First there was the panic. When the Portland Trail Blazers' two-win, three-loss opening to the 2009-2010 season mirrored a similar pattern repeated eight of the past nine years, a shrill call for something to be done resonated throughout town. Newcomer Andre Miller was not working. Greg Oden resembled a lumbering dinosaur slowly descending into a tar pit. Rudy Fernández lost both his shot and his disheveled good looks. Hands were wrung, talk radio callers bemoaned, and rumor has it that a call was placed from the gilded holodeck of Paul Allen's kazillion dollar pleasure yacht. It was decided: Start three guards.
Regardless of how it actually went down, the Trail Blazers debuted this odd three-guard starting lineup—Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, and Andre Miller sharing the court and (sometimes) the ball—against the formidable San Antonio Spurs last Friday evening, November 6, and walked away victorious. Two nights later, the three-headed beast reappeared for Sunday's pillaging of the wreckage that is the Minnesota Timberwolves—the result was a resounding 23-point win. It was enough to elicit a positive comment and sly smile from the soulless robotic façade of head coach Nate McMillan: "I like it. It's moving." He rebooted to the DOS window before adding, "I like the flow we're playing with."
This flow says more about Dre Miller than it does Steve Blake (not to imply that Blake lacks flow—he's been known to give 'em the "Gas Face" while bumping The Cactus Album in his mom's Subaru Outback), as the unassuming vet has the ability to distribute the ball to anyone at any time. Blake's finest offensive gift could be his uncanny ability to lull opposing players to sleep as he stands in the corner behind the three-point arch. Defensive players abandon Blake like a newborn delivered in the ladies' room on prom night.
Besides the unconventional lineup swap—which should be effective in the coming weeks against a schedule of smaller lineup teams—the Blazers' bench has trimmed the minutes normally shouldered by both Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. In fact, Aldridge—who wasn't quite himself come playoff time last season—is averaging seven minutes less per game this season, a stat that will hopefully lead to him being a better-rested player during the postseason run. Another Blazers postseason disaster, Travis Outlaw, has rebounded nicely from a dismal preseason and still remains the team's best bench option. While you might credit his freakish wingspan, work ethic, or simple Southern ways (Outlaw will never be a man hindered by the sheer complexity of his thoughts), I'll attribute his success to the warming ways of the Snuggie. Evidently available in a size that will fit a 6'9" forward, Outlaw sang its praises via his (unintentionally) hilarious Twitter feed (sample post: "I'm focused... I'm thinkin like I got 2 brains"), dedicating 140 characters to announcing: "The best invention EVER is the snuggie!!"
Sorry, light bulb, you lose.
We had a difficult time naming this column, so here (in random order) are the alternate column names that didn't quite make the cut:
Don't Blaze Me, Bro
Going Off the Rails on a Blazy Train
Blazed and Confused
Set Blazers to Won
Girl, You're So Blazy
Blaze the Lord
All Blaze Due to Allah
Blaze it on the Rain
19th President of the United States,
Rutherford B. Blaze
Ezra Ace Caraeff live blogs every Blazer home game at portlandmercury.com