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Portland Trail Blazers

2014 MAMBINO NBA All-Stars

The 2013-2014 NBA All-Stars have been fully unveiled as of last night, with the reserves being named alongside the fan-voted starters. Just for those of you too lazy to punch in “NBA All-Stars” into Google, here they are:
 
Eastern Conference
 
Starters: PG Kyrie Irving, Cleveland; SG Dwyane Wade, Miami; F LeBron James, Miami; F Carmelo Anthony, NYK; F Paul George, Indiana
 
Reserves: F Chris Bosh, Miami; G/F DeMar DeRozan, Toronto; C Roy Hibbert, Indiana; SG Joe Johnson, Brooklyn; PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta; C Joakim Noah, Chicago; PG John Wall, Washington
 
Western Conference
 
Starters: PG Stephen Curry, Golden State; SG Kobe Bryant, Lakers; SF Kevin Durant, OKC; PF Blake Griffin , Clippers; PF Kevin Love, Minnesota
 
Reserves: PF LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland; SG James Harden, Houston; C Dwight Howard, Houston; PG Damian Lillard, Portland; PF Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas; PG Tony Parker, San Antonio; PG Chris Paul, Clippers
 
A great list to be sure…but not necessarily the right one.
 
The illustrious MAMBINO crew came together over the past week and threw down their All-Star picks because we’re smarter, savvier and just better than you, dammit. The following are the consensus group picks, as well as some pithy little commentary on how we reached our conclusions, including the snubbiest snubs (those that didn’t even get “snub” votes on MAMBINO). Read on!… Read more...

The NBA’s biggest surprises, halfway through the season–Part 2

Yesterday, we took a look at some of the biggest surprises for this half-NBA season, including the surprising mediocrity of the Charlotte Bobcats and Minnesota Timberwolves (but perhaps not in the same context) and just how terrible the Brooklyn Nets are. Peep the second half right here!
 
Portland’s excellence despite their defensive shortcomings
 
Under almost any metric you can interpret, the Portland Trail Blazers are the best offense in the NBA. Led by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, they can beat you in almost any fashion. They are willing and accurate three-point shooters, deadly from mid-range and potent in almost every rotation with guys like Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and now C.J. McCollum. The numbers are all there—they have the most offensively versatile starting five in the NBA and a very good bench behind them. In that sense, it’s no surprise they have the fifth best record in the NBA.
 
But defensively they’re not very good. They allow the 4th most points per game, coming in 22nd in defensive efficiency. They are the worst squad in the NBA at forcing turnovers and 22nd in opponent’s offensive rebounding numbers. Luckily, this team scores so well that they’re not often penalized for their defensive lapses. In many ways, they’re the lucky versions of the Minnesota Timberwolves—high scoring, efficient but with two closers at the end of games instead of Minny’s one. Portland could very well continue to thrive during the regular season, but I’m not sure how well they’ll fare during the playoffs with such mediocre to poor defensive scheme.
 
The completeness of Lance Stephenson
 
“Born Ready” Lance Stephenson was a Brooklyn, NY playground prospect, whose legend and skillset earned him a spot as one of the most highly recruited teenagers in the country. After spending one very mediocre season at the University of Cincinnati that was marred with rumors of him being difficult to coach, Stephenson made the jump to the NBA. Unsurprisingly, he was drafted 40th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers. His per game numbers in his first two NBA seasons were extremely uninspiring (just 54 total games played with averages of 2.6/1.3/1.2), especially for two decent, but unspectacular NBA squads. There was no doubt that he could be a very good pro defender, but it seemed that a player like Tony Allen was his comparative ceiling.… Read more...

Make or Break Month: What Are the Lakers Up Against in February?

(My newest from Silver Screen & Roll)

 

Thirty-six games is all that stands between the Los Angeles Lakers and either a merely disappointing season or one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

 

As our own Drew Garrison wrote yesterday, this Lakers team simply can’t be trusted with your emotions; like a mercurial adolescent, there’s little indication of which squad will show its face night to night, quarter to quarter, minute to minute. It’s been a season of teases for the Lakers and their fans, vacillating wildly between the gutty, persistent crew that defeated the best team in the West, the one that, just days later, lost to the worst team in the West in a ridiculous 540 second meltdown.

 

Regardless of which way you sway with this Lakers team–having written them off or blindly hoping for a miracle stretch run–there’s little doubt that by the middle of February we should all know there this team is headed in April.

 

The next 28 days are pivotal for not just the Lakers, but of course for their main competitors for the bottom two spots on the Western Conference playoffs bracket. The Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Portland Trailblazers, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks remain in a five-team scrum for the “honor” of facing destruction via superhuman Oklahoma City Avengers Thunder squad or a methodical, Batman-esque deconstruction by the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Just to be clear about what exactly the Lakers are facing this month, let’s break down team-by-team the four weeks of February:

 

Peep the rest after the jump!Read more...

Which Blazer Will Get Hurt Next? – Portland Trailblazers Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Damian Lilliard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nic Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C Meyers Leonard


Key Bench Players: PG Nolan Smith, PG Ronnie Price, PF JJ Hickson, C Joel Freeland

Notable offseason additions: PG Damian Lilliard (6th overall pick), C Meyers Leonard (11th overall pick), PG Ronnie Price

Offseason subtractions: PG Raymond Felton, G Jamal Crawford, PG Jonny Flynn, PF Kurt Thomas

When I say “Portland Trailblazers”, what’s the first thing you think of? No, it’s not a nearly 20 year playoff streak, nor it is their 1977 title on the rapidly degenerating back of Bill Walton. It’s not even the stain of the disgraceful “Jail Blazers” of the late 90’s/early 00’s, or playoff collapse against the Lakers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals. No, even worse than that – the word most associated with the Blazers these days is “injuries”.

Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, Joel Przybilla, even coach NateMcMillan wasn’ t exempt from the Ghost of the Jail Blazers, a curse that seemed to grab hold of Portland’s only major sport franchise by the throat, tendons and any other body part that assists in locomotion. What should be a perennial contender behind the legs of Oden and Roy, instead is in the midst of rebuilding about a decade sooner than they thought they would be at this point.
We here at MAMBINO know we’re not the most sensitive people on MAMBINO. Between the Ugly NBA and MLB player power rankings, and our merciless deconstructions of franchises whose fans have nothing left to cheer for, we know that this  isn’t the blog you go to for a digital pat on the back. Well, unless you’re a Lakers fan. Then bring some extra pants, because we’re givi
Read more...

Winners and Losers of the NBA trade deadline

KOBEsh went to Vegas this past weekend. While there, he decided to spend some time writing about the NBA trade deadline’s winners and losers. His dedication is shameful yet endearing.


This post is probably a touch outdated, but the man wants the post run based on principle alone.



WINNERS

Los Angeles Lakers

As we went over last week, the Lakers definitely scored big at the deadline. They desperately needed a point guard, and Ramon Sessions might have been the best case scenario for them, especially without giving up one of their three All-Stars. While Jordan Hill wasn’t the best solution for their need of a scorer off the bench, hopefully he’ll be able to give LA half of what near-Laker Michael Beasley would have given them. Subtracting Derek Fisher will have an effect on chemistry,  especially with Kobe and the other vets, but he had to be dealt to diffuse an almost certain caustic situation in terms of point guard minutes. A huge win for the Lakers, one that maybe could transform them into a title contender.

Orlando Magic

How could they not be? Let’s not even get into Dwight’s imitation of a drunk 19 year-old who “kinda wants to get down tonight, but I don’t know, my friends are here and I’m sooooooooo drunk” that he’s pulled the last few days. As I said to Mambino correspondent El Miz yesterday, it’s amazing that these players seem to concerned with their brand, and yet, not at all concerned that the circus they creates far more damage than any move could provide improvement.

Regardless, Orlando is a huge winner here. They somehow (I’m still not sure. Did they have naked pictures of him and Jameer together? Did they threaten to kill his dog? What happened?) convinced Dwight to stay for another year and a half, in which GM Otis Smith will have to pull a flock of rabbits out of his butt to make this team a contender. Regardless of whether he does that (amazing) feat or not, he has bought himself another year (until the next trade deadline) to prove to D12 that this team is worthy of him committing for another 5 seasons.

San Antonio Spurs

In a trade with the Warriors, the Spurs flipped SF Richard Jefferson for a new addition SF Stephen Jackson, who had arrived in a deal from the Bucks only days earlier . As I mentioned a few days ago, Jackson is having one of his worst seasons in years, though I would put a lot of the onus on the fact that he was playing in a system his skills weren’t best suited to, for a coach who he didn’t get along with. Jax won a title with the Spurs almost a decade ago in 2003, and famously fell in line with Greg Popovich in, what had been until then, a rocky NBA career full of trouble. Jefferson has become more and more ineffective each year, and 2012 is no different. At his best, Jackson is a gigantic upgrade over the Spurs, and even at his age (33), is still a threat to score, rebound and pass with tremendous efficiency. A great acquisition for the Spurs, who are quietly angling for title number 5.

Washington Wizards

JimmyWa’s reaction to getting Nene.

In a three-way trade with the Clippers and Nuggets, the Washington Wizards acquired Brian Cook and Nene for the price of Nick Young, an injured Ronny Turiaf and the unintentionally hilarious JaVale McGee. I couldn’t sum this up any better than friend of the blog and last Wiz fan standing, AO:

“Holy crap, this is awesome! We’re turning Nick Young and Javale McGee into Nene!! At this point can we keep the momentum going and just ban Andray Blatche from all Wizards facilities?  Honestl… Read more...

Burning Question #14: Where Do the Blazers Go From Here?

When we initially compiled the list of 20 Burning Questions, I came up with two separate ideas for the Portland Trail Blazers. The first was the sure-to-be-repeated “how will Brandon Roy be used this year?” The second was a hopeful “is this the year we see the Greg Oden monster?” Well, fast forward a couple of weeks and those questions have been answered with “not at all,” and “no, are you out of your mind,” respectively.
Faced with the exciting possibility of not being able to ever walk again, Roy and his cartilage-starved knees retired from the NBA. Just 27 years old, he will be remembered as the face of the post-Jail Blazers era. Roy helped to restore the faith of Oregonians that their favorite basketball players would succeed off the court, without sacrificing success on the court. For 5 years, he gave his heart and soul, culminating in a gritty 25-point fourth quarter against the eventual champion Mavericks in last year’s playoffs.
But as much as Roy was placed at the forefront of a new Blazers era, it was Greg Oden who was supposed to put the franchise over the top. After outplaying Florida center Joakim Noah to the tune of 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots in the NCAA Championship, Oden was selected first overall by the Blazers in the 2007 NBA Draft. (We are morally obliged to refrain from uttering who went second overall, because that would just make this infinitely more upsetting.) Soon after being drafted, Greg Oden scored the cover of ESPN Magazine. In boldface print, the cover screamed, “I hope I can get a bunch of championships — like 15.” Hope is a beautiful thing; it is so abstract that we latch onto it as if it were concrete. Hope makes us smile, and hope makes us laugh. Hope helps us elect leaders of the free world.
But sometimes, reality pisses on hope’s face as if it were breaking the seal. And in Greg Oden’s case, boy, reality sure had a lot to drink. Before lacing up for his first game, Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee, forcing him to miss his entire rookie year. The following season, he showed glimpses of being the franchise center he was drafted to be, only to have his season cut short by bumping knees with Mambino-hated Corey Maggette. In Year 3 of the experiment, he left a game on a stretcher, fracturing his left patella tendon…another season over. Last year, Year 4, microfracture surgery to the left knee…deuces to the season again. First-round picks have rookie contracts that extend to four years, maximum, so this summer, there was plenty of debate over whether Oden would come back to Portland. Several teams were willing to invest a year or two in a former #1 overall pick, but Oden ultimately accepted the Blazers’ qualifying offer of almost 9 million dollars. He was grateful for the support that the organization and the fans had shown while he struggled to stay healthy. The lockout even proved to be beneficial for Oden, as he was allowed more time to recover and prepare. As this was happening, the grapevine told us that this was the year…except for the fact that it wasn’t. This past week, Oden and “setback” were going to give marriage another try. He is out indefinitely, and the team is not optimistic about his chances of playing this year.
Why is this a question?

We are fans of the NBA. We rejoice when the Knicks sign Tyson Chandler, and we cry when the Lakers lose Lamar Odom for nothing. But one of the most important parts of being a true NBA fan is sympathizing with other fa… Read more...

If I were the GM of…The Portland Trailblazers

My respect for Nate McMillan notwithstanding, this Portland team is at a crossroads – they are very good team, but not yet a contender. Infamous no man’s land in the NBA. Here are their salary obligations for next season:

Brandon Roy: 14.9 million
LaMarcus Aldridge: 11.8 million
Gerald Wallace: 10.6 million
Marcus Camby: 9.5 million
Andre Miller: 7.8 million
Greg Oden: 8.7 million (qualifying offer)
Wesley Matthews: 6.1 million
Luke Babbit: 1.7 million
Elliot Williams: 1.3 million
Rudy Fernandez: 2.2 million
Nicolas Batum: 2.15 million
Armon Johnson: 788,000
____________________________
61 million

Expiring:
Fabricio Oberto: 992,000
Patty Mills: 937,000
Some other bums: 500,000

On an aside, it’s a crime that Nico Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller play for less than what Eddy Curry made this season. Grand larceny.

1). Find a Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis deal for Brandon Roy 
                       
    
As Charles said last night on Inside the NBA on TNT, this is a physically tough tough situation for Brandon. He’s hurt, supposedly he’s bone on bone in both knees and that problem is not getting any better. Mentally, he has to be having such a tough time with this because all these guys he was better than and he used to play over are now beating him in every single conceivable way. And that is very difficult for a guy to take – he was the number one option and franchise player on the pre-Thunder Thunder less than one year ago! And now, he’s being reduced to playing 15 minutes a game off the bench, behind Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller and Rudy? I’m not sure a guy like that can thrive on this team.

So, if possible, you try to find a bad contract for bad contract swap. Maybe Rashard Lewis himself? Baron? I think the Trailblazers have to realize that they’re not going to get value out of this. However, they do have to realize that Roy could become toxic in their locker room. Another team could possibly take him because he’s young and smart, and couldn’t be any worse than their current situations.

I obviously wrote all of this before he dropped 23 on the Mavs two nights ago and single-handedly swayed the game in the Blazers’ favor. My opinion still stands.

2). Sign shooters, immediately

Without question, the Blazer’s greatest weakness is distance shooting. Wesley Matthews is their only player that shot over 40% from long range and no other player was over 35%.  They need to go after a guy that can stretch the floor and will not demand much money. Options are Shane Battier, Mike Redd (maybe on a 1-year, make good contract), Shannon Brown or Eddie House.


3).  Sign a backup big man

This is less pressing because Camby, Wallace and LaMarcus form a pretty formidable trio up front – but Wallace is undersized, Camby is in his late thirties and LaMarcus can’t play 48 minutes a game. But they need some size. How could they accomplish both 2) and 3) on my agenda?

4).  Trade Greg Oden

Too many bad things have happened in Portland with this guy. Look at it this way: if you were a bank teller and your bank got robbed 4 times – even if they were from circumstances that are out of your control, wouldn’t that place of employ become somewhat tainted for you? It would just become really difficult to come to work every day I think. And that’s how I think life is for Greg Oden. Also, I just watched “Set It Off” with Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett and Vivica A. Fox. They were bank tellers turned bank robbers. And in case you’re wondering, yes that was a “Set it Off&#… Read more...

Nate McMillan could coach a WNBA team to the NBA playoffs

That headline obviously isn’t true. John Wooden couldn’t do that much. Don’t be ridiculous. But I think more recognition needs to be put on the fact that Nate McMillan has done some of the best coaching the NBA has ever seen over his tenure with the Portland Trailblazers.

Nate inherited an absolutely atrocious Trail/Jailblazers team in 2005 when he came over from the neighboring Seattle Thunder (strange, that name kind of works actually). This team had broken the Blazers 21-year streak of making the playoffs – and not only that, but created a cavalcade of negative headlines for The Oregonian; some of the stand out citizens of that team involved Sebastian Telfair, Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson, Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells and Darius Miles. After a 21-win season, several trades, gun charges and MIPs, Nate had a team that he could actually coach, and improved in win total for the next 3 years, going to 33 to 41 to 54 wins (that season being their first playoff berth in 5 years). During the 2009-2010 campaign, they team fell down to 50 wins, but still made the playoffs as a 6-seed.

Now that is an impressive track record all on its own – McMillan took a team riddled with bad contracts and terrible human beings and transformed it from a lottery team to one of the better squads in the league. With several savvy draft picks (LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Greg Oden, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, et al) and some excellent trades, McMillan had a team that could potentially overthrow the Spurs, Mavericks and Lakers for conference supremacy.

Potential is a funny word. The definition has both a positive connotation and a negative one – it essentially means that you have the possibility of greatness, or to achieve something greater than the current status indicates. That’s the caveat though – you are the current status indicated. You are less than the best you could be.

Unfortunately, that’s what Nate has gotten – less than the best they could be. With a team and players full of potential, fate has dealt him a roster of guys that are the current status indicated. His players are those that are undervalued, with skill sets and natural gifts that would deny them results on the basketball court equivalent to their effort. Despite what some might call (the scientific term anyway) “shitty luck”, Nate McMillan has taken what could have been a potential (there’s that word again) Western Conference juggernaut, survived an avalanche of injury and succeeded – albeit not on the levels he had once hoped. This has made his accomplishments all the more impressive, but simultaneously undervalued.

Now every team has injuries – basketball is a highly physical, intense sport. A team without injuries, or a team that is restrained to a few during the season, is considered abnormal. But these Blazers teams have been the exception to the rule. I researched the spate of injuries bad luck that have befallen this team over the past few years; something that should have taken me 20 minutes took me over 2 hours. Not because the results were so hard to find – but rather there were too many results. The following list reads like something a Hollywood comedic writer wrote – and not shitty, CBS comedy writer. I’m talking about a legitimate, comedic writer. I actually read off this list to some friends today. One certain beautiful blonde laughed so hard her stomach hurt.

Take a look at the previous two seasons:

2009-2010 Season

7/9/2009: G Patty Mills (broken foot, missed 72 games)
10/30/2009: G Nicolas Batum (shoulder … Read more...