Sunday, February 15, 2009

All-Star Break Blazers Report

It's been awhile since I've done one of these. I'm not really burned out on the Blazers so much as I just haven't known what to say about this team. I think it's safe to say that they've exceeded expectations in some respects while also being rather disappointing in others. Portland has gone 8-4 since I last posted, so I scanned 8 more cards from the lot of 50 that I bought at a game early in the season. If they reach 50 wins, which I feel should be a solid goal, I will happily be able to scan every card in the box. Right now they sit at 32-20 at the All-Star Break, which is slightly off the pace due mostly to an uninspired loss to Golden State on Thursday.

Let's start with the good. Brandon Roy has been good. Crazy good. Scary good. So good that he routinely gets team announcers to say "a quiet 30 points" and you don't think much of it. So good that you're already mentally running up the court to get back on defense as soon as he starts driving to the layup. The guy is an All-Star for the second straight year and should have received a lot more votes than he got, even in the West.

Lamarcus Aldridge has also been good. He hasn't quite been the All-Star that some were predicting prior to this season beginning, but he's good enough that he could have easily been an injury replacement had Shaq's arthritis flared up or had Pau Gasol been arrested for frightening small children with his face. Aldridge has been showing off more post moves than at any point in his career, even though he'll probably always be more comfortable away from and facing the basket. He's a serious weapon, and I would like to see him get more shots when the offense isn't clicking.

The rookies have all made serious contributions to the team as well, and it's something that definitely makes Portland unique in my mind. The Blazers start two rookies - Greg Oden and Nicolas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez is always one of the first players off the bench. Since the injury to Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless has entered the rotation and single handedly gotten the Blazers back into games with his relentless attacks at the basket and constant movement on defense.

So what is there not to like? The team just isn't beating teams they should be. A good, solid playoff team does not lose to a team like the ex-Sonics. They don't fall behind by double digits in nearly every game in 2009. Winning always seems to be a struggle with this team lately, and the lossses are usually penciled in as losses in the first half.

The Blazers aren't showing much resistance on the defensive end, especially around the perimeter. There are times when it just seems like they turn their defense on like a switch. When it's working, they are one of the toughest teams in the league to play. Most of the time, the switch doesn't seem to be on. Is that the coach's fault? Nate McMillan seems to suggest that he doesn't have players who are good defenders, but isn't he supposed to be a defensive-minded coach? Why isn't the team defense concept working?

About the cards:
  • Mark Bryant is now an assistant coach with the former Seattle Sonics. His card is from the Topps return to NBA cards in 1992. 2008-09 will be their last officially licensed set, at least for awhile.
  • Terry Porter is about to be fired just a half of a season into his first season as Phoenix Suns head coach. Tough break for him.
  • I had to look up Dave Johnson's Wikipedia page, because my only lasting memories of him are on cardboard.
  • Clyde Drexler is now an announcer with the Rockets FSN broadcasts. If you don't know who he is, then you're probably not reading this post anyway. I liked the hardwood floor design of Upper Deck's first basketball release.
  • Rasheed Wallace. The Man, the Myth, the Legend. Not a great card design. It looks like the photo is being squashed by the borders and the borders are closing in on Sheed.
  • Rod Strickland got a nice write-up in the local free weekly Portland Tribune recently. The card looks like some of the early/mid '90s baseball designs.
  • Jerome Kersey was a ferocious dunker and competed in at least a couple slam dunk contests that I can remember. Back then there were a lot more competitors (at least eight?) before Jordan wimped out and others followed suit.
  • Cliff Robinson ushered in the headbanded Blazer look (he was ahead of his time) and he was pretty much the key player that overlapped the Rick Adelman era and the Jail Blazers era.
Bonus: Last night during this season's NBA All-Star dunk "contest", Rudy Fernandez took off his own red Blazers jersey to reveal a Fernando Martin Blazers jersey in honor of the first Spanish player to play in the NBA before proceeding with his first dunk. Martin only played in a couple handfuls of games for the Blazers before returning to Spain to play where he was nationally famous. There were only two things wrong. First off, it always bugs me when a "retro" jersey isn't retro at all (the undoubtedly custom Martin Jersey was done in the current uniform style.) Secondly, the announcers kept pronouncing his name "Martin" a la Martin Lawrence instead of Mar-TEEN, the proper Spanish pronunciation. That, and I think the wonder about the mysterious jersey may have distracted people from the ensuing dunk as Rudy got completely robbed on his scores from the "judges".

Rudy's dunks, by the way, were both impressive and imaginative. It was pretty obvious that the affair was fixed (at least up until the final round), with the pre-planned "plot" that took place between Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson. I think I'd rather watch H-O-R-S-E, er, G-E-I-C-O.

(P.S. Bring back Franz bread Blazers cards!)

2 comments:

Brian said...

Kind of strange that the Martín jersey seemed like a mid 90s Blazers jersey. Like, they bothered to make a throwback, but from like 3 or 4 years later. I think they are very cautiously-clingy to the final era of the lower-case Blazers jersey for some reason. Like, they lost the copyright to the font or something.

madding said...

You're right, I realized there was something off about the jersey when I saw it replayed on the local news. How do they sell authentic Drexler throwbacks though, but not use them for everything else? Maybe it's the NBA's doing and they just asked for a "retro" Martin jersey and got that.