Step away from the Trail Blazers, people. It’s about to blow.

15 Comments

On another website, in the fourth week of the season, I had the Trail Blazers as the fifth best team in the league in an edition of the power rankings. They looked  awesome. I use that word a lot, but in the Blazers’ case, it was true. They played some of the best ball by any team this season in those early weeks. Gerald Wallace was doing everything, LaMarcus Aldridge was still LMA, Jamal Crawford was fitting in, the defense was superb, they were getting out and running.

That’s all over.

The smoke is coming from Camp Rose Garden and emergency services are on the way. It’s bad. Really bad.

After the Timberwolves, a fine team but by no means a dominant squad, walked into Portland and demolished the Blazers, scoring 122 points in their building, the Oregonian reports that the whole locker room nearly detonated.

Said one veteran: “You could spend a day in this locker room and you’d figure it out. Some guys really care. Others just want the season to be over.”

Who wants to win? Who wants to stay? Let’s make it simple: Can we please see a show of hands?

There are some hardworking players who still want to win. And there are loyal fans who want to see victories because they pay premium prices for tickets. And all of this is being undermined by a snickering, pouting, hollowed-out corner of the locker room that wants nothing more than to play out the final 29 games of this shortened season, collect a paycheck, and then, go on a vacation.

Joel Przybilla was ticked after the game, and bee-lined to the locker room from the bench like a guy thinking, “I came back … FOR THIS?!?” Gerald Wallace was so angry that he slammed over a large recycling bin in the arena tunnel, out of sight of fans, spilling paper and plastics that had to be picked up by some poor guest services guy in a red vest. Jamal Crawford sat by his locker, with a blank expression, and said, “It gets old.”

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

But the most concerning part was this quote from head coach Nate MacMillan, a tough coach who played many years in this league and knows as much about this game as anyone. He’s commanded a responsive, deep, strong locker room for years. Now, on why he doesn’t get a hold on things:

“If I lose it, I lose the whole thing,” McMillan said.

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

The coach can’t correct things because if he does, he’s afraid things will spiral out of control. That’s one of the worst signs you can find for a team. It’s one thing fro some of the players to have problems, another for the coach to be unable to rein it in lest the whole thing spiral out of control. He’s basically powerless in that situation. McMillan is likely fired. The Blazers, who looked so good just a few weeks ago, look so lost, and the organization seems to be on the verge of major roster and organizational change.

Such a good start that’s gone so terribly, terribly wrong.

The scavengers are going to come calling. Wesley Matthews. Jamal Crawford. Raymond Felton, to a degree. Gerald Wallace. The whole roster outside of LaMarcus Aldridge and, inexplicably, Nicolas Batum (who is a great player but could probably return a yield greater than his actual value at this point due to trade value perception) is essentially going to be up for grabs for the right deal. Chad Buchanan wasn’t really hired, he was placed in the position, the Blazers’ third GM in as many years. He’ll have to see if he can improve the team, stabilize things, or detonate the whole operation if so ordered.

Hang on, Blazers fans. It may get worse before it gets better.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
5 Comments

The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

1 Comment

Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.

Playoff losses wearing on LeBron James: ‘I lose sleep’

Getty Images
5 Comments

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost one game before reaching the NBA Finals. The season before that, two. The season before that also two. In Miami before that, the last couple of years they went to the Finals the Heat lost three and four games before reaching the Finals.

This year, the Cavaliers have lost five games already and find themselves down 0-2 to the Boston Celtics heading into Game 3 Saturday night in Cleveland.

The losses do weigh on LeBron, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“I mean, I lose sleep,” James said after shootaround Saturday morning. “I mean, at the end of the day, when you lose any game in the postseason, [you lose sleep], so it’s never comfort. Playoffs is never comfort. There’s nothing about the playoffs that’s comfortable until you either win it all or you lose and go into the summer.

“So, for me, it’s always [a] day-to-day grind to figure out ways that you can be better.”

Cleveland has a lot to figure out to win the next two games because if they don’t and go down 3-1 in this series, it’s hard to envision how LeBron can drag this roster back to the Finals (what would be his eighth straight trip).

Offensively Cleveland has to get consistent play from guys other than LeBron (and to a lesser extent, Kevin Love) — J.R. Smith has been awful and needs to find a rhythm at home, George Hill needs to make some plays, Kyle Korver needs to get open and knock down some looks, and some help from the bench is needed.

But that’s not even the end of the floor that is the Cavs real problem. Defensively the Cavaliers recognition and communication has been dreadful, and the passing and player movement of the Celtics has carved them up. Cleveland has outscored teams and not defended all that well for a long time now — that’s how they made the Finals a season ago — but it’s not enough now. The offense and LeBron can’t carry them all the way.

We’ll see after Game 3 if LeBron is going to be able to get any sleep Saturday night.

Bulls’ Paul Zipser has surgery to repair broken left foot

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls forward Paul Zipser has had surgery to repair a broken left foot.

The team said Friday the operation was performed in his native Germany. The Bulls gave no timetable for his recovery.

Zipser averaged 4.0 points in 54 appearances before sitting out the final nine games last season.