Before we start this evening's live blog, I have a lot that I want to say about Penisgate. But I think maybe I shouldn't say any of it. I have a tendency to overstate my case and run my mouth in circles. But I left a comment on Beth's story that says pretty much how I feel about the reaction her ill-advised question has received. I would add that I think it's pretty telling that people who seem so concerned with gender issues and reverse discrimination immediately identified that it was a "female reporter" who asked the question. Maybe we should have a town hall meeting or something, because I can talk some real shit. Meanwhile, Beth can fight her own battles and, like Greg, I don't think she has anything to apologize for.
But that's not why we're here! We're here to talk Blazers and Jazz. The 'Zers, rapidly slipping in the standings against a superdupertough Western conference, need this one. They need to cement their reputation as a tough team to beat at home, and they need to do it tonight. Let's see how the Blazers, wearing throwback jerseys for '80s night, fare.
Not a good start. Two and a half minutes in and Utah is up 8-0. Blazers call a timeout. Boozer got things going and the Jazz have played unimpeachable basketball thus far.
LaMarcus Aldridge finally gets a Blazer basket. 12-2 Utah. Nic Batum and Rudy check in early to try and make something happen. Kirilenko dunks it over Nic Batum.
This is as ugly as a game could start. Four fouls on the Blazers already, and not one against the Jazz. This one goes on Andre Miller, his second. Deron Williams makes his first free-throw. The press row is as noisy as I've heard them in a long while (unless you count Casey Holdahl's salty mouth at the New Orleans game on Monday night). 16-2 Utah.
You can only blame the refs for so much of this. The Blazers look absolutely awful. Deron hits a three and Kirilenko dunks. This is a 21-2 game, the worst of the season (obviously). "This is just like the '80s," someone behind us says. It's '80s night, see. This is unbelievably bad, and if it continues this way we're gonna start talking trades in the second half instead of blogging. Cool?
First foul on the jazz. Sarcastic applause from the crowd (including a few standing cheers), and "Hallelujah" played over the P.A. The Blazers are shooting six percent, and the Jazz are getting everything they want at the hole. Also, Andre Kirilenko is a madman and an unconventional basketball god when he's hot. 24-7 Utah.
Nic Batum is the only guy hitting shots for the Blazers, and he's got seven points thus far. It'll be interesting to see how much Nate will play him, as he's just back from that shoulder injury. Batum scores again to make it 26-11. He looks good out there.
Carlos Boozer, who already has 11 points and just got to the line to shoot another (miss) looks like a men among boys out there. Worse, actually, he's like one of those West Coast Choppers guys at a kindergarten. This is not pretty. Batum is still on the floor, making the most of his minutes with nine points and two assists.
You could close your eyes here and still know how the Blazers (down 35-14) were doing. The announcer lists off a steady stream of Utah's player names and the crowd boos with gusto. Inbetween, they mumble angrily and groan. Boozer goes one of two and makes it 36-14.
THIS CROWD WILL NOT STOP BOOING! It's the longest sustained boo I've ever heard at the Rose Garden. They keep booing through a feature on the big screen with Kiki Vanderweigh talking about the Blazers. It actually feels a bit dangerous right now, to tell you the truth. It might not stop until a Blazer scores. The Jazz take the court again and it just gets louder. A no-call as Nicolas Batum was hacked and then a technical was called on Jerryd Bayless, and Portland doesn't much like that, either. I would wager that this has been about a four-minute boo, and it's not dying down yet.
Jerryd Bayless, like Kobe Bryant, plays best when he's mad as hell. He drives to the hole, gets man-handled and picks up the and-one. The crowd quiets momentarily, then stops again.
A few calls in a row go Portland's way and now the crowd is chanting "Utah Sucks." These people just don't know who to hate right now. Milsap—who looks great thus far—to the line and the chant starts again. Batum leaves the game with 13 points and gets a brief-but-loud ovation.
Dante Cunningham makes a move that looks half-circus and half-accidental, but tumbles and rolls the ball into the basket for another and-one opportunity. Misses the free-throw. 42-23 Jazz. The talking heads on TV are likely saying "If they can get this down to 10 by halftime..." Right? Are they saying that?
There's this sound effect they play here when a Blazer makes both his free-throws, it sounds like fingers running across thre strings of a harp, but slightly more manly. It sounds like this Bill Withers song "Stories." I have this Pavlovian response to it: I take off my shirt. So, bad for press row, good for the ladies (I think there is one lady on press row this evening...maaayyyyyybe two).
It's a tale of two defenses out there. One (guess which?) looks physical and structured; speedy but not hurried. The other looks panicked, jumbled and lacking in confidence. There were just three defenders on Kyle Korver in the lane. He did what any good Kyle Korver would do and passed the ball. Every Portland player collapses in the paint when a Jazz player gets there, and it clears the way for them to either hand off to another penetrating offensive option or kick out to someone on the perimeter. It's embarrassing. The Blazers should be embarrassed. As should these cheerleaders. You are grown-ass women. You shouldn't be dancing to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" for almost no pay. I'm sorry, it's true.
Jerryd Bayless to the line. The Blazers are not getting this down to 10, barring some of that miracle three-point shooting and a lot of dumb Utah turnovers. And I just noticed my leg shaking uncontrollably. At some point I saw an advertisement for pills that treat "shaky leg syndrome" or "irritable legs" or whatever they called it, and I think the side-effects involved vomiting, etc.. I'd rather have a shaky leg than vomit. I'm on a no-vomit streak that started before I even moved to Portland. Sometimes it has been rough—I remember a few times laying on the bathroom floor or leaning up against the wall of the Sandy Hut, waiting for the dizziness to pass—but I have not caved since eating bad chicken at Red Robin in like 2000 or 2001. I'm coming up on my tenth anniversary of quitting puking and I intend to celebrate it. By puking my guts out. In any case, I don't want any medication that involves barfing. Or "suicidal thoughts and actions," which I saw on some pill ad recently. Terrifying.
Speaking of "suicidal thoughts or actions," the Blazers are down 24. It's 61-37. The crowd is chatty (and, funny enough, they seem too worn-out to boo at bad calls anymore).
Blazers cut the lead to 20 and the Rose Garden erupts. It's a cheer...
80s night be damned.
Bayless dishes to Batum for a corner three. The Frenchman is certainly tonight's silver lining. Blazers down 17 until the great Deron Williams throws up a high floater in the lane to get it back to 19. Pretty shot. Good point guards are hard to find, man.
So many amazing stats to look at. Jazz shot 74 percent to the Blazers 34. That's a good one to start with. Jazz shot 50 percent from three while the Blazers hit just 18. Some hustle stats, amazingly, go to the Blazers. I'll just link you to the wacky box score for this one: http://www.nba.com/games/20100127/UTAPOR/gameinfo.html?ls=gt2hp0020900672
P.S. WALKING WITH DINOSAURS!!
Interviewing old Blazers at halftime, Bill Schondley says that Darnell Valentine "got his thighs at thighs-r-us—remember that?" No. But Darnell laughs.
'80s movie/music montage onscreen. You know, I do want to say something about the Greg Oden thing, and it's this:
I've thought a lot about the way the press works in the last 36 hours. Specifically, the way that media (and now independent blogs, too) travel in packs and go after whatever celebrity/athlete unfortunate enough to do something out-of-line with this weird, outdated idea of America's moral center. Greg Oden fell into that trap yesterday. Generation bored turned its attention to him for a moment, and it'll soon turn away. I used to think this was a problem with the press. I still do think the sensationalism is fueled by "the media," and it doesn't help matters. But "the media," like "America," is a generalization and a hallucination. Those who think media outlets work in concert with one another are just as delusional as those who think all Republicans or Democrats think alike. So yes, I'd like to see changes in the way "the media" addresses people's personal lives. But the more I think about this, the more I realize that a lot of the pressure should be on folks like Greg Oden to reject this kind of treatment.
What do I mean by that? I mean we need more Muhammed Alis and less Kobe Bryants. We need more Charles Barkleys and less Lebrons. Some public figures decide to reject expectations and speak from a genuine place. When you do that, it makes people think. There's a reason Stephon Marbury and Ron Artest capture the public attention. For one, they are both crazy. But more importantly, they reject the notion that folks in the public eye should have to be immasculated, safe, apolitical, sponsor-approved public servants. They speak their mind. And every time these guys say something there's a media voice to chastise them; to tell them they should be role models.
A role model, to these pirhanas, is a celebrity who says and does nothing of interest. That's what Tiger Woods was—and tries his best to still be—before the shit went down. That's what Michael Jordan's handlers try to keep him from blowing it (I prefer the asshole Jordan who reared his head during a hall of fame speech: at least that's genuine). And that's what these people want Greg Oden to be.
Now, Greg Oden has been in the public eye since he was just a kid. He knows the game, and I'm sure there's been no shortage of people in his life to tell him to keep his head down and his mouth closed. And Greg, if you've met him, is a funny but understated guy. I don't think it's a problem for him, generally, to float through life without causing too much of a stir (off the court, anyway). But yesterday, he sat there and took a whipping from the local and national media. He hung his head for something he shouldn't be ashamed of; something that shouldn't be anyone's business but his own. And he said the safest things he could possibly say. Again, that might just be Greg. But guys like Greg need to realize that THEY are the game-changers. People in the public eye need to realize that, in the mighty words of the movie Angus, "There is no normal." And those athletes and celebrities who would bow to invasive media and apologize for things they should never have to apologize for—apologize for being human—need to figure out that they don't have to play by the rules. When someone asks Greg Oden, "What would you say to a kid who heard about this at school?" Greg Oden should not hesitate to call bullshit. And when someone asks Greg Oden why he should be embarrassed, because people were impressed, he should be able to laugh or tell said reporter to fuck off at his will.
But that's how you lose sponsors. And that's how you get America to say you're not a role model. I reject the entire idea of role models as it exists in America today. I think a role model is someone who speaks their mind regardless of the backlash. I think a role model is someone who DOES things, not someone who stays out of trouble by total inaction. And yeah, maybe a role model is someone who donates money to Haiti or supports a center for kids with cancer. Absolutely! But a real hero isn't afraid to support less popular causes. If you believe in a woman's right to choose, I think it makes you a role model to support that, too. If you believe the poorest Americans deserve healthcare, now isn't a bad time to state that belief loudly. And yeah, if you believe in some shit that I think is wacko and right-wing, get loud about it and do your bit. What we have right now in this country is a whole lotta whitewashed, dull, opinionless "role models." Greg Oden, if he stays healthy, is going to be big enough to be a role model for kids everywhere. He should have as much fun as he can with it, he should be himself, and we shouldn't grade him or guilt-trip him on how he handles a crisis that never should have been a crisis in the first place.
Thank God I don't write for a reputable sports outlet. I think I'd get the Paul Shirley treatment for that essay. Don't get me started on that whole thing. Paul Shirley obviously made a HUGE mistake and he comes off like a GIGANTIC ASSHOLE, but I can't help feeling sorry for him because I'm just the sort of guy who goes on crazy rants before stopping to do research or thinking things through. I think we gotta have a town hall meeting where we talk some sense into Paul Shirley. Otherwise the crazies are gonna take him in as one of their own. Oh, Paul Shirley.
Blazers are down 85-75. It was exciting at times. I regret not blogging that whole quarter. But this one should be fun.
Blazers could be on a run here, but everyone's missing (including a missed Steve Blake layup that just looked disgusting). Down 12.
I'm not sure if my rant made any sense. The point is GIVE ME KANYE OR GIVE ME DEATH.
The Blazers won 441 regular season games throughout the '80s. That is a useless-ass piece of information.
LaMarcus has 19 points and 7 boards. It doesn't seem like it, having watched this game. I barely remember him making a point. I just remember the falling-over hookshots and the failed attempts at the rim. He has not looked good tonight no matter what the stat sheet says.
Jazz pick up their fourth foul and the Blazers are only down eight. Bayless running the point. LaMarcus Aldridge is getting a lot of the offensive attention at the moment, and he's back on the line now to hit one...and miss the second. Ugh. Blazers down seven.
The anti-floppers are probably having a real hard time with Rudy. I love it. I love the crazy tumbling falls and the exaggerated flails. And weirdly, I think people just hit him harder than they hit other players. Maybe they want to get some bang for their buck. He gets to the line and hits two.
As I say this, Rudy tries to take a charge he shouldn't try to take, and the scapegoat is Dante Cunningham, who picks up that one and another quick foul just after it (he has five). It's still Utah's ball and they're up seven. Too deep a hole to start out with for the Blazers? We'll see...
I love watching LaMarc take that silky mid-range jumper. He's hesitating tonight, and I can't figure it out. That's his shot, man. But on the other end, Deron Williams is just as smooth.
Martell hits front rim on the wide-open three. Korver does the same on his layup at the other end. Less than four minutes to glory now, fellas. One last push!
Nic Batum, take over!
I think we just saw the life breath leave LaMarcus' body as he reached halfheartedly to grab that rebound. Come on, LaMarc, there's no "quit" in "Desperate, banged-up Trail Blazer team."
I know, more three-pointers! That's a strategy that has worked a dazzling 22 percent of the time tonight!
They're booing Deron Williams for holding the ball the way he should.
You know what? The Blazers should lose this game. Anything else would leave these fans with false hope and feel-good sentiment. That would be unfortunate. There's serious evaluation that needs to happen about the remainder of this season, and it might as well happen tonight. A push down the stretch does not a playoff team make.
Doesn't matter so much right now, but Jerryd Bayless is a better free-throw shooter than he lets on. And the game drags on...
Opening the comments section up for angry rants and trade rumors. GO! GOODNIGHT! BLAZERS LOSE! ONE HUNDRED AND SOMETHING TO NINETY-SOMETHING!
Nate trots Steve Blake out in exchange for Jerryd Bayless. How's that for a dick move.