Dwight Jaynes

It was just one game, Blazer fans -- but what a game it was

It was just one game, Blazer fans -- but what a game it was

OK, Blazer fans, you know the drill.

Keep repeating this to yourself: "It's just one game. It's just one game. It's just one game"

And there are 81 yet to play. But I must admit, that 48-point win on opening night on the road was very impressive. And I don't care how bad the Suns are, it was quite a game for the Trail Blazers.

Let's talk about it:

  • The defense was obviously very solid. The Suns are a guard-oriented offensive team and the Blazers took those guards -- Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe -- out of the game, holding them to 11-for-35 shooting from the field and Phoenix had nothing left. And shortly after intermission, the overmatched Suns pretty much quit.
  • You can give several individual players their due for the defense, but what I liked best was the cohesion by the entire team at the defensive end. Pick-and-roll defense was improved and so was the interior stuff. Jusuf Nurkic makes a difference in the paint with his ability to leave his own man and intimidate drivers. Mostly, I saw a new alertness and aggression at the defensive end -- and that was special.
  • Pat Connaughton showed what he's capable of doing and it was plenty. Maybe it was just because this game was in Phoenix but he reminded me a lot of Dan Majerle, except he's a better three-point shooter than the ex-Sun.
  • Damian Lillard was, well, Damian Lillard. That leadership he provides is as important as his talent. He's a rare one, folks. A special player.
  • This was another illustration of Portland's overall talent level. Coach Terry Stotts played everybody and they all can play. This isn't a season when the Blazers will have two or three players at the end of the bench who are "projects" or merely players happy to be there. These guys all belong on an NBA court.
  • It's on to Indiana for a matchup against the Pacers, who amassed 140 points in their opening win over Brooklyn, so it should be a better test for the Portland defense. And remember, it's just the second of 82 games.

The under-the-radar Trail Blazers could win 50 games in the tough West

The under-the-radar Trail Blazers could win 50 games in the tough West

Ready or not, here they come. The Portland Trail Blazers will unpack those new Nike uniforms and open the regular season tonight in Phoenix.

And I must admit, I expect big things. I think the Trail Blazers are flying under the radar a little bit this season. They didn't add a big-name free agent, make a blockbuster trade or get a top-five draft choice, but they've improved a lot. How does that happen? Well, this team has been one of the youngest in the league for the past three seasons and it's growing up and growing together. Experience matters and so does player development -- and not many teams do that as well as the Trail Blazers.

This roster is improved from top to bottom. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are all-star level players but we know by now they do not sit around all summer doing nothing. You will see they've gotten better. I expect Pat Connaughton to have a breakout season, earning playing time with an all-around game that's better than what was lost with the trade of Allen Crabbe to Brooklyn. The rookies, Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins, will improve as the season progresses and I expect that somewhere along the line each will play a part in winning games.

Yes, the defense is still a question mark. It looked better in the exhibition season but to be fair, the preseason games didn't include any of the NBA's premier offensive teams. We shall see. And it goes without saying, too, that Jusuf Nurkic must stay healthy.

But I expect this team to have a shot at 50 wins and contend for a spot in the upper half of the West playoff bracket. It's going to be a dogfight but this group is ready to take it to another level and show its potential as a future West contender.

And it all starts tonight -- on NBC Sports Northwest, where you will always find Rip City Live before the game and Talkin' Ball after the game,

Mike Barrett involved with group attempting to bring MLB to Portland

Mike Barrett involved with group attempting to bring MLB to Portland

A management group has been working quietly behind the scenes for more than a year on a plan to bring major-league baseball and a stadium development to Portland.

The spokesman for the group, and a managing partner, is the former television voice of the Trail Blazers, Mike Barrett.

“There is a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative,” Barrett said Tuesday. “We will keep you fully apprised of any and all developments as this project progresses.”

Barrett, who did not identify anyone else in the group,  said they prefer to operate behind the scenes at this time but are pursuing a "smart and careful approach" and "doing it exactly the right way,"

Barrett was known for his work in basketball, particularly his play-by-play duties with the Trail Blazers, which began in the 2003-2004 season and ended after the 2015-16 season. But he was also an all-state pitcher at West Albany High School and is a lifelong baseball fan.

“After the Trail Blazers, I was weighing several opportunities but I didn’t want to leave the area,” Barrett said. “And when I was approached by this group, with a chance to help bring major-league baseball to my home state, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”

Portland began to sneak into conversations about MLB expansion during the last year or so.  Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned the city recently during an interview in Seattle, saying Portland would be “on a list” for expansion, emphasizing a need for a team in the Pacific time zone as part of a expanded and reconfigured 32-team league.

In a story published this week in Baseball America, well-connected Hall of Fame baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby outlined a 32-team expanded MLB with realignment that resulted in a 156-game schedule and four eight-team divisions, with Portland listed in the West division.

Ringolsby referred to Portland as a city with a “legitimate” ownership group, which is the group Barrett is associated with:

“And there is a legitimate ownership group in Portland that has the necessary financing along with support for a stadium, which would be partially funded by a $150 million grant. Approved by the state of Oregon to help finance a stadium when efforts were underway in 2003 to be the site for the relocation of the Expos (who instead moved to Washington, D.C.), the grant is still available.”

 

 

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

Ducks would be wise to huddle up, run clock and shorten their games

I'm waiting. Not for Oregon to DO something. I'm waiting for them to SAY something.

Braxton Burmeister, a true freshman, had a miserable night at Stanford Saturday. He completed three passes for 23 yards and had two interceptions. Ugly. But this is a freshman who was supposed to be a redshirt this season. He is playing only because the previous coaching regime missed on some quarterbacks it recruited and really missed on one it didn't -- a kid out of Lakeridge named Eric Dungey who ended up at Syracuse and very well might be named the national player of the week after leading his team over Clemson Saturday.

But that's ancient history. What I'm waiting for the current coaching staff at Oregon to say is simply, "We just aren't doing a very good job of getting our young quarterback ready."

The Ducks aren't throwing Burmeister under the bus, they're throwing him to the wolves. He's getting beaten up mentally and physically.

I mean, this kid was touted as a pretty promising quarterback when he was recruited. He seems to have some tools. And I have a hard time believing the Ducks couldn't come up with some throws for him that he's capable of executing.

Oregon is a puzzling offensive team. It rushed for 276 yards against the Cardinal and has a bevy of outstanding running backs. I'm not sure why that running game isn't translating to open receivers. How about some effective play-action passes? Stanford has built its program on a power running game, stong offensive line play and play-action passes. It hasn't asked much from its quarterbacks since Andrew Luck took his talents to Indianapolis. Oregon Coach Willie Taggart is well aware of that system -- he was there. Is it too much to ask that a few temporary changes be made with Oregon's offensive system?

And while I'm at it, why go no-huddle with an inexperienced quarterback? All it does is shorten Oregon's possession time and put more pressure on its defense. Run some clock, shorten the game -- the no-huddle is doing nothing but harm right now. Run the ball, run clock and keep the other team's offense off the field.

Give yourself a chance. And give your young quarterback a chance.

The first pro to sit down during the anthem? It may have been a former Trail Blazer

The first pro to sit down during the anthem? It may have been a former Trail Blazer

With all the talk about players not standing for the national anthem, on Throwback Thursday, I thought it appropriate to point out that the very first athlete to not stand for the anthem just might have been a Portland Trail Blazer.

Charlie Yelverton was a 6-2 shooting guard out of Fordham whom Portland took with the 25th pick in the 1971 draft. He averaged 7.9 points per game in a reserve role as a rookie for the Trail Blazers. He was waived by the Blazers in September of 1972 after an incident that occurred prior to a home game when, during the anthem, Yelverton sat cross-legged on the floor next to standing teammates.

At the time, Yelverton's actions were reported as a protest about a team matter:

There was also an incident where reserve guard Charlie Yelverton sat at the foul line in the yoga position during the playing of the national anthem, protesting the waiving of teammate Willie McCarter.

But later, in a story in the New York Post, Yelverton listed different reasons for his sit-down strike:

The Vietnam War and the plight of the poor are the reasons Yelverton gives for his decision.

Yelverton was sick of the red, white and blue mentality, which was shaded green.

”Everybody is so hung up on making money,” Yelverton said.

At 24 years old, he left to ball overseas. He played in Greece, Sweden, Switzerland and Italy.

It is apparent that Yelverton thinks about what could’ve been?

But he says, ”If I didn’t sit down on the flag, I wouldn’t clean my conscience.”

You ask, if he regrets the timing?

”I should’ve done it when I had a five-year contract,” said Yelverton, who had a two-year deal.

Yelverton played several successful seasons in Europe after a solid career at Fordham but not many people remember him as an NBA player.

Yet he may have been a pioneer. He sat while others stood for the anthem -- and it cost him his job.

 

 

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Don't ask me why Andersen is gone -- but OSU lost a good man

Why, Coach, why?

That's all I can say in the wake of the news that Gary Andersen is no longer the football coach at Oregon State. I don't know why. It makes no sense. Colleges don't change head coaches in the middle of the season -- any season -- and although the school's athletic director, Scott Barnes, insisted many times over that it was "a mutual decision." Really? Nobody was pushing from either side? Boosters played no part in this? I just don't see Andersen leaving his team in the middle of the season. He doesn't seem that sort of man.

This was a shocker. And, of course, so was the news that Andersen is walking away from more than $12 million owed him by the university.

This stuff doesn't compute and when all you get is "this is a mutual decision," you can't help but speculate. Be my guest.

But this I know: Andersen is a quality coach and quality man. I believe, given time, he was going to get it done in Corvallis -- at least as much as is humanly possible. Mike Riley spoiled a lot of Beaver fans who think winning is easy at Oregon State. It is not. I said it when Andersen was hired -- this is one tough job. You're in the rising shadow of the Ducks, you don't have the facilities that many other Pac-12 schools have and don't have a lot of money to throw at recruiting.

So don't ask me what happened in Corvallis. For right now, I just don't know. But what I do know is that Oregon State lost a good one Monday.

Some takeaways from the short-handed Ducks' 33-10 home loss to Washington State

Some takeaways from the short-handed Ducks' 33-10 home loss to Washington State

 * I would totally agree with the idea that freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister wasn't ready for his first Pac-12 start. What did anybody have the right to expect? But let me add something else -- I didn't think the rest of the Ducks were ready to give him much help. They didn't protect him well and didn't provide enough of a running game to take the heat off him in the pocket.

* I'm not sure why the Ducks are having so much trouble on third down. Going 2-17 on third down (and 0-3 on fourth down) is an embarrassment. This team has a solid offensive line and good running backs. And really, the Cougars didn't spend the whole game with nine men in the box. I wouldn't mind seeing an extra tackle or tight end on the field in some of those short-yardage situations. I mean, you have to do something, right?

* I did think Burmeister showed some ability to run but he better learn how to slide when necessary. Certainly he showed some toughness, surviving four sacks and some hard open-field hits.

* Jim Leavitt's defense was again terrific. When you can get 18 incomplete passes out of Luke Falk and sack him four times, you're doing a lot of things right.

* The Ducks scored 10 points at home against the Cougars. And that's a team that gave up 44 to Boise State and 23 to Oregon State. Yes, I know about the injuries, but still...

* I would expect Burmeister to show improvement each week if he doesn't get too banged up. The first order of business moving forward is to protect him better and get the running game going.

* Playing without an experienced quarterback is almost impossible.

* Oregon's yellow uniforms were bad enough, but it appeared each player was told to finger paint something on the shoulders of the jersey. That's called "bad optics."

What if the Trail Blazers took the (big) road less traveled this season?

What if the Trail Blazers took the (big) road less traveled this season?

Everybody in the NBA is trending toward small lineups these days. Golden State has set the tone and a lot of teams are copying -- either to better guard the Warriors or to improve their ability to shoot three-point shots, which is another thing trending upward in the league.

And that's why I'd like to see the Trail Blazers at least give careful consideration to playing big.

Why try to be Golden State Junior? Why do whatever everyone else is doing? Do you really think you can do it better than the Warriors? I doubt it. They have a roster full of unique players with versatile ability. Portland, on the other hand, is suddenly blessed with some big players who can shoot from the outside, yet do great damage on the inside -- with scoring and rebounding.

I know, the first thing everyone asks is "How are those big guys going to guard those small guys?" Sure. And I'll respond simply with "How are those small guys going to guard those big guys?"

There was a time in the NBA -- in the years when centers were really CENTERS -- when you didn't dare put a small player on a big player, at any position.Teams were very skilled at finding those size mismatches swiftly and dealing with them deftly. I can still remember former Portland Coach Mike Schuler standing in front of me yelling, "'Duck' has a little one! 'Duck' has a little one!" -- meaning center Kevin Duckworth was switched onto by a smaller player. Duckworth would drop into the post, his teammates would get him the ball and he'd put a few moves on, culminating in a layup or dunk very quickly.

I'm not sure today's teams are as willing and able to take advantage of such mismatches -- but they should be. I sit and watch NBA coaches today respond to small-big matchups in the opposite way. I swear, if some of them had Wilt Chamberlain at center and the other team put a 5-11 guard on him, Wilt's coach would quickly yank Wilt out and throw his own 5-11 player into the game to match up with the little man. And I'm not trying to be a wise guy.

If the Trail Blazers have jusuf Nurkic and Caleb Swanigan in the game together, I'd love to see an opponent try to go small on them. Sure, Portland would get burned at the defensive end some -- but there are schemes to deal with such things. You can switch, you can zone, you can double-team -- all sorts of creative solutions. And meanwhile, your bigs are eating their lunch at the low post.

There is not an abundance of post players in the NBA right now but the Trail Blazers have Nurkic, Swanigan and Zach Collins -- and I'd like to see them operate near the basket.

Really, what do you have to lose by trying it? It's more fun to be different. As people trying to bump through traffic to get to the Moda Center in time for a 7 p.m. game will tell you, sometimes the road less traveled is the best way to your destination.

NBA's All-Star Game solution didn't solve a thing

NBA's All-Star Game solution didn't solve a thing

The NBA tried in vain this week to do something about its fading All-Star Game, deciding to go to a new format that features a player draft by two "captains," who will choose their own teams from already-selected players. All that's missing is shirts and skins.

But, as Ben Golliver pointed out, the league entirely missed the point. There will still be a vote by conference for the all-star players with 12 voted in from East and West in the pool that the captains will dip into for their teams. Wrong move. The vote should have been for the overall best 24 players in the league -- allowing for the selection of the truly top players, which means probably about 18 from the Western Conference and six from the East. THEN, you'd have something. But the new format doesn't solve the problem of many good West players being left out of the game.

And, of course, the even bigger problem hasn't been solved, either. The real dilemma about the game is that the players have turned it into a joke with the way they approach it. In the last two games, the winning West team scored more than 190 points. Now understand to get that many points in a 48-minute game you either have to be playing against air or for the Big Baller Brand's cherry-picking AAU team.

Not only do the teams now play ZERO defense, they have turned the game into a sort of casual beauty contest, with players jacking up long-distance threes or driving for uncontested fancy dunks. There is way too much preening and posing. All that's missing are courtside judges holding up cards.

You watch this stuff for 10 minutes and realize it's a waste of time. Believe it or not, players used to take great pride in this game. They wanted to win and played hard. That pride, I'm sorry to say, seems to be missing these days. There is no motivation to win the game and no amount of money you could give the winning team to provide incentive.

The league is stuck with a lemon of a game and it will stay that way until a few players show up and take it seriously. I'm waiting for a hotshot rookie to get there and decide to guard people -- really get into them. That, of course, would set up a testy atmosphere where other players would want to even it up and perhaps, give us a real game.

Right now, it's far from a real game and choosing up teams not named "East" and "West" won't help.

Trail Blazers: Figuring out a starting lineup and a rotation is going to be tough

Trail Blazers: Figuring out a starting lineup and a rotation is going to be tough

First reactions to the Trail Blazers' exhibition-game loss to Phoenix Tuesday night:

  • The biggest takeaway for me was just how much talent there is on this roster. There is depth -- good players up and down the bench. Terry Stotts is going to have a difficult time finding playing time for all these players. And keep in mind, part of his mission this season will be to continue the development of the young players. Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins are part of the future of this team and every minute they get on the court is going to aid their development. But then there is the culture of earning minutes and trying to get every win possible. And don't forget that combinations matter -- they lead to balance. You don't always have your five best on the floor at all times because of issues of balance between offense and defense, rebounding and shooting -- and all things in between.
  • I wouldn't want to have to set up a rotation here because there are going to be a lot of players who may deserve more playing time than they are going to get.
  • The Blazers are going to be able to put a very big team on the floor -- but will they? In an era when just about everyone else is going with small lineups, I like the idea of going big. Be different. Make the other teams adjust to you, rather than always trying to match up with them.
  • Swanigan is already Portland's best offensive player at power forward. He may have some problems at the defensive end but it's too early to tell. Starting him wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
  • Jusuf Nurkic is improved and it's going to be fun to see just how good he can be. He's also a free spirit and I hope he can keep all that under control. Right now, he is charming, funny and different -- and I hope he stays that way. Sometimes, though, that can get on people's nerves over time.
  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are improving with each season and nobody seems to notice that they play off each other better each year, too. They are a great foundation for the growth of this team.