Players believe in Blazers' curse?


Players believe in Blazers' curse?

When the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden with the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, he was supposed to pair team with the duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy to form a trio that would help contend for titles for years to come.

In five years, Oden would only play in 82 games, dealing with a multitude of knee injuries and surgeries.

Brandon Roy would retire following the resolving of the NBA lockout last year as his knees had degenerated so much, he didnt think he could sustain the grind of a regular NBA season, let alone a condensed 66-game schedule.

LaMarcus Aldridge, diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome in 07, received heart surgery at the beginning of the season to evaluate the status of the electrical system of his heart.

While not as serious as one may think as Aldridge was relatively healthy this season before a slight labral tear in his hip forced season-ending hip surgery, the Trail Blazers -- going back to Sam Bowie and Bill Walton -- have had several players suffer serious lower body injuries and the thought that the franchise might be cursed isnt one that just floats around through the collective media and fan base.

As told to ESPNs Marc Stein, former Trail Blazer Marcus Camby says the curse is also discussed in the Portland locker room.

Q: You know those of us in the media throw around words like curse. But what about the players on that team? In the Blazers locker room, are guys asking: What next?
A: They might not want to admit it, but when I was there, my goodness, people were saying, Are we really snake-bit? Are we really cursed? Doubts and talks like that came about. Everybody just tried to brush it to one side and remain positive, but it was hard to escape because everybody was talking about it. Its hard to argue when it keeps happening year after year after year.

It took Portland some time to rid itself of the Jail Blazers tag, but it might take even longer to escape something serious enough to be labeled a curse.
Its a stigma that Cubs fans know all too well.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: How much will Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game?

Mark Carman, Scott Merkin and Chris Bleck join Kap on the panel. Jon Lester looks to get back on track against the Pirates? Should he still be the Cubs Game 1 starter in the playoffs?  Len Kasper joins Kap to discuss.


How much will Mitch Trubisky improve in his 2nd preseason game? And will Carlos Rodon end up being the White Sox’ best starter?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

A stellar Jon Lester outing gives the Cubs more than just a win

It's been a tale of two halves for the Cubs veteran Jon Lester, who after a sparkling first half of baseball that saw him win 12 games with a 2.58 ERA, has looked nothing like a 2018 All-Star. Prior to Thursday's start, Lester had posted a 10.32 ERA, allowed 4 or more runs in 4 of his 5 most recent starts, and had yet to win a game in the second of the season. 

The 34-year-old veteran flipped the script Thursday night, throwing 6-shutout innings while striking out 8 Pirate batters in the Cubs 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. Lester surrendered only 5 hits and baffled the Pirates all-night, finally busting out of his slump and giving the Cubs his 2nd quality start since the All-Star break. 

Lester attacked the bottom portion of the strike zone all night with his fastball, which topped out at 93 mph, generating 4 whiffs with his heater. Over the last month, Lester has said he's felt he can't quite execute his "out" pitches, explaining that when he has a hitter set up for a strikeout he hasn't been able to throw the ball effectively in those moments. 

And while Lester walked off the mound after the 6th inning amassing 8 punch outs, the veteran starter never looked like he was trying to strike out batters. He just continued to dot the corners, occasionally raise the eye-level of the batter with an elevated heater, and threw his secondary pitches just enough to keep the Pittsburgh batters uncomfortable at the plate. 

The Cubs offense once again struggled, facing Ivan Nova who has won four his last five starts against the Cubs, but Ian Happ's solo shot in the 4th inning was enough run support for Lester to push the Cubs to 20 games over .500. But the biggest takeaway from Thursday night's win isn't that the Cubs came out on top, it's that Jon Lester returning to form gives this Chicago rotation something they've lacked seemingly this entire season. 

Stability at the front of the rotation. 

With Cole Hamels impressive three starts in a Cub uniform and Kyle Hendricks finally figuring out his issues on the mound, if Jon Lester can replicate Thursday's performance throughout the rest of the season, the Cubs rotation may finally turn into the strength many thought it could be before the season started. At the very least, Lester showed that whatever he's been working through over the last month of baseball is fixable. 

It's only one start in a string of poor outings for Lester, and while The Athletic's Sahadev Sharma did find some positives in his starts prior to Thursday's big win, Lester will have to show he can maintain this level of pitching through the remainder of this season. But I think our own Tony Andracki put it best tonight on Twitter. 

With the Cubs pitchers finally starting to perform to their expected level, and the return of Yu Darvish looking closer each day, it could be the Cubs starting pitching that carries through the rest of the season.