Tonight is one of the most exciting nights in all of sports, the kind of night that kids across this great country dream about while shooting baskets in their driveway, the kind of night that breaks hearts, that makes legends, that makes us all believe in Cinderella and miracles.
I am, of course, talking about SXSW
That's where your usual Blazer bloggers, Casey Jarman and Michael Mannheimer, have gone: They're in Austin, Texas
, eating tacos and banging Ciudad Juarez whores two at a time with Quasi. I am speculating somewhat here. I've never had the pleasure.
Also tonight is the second night of the NCAA Tournament, when some tiny school loses by 29 points to Duke, which is also something I suppose kids dream about in their driveway if they have low self-esteem.
And it's the night when the Trail Blazers play the Washington Wizards, who sold their entire gun-crazy roster on wholesale
a month ago. I am not a basketball expert (and, I feel obligated to remind you, I am not good luck
), but I think this is one of those games the Blazers are supposed to win as they build momentum for that first-round loss. Let the Madness begin!
But first, let's have the National Anthem. I'm fascinated by National Anthem artists at the Rose Garden. How do the Blazers choose them? What do they do when they aren't singing the National Anthem? Do they play weddings? Tonight's National Anthem artist is an acapella quartet called Rescue
. They have one guy who's like a beatboxer, except he doesn't provide a beat. He just kind of hums real low.
Also, when did the Blazers start using "Battle without Honor or Humanity"
for player introductions? For an arena that plays "Flagpole Sitta" during timeouts, this is groundbreaking hip. Eat your taco out, SXSW!
Sluggish start by the Blazers (maybe they think they're playing Duke) until Brandon Roy swishes two straight jumpers and a three. 11-6, Blazers, and this may be one of those games where Roy does everything then sits out the fourth. (See the game at Sacramento last week.)
Jeff Cogen is here tonight, and gets on the Jumbotron. There's a rather long slide show about him and his new job
. I'm not sure the people here know what the Multnomah County Chair does (answer: magic!), but they applaud politely anyway.
I'm still not entirely sure who plays for the Washington Wizards now, and they are doing little to inspire me to look it up. They all seem like nice people. In no way interested in guns. Pillars of the D.C. community. Hey, Cal is beating Louisville by 10!
Just writing that makes me feel like a lousy reporter -- Must. Show. Interest. In. Game. -- so I asked the very nice Columbian
scribe next to me (he writes for the Columbian
; I don't think he's actually Columbian) for a copy of the rosters. Let's Get to Know a Wizard! (Even though we never see them again this season.) We'll start with Alonzo Gee, who has dunked on Portland twice in the last three minutes, and has a first-rate name. We learn from the Washington Post
that Gee, an undrafted rookie out of Alabama, was signed to a 10-day contract (also known as an "eh, what the hell?" contract) on March 7. He has impressed his teammates by being unusually quiet. "I'm looking like who's Gee?" said James Singleton (this is an amazing quote). "I didn't know who Gee was." In Gee's defense, earlier this season a quiet day in the Wizards locker room was a day when people were not threatening each other with guns. 23-18, Portland.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a dunking fool. This is in fact precisely the right term, because he is dunking very hard but always looks momentarily surprised and awkward when he is first passed the ball. It might just be bad timing on the passes. Or it might be that LaMarcus Aldridge was one of those kids who had low self-esteem in his driveway, and is always surprised that anyone would want to pass to him. 29-22, Bla.
Blazers radio announcers Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey are seated directly behind me. In person, Wheels seems less excitable than you would expect. 'Ton is exactly as happy as you'd expect. He's a happy dude. 34-24, Blazers.
With four minutes left in the second quarter, I'm going to go ahead and call it: Taco Bell can start packing up the dog food for the night, because nobody is getting free chalupas. This crowd, which is already a little on the thin side (by which I mean it's sparse; nobody in this building is individually
on the thin side), is feeling unusually blasé. This is the first time I've ever been able to hear the recorded male voice under the chants of "DE-fense!" It's kind of a freaky voice. Like the one in Scream.
Jerryd Bayless hits a three-second-technical foul shot, and people are clapping like it's a fucking golf tournament. This is horrible.
Space Ghost, sensing this game slipping into a place where there are no SportsCenter highlights, just the score listed alongside whoever was playing the Timberwolves, drives in for a three-point play. Crowd explodes in gratitude. 42-30, Blazers, and we hit the half. Gah.
I am reduced to sub-verbal expressions.
The entertainment is women shooting free throws. Really. If one of them hits her shot, she gets a free pair of shoes. I'm afraid to say anything more about this, other than I don't think it will ever end.
A dude in a gorilla costume (not vanilla, sadly) has interrupted this crucial report to ask me if I can get him and his friends on TV, even though they are seated in the 300 level, where there are no cameras. I tell him to talk to Wheels and 'Ton.
Let's Get to Know a Wizard! Andray Blatche had six points and two turnovers in the first half. The highlight of Andray Blatche's season was when he was suspended for a game but it had nothing to do with guns. I'm serious: The site Bullets Forever noted
, "No related to gun stuff." (Grammar is no the specialty of Bullets Forever.) Here's why he was suspended:
Saunders said it was a cumulative result of Blatche's behavior during yesterday's loss to New Orleans, a game in which he played 17 minutes, didn't take a single shot and finished with three rebounds, three turnovers and two blocks. After the game, Blatche was seen fully dressed in front of Randy Foye's locker, spraying Foye's cologne on as Wizards trainer Eric Waters asked him if he was coming into the training room for his knee. "Do I look like i care about my knee?" answered Blatche, who then left.
The detail of Randy Foye's cologne really makes that story. 47-38, Blazers.
Andre Miller gets hacked going to the rim, gets no call, gets T'd up for explaining to the ref how terrible he is at his putative job. This is by far the most enjoyable thing that has happened in this game. What I like best about Andre Miller is that his face does not seem to be connected to what he is saying or feeling. There is no correspondence whatsover. 49-41, Blazers.
Let's Get to Know a Wizard! The Wizard Who Has Turned You Into a Whale and You Are Not Sure If It Is Awesome:
The answer is probably yes. 52-45, Blazers.
Somebody in section 121 brought a version of the Obama "HOPE" poster that says "BLAZERS" and has the team logo in the corner but otherwise has not been altered in any way. This is exactly the amount of effort the team itself has put into this game. They lead 55-51 after three. It is an open question whether they will score more points than New Mexico State today.
The outcome of this game is theoretically very much in doubt, and yet it is impossible to feel concerned. The Wizards are starting Mike Miller. The Wizards are just awful. 59-51, Blazers.
I should add: Mike Miller WITH A BUZZ CUT.
Aldridge runs over James Singleton, and Wizards coach Ed Tapscott is so offended by the non-call that he gets a technical and continues discussing the injustice with the officials through the foul shot and the following timeout. The best parts of his demonstration: 1) He goes to the spot on the court where the foul was ostensibly committed, and stands there to refresh the ref's memory; 2) Jerryd Bayless is shooting the tech, and he may the only player in the league who I would expect to insert himself into the coach/ref conversation. 67-58, Blazers.
Let's Get to Know a Wizard! Tim:
And suddenly the ghosts of Rose Garden Choking rise from beneath the seats, and Batum misses a wide-open three, and Al Thornton who has done nothing all night is racing uncontested for a jam, and Batum is fouling him for no good reason, and Thornton hits his neck/head on the basket support, and he's OK, and he hits the foul shot, and Randy Foye colognes a three, and the Blazers are actually losing this game, 70-69. This happened very fast.
Randy Foye was making a perfectly unremarkable one-point contribution going into this quarter, but he just hit his second jumper to give the Wizards a two-point lead -- and now he hit his third. 74-72, Wizards. Just 61 seconds to escape a mortifying loss.
Thornton fouls out trying to keep Aldridge from an offensive board, and LaMarcus hits 'em both. Miller misses a three (relieving me of having to take the blame for inspiring Mike Miller -- I'd be his white Spike Lee) but a Wizard smartly tips the ball off Nicky B's foot. The 'Tumer (I want to call him the 'Tumer) responds by disrupting what looked like an easy layup, and Portland can hold for the last shot.
Brandon do what Brandon do. Specifically, he fakes a three, leans in to possibly draw a foul, senses there's no foul coming, and ducks under his man, squaring his body to hit a 20-foot jumper with 0.3 on the clock. This is all one move. In real time, it looks like slow motion. It is a thing of beauty.
Final score: 76-74, Blazers.
The acapella band Rescue
is back to play a postgame show, and that's appropriate. Roy just salvaged a dire shooting night -- he was 4-of-18 from the field, and had missed the previous 14
shots -- and a lethargic performance from the entire club. I could blither for a while about how this cheering result does not relieve larger worries about the team's inability to finish games or demonstrate much energy at home, but that would mean sitting through Rescue, and I do not want to do that. At all. The game was painful enough, and I'd rather leave on a happy note.