9/27/10 — On Rudy Fernandez

Rudy Fernandez at Portland Trailblazers Media Day:  (VIDEO)

Basketball fans like Rudy Fernandez. I like Rudy Fernandez. Portland fans generally love Rudy. Rudy likes Portland, too. However, Rudy has clearly stated that “American basketball is……. American basketball.”  His contract is up in 2 years, and after that he wants to go back to Spain. I can totally understand that, actually. I mean, he is a top ten guy in Europe just now entering his prime years playing in a league where his style of play is less potent. Don’t think he just wants to be a big fish in a small pond, either. I’ve watched nearly every Blazers game he’s played in, and his style of play just does not jive well with the NBA grind—at least the way the league is being played and officiated now. He is “flashy” by American standards, and he’s a guy that is a legitimately great leaper, a crunch-time scorer that has no fear in closing moments, a fierce competitor at a global level, and he’s an nine-year pro and still just 25. All that while across the planet from his entire family and everything familiar. He’s lucky he landed in Portland, really. There was a large group to greet him when he first landed from Spain in 2008. He was blown away. Portland fans didn’t think it out of the ordinary. The Olympics created a fever pitch about him just weeks before his arrival in the states, and Blazer fans were thrilled about their new-look team.

I digress. I guess I just feel I should point out that he’s not being a dick about this. We all know that reporters are reporters. I watched the raw feed of the interview where he said he wants to go back to playing European basketball, and when I really think about it from his standpoint, I absolutely would too.

New Technical Foul Rules

A recent development in the NBA has me a bit concerned.

NBA referees had their annual meeting on Thursday, and the league announced that the guidelines for technical fouls will expand to include “overt” player reactions to referee calls.

Referees have been instructed to call a technical for:

• Players making aggressive gestures, such as air punches, anywhere on the court.

• Demonstrative disagreement, such as when a player incredulously raises his hands, or smacks his own arm to demonstrate how he was fouled.

• Running directly at an official to complain about a call.

• Excessive inquiries about a call, even in a civilized tone.

How many “I love this game” commercials had some guy pumping his fists? How would remember MJ’s Cav-crushing shot if he hadn’t jumped up and punched the air a few times? My hope is that this will be like the technical foul update from a couple years ago, when everything and everyone was called for a technical foul during the first couple months of the season. If you remember, the officials then started to lay back on the new rule, but it had still had an effect. For guys that haven’t played a game in the NBA yet, this is how they will be broken in—under these rules. Maybe the idea is just to get a mindset into these young guys to remember that the officials wield the most power on an NBA court. Hopefully the lesson doesn’t last too long, because without exuberance, excitement, and passion on the floor, what is there to cheer about?

Merlin (Mike Rice) — NBA Predictions

Merlin (Mike Rice): “Allen Iverson will play in China”

Wheels: “His NBA career is over?”

Merlin: “…and so is his career in China.”

Each week on Trailblazers Courtside Monday Night, Portland analyst and former coach Mike Rice puts on his wizard robe and hat, grabs a quick mixed drink (allegedly), and heads out for a segment that never fails to amuse. Coach Rice refuses to make predictions about the NBA season, so he leaves it to his alter ego, Merlin, who looks into his crystal ball to tell the future.

Here are Mike Rice—errr—Merlin’s predictions for the Blazers and the NBA for the 2010-2011 season:

  • For October and November the Blazers will finish with 10 wins & 6 losses.
  • Allen Iverson will play in China, but will only last one week.
  • On Darius Miles trying out for the Bobcats: “What does it tell you when you get a non-garunteed contract? There’s only three in the entire history of the NBA. He has one of them; that tells you he’s not going to make the team.

Jordan, Barkley, JVG on Lebron

Jeff Van Gundy: “I would think that everybody would think they would have a great shot at it,” said Van Gundy, a former NBA head coach and current ABC/ESPN analyst. “I don’t know if I said they will or they have a great chance, whatever I said, I just think if they’re healthy, the discrepancy between their talent level and and the next level is so great, that I just don’t see how they lose games. I think they’re that good.”

Charles Barkley:   “I thought that his little one-hour “special” was a punk move.  I thought them dancing around on the stage was a punk move, and I thought he should’ve stayed in Cleveland. Him joining Dwyane Wade’s team was very disappointing to me.”

Michael Jordan:   “There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry [Bird], called up Magic [Johnson] and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,’” Jordan said after playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada. The interview aired on the NBC telecast of the event. “But that’s … things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

West Finals: Lakers/Suns

Phoenix Suns @ LA Lakers

Monday 5/17 9pm ET on TNT

I am seriously excited for the 2010 Western Conference Finals.  I think most people picked the Lakers to make it to this point, but this postseason the Phoenix Suns have surprised almost everyone except themselves.  Coaches always talk about how much of the NBA Playoffs is all about matchups.  I think it has as much to do with preparation and execution, and I think both teams have demonstrated that they can effectively make their offensive system churn out points against any defense.

Speaking of defense, the Suns are finally out of the conversation of teams that will simply outscore you, which was largely the case when they pushed into the playoffs a few years ago.  But this year something is different.  Maybe it’s the coaching and preparation, and guys being a step ahead of where they were in years past.  I think it’s something different, though.  There’s an intensity that wasn’t there before.  Not sure you could call it urgency (though for Nash it is urgent).  These guys play with a little something extra.  Louis Amundson & Jared Dudley have completely surprised me.  Channing Frye’s sudden 3-point skill is very effective so far in the playoffs.  Jason Richardson crashes the boards like he gets 2 points from it.  And Amar’e Stoudemire is loose, confident and healthy.

There are so many weapons on both the Lakers and Suns, and I can’t wait for tipoff.

Suns & Spurs Playoff History

The San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns are seeing each other again in the playoffs.  There has been so much talk about this rivalry that I decided to see exactly when they have met in the postseason recently.

2010 – Round 2 matchup (in progress)

2009 – Suns did not qualify

2008 – Round 1 (Spurs win 4-1)

2007 – Round 2 (Spurs win 4-2)

2006 – Teams did not meet

2005 – Conference Finals (Spurs win 4-1)

2004 – Suns did not qualify

2003 – Round 1 (Spurs win 4-2)

From this we can extract one simple fact:  When the Suns and Spurs have met in the playoffs (over the last 8 years, anyway), San Antonio has eliminated them all four times.  To a Phoenix Suns fan, 2010 is the year to overtake the Spurs and finally win a series against them.  The teams are different, however.  There is no Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry or Shawn Marion in this series.  But if you get knocked out of the playoffs four times by the same team, you’re going to remember it.  That’s why my eyes are focused on this series this year.

Playoffs – Day 6 (revisited)

As a Portland Trailblazer fan, I’m actually pretty angry, but I don’t know who I’m angry with.  I also haven’t lived in Portland for the last year, and am not there for this playoff run.  I’m sure tomorrow the whole city will be pissed at either LaMarcus Aldridge, or the refs, or Andre Miller missing free throws, or maybe they’ll storm the Hilton downtown and run out Amare Stoudemire and burn the team bus…

All I can say is that I was born in Portland, I grew up in Portland, and my dad was a die-hard Blazers fan, so I was exposed to NBA ball at a young age.  Never NCAA, however, so I rarely comment on anything outside of the actual National Basketball Association.

As for tonight’s loss to the Phoenix Suns… Here’s a gameflow.  I’ll give you a hint: It begins when Bayless enters just a couple minutes into the game…

Playoffs – Day 6

Bulls, Thunder, Blazers all return home for game 3.

Cavs at Bulls – 7ET on TNT

Lakers at Thunder – 9:30ET on TNT

Suns at Blazers – 10ET on NBAtv

Utah/Denver

Man the quick version of this one is that this game was super tight until JR Smith busted it open with three 3pointers in the 4th. Carmelo Anthony quietly had a playoff career-best 42. Bad news for the Jazz, though. Mehmet Okur tried to blow by the Birdman, but his achilles failed him and he fell like a ton of bricks. Kenyon Martin was back, though, and his presence made up for the lack of coaching on the Nuggets sideline. My own brother said it best: “If you think NBA coaches are paid too much, look at the Nuggets record since George Karl’s been out.”

Cavs/Bulls

This is the entirety of this blog post: Ready? Here it goes…

Shaq is playing like he’s 28. He looks quick, light, and powerful. He looks like he means business, and that should be scary for the Bulls.