course, Ha. Kobe's starting to get hot? In-bound the ball into his face. Carmelo Anthony keeps shooting over your head? Throw your shoe at him as he elevates. It's all so simple!

Of course, one problem with the Krav Maga defense is that not many people teach Krav Maga outside of Israel. Then again, I'm sure a few relaxing days in Tel Aviv could do this team some good.

The Opossum Defense
Since the Krav Maga defense might lead to an increased amount of foul calls, it's important to be adaptable. In an effort to conserve energy and fouls, I purpose that the Blazers, when the opportunity or necessity arises, switch to the opossum defense, which consists mostly of laying on the court and pretending your dead. In the wild, the opossum lays lifelessly when a predator approaches, letting itself get pawed and gnawed until the predator eventually loses interest and goes about finding another, more lively woodland creature to consume. In respect to the Blazers, if they simply flopped on the court and waited for the other team to lose interest, maybe they'd leave before the game was over, allowing the Blazers to run uncontested lay-up drills to victory. Some might say it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to fashion a defense after the instincts of North America's only native marsupial, but those people fail to realize that the opossum has been around since the time of dinosaurs. Any animal that has no form of pro-active self defense but has nonetheless successfully roamed the earth for millions of years must be doing something right.

The Insanity Defense
Used by the sane and insane alike, the Insanity Defense is predicated on the ability to convince your opponent that you're not fit to defend yourself, at least from a mental standpoint. No one likes to beat up on a team they feel sorry for, so why not convince opposing teams that the majority of the Blazer roster is mentally challenged? That's got to be worth at least a few pity wins. It's really a rather simple defense to implement; most often watching a few episodes of Law and Order, Law and Order: SVU, or Law and Order: Criminal Intent will give a player more than enough material to convince even the most hardened official that you're fit to be tied. Juan could take the court with all of his clothes on backwards. Zach could come out in a diaper, all the while sucking his thumb. Ruben could just be Ruben. Even Nate could get in the act, doing something as outlandish as giving significant playing time to a 7'3, 20 year-old South Korean. Oh, wait.

At this point, nothing should be off the table. It's one thing to get embarrassed by the Spurs and Suns; it's another thing to get punked by the Raptors. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and it don't get much more desperate than this.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"Adopt the Pace of Nature: Her Secret is Patience"

Things have been running pretty slow here at Blazers Basketball HQ. We all know what happened in the Nugget game, so no point in bringing up bad memories. The Blazers have had a few days off since the Denver game, so hopefully they've put it behind them, especially The Jack. Mac-10 and the Blazer posse take on a decimated Indiana tonight, which hardly makes this game a sure thing considering that Indy recently did something that few have done this year; beat the Pistons. The Pacers are without Jermaine O'Neal, Jamal Tinsley, and Austin Croshere, but they still have the Bearded Serbian and a host of athletic role players. Neither team has played since Saturday, so the team that shakes off the rust the fastest probably has the inside track to win this one. The spread is the Pacers -6.5 according to covers, to which I would say, bet the organic soybean farm on the Blazers. The Blazers are 4-0 against the spread (ATS) when playing on 3 days rest or more. Granted, the Pacers are also 4-0 ATS the last four times they've played the Blazers, but without Jermaine and against an ever improving Blazer squad, I think that streak falls like Niagara. In light of this excellent gaming opportunity, I leave you with the immortal words of DMX, "Ain't no purpose dog. You born to fuckin die. In the meantime, get money!" Get money indeed.


Topics in the mist:

  • So much talk about Theo getting traded to NY, possibly with Darius or Ruben. In my opinion, it's all crappy New York media hype. It seems as if no deal is going to get the Blazers far enough under the cap to throw big dollars at Pryzbilla, so I find it unlikely that Nash is going to trade away his only other NBA-caliber center. Sorry Ha.
  • Speaking of Pryz, even more talk and hand-wringing about Toronto clearing cap space to sign Joel when he becomes a FA after this season. If you feel the need to beg Pryz in writing, check out RipCity 24/7 for ways in which to contact Big White. Maybe someone could also get in touch with Franz Bread and see if they'll offer Pryz another sponsorship deal.
  • Sergei and Martell are back from the D-league.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I'm Just Trying to Get Paid

Finally feeling good again. I don't think it's any coincidence that as I've started to feel better, so has Darius. Much like Elliot got sick when E.T. was dying, so too has my weakness and congestion disappeared as Darius' knee has progressively improved. So I'd like to give a big shout-out to the fine medical staff taking care of Darius. You do good work.


Even without Darius, the Blazers have been playing some mighty fine basketball lately. After beating the Sonics with a Chalupa-worthy score of 116-111 at Key Arena, the Blazers made a quick trip home to lose in a close one to the World Champion Spurs. It's truly amazing to see how much of a difference that Nate is having on this team. If Mo Cheeks were still "coaching" this team, we'd be lucky to beat the Southridge girl’s team. Guys are playing hard every game, which is something that hasn't happened in Portland in some time. Mac-10 has found a good balance between trying to win games and playing the young talent. The Blazers still have a hard time closing out games, which is a hallmark of young teams, but I wouldn't be surprised if in another month or two, the Blazers win a few of those close games that so far have ended up in the loss column.

Tonight the Blazers face the T-Wolves for the likely the last time this year. I suppose it's always possible that the Blazers could make the playoffs, but from what I've read it's unlikely that half of the teams in the Western Conference are going to be coming down with the Hantavirus any time soon, so this is probably the last chance for the Blazers to get the better of Tiny Head Garnett and the newly acquired Ricky Davis. It's also the beginning of a seven game road swing, which will really give everyone a good idea of what kind of progress this team has made, not to mention what kind of team they're going to be in the second half of the season.

In possibly the most important news though, The Trail Blazers have become the darlings of the sports betting community, as this article from Covers.com illustrates (hat tip to the always on point Henry Abbott at TrueHoop.com). It seems that Vegas has been taking the "Red and Black Attack" a little too lightly, as they've gone 7-2-1 against the spread in the last 10 games. That's money in the bank son! Of course, now that the word is out, the lines have started to come down, as the Blazers are just 2 point dogs in tonight's game. Both the T-Wolves and the Blazers are 23-20-1 against the spread this year, so it's anyone's guess on who to put your cash down on this one.