Portland races toward season opener with big win

Blazers beat Utah 110-90 behind big first quarter
By Cliff Pfenning,

The Portland Trail Blazers showed off their explosive side Monday night with a dazzling first quarter on the way to a 110-90 win over the visiting Utah Jazz in the NBA preseason opener for both teams.

Portland made seven of its first nine shots and led 32-19 after the opening 12 minutes before a crowd of nearly 20,000 at the Rose Garden.

Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 17 points, while Nicolas Batum added 13 points and four rebounds. Jamal Crawford, in his first action in Portland, had eight points and seven assists.

Utah got 25 points from second-year forward Derrick Favors.

The Blazers had four players with three or more assists on the way to 25 in the game.

LaMarcus Aldridge sat out, but is likely to play when the teams meet in Utah Wednesday.


Blazers begin quest to gel against Utah

Portland faces the Jazz Monday in preseason game

A vastly different line-up will get its first chance to impress local fans when the Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Utah Jazz Monday at the Rose Garden.

In the past 10 days, the Blazers waived three-time All-Star Brandon Roy after he announced his retirement and added Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford as well as Craig Smith. And Greg Oden? Still injured.

As the team heads into the Utah game, one of two preseason games, it has just one of its long-term core players from two years ago: LaMarcus Aldridge. The team acquired small-forward standout Gerald Wallace from Charlotte at the close of last season and got point guard Raymond Felton from Denver. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews came to Portland from Utah last season to fill in behind Roy, but became a starter when Roy went down with injury midway through the season. Center Marcus Camby has been with the team for several years, but is at the close of his career.

Of the Blazers who figure to be key players this season, only Aldridge was drafted by the Blazers.

Portland's likely starters for their Dec. 26 season opener against Philadelphia:

PG: Raymond Felton

SG: Wesley Matthews

SF: Gerald Wallace

PF: LaMarcus Aldridge

C: Marcus Camby

6TH: Jamal Crawford

Following their game with the 76ers, the Blazers play host to Sacramento and Denver before going on the road to play the Los Angeles Clippers.



Crawford, Smith sign, boost Blazers' depth

The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, and veteran forward join team
Staff Report

Journeyman guard Jamal Crawford, the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year last season, signed a free-agent contract with the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday, giving the team a solid addition in its drive to reach the NBA Playoffs for a fourth-straight year.

Crawford, 31, averaged 14.2 points and 3.2 assists in 76 games last season for the Atlanta Hawks, coming off the bench in each of the games. Crawford, who made $20 million the past two seasons, has been a reserve for the Hawks the past two seasons after being a regular starter for most of his career.

In 11 years, Crawford has averaged 15.4 points, 3.9 assists and 32 minutes per game.

Crawford, who is from Seattle, Wash., signed a two-year deal worth $10 million.

The Blazers announced they had waived Brandon Roy using the Amnesty Clause constructed within the new labor agreement that allows teams to remove the salary of one player from their payroll used for salary cap purposes. The Blazers are still responsible for Roy's salary.

Portland also signed free agent forward Craig Smith Thursday. 

Nicknamed "The Rhino," Smith played with the Los Angeles Clipper the last two seasons, averaging 5.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 48 games.

Smith, a five-year veteran, has also played for Minnesota.

Aldridge, Wallace lead Blazers toward season

Portland's youth-filled roster is at least stable
By Cliff Pfenning,

The Portland Trail Blazers lost two big guns due to health reasons on Friday in Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, but they are avoiding the troubles brought on by free agency other teams in the NBA's Western Conference are mired in.

Roy retired and Oden's recuperation from yet another surgery has not responded well and he is likely to miss most of or all of the upcoming season.

That leaves sixth-year forward LaMarcus Aldridge as the lone remaining building block the team has promoted to the public as it has rebounded from the Jail Blazer era that engulfed it in the past decade. Portland has reached the playoffs the past three seasons.

Aldridge and Gerald Wallace, acquired late last year from the Charlotte Bobcats, started at power forward and small forward, respectively, in the playoffs last season and combined for 57 points in Game 5 of the five-game series loss to Dallas. Point guard Wesley Matthews and center Marcus Camby also started and return for this year.

Portland's big aquisition this preseason is forward Kurt Thomas, who played in Chicago last season.

Thomas, Camby and Wallace have a combined 41 years of experience in the league.

Here's the roster as the team heads into the first full week of training camp under seventh-year coach Nate McMillan.


LaMarcus Aldridge    6-11 / 240      Texas, 6th year
Luke Babbitt             6-9 / 225       Nevada-Reno, 2
Earl Barron               7-0 / 250       Memphis, 6
Nicolas Batum           6-8 / 200       Lisieux, France, 4
Marcus Camby          6-11 / 235      Massachusetts, 16
Greg Oden                 7-0 / 285      Ohio State, 4
Chris Johnson            6-11 / 210     Louisiana State, 2
Kurt Thomas               6-9 / 230     Texas Christian, 17
Gerald Wallace            6-7 / 220      Alabama, 11


Raymond Felton         6-1 / 205       North Carolina, 7
Armon Johnson          6-3 / 195       Nevada-Reno, 2
Wesley Matthews       6-5 / 220       Marquette, 3
Patrick Mills*             6-0 / 185       St. Mary’s, Calif., 3
Nolan Smith              6-2 / 185       Duke, Rookie
Elliot Williams            6-5 / 180       Memphis, 2



Roy calls it a career

Portland's All-Star retires as Blazers' training camp opens
By Cliff Pfenning,

In a stunning move, Brandon Roy, Portland's franchise player the past four seasons, retired Friday.

Roy, a three-time All-Star, was sidelined last season with degenerative knee problems, which caused him to announce he had no cartilage in either of his knees due to previous surgeries. He returned for the NBA Playoffs, but played a reserve role and was a major question mark for the team entering this season.

Earlier in the week, Roy and the Blazers both talked of his playing with and possibly starting for the team during the upcoming season. But, Roy met with doctors on Thursday and was told, sources close to Roy told media Friday, that continued playing might hamper his ability to walk in the future.

Roy, drafted sixth overall in 2006 following four years at the University of Washington, was named the 2006-07 NBA Rookie of the Year. Hiss best season came in 2008-09 when at the age of 24 he averaged 22.6 points and 5.1 assists in 78 games.

His presence for the team, though, decreased the past two seasons to 65 games in 2009-10, and 47 games last season.

In five seasons, Roy averaged 19.0 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Portland enters its training camp with another question mark in Greg Oden, who has played in just one season since being drafted No. 1 in 2007. He signed a one-year contract extension Thursday.



The Portland Trail Blazers will have the home-court advantage for most of first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA season according to the schedule released by the team and league Tuesday.

Portland, which has reached the playoffs the past three years, opens its schedule against Philadelphia, Dec. 26, at the Rose Garden. The team plays its next two games, against Sacramento and Denver, at home before a rare two-day layoff and return to action Jan. 1 at the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers play seven of their first 10 games at home before embarking on a six-game road trip set to be played in nine days as the league works to squeeze a 66-game schedule into the season, which has been postponed for two months due to a lockout.

During the season, the Blazers have two days off just four times: one during the end of December, one in January, February and April, along with the seven-day layoff for the All-Star Weekend set for Feb. 24-26 in Orlando, Fla. Portland is off Feb. 22-28.

Eleven of Portland's games, including five at the Rose Garden, are scheduled to be televised by national media - either ESPN or TNT.


Mon. 26 Philadelphia 7 pm

Tue. 27 Sacramento 7 pm

Thu. 29 Denver 7 pm


Sun. 1 @ L.A. Clippers 6:30 pm

Tue. 3 @ Oklahoma City 5 pm

Thu. 5 L.A. Lakers 7:30 pm TNT

Fri. 6 @ Phoenix 7:30 pm ESPN

Sun. 8 Cleveland 6 pm

Tue. 10 L.A. Clippers 7 pm

Wed. 11 Orlando 7 pm

Fri. 13 @ San Antonio 5:30 pm

Sat. 14 @ Houston 5 pm

Mon. 16 @ New Orleans noon

Wed. 18 @ Atlanta 5 pm ESPN

Fri. 20 @ Toronto 4 pm

Sat. 21 @ Detroit 4:30 pm

Mon. 23 Sacramento 7 pm

Tue. 24 Memphis 7 pm

Wed. 25 @ Golden State 7:30 pm

Fri. 27 Phoenix 7 pm

Mon. 30 @ Utah 6 pm


Wed. 1 Charlotte 7 pm

Thu. 2 @ Sacramento 7 pm

Sat. 4 Denver 7 pm

Mon. 6 Oklahoma City 7 pm

Wed. 8 Houston 7 pm

Fri. 10 @ New Orleans 5 pm

Sat. 11 @ Dallas 5:30 pm

Tue. 14 Washington 7 pm

Wed. 15 @ Golden State 7 pm ESPN

Thu. 16 L.A. Clippers 7:30 pm TNT

Sat. 18 Atlanta 7 pm

Mon. 20 @ L.A. Lakers 7:30 pm TNT

Tue. 21 San Antonio 7 pm

     ALL-STAR WEEKEND, 24-26, Orlando, Fla.

Wed. 29 @ Denver 6 pm


Thu. 1 Miami 7:30 pm TNT

Sat. 3 Minnesota 7 pm

Mon. 5 New Orleans 7 pm

Wed. 7 @ Minnesota 5 pm

Fri. 9 @ Boston 4:30 pm

Sat. 10 @ Washington 4 pm

Tue. 13 @ Indiana 4 pm

Wed. 14 @ New York 4:30 pm

Fri. 16 @ Chicago 5 pm

Sun. 18 @ Oklahoma City 6:30 pm ESPN

Tue. 20 Milwaukee 7 pm

Thu. 22 Memphis 7 pm

Fri. 23 @ LA Lakers 7:30 pm

Sun. 25 Golden State 6 pm

Tue. 27 Oklahoma City 7 pm

Thu. 29 New Orleans 7 pm

Fri. 30 @ LA Clippers 7:30 pm ESPN


Sun. 1 Minnesota 6 pm

Mon. 2 Utah 7 pm

Wed. 4 New Jersey 7 pm

Fri. 6 @ Dallas 5:30 pm

Sat. 7 @ Milwaukee 5:30 pm

Mon. 9 Houston 7 pm

Wed. 11 Golden State 7:30 pm ESPN

Fri. 13 Dallas 7:30 pm ESPN

Sun. 15 @ Sacramento 3 pm

Mon. 16 @ Phoenix 7 pm

Wed. 18 Utah 7 pm

Sat. 21 @ Memphis 5 pm

Mon. 23 @ San Antonio 5:30 pm

Thu. 26 @ Utah 5 pm

Rich Cho leaves Gerald Wallace behind

Mon, 05/23/2011 - 2:45pm
Cliff Pfenning
Cliff Pfenning's picture
Last seen: 9 hours 38 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

Rich Cho, we hardly knew ye.

It took less than a year for the Portland Trail Blazers to hire and then fire Cho as general manager of the team, which the team announced Monday.

"The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn't right," Trail Blazers team president Larry Miller said in a statement from the team. "This was a tough move because I respect Rich and he's a good person with many strong skills. But it simply wasn't a good match."

Chad Buchanan, the team's college scouting director, will serve as acting GM until a permanent replacement is hired, the team said.

Miller's statement is a hard one to digest because Cho seemed to be a perfect fit for the franchise. He was hired in part because of his knowledge of how to use a spreadsheet, which just screams “Microsoft.” And he absolutely stayed out of the limelight, which the Blazers do on a national level.

If it wasn't his call to snag Gerald Wallace from Charlotte, then he still had some kind of input there (or he stayed out of the way enough) so the deal would happen.

Wow. Maybe the team expects the upcoming draft, a month away, to be so lame it doesn't need a GM and is looking to save money on the salary it was paying for that position.

Team owner Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, put a peaceful spin on the announcement, less than a month after the Blazers lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs for the third straight season.

"This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven't worked out," Allen said. "We're going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important."

The Trial Blazers hired Cho last July, after he had spent nine seasons as an assistant general manager with the Seattle/Oklahoma City franchise. He succeeded Kevin Pritchard, whom the team abruptly dismissed hours before the 2010 NBA draft after re-building the roster from its “Jail Blazer” years to a playoff team.

So, who's next? Better be someone who knows how to use a spreadsheet AND has an advanced degree in chemistry. And that might not be enough to last a year.

Blazers need to sell themselves to the world, not just Portland

Fri, 05/20/2011 - 10:09am
Cliff Pfenning
Cliff Pfenning's picture
Last seen: 9 hours 38 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

On Friday, the league's marketing department tapped into its history of video and asked fans to make a highilght reel from among many of the top moments from the playoffs going back 70 1967 when Wilt Chamberlain led the Philadephia 76ers past the Warriors, the San Francisco Warriors, to the NBA title.

From there, Willis Reed shows up. Kareem shows up, Dr. J, even the Blazers' title game celebration led by Bill Walton is there.

Fortunately, Brandon Roy had a couple highlight moments this year against the Mavericks, because that's it.

There are only three highlights from past Blazers playoff runs. All those playoff games from the late 1980s through mid-'90s - the Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter years - they end up as highlight for the teams they played. Detroit's Vinnie Johnson, "The Microwave," burned the Blazers in the 1990 final. MJ was unbelievable in the 1992 Finals. Hakeem torched the Blazers during the 1994 playoffs. Even Sean Elliott hit a game-winner for the Spurs in the 1999 playoffs.

Utah also reached the Finals twice in the '90s, but the Jazz have three highlights from their runs. And they're on the losing side of the highlight five other times.

Read it here - the NBA loves the Blazers just like the Slam Dunk contest loved Baron Davis ... as a set-up guy. 

NBA Ultimate Playoff Moments

Okay, so what? They're just highlights. Utah only has four total, and three of them are from 1997. The theory here is that the sexier a team is on television, the more chances it'll have to win.

Let's go clubbin' at a bar where better looking people get invited to spend their money on drinks and appetizers. Others stand and wait their turn because eventually enough people will leave to allow them inside.

Some of the better looking people get that way simply by putting more effort into their appearance. This works in just about every field, too. Try harder, get rewarded.

There's no better example than this year with LaMarcus Aldridge. He ended up on the All-NBA third-team and should have been an All-Star. But Kevin Love got his spot, to at least some degree because Minnesota sold him to the world with a made-up fragrance.

The NBA is now selling K-Love, too. Through one of its league sponsors, Love is promoting Best Buy's "Hyper Upgrade" with a catchy video that features him looking like he's going out to a swanky club.


Okay again, so what? Videos and fancy clothes don't get a victory on a court. Or do they? Foul shots, the ones a player gets and the ones another team doesn't, turn into points. And those videos, that sex appeal, help make that happen.

Sex appeal. The Blazers need more of it, not in Portland, but across the nation and the online world, too.


NBA Playoffs are still going ... right into a lockout

Thu, 05/19/2011 - 7:55am
Cliff Pfenning
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Last seen: 9 hours 38 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

If you’ve been following the NBA Playoffs, even after the Blazers got eliminated, they’re starting to get the feel of something much more significant than just the run to the league title.

They’re getting the feeling of the run toward the impending battle of players vs. owners over the future of the league’s finances. Owners want to make more money/profit. Players want to keep making their big slice of the money the league currently takes in.

Also, Miami is playing Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Lakers have already eliminated in the West, leaving Dirk and the Mavs to battle Durant and the Thunder.

Lebron is still on the way to his first title along with the other two Amigos. Derrick Rose – the Player of the Year? Still alive with Chicago.

But, the sex appeal of the playoffs is quickly being overshadowed by the impending labor dispute, especially as the NFL labor dispute drags on.

The latest news is the NBA owners want a $45 hard cap on salaries: hard cap as in you can't spend over $45 million. No more luxury taxes and a soft cap - currently it's $58 million. What a change that would be. LeBron, DWade and CBosh can all still be on the same team, but the rest of the team would make the league minimum.

Wow, $45 million. The Blazers were spending twice that 10 years ago, and still didn't get to a final.

And, how about Timberwolves President David Kahn – a former sports columnist for The Oregonian. Shot his mouth off - again - at the NBA Lottery event for the first pick, although anyone jumping on him for his off-hand comment has never taken a charge on a court or written a comment in support of something as opposed to whining about something else.

As for the playoffs, I’ve pulling for the Mavs to meet the Heat. Dirk Novitski and Mark Cuban vs. LeBron James and whoever owns the Miami Heat (it’s not Pat Riley).





Blazer fans have a short rest before things heat up

Tue, 05/03/2011 - 10:23am
Cliff Pfenning
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Last seen: 9 hours 38 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

With the NBA Playoffs just beginning to heat up, the Portland Trail Blazers are headed for one of their most interesting offseasons in recent memory, on the heels of a third-straight first round exit, courtesy of the Dallas Mavericks this season.

The Blazers have the potential to return three All-Star caliber players along with former No. 1 pick Greg Oden for the 2011-12 season, but the health of Brandon Roy, the team leader on and off the court, is a significant question as is the health of Oden, who has played just 82 games in his three seasons with the team.

LaMarcus Aldridge developed into a future All-Star when Roy was lost for several weeks with knee problems, and Gerald Wallace, acquired in a mid-season trade with Charlotte, showed off he’s still capable of earning a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team as he had in the East two seasons ago.

Who’s the team leader now?

What about the possibility of a prolonged strike or lockout between owners and the players union?

There’s plenty of debating headed for Portland and its relatively untested general manager Rich Cho.

And the playoffs aren’t remotely close to being finished.



Blazers have a month to get Red Hot and United

Mon, 03/14/2011 - 6:34am
Cliff Pfenning
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Last seen: 9 hours 38 min ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

The playoffs might as well start this week for the Portland Trail Blazers. That’s one thing to read into the team’s’ remaining schedule.

With 16 games left in the regular season, the Blazers are in good shape to reach the playoffs for the third straight season, but the momentum they’ll take into the playoffs is the key to the next month.

Gerald Wallace has a month to power his way not only into the Blazers’ game plan, but through opponents. He’s the key to the team’s playoff chances and there’s plenty of chances to show that off to the basketball world.

Portland (37-29) sits in seventh place in the Western Conference, just two games behind Denver (39-27) in the race for the fifth seed, and three games ahead of Phoenix (33-31), which is ninth.

If the Blazers finish 8-8, they’ll have 45 wins and Phoenix would need to finish 12-4 to match that. Ain’t gonna happen.
Only a complete collapse will keep the Blazers from the playoffs.

That’s possible, though, as the team has 11 games against playoff of potential playoff teams in the remaining schedule, including two each against the top four teams in the West: San Antonio, Dallas, Los Angeles and Oklahoma City.

If the Blazers are going to put any fear into any of those teams, they need to start working on it now.



Tue 15     vs Dallas      7 pm              
Thu 17     vs Cleveland     7 pm              
Sat 19     vs Philadelphia     7 pm              
Sun 20     @ LA Lakers       6:30 pm          
Tue 22     vs Washington       7 pm              
Fri 25     vs San Antonio      7 pm              
Sun 27     @ Oklahoma City       5 pm        ESPN      
Mon 28     @ San Antonio       5:30 pm         
Wed 30     @ New Orleans       5 pm             

Fri 1     vs Okla. City      7 pm              
Sun 3     vs Dallas       6 pm              
Tue 5     vs Golden St.      7 pm          
Thu 7     @ Utah       7:30 pm    ESPN      
Fri 8     vs LA Lakers      7 pm              
Tue 12     vs Memphis      7 pm              
Wed 13     @ Golden State       7:30 pm    

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