Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Houston Rockets and kickoff the 2009-10 season. It's been 181 days since the Rockets pulled the plug on the Blazers' season, a short-lived victory for a Houston team that was soon annihilated by a Lakers lineup that now has big shiny championship rings. But the Blazers want their revenge. And a win. While us fans will just settle for a win and the complete set of '92-'93 Dairy Queen Collector glasses in their original packaging. You have not had a Oreo Blizzard until you've sipped one through a frosty Harvey Grant glass.
Let's all take a moment to pour out a glass of Chateau Haut-Brion for Nicolas Batum, who won't be suiting up in the red and black until next year with a torn right labrum. In his place, the firm and healthy labrum of Martell Webster, who has not started a game since the '07-08 season.
While we've documented the Blazers' off-season pickups and castaways (see you in hell, Sergio!), the Rockets have been busy revamping, and accidentally demolishing, their team. They wisely brought in Trevor Ariza (Rudy Killer!), but lost Von Wafer, Ron Artest, and old man Brent Barry (he used to sit rookies on his lap and regal them with tales of what the NBA was like when people shot underhand free-throws). Houston is also missing the walking medical disaster that is Tracy McGrady and they've been busy building a large casket for the career of Yao Ming—out for the season, and maybe forever. This current Rockets lineup is nowhere near as talented as the team that whupped the Blazers in the playoffs.
Last year Greg Oden had a horrific opening night to the season, where he plodded around the court, before eventually just rolling his ankle and heading back to the injury pile. If there was ever a night to get things started, it would be tonight against a Houston team that is missing both of its big men (Yao and Dikembe Mutombo) from last season. Their center is the competent Chuck Hayes, who stands more than half a foot below Oden. Tonight should be a big night for the big guy.
11:09 - Aldridge with the first basket of the season. He wins a set of steak knives. For not scoring first, Brandon Roy will be fired. 2-0 Blazers.
10:19 - Aaron Brooks casually drives past Blake. Hmmm, where did I see that before? Oh yeah, every single second of the playoffs. Put Andre Miller in now. 5-4 Rockets.
7:58 - If you had four minutes in the "Oden traveling violation countdown," you are a winner. 9-9 tie.
6:51 - After not making a single basket all pre-season—or, so it seemed—Travis Outlaw hits a three pointer from the top of the key. Meanwhile, Aaron Brooks looks like a highlight reel in fast-forward, while Steve Blake's game resembles a senior citizen rec. league player. Jab step! Jab step! 14-12 Blazers.
5:05 - It's hard to stop Roy from dunking when your team doesn't have a center. Maybe Houston head coach Rick Adelman can play center for them. Yo, Rick, how big are you? thiiiiiisssssss big. 16-14 Blazers.
3:50 - After Andre Miller scores his first points as a Blazer, the fan down the row from me shouts "BLAKE CAN'T DO THAT." I think Blake can hit a wide open layup, but I won't argue. 20-15 Portland.
3:01 - Rudy clear path fouls Ariza. Funny, the last time those two met up on the court on a play like that, Rudy ended up in the hospital. 20-20 tie.
0:52 - Pops Mensah-Bonsu has more points (well, point—he has one) than Greg Oden. Nice start, Oden! 23-22 Rockets.
11:19 - Miller with the first of many—let's hope—alley-oop passes to Outlaw for a dunk. 25-23 Blazers.
10:01 - Chase Budinger is in the game for Houston. He's from my hometown of Encinitas, CA, and much like yours truly, he is terrible at the sport of basketball. We have so much in common. Chase, dude, let's talk about Rico's Tacos after the game, kay? 28-23 Portland.
9:25 - Outlaw is making up for a pre-season where he did nothing but miss baskets and make me cry. He leads all scorers with 14, his latest pair coming on a breakaway dunk. 30-23 Blazers.
7:25 - The Blazers second unit > The Blazers starters. 37-30 Portland.
6:34 - Webster for three—he almost hit that from the bench, he was so far off the court—then a turnover and a dunk by Aldridge. Houston quickly clanks a shot, and Portland answers with an amazing pass from Miller to Ruuuudy for the dunk. Hey, 16 point lead, just like that. 46-30 Portland.
4:46 - Miller finds a way to stop Aaron Brooks. He trips him. Take notes, Blake. 46-32 Blazers.
1:53 - Roy dives into the crowd for a loose ball and while getting up, he lends a hand to the cameraman he knocked over. What a nice fellow that Roy is. 51-38 Blazers.
0:13 - Houston doesn't seem to mind Blake sitting wide open in the corner, instead they double team Roy, but they might change their strategy after Gummo hits a pair of three-pointers. The lead is a little smaller, but not bad. 54-41 Blazers.
10:29 - I still miss Batum, but Webster dunking in the face of Shane Battier was quite a sight. He's literary played twice as much basketball tonight as he did last season. 56-41 Blazers.
9:26 - Oden is putting up quite the line so far: zero points, nine rebounds, four blocks, and five turnovers. 56-44 Blazers.
5:34 - You get the feeling that Aaron Brooks might be an all-star if he had anyone on this Rockets team that could score, or at least just catch his passes without fumbling them away. 60-47 Blazers.
5:05 - If someone would have told me that the Blazers would be up by 15 with Outlaw and Webster as their leading scorers, I would have punched them in their neck. Hard. Twice. Good thing no one told me that. 62-47 Blazers.
1:20 - Figures. Outlaw airballs a wide open three-pointer, then hits one with a hand in his face. Outlaw scores his 21st point and the lead is now an even 20. 72-52 Blazers.
12:00 - So many unanswered questions remain: Will Oden get his first points? Will Portland make it a 40 point lead? Will we see Bayless or any of the new Blazers in the final quarter? Will Luis Scola ever wash that greasy mop of hair? 75-56 Blazers.
8:41 - Oden stat update: zero points, ten rebounds, seven turnovers, four blocks, five fouls. Amazing. If it wasn't for him nearly fouling out, he might get the ultra rare reverse triple-double. That is the unicorn of basketball stats; it might exist, but no one has ever seen it. 80-62 Blazers.
7:03 - And just like that, Przybilla unceremoniously fouls out of the game. So much for domination at the center position. They go small with Aldridge in the paint, as the Rockets inch ever closer. 80-71 Portland.
5:44 - Miller with a quick five points. It's no coincidence that he gets the minutes in the final quarter over Ghostface Blake. 85-75 Blazers.
3:43 - Roy swats all six-feet, 11-inches of David Andersen. It doesn't result in any points, but was impressive even if it came against an awkward looking rookie from Australia. This game is way closer than it needs to be. 87-79 Blazers.
2:19 - Rockets only down by six. PANIC! 89-83 Blazers.
1:32 - In a shocking development, Roy hits a clutch shot for the Blazers. 93-85 PDX.
0:58 - It took 47 minutes and two seconds (!!!!!) but Oden finally scores. 95-85 Portland.
0:00 - And that'll do it. It wasn't the prettiest game, but not a bad way to start the season. Your final score, Portland 96, Houston 87.