Tonight's game could feature more returns and redemptions than the average bottle deposit outside a Fred Meyer.
First: Zach Randolph, something of a doughy basketball titan in Memphis, returns to Portland to withstand his allotment of boos and bad feelings for his part in the Jailblazer era, and also for his part in prolonging that stupid headband thing. He's one of the only people in the NBA still rocking it, though, so kudos to him for perservering in looking like a chubby hemmorhoid wearing a rubber donut. That sort of dedication is to be applauded.
Second: Agent Zero himself, Gilbert Arenas, will suit up (as #10, in fact) and get his first run since being amnestied by Orlando thanks to a) his rather large contract b) his play being hampered by turning into something of a tub-of-guts and c) being on probation the last 2 years for bringing a fucking gun into the Washington Wizards locker room. But Arenas is one of the few people the lockout seems to have actually helped; he spent a lot of that time training and getting some run with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, feasting and beasting on YMCA scrubs as a member of the ODB's, an Orlando rec league team. "I was scoring like 65! (laughter)" How well will his rec league skills transfer to the NBA? This seems like a setup to a great Luke Babbitt joke but I can't find the quite find the punchline so we'll move on.
Third: J.J. Hickson, formerly of the Sacramento Kings, was claimed off waiver wires by Portland, to the excitement of Coach Canales, who is excited by everything, really. Canales calls Hickson "ultra-talented," specifically citing game-film of his previous efforts against the Blazers, efforts Canales remembered off the top of his head because he's a walking basketball encyclopedia whose eyes might as well be betamax jog-wheels for all the footage he's scrubbed through.
Or maybe it's just that it's hard to forget shit like this when you see it:
That last one's a little misleading though, as J.J. is known to play defense about as well as colanders hold water. Still though - it'll be nice to have a forward in the paint who can reliably score.
The Grizzlies as a whole are looking for some redemption, going 1-3 in the last four games, catching beatings from the Lakers, the Raptors, and the Kings.
Portland would probably like to get some redemption for their deceptively horrible season (their record really doesn't belie how utterly lost this team is right now) but getting redemption doesn't really factor into management's plan to splat-pack this season like Hans Gruber at the end of Die Hard. In fact, it puts lots of fans in a really weird place: You want your team to scrap, to fight for wins and pull a few gutsy victories out of the fire, but you really want the two, top 10, first round draft picks that will come from losing as much as possible.
Nolan Smith gets to choose the warm-up music - he chooses some Yung Joc. Not bad. In fact, of all the games I've covered so far this year, this one is probably the best pick. There's a lotta smiles on the court right now, more than a few of them coming from Hickson. Even Przybilla is grinning, although I'm guessing that's solely because he's daydreaming about which Grizzlies' forehead gets some extra shade courtesy his yambag.
Not a good sign - this is what the building looks like at tip-off.
Also not a good sign: Miss Oregon 2011 botched the National Anthem. In her version, the ramparts are redly glaring.
Marc Gasol, the Gasol who doesn't look like Goldblum mid-Fly transformation, wins the tip.
11:15 - there were about 15 passes on the Blazers first scoring play. They were exclusively from and to Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum. The Grizzlies so far have two turnovers. 2-0 Blazers.
9:50 - Przybilla gets in Randolph's face after recieving the dump-off from Rudy Gay. It does nothing, as Randolph's fadeaway still finds the bottom of the net. Raymond Felton answers on the other end with a quick 2. 6-4 Blazers
8:28 - Aldridge and Randolph are getting kinda talkative with each other. Next trip down the floor, Aldridge posts up Gasol, lures him into poking an arm out and drawing the foul. Gasol reacts like an infant whose had a binky ripped from its mouth.
7:32 - Wesley Matthews curls around the key, goes straight at Randolph. Randolph tries to slump his way in front of Matthews in time. He doesn't make it, gets called, and ALSO immediately pulls a face as if he just contracted a horrible case of butthole burn. Matthews hits em both. 10-8 Blazers.
6:41 - some ugliness has broken out. An ugly behind the back move from Felton at the top of the key after a Memphis turnover. An ugly pass to Nicolas Batum in the paint to follow THAT up. An ugly attempt at pulling a whistle out of the refs staring at all this ugly basketball. None of it flies. Batum makes up for it next time down by keeping it simple - drain from three when they leave you wide open. 13-8 Blazers.
4:41 - Canales calls his first time out, stomping out onto the court clapping effusively and yelling "Lets Go!" This guy has the energy of Tracy Flick. During this time out, announcer guy draws attention to the fact that Blazers icon (and NBA Hall of Famer) Bill Schonely is in the house. The crowd cheers appropriately. I feel as I always do when I see him here: angry they pushed him out of his job.
4:18 - Batum comes out of the time-out, goes straight to the hoop, flushes a dunk with whatever passes as "authority" for Batum. He then immediately draws a foul, and gets replaced by Matthews. Marresse Spreights tries to go straight at Kurt Thomas, and the ball goes flying into the front row with a sound something like "harooom." Spreights was too hasty.
3:16 - Jamal Crawford is in the game. This means Jamal Crawford has 30 seconds to shoot the ball. He accomplishes this goal. 17-12 Blazers.
1:24 - Head Coach Lionel Hollins (77 World Champs represent) calls time-out. His team is rather whiny and sloppy tonight. Marc Gasol specifically. Aldridge has basically been pulling up on him whenever he wants, like his last basket, where he looked like he was shooting a jumper over Frodo Baggins instead of the Grizzlies' force down low. 23-16 Blazers
56.7 - Luke Babbitt is in the game. What is this I don't even.
36.1 - Kurt Thomas chooses to stop Marc Gasol's drive to the basket by swallowing him up, much like earth swallows cars in an Earthquake. On the inbounds following the foul, they go to Gasol again. He bounces off Craig Smith and flips some dipsy-doo looking soft shit towards the rim. It doesn't go. He looks tired already. Or congested. What I mean to say is that Marc Gasol is a mouthbreather. He hits both his free throws. 23-18 Blazers
0.0 - Luke Babbitt recieves the pass from Jamal Crawford with a second to go. He catches and releases in the corner, behind the three, as the horn sounds. It falls through the bottom of the net. He swaggers. LUKE BABBITT SWAGGERS. It looks like Gene Wilder in Silver Streak. 26-20 Blazers
Shit. Looks like Hickson isn't playing tonight.
10:31 - pretty much nothing has happened. Just a whole lot of slop. But Gilbert Arenas has entered the game, and has promptly drained an 18 footer. To answer, Jamal Crawford's feet go kicking imaginary double-bass drums, and the whistle blows while the ref makes a pushmower motion with his arms. 26-24 Blazers.
9:34 - Aldridge checks back into the game along with Jonny Flynn. the crowd cheers as if they're expecting something. He brings the ball upcourt after a missed free-throw, dishes to Crawford, who immediately streaks to the bassline, goes up, double clutches nowhere, flips it out to Aldridge, who clangs it off the rim. The next trip down the court, Matthews takes it at Gasol, who is still playing pillow-soft tonight. Gasol plants his feet and draws the charge. The crowd loses their shit. Canales calls time out. 26-24 Blazers
Scoreboard playing back a "get-to-know-you game w/ Nicolas Batum, who is obviously not a nerd. When given the option to choose between Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, he chooses neither. (Kurt Thomas is hurt.) Star Wars vs. Star Trek? Neither. Superman or Spider-Man? Batman. The crowd cheered lustily at that.
7:47 - Przybilla's got 6 boards tonight. I don't know if it's because Randolph's been out and Gasol's being all scurred down low, but he's looking like 2008 Przybilla, not 2012. However, Randolph just checked in, went right at him, and as he has pretty much every time he's gone at The Vanilla Gorilla, scored on him. Aldridge answers on the other end with a putback on a Przybilla miss. 33-28 Blazers
6:33 - Flynn, standing 2 steps in from the halfcourt line, sees Wesley Matthews at the 3-point corner. Fires a bullet at him. Matthews redirects said bullet to the bottom of the net. Memphis answers by feeding Randolph the ball. He goes right over Przybilla. Portland tries to answer with another three. Randolph's stride is not broken in the slightest. Catch, shoot, score. 36-33, Blazers
5:24 - Shotclock running down. Ball in Felton's hands. Guess what happened. Ugliness. Ugliness happened. Full of air. I could almost see the frustrated exhalation of the crowd forming a question mark, hovering in the sky. On the other end, Randolph scores his 3rd straight bucket. Nicolas Batum answers on the other end with another 3, his second on the night. 39-37 Blazers
3:44 - Felton barrels towards the rim. Farts up a failed layin. Memphis responds with a fastbreak that leads to a mean-as-fuck-tomahawk from Rudy Gay. While the crowd is catching its breath, Batum curls around a screen, catches the pass, and floats up a jumper from behind the stripe easy as you please. His 3rd three goes on the board. 42-39 Blazers.
2:47 - Shotclock running down. Felton has the ball. Has learned from his mistake - coughs it up to Crawford. Unfortunately, he laces his pass with airborne fail, and Crawford's three also finds an empty, arid lake full of ugly about 3 feet wide of the basket. Felton's redemption (such as it is) is found one play later, as Batum backdoors his defender, and Felton delivers him the pass. 44-41 Blazers.
1:38 - More ugly: Kurt Thomas and Marc Gasol jump-ball. Ball goes up. Both Thomas and Gasol immediately hop six inches straight up and begin flailing like Kermit the Frog. The ball drops down between the both of them. Take 2. Ball goes up. Again, six inches of flailing. Gasol hits the ball with his finger, and Raymond Felton sits down on Mike Conley. Foul is called.
49.1 - Randolph hits another two free throws, giving him 12 pts for the half. He's pretty much scoring at will, which is troublesome. Jamal Crawford gets hit chucking up a three, and goes to the line to collect his points one-by-one. Inbetween the 1st and the 2nd, Luke Babbitt checks back in AGAIN. A single girl woooos from the 300 level. Crawford hits all three. 49-43 Blazers
18.7 - Felton holds for the final shot after Canales calls a 20 second time out. his plan is to dribble awkwardly at the top of the key, charge into a thicket of Grizzlies, awkwardly fire a crosscourt pass to Crawford, and let him jack up a three as the red-lights flash and the horn blares. It doesn't go. But the Blazers go to the half having never dropped the lead once, which is something really nice to see in this building. 49-44 Blazers.
Blazers start the 2nd half shooting 45% from the field, with Batum leading all scorers w/ 17 points.
9:48 - after Raymond Felton pulls up with confidence in the face of Mike Conley (having a quiet game), Marc Gasol decides he should maybe start moving around the paint, hits a little runner in Przybilla's face. Felton responds by reverting to being a fuckup, drives into a mess of Grizzlies, wiggles a shot out from under his armpit, is bailed out by a foul. Hits both free throws. Rudy Gay answers on the other end with a three. Felton gets it down low to Aldridge, who turns and fades on Randolph. It drops. 57-53 Blazers.
7:56 - Felton rolls himself in front of a charging Rudy Gay. Gay catches a case of flummoxed-as-fuck from Felton, throws it off his own thigh out of bounds. Blazers ball. The ensuing possession results in a three from Wesley Matthews, which bounces sky high off the rim, only to fall behind the backboard as Felton moved towards it. Understandable. Gasol answers on the next possession with a two-handed dunk. The game is tied for the first time, at 57.
5:47 - We have proceeded to the part of the night where Przybilla is going to begin smashing motherfuckers in the chest as soon as they get within 3 feet of the basket. That's what just happened with Gasol. He didn't recover before his first free throw. He hits one of two. 58-57, Grizzlies
4:08 - Mike Conley hit a jumper before the time-out, comes out of the time out, dribbles into the middle of the key, and nobody moves towards him. he flicks a floater up timidly. It drops through the net. That's 4 points from Conley, who has 9pts and 1 asssist for the night 62-57 Grizzlies.
2:14 - a swampy 2 minute period full of slop and uselessness is finally broken out of with a mid-court oop from Crawford to Batum, who gracefully pulls the ball out of mid-air and lays it off the glass. 64-59 Grizzlies
1:30 - Batum is feeling it. Know how I know? He's taking threes with like 15 seconds left on the shot-clock and daring people to step out on him. They don't. He makes them pay. 66-62 Grizzlies
:24 - Gilbert Arenas is in the game, holding for the last shot. Pulls Nolan Smith out to try and take a poke at the ball, he spins, dives left, finds Gasol cutting through the lane, leaves it for him. Gasol gets hit going up, misses the first, makes the 2nd. Nolan Smith gives it to Crawford, who stutter steps, gets cut off by Gasol, jabbing a meaty paw inbetween Crawford's frantic dribbling. Crawford loses it out of bounds. End of the quarter. 69-66 Grizzlies.
Blazers scoring has been decreasing steadily from quarter to quarter - 26, to 23, to 17 in the 3rd. Wesley Matthews answers within the first minute by cashing in a 3 from the top of the key and busts out the three goggles for the crowd. They respond with love. 71-69 Grizzlies
10:14 - a pair of Crawford free throws ties up the game. Batum, on the next possession, finds a streaking Crawford cutting across the key. He pulls up for a fadeaway, which rattles home after what seems like 3 years pinballing off the sides of the rim. The announcer is so happy about this that he mentions "BLAZERS LEAD" three times in 10 seconds. I'm guessing it's a phrase he wants to savor as much as possible the rest of this season. 73-71 Blazers
9:02 - There is a man behind the basket, trying to distract Grizzlies players. He is making very severe faces and pointing to his T-shirt, which features a picture of a bear showing off his butthole, with the words "Put the Ball Here" printed above and below him. This man has been wearing a bear's butthole on his chest all game long, for the love of his team. There's something to be said for that, I guess.
8:09 - Batum passes up a wide-open three. I cringe. He kicks it out to Matthews for an even wider-opener three. Matthews puts on his three-glasses. The crowd roars to life. Batum, uses his face tactically to catch one of Gasol's elbows in the face for an offensive foul. Gasol comes this close to bursting into tears, to which the refs T him up. Crawford hits the free throw. Matthews finds Nolan Smith, who finds Batum, whos shot doesn't find the bottom of the net, but Aldridge's hands find themselves responsible for a putback, and a block on the other end of the court shortly thereafter. The crowd has yet to leave their feet, but Gasol gives them reason shortly thereafter, when he drops all of his arm on the front of Batum's head after Tony Allen is whistled for a foul. Crawford crosses up Rudy Gay so hard I can hear the ankles powder from here, but for ALL THAT - it's just a miss, and a foul on the other end from Felton. That's a nice case of basketball blueballs. 81-74, Blazers.
5:17 - it's gotten REAL chippy out there. Some YMCA rec center ratball shit, really, culminating in the Blazers letting the Grizzlies get like 6 uncontested attempted putbacks on this last possession. That means the Grizzlies were missing from point blank for 30 straight seconds and the Blazers STILL couldn't get an ass in someone's lap and push em off the block. Canales calls time out in a cheerful fury, hopping up and down and spinning on his heel after clapping his hand and spurting a little "Come on!" out of his face like steam escaping a teapot. 81-79 Blazers.
5:01 - Felton comes out of the time out, barreling past Mike Conley and farting up another layup as he goes parallel to the ground. The shot drops. Przybilla starts giggling to himself on the bench as he claps. Tony Allen responds with a trey on the other end. Conley gets up in Felton's face. He frazzles instantly, coughs up a pass to Aldridge. OJ Mayo bodies him just in time to get a whistle, which is good because Allen came flying out of nowhere and swatted that shit like an angry kitty going after a laser light. He hits em both. 85-82 Blazers.
3:47 - Felton gets the board as Gasol swipes lazily at his head. He proceeds to dart past 3/5ths of the Grizzlies, only to kick it back out to a trailing Matthews just as everyone catches up to him. Matthews likes the way the world looks through those three glasses. The crowd how he looks when he wears em. 88-82 Blazers.
2:15 - Full timeout from Canales. the last minute or so has been real bouncy, meaning nothing much is dropping, but all the players are flying off of each other as if coated in flubber. The refs aren't really going for it, so what's happening is a lot of slop and skin left on the floor to very little effect, except to lightly dampen the excitement in the crowd. Luckily a bald fat man in a Blazers Jersey spastically twitches to a hip-hop remix of Louie Louie and the crowd pisses. Our heroes tonight? Calvert DeForest's flabby nephew and the kid wearing a bear butthole on his chest. 91-88 Blazers.
1:06 - whatever last second magic Crawford used to have? It's all dried up. He just launched a 40 footer with 1.1 left on the shotclock, and if he was aiming for the dead space between the right side of the hoop and Paul Allen's seat? Direct hit. Rudy Gay runs right over Wesley Matthews on the next possession, and the Refs have decided whistles are totally unneccessary for the rest of the game. Luckily, it's still Blazers ball. Unluckily, they cough it up. Luckily, they pick it right back mid-fastbreak, and the ball sails out of bounds off Tony Allen's thigh.
:22 - Blazers come out of the 20 second timeout holding a 3 point lead. Memphis has to foul here. Or maybe they don't, if their d is strong enough that Wesley Matthews can't even inbound the ball. He burns a full timeout. We try this again. Matthews recieves the pass from Felton this time, and OJ Mayo hits him immediately. Matthews goes to the line, and crowd goes quiet. Or Portland quiet - meaning there's still a good thousand people here having an inane conversation on their cellphone instead of paying attention to the thing they paid money to attend. Matthews hits both free throws. Memphis timeout. 93-88 Blazers
:21.1 - Hollins sends out Gay, Gasol, Conley, Allen and Arenas. Conley gets the nod. Nails the three off a screen. The ball is quickly inbounded to Crawford, and he is quickly hacked by Conley. He hits em both. Memphis calls another time out. 95-91 Blazers
:30 - Arenas inbounds the ball to OJ Mayo, who streaks uncontested to the rim for two. The ball once again goes immediately to Crawford, who is immediately hit and begins doing a two-step while dribbling behind his back all the way to the free throw line. Pressure is obviously not a thing with this dude. Swish one. Swish two. The Grizzlies jack up a shot with time running out, but it bings off the front of the rim, and cue the ticker-tape. FINAL: 97-93 Blazers