Sweep hooks, yells and The Answer: Remembering my first NBA game on its 20th Anniversary 

Sweep hooks, yells and The Answer: Remembering my first NBA game on its 20th Anniversary 

Many of us don’t have the luxury of knowing when our first NBA game was. Either our parents don’t remember, or the ticket stub has been lost, or there were too many to mark it as unique. Today many arenas around the league have special areas dedicated to kids getting special swag while attending their first game, usually with a sticker, a sign, or some kind of trinket. Kids in 2019 will have photo or video record of their first game uploaded to social media where it will live on Facebook’s servers until our sun goes supernova.

That’s why I feel lucky enough to know the exact date of my first game. It was March 21, 1999, exactly 20 years ago today. It came during a lockout-shortened season when and Allen Iverson, in his third season in the NBA, would lead the league in scoring for the first time. Iverson, who was battling hip soreness and was questionable heading into the game, led his Philadelphia 76ers into the Rose Garden for a sleepy 3:00 PM game against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Both squads were battling for playoff position in their respective conferences, with that Sunday’s game representing the halfway point of the shortened 50-game season. The matchup would turn out to be an odd affair, with Iverson and Matt Geiger scoring for the 76ers with little help from their teammates. It would take a herculean effort for Portland to pull ahead, with Greg Anthony annoying the future scoring champ Iverson, batting away steals and jumping passing lanes to the tune of a 31-point Blazers fourth quarter.

Portland would get the win, 95-71, in what now might be looked at as a laughably late-’90s NBA score. All this was witnessed by a crowd of 19,980, including a 10-year-old Dane Delgado sitting right behind the Philadelphia bench in Section 103, Row B, Seat 4. I was there with my friend Jacob Davis, his cousin Cory, and his father Bob, who had secured the tickets through his work.

This 20 year anniversary was a special moment for me, and thanks to our friends over at the Trail Blazers, NBC Sports Northwest was able to secure the entire video broadcast of the game. It’s not often in our lives we get to relive one of the critical moments of our childhood in its entirety, with the full production value that comes with an NBA broadcast.

So I decided to watch my first ever NBA game, with my own face in full view on the left edge of the backboard during every possession at the north end of the floor. I had eyes on this game once as an adolescent, and now I have it as an adult — as someone who covers the NBA and this team for a living, no less. It felt like there might be some treasure left to unbury from the video archives at the start of Iverson’s NBA, so without further ado, here’s some of the takeaways from re-watching my first game two decades later.

There’s too many post-ups

Watching this game got to be sort of a joke after a while, particularly from perspective of how the offense works in contrast to today's game. The modern NBA has shifted in the past few years in the amount of 3-pointers taken, but having seen some old games before it also surprises you how few common actions are missing from a game like this just 20 years ago.

The pick-and-roll is absent, at least on scale, and although the point guard revolution from 2008-2012 has passed us by, the two-man game is a staple in 2019. That didn't appear to be the case in this 1999 matchup, with no more evidence being clearer than in this play early in the first quarter. 

https://twitter.com/danegado/status/1108593762953912320

If this play was run in 2019, you might expect Damon Stoudamire to run across screens on the weak side, receive a pass in front of the Blazers bench, then move into a sideline pick-and-roll with Arvydas Sabonis. Instead, he wastes five seconds of shot clock trying to get an entry pass so Sabonis can hit his patented sweep hook. 

After watching this whole game, Portland tried to post up nearly every single player on their roster outside of Stoudamire. By contrast, Philadelphia's game plan was to give Iverson the ball and let him do his thing. 

Are NBA players bad at basketball?

As this game opened, I remember thinking in 1999 that these two teams were not as good at basketball as I was hoping. Watching game film back, it appears they might have been feeling a bit lethargic on a mid-afternoon game on a Sunday. Here's what the first 2:30 of gameplay looked like from a play-by-play standpoint. 

PHI — Missed 19-foot jumper

POR — Turnover, Iverson scores

POR — Sabonis scores on a sweep hook 

PHI — Missed 17-foot jumper

POR — Rasheed Wallace point blank miss

PHI — Missed Iverson 3-pointer

POR — Missed point blank Stoudamire layup

PHI — Missed Matt Geiger hook shot

POR — Wallace airball

It got better from there … at least for Portland. The Sixers wound up scoring just 75 points in the game.

Local TV legends

The old Blazervision had Bill Schonely and Ann Schatz calling this game, not to mention the late Steve “Snapper” Jones as the color man during the actual broadcast. Everything about the production —  particularly in the three-dimensionality of the intro —  screamed 1999. If a graphic could have a gradient on it, it did, and that went the double for the local television ads that ran during the breaks (the Northwest Ford Store and Godfather's Pizza ads were something else). But check out this intro.

https://twitter.com/danegado/status/1108480761907171328

Greg Anthony went HAM on Iverson

Greg Anthony averaged double-digit points once in his career, adding 14 PPG in 1995-96 when he was with the Vancouver Grizzlies. Anthony was a career backup, and the athletic, annoying, pestering guard had the capacity to aggravate star players from opposing sidelines.

Anthony was the saving grace for the Blazers in this game, and boy did they need it. The teams combined for 30 points in the third quarter alone, and despite playing with a nagging hip ailment, Iverson was on his way to scoring big points heading into the fourth quarter.

The pesky 30-year-old was everywhere, helping to force Iverson into four turnovers including during a stretch run midway through the fourth that helped Portland contain the 76ers to 16 points.

These performances in front of kids are the things that make uneven impressions, and no doubt I forever gave Anthony too much credit as a defensive mastermind. The reality is that Anthony was a career -0.4 defensive box plus/minus player, although 1999 was one of three positive DBPM seasons for him.

To me he was The Guy Who Shut Down Iverson until I was around 20 years old.

Rick Mahorn yelled at me after the game

Rick Mahorn (seated) watches a play in Mar. 21, 1999. The author sits behind him (white hat, second row behind the railing).

Rick Mahorn was a Bad Boy with the Detroit Pistons, winning the 1989 NBA Championship and taking home all-defensive honors in 1990. The Bad Boys were badasses, and not to be trifled with in an era where physicality and brute force were more accepted as part of the game.

So perhaps I should have expected Mahorn to yell at a 10-year-old Dane Delgado?

Because of where our seats were located, behind the Sixers bench and to the right of the visitor’s hallway, we were able to move to the railing where players from Philadelphia were signing autographs at the conclusion of the game. Jake's dad had given me a Sharpie and the in-arena magazine to collect signatures, but I had never done that before and I was less than confident.

At the railing, I failed to recognize anybody outside of Matt Geiger. Iverson was gone, and not knowing what the protocol was but seeing everyone else leaning over the railing with pens and paper, I simply did the same. 

Eventually Mahorn made his way to my outstretched Sharpie and looked in my direction. A pregnant silence filled as our eyes met, and the forehead of the 40-year-old bruiser slowly wrinkled. My childhood pal Jacob Davis described the moment from his point of view in a recent phone interview with NBC Sports Northwest.

"He turned and looked to you, and you just sort of held [the magazine] out to him," laughed Davis. 

Maybe it was wanting to defer to an adult, or maybe it was shock from the sheer size of the 6-foot-10 Mahorn standing just feet away from me, but I didn't dare utter the first word. Perhaps it was his duty to say something as the player (and I as a child)? It's been two decades and I still haven't decided who was in the wrong. In either case, Mahorn didn't bite, so I doubled down. 

"Then you just held it out to him again — very imploringly — it was very obvious what you wanted," said Davis.

The air hung between us, and eventually Mahorn practically spit the words at me. 

"What?! You can't talk?"

Mahorn then walked away, taking a couple steps before eventually realizing his error and returning back to the stricken grade schooler. Mahorn took the issue of "Rip City" magazine that Bob had brought for this occasion, dutifully signing the photo of Blazers guard Jim Jackson before issuing me some advice about speaking up and asking players directly.

Rip City Magazine from March 1999.

"When he came back, he was like 'Ah, I'm sorry," said Davis.

As I walked back to Jake and his dad, they looked at me expectantly.

“Who’d you get?”

I looked at Jacob, then at Bob, then back at the magazine. I studied the lines on the cover, trying to read each squiggle letter-by-letter to read it out. Finally, I gave him the answer about the signature from the NBA player who yelled at me for not being able to talk.

“... I don’t know.”

To this day I still can’t find that damn magazine.

Rick, if you’re reading this — I need a replacement autograph. This time I'll be sure to ask directly.

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Trail Blazers transfer Moses Brown, Jaylen Hoard to Texas Legends

Moses Brown and Jaylen Hoard are headed back to the Lone Star State. 

The Portland Trail Blazers completed two-way transfers of both players to the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, as announced on Monday. 


Brown, the 20-year-old center out of UCLA, has played in nine games for Portland, averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game. With the Legends, Brown has averaged 14.9 points while shooting 63.8 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from the free-throw line. He’s also adding 7.6 rebounds and 1.41 blocks for the Legends. 

Hoard has averaged 2.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 13 games with the Trail Blazers this season. The 20-year-old rookie has been averaging 18.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in 16 games for Texas. He’s been a hot hand for the Legends as of late, posting a double-double 27 points and 16 rebounds in the Legends victory over Agua Caliente on Feb. 7.

It's perfect timing for both players to get some extra work in. The Trail Blazers and the rest of the NBA are on All-Star break. Portland's will return from the break and host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. 

Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

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USA Today Images

Social Media has spoken: Damian Lillard would have never let the All-Star Game go that long

Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game was an overall experiment from the league with its new format.

And it seemed to work.

Both teams were playing a little bit of defense and the fourth quarter was way more competitive than it has been in recent years.

The new format looked like this:

Each of the first three quarters begin with the score of 0-0 and lasted for 12 minutes.  At the start of the fourth quarter, the game clock was turned off and a final target score was set of 157.

The final target score was determined by taking the leading team’s total cumulative score through three quarters and adding 24 points.

Team captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were laying it all out on the line.

It came down to the free throw line with Anthony Davis hitting 1-of-2 to help Team LeBron secure the win. 

FINAL: Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155

Team LeBron had to score 33 points in the final period to get the win.

About halfway through the 33-point flurry, NBA fans started posting on Twitter about five-time Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. They knew what time is was...

Fans were letting the world know that the game would’ve already been over if Lillard had been healthy enough to play.

 

One fan even mentioned, Lillard would’ve ended the game just like he did in the postseason against the Thunder.

Oh snap.  

As King James attempted a Logo Lillard game-winner, but with no success, fans were quick to say Dame would’ve had that one.

It wasn’t just fans in Rip City that wanted Damian Lillard out on the court.

Fans from all over the country were posting about how Lillard Time would've been spectacular down the stretch of the 2020 NBA All-Star Game. 

NBA fans sure missed them some Logo Lillard.

This season, Lillard is averaging 29.5 points per game, while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from deep.

This fan even went as far as to say that Lillard should've still won the MVP honors.

Even though Lillard was reppin’ Team LeBron from the bench and didn’t get a chance to get on the floor, it was clear that social media was missing Dame Time.

Fingers crossed the All-Star Game will have the same format moving forward for Lillard to shine once again and prove social media right. 

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

Damian Lillard is ready for the final playoff push: 'The urgency just has to be there'

The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend did not go as Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had planned.

He was going to participate in the three-point contest.

He was going to get buckets and try to help Team LeBron get the win against Team Giannis in the All-Star Game.

But, with a strained groin injury that Lillard suffered in the last game before the break, his All-Star weekend turned into him focusing on getting healthy and performing his music in front of thousands.

Lillard admitted that his weekend in Chi-Town has been a lot more chill now that he’s injured.

In a sit-down interview with Trail Blazers Digital Content Manager Amara Baptist, the 5-time All-Star gave his thoughts on the weekend, an update on his health and how the Trail Blazers are ready for a final playoff push.

“Just to be able to lay low, be with my son, be with my family has been cool,” Lillard told Baptist.

Lillard said he feels ‘pretty good,’ just four days after suffering a right groin strain in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies and has been getting treatment and training while he has been in Chicago.

“It’s obviously sore, it’s a legit injury,” Lillard added.

The Trail Blazers team captain didn’t get to showcase his basketball talents this weekend, but he did get to share his musical talent with the world, performing on the NBA Saturday Night stage.

“It was cool just because being selected for the three-point shootout and the All-Star Game, and then not being able to play because I’m hurt, but still having a side of me or a talent that could be put on display was pretty cool,” Lillard said.

“Being able to share my music on the stage in front of that many followers and viewers, I thought that was real cool. I was excited about that, like it was my All-Star.”

In his 8th season, Lillard has been putting up historic numbers.

He’s been on a scoring tear.

In his last 10 games, Lillard is averaging 34.7 points, 9.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds. He is also shooting just under 50 percent from the  field, while hitting 47.2 percent from three.

Lillard admitted that it was tough not to compete in the All-Star Game this weekend.

I think we work so hard to be acknowledged for what we do. And this is like a reward that you don’t get to participate in… I realize that my health is first and my priority is my team if I want to come back and try to give us a chance to make a playoff push, then I can’t risk that by going out here and tweaking my groin a little bit more, making it worse than it is. Not only for this season, but going forward. I had to make a business decision, I guess. Obviously, I can even feel it, I know it wouldn’t be right to do from the standpoint of the future and the rest of the season it didn’t make sense.”  -- Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard

Now it’s all about the homestretch of the season. Portland does have a favorable schedule, too, with 15 of their final 26 games at home.

Lillard knows he and his team must come together and be on the same page.

I think the urgency just has to be there. I think in our last 12, 13 games, we’ve played with a mentality, an edge that we need to win games, and I think that’s why we’ve won more games than we have been winning, especially against the better teams in the league -- home and on the road. So, I think we just have to continue that. I think coming out of the break you’re going to start seeing teams who are struggling to stay in that race, just fade away. -- Damian Lillard

After having that look in his eye Wednesday night following the loss to the Grizzlies, Lillard said, “It’s far from over. Believe that. It’s far from over.” 

Lillard added to that message this weekend:

“I think we’ve got to be that team that continues to fight through because we’ve been here before, so I just think it comes down to the urgency and how much it means to us, and I know it means a lot to our team. I gotta get healthy and we just have to come correct, our mentality has to be right. We’ve got to be on the same page, we’ve got to play with that purpose,” Lillard said.

The 29-year-old also mentioned that getting Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) and Zach Collins (left shoulder) back from injuries will only help them in the postseason.

“Once we get in [the playoffs], I’m pretty sure we’re the last team that anybody wants to see.”

*Mic Drop.

*Wave.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW HERE:

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

Devin Booker: 'Dame is one of my favorite players to watch'

It was just four days ago that Damian Lillard suffered a right groin strain and then suggested that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker should be his replacement for the NBA All-Star Game.

And that’s exactly what the league decided to do.

Despite not participating, Lillard was still introduced alongside Booker before Sunday’s game.  

Before action tipped off, TNT’s Allie LaForce spoke with Booker about how Lillard had mentioned that he was one of his favorite players to watch.

Booker feels the same way.

It’s a mutual respect thing. Obviously, Dame is one of my favorite players to watch too. So, I want to go out there and do what he would do – get a few buckets and hopefully get the win. -- Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker said pregame

This season, Booker is averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds.

Lillard spoke with the media on Saturday about how much of a fan he is of Booker’s game.

“I watch a lot of their games, just because I like to watch him play.”

The 2018 NBA Three-Point Contest Champ will now have Lillard on the bench cheering him on in tonight’s All-Star Game. 

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

Damian Lillard's tribute to Mamba during his All-Star performance

The 2020 All-Star weekend is full of fun, excitement, drama and music. 

Five-time NBA All-Star Damian Lillard, who would not be able to participate after suffering a groin injury, would still be involved in the weekend in a way that no other has done before...

Perform on stage.

This isn't the first time Dame D.O.L.L.A. has taken the stage, but it was memorable in more ways than one. It was what he was wearing that stood out alongside his music and musical guests: a leather jacket with the words "Mamba Forever" on the back.

This tribute to the late Kobe and Gigi Bryant isn't the only way the All-Star weekend is celebrating their lives: Team LeBron and Team Giannis will be sporting jersey No. 24 jersey or No. 2 jersey during the All-Star game.

 

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

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USA Today Images

We all wish Damian Lillard was able to compete in this year’s NBA Three-Point Contest

The original participants of the 2020 NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest included: Buddy Hield of the Sacramento Kings; Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks; Zach Lavine of the Chicago Bulls; Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets; Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards; Devonte’ Graham of the Charlotte Hornets; Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat; and Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers.

But, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns replaced Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard, who was forced to withdraw from the Three-Point Contest due to a right groin injury.  

It’s really unfortunate that Logo Lillard wasn’t participating, especially this year because of the new format.

The NBA put a new twist on things adding two new shots from 6 feet behind the 3-point line. The "Dew" green balls worth three points each.

The two rounds had 27 shots instead of 25 that took 70 seconds instead of 60.

The additional shots from the wing were known as the "MTN DEW zone".

The new shots from deeper range would have most likely helped give Lillard an edge, all of Rip City knows that.

In Lillard’s last 10 games, he is averaging an impressive 47.2 percent from behind the arc. 

But, Booker did Lillard proud with the ‘Dew’ green ball. Booker was the fourth participant to shoot in the first round and he was the first player to hit both of the ‘Dew’ deep three-balls. He put up 27 in the first round and 26 in the second round.

Booker, along with Hield and Bertans, were the three to move on and face off in the Final Round.

And boy, the Final Round did not disappoint.

It came down the final Money Ball.

Here are the results of the Second and Final Round:

Bertans: 22 points

Booker: 26 points

Hield: 27 points

This is the first time the Hield has taken home the 3-point hardware.

Now, here's to hoping they bring back the ‘deep’ three-ball for  next year’s competition, and Lillard will be a participant. 

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Damian Lillard becomes first All-Star to perform on the NBA Saturday Night Stage

Rip City has been anticipating this performance since it was announced last week that Damain Lillard would be performing on the music stage during NBA All-Star Weekend. 

Chicago’s Native rapper Common introduced DAME D.O.L.L.A.

“I’m proud to present not only an NBA All-Star, but this is an artist… Show some love to my guy, DAME D.O.L.L.A.,” Common yelled proudly into the microphone.  

DAME D.O.L.L.A performed ‘Money Ball’ featuring Jeremih followed by, ‘Run it up’ featuring Lil Wayne as Lillard became the first NBA player to perform on the NBA Saturday Night musical stage.

'Money Ball' can be found on Dame's latest album "Big D.O.L.L.A," while 'Run It Up' is on "Confirmed."

Lil Wayne didn’t make his way to the stage until midway through ‘Run it Up.’ Between Lillard and Lil Wayne’s presence on the stage, it looked like the performance brought the house down at the United Center.

Lillard also paid tribute to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a ‘Mamaba Forever’ jacket on stage.

After the show, Lillard took to the Trail Blazers Twitter account to share his thoughts on being on the big stage in Chicago, but not the typical big stage he is used to performing on during All-Star weekend.

All-Star Saturday-- it was a blast. It was a great time. I hope everybody enjoyed the show. I felt great out there and it was a great time. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard on his Dame D.O.L.L.A. performance

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Damian Lillard gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson during All-Star Weekend

Despite not being able to participate in the 2020 All-Star festivities, there was still cause to celebrate in Chicago.

That's because Damian Lillard popped the question over the weekend!

The Trail Blazers five-time All-Star asked his longtime girlfriend Kay’La Hanson at a private party filled with family and friends. 

The two have been dating since their college days at Weber State.

Lillard’s mom, Gina Johnson, shared videos on her Instagram of what looks like a star-studded engagement party.

From the IG videos it was fun to see a few of Lillard’s former teammates are in attendance. Evan Turner and Tim Frazier are in on the celebration, while Lillard’s close friend and mentor, former Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool is there as well. Chicago rapper Common was also in attendance.

And, can you say Relationship Goals?

Kay’La proudly showed off her new cushion cut diamond in the IG videos.

CJ McCollum, who proposed to his longtime girlfriend in September 2018, has joked with Lillard over the year, asking him when he was going to pop the question and Lillard would always just smile.

The 2020 NBA All-Star weekend was a great option.

The happy couple welcomed Dame Jr. on March 29, 2018 and ever since then they have been melting Rip City’s heart with their Instagram posts.

View this post on Instagram

Happy Valentine’s Day ppl. ❤️

A post shared by Damian Lillard (@damianlillard) on

Dame Jr. has even made his way to Blazer games and warmed up during pregame.

Can you imagine Dame Jr. in a little tuxedo for the wedding? Those pictures will undoubtedly be adorable.

From everyone at NBCSNW congrats on your engagement, Dame and Kay’La! 

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Donovan Mitchell points to Jazz-Blazers missed goaltending call as to why he is 50-50 on Coaches Challenge

Friday’s Rising Stars game started out with plenty of fastbreak dunks and some crazy three-point attempts as the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend is officially underway.

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Pacers big man Myles Turner joined TNT’s Brian Anderson to call the game.

During the first quarter, Mitchell shared his thoughts on if he likes the new addition of the Coaches Challenge.

In explaining why he isn’t completely on board with the new addition to the game, he made sure to add that there was plenty of talk about during their controversial game against the Trail Blazers, which was exactly one week ago today.

Oh yes, Blazer fans remember.

With under 14 seconds to go and a chance to tie the game, Damian Lillard went hard to the rim.

It was clearly a goaltend on Rudy Gobert, but there was no call.

Lillard was furious, asking for a replay, but with no call on the court, no review could take place.  

And thus, Mitchell explained just that during the TNT Rising Stars broadcast.

I’m 50-50 on it. I’m not going to lie to you. I think the biggest thing with the Challenge is, I think the rule -- there’s more you can add to the rule. We had a game against Portland that got a lot of attention just because the whistle may not have been [blown]... I think you should still be able to challenge that. I think that’s something that the league may need to take a look at. -- Donovan Mitchell on Coaches Challenges

“It’s a tough job for the refs,” Mitchell added.

Of course, nothing can help change the results of that Blazers-Jazz game from last Friday; but hey, Rip City – now you know at least Mitchell is advocating for a change on national television.