Pinwheel Empire is a social Blazers site which aims to bring fans together in a unique and new community. It's run by a bunch of volunteer gerbils all over the world. We're new, trying to cross the Rubicon and do something different – it's an evolving process with a lot of small victories and defeats.
Team Records: Denver (36-22) at Portland (26-30)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on ESPN/CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Denver -2
Refs: Danny Crawford, John Goble, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to knock off the hot Nuggets in the latest game in a series that has long been dominated by the home teams. The Nuggets have won only 19 times in Portland while the Blazers have won just 23 times in Denver. The Nuggets overall have been a great team at home (nine wins in a row in Denver) but a very poor road team, losing four of their last five road games, with their only road win coming in Charlotte.
Last Time They Met: In a great game that was thrilling from the tip to the final buzzer, the Blazers forced OT but in the end the Nuggets just made one more play and walked out with the win in Denver.
Projected Nuggets Lineup:
PF: Kenneth Faried (Morehead State, 2nd season) – 12.1 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Danilo Gallinari (Italy, 5th season) – 16.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.4 APG
C: Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, 5th season) – 8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .4 APG
SG: Andre Iguodala (Arizona, 9th season) – 13.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 4.9 APG
PG: Ty Lawson (North Carolina, 4th season) – 16.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 7.1 APG
Player to Watch: Andre Iguodala (pictured below) – Iggy is of course well known, especially among Blazer fans, since he was seen a few years ago as a possible trade target for the team. Yet, for whatever reason, this has been Iggy’s worst season statistically since his second year in the league. His numbers are down across the board, his FT shooting, never great to begin with, is now at 59% and he is turning the ball over way too often. There is some indications that this is improving, as he is shooting 56% this month but we need to see more evidence before we know that he is back to being the player we say only last year in Philly.
Did You Know?: George Karl recently passed Larry Brown for sixth all time in NBA coaching wins, with 1110. Next up is Phil Jackson with 1155.
Song of the Day: “Because I Got High” by Afroman-In honor of Colorado (and Washington) legalizing the recreational use of marijuana Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles)
Denver: Questionable- SF Danilo Gallinari (Thigh)
Re-Evaluating Denver: Home is Where the Wins Are
When the Nuggets posted an 18-15 road record last year, it marked the first time in franchise history the team had a winning road record. While the Nuggets have always counted on Denver’s thin air tiring opponents out and providing a unique home court advantage, they have never been a good road team. This year is more of the same for the Nuggets, who win home games by a whopping 8 points per game, one of the top margins in the league. On the road, however, that margin drops to six tenths of a point and its only positive at all because Denver (with its 12-19 road record) has a couple blowouts in there. If the Nuggets want to become a title contender, they need to start being able to win away from Denver.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Denver’s fast break points. Denver loves to run out on the break and Portland has had a hard time stopping that at times this year. If they can limit Denver to a half-court offense, they will stand a strong chance of winning.
Denver wins if: They score at least 100 points. Denver is the sort of team that can simply outscore you. If the Nuggets hit the century mark, that will almost certainly be enough to secure Denver a rare win in Portland.CONTINUE WITH POST
The Portland Trail Blazers entered Sunday’s game against the Boston Celtics having lost seven straight, the last of which a tough loss to the Los Angeles Lakers to put them at 25-30 on the season. They snuck past Boston, but are still four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and only made a minor move at the trade deadline in acquiring point guard Eric Maynor from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Maynor’s former team is what Portland aspires to mirror. It was thought a few years ago that the Blazers would be the next big thing in the league–an exciting, young team with a bright future. The future was bright, but the light soon went out. Greg Oden couldn’t stay healthy, nor could Brandon Roy, and with that ended an era that had such high hopes. Now, with a new coach, a new face of the franchise, and a young core they look to be the kind of team they were once supposed to be.
That won’t happen this year. This is a year of acclimation and progression. And yet they have exceeded the expectations of many.
Point guard and frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award Damian Lillard is a big reason why. He has been the brightest of many bright spots, taking the league by storm with his explosive scoring and overall intelligence as the floor general. He is shooting only 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from the three-point line, taking an average of six attempts per game, but having been given the reigns to the team he still racks up the points, scoring 18 per, while routinely coming up clutch late.
Lillard has without a doubt been the NBA’s best rookie this season, but it is far from a one-man show in Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge was named to his second All-Star game and has been the Blazers most consistent player, averaging 21 points on 47 percent shooting along with eight rebounds per game. Flanking him are three much-improved players: Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, and undersized center J.J. Hickson.
Each player in Portland’s starting lineup is playing to his strengths, but if anyone’s game could use some tweaking it is Aldridge. He’s a star, but he could be so much better if first-year head coach Terry Stotts would use him more in the post. Aldridge’s game sometimes takes him in there, but not often enough. The following has been well documented, but it is worth mentioning again: when Roy was out, Aldridge took the initiative and turned into a player the Blazers hadn’t seen before. He was far more aggressive, both in the paint and on the boards. He basically said, ‘oh, you need me to be the guy? I’ll do whatever it takes.’ Whatever it took meant being more unpredictable offensively. And with that, the next step was taken. He can be that player, but he hasn’t really tried to this year as the veteran leader.
Stotts’ offense doesn’t call for him to live in the post, and because of his excellent mid-range jumper the Blazers have received a great deal of production. That Stotts’ system allows him to shoot jumpers isn’t surprising given his background. Stotts never developed a post-player in Milwaukee, and was content relying on wings to do most of the damage. And he was on a staff in Dallas that relied heavily on Dirk Nowitzki to win games with his rainbow jumper. Milwaukee was exciting and Nowitzki praised Stotts’ influence, but to change Aldridge’s approach Stotts has to make some changes to his.
Portland, given its willingness to part with Hickson at the trade deadline, is likely to target a traditional center in the offseason. The Minnesota Timberwolves Nikola Pecovic has been mentioned as a potential target, and having someone with his presence inside offensively would help greatly. The floor would be spaced better, giving Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Aldridge more high-percentage looks at the basket. A center with post-moves often leads to double-teams or at least the attention of another offensive player’s defender. Perhaps this might mean to some that Aldridge should be able to continue staying 17-feet from the basket, but acquiring or signing a center and creating variety in Aldridge’s game to keep defenses guessing would do a lot of good as Portland strives to be among the elite in the Western Conference.
Many teams have been successful without a quality center; Miami won a title last season with Joel Anthony playing the position–a player who isn’t offensively gifted and isn’t a particularly feared presence defensively. The makeup of teams like Miami can afford to have someone like Anthony in the middle, with stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh toying with the opposition on a gamely basis.
Portland doesn’t have the luxury the Heat have, nor the firepower of the Thunder team they desire to emulate, but they are going in the right direction, with enough talent to build upon and the flexibility to continue their second promising youth movement in seven years. With Lillard, Aldridge, Batum, and Matthews as the core fans have much to look forward to. Portland may not punch a ticket to the postseason this year, but that they are in the hunt with a baby-faced franchise cornerstone in his rookie season as well as a new coach there are plenty of reasons to believe fans filling the Rose Garden will witness postseason basketball very soon.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Boston (29-26) at Portland (25-30)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Portland -2
Refs: Monty McCutchen, Tony Brown, Eric Dalen
The Skinny: After the, um, game that the Blazers did not win in LA on Friday, they look to end their long losing streak against the suddenly struggling Celtics. Boston had been on a surprising roll after Rondo went down with a season-ending injury but has lost three of its last five. The Celtics are the only team to hold a winning record against the Blazers in Portland.
Last Time They Met: Boston handled the Blazers easily, winning by 18 in a game that was nowhere near that close. Boston has won six in a row against Portland and thirteen of the last fourteen.
Projected Celtics Lineup:
PF: Brandon Bass (LSU, 8th season) – 7.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Paul Pierce (Kansas, 15th season) – 18.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.4 APG
C: Kevin Garnett (Farragut Academy (HS), 17th season) – 15. PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.3 APG
SG: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, 5th season) – 7.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG
PG: Avery Bradley (Texas, 3rd Season) – 9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 APG
Player to Watch: Kevin Garnett (pictured at right) – In many ways Garnett is a throwback sort of guy. In an era where players are seemingly all friends with one another off the court and pregame fist bumps and handshakes are common before virtually every tip, Garnett has a very simple calculus. Namely, if you are on his team, you are a friend but the moment you are not, you are the enemy and you are to be destroyed. Witness how quickly Garnett turned on Ray Allen when he bolted to Miami after last season. It is that relentless energy, plus a great deal of skill that has led Garnett to an amazing career. In the words of Garnett himself after he won his only title, he proved “Anything is possible” if you work hard enough.
Did You Know?: Kevin Garnett has 25,081 career points, 16th most in NBA history and can be expected to pass Jerry West and Reggie Miller soon, both of whom have a less than 200 point lead on Garnett.
Song of the Day: “More Than a Feeling” by Boston-One of Beantown’s best known groups presents one of its best known songs. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles)
Boston: Out – PG Rajon Rondo (Knee), PF Jared Sullinger (Back)
Re-Evaluating Boston: End of an Era
Despite the long winning streak the Celtics went on after Rondo got hurt, Rondo’s injury, as much as anything, signaled that an era of Celtics basketball was nearing its end and change was in the air. Trade talks immediately started to swarm around Garnett and Pierce and the talk around Boston’s sports media was that the team realized it was time to blow it up and rebuild. That they did not manage to trade either does not change this fact and although this era of Boston basketball doesn’t come close to ranking among the top in that franchise’s storied history, it is still fitting to mark its passing. The original big 3 era is done and knowing the Celtics a new successful one will soon begin.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They play like they did on Friday. There is no way Portland gets burned as badly by the refs at home as they did in LA. If they play with the effort and execution they did on Friday, they will win.
Boston wins if: They outscore Portland in the paint. Boston is primarily a perimeter jump shooting team. If they beat Portland in the paint, it will be a sign they are dominating the game.CONTINUE WITH POST
Team Records: Portland (25-29) at LA Lakers (26-29)
Game Info: 7:30 PM-TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: Lakers -9
Refs: Mike Callahan, Pat Fraher, Mark Lindsay
The Skinny: The Blazers travel south to LA to face the Lakers as they attempt to stop their losing streak at six. Portland is facing a Lakers team that has been playing better as of late but is still on the outside looking it. Portland last won at Staples vs. the Lakers in April 2010.
Last Time They Met: Portland got behind early and never caught up, losing by 17 in a game that wasn’t nearly that close.
Projected Lakers Lineup:
PF-Earl Clark (Louisville-4th Season) 8.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.1 APG.
SF-Metta World Peace (St. John’s-14th Season)-12.9 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.5 APG.
C-Dwight Howard (Southwest Atlanta Christian (HS)-9th Season)-16.4 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG-Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion (HS)-17th Season)-26.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 5.6 APG.
PG-Steve Nash (Santa Clara-17th Season)-11.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 7.4 APG.
Player to Watch-Kobe Bryant (pictured at right)- Let me start this by saying I hate Kobe Bryant, I hate him with a passion that I haven’t felt since Karl Malone retired and perhaps more than I have ever sports hated any other player in any other sport. I hate his swagger, I hate that he comes up big against us and I hate the Kobe fanboys that crowd the Rose Garden every time the Lakers visit. Yet, Kobe has made a career out of taking that hate and that distrust and the scorn he gets and using it to motivate him. Outside of Michael Jordan it is hard to think of a player in my lifetime who has more competitive fire and wins more games simply because he wants it more. There is plenty of talent, oh yes, but Kobe isn’t as talented as LeBron James or Michael Jordan, but that competitive fire that burns in him has landed him a spot in the hall of fame as surely as any one of his “Are you fucking kidding me that went in” jumpers. When he retires in a few years, I’ll even admit to missing him a bit because no lie, he’s pretty fun to hate.
Did You Know?: Since Jerry Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, the team has won ten titles and missed the playoffs only twice.
Song of the Day: “Do You Know Your Enemy” by Green Day. Blazers fans surely know their enemy the Lakers all too well. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable-SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle/Elbow)
LA Lakers: Out- PF Pau Gasol (Foot), C Jordan Hill (Hip).
Re-Evaluating the Lakers: Jerry Buss’s Legacy
An argument can be made that Jerry Buss was the greatest owner in modern sports history. His amazing record of success is certainly unequaled by any in the NBA’s modern era and arguably only the late George Steinbrenner’s Yankees come close in any other sport. What Buss did was made the Lakers what they are today and ensured their place near the top of the global sports pantheon for generations to come. Buss is personally credited with inspiring the Lakers “Showtime” era and from Magic and Kareem to Shaq and Kobe he built a foundation of success that none will probably ever equal in the NBA. Even as much as Blazers fans hate the Lakers you can’t help but respect what Buss did as their owner.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make the Lakers selfish. The key to beating both Kobe and Nash has always been to make them beat you with their shots, which deadly as they are, aren’t quite as effective as when they are moving the ball to open shooters. It’s a long shot but frankly with the talent deficit the Blazers have, it’s the best chance they’ve got.
LA Lakers win if: They play their game. The Lakers are the better team and if they come in and play anywhere close to their potential, they should come out with a fairly easy win.CONTINUE WITH POST
Full Name: Eric Demarqua Maynor
Date/Place of Birth: 6/11/1987-Raeford, NC
Height/Weight-6’ 3”, 175 lbs
Primary Position: PG
Projected Role: Backup PG
NBA Draft: Drafted with the 20th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by Utah
Honors: Two time CAA Player of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Career Averages-4.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1 TOPG, .4 SPG. 12-13 PER: 7.52
If you looked up “solid NBA backup PG” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Eric Maynor. He’s nothing special but he is a steady player with a pass-first mind set. He has good handles and a decent outside shot. On defense, Maynor is a decent defender and does a good job in staying in position against most players. He’ll be a solid pickup for Portland
Aside from the obvious, that Maynor is recovering from ACL surgery last season and that brings with it obvious attendant injury and athleticism concerns, Maynor wasn’t much of an athlete to begin with. On offense, he’s always struggled to get to the rim and the injury hasn’t helped. However, given that this was never a big part of his game to begin with, this might not be a real problem. On defense, Maynor’s lack of athleticism and his thin frame can be a challenge at times. Still, his overall high basketball IQ somewhat negates this deficit. Bottom line, as said above, he’s not starter but instead a solid and sorely needed backup even with his faults.
Briefly played with Ronnie Price and Wesley Matthews in Utah.
Did You Know?:
Eric’s father George was a fourth round pick of the Bulls in 1979.
Maynor was the first VCU player ever selected in the first round.
Eric became the first Jazz player to record a double-double in his first career start since Andrei Kirilenko in 2001.CONTINUE WITH POST