The Portland Trail Blazers are in the playoffs for like the 10th straight year or some such number. They've been good, and even during times when they've been bad, somehow they got good again. It's been pretty wild.
If you're a person who doesn't necessarily watch basketball, but you want to fit in and enjoy this playoff run, which will hopefully go two or three rounds—the Blazers have a high seed and are playing a hobbled, janky Pelicans squad in the first round—you're going to need to learn some catchphrases about the team, broad statements that will pass muster amongst the more hardcore people surrounding you at the party or family gathering you've found yourself at. Please, try these on for size:
"NURK HAS TO DUNK THAT!"
Jusuf Nurkic is the Blazers' starting center, a big ol' white Bosnian who seemed on the verge of washing out of the league until the team traded for him and made him the centerpiece of their colossally improved defensive attack. Nurk's goods so clearly outweigh his problems that most people don't find themselves driven to madness by him in any real way, but there is one thing he does that bothers even the most zen of basketball fan: He tends toward soft finishes at the rim, tosses when they should be dunks, hooks when they should be tosses, etc. and so on.
Now, far be it for me to presume what being a professional athlete is like. There is a possibility that Nurk's defensive expenditure necessitates him not quite bringing the nitro to rim-rattling dunks on the other end. But, speaking purely from an outsider's perspective, it is truly irritating to seem him miss clear, open finishes at the rim every game. If you say this when he does it, everyone around you will nod and agree and like you more.
"GOD, AMINU IS SO ESSENTIAL!"
Al-Farouq Aminu might befuddle you, casual fan. His dribble is high and loopy, his shot takes a little longer than you might think, he doesn't look like your idea of an excellent basketball player at all. But you are missing something in all that tangle: He is a spectacular defender, locking up scoring forwards and big men alike at will, utilizing long arms and an unflappable mental approach to the dark arts of the other side of the court. He is as essential to the team's success as Damian Lillard, in his own way.
And so, keep an eye out for someone not scoring on him, at some point. Point at the screen and say the words, and everyone will agree with you, except one dude who doesn't, like get it, and will make himself look like a real dummy by disagreeing. After he sounds off, look at the person next to you and share a quick eye roll with them. "Can you believe Rick?"
"THAT'S DAME, BABY!"
Everyone likes Dame. He is great. He is basically like Steph Curry, who you have probably heard of, except he is slightly worse at shooting but like 20 times more charismatic and mythical. He likes to drill big shots all the time because he has an iron will to win, everyone loves him, he will be on the Blazers forever and retire as the greatest player in franchise history.
When he hits a big shot, preferably a very long three pointer to tie or a win a close game, lift your beer in the air and yell this phrase. Everyone will heartily agree with you and perhaps even offer to clink bottle or cans together. This is an excellent way to make friends.
Meyers rubs everyone the wrong way. He isn't very good in a really flagrant way. He probably won't play but if he does, complain a lot about it unless he plays and does something good, like hit a three pointer, in which case, please cheer half-ironically. It's honestly a very complicated thing.
"COLLINS ISN'T AFRAID!"
Zach Collins is a rookie on the Blazers and he's been pretty good. If he's bad in the playoffs, don't talk about it, it's fine. But if he's good, say he isn't scared. This implies that he has an iron metal will that will someday blossom into complete dominance. It is a way of being optimistic, which people really like a lot.
Rajon Rondo, a guard for the Pelicans, is kind of a bad player who has, here and there, been a fucked-up playoff hero for no particular reason. If he starts playing well, it is acceptable and even encouraged that you worry about it out loud, by referring to his past exploits on big stages. But don't really worry about it. It will be fine. He does this. Dead cats bouncing and all.