Portland Trail Blazers Supporting Cast Will Be Key Down The Stretch

Portland Tribune Photo: JOSH KULLA

Is anyone having more fun playing basketball right now than the Portland Trail Blazers?

Probably. I mean I’m not, the Brooklyn Nets probably aren’t (15 wins) and the University of Michigan’s men’s team isn’t either anymore (too soon?), but if you have seen the Blazers play over the last three weeks or so, you have seen a team who at least looks like they’re having a good time.

Portland is playing in the middle of the playoff hunt where every game matters for about four or five teams, who are fighting for one or two spots.

Forget the players on the court for a second – I want to talk about the bench.

Not the players playing the game — not the game, but the bench. We are here to talk about the bench – not the players playing the actual game, but we are going to talk about the bench. We’re talking about the bench…not the starters or even the guys playing the game. Talking about the bench.

And Allen Iverson is not impressed.


Whether it’s a lot of red bull, something even more intense that Jusuf Nurkic imported from Bosnia or just a lot of excitement – this group of guys brings it every night. Pat Connaughton and Jake Layman serve as the staples in the “bench cheering production” statistical category that will not be found in most, sport-related statistical sources.

Depending on the night, Meyers Leonard and Shabazz Napier can log plenty of minutes on the bench as well contributing to the overall enthusiasm effort.

They certainly aren’t the first group of professional and collegiate players to not contribute much on the floor, and being forced into more of a morale support role. The role of a morale support enthusiast usually develops over time, once on-the-court responsibilities become more defined and certainly when the team is gunning for a post season bid.


I think my favorite one I have seen lately is when they all stand up and make what I would call a “fundamentally sound lay-up instruction with the shooting arm raising up with the correct leg to symbolize a lay-up”. This is a Connaughton and Layman go-to when Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum make their signature drives to the basket for layups. It’s hard to explain, and I couldn’t find a picture of it, but you know what I mean if you watch a game.

The other one I see a lot – equally as solid – is used for pretty much any jump shoot. It’s like the inverse of the aforementioned one. I call this one the “scoop-like gesture resembling a cup” with their hand extended over their heads. Again – way better with photos.

Several other more common ones are used as well, such as the making a number three with your hand that also makes a circle using your thumb and index finger. I remember this gesture in elementary school was commonplace for being allowed to punch someone in the arm if they looked at it.

Is that not what it means anymore? It means a 3-pointer was made? Weird…Anyways, the other common one I see Connaughton, Layman and the boys go to is the “feed me” reference where you indicate you are eating something out of a bowl with a spoon and you move your spoon-hand in a circular direction. They don’t do this one often.

I might be missing some – I just got cable like two weeks ago, so I have only recently had time to pay attention to stupid things like this when I watch games.


I considered making a top-five of notable bench players/team benches. Let’s assume this is that, but the conflict I was having was ranking them and some I liked, some I hated, so I would have needed to do two lists, and it got complicated.

So, let’s go with this list:

Bench players/teams I enjoy

  • The “Late in his career Alonzo Mourning”. He was a very supportive teammate simply collecting a check late in his year. More in-game facetime from the cameras than most of the players in the actual game.
  • Mark Madson – and that’s not referencing his dancing skills. He was amusing to watch during games. The poor guy never played but he has like three NBA championships with the Lakers? Maybe only two – I don’t remember.

Bench players/teams I hate

  • The Boston Celtics, circa the Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett era. I remember reading an ESPN column at one point where an award or recognition was given to the Celtics for having the most players standing up clapping for an extended period of time. I found that hilarious, apparently, otherwise I wouldn’t have remembered it.
  • Kevin Garnett needs to be mentioned on his own. He’s that obnoxious when he’s not playing.
  • Chris Bosh when injured. I feel bad because most of his injuries have been blood clot related from traveling too much, but before some of that came out, he trolled the Miami sidelines, injured, awkward, and not really sure what to do. It was uncomfortable to watch.


Next time you watch a Blazers game, pay attention to the bench players. They contribute too and a morale support enthusiast is a very important role player on an NBA squad.

I leave you with this since I couldn’t find any pictures I wanted. Note the two Meyers Leonard appearances and the cameo by Steve Blake in Golden State.

About Simon Teska 38 Articles
Hello friends of the Pacific Northwest! I am still learning the ways of the west coast sports, but I have quickly grown fond of many of your sports team and I really enjoy writing about them all! I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania – not Philadelphia. 95% of the people I meet in Oregon assume I’m from Philadelphia. I went to college in Miami, Fla., moved to Denver, Colo. Before moving to Jamestown, N.Y. (south of Buffalo) where I was a sportswriter for the local newspaper for three years. I got involved with the YMCA and was a youth sports director for six years at several different branches. Working with kids is fun…and I enjoy it, but writing sports stories is usually more fun – unless I don’t have a topic to write about in mind. Then playing basketball with third graders is way more fun. I have evolved into a Blazers fan, and am a HUGE fan of Terry Stotts. I like the Seahawks and the Ducks. The Mariners are cool too. Baseball is my favorite sport and my favorite teams are the Miami Marlins, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Heat and the Indianapolis Colts. (When you grow up with a bunch of Steeler fans, you have to be a rebel and I really liked Marshall Faulk) I look forward to learning and writing about the sports scene here in Washington and Oregon. Go Blazers, Go Ducks, Go Mariners, Go Hawks! And I guess those Beavers, Timbers and Hops are floating around somewhere too.