NBA Finals

How the Trail Blazers will repeat the magic of '77 in 2021... or sooner

How the Trail Blazers will repeat the magic of '77 in 2021... or sooner

On Sunday, NBC Sports Northwest aired the first of 12 Trail Blazers Classic Games, starting with none other than Game 6 of the 1977 NBA Finals. 

In case you aren't up to speed on Trail Blazers history, it was on the afternoon of June 5th, 1977 that the Blazers beat the 76ers in Game 6 to claim a 4-2 series victory and the franchise's first and only NBA Championship. 

The next morning, Portland was bursting at the seams. Fans lined the streets of downtown as the team celebrated with a victory parade. 

It has been 43 years since that parade took place. But, what if this were the last summer the Trail Blazers had without one? What if next season all the cards were dealt in Portland's favor? What if 44 years after making history, the Blazers did it again? What if there was a '21 championship parade?

Just imagine for a minute what could happen next season...

It's late October 2020. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 the NBA suspended and later canceled the remainder of the 2019-2020 season. 
Finally, all the quarantines are lifted and it's back to business as usual. 

The NBA, one of the first sports leagues in the United States to feel the impact of the pandemic, is finally taking back to the court. 

For the Blazers, there is more than just a return of the game, but the return of key players as well. 

Jusuf Nurkic, who was supposed to make his return on March 15th, will finally see game action after a 17-month hiatus. Zach Collins, who was dealing with a shoulder injury and missed most of the 2019-20 season, is returning as well. Except for Rodney Hood, who is in the final stages of recovering from a ruptured Achilles, the Blazers are finally close to full strength. 

Continuity is key in the NBA, and the Blazers have a lot of it at this point. 

Thanks to a shortened offseason, the Blazers wasted no time signing their own free agents. 

Hassan Whiteside returned on a team-friendly deal and Carmelo Anthony, staying true to his word about seeing himself retire as a Blazers, signs a multi-year deal to ride off into the sunset wearing red and black. 
Trevor Ariza's contract was also guaranteed for the season and the team signed Wenyen Gabrial to a multi-year after he showed great potential in limited time last season.

However, Caleb Swanigan walked as a free agent, signing a lucrative deal to be the starting center for the New York Knicks. Needing to find another big to fill the roster, the Blazers turned to a familiar face: Meyers Leonard.

The seven-footer signed a veteran minimum deal, and with Leonard and Hezonja, the Blazers had the best Call of Duty duo in the league.

The roster was fully loaded and ready to roll. 
PG: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, 
SG: CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr
SF: Trevor Ariza, Nassir Little, Mario Hezonja
PF: Zach Collins, Carmelo Anthony, Wenyen Gabrial
C: Jusuf Nurkic, Hassan Whiteside, Meyers Leonard
INJURED: Hood

The Blazers were primed for a run, but first they had to get through the stacked Western Conference. 

Atop the west were the two favorites, the Lakers and the Clippers. 

Unfortunately for the Lakers, LeBron James showed up to camp out of shape having treated every day of the quarantine as Taco Tuesday.
Now you know why Taco Wednesday, Taco Thursday, etc were trending all summer. 

As for the Clippers, they were laser-focused. Kawhi Leonard has always been the self-isolation king. He was the only NBA player in his element all summer, and Clippers would reap the benefit. 

Next, you had teams like the Nuggets.  

People would continue to sleep on Denver and burn Jokic for being "out of shape," yet no team has an answer for the Joker. If he is a triple-double machine "out of shape," I'd hate to see him in shape. They were deservedly a Top-3 team. 

The rest of the conference is a wild card. The Thunder, Mavericks, Jazz, and Grizzlies. Any of these teams could finish top four, but they could also finish out of the playoffs. How and where they finish all depends on if they remember to tuck in there jerseys any time they play CP3.

As for the Rockets, they lost their luster. During the pandemic, the CDC recommended against facial hair. To cover his bases and stay safe, James Harden did the unthinkable. He shaved his beard. 

Now clean-shaven, he was no longer intimidating. He could no longer hide behind his beard. Russell Westbrook became the alpha, and Harden just became a run of the mill spot-up shooter. 

The season played out as many expected. The Blazers started slow out of the gate as they tried to figure out lineups and build some chemistry. Anthony and Whiteside had never played with Nurkic before, and for all intents and purposes had never played with Collins. It was like adding two new free agents to the mix. 

Come mid-December, the Blazers were starting to put it all together and found themselves in the Top-8 out west. Then they got reinforcements. Rodney Hood was finally ready to return. 

He started as a bench player behind Ariza, playing on a minutes restriction, but quickly rounded into form and earned his starting spot back. 

By mid-January, the Blazers starting lineup was Lillard - McCollum - Hood - Collins - Nurkic, with a bench rotation of Simons - Trent Jr - Ariza - Anthony - Whiteside. That is a championship-caliber roster, and they went into All-Star break as a Top 5 team in the West.

Speaking of All-Star break, the Blazers had three, yes THREE, representatives at the game. Lillard, Nurkic, and McCollum 

Nurkic was having the best year of his career, and behind Jokic was the best center in the west. McCollum was also having one of the best years of his career and grabbed the vacant spot left by James Harden. 

You see, baby-faced Harden suddenly started getting called for traveling and wasn't being sent to line anymore. Without the beard he was nothing. He would later decide to grow the beard back out, but it wouldn't be ready until 2022. The Rockets were sent to the lottery while they waited.

Flash forward to the end of the season, the Blazers ended strong and finished behind the Clippers and just ahead of the Nuggets. Oh, wait, what about the Warriors? The entire league forgot about Klay Thompson and Steph Curry returning. This wasn't the Eric Paschall show anymore...

With Steph, Klay, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and first overall pick and rookie of the year Anthony Edwards, the Warriors were once again unstoppable. And for some reason, no one noticed. 

Final Western Conference Standings:

1) Warriors
2) Clippers
3) Blazers
4) Nuggets
5) Jazz
6) Thunder
7) Mavericks
8) Lakers

FIRST ROUND: BLAZERS VS THUNDER

The Blazers matched up with the Thunder in Round 1. Ironically, this Thunder roster, led by Chris Paul, was made as a direct result of what happend the last time these two played in the playoffs. The Bad Shot. 

There were no bad shots this time around, only good ones, and the Blazers swept the Thunder. 

The rest of the field:
1) Warriors over 8) Lakers: 4-2
Over the season LeBron swore off tacos, and got back in shape. But, it wasn't until late in the season that he was the LeBron we had come to know. The King was ready, and so were the Lakers. Unfortunately, they had to meet up with the Warriors. Golden State was LeBron's kryptonite for years, and it didn't change with him in a Lakers uniform. The Warriors were back...

7) Mavericks over 2) Clippers: 4-3
This was, by far, the best series in the first round. Every game was decided by single digits, with Game 7 being won on a Luka Donic buzzer-beater. 

4) Nuggets over 5) Jazz: 4-2
Two boring teams put on a boring series, and boring Jokic averaged the most boring triple-double and tore the boring Jazz apart in the most boring way. 

SECOND ROUND: BLAZERS VS NUGGETS

The last time the Blazers made it to the second round they played the very same Denver Nuggets. They beat the Nuggets in seven games in 2019, but things are different this time around. In 2019 they didn't have Melo, Whiteside, and most importantly they didn't have a healthy Jusuf Nurkic. With a full complement of weapons, the Blazers went to battle with the Nuggets. 
The Blazers defense was able to hold Jokic to only double-doubles in round two, but he still helped the Nuggets put up a fight. But in the end, the Blazers depth was too much and Nurkic wished the team from the Mile High City a "happy summer" after his 20-20 game sealed the deal in Game 6. 

Rest of the field:
1) Warriors over 7) Mavericks: 4-1
The ol' gentleman's sweep. The Mavericks didn't go down without a fight, but Donic and Co. just ran out of gas after that grueling seven-game series against the Clippers. One thing is for certain, the Mavericks will be a force for years to come, 2021 just wasn't their year. 
Curry and the Warriors shimmy into the Western Conference Finals. 

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: BLAZERS VS WARRIORS
Déjà vu or what? In 2019, the Blazers beat the Thunder in the first round, Nuggets in the second round, and met the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. 

The Blazers were swept that season, but no one would forget the magical performance of Meyers Leonard in Game 4. The Blazers reserve center got the start that night and went off for a career-high 30 points. 

After a season filled mostly with DNPs, it was time for the Hammer to do his thing. Coach Stotts tinkered with his lineup, moving Melo to backup SF  in an effort to get Leonard minutes. 

The move proved to be the x-factor. 

Every Curry bomb was matched by Lillard. 
Every Thompson trey was matched by 3J. 
Every Wiggins bucket was matched by Nurkic. 
Every Green brick was countered by a Leonard swish. 

The extra firepower was the difference, and just like he did in Game 4 in 2019, Leonard found his groove. 

It took six games, but the Blazers finally got over the Golden State hump. For the first time since 1992, the Blazers were heading to the finals. 

THE NBA FINALS.  BLAZERS VS ???? 

The Blazers flew across the country for Game 1 against the (checks notes)... Philadelphia 76ers! It was like 1977 all over again, and the series played out like an epic remake of a classic movie. 

The 76ers jumped out to a 2-0 series lead and had the Blazers on wobbly legs. 

But, Game 3 in 2021 started like Game 2 ended in 1977. 

Zach Collins and Ben Simmons both went up for a rebound late in the first quarter, but became tangled up and wrestled to the floor. They both jumped up, fists clenched ready to fight. The benches started to clear. Surprisingly, Joel Embiid elected to stay out of it and remained calm away from the fight. And before anyone could get in to separate the two, Trevor Ariza came flying in. Ariza, playing the role of Maurice Lucas, came in and gave Simmons a Goldberg-esque spear to the floor. 

Ariza was ejected and suspended for Games 4 and 5, but the message was sent loud and clear: Portland wasn't going down without a fight. 

Immediately following the fight the Blazers went of a game-deciding run and never looked back. The Blazers won Games 3, 4, and 5, and in a perfect storybook ending Ariza returned in Game 6 only to hit the series-clinching bucket as time expired. 

Fans rushed the court as Mark Mason yelled the loudest "Blazers win" of all time. Damian Lillard came over, grabbed the mic and yelled "RIP CITTTTTYYYYY."  

On TV you heard the epic call, "And the Blazers win the series for the first time in 44 years."

Rip City was ready to party like it was 1977. 

Luckily for those watching at home, they got to see the full celebration. There was no cutting to the Kemper Open!

The next morning was one giant party in Portland. 

Lillard and Co. boarded the parade bus and went around the city to celebrate with the hundreds of thousands of fans in the streets. 

They started at VMC, went over the Broadway Bridge, all the way down Broadway, found their way onto the 405,  crossed over the Marquam Bridge, up I-5 North, eventually ending with an extravagant rally inside Moda Center. 

It was an event 44 years in the making. 

A long wait worth every second. 

Will it happen in 2021? Only time will tell. 

Two Trail Blazers fans snuck into the 1977 Championship game... here is their story

Two Trail Blazers fans snuck into the 1977 Championship game... here is their story

The date was June 5th, 1977. 

The Portland Trail Blazers were about to host the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. 

The Blazers were the hottest ticket in town and fans would go to great lengths to see the action live. 

More than 12,000 fans filled Veterans Memorial Coliseum on that afternoon, with thousands more packing the streets outside. 

But two ticketless fans found a way to outsmart the system. 

For those listening to the TV broadcast that afternoon, or the replay aired on NBC Sports Northwest on Sunday, the finely tuned ear may have picked up on an epic story. 

In the final minutes of the game, play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger told the following story. 

"We had a basket of fruit brought over to the table for Rick (Barry) and I before the game and the note said it was from Sam and Phil. We later found out that Sam and Phil had come in through the back door and said they were florists delivering this to us. They just wanted to get into the basketball game." 

That's right, two fans were so eager to see the Blazers that they snuck in the back door, risking life and limb to see history. 

Ok, they may not have risked life and limb, but they did risk what would have been a stern punishment.

There was a risk, but there was also a reward. The pair got to be in the building on one of the most historic nights in Trail Blazers history.

With the security protocols used today, it would be nearly impossible to pull this off again. 

But for one night in 1977, Sam and Phil embodied what it meant to be part of Rip City, doing anything it took to watch the Blazers win it all. 

How to Watch: Trail Blazers vs. 76ers 1977 NBA Finals Championship

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How to Watch: Trail Blazers vs. 76ers 1977 NBA Finals Championship

On the 43rd Anniversary since the Portland Trail Blazers won it all, let’s relive that championship game tonight on NBCSNW.

June 5th, 1977 -- The electricity was in the air in Portland, Oregon was fueled by BlazerMania!

It was Game 6 of the 1977 Championship and the Trail Blazers were one game away from hoisting the Walter A. Brown Trophy. 

After a 49-33 record during the regular season and a three-seed in the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers, led by first-year Jack Ramsey, which became a franchise in 1970, were in their first-ever playoff appearance.

In the first round, they defeated the Chicago Bulls after a series clinching shot by Lionel Hollins. 

In the second round, they downed a formidable Denver Nuggets team. 

The Trail Blazers handled the No. 1 Lakers 4-0 in the conference championship, as the Blazers would get their first-ever shot at an NBA Championship.

The Philadelphia 76ers were the only team to stand in their way. 

In Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Trail Blazers committed 34 turnovers and lost.
They got blown out in Game 2. Maurice Lucas and Darryl Dawkins were ejected in that game after benches cleared. Lucas slapped Dawkins from behind after Dawkins and Bob Gross both went up for a rebound and wrestled each other to the floor. Lucas and Dawkins were ejected from the game. Philadelphia’s Doug Collins received four stitches after he caught a missed punch from Dawkins.

Down 2-0, one would think the road to an NBA title would be bleak. Momentum was on the 76ers side. 

But, this Trail Blazers team was a team of destiny. 

The Trail Blazers stormed back and won both games at home to tie the series at two games apiece. They went back to Philly and defeated the 76ers in Game 5. 

After arriving back in Portland, the Blazers were met by over 5,000 fans at the airport. 

And on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Game 6 tipped off in the Memorial Coliseum.

You know what happens next…

Starters:

Philadelphia

  • Julius Irving
  • George McGinnis
  • Doug Collins
  • Henry Bibby
  • Caldwell Jones

Portland

  • Lionel Hollins
  • Bill Walton 
  • Bob Gross
  • Maurice Lucas
  • Johnny Davis

HOW TO WATCH: Game 6 Trail Blazers vs. Sixers

WHEN: Friday, June 5 at 8:00pm 

Channel: NBC Sports Northwest, Channel 737 (Portland), 617 (Seattle)

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here.  

Or stream the game on your phone with the 'MyTeams' App -- available in the App Store for iPhones and on Google play.

REPORT: NBA Governors to vote on return Thursday, formal dates set

REPORT: NBA Governors to vote on return Thursday, formal dates set

As the NBA inches closer to a return to play, there are so many questions still unanswered.

  • When will the season start?
  • Will there be a play-in style tournament to determine the playoffs?
  • Will the NBA go straight to the playoffs?
  • Will they return to play at a single site or two single sites?
  • What will the protocols be?
  • When will the season end?
  • When will next season begin?

This Thursday could be the day we get all or most of those questions answered.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA Board of Governors will meet Thursday to vote on the finalized plan for return. The NBA’s proposed timeline as a last possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals would be October 12, according to the report.

It was back on Mar. 11 when Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and then later that night the news quickly broke that the NBA was suspending the 2019-20 season.

During last Friday’s conference call with the NBA Board of Governors, Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly laid out four options to what the NBA could look like once play resumes:

  • 16 teams: Directly to playoffs
  • 20: Group/stage play
  • 22: Games to determine seeding, play-in tournament for final seed(s)
  • 30: 72-game regular season, with play-in tourney

From the sounds of it, it seems the league is leaning more towards the format of 22 teams returning in a play-in type tournament.

We should know a lot more on Thursday. 

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

Terry Porter and Trail Blazers fans share a mutual, everlasting love

Terry Porter and Trail Blazers fans share a mutual, everlasting love

The hour-long Trail Blazers documentary ‘Rip City Revival’, which aired Sunday night on NBA TV, featured interviews from Blazer greats Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter & Buck Williams.  

It was a history lesson, and a time to reflect, while hearing from the players who led the 1989-92 Blazers squad to so much success.

That Portland team made it to three straight Western Conference Finals appearances along with a pair of NBA Finals appearances.

It became the must-see event in the city. – Terry Porter on ‘Rip City Revival’

“You look at the Trail Blazers team -- it’s a bunch of blue collar guys.” Buck Williams added. 

The Trail Blazers selected Drexler as the 14th overall pick in the 1983 NBA Draft from the University of Houston. The following year, Portland drafted Jerome Kersey 46th overall from Longwood College. Then came Porter as the Trail Blazers’ No. 24 overall pick in the 1985 draft out of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Neither Drexler, nor Porter had very much knowledge when it came to Rip City and they admitted so in the documentary.

Before I got to Portland I didn’t know much about the city. At the time I was 21 years old, had really never left Houston other than to play in games and coming back… I had zero expectations. -- Clyde Drexler on being drafted to Portland

It’s probably safe to say then that the Trail Blazers fan base, and Portland as a city, exceeded Drexler’s expectations.

When the Milwaukee Bucks passed on Porter and drafted Jerry Reynolds instead, even the Bucks told Porter they would draft him, he wasn’t sure what to think. Porter was forced to ponder his future while attending the Bucks Draft Watch party.

Luckily for Porter, he didn’t have to wait long after Milwaukee’s 22nd pick.

“I didn’t have a clue where Portland was, Portland Oregon,” Porter laughed. “I had no idea where it was. And, I’m sure most of the fan base in Portland didn’t know where Stevens Point, Wisconsin was, either. So we were even when it came to that.” 

The love between Porter and Rip City is even, as well.

[RELATED]: 'Rip City Revival' was a Trail Blazer history lesson that left out a few chapters

Both Porter and Drexler emphasized how special and supportive this Trail Blazers group was as a team. Porter shared his thoughts on how extraordinary Trail Blazers fans were back then, especially during the playoffs. 

“When we were going through our playoff run when you came in the city, buildings in the city had ‘Rip City’ or ‘Go Blazers’ on the windows. People wearing gear all the time,” Porter said.

“It was just a vibe, an excitement about the city.”

Now as so much time has passed, wanting to win for the fans weighs heavy on Porter's mind.

When you have a fan base like we had during that three or four year stretch, you wanted to reward them, you wanted to reward them so badly for all their hard work and their support -- give them something that they could cling to and have a championship. There’s nothing like that for a city. -- Terry Porter

As Buck Williams put it, “one piece is missing.”

That has always been one of the biggest takeaways from this Trail Blazers era – there was no Championship.

However, unlike other NBA fans around the country, Trail Blazers fans always have and always will celebrate this memorable squad.  

Be sure to check out the full Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon, and Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri. 

 

'Last Dance' didn't bother to mention Clyde Drexler's injury prior '92 Finals

'Last Dance' didn't bother to mention Clyde Drexler's injury prior '92 Finals

It’s always important to remember when you’re watching a documentary that you sometimes don’t hear the whole story. You hear what the maker of the project wants you to hear.

Watching “The Last Dance” Sunday night, taking note of how much joy it gave Michael Jordan -- and some of his pals -- to see him work over Clyde Drexler in the 1992 NBA Finals, they weren’t very fair to Drexler.

Just in passing, it might have been nice to point out that the Trail Blazer guard was already having a great deal of pain in his right knee, which would cause him to undergo surgery that summer -- after the Finals and the Olympics.

I won’t make the case that Jordan wouldn’t have still had his way with Drexler, but I do think it’s only fair to point out that Drexler wasn’t himself that season after the injury.

Drexler had cartilage fragments removed from his right knee in September of 1992 and played only 49 games the following season for Portland, after being an iron man for the team prior to that, playing at least 80 games per season five times.

Here is the way Drexler ended the regular season, as described by the Chicago Tribune’s Sam Smith, who also wrote the best-selling book, “Jordan Rules”:

Seattle, the Trail Blazers` geographical rival, was in Portland last weekend. The Trail Blazers still had a fairly comfortable lead over Golden State and Utah for best record in the conference, but hadn`t clinched yet.

Clyde Drexler, the team`s MVP candidate and best player, had been suffering with turf toe on both feet and a strained right knee. Rest him? Drexler played a grueling 37 minutes and took two hard falls. The Trail Blazers won what might be a Phyrric victory.

Drexler felt pain and the team took him out for the rest of the regular season.

Trail Blazers coach Rick Adelman said Drexler will be fine for the playoffs, but Drexler wasn`t sounding as convinced.

''I didn`t think I could hurt (the knee) any worse by playing,'' said Drexler. ''Obviously, I was wrong. I don`t know how bad the injury is. All I know is there is something that isn`t right. It`s the first time I`ve had this injury. I just hope it gets better before the playoffs start.''

Asked about playing Drexler so much, Adelman said: ''While I was watching him, I started to wonder why he was playing, too. But it was his choice.''

It would have been appropriate sometime during that show to mention the injury to Drexler, who made his career out of his rare athletic ability, which was certainly affected by the injury.

But why let a relevant fact stand in the way of another heroic Michael Jordan tale?

 

How to Watch: Trail Blazers vs. Pistons 1990 NBA Finals Game 2

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USA Today Images

How to Watch: Trail Blazers vs. Pistons 1990 NBA Finals Game 2

The Palace of Auburn Hills was rocking.

Two undefeated teams at home in the playoffs were set to battle each other in Game 2 of the 1990 NBA Finals.

It was June 7, 1990 when the Portland Trail Blazers tied up the series against the Detroit Pistons at one apiece in an overtime thriller on the road.

The Trail Blazers hadn’t been to the NBA Finals since they won the NBA championship in 1977. From ’77 to 1990, the Blazers made the playoffs every year except 1982, but had been eliminated in the first or second round more often than not.

Portland finished the 1989–90 season with a 59–23 overall record, earning them the third seed in the Western Conference.

Here's how the Blazers got to the 1990 Finals:

  • Portland pulled off the sweep over the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
  • Defeated the San Antonio Spurs in seven games in the Western Conference Semis. 
  • And eliminated the Phoenix Suns in six games in the conference finals.

As for the Pistons, Detroit had won its first NBA championship the previous year.

The Blazers were facing The Bad Boys who were now without physical forward Rick Mahorn.

The Pistons posted a 59–23 overall regular season record to take the top spot out East.

Both teams split the two regular season meetings, each winning at home.

Game 2 of the 1990 Finals marked the first time in six years that a Finals game went into overtime. The last Finals game to go to OT was Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Now you can re-live all the 1990 NBA Finals Game 2 magic tonight at 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest. 

Starters for Blazers vs. Pistons 1990 Game 2

DETROIT

Joe Dumars

Bill Laimbeer

Isiah Thomas

James Edwards

Dennis Rodman

PORTLAND

Buck Williams

Clyde Drexler

Terry Porter

Jerome Kersey

Kevin Duckworth

HOW TO WATCH: 1990 NBA Finals Game 2

WHEN: Thursday, April 9 at 6:00pm 

Channel: NBC Sports Northwest, Channel 737 (Portland), 617 (Seattle)

CHANNEL FINDER

Stream the game here.  

Or stream the game on your phone with the 'MyTeams' App -- available in the App Store for iPhones and on Google play.  

NBC Sports Northwest is airing 12 Trail Blazers Classic Games over the next few weeks.

The full schedule can be found here.

The real reason Michael Jordan shrugged his shoulders after hitting those 6 threes

The real reason Michael Jordan shrugged his shoulders after hitting those 6 threes

In preparation for an upcoming documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, there is a lot of Jordan talk going around right now, particularly at the four-letter network.

And when showing highlights of Jordan's incredible career, it never takes long to get to what people call the "shrug game." That's Game 1 of 1992 NBA Finals when Jordan knocks down six straight three-pointers in a half and then turns toward a camera and shrugs. I've heard all sorts of explanations for that shrug, including one that involved Jordan not believing the Trail Blazers were leaving him open to make those shots.

First, let me say some of those attempts were taken with Clifford Robinson guarding him. Robinson was 6-9 and a terrific defender at four positions.

But most important, the one thing nobody ever points out was that Jordan was a terrible three-point shooter at that stage of his career. Teams would dare him to take those shots. Jordan, in fact, shot just 27 percent from three-point range during the 1991-92 regular season.

That's right, 27 percent! And that's why in that season, he averaged only 1.3 three-point attempts per game.

I was there in Chicago Stadium when Jordan hit those threes and I always felt the one and only reason that he shrugged his shoulders the way he did was:

Of all the fantastic things he did in his career, Michael Jordan himself simply couldn't believe he did THAT.

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

One team is looking to three-peat while the other team is appearing in its first NBA Finals ever. So who you got, the Warriors or the Raptors?

Our Blazers Outsiders took a time to give us their picks:

Jake McGrady: Heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. The Raptors are intriguing. Kawhi Leonard is a complete force of nature, a beast in his own right. He's been to the NBA Finals with the Spurs, but he's never been the sole leader and heart of a franchise going into the finals. I think something interesting is going to happen and at the least, the series will go farther than people are predicting. 

Alex Haigh: I don't have a good feeling about the Raptors... I'm with Jake. It's like heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. But my mind really says Warriors, especially if KD comes back. It's the Raptors' first trip to the finals and I don't know if they have it in them

Chris Burkhardt: Until they are dethroned it's hard to go against the defending champs. We saw first hand what they did to the Blazers, and that was without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. And before you say "well, the Blazers were trash..." No. No, they weren't. We can argue about Portland's roster deficiencies all day long, but the fact of the matter is that roster was good enough to get them to Western Conference Finals. Then, a team that was just that much better than everyone else destroyed them. The Warriors are that good. Now, with the way the Raptors are playing, I think the Warriors are going to get the biggest test they have had in these playoffs. I even think the Raptors have what it takes to pull off a series upset if the cards fall right. But if I'm walking up to window in Las Vegas right now, I'm putting my money on Golden State. 

 

Sen. Ron Wyden pens letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to guarantee Enes Kanter's protection

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USA Today Images

Sen. Ron Wyden pens letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to guarantee Enes Kanter's protection

The NBA and the Canadian government may have an Enes Kanter problem on their hands. 

With the Portland Trail Blazers just four wins away from their first NBA Finals appearance in 27 years, it's a real possibility the Blazers could dethrone the Warriors as best in the West and face off against either Toronto or Milwaukee in the finals. 

Enter Enes Kanter: Portland’s Turkish center who has been a vocal critic of his homeland’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to Kanter, the Turkish government requested an INTERPOL “Red Notice” for the NBA star in January and the 26-year-old is scared to leave the USA due to safety fears.

[RELATED: Enes Kanter remains in USA on "Red Notice"... but what does that mean? ]

Should Portland make it to NBA Finals and play Toronto, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden wants to make sure Kanter feels safe.

In a letter penned to Canadian Prime Minister, Wyden asked the country to take special precautions to ensure Kanter's safety. 

Here’s a look at the full letter:

This isn't the first time Kanter has stayed in the U.S. due to safety concerns. When the Trail Blazers traveled to Toronto in early March for a regular-season meeting with the Raptors, Kanter remained in the U.S. due to issues with his immigration status and the threat of the red notice. As a member of the New York Knicks, Kanter chose to forgo a trip to London, citing concerns he would be assassinated. 

"Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter told ESPN. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there."

The Trail Blazers and Warriors will meet in the Western Conference Finals beginning Tuesday, while the Raptors face off with the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Blazers and Raptors were to indeed meet, Toronto would have home court advantage for the first two meetings.