A sport's fan's survival guide for the NBA and NHL playoffs

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A sport's fan's survival guide for the NBA and NHL playoffs

Written by Justin Surber

As every sports fan knows, we are fast approaching one of the best times of the year – the NHL and NBA playoffs both begin next month, kicking off an eight-week smorgasbord of high-level, high-intensity games on a near-nightly basis.

To those among us without a significant other, welcome to one of the benefits of single life.Please enjoy watching game three of the Hawks-Bucks series, and keep your audience in mind at work tomorrow when excitedly telling us about Al Horford’s put back with less than a second to go. To those who are lucky enough to have a partner who enjoys it as much as you do – enjoy the third overtime of Caps-Islanders, and just get on with it already.

But for the rest of us, once the calendar turns to April, it is time to begin preparing our delicate dance -watching as many playoff games as humanly possible, while somehow not driving our partner to re-think whether our companionship is really worth the trouble.

As with most things in life, the key is preparation. First round playoff pairings are finalized around a week ahead of the first games in the NBA, but only days ahead in the NHL. This time must be spent wisely, prioritizing what series to focus your time and energy on, while not wasting precious relationship capital on snoozers. While charts and graphs are optional, their value cannot be overstated. For efficiencies’ sake, I will use my own categorization method, but keep in mind this is a highly subjective scale, organized from least-to-most important:

The relationship-builders: Maybe your guy or gal wants to go see Batman v. Superman, have dinner with friends or family, play a board game or really, do anything but watch another damned game. This category is where you build up all the goodwill that you will need later on. Personally, most of the NBA Eastern Conference first round is here: I mean, is watching Toronto-Chicago really worth it? How about Atlanta-Indiana? Use these early-round snoozers to take her out to dinner or play that game he’s really excited about so that when you block off a week to watch every minute of every Spurs-Warriors game, you don’t end up creating a rage monster.

Yes, I’m really staying up to watch this: First, every game tied in the final minute or in overtime automatically jump to this category. I mean, there’s just no such thing as a bad buzzer-beater or overtime goal. Second, any especially-interesting first round series goes here as well. Blackhawks-Kings? Now that’s worth budgeting some time for. A lot of the second round NBA playoffs fall here as well. Clippers-Warriors and Spurs-Thunder are going to be great series with compelling story lines that are absolutely worth the judging looks you’ll probably earn when you try and explain why you can’t go to the in-laws for dinner.

The Finals (or games involving your team): Now we reach rarefied air. If your team is fortunate enough to reach the playoffs, you are duty-bound to watch as much as humanly possible, no matter how painful it can be. The NBA and NHL finals also fall into this category. Two top-level teams slugging it out with the promise of a trophy for the winner? Sign me up. Now this will require some advanced planning, as it is basically three-plus hours almost every night for two weeks. On those rare nights where both finals have an off day, go to dinner with his parents; take her to a cooking class; prepare a candlelight dinner;do whatever it takes to earn enough slack to make sure he doesn’t “accidentally” unplug the cable during overtime of game seven.

Spurs v. Warriors: Yes, this series gets its own category this year. Yes, it is higher on my personal priority list than even the finals. Yes, I’m still serious.  Seriously, this is the kind of matchup that maybe happens once a decade, if we’re lucky. You have two historically great teams; teams that, in most any other year would be the prohibitive favorite to win the title…and one of them won’t even make the NBA finals. As of this moment, they have the first and third best regular season winning percentages of all time. It would be like the 1996 Bulls playing the 2001 Lakers in a conference finals. If you’ve ever wished your significant other was more into sports, here is your best shot – basketball being played at the absolute highest level, with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green matching up with Kwahi Leonard and the Spurs monolith. If Steph Curry draining 35 footers and Kwahi’s butter-smooth drives and defense can’t get someone to watch, then nothing will. But you owe it to yourself as a sports fan to not miss a minute; we may never see a series between two teams this historically great again.

So there you have it folks. We’re less than a week away from the playoffs beginning, so it’s time to batten down the hatches and get ready. And don’t forget to enjoy it; after all, it just might be the best six-to-eight weeks of the entire sports year.

My best advice to Blazers: Chill awhile before making hasty decisions

My best advice to Blazers: Chill awhile before making hasty decisions

Well, at least the Portland Trail Blazers are now going to get plenty of help with planning their future. When you get swept out of the first round of the playoffs by a team seeded lower than yours, everyone has an opinion.

And often it’s an angry or shrill one.

Almost immediately after the Game 4 loss Saturday on social media there were the demands to fire somebody (or everybody) or trade somebody (usually someone important).

But as hard as it is to be calm at a time like this, that’s what I’m advising.

I remember the words of the Trail Blazers’ very first general manager, Stu Inman, who told me once that best practice is to “take some time away from it. You need to find the time to take the emotion out of it and make rational decisions.”

In other words, chill. As hard as that sounds.

Look, this team isn’t going to be playing another real game again until mid-October. There is no rush.

I still recall the aftermath of that painful loss to the Lakers in the seventh game of the Western Conference finals in 2000. Portland could have won that series and with it, the NBA championship. It was so close.

But the immediate thought coming out of that series was that the Blazers needed more bulk to deal with Shaquille O’Neal. In reality, so did everyone else in the league. But that summer, Portland dealt young Jermaine O’Neal to the Indiana Pacers for Dale Davis in a trade that hurt the franchise for a decade, while Jermaine was making six all-star games.

So all I’m saying is to be careful before charging ahead full of anger or spite. Make sure that what you want to do is going to be better than what you already have.

Do I think changes are in order here? Yes, of course. But after watching every single game this season, I’m still not sure of how to go about fixing this thing.

You want the coach fired? Better make sure you can find a better one out there and also make sure you don’t cause a player mutiny in your locker room.

You want the general manager fired? Well, for every mistake he’s made, there’s been a good move, too. You want to trade a good player? OK, make sure you’re getting something good in return and that the deal isn’t going to come back and haunt you for years to come.

There have been a lot of people fired here over the last several seasons. A lot of trades executed, too.

There have certainly been a lot of general managers here since Geoff Petrie, and none of them has been as successful. A lot of coaches since Rick Adelman, too, but I don’t see any NBA Finals appearances.

Change for the sake of change is never good. Be patient until you have a clear plan for the future.

Then do whatever you think is right because something should be done. But in the aftermath of that first-round debacle, it’s no time to make irrational decisions.

Live Streams: Trail Blazers Exit Interviews

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USATI

Live Streams: Trail Blazers Exit Interviews

Today was Exit Interview day for the Trail Blazers at their practice facility and you can watch any of the interviews in their entirety right here.

Keep tabs on Jason Quick and Dwight Jaynes on twitter as well as here on our website for full off-season coverage of the team. 

 

Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts

Terry Stotts and Neil Olshey Exit Interview

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Damian Lillard

Exit Interviews: Damian Lillard

"Just like I can accept the credit when I do great things, I accept the criticism and all the bad things that people might have to say about me when it doesn't go well because that's part of my responsibility as the franchise player." -- Damian Lillard

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

CJ McCollum

Exit Interiews: CJ McCollum

"My expectations for myself are high. My expectations for this team are high and will continue to be. And regardless of how it finishes I can live with failing, I can live with losing because I know I'm putting my heart and soul into this game." -- CJ McCollum

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Jusuf Nurkic

Exit Interviews: Jusuf Nurkić

"The way I finished the season, I feel shame. The way we had a season like a team, a group, be in position to be third in the West and finish like this, it’s not good. It’s not something you should be proud of because all you do through the year is fight for playoff, to be in position to have good postseason… Right now, it stings." -- Jusuf Nurkić

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Meyers Leonard

Exit Interviews: Meyers Leonard

"I came in this building every day with the goal of working as hard as I could, and have everyone hopefully recognize my willingness to be a good person, a good teammate and always willing to work and be a pro." -- Meyers Leonard

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Moe Harkless

Harkless Exit Interview

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Evan Turner

Turner Exit Interview

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Pat Connaughton

Exit Interviews: Pat Connaughton

"I got a taste of it, and I'm looking forward to building upon it this summer, instead of being satisfied with it, really making sure I put in even more work." -- Pat Connaughton

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shabazz Napier

Exit Interview: Shabazz Napier

"It's definitely great what we did, don't get me wrong, but all 15 of us plus the staff, the men and women in this organization will tell you we only play for one thing." -- Shabazz Napier

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wade Baldwin

Exit Interview: Wade Baldwin

"Playing minutes, that was the happiest thing for me. I didn't care if it was one minute, if it was three minutes, 20 minutes. I was just glad to be on the court." -- Wade Baldwin IV

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Al-Farouq Aminu

Exit Interviews: Al-Farouq Aminu

"Good season. Getting the third seed should be something that we not forget." -- Al-Farouq Aminu

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ed Davis:

Exit Interviews: Ed Davis

"I’ve been here three years, so the comfort level is there. Since I’ve been here, the fans supporting me… The guys in the locker room. I enjoy it here. I still think this team has a lot of potential. We still can get some places." -- Ed Davis

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

Zach Collins:

Zach Collins Exit Interview

Posted by Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday, April 22, 2018

 

'Shocked' Trail Blazers get swept, now face crossroads

'Shocked' Trail Blazers get swept, now face crossroads

NEW ORLEANS – The Trail Blazers over the years have experienced the pain of playoff loss, but it’s been a while since a series left a mark like this one to New Orleans. 

“I think this one probably hurts a little more because we had such a great season, and we came in with really, really high expectations,’’ Damian Lillard said. 

 Unable to stop Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, and unable to solve the defensive schemes of New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry, the Blazers were swept Saturday after a 131-123 loss at Smoothie King Center. 

“They were the better team for four games,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “They outplayed us, they outhustled us, they were more physical.’’

The 13-game winning streak, the Northwest Division title, the three seed and hosting a first-round playoff series were all erased with the ease of a Holiday layin and the force of a Davis follow dunk.

“I felt like coming into this playoffs, there was no way you were going to tell me we weren’t going to have a Game 5. You know?’’ Blazers big man Ed Davis said. “I mean, you can tell me, somebody was going to beat us in six or seven, but no way swept.’’

Davis surveyed the quiet locker room, with players cutting tape off their ankles for the final time.

“I mean, we are all shocked right now that we got swept by a team that we really felt like we were better than,’’ Davis said. 

Perhaps most shocking was the inability of the Blazers to free Lillard from the layered Pelicans defense that used two and sometimes three players to trap him.

After having his best overall season in his six-year NBA career, Lillard had his worst playoff series, being held to 18.5 points while shooting 35 percent from the field and amassing 16 turnovers to his 19 assists.

“You have to give them credit for how well they executed offensively and they came in with a great defensive game plan, threw something at us we haven’t seen, and it worked out for them,’’ Lillard said. “We just didn’t play great. We didn’t have our best series.’’

The loss brings the Blazers to a crossroads: Continue full speed ahead with the NBA’s youngest roster to make the playoffs? Or break up a core that has lost 10 consecutive playoff games?

“Ultimately, you are defined by the postseason,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “I think it’s a little early to say what direction we are going to go and what needs to be done moving forward, but one thing is Neil (Olshey) is really good. We’ve been to the playoffs five straight years and he continues to change and build the roster. I’m pretty confident with that.’’

Lillard, who in January met with owner Paul Allen to discuss the direction of the franchise, said Saturday that he believes the franchise is doing all it can. 

“I feel like to this point, we have,’’ Lillard said. “We’ve done what we can, but obviously there is room for improvement, especially when you come up short in the playoffs and get swept. Obviously there are a lot of things that can be done better on our part as an organization and as players. 

“But for me, the same thing remains: I’ll go back to work and do my part,’’ Lillard said. “Everybody has a job to do and I’ve got to focus on what my job is.’’

Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a standout series with averages of 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, said he hopes the team is allowed to grow together.

“The core of the team is still really young and these are some of the lumps we will have to take in order to get better and continue to grow,’’ Aminu said.

The Blazers have four free agents – starting center Jusuf Nurkic; Davis, the NBA’s top reserve center; reserve Pat Connaughton; and reserve Shabazz Napier. 

Davis, for one, says he wants to return. 

“Like I’ve been saying since Day One: I hope I’m back here,’’ Davis said. “I hope July 1 at midnight we have something done and it’s over with. That’s what I’m hoping and banking on.’’

For now, the Blazers will lick their wounds and try to forget the dominance of Anthony Davis (33 points, 12 rebounds, 2.9 blocks), the two-way play of Holiday (27.8 points) and the masterful game-management of Rajon Rondo (11.3 points, 13.3 assists) and look ahead to the future of Zach Collins and what should be the prime years of Lillard and CJ McCollum’s careers. 

“I think we should be proud of what we did in the regular season,’’ Harkless said. “And then just learn from what happened in this postseason.’’

Watch: The Scoop Postgame tries to make sense of the 1st round sweep

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NBCS NW

Watch: The Scoop Postgame tries to make sense of the 1st round sweep

Join me and the rest of Scoop Nation try to make sense of what just happened in the playoffs on the final Scoop Postgame show of the season...

Scoop Postgame Show

That’ll do it from Smoothie King Center… Blazers drop Game 4, 131-123. The Pelicans are moving on… Let’s hear from YOU, #RipCity right now on The Scoop.

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pelicans fight off Trail Blazer rally to finish off 1st round sweep

Pelicans fight off Trail Blazer rally to finish off 1st round sweep

The Trail Blazers battled back from a double digit deficit but came up a few points short in their bid to avoid a 1st round sweep. The Pelicans duo of Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis proved to be too much for the Blazers' defense combining for 88 points.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers in scoring with 38 points. 

Box Score: New Orleans 131, Portland 123

Quick Hit:

Scoop Postgame Show:

Scoop Postgame Show

That’ll do it from Smoothie King Center… Blazers drop Game 4, 131-123. The Pelicans are moving on… Let’s hear from YOU, #RipCity right now on The Scoop.

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Saturday, April 21, 2018

 

 

 

Watch: Trail Blazers Outsiders on Portland shifting things around

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NBCSNW

Watch: Trail Blazers Outsiders on Portland shifting things around

Want even more Portland Trail Blazers talk during your week? Be sure to check out Blazers Outsiders live on NBC Sports Northwest and Facebook Live every week night on a non-Trail Blazer game day. 

Click here to stream on Facebook Live.

 

 

 

 

What Are The Seattle Seahawks Telling Fans About Potential First Pick?

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OSN

What Are The Seattle Seahawks Telling Fans About Potential First Pick?

BY: SEBASTIAN PYCIOR

Since Marshawn Lynch’s time had ended in Seattle, the Seahawks have been desperately searching for an identity in the backfield. Rawls, Prosise, Lacy, and Carson are just some of the names that have rolled through the backfield since Beast Mode left. With the draft coming up, fans hope that the Hawks select a running back with the kind of personality that can get tough yards and make big plays in the zone-running scheme. Even the Oregon Sports News staff have the Seahawks going with Derrius Guice in the mock draft.

Plain and simple, fans in the northwest want a running back workhorse.

It’s clear that the Seahawks have met with Derrius Guice, a definite 1st round running back talent, but the team has also met with a variety of other premiere talents. These other visits consist primarily of players working in the trenches.

Chalk it up to a team just doing its homework, but there seems to be a consensus on grabbing a lineman in the first round. Former University of Washington defensive lineman Vita Vea paid a visit to Seahawks’ brass yesterday. H’s a prospect that probably won’t fall as far as the Seahawks could hope for, and given that Seattle isn’t well stocked in mid-round draft picks, the team can’t even think to move up a couple of rungs on the ladder just to ensure Vea’s selection. The Seahawks have also met with other prospects that are expected to hover around the 18th pick in the draft including linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and wide receiver Christian Kirk.

The thing about sitting at the 18th spot is that there’s no guarantee that a gem could fall to the Seahawks. Most of these guys like Vita Vea will be gone.

There’s one move that could move the Seahawks up the draft board, and that’s by pairing their current 1st round pick with Earl Thomas. As draft day gets closer, and the fact that the Seahawks won’t be picking for a while after the 18th pick, this thought experiment doesn’t seem too farfetched. If you’re only going to have one pick, might as well work on getting the highest pick possible.

Seeing how Richard Sherman left without the Seahawks getting any real compensation outside of some cap savings, I doubt that the team will ship Thomas. Why not trade down?

The Seahawks have also visited with prospects like defensive lineman Maurice Hurst, running back Akrum Wadley, and running back Kalen Ballage. Even cornerback prospect like Isaiah Oliver can be available on the second day of the draft, and although the Seahawks did their due diligence, they just won’t be able to get a chance at selecting him.

Thinking about running backs, Wadley and Ballage promise that the depth at the position will be there on the second day of the draft. Seattle might not need a flashy name in the first round to carry the ball.

The visit with Vita Vea is promising, and the Seahawks are telling fans that they’re indeed trying to move up in the draft if possible. Should that fail, look for the Seahawks to trade out of the first round in exchange for draft picks on the second day. This will allow them to bring in more bodies for depth and potentially find a day one starter.

But, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks decide to package Earl Thomas and their first pick for a bevy of mid-round picks in this deep draft. It just so happens that the Dallas Cowboys have opened up cap space to absorb Earl Thomas. The Seahawks would swap 1st round picks and at the very least see a 3rd round pick in return. Dallas is desperate for a free safety, so they might have to give a little more to sway the Seahawks.

 

Game 3 disrespect has become snapshot of Blazers-Pelicans series

Game 3 disrespect has become snapshot of Blazers-Pelicans series

NEW ORLEANS –If there is a snapshot that captures this first round series, it was taken in the third quarter of Game 3, and later framed for all to see around the NBA.

Anthony Davis soaring in, untouched, and grabbing a rebound with his left hand and flushing it for a dunk. Trail Blazers’ center Jusuf Nurkic was literally floored, knocked to his hands and out of the way by Davis’ athletic and physical play.

In the aftermath of the play – which gave New Orleans a 79-60 lead – Pelicans’ guard Jrue Holiday stood at Nurkic’s feet and pointed in wide-eyed dismay at him. For a long time. Too long. 

It was everything this series had become: a laugher, an embarrassment for the Trail Blazers. And it underscored why it had become so lopsided: the Pelicans beating Portland to another ball, a Pelicans’ star shining while the Blazers remained frustrated. And overall, another example of New Orleans being more aggressive, more physical and more … everything.

“Outplayed us in every way,’’ Lillard would say after the Game 3 blowout. “Every way, man.’’

But what about that show of disrespect by Holiday? The pointing. The posing. The mockery of it all?

Fittingly, the Blazers were apparently oblivious to Holiday’s actions, even though they had a front row seat for it, and even though it was splashed across the internet Thursday night.

 “Huh?’’ Nurkic said when asked about it Friday. “I didn’t see it.’’

Damian Lillard?

“Did he? I didn’t see it,’’ Lillard said. “When things going well for you, you do stuff like that. That’s I guess kind of something you do when you are feeling really confident, you are feeling yourself a little bit. It’s not like we’ve done anything about it .’’

CJ McCollum was shown a clip of the play. He shrugged his shoulders and chose not to comment. 

And if the Blazers’ coach took offense to it, or thought anything of it, he didn’t say Friday as Terry Stotts was strangely made unavailable to the media even though he was 10 feet away from the camera and microphones, talking to Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations. 

According to a team spokesman, there wasn’t enough time for Stotts to talk, because the team had to practice, which ignored the fact that the team was more than 15 minutes late in arriving.

In all, Game 3 magnified what in this series has been a strange display by a team that prides itself on culture, hard work and accountability.

At least Lillard on Friday showed some spunk and fight as Saturday’s Game 4 neared. When asked about making adjustments, he said he wanted to see the Blazers adjust their physicality.

“They were up into us a lot. A lot more aggressive than we were and we didn’t dish it back out,’’ Lillard said. “I think in the playoffs and a situation like this, when a team is coming for you like that, you have to maybe go out of your way to do it back. Even if that means some foul trouble or some altercations happen out there or whatever, but when a team comes from you like the way they did after last game, maybe we just need to make it a point of emphasis to go back and get back at them.’’

The Blazers have tried talking about adjustments to counter the Pelicans’ traps and gameplan against the backcourt, but their plans are both not working and not being executed fully. 

“It’s easy to draw up and say this is what we want to do after you watch film,’’ Lillard said. “Then when you get out there and they are playing so disruptive … they’ve got their minds set on what they are going to do – it’s hard to execute it.’’

Defensively, the Blazers are in the spin cycle. Three different Pelicans have scored 30 or more points in the first three games – Anthony Davis (35 in Game 1), Holiday (33 in Game 2) and Nikola Mirotic (30 in Game 3) – all while Rajon Rondo has played the defense like a yo-yo.

So maybe there was nothing for Stotts to say, and no change in the game plan needed. 

“Coaches can only do so much,’’ McCollum said. “They are not guarding Mirotic, they are not guarding Jrue holiday, or Rondo, or any of these guys. So it’s on us. We just need to play better.’’

If they don’t, Game 4 will bring a sweep and more finger pointing in their faces.