Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Utah Jazz in completely meaningless preseason basketball. Tonight is supposed to be a sneak peek at a possible regular season starting lineup for the Blazers—Blake, Roy, Batum, Aldridge, Przybilla—plus plenty of Andre Miller thrown in the mix as well. There will be no Greg Oden (thigh injury) or Rudy Fernandez (back injury, too handsome), but Kosta Koufos is in the house, y'all.
Much of the courtside chatter as of late has been about the plummeting stock of Travis Outlaw. The joyfully simple and lovable 6th man for Portland has had a terrible preseason (33% shooting), and you can tell the pressure is clearly wearing him down:
What? Instead of hitting the gym, taking extra jumpers, or begging not to be traded to the Bulls in exchange for a sweet Horace Grant replica jersey, Outlaw is twittering while wrapped in a Snuggie. At least it wasn't a Slanket. I'd be huddled under a sleeved blanket too, if I knew that I was about to lose my job to an elderly Juwan Howard.
Not too much worth nothing tonight. The Jazz will have the fattened pockets of near-Blazer Paul Millsap on the court, while Portland might actually give Jerryd Bayless some well-deserved minutes. The big news is that a week from tonight, the regular season starts with a home game against the Houston Rockets. Revenge is a mere seven days away.
Scratch all that. Howard gets the start tonight, meaning Aldridge comes off the bench. His knee is banged up, but he was shooting before game without a brace/sleeve.
11:48 - Howard starts. Howard throws the ball to Ronnie Brewer. Well, that was quick. 2-0 Jazz.
11:07 - Batum bangs knees with Andrei Kirilenko and immediately exits the game. Could this game get any worse? Outlaw replaces him. Oh, so it can get worse. 5-0 Jazz.
7:54 - It goes without saying, but these preseason referees are terrible. There is no flow to any of the games, as the scab refs seem to be in love with the shrill sound their whistles make. Przybilla picks up two phantom fouls, then a quick technical for shooting them his death glare. Thankfully it looks like the marginally better officials will be back by the start of the season. It doesn't help that everyone on the Portland roster looks half-asleep—or half-awake, depending on your level of optimism—with the exception on Roy. This is ugly. 16-6 Jazz.
4:39 - Jarron Collins checks into the game. So much for the regular season lineup. 21-10 Jazz.
3:47 - To the three men in grey shirts and whistles: They are booing you because the replay shows you missed the calls. Again. And again. And again. Please make a note of it. 23-10 Jazz.
1:04 - It took 11 minutes, but the Blazers just had their first respectable shot—not by a player in the #7 jersey—as Webster was knocked to the floor on a drive, but still managed to hit the layup while falling on his back. 26-16 Jazz.
0:33 - Clearly warm from a heated Snuggie session, Outlaw hits a three pointer with Carlos Boozer's ugly mug, and hand, in his face. 29-20 Jazz.
12:00 - Bayless is in the game. Let the fun begin. 31-20 Jazzercise.
10:23 - Fun! Bayless goes coast-to-coast (like that Sade song) for a layup, Then he pushes over Eric Maynor for no reason at all. He got two points for the shot, and one foul for knocking Maynor on his ass. Fun! 33-22 Jazz.
9:30 - Travis Outlaw, if you airball another shot I will—so help me God—burn your damn Snuggie to the ground. 34-22 Jazz.
5:05 - This game is as graceful as a Silver Sneakers pickup game. But slower. (That was not a Juwan Howard joke). 44-28 Jazzzzzzzzzz.
2:25 - The Blazers current lineup on the floor: Blake, Collins, Udoka, Cunningham, and Roy. I hope we never see those players on the court together during the regular season. If we do, something has gone terribly wrong. 51-36 Jazz.
0:00 - Christ, that was ugly. Perhaps a halftime power nap and gingersnap cookie will help the Blazers in the second half. Halftime show: Kiddies on unicycles and Springsteen songs. Just like that dream I had. 59-40 Jazz.
10:57 - This game is is sloppy that I keep expecting to look up from my laptop and see Sebastian Telfair and Viktor Khryapa on the court for the Blazers. There have been 27 fouls and 22 turnovers in 25 minutes of basketball. 59-43 Jazz.
7:56 - Mehmet Okur moves like he's trapped in a tar pit. A few years back, before I had this sweet gig, I somehow was invited to watch a Jazz game here in the Rose Garden with Turkish friends/family of Okur. It was about 3 rows on Turkish-American Okur superfans—back when visiting teams could easily get three rows of prime tickets—that only cheered for their man. They were indifferent to the rest of the Jazz players, and only applauded when Okur touched the ball. It was odd. I imagine Kobe or Lebron fans watch every game like that. It made me uncomfortable. 65-51 Jazz.
5:14 - Since the "real" officials are coming back I think the scabs are just going out in a whistle-deafening blaze of glory. It's not just the Blazers that are suffering, the Jazz have been the victims of more than a few comical violations as well. Plus this game is going in slooooowwww motion because of it. Enjoy it while you can, guys, you'll be back officiating a Fort Wayne Mad Ants game this time next week. 68-53 Jazz.
3:29 - Utah has a 21 point lead, and I just witnessed the first people to pack up their stuff and leave. People in the 100 level are such babies. Preseason basketball: Catch the fever!!! 76-55 Jazz.
0:49 - Bayless slices the lane and hits an acrobatic layup while surrounded by a sea of powder blue Jazz jerseys. He then smacks the ball into the seats, just to be a dick. God, I love him, 81-61 Jazz.
10:26 - Miller comes up with a steal, but is swatted under the net. He then exits the game, dramatically hobbling off the court. Hey, Steve Blake, looks like you just might have gotten your old job back. 87-67 Jazz.
8:32 - The lead is a soft 23 points. Make your move now, Portland! 92-69 Jazz.
6:13 - Bayless clanks a three, then gets the ball right back and heaves up another. It goes in. Dude is nuts. 95-75 Blazers.
4:06 - Kyrylo Fesenko fouls out and quickly Portland slashes the lead to a measly 14 points. This is no coincidence. It's clear who Utah's secret weapon, and best player, really is. 95-81 Jazz.
3:42 - Webster with an alley-oop dunk, then a full court press, turnover, and layup from Udoka. Ten point lead. Hmmm. I'm skeptical Portland can come all the way back, but if anything I'd like to see it happen just to spite the clowns that left during the third quarter. 95-85 Jazz.
2:09 - Comeback, meet reality. Reality, comeback. The Jazz reel off a pair of shots and the lead is back to 14. 99-85 Jazz.
1:49 - Bayless. Will. Not. Die. He hits four straight free-throws—people love fouling the little guy—and Portland has the ball with a chance to make it single digits. 99-89 Jazz
1:09 - But they don't. This about sums it up. 101-89 Jazz.
0:12 - Paul Millsap's line: three points, six fouls, one rebound. Damn, and to think, he was almost a Blazer. 108-95 Jazz.
0:00 - And that will do it. Utah 108, Portland 97, and it doesn't mean a thing. See you next week, when it counts.