Tag Archives: Blazers


The Definition: More Than Just A Nickname

When it comes to this year’s Portland Trail Blazers, I can honestly say that I really like our players.

All of them.

And I don’t just like them as players, I like them as people. Granted, I don’t know them all that well, I only know them as much as any fan can know a professional athlete — through quotes, interviews, video clips, et cetera.

In my 20s, I spent many formative years cheering for all the talented-but-troubled players who have worn the red and black over the years (Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Isaiah Rider, Zach Randolph, etc.) so it makes it all the more satisfying to actually be able to cheer for a group of guys that are just as likable off the court as on.

Brandon Roy is the star, the go-to guy, the clubhouse leader and one of the main faces for our team. Because of this, and because the Blazers are starting to get more national press, there will continue to be throngs of people lining up to praise B-Roy — dubbed as “The Natural” by Blazers radio personality Brian Wheeler.

I share in that adoration, and I continue to be impressed by the way Roy continues to deliver in key moments, game after game after game. As is has been said ad nauseam by writers off every stripe who cover this team or the NBA in general, the Portland Trail Blazers have a great foundation in place with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and LastYear’sNumberOneDraftPick Greg Oden (yes, that’s his full name now).

But none of them are my favorite player.

My favorite player is Martell Webster. He’s the guy I put on the masthead of this blog, and he’s the one with whom I identify most. He’s articulate, he’s honest, he’s ambitious, he’s confident, and he’s from the Pacific Northwest.

(Yes, I know he’s from Seattle and not Portland. Nobody’s perfect.)

I still remember when I heard the news that the Blazers had drafted Webster… I was very, very pleased. I was living in Chicago at the time, and since there weren’t any other Blazer fans in my immediate circle, I was resigned to reading the OregonLive Blazers Blog.

And since we weren’t any good, really, most of the hope for our team was to be found in scouring stori about potential draft picks. As I sifted through all the information about which players would be available and where, I couldn’t help but notice that everything that was written about Webster seemed loaded with potential: ‘Good NBA body,’ ‘long range shooter,’ ‘eager to learn,’ ‘good work ethic,’ yada yada yada.

I’m thinking, where’s the downside? Is there some cocaine problem we don’t know about?

The clincher was when I read in a pre-draft story about the nickname that Webster had given himself. Normally I frown upon guys trying adopt a nickname on their own (that’s usually your friends’ job) but this one seemed to fit so well: The Definition.

A play on his surname, Webster stated in no uncertain terms that he wanted to be the very model of a modern NBA player. And he wanted that for all aspects of his game. He didn’t just want SportsCenter highlights. He wanted professionalism. He wanted consistency. He wanted to be great.

So I’ve been following Martell’s quest for greatness ever since. Over the years, he’s had his ups and downs. He’s been known mostly as a great shooter with confidence issues, who lacks the consistency to take it to the next level. When he first came into the league, Martell appeared to be somewhat of a sensitive soul who wore his earnest desire on his face at all times.

Now in his fourth year, Martell has been maturing all along. And he’s always shown evidence of that fire for greatness within, particularly in the way he’s responded to less-than-ideal circumstances.

He could’ve gotten upset when the Blazers drafted Brandon Roy, a guy who played the same position and who came up in the same city. But he didn’t. He could’ve taken veiled shots at the coaching staff when he was demoted to the D-League in his second year. But he refused. He could’ve been upset when he wasn’t invited to the Three Point Shootout, even though he shot pretty well from downtown last season. But he wasn’t.

And he could’ve pouted or gotten frustrated when he went down with his first real injury earlier this year. But he didn’t. And the evidence of that is in this interview with official Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl, where Marty says all the right things, and sounds like he actually means them:

When some players get injured they withdraw a bit from the team, but you’re on the bench for every home game and always at practice. Why?

Martell Webster: There’s no “I” in team. Just plain and simple. I know that’s just an old saying, but I always feel a part of this team. I love my teammates. The chemistry is incredible. We have a bond. Why would you want to be away from that? You want to be at ever game. Unfortunately I couldn’t go on the road trips because I was in the boot, but being here at home, sitting behind the bench at every game just makes me feel that much closer to getting back on the court. I love being there. It’s not a matter of needing to do it; I want to do it because I love being with this team.

Do you feel like you have a good balance right now between your personal and professional life?

Martell Webster: Yeah. When you think about it, kids commit more hours in school than we do to basketball all day. We come to practice for two hours and I get the rest of the day with my family. I feel blessed. We don’t deserve it, but I make sure that I play hard and I have no regrets. The most important thing is your family, but this is your job so you have to take care of this first. But two hours a day? Why would anyone complain about that?

How can you NOT root for this guy? Between this interview and his potential to get even cranky ex-journalists like Dwight Jaynes excited, the sky is the limit for Martell Webster.

So all you Blazer fans who keep bellyaching about how we could’ve drafted Chris Paul instead, put a sock in it. Trust me, you’ll forget all about Chris Paul when Martell starts raining down threes in the playoffs with regularity.

And I hope that one day, if I have a son, and my son expresses a desire to play basketball, I can buy him a poster or a bobblehead and say the following:

“You wanna know what a basketball player should be like? Here’s The Definition.”


These Portland Trail Blazers are making some noise

I know their record is only 6-4, but a 3-1 road trip and a gut-it-out win against lowly Minnesota, where the Blazers only had their C game and still found a way to get it done, is heartening to Blazer fans everywhere.

Quite a few talking heads (writing heads?) said that if they could end up 5-5 after the first ten games, that would be a great moral victory, considering the tough schedule for those first ten games: @ Lakers, San Antonio, @ Utah, Houston, Minnesota, @ Orlando, @ Miami, @ New Orleans, and @ Minnesota. Well how does 6-4 taste? Three home wins, three quality road wins. Losses only to LAL, UTA, NO, and SA… all quality, playoff teams (and they hung tough against New Orleans, nearly shutting down Chris Paul).

This is not a sports blog, so I’m not going to dish on and on about the slow emergence of gentle giant Greg Oden (left for dead by many after his early re-injury), the flashy duo of Spaniards in Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez (probably a leader in early rookie-of-the-year talk), the maddening inconsistency of Travis Outlaw, the mystery of MIA guard Martell Webster (the three-point maven of this masthead… when will he return?) and crowd favorite Channing Frye (who, I’m sorry to say, I thought was a White guy until we traded for him… something about his name just sounded too suburban… I’m just being honest here) and the undeniable clutchness of team leader Brandon Roy. (Still think your guy was better, Minnesota fan? It’s okay… I used to think Clyde Drexler was better than Michael Jordan. Fandom can be hard sometimes.)

Instead, I’ll let it suffice that ten games in, these Blazers have rightfully lived up to the hype, and I’ll be shocked — SHOCKED — if they don’t end up as a dangerous lower seed in the playoffs, the team nobody in the Western conference wants to face in the first round.

That is all. Back to more serious topics.


Blazers’ Edge Dave: Draft Analyst and … Youth Pastor?

So now Dave is my favorite columnist.

Okay, fine. He’s not a columnist, he’s a blogger. But he should be a columnist, because he is very insightful.

And now I can see part of the reason why I’ve been drawn to his writing. Because he thinks like I do… as a budding young minister of the gospel.

Consider a recent post, where, amidst the trade talk surrounding talented young Blazers players Jarrett Jack, Martell Webster, and Channing Frye, he gives a great analogy about the role of a young minister having to trust God and make decisions regarding his future:

I am not slighting the players’ loyalty here, nor their love for, passion for, or commitment to their team. But the reality is their perspective is different–and has to be different–than ours. To us the Blazers equal basketball. Our loyalty, love, and tunnel vision will last as long as we and the team occupy the same planet. The time scale is different for the players. Their experience of basketball at this level lasts ten, maybe fifteen years at most. They don’t have the luxury of thinking in terms of a lifetime commitment. They were not in the same relationship with the Blazers before they came here. They will not be after they leave either. For them, basketball goes beyond just Portland. They can play for the Blazers, love the Blazers, and give their all for the Blazers, but the Blazers are still part of their professional career arc. It’s their job to be prepared to play for, love, and give their all to another team if that ends up being their path. In the context of their brief careers they have to do what’s best for their success when they have the chance–even if that’s playing for another team–just as the organization will do what’s best for it’s success…including trading them if advantageous.

I am not an NBA player by any means, but I think I understand a little bit of this from my own non-blogging profession. As a pastor I end up being a prominent, visible, integral part of a community-based organization which has a long history, with which people identify strongly, and about which people are very passionate. At the same time I come from outside that organization. I have not grown up in the area. I have not spent multiple decades in the organization itself. My church experience is not localized in the same way theirs is. In many ways I am more deeply immersed than even the most seasoned community member, just as a player is more involved in the team than even the longest-term fan. In other ways I belong the least of anybody, as I will never have the same roots or all-encompassing relationship with the organization that the community does.

What this ends up looking like is me throwing my entire heart and soul into the community for as long as I am there. In this way I am very much like the community members. On the other hand when it’s time for me to go then I can rightfully, and with a clear conscience, move along to do the same in another community. This doesn’t mean I love the first less or that I am disloyal. Rather it means I am being called elsewhere in order to do other good things. The measure of my success and integrity isn’t really staying in one place my whole life, it’s how much and how fully I give in each place to which I am called.

And then he goes on to describe his impending free agency (if you can call it that). Very insightful.

For his sake, I hope God gives him the wisdom and revelation to go where he is called, and that wherever that is he’ll have enough flexibility to continue blogging like this. What a witness to believer and non-believers alike. Propers to Blazer Dave.


First time since when? Stop the insanity!

I know that blogs like Deadspin and The Big Lead (I’m not linking because they’re popular enough not to need my click-through traffic) have made a cottage industry out of bashing ESPN at every knee-jerk opportunity. It’s not my desire to follow up on that trend.

However, sometimes little things irk me. And this blog is my way of scratching those little itches. Case in point:

As of today (Saturday), ESPN.com’s NBA page link to the recap of the Lakers series-ending win over the Utah Jazz had the following headline:

“Kobe leads Lakers to first West final since 2004.”

Is there anything wrong with that factually? Of course not. The Lakers haven’t been to the NBA’s Western Conference Finals series since 2004, when they made it all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to Detroit in a major upset. (I’ll return to the upset part in a bit.)

What annoys me about this is the use of the whole first-since-whenever expression. Armchair journalist that I am, I go by the understanding that the phrase is supposed to conjure up the idea of a long time passing between notable accomplishments. So when the 2005 White Sox finally broke through and won the World Series — just like their more popular Boston counterparts a year earlier — it was appropriate to see and hear legions of sports pundits nationwide Chicago-based reporters and columnists hailing this team as having won their first World Series since 1917.

The active ingredient is the word “1917.” Said reporters and columnists would then break out the obligatory time-capsule comparisons… in 1917, the price of gas was … the President was … the latest fad amongst youngsters was … et cetera.

And folks ate it up, yours truly included.

But 2004? That was four years ago. Now obviously some significant things have changed since 2004 — the fortunes of a certain “rock-star” senator come to mind — but the world hasn’t changed that much.

Yet it’s somehow newsworthy that the Lakers managed to go three whole seasons!!! without making it to the Western Conference Finals.

In the immortal words of Cliff Claven, what’s up with that?

Is it a nod to the naive Laker fan who expected their team to win 10 titles in a row? Because it’s not like in 2004, people couldn’t see the Kobe/Shaq breakup coming. That writing was on the wall during their first title together in 2000.

Whatever the source of such an expectation, it reeks of entitlement. Just like Yankee fans, Laker fans have come to expect a title run every year, and when it doesn’t happen, it’s somehow news.

Well I got some “news” for ya… it’s called reality. Only four NBA teams will make it to their respective conference finals every year, only two will ascend to the NBA Finals, and only one will come out on top. And the basketball gods have not ordained the Lakers to be pre-approved for such honors year in and year out. Many other teams want it bad, too. Their guys are getting paid a lot of money too.

As a fan of a team with a devoted small-market base, I’ve come to understand this. Sometimes my boys will do well. Sometimes they won’t. Pretty soon I have reason to believe they’ll be chasing a title. But there’s no guarantee that it won’t all go sideways with another injury or an unforeseen personality clash or what have you. That’s what makes sports so compelling, you never really know what’s going to happen until it does.

So let me be clear. I know I’m a Laker-hater. I’m up front about that. And I’m not trying to take anything away from their accomplishment of making it back to the Western Conference Finals. They beat a very talented, very hungry Utah team, and for that, Kobe & Co. should be commended.

But lets not get too carried away. What’s news is that the Lakers won. Not that they didn’t win it any earlier.


15 words: Trail Blazers Ups and Downs

People ask me from time to time what I think about this year’s Trail Blazer team. I don’t really have the time to give you my full analysis, so I’ll give you the quick hits.

First, the good side.

The Portland Trail Blazers 2007-2008 Season:

… in one word: streak!
…in two words: unlimited potential
in three words: Oden in 2008!
in four words: Brandon Roy: The Man
in five words: The best? Yet to come.

Now, the down side.

The Portland Trail Blazers 2007-2008 Season:

in one word: disappointment
in two words: injuries abound
in three words: Brandon still hobbling
in four words: WANTED: true point guard
in five words: Jim Mora Said It: Playoffs?!


Hillary, Barack… ponder the wisdom of Shaquille.

The blogosphere is in a collective tizzy over the latest round of he-said-she-said between the campaign supporters of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The latest has to do with this woman, former NY congresswoman and running-mate-to-Walter-Mondale-as-VP-in-’84, Geraldine Ferraro. In an interview with the Daily Breeze to promote an upcoming talk in Torrance, CA Ms. Ferraro made a series of comments that were troubling to supporters of the Obama campaign, many of whom felt were racist in tone.

This is an excerpt of the piece. You be the judge:

“I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama’s campaign – to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against,” she said. “For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It’s been a very sexist media. Some just don’t like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” she continued. “And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.” Ferraro does not buy the notion of Obama as the great reconciler.

“I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he’s going to be able to put an end to partisanship,” Ferraro said, clearly annoyed. “Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship – that’s the way our country is.”

Understandably, chief Obama strategist David Axelrod was incensed:

“The bottom-line is this, when you wink and nod at offensive statements, you’re really sending a signal to your supporters that anything goes,” Axelrod said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

“There’s no other way to send a serious signal that you want to police the tone of this campaign,” he added. “And if you don’t do those things then you are simply adding to the growing compendium of evidence that you really are encouraging that.”

The idea here is that if anyone from the Obama camp had tried to make the argument that the only reason there is traction behind Sen. Clinton’s campaign is because she’s a strong, embattled woman, that the PC police would come for that person’s head.

(See: Samantha Power and her ensuing “Hillary’s a monster” furor.)

For this, I defer to the immortal wisdom of Shaquille O’Neal.

After his Miami Heat team defeated the Portland Trailblazers, he was asked by a reporter if his team still would have won if then-injured forwards Darius Miles and Shareef Abdur-Rahim would’ve been in the lineup for Portland. This was his response (courtesy of Shaqquotes.com):

“Doesn’t matter. If I would’ve had a beer before the game, I would’ve been drunk. So I don’t believe in ‘if.’”

Truer words have yet to be spoken.

Obamaniacs, don’t take the bait. Denizens of Hillaryland, quit playing the ‘if’ game. Focus on the issues.

Personal foul, half-the-distance-to-the-goal-line.

Repeat third down.