You gotta love the All-Star break. It’s not just a break for the players, but for the likes of me, too. As I’ve been very ill the last few days, I couldn’t get you guys the Weekly Preview at the usual time. The Portland Trail Blazers not resuming their season until today helps as well.
I do want to say, though, that Damian Lillard had a great performance last Sunday at the All-Star Game. Making six threes, being a team high +20 (plus-minus stats in the All-Star Games LOL), and being a spark plug off the bench for the otherwise lethargic Team LeBron (AKA Team Tamper), Dame acquitted himself very well among his peers—and represented the Trail Blazers with class and grace throughout the weekend.
Just two games to preview today, and both are interesting. This is the start of a seven-game road trip for the team, and with just four games separating fourth-place Portland from ninth-place Sacramento in the standings, a record of at least 3-4 is badly needed. As mentioned in prior previews, the Blazers are a crappy away squad in 2019; it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to completely stink up the joint, and go from having home-court advantage to being on the playoff bubble.
All games can be heard on AM 620 Rip City Radio.
Thursday, Feb. 21: @ the Brooklyn Nets, 4:30 PM, NBCSNW
The Skinny: The Nets have been low-key, sneaky-good this season! For the first time this decade, the Nets have a future! This is awesome news, both for the league and for New York basketball; it helps us all when the biggest city in the country has a good basketball team.
My favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption, so it was amusing—not to mention extremely apt—for Bill Simmons to describe the Nets’ last several years as “Five-hundred yards of ****-smelling foulness,” but like ol’ Andy Dufresne, they’ve come out clean on the other side.
Now, I don’t know whether the Nets can compete right now with the likes of Philly, Boston, or Milwaukee, but they are still young, they are very well-run, Caris LeVert looks like a future All-Star, D’Angelo Russell is an All-Star, and they’re located in a hip borough of a huge city. They still have time to re-steal the lode of money they helped their corrupt warden embezzle, escape to Mexico, and spend their days on the Pacific coast sailing, fishing, and playing chess with their best friend.
(And if I spoiled the ending of Shawshank for you, quit your crying. The movie came out 25 years ago!)
Matchup to Watch: D’Angelo Russell vs. Damian Lillard. Who would have thought that Russell, a former No. 2 overall draft choice by the Los Angeles Lakers, would have become an All-Star after getting crapped on and dumped by Magic Johnson in favor of Lonzo Ball—who is also a former No. 2 overall draft pick that’s probably going to be traded this summer? There are still holes in Russell’s game, to be sure (the big issue is he’s not physical enough), but he can forever say that he’s an All-Star.
Now, whether he makes the game a couple more times/becomes a consistently good player, or ends up being the starting point guard for the Jamaal Magloire Random-Ass All-Stars Squad remains to be seen.
Prediction: I’m going to predict a Blazers win, and will probably be very wrong.
Saturday, Feb. 23: @ the Philadelphia 76ers, 10:00 AM, NBCSNW/Blazers Pass
The Skinny: Yeah, you read that right. Ten in the freakin’ morning. Wonders of living on the West Coast. It’ll be one in the afternoon in Philly and the Blazers will have been out East for a few days by then, but I’m sure that’s small comfort to a bunch of guys based in the Northwest.
Early sports games are a Western thing that my late father and I enjoyed during my childhood and early adulthood. Football on Sundays, in particular, was a favorite hobby; there were days where we’d just sit on the couch, watch the 10:00 a.m. game, then keep the 1:00 p.m. game on as Dad did house repairs or I did yard work or we did chores, then during the break between the afternoon game and the night game, Dad would cook dinner.
Whether we ended up watching the night game or not is another story. We’d be footballed out by then, and NBC has a disgusting habit of always featuring some combination of Cowboys/Eagles/Giants in the late game, despite the fact that those teams have sucked for a good part of the 21st Century. The folks out East that’d watch their team until 2:00 a.m. might be happy (until coming into the office the next day), but Dad and I just watched something else, or I’d drift off to eat in my room, then write or play video games until I got tired.
Once I started working, the routine was different. By then, Dad and I both worked the swing shifts at our respective jobs, so on days where I got up early (my sleep schedule is constantly in flux), we’d watch the early game, then go to work. Once I quit my job, the first year or so I had weekends off—it was a wonderful return to younger days, and I think that’s when I most enjoyed football, especially on the days where my father had Sunday off.
In my day job nowadays, I have to work weekend mornings, which effectively eliminated football from my media consumption; as I mentioned above, the night games were always my least favorite ones. Football was starting to recede from my priorities even before I accepted my current gig. I’d done some work covering college football, and the seedy underbelly of college sports disgusted me. As for the NFL, that league is run by a clueless bureaucrat in an empty suit, racist old white billionaires own its teams, and they do all they can to suppress and oppress their players. So unlike the NBA.
The point of this mini-monologue about football is that while early football might be a treat for football fans (the early risers, anyway), early basketball is very strange. Watching live NBA games at 10:00 a.m. is kind of like seeing someone shake another person’s hand with their foot. I get why the Association is staging early games—gotta fill the void left by football—but early basketball is almost as bad as back-to-back basketball sometimes, especially if the players were out late partying.
The Blazers do play matinees, but there’s always this one Eastern game that has to be on the schedule. Sucks that unlike the last few games like this, which were against one of the Florida teams, Portland plays a great team this time, although Joel Embiid is out for this game with knee trouble.
Matchup to Watch: Tobias Harris vs. the Blazers’ small forwards. I’ve given up trying to pin down who plays the 3 for Portland at this point. Mo Harkless usually starts, Jake Layman is playing out of his mind, and Rodney Hood has been a big help at either wing spot.
Whoever plays the 3 will have his hands full with Harris, a crafty scorer and passer who has great size, shooting touch, and is a capable defender. One can argue that the Sixers needlessly went all-in on just this season—and that argument would have plenty of merit, even in the Player Empowerment Era—but boy, this team is impressive.
Prediction: Without Embiid around, I imagine that Simmons will be free to take up all the space near the rim, and eat with impunity. The jumbo Sixers bully the Blazers into a loss.
Trail Blazers’ Record Last Week: 1-1
Trail Blazers’ Record Overall: 34-23
Jared’s Picks Last Week: 2-0
Jared’s Picks Overall: 34-22 (We are climbing, boys and girls)