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Who Blazers Fans Should Root For in the Rest of the Playoffs

Thursday, May 07, 2015


Well, Trail Blazers fans, here we are again.

Portland is eliminated early in the playoffs for the nth consecutive year and there’s about a month and a half remaining of playoff basketball.

Yes, the temptation exists to curse the name of James Naismith for creating this painful passion and to retreat far, far away from basketball. 

We could wallow in weeks of wondering what might have happened if Wesley Matthews had only been healthy and to fret about the free-agent fates this summer of LaMarcus Aldridge, Matthews and Robin Lopez.

But there’s too much good hoops ahead to do any of that just yet. So pick up the remote control with me, turn that TV back on to ABC, TNT and ESPN and let’s look through a very myopic Portland- and Oregon-centric lens to figure out who to root for in the rest of the playoffs.

Golden State vs. Memphis

The Grizzlies – as the team that eliminated the Trail Blazers – obviously elicit mixed emotions. The frustration at the Grizzlies’ easy dispatch of Portland lingers in the short term, but there’s often at least some long-term “at least we lost to the champions” satisfaction if the team that eliminates your team in the postseason goes on to win the championship. Memphis also has ex-Trail Blazer Zach Randolph, who despite all his transgressions in Portland retains a soft spot in many Portland fans’ hearts.

As for Golden State, first-year coach Steve Kerr played one season for Portland, and guard Klay Thompson is ex-Trail Blazer Mychal Thompson’s son. But both connections are too tenuous to cheer for the Warriors on those weak links. The real reason to root for Golden State over Memphis is the Warriors are much more fun to watch. 

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Houston

Both teams rank highly on Trail Blazers fans’ loathe-meter. The Rockets and the Trail Blazers developed a rivalry during the first round of the 2014 playoffs that ended with Damian Lillard’s buzzer-beater in Game 6. Along the way, Rockets Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and James Harden wormed their way into the darkest corners of Portland fans’ psyches.

Then again, there are the Clippers, who regularly prompt hatred from Portland fans for their incessant whining about calls. So what to do? The Clippers have ex-Trail Blazer Jamal Crawford. And the Rockets have Terrance Jones, who starred at Portland’s Jefferson High School. Hold your nose and cheer for the hometown guy’s Rockets.

Chicago vs. Cleveland

Weird that Lebron James – the NBA’s best player -- would be cast in a sympathetic light after he “took his talents” to South Beach to win titles for Miami. But anybody trying to win a title for the Cavaliers must generate some love, and I don’t mean Kevin. Cleveland entered the league along with Portland and Buffalo back in 1970. Feel bad, Trail Blazers’ fans that Portland has won only one title and made just two other finals trips in that 45-year stretch? Consider Cavaliers fans’ plight over that same stretch—no titles and only one brief “got swept” trip in the finals.

As for the Bulls, they have ex-Jesuit High star Mike Dunleavy and former Oregon Ducks standout Aaron Brooks. Cleveland of course has Lake Oswego High’s Kevin Love, but he is out for the rest of the playoffs after dislocating his left shoulder. Go with Dunleavy, Brooks and the Bulls.

Washington vs. Atlanta

Not much to see here. The only Portland connection on either roster is ex-Trail Blazer Martell Webster on the Wizards. Webster never achieved top status as a Trail Blazer but was always easy to root for. Do it again and cheer for the Wizards to beat the Hawks.

Assuming against all reason that all four of our picks advance, that would leave Golden State playing Houston in the West and Washington facing Chicago in the East. 

It was hard enough backing Houston for one series—we can’t do it again in the West so onward to the finals, Golden State. And in the East, two trumps one so we’ll take Dunleavy, Brooks and Chicago over Webster and Washington.

And that leaves Golden State against Chicago. The NBA’s most electric team against two hometown guys on a more “grind it out” team. Go with electric for the greater good of the league. 

Then feel free to begin worrying about the Trail Blazers again.

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

Here is GoLocalPDX's list of Oregon's most devastating injuries that have occured within the past 10 years.

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Greg Oden

Sept. 2007 — Micro fracture surgery on right knee

Dec. 2009 — Fractured left patella 

Nov. 2010 — Micro fracture surgery on left knee

Dec. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on right knee

Unfortunately, Trail Blazer fans everywhere already know how drafting Greg Oden over Kevin Durant worked out for their team. After being be the #1 selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Oden was never able to play a full season due to ongoing knee injuries. The team eventually waived him in March of 2012.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Dennis Dixon

Nov. 2007 — Torn left ACL

During the 2007 season Dixon had the Oregon Ducks as the #2 team in the country. That was until he suffered a torn ACL against Arizona State and attempted to play on it the following week against Arizona. After Dixon went down for the season the Ducks lost their remaining two regular season games. Fortunately, they were able to end their season on a high note with a victory over South Florida in the 2007 Sun Bowl.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Brandon Roy

Sept. 2008 — Cartilage removed from left knee

April 2010 — Meniscus tear in right knee

Jan. 2011 — Arthroscopic surgery on both knees

Brandon Roy is perhaps one of the most beloved Trail Blazers in the history of the franchise. After being drafted in 2006, and leading the team out of the "Jail-Blazer" era, he had to make the tough decision to retire at the young age of 28. His degenerative knees prevented Rip City from seeing their superstar ever play to his full potential.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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Jacquizz Rodgers

Nov. 2008 — Grade II separation of the acromioclavicular joint

During the second to last game in 2008 Jacquizz Rodgers suffered a separated shoulder that ended his season. Unfortunately, this meant that he wasn't able to play in the Civil War, which was perhaps the biggest game of the year for the Beavers. If the Beavers had been able to defeat the Ducks they would've been able to book their tickets to play in the Rose Bowl. Instead, they went to the Sun Bowl where they defeated the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Photo via Wikipedia (image cropped)
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James Rodgers

Oct. 2009 — Torn left ACL

After participating in only 4 games during the 2009 season Rodgers went down with a torn ACL while playing against #9 Arizona. This couldn't have come at a worse time for Rodgers considering he was expected to have a breakout season. Rodgers, who was a senior at the time, was able to end his career at Oregon State as the career leader in all-purpose yards.

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Joel Pryzbilla

Dec. 2009 — Ruptured right patella tendon and dislocated patella

In December of 2009 the Trail Blazers' backup center, Joel Pryzbilla, was lost for the season with a ruptured and dislocated patella. This was a huge blow to the Trailblazers' frontcourt because they had already lost Oden for the season a few weeks before. Pryzbilla was also the team's defensive anchor who provided an inside presence. "The Vanilla Gorilla" was sorely missed for the rest of the year.

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LaMichael James

Oct. 2011 — Dislocated right elbow

The 2011 season couldn't have started any better for LaMichael James. After the first game James became Oregon's career rushing leader, surpassing Derek Loville. During the second game he rushed for over 200 yards against Missouri State. Unfortunately, James' year was slowed by a dislocated elbow suffered against Cal. Luckily for Duck fans he was able to return to end the season.

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Nate Costa

Nov. 2010 —Torn Right ACL

After suffering a multitude of knee injuries throughout his career at Oregon Costa was forced to officially retire from football after tearing his ACL for the third time in agame against Washington. Although Costa's career was hobbled by injuries many of his teammates looked to him as their leader. Oregon's coaching staff referred to Costa as the "heart and soul" of the 2010 team that won the Rose Bowl.

Photo via Addictedtoquack (image cropped)
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Sean Mannion

Oct. 2012 — Torn Left Meniscus

During the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, Sean Mannion was enjoying one of his best as a Beaver. Unfortunately, he tore his left meniscus against Washington State that resulted in him missing around half the season. With Mannion leading the way the Beavers had the Pac-12's fourth rated offense, averaging 459.5 yeards per game. With Mannion sidelined Cody Vaz became the starting quarterback

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Marcus Mariota

Oct. 2013 — Partial MCL Tear

Marcus Mariota is widely regarded as one of the greatest Oregon Duck quarterbacks to ever play at Autzen. Unfortunately a knee injury hobbled his sophomore season. After Mariota suffered a partial MCL tear against UCLA he conintued to play the remainder of the season. With Mariota's knee not allowing him to be as mobile as he was accustomed to teams were able to take advantage. In the weeks following the injury the Ducks suffered losses to Stanford and Arizona. Duck fans everywhere would like to know what that season woud've loked like if Mariota had stayed healthy.

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CJ McCollum

Oct. 2013 — Broken fifth Metatarsal In Left Foot

After being taken 10th overall during the 2013 NBA Draft the shooting guard out of Lehigh wasn't able to start his career the way many had hoped. After breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot the rookie wasn't able to take the court until January of 2014. Before the injury McCollum was in consideration for playing time behind Lillard. 

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Alex Morgan

Oct. 2013 — Stress reaction in talus bone

During the 2013 season Morgan suffered an injury that doctors misdiagnosed as a mildly sprained ankle. After a few additional tests were performed it turned out that Morgan had suffered a far more serious injury. She actually suffered a stress reaction in the talus bone that put her immediate future with Team USA in question. After rehabbing for 7 months Morgan was able to make a full recovery.

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Bralon Addison

April 2014 — Torn left ACL

After exceeding expectations as a freshman and sophomore at the University of Oregon Addison was expecting big things from his junior year. Unfortunately, Addison suffered a torn ACL during last year's spring practice that kept him sidelined the entire year. Without Addison in the lineup the receiving core never lived up to their full potential. If he had been able to play this season the National Championship may have wielded a different outcome.

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Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Dec. 2014 — Torn ACL

In preparation for the first ever college football playoffs Ekpre-Olomu ended up tearing his ACL during a routine practice. This was a huge blow to the Ducks considering Ekpre-Olomu was one of the team's better defenders. He was also one of the best corners in the country who many analysists expected to be selected as high as the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

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Wesley Matthews

March 2015 — Torn left achilles

Just 2 months before Matthews suffered a torn achilles he had become the Trailblazers' all-time leader in 3-point field goals made. It looked as though the Trailblazers were poised to make a deep playoff run. Things took a drastic turn when Matthews was lost for the season. With the team in a 0-2 hole against the Memphis Grizzlies it doesn't look as though they will be making it to the second round of the playoffs this year.

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