April 16, 2010
Hey, it's the playoffs! We'll miss the bad teams, but let's talk about the good ones. Today, the Western Conference. Let's NBA!
The Blazers really haven't been able to stop anyone since Greg Oden(notes) went out, and while I appreciate that the team's depth will help to make up for Brandon Roy's(notes) defensive absence, any chance Portland had at making the second round went out the window when Roy hurt his knee.
Andre Miller(notes) has had a good defensive year, but Steve Nash(notes) put up his typical (16 points, 11 assists) against Portland this year, and the Suns should have no problems pushing the tempo against Portland, the league's slowest team. Otherwise, I see the home team winning out until one of these teams gets to four games first. And I see the Suns getting there first.
The only way Phoenix takes in a little in-Arizona meltdown ("but it's a dry meltdown") is if Amar'e Stoudemire(notes) fouls his way out of contributing. That's the only way, and it's nothing to rely on. Otherwise, even through Marcus Camby(notes) and LaMarcus Aldridge's(notes) length, I see no reason why Amar'e can't keep his 30-and-10 thing going. Even if the Blazers slow the pace.
Terrible season for Portland, but at the very least they'll be going up against a team that had to deal with its own version of Murphy's Law for years, whether it was their fault (trading for Shaquille O'Neal(notes), crying poverty on draft night for years) or not (everything else). It doesn't make it easy to swallow, but Portland wasn't and isn't built for 2010. -- Kelly Dwyer
An Important Matchup
Amar'e Stoudemire vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
This can only go one of two ways. Either LaMarcus Aldridge realizes that Amar'e Stoudemire is eminently capable of putting him on the wrong side of highlights in every game of this series and responds accordingly. Or, he doesn't, and ends up on the wrong side of highlights in every game of this series.
Amar'e thrives on lithe big men. Nothing delights him more than putting them on a poster, and in the second half of this season, he's been doing that a lot. If the depleted Blazers want to see Brandon Roy this postseason, they need to win this series. And to win this series, they need LaMarcus Aldridge to get mean. -- Trey Kerby
Come on, Juwan Howard. Take a regular picture for once this season. You don't have to be the main attraction of every thing at all times.
I mean, do you really need to have the craziest face in every single team photograph of the Blazers this season? That just seems like overkill. Just control yourself, man. You were in "Hoop Dreams," you know better. Take it easy with your LiveStrong wristbands and well-manicured goatee. Chill out, Juwan Howard. -- Trey Kerby
It's like I always used to tell Detlef Schrempf: If you want to be an NBA champion, you've got to have perseverance by the truckload. It's also like I tell crowds in converted ballrooms at Marriotts throughout the Southwest: When Life Hands You Adversity, You Have to Make AdversitynadeTM. Nobody knows this better than Blazers coach Nate McMillan, except for the people who have actually been NBA champions, like Darko Milicic and Adam Morrison.
Sure, Nate's snakebit squad lost more than 300 games to injury and played Juwan Howard at center long enough to make me think twice about ditching the lucrative lecture circuit and breaking out the ol' lefty hook. But he stays upbeat! He never says die or uncle or quit or, "Please, for the love of all that is holy, stop it; Loki, Norse god of mischief, I give up." He adheres to a simple philosophy: When one door closes on your starting center's left patella, a new window opens.
And when that window slams shut on your backup center's right patella tendon, a new gate opens. And when your best player's leg gets caught in that swinging gate and tears his meniscus less than a week before the start of the playoffs, um ... a new ... pool? Opens? I don't know any more house portals.
The point is, that Portland won 50 games and made it into the playoffs amid all these injuries is a testament to just how beneficial it can be to look on the bright side of life. And that's a really good thing, because they now find themselves staring straight into an incandescent offensive death star set to explode in a photonic maelstrom. No shortage of brightness there! -- Dan Devine