Will it snow? Will the Blazers make a trade? Did Michael Jordan really get cold feet at the last minute and pull out of a deal that would send prized forward/defensive beast Gerald Wallace to Portland? --- So many questions to answer tonight, and to think I almost went two sentences without mentioning Kobe. These things I do know: Portland is riding a six game winning streak into the usual rivalry game against the dreaded Lakers, who lost their last three games before the all-star break but rebounded by destroying Atlanta last night. There's no snow yet, but it's cold as Terry Porter's post game interviews outside. And word on the street—first from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, and seconded by The Oregonian's Jason Quick—is that the deal for Wallace is dead. For now. You never know with these things, though—I woke up to news that the Nets and their crazy Russian billionaire owner traded for Deron Williams. Too bad it wasn't on The Onion.
If the Blazers were somehow able to get Wallace without sacrificing point guard Andre Miller (not to say Nicolas Batum) then it would be a straight up swindle. Wallace is tall and long and athletic and one of those guys who are sneaky Top 20 Fantasy good: 15-18 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and a block a night. But trading Miller is kinda dumb at this point, especially without a backup point guard (love you, Patty!) and with the Northwest division suddenly weak with the quick departures of Williams and Carmelo Anthony.
UPDATE: The trade is still a possibility! But Rudy Fernandez's agent has said he'll ask for a buyout and go back to Spain if he's included in the deal. I wonder if his stance would change if Patty went with him? OK, enough speculation, there's a game to play! Also, Brandon Roy is playing tonight, but in limited minutes.
The "Beat L.A.!" chants starting before introductions. Pretty loud boos for Kobe, but Pau Gasol gets his fair share, too. I think Blazer fans are threatened by his beard.
11:36 - Lakers grab not one, but three offensive rebounds on their first possession. With Bynum back, plus Gasol and Odom, it's easily their strength, especially with Przybilla still at maybe 80 percent.
10:18 - Batum misses an 18 footer, and it's all jump shots so far. What about the Shoulda Been An All-Star inside? Lakers up 7-2.
9:15 - When people across the country—Bill Simmons, for instance—say that LaMarcus is a changed player, they point to plays like this: Aldridge passes up a jump shot and gets a clear lane to the hoop for a monster dunk. Seriously, he throw that down like he was Blake Griffin jumping over the hood of a car.
7:12 - Suddenly the Blazers have a little pep in their steps, and I think the crowd might have something to do with it. It's LOUD in here, and it's not just because of the Lakers: Sitting in the 300 level at the last game before the All-Star break I told my friend Scoop that the crowd seems re-energized. Maybe it's the 3 goggles, or LaMarcus' inside domination, or the win streak, but the Blazers have a definite home court advantage again. Lakers still up 16-15, but we've got a game.
5:25 - The Lakers have some weird defensive matchups. Why is Fisher on Batum? Kinda makes sense that they don't want Miller posting him up, and Batum is more of a perimeter player, but he's got a good five inches on Fisher. And Batum backs me up by missing two free throws. Phil Jackson, always playing those mind games, even with innocent bloggers.
4:53 - Steve Blake gets a mix of cheers/boos/grunts as he checks in for the first time. Blake must have played at the Rose Garden as a Clipper last spring, right? It is weird to see him in gold and yellow, and to imagine him singing it in the locker room.
2:23 - Knock Rudy all you want (it's easy, and I know that other alt-weekly across town has hundreds of jokes just ready for his first air ball) but I'm gonna say that he's been one of the major reasons for the mid-season resurgence. When Rudy is on, he's not just hitting open threes, he's diving out of bounds, barreling toward the hoop, and making wild behind the back passes that somehow hit the open man. Diving into the third row to to get Batum a pair of 3 goggles? Just another night off the bench. Blazers up 25-19, and here comes Roy.
...so much for a lukewarm reception. Real fans like Roy more than the press, who all seem skeptical that he can play tonight.
0:55 - So Roy's playing point guard off the bench. Interesting move, Nate. I think it could work, but I'm always in favor of three guard lineups.
29-23 after 12 minutes. LaMarcus with 12 points and 4 rebounds. Swag.
Random game thought: Bill Schonely was totally a hipster back in the day. Those big glasses he's wearing in the vintage picture on the JumboTron? You can order them from Warby Parker.
11:12 - Wesley Matthews could be the guy hit the most by Roy's return. His minutes should stay consistent, but I dunno about his shot attempts. He starts the quarter off with an awfully hard fadeaway over Gasol (money) and a corner three attempt (brick). Blazers up 32-27.
9:57 - Roy looks tentative on his knees, but at least he's shooting. 0-2 to start, but an aggressive player is better than when he just stood around the perimeter the last time he played.
I think my favorite play EVER is the Rudy-t0-LaMarcus swinging alley-oop. It's just gorgeous. Better than anything at last weekend's dunk contest. It's the new Spanish Connection, but with a Texas Twist. The Tex-Mex lob! Wait, that doesn't work. I give up. Blazers lead 34-27.
7:32 - If Batum can rebound like this every game, then all those small-ball lineups I dream about (Miller, Roy, Matthews, LA) can become reality.
6:21 - Can we take a moment to appreciate the Blazers' newfound running game? This team is so deadly when it gets out on the break. 39-31 lead, and Kobe's starting to get pissed. Just another Lakers battle at the RG.
5:33 - I wonder if Phil Jackson worries that one day Ron Artest is just going to lose it. He's been on his best behavior the last two years, but the championship honeymoon is over, and one of these days he's going to steal Lamar Odom's candy stash or something.
3:32 - Kobe gets a bucket, but he's got just 6 points so far, and has yet to go into FU Kobe mode where he just goes insane. You know it's coming.
2:20 - Los Angeles keeps hanging around—every time the Blazers get an 8 point lead they go on a little mini-run to keep the lead under double digits. It's making for a bit of a choppy game, and the crowd knows this. But it also allows me to post videos about Odom's candy fetish and share special text messages like this, from my good bud Chris Chamness in Indiana: "Conquistador to Cowboy, that is what you are looking for." He's the genius!
2:10 "Kobe Bryant for three" (crowd gasps and suddenly gets really, painfully quiet)
1:20 - Przybilla is quietly having a strong night, with four boards and solid defense on Gasol and Bynum inside...and a not-so-quiet block of Kobe's dunk attempt! Who knew he could jump so high on a bum knee.
Oooh, Kobe comes within inches of hitting a half court shot at the buzzer. Solid first half for the Blazers, but you let the Lakers hang around and you're setting yourself up for heartbreak. 47-41 Blazers lead at half.
Almost Live's stat of the game: 4-15. That's Kobe's shooting so far. He's got less points than Batum. The Lakers usually lose when Kobe jacks up a ton of shots (and when he misses) so we're gonna watch that trend in the second half.
10:50 - LaMarcus is too quick for Bynum. That's the trouble with guarding him—he's faster than a lot of wings, but tall and agile and pretty damn strong down low. He already has 20 points, and there aren't many players in the NBA I'd trade him for.
9:07 - Good post defense by Dre on Kobe. Guarding the post is an underrated skill, but Miller is doing everything right—moving his feet, not pushing off with his off hand, and making Kobe shot that turnaround jumper. He can hit it, but it's a tough shot. Blazers up 52-47.
8:33 - Nothing like a Derek Fisher three to suck the life out of the crowd. How many big shots has that guy hit in his career? 1,000?
6:54 - Kobe is slowly going all Black Mamba on this game, hitting two threes in the last few minutes and slowly getting his swagger back. Score's tied at 55, and the "Beat L.A." chants have died.
5:38 - Great pass from Dre to a cutting Batum, who puts a little French into his finger-roll for the layup. The Blazers are so much better when they MOVE WITHOUT THE BALL.
4:48 - Gasol, who's had a slow game, gives the Lakers their first lead in a lonnnngggggg time. Looks like it's going to be back and fourth the rest of the game.
4:15 - Timothy Hutton is Portland's Jack Nicholson. Man, we need better celebrities. And I bet he lives in L.A.
3:32 - It doesn't look like Patty Mills is going to play tonight, but he'll never stop cheering: Every play, he's jumping off the bench, swinging his towel, and no doubt yelling "balla!" after every Batum dunk. He's the ultimate cheerleader. The anti-Bonzi Wells. He's the Blazer equivalent of a rally girl. Can you tell I miss Friday Night Lights?
2:19 - It's 65-64 Blazers, and this is one of those slow, chug it out games that are high in drama and low in Chalupa coupons. That might change if Kobe keeps on raining threes.
1:09 - Nice offensive sequence: Roy with a great drive and kick to Cunningham, and LaMarcus is there to clean up the mess. Portland ending the quarter with some fire.
Ryan from section 332 gets a boo shower after missing almost every shot in between the quarter. What a crowd.
11:23 - Well that was vintage BRoy: Crossover, side-step, and fall away jumper over Artest for his first points in the last, what, six weeks. If he can provide a spark off the bench it would be huge for the Blazers. If he gets close to his old form they could be dangerous.
9:38 - Batum is keeping the Blazers in this game, with both his outside shot and his defense on Kobe/Artest. I doubt Gerald Wallace could do any better!
8:39 - Would you trade for Greg Oden? If I was a GM I wouldn't even want to let him in my weight room, but speculation around the league is that the Blazers might be shopping him. It's a huge risk, but could be a worthy gamble if the right team gets lucky.
Brandon Roy jumps! Brandon Roy hits a three! I bet Mike Rice has something kooky to say right about now. Blazers up 79-73.
6:37 - Odom gets whistled for a technical foul. I can't hear what he said, but I'd bet all my money on Wes telling him that gummy bears suck.
5:30 - I would definitely crawl over the person next to me to get my mitts on a Captain Morgan t-shirt.
3:43 - Ah, the old Blazer trick of hitting a few three pointers and then completely abandoning any idea of an inside game. At least go into LaMarcus and then kick it out. Blazers lead 87-80, but it's still tight.
3:19 - Something you don't see very often: Kobe forgetting that the shot clock is running down and failing to get anything off before the buzzer. Wow. He just doesn't have it tonight, to the delight of hundreds of screaming fans above me.
1:29 - The Lakers have completely abandoned the triangle for the end of the game "Iso Kobe" offensive, and they look slow, old, and sorta disinterested for what should be a big game. But Ron Artest showed up! Big night for Ron, with 21 points and 4 assists. Kobe has 25, but he's also missed 25 shots. Blazers up 87-83 but they need to hit something to close it out.
0:44 - SHIT, KOBE.
0:24 - LaMarcus misses again, Blazers ice cold at the end. You know Kobe wants the three, he's backing down Wes and damn hits another impossible shot. Game is tied. This is why he's Kobe.
0:04 - Have the Blazers had a last second shot since Roy's been out? Do they put him back in the game? They are, and man this would cement his legacy and change the season. Rudy inbounding, LaMarcus gets it and misses another point-blank shot. I bet he wants that one back. I guess we're going to overtime! Welcome to another Blazers-Lakers February classic. LaMarcus 0-3 in the last minute.
4:47 - Lamar Odom for three, and the Lakers have the first lead of overtime. Why couldn't Wes or Rudy hit one of those at the end of regulation? They're better shooters than the Candyman.
3:54 - Batum finally does the smart thing and drives to the rim instead of shooting another outside shot. The Blazers scored just 18 points in the 4th quarter because they relied too much on the 3 goggles, and it killed them. Gawd I sound like Charles Barkley. Both shots are good, Lakers up 90-89.
3:11 - I take it back, Nic, I really do! Shoot all the threes you want! You're golden! Sacre bleu. Blazers tied the game at 92.
2:00 - Rudy for three! The hits keep coming. What a game. I feel weird for letting the world know that I love basketball so much, but God I love basketball. This is fun.
1:30 - Andre Miller, struggling all night, finally gets one to fall, and the Blazers lead by two. It's hard to keep up the game is so back and fourth.
0:39 - Laker offensive board might have won the game. So much for small ball. Nate would kill to put Camby in for five minutes.
0:27 - Kobe being Kobe, dominating at the end, talking shit, taking names. He's got 31 points, and it's taken over 30 shots to get there, but that's why he's got all those rings. LaMarcus still has 29 points, and has a big fat goose egg in the 4th quarter and overtime.
0:19 - Gasol and LaMarc get double technical fouls, and this crowd wants blood. It's getting hostile in here, but that's to be expected. Oh and LaMarcus misses his first free throw...and the second. This is where the Laker fan inserts a Kevin Love joke. Ouch, this is gonna be a tough one for Nate to swallow. Kobe hits his two FTs, and the Lakers lead by five.
0:16 - The Blazers have kind of self-destructed at the end here. You just don't get an over-and-back on the inbounds play after a timeout in this situation. Tough, tough loss. But what can you do? The Lakers win these games because they are the best team in the NBA. Look at what Kobe did at the end of the game compared to LaMarcus.
Well, at least tomorrow could bring the Blazers Gerald Wallace. Lakers win 106-101, and we'll be back this weekend.