Portland Trail Blazers Week Preview & Predictions – 10/26
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
In one Bible verse, King Solomon of Israel, a man 2,800 years dead, described the Internet experience more accurately than any modern person ever could.
Whenever I go to any message board, any comments section, any place that is related to the subjects that inflame passions in people (sports, politics, religion, etc.), I can’t help but think of Proverbs 18.2, which is my favorite passage in the Good Book because I’m a cynical bastard.
It’s this experience I sought to avoid when I came to Oregon Sports News 14 months ago. It was refreshing to hear constructive criticism of my work, and to engage in reasoned conversation with my fellow writers and anyone else who cared to talk, instead of being faced with an apathetic editing staff and a bunch of morons who had nothing else to say except, “You suck!” in 592 different ways. (And yes, I counted.)
I am given this space because my boss wishes me to express my personal opinion, but I also take great pleasure in understanding. Whether it’s devoting four to eight hours to in-depth research a week, or it’s grilling guys like Bryant Knox or Patrick McEachern for their opinions, I always seek to further my understanding.
I hope that anyone that reads anything I (or any other writer) have to say has that same attitude. It might be too much to ask, but in the end, other people’s outlooks on life are something I have little control over. I can only write the best articles I can, and leave everything else in your hands, dear reader.
With that introduction out of the way, it’s time to begin the second season of my Portland Trail Blazers Weekly Previews on Oregon Sports News.
All stats are courtesy of NBA.com and basketball-reference.com, and all games can be heard on Rip City Radio 620 AM.
The Skinny: Yikes. What a way for the young Blazers to begin their season, taking on Anthony Davis.
One of the running gags I had last season was calling Davis the Destroyer of Worlds. In truth, it’s not really possible to describe the full breadth of Davis’ skill and gifts unless you’re J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, or Robert Frost. The only thing I can do is drop numbers.
Davis led the NBA last year in Player Efficiency Rating with a 30.8 (that is LeBron territory, folks), total blocks, blocks per game, and made two-point field goals. He was fifth in points per game, tied for eighth in rebounds per game, and had 42 double-doubles in 68 games played. He is worth 15.4 more wins than a replacement player, again approaching LeBron’s level. Those 15 wins are the difference between an 8-seed and a 2-seed in the playoffs.
(Literally. Check this out. Look at the East standings.)
He was the only guy (according to NBA.com) to total 200 blocks and 100 steals last season. He shot 53% from the field and 80% from the free-throw line, including a totally-insane 71% (WTF!?!?) from the restricted area, and an almost-as-impressive 43% on mid-range jump shots.
For reference on that mid-range shooting: that’s a better percentage than LaMarcus Aldridge shot from mid-range in 2014-15. Disgusting.
So we got a big guy that’s Hakeem Olajuwon on defense, some unholy cross between Shaquille O’Neal, Aldridge, and Tim Duncan on offense, runs like a gazelle, can jump out of the building, is thinking about adding a three-point shot to his game…
…and is only 22 years old.
God help us all.
Player To Watch: This is a new feature this season. Since the Blazers are rebuilding, I want to keep the focus on the development of the youngsters on the Portland roster this season, instead of highlighting a matchup the Blazers need to win in order to, well, win.
For this game, we’ll highlight Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard. They’ll be the ones tasked with keeping Anthony Davis occupied while Portland‘s on offense, Davis by diving to the rim and Leonard by drifting to the three-point line.
It’s too much to ask of any big on the Blazers’ roster to defend an alien mutant/basketball demigod, but this will be a good test for Leonard in particular. We’ll see if he’s learned anything about defense during the preseason and training camp.
Prediction: Davis goes for 40, and the Pelicans run the Blazers out of the Moda Center despite their myriad injuries. (Seriously, why can’t the Pellies ever stay healthy?)
Saturday, Oct. 31: versus the Phoenix Suns, 7:00 PM, KGW
The Skinny: The Suns and Blazers play a home-and home back-to-back, so we’ll lump both games together.
Phoenix has had an offseason more tumultuous than the Blazers’, if that can be believed. Where Portland simply traded away Nicolas Batum with little fuss and let their free agents go, the Suns had to deal with petulant athletes during the season (Goran Dragic) and after it (the Morris Twins).
Marcus Morris, the lesser player of the two , was traded to the Detroit Pistons in the hope that his brother Markieff will grow up some in the absence of his brother/best friend. The Morris brothers were among five men charged with felony assault stemming from an incident in January, and the case is still going, best as I could find out.
On the court, they’ve shown a disgusting lack of respect to opponents (which repeatedly bit the Suns in the behind), referees (ditto), their own coach, the respected Jeff Hornacek (on national television, no less), the media, and their own fans…or the fans that don’t pay in excess of $1000 for seats.
These are Markieff Morris quotes from SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun blog, obviously about the Suns:
"We need a home court advantage and it doesn't seem like a home court advantage at all."
"Some games are gonna be bad. You can't win every game. We need the support, us as a team, to know the fans are gonna be behind us. I don't feel like this year they're behind us like before."
"No, they don't boo. They don't care that much neither. We feed off, for the most part, off the energy of each other. I know Phoenix fans are a lot better than that. I know we have a lot of genuine fans in the first row, the second row, the third row, but once you go up it seems like fans are at the game just watching."
"You're damn right I feel a difference (on the road). It just don't feel like we got a home court advantage, like I said. It just feels like we got fans from all over they just cheer for everybody."
So Morris calls the rich people the only real fans? Sounds like he’s got his head shoved where the sun don’t shine.
If anything, it’s the folks in the upper reaches of the arena that are the passionate fans, the ones giving up a couple months’ hard-earned disposable income to attend an ever-more-expensive NBA game, or the middle-class folks shelling out thousands of dollars for season tickets. I’m not saying wealthy folks lack passion for the teams they fork over money to watch, but in southern locales such as Miami, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, you get many transplants that shell out to pay to watch the road team, the team they grew up watching before they moved south.
Of course there are fans from all over in Phoenix, man! Atlanta and Miami face the same issue, and I don’t hear their players whining about home-court advantage, or lack thereof.
It all comes down to a sad lack of maturity from a couple of entitled young men who don’t understand how things in the real world work. The Suns traded away Marcus Morris for nothing because he became a cancer in the locker room, for yelling at coaches and taunting opponents. The twins pleaded not guilty to the felony charges…despite several reliable witnesses placing them at the scene, and the victim (who knows the brothers) saying they were part of the scrum.
Even now, Marcus is blaming everybody but himself over this whole mess. And incredibly, the Morris twins were only a part of the problem in Phoenix.
After a season which saw the Suns lose multiple games due to technical fouls, ejections, and losing their cool, Hornacek enters a key period in his coaching career. Many of the guys that he had troubles with have been shipped out, yet there’s no denying that the Suns weren’t as good as they thought they were, and that Hornacek lost control of the team.
Like the Blazers, the Suns figure to stink this season. Unlike the Blazers, the Suns also have many character question marks to answer as well.
Player To Watch: I’m interested to see how Damian Lillard will do against Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix’s star point guard. Given that Lillard will be the constant focus of NBA defenses for the foreseeable future, having to go up against a bulldog point guard defender in Bledsoe will be a difficult challenge indeed.
As for Bledsoe on offense, he is basically a stat-stuffer. He does everything well to varying degrees, but doesn’t really set himself apart in any one area. He’s a jack-of-all-trades with incredible per-100 possessions numbers, a below-average stroke from three, and an attacking mentality that creates space, open shots, fouls, and points.
With the Blazer defense projected to have plenty of soft spots (and don’t mention Ed Davis, please--the anchor of a historically terrible Los Angeles Lakers defense last season isn’t any comfort to me), how Bledsoe attacks it in these two games will not only decide the games, but show just how much improvement Lillard made in his overall game.
Prediction: Both teams win one at home.
Last season, both the Blazers and myself went 51-31, meaning that I picked them to win games they lost and to lose games they won. It’s still amazing that our convoluted, six-month paths would converge at the same exact spot. Hell, I even picked the Blazers to lose to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games during last year’s playoffs, and they did lose in five.
I’m not saying I have a crystal ball or anything, but what I do have is an innate understanding of the game of basketball, a platform to share that understanding, and no hesitation when it comes to sharing my personal opinion. I guess I’m kind of like the King Solomon of Portland Trail Blazers basketball.
Or maybe not…
I’m going to go read the Book of Proverbs again. There are many cures for a big head in there.
Related Slideshow: 12 of the Greatest Sports Movies of All Time
Hank Stern ranks his top twelve favorite sports films.
#8 The Longest Yard
Not the remake with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock. But the hilarious original with Burt Reynolds and Eddie Albert as a wonderfully villainous warden who pits the guards against the inmates in a grudge football game that includes former Green Bay linebacker Ray Nitschke and other ex-football players like Sonny Sixkiller and Joe Kapp, both stalwart Pac-8 quarterbacks long, long ago.
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