"Here we go again."
— See Threepio, Sexually Liberated Robot Butler, The Walt Disney Company.
Short recap of the offseason:
1) Portland hired a silver fox from Los Angeles to manage the front office.
2) Portland hired a guy named Terry (but not THAT Terry) to coach the team.
3) Portland drafted a Dame.
4) John Canzano is still a prolapsed rectum, slowly oozing from the assy end of sports journalism.
5) Everyone got comfy with the phrase "rebuilding year."
Let's talk about that for a sec before the game starts:
The phrase "Rebuilding Year" is the sporting equivalent of "closure." It's garbage terminology rendered meaningless by its constant repetition and misuse.
"Closure" is what people say they want when they're in the midst of suffering while slowly learning how to get the fuck over themselves. People who actually get "closure" don't know they have it, because they've moved beyond needing some mealy-mouth feelgood bullshit euphemisms to tuck under their chin like a security blanket.
"Rebuilding" is what people say when they want to feel better about their sports team of choice being shitty until that team figures out how not to be shitty. That's all it is. Sometimes it takes a season. Sometimes it takes two. Sometimes it takes a couple months of treading water until someone sparks something and a team gels around that spark.
This is not a "rebuilding year." This is a "tread water until we find something that works and then work it" year. It's not as catchy, nor does it roll off the tongue with any sort of ease, but it's a lot more accurate. The Blazers consist of one All-Star (Aldridge), one could-be All-Star (Batum), one potential All-Star-In-The-Future (Lillard), one rolling set of kinetic explosions (Hickson) A whole bunch of rookies and benchwarmers, and Wesley Matthews.
They open their season against the Los Angeles Lakers, aka the Miami Heat West.
After some rousing words by LaMarcus Aldridge (There was only one "uh.." in his 7 word speech) the lights come up, the whistles start blowing, and the Blazers hit the court in their ugly new alternate jerseys that remind me of that SNL cheerleader sketch with Will Ferrell.
10:18 - after a nice offensive set by LA to open the game, and a nicer putback on the offensive boards by the Blazers, the Lakers find Metta World Peace on the fastbreak - only to be answered by Wesley Matthews getting the and-one as Steve Nash swipes at him from the ground while he flies through the air. Wesley jogs to the line with a couple forceful "Yeah, motherfuckers." 5-4, Blazers
9:35 - Lakers coach Mike Brown already looks like a hemmorhoid just ruptured in his Dockers. It could probably call a more effective play. Maybe it was trying to.
8:47 - Aldridge with the first test of the NBA's new anti-flopping rule. He gets a no-call as Dwight Howard leisurely dances to the basket after pinballing off his chest. Batum answers on the other end with a three, his first of what I'm sure will be about a hundred or so more for the year. 8-6, Blazers
8:26 - Terry Stotts kinda looks like a well-hydrated, moister James Cromwell.
7:51 - Kobe Bryant with a ridiculously agile tiptoe, slo-mo duck-n-dodge through the paint. The Blazers & Lakers trade baskets (Gasol, Aldridge) and Nic Batum gets called for smacking Gasol all over the arms. Gasol hits em both. 15-14, Lakers
6:53 - Dame Lillard just got introduced to the league. His first offensive attempt leads to Dwight Howard blocking him so hard he falls down, eating the ball and some hardwood. The next play for the Lakers results in a two handed slam from Kobe. Lillard jacks up a 20 footer, but luckily JJ Hickson has learned to control his explosions for good - he jumping jacks three times, smacking the ball back to himself each time, and puts the ball in the hoop on the fourth try. Dwight Howard has a look on his face like "This motherfucker HERE, man. Jesus." 17-16, Lakers
5:36 - LaMarcus Aldridge ties up Dwight Howard, which seems like a good call, because Dwight Howard is only good from the free-throw line when he's wearing a cape in a slam-dunk contest (and even then, he comes up short on the rim). But you don't want Aldridge smacking him. Howard misses em. Batum jacks up a three, it clangs so hard it hits the camera above the backboard. Hickson brushes up against Dwight Howard, a whistle blows. The Blazers are already in the penalty, so the Rose Garden crowd gets two free laughs at watching Howard try to put a ball in a hoop with nobody in his way from 15 feet out. He hits one. The Blazers begin scrubbing - I mean subbing - in. Howard hits em both. 20-18, Lakers
4:32 - Aldridge drains wide open from 18. Steve Nash calls a play by making a jerkoff motion in the air. It results in a dribble-drive kickout to Gasol, to Devin Ebanks, who drains. Portland hustles on the offensive boards on the other side, and gets another putback. 23-22, Lakers.
3:28 - Nash picks apart the Blazers D effortlessly, gets to the center of the key, remembers he has to run Brown's bullshit Princeton offense, stands still for a second, tosses it to Gasol. Gasol tosses it to Batum. Batum takes Kobe to the hole effortlessly on the fast-break. Kobe snorts in frustration after a halfhearted hack. Batum with the and-one. 25-23, Blazers.
2:43 - Nolan Smith makes his presence felt - via lane violation. Haven't seen one of those in a long time. On the other end of the court, Meyers Leonard, an emotional rookie and apparently the Portland fans pet for 2012 (whither Luke Babbit? Et tu, Blazer fans?) catches a faceful of fingernails from Jordan Hill, so hard that the refs have to consult to determine if it's a flagrant. Smith comes over to encourage Leonard... by slapping him in the head. Leonard winces. I almost hear a tiny sob escape him. He's so cute. 27-24, Blazers
1:00 - Lillard seems to be going directly at ex-Blazer Steve Blake, but he can't find the hole. Steve Blake doesn't seem to be taking it personal, but that's because Steve Blake doesn't have a face capable of expressing emotion. He's got dead eyes... doll's eyes. They trade baskets, Lakers hold for the final shot, and for whatever reason Blake thinks Hill is the guy to take it. He clangs it off the back iron. And would you look at this, as the buzzer sounds - 30-26, Blazers
11:40 - Wesley Matthews starts the quarter with his second 3-pointer. He's got a fire under his ass today. Everything he does comes with a guttural bark and a sneer. The Lakers muff their offensive opportunity, and Lillard ends up on the fast break. His excitable ass takes off a little too early, and he has to TRIPLE-PUMP in order to get the shot off over Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison. It drops in neatly off the glass. The place explodes. 35-26, Blazers
10:19 - Meyers Leonard makes himself useful and gives Dwight Howard an armpit toupee during a shot attempt. The whistle blows, and Howard improbably hits both. Leonard makes up for it by turning his head and completely missing the alley-oop that Lillard was trying to feed him. Lilalrd's eyes are starting to roll. Howard steamrolls to the basket, and the Blazers again hack the fuck out of him. Guess what? THAT'S NOT WORKING. He's shooting over 70% tonight. Bangs home another two free throws. 35-30, Blazers.
9:25 - Dwight Ebanks checked in about a minute ago. Has fouled three times in that space of time. He wanders, bewildered, over to Mike Brown. Mike Brown makes a "bwuh" face and mimes standing still with his arms up. Terry Stotts looks like he wants to chew out Guy Pearce for being such a goody-goody. I honestly don't know if he's actually coached anything today. I keep forgetting he's there and then I look over at the bench and fuckin Zefram Cochrane is chewing on his lower lip. 37-30, Blazers.
8:10 - I like it when Antawn Jamison thinks he's still a basketball player. He shoots threes like he thinks they're going to go in. And then they don't, and he makes this "Hmph" face, and Wesley Matthews ends up at the line on the ensuing play, and hits em both. 39-34. Blazers haven't missed a free-throw yet tonight - but they've only taken six. Lakers have taken 14, because they insist on fouling Dwight Howard even though he's obviously summond the ghost of Robert Johnson as some sort of paranormal paralegal to advise on how best to sell part of his soul for increased free-throw accuracy. JJ Hickson rubs it in Antawn Jamison's face with a pump-fake bank shot, and Kobe answers with a trey. Oh yeah, that's right - Kobe's here. 41-37, Blazers.
6:23 - Why the hell would you just let Metta World Peace stand out behind the three wide open with all the time in the world? Of course he'll drain it. He's a fuckin mental case, but he's pretty accurate from beyond the arc. Wesley Matthews answers with his own, and then on the defensive end he pokes his hand inbetween Kobe's dribble. Batum picks it up, flies downcourt, plants one foot in the middle of the key, and floats the rest of the way. His dunk is made of satin. Wrinkle-free, thousand-thread-count. 46-40, Blazers.
5:30 - Nash comes off a pick, curls, finds Kobe, who drains a three. Imagine if Mike Brown was like "hey guys. Uh. Play Basketball." instead of "Hey guys - Princeton! Princeton, right?" Luckily for the Blazers, he's still Mike Brown, so affable cluelessness reigns supreme. Kobe gets another bucket, Nolan Smith banks home an ugly jumper. 48-45, Blazers.
4:26 - Dwight Howard gets called for offensive 3-seconds in the key trying to set a pick. He grumbles and mumbles all the way up the court, Meyers Leonard trailing behind, eyes wide and unblinking. He keeps double-taking at Dwight Howard like he doesn't understand what he's looking at. He's so CUTE! Steve Nash remembers he's a hall-of-fame Point Guard, shakes a defender, chucks up a jumper, watches it drop dispassionately. 50-47, Blazers
3:43 - Dig this offensive play. Batum off the inbounds, fires a perfect pass to Leonard, streaking towards the basket. Leonard catches it with his shin, which is to say it ricoches off his knee, off Pau Gasol's hand, back into Batum's hands, which flick the ball IMMEDIATELY back at the hoop, where it sinks through. ASSIST, LEONARD! 52-47, Blazers.
2:26 - Steve Nash hurt his ankle. Unfortunately, it will probalby have no effect one way or the other on the outcome of the game, because after two games, it seems like Mike Brown's offense is maybe the exact wrong fit for him. Meyers Leonard remembers to look at Damian Lillard on the offensive end. Lillard flicks an alley-oop towards the rim. Leonard takes it out of the air and pushes it through the hoop. Lakers get nothing on the other end. Batum finds himself open in the corner. That means three points is about to happen. Baskets get traded, Damian Lillard, feeling himself, takes Dwight Howard on again - sneaks past him, but doesn't get the basket. The Blazers fuck up the Lakers offense, Batum finds himself behind the three with less than 10 seconds left. Bobbles the crosscourt pass, but his feet are set, and his aim is true. Count that three. And at the end of the half, the Blazers have come dressed on Halloween as a competent, excitable basketball team: 62-57, Blazers.
11:38 (hah! Star Wars Number!) - Portland & LA are basically extending halftime by trading turnovers and incurring ticky-tack violations. Batum leads all scorers with 19 points, Matthews has 14, almost all of them from beyond the three. Aldridge, who I forgot was in the game for a second, paints the front of the rim ever so gently with the jumper. Howard fumbles his shot at the basket, and the Lakers call timeout, because Steve Nash is trying to play on his bent ankle when he shouldn't, and they're paying that dude too much money to watch him try to gut out a game against Portland with 80 games and the playoffs left on the schedule. Steve Blake checks in, his face a stoic mask of responsibility. Actually, he looks more like Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children. Whatever. Anyway, LaMarcus Aldridge just posted up Pau Gasol something pretty, got the and-one, and I'm wondering when he's going to show that this team is, in fact, his. 66-57, Blazers.
9:17 - Hickson puts a couple points on the board, and the crowd responds like "OH YEAH! YOU! WE LIKE YOU!" He induces Metta World Peace to get a little too bumpy-shovey, and on the other end, Batum clangs a three, but there's Hickson, getting his fat paws all over the ball, and inducing YET another foul from World Peace, who is starting to get that psycho look on his grill. Yessssssssss. Aldridge somehow misses a two handed dunk from 2 feet out, Dwight Howard hits a soft baby hook on the other end, Damian Lillard once again goes at Howard and comes away with nothing to show for it (He's a daredevil, that kid) and Nicolas Batum gets in front of a brahma bullin' Metta World Peace, gets the charge, and Hickson cleans up the boards with a nice putback. Howard is starting to get visibly pissed off that JJ Hickson is outplaying him on the low block. 70-61, Blazers
7:15 - Wesley Matthews hits Kobe on the wrist. Or waves his hand in front of Kobe's wrist. Or gets caught making eye contact w/ Kobe's wrist. Look, there's gonna be a foul called in this situation. Matthews starts to throw a tantrum, and stops himself after a couple double fist-pumps. No lie, he looked like one of the Riley brothers in Guy. Teddy's Jam 2 started playing in my head. Teddy's Jam 2 is a basketball playing song. Batum finds a lane, and streaks through it at about 70mph. The whole building has no idea he's stopped until after the ball is spinning through the net post dunk, and his sneakers have found the floor again. The Lakers try to set up their Princeton, Batum takes the ball away from Steve Blake, and gives it back to Wesley Matthews, who bams it down authoritatively. JAM. OHHHH JAAAAAAMM. 74-64, Blazers.
6:06 - Dwight Howard finally finds himself alone in the paint, and puts down a two hander with ANGER. JJ Hickson suavely answers on the other end with an and-one, as Howard watches helplessly. He keeps shaking his head as if invisible bees are buzzing him - he can't BELIEVE JJ Hickson is fucking with him down low. The AUDACITY of this herky-jerky spaz, calming down and blowing up his spot. Kobe Bryant decides we're getting close to Kobe Time - step back three pointer with two people in his face. It aint nothin for Kobe. 77-69, Blazers.
4:34 - You wanna electrify the Blazers crowd? Don't dunk. Don't pull off a spectacular offense. Don't convert an alley-oop with style. 1) sacrifice yourself to the hardwood to save a ball from out of bounds, or 2) Be Kobe Bryant, and airball a 27-footer. #2 just happened. The crowd is sweating schadenfreude right now. Kobe glares at nothing. 78-71, Blazers.
3:10 - Hey, how did the Lakers get within 3? I honestly missed how that happened. I looked up just in time to see Sasha Pavlovic shooting for the Blazers. Why the fuck is Sasha Pavlovic shooting? Stop that shit. You are there to fill space and poke an arm out when someone drives past you, or passes near you. YEAH - like that. Like where you steal the ball, feed it to a streaking Lillard, who scores the first in-game dunk of his NBA career. 81-76, Blazers.
1:20 - hey, Sasha Pavlovic? Why aren't you shooting the ball more. That looked pretty, that curling jumper you just unleashed from the top of the key. That was a clean shot. Don't let any other asshole tell you different. Anyone who says you're not there to shoot is a numbfuck. Don't listen to those idiots. Oh shit, did you just rebound your own miss from the free-throw and put it back? Was that a four point play? Damn, Sasha, the only way you could possibly top that is to effortly bust a three in a defender's grill. OH, SASHA, YOU GIVE AND YOU GIVE. In the meantime, Meyers Leonard has goaded Dwight Howard into swiping at his face. Howard heads to the bench. Leonard laughs. The crowd is giddy. 90-76, Blazers
0:06 - Damian Lillard just took 3 Lakers directly to the hole and kissed it off the glass. He's got 16 points and 9 assists and the fourth quarter still awaits. How many Dimes will Dame Drop in 2012/2013? I'm betting a whole lotta dimes. 92-76, Blazers.
10:49 - Lillard with a step-back jumper. Shit looked effortless. I can feel Portland visualizing the letters R, O, and Y already. Wesley Matthews chips in another two after a Lakers triple from Jody Meeks. 96-81, Blazers.
9:41 - Lillard with a wide-open lane, makes an error of generosity - instead of going to the hoop, he tries to feed Leonard, who is tripping towards the basket. The pass is too low, and he catches it with his shins again. It caroms off a Laker, and on the inbound, Lillard has the ball for about a half a second when he feels someone brush up against him. He IMMEDIATELY chucks up a jumper. The whistle blows, and he turns an awkward inbounds into a shooting foul just like that. The Dime is prescient. Count those free throws. The crowd is chanting defense, but soon they will chant Chalupa, and for the first time this season, I will be disappointed in a crowd full of smart basketball fans baying like wolves for the opportunity to cash in a coupon for drippy elephant shit in a pleather shell courtesy of Taco Hell. 99-81, Blazers.
9:01 - The Lakers seem to have no idea that Wesley Matthews is on the floor. He bangs home a three, and salutes accordingly. Also, I was wrong about the Chalupa. The crowd doesn't care. They are too high right now on the possibility this team is going to spend their Halloween shocking the living shit out of the Lakers. Wesley Matthews picks Kobe's pocket. Kobe immediately chews the ref's face off. You get T'd up for that sort of thing. I can't tell if the crowd is savoring the lead more, or if they're savoring Kobe's pain. It's about 50-50. 102-85, Blazers.
7:39 - Blake lofts a pass to Kobe. Kobe bobbles it with NOBODY on him. Out of bounds, Blazers. The crowd is practically DROWNING in schadenfruede right now. Metta World Peace rings Batum's bell on the following drive. It's his subtle brand of message-sending to an angry crowd. It's enough of a head-rattler that Batum misses both. Kobe answers with a runner in the lane. 103-87, Lakers.
6:24 - Damn, what a morass of ugliness. Pau Gasol (of course he's involved in a morass of ugliness) sidearms a putback at the basket. It drops. As Howard positions himself for the board that isn't coming, he rests his elbow on Matthews' chin, and then tosses him like so much wadded kleenex. The basket counts, and the foul is called on Howard, and the Blazers answer with another two. 105-89, Blazers.
5:02 - Hickson just swatted Dwight Howard after getting juked out of his shoes. As the game stops for a split second to register how fucking insane that was, Kobe steps into that silence, picks up the ball, gets hacked, and floats in a jumper. He hits the free throw, and everyone in the building just simultaneously remembered that these are the Lakers and this shit isn't guaranteed, not by a long-shot. Lillard chucks up a bad jumper. Kobe bombs from way deep, clangs it. Hickson plays a little pick & pass with Batum. Batum pops free for a three. Count IT. Matthews once again strips Kobe, is immediately fouled, and the Blazers are starting to grin at each other. 108-94, Blazers.
3:13 - Steve Blake pops a jumper while both Lillard and Matthews go flying all over the court trying to get charge calls. That no-flop rule seems to be leading to Refs staring at bad actors as they go skidding on their back like "nice mop impression, kid." JJ Hickson goes to the line after Kobe shoves him in the back trying to get a board. Hits em both. Kobe answers on the other end by bulldozing his way to the basket, getting hit hard, and screaming in frustration when the shot doesn't drop. This might get ugly before it ends. Then again, it's Halloween. Maybe it should. 110-96, Blazers.
2:52 - Twitter is popping off with journalists and fans requesting PDX write in Dime & Terry Stotts for Mayor. Blazers dare Metta World Peace to pop a jumper from 28 feet out. He does. It clangs. JJ Hickson has a double-double (points/rebounds) Dime has a double/double (points/assists). Steve Nash bombs a looooooong two, Lillard turns it over, and Kobe comes screaming at the basket, literally, gets his own board, puts it back, shouts at anyone in his vicinity for daring to breathe his air. Steve Blake pokes the ball out of Hickson's hands, and Metta World Peace gets a breakaway dunk on the other end. The fans that are heading for the exits? The Blazers thank you for that dose of arrogance juju you've splashed on the court. 112-104, Blazers.
42.0 - Blake is digging up in Lillard's shorts on defense. Lillard finds Aldridge heading out to the corner of the key. Aldridge catches and turns, smooth as butter, and lofts the nail. it slams home into the coffin at the bottom of the net. Happy Halloween, Portland. You got yourself a Rose Garden full of treats tonight. FINAL: 116-106, Blazers.