Sunday, April 24, 2011

Basketball Glory

Never been all that big an organized sports fan. I mean, we watch the Super Bowl. I like to see gymnasts fly, there's the Olympics, and some of the trash sports are fun. I used to enjoy playing baseball, but watching that for me is as exciting as watching the grass  grow. 

But the Trailblazers–sometimes call the Jailblazers and of late, the Frailblazers–owned by billionaire Paul Allen, is the local team, and since Comcast offers their games, and since the vast wasteland of television sometimes has nothing on I want to see, we tend to get hooked into the games.

Root for the home team, why not?

Even got to go to one this season with my son, whose company has tickets a couple rows from the floor. 

Basketball is fast. You can see what is going on, and even low-scoring games will put seventy or eighty points up per side. Unlike, say, soccer, where you see a bunch of human ants on the field from far away, they run back and forth for like six hours, and nobody makes a point the whole time ...

Basketball is physical, and the drama is there. (Watching the Lakers play recently, there was a great little bit of business: Pau Gasol, about to shoot a foul shot, walked to the goal, then reached up to straighten and fluff the bottom of the net. Flat-footed. A tall guy, Gasol.)

I wasn't tall enough to play when I was a kid, and by the time I started to stretch out, track was more appealing, but I played HORSE and could shoot granny-style foul shots. Those were the four sports we had back in the day: Football, basketball, baseball, track. 

Saving throwing the next door neighbor's ball back over my fence, I haven't even touched a basketball in years. 

But Portland made the first round of the play-offs, which is fairly amazing, given that the team has been riddled with injuries. Been enough knee and foot surgery to keep a big clinic busy, and at one point, there were only eight healthy guys who could dress out, some of them still wet behind the ears. Nate McMillan was so desperate he was stopping tall guys on the street: Hey, you busy Thursday night? 

The local all-star, Brandon Roy, a twenty-six-year-old kid that everybody likes, had surgeries on both knees and fell off the map. He came back, but he wasn't the same. It was sad, there was some doubt that he'd ever play any serious minutes, though the coach gave him a shot and he did contribute, the magic was gone.

Washed up, the fans said. Get rid of him. Overlooked, he began to despair. 

Until yesterday. 

Portland was down twenty-three points in the third quarter against Dallas, after a zero-for-fourteen-shot run when Roy lit the Rose Garden up like a movie premiere. He sparked a run with eighteen points in the fourth, great shooting, passing, and the Blazers, who looked all but guaranteed to lose, making the series 2-1 Mavericks, and going to their house for the next game, suddenly came back from one of the deepest holes in NBA playoff history to win by two points.

It was amazing to watch, and not just because they won, but because everybody in Portland was rooting for Roy. If you want to see what a home court advantage is, watch the replay of that quarter. Look at the sidelines when Andre Miller, a man not known for his public displays of emotion danced–and I mean danced–up and down hooting like a banshee.

Whatever happens, however the Blazers fare, that quarter was one local fans will remember. Now and then, you get to witness sports redemption, fist-pumping, grinning, laughing, and shaking your head. This was one of those. 

Go Blazers!


Dan Moran said...

I got to watch some highlights from that, but not the whole thing. I'm looking for a copy of the game -- playoff brilliance like this doesn't come along too often. For a guy with ruined knees to manage this is quite an accomplishment. Reminds me a bit of Isaiah Thomas, lighting up the Lakers in the playoffs 20+ years back now, on a sprained ankle.

Justin said...

I've watched the majority of NBA playoff games this year. That's my sport.

The Blazers definitely did something magical in that game. Of course, the Mavs are great at choking, despite how impressive Dirk Nowitski's stat line is.

The Blazers, like the Nuggets, are a team with a lot of quality players but no real go-to guy -- much as Roy was near there once and Aldridge is approaching that level. I like Batum a lot, and Rudy and Wes Matthews can both put up some points. Shame Oden breaks in half if he steps on a crack in the sidewalk.

Steve Perry said...

Inconsistent play is the problem in Portland. When they are hot, they can beat anybody, and have. L.A. usually wins about one of ten games here. But they go cold too often and the sub-.500 teams blow them out of the arena.

The Blazers win at Dallas about as often as Dallas wins here, not very. But Dallas is hungrier this year, and they have Nowitski, a bona fide superstar. It matters. If Portland wins at home tomorrow, they go to Dallas, and it'll take way more than they've been showing to beat the Mavericks there.

L.A.? Jeez, with a sprained ankle Kobe is dunking the ball with either hand. It's theirs to lose, though you got to give the Hornets and their teenage coach credit, they are scrappers.

Except, of course, if Boston survives, in which case, they are very hungry ...

Justin said...

Basketball is a game of runs, Steve; that's what makes it so exciting. A team can be dead-eyes one quarter, then shoot like someone put a lid over their bucket.

Don't let where I hang my hat fool you: I hate the Lakers. Kobe bugs the hell out of me -- his selfish play, his off-court affairs, his homophobic slurring. Hornets: Beat LA!

I like the Thunder in the West, but their Robin to Durant's Batman needs to distribute more and take fewer shots. The Nuggets impress me, but they're too green as a unit.

Boston certainly knows how to win. They blew out NY, but they're due a cold spell. The Heat only have 3 weapons, but they're damn big guns. Chicago has the league's MVP, but I don't know if they have enough tools to win it -- despite some good size and defense.

As a writer without a horse in the race (my Utah Jazz imploded this year), I just hope for competitive games and compelling stories. So far, I've gotten just that.