Blazer fans, welcome your new fearless leader, Damian Lillard.
The buzz around Lillard grew throughout the summer, into camp and more during the preseason. Then, in a season-opening win over the LA Lakers, it boiled over even more. It’s for good reason – the No. 6 overall pick scored 23 points and had 11 assists in his professional debut. That’s great.
But that wasn’t his biggest contribution. He came through the biggest on what was probably his worst decision of the night. And it was a missed shot.
It came early in the game when the 6-3, 195-pound Lillard tried to dunk over the hulking 6-11, 265-pound Dwight Howard. Lillard got stuffed, fell to the ground and the ball went out of bounds.
This play, this one unspectacular offensive play, proved to everyone in Portland that Damian Lillard is here to play ball and he is not backing down from anyone. He saw an opportunity and he tried to seize it. Sure, the smarter play is to float the ball over Howard. But it was the rookie’s first game and he wanted to make a statement – he wanted Howard on a poster. (more…)
BY MATTHEW VINSKO, Couchsideshow.com writer
Despite being a few upsets in the first round, it’s hard to call my first round predictions a failure. Who saw Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah getting injured in similarly gruesome fashions? Who knew a Memphis Grizzlies squad that impressed everyone last year would get upended by the up and coming “Lob City”? Not this guy.
Still, now that we’re onto the second round, we’re starting to see some contenders truly hit their stride, and some others happy to be here. Without further ado, here are some picks for the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
• Writers Note: I understand two games have already been played in the second round, but in my defense, I wished to wait until the first round wrapped up before writing up this article. After all, it was pretty easy to miss out on the openers when there were two Game 7s to be had.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Honestly, this is not the matchup anyone expected coming out of the first round. First of all, everyone thought Rose’s injury-prone season would be refreshed in the playoffs against a very sloppy 76ers team that was lucky to make the playoffs. Secondly, even without Rose, the Bulls managed to ride a wave of success during the season, earning the best record in the conference over much healthier squads. People forget Richard Hamilton was hurt a lot too, which forced Luol Deng and the Bulls’ front court to respond accordingly, and time and again, they did.
Just not in the first round against a 76ers squad that seemed to finally get back on track. Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand were beastly down low without Noah there, and Jrue Holliday, Evan Turner, and Andre Iguodala all proved to be too much for a severely limited Bulls backcourt. The Celtics, on the other hand, struggled more than I thought they would in the first round, but still came out triumphant despite a brief Rajon Rondo suspension and an injury to Ray Allen. Kevin Garnett is playing like “The Big Ticket” of old, and it’s hard to see anyone stop this squad, especially after a comeback performance in Game 1 this past Saturday.
The 76ers have showed glimpses this postseason of what they were earlier in the season, but against a veteran team that finally seems to be hitting their stride, it’s hard to see them winning the series. I expect a close series just because the Celtics’ legs will have to get tired at some point, but in the end, the Celtics are just too much for a team who have no place being in the second round.
Winner: Boston Celtics in 6 (more…)
BY ROBERT LITTAL, Feedcrossing.com syndication
You shouldn’t be shocked by this.
Considering everything former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden has went through, it isn’t surprising that he turned to the bottle and was fighting a little bit of depression. When you have a lot of money and free time on your hand the two things you OD on are women and liquor.
Oden is a nice guy, I feel bad for him personally, but he has made more than $30 million in the NBA and hasn’t really played at all, so it’s hard to feel too bad for him. I am sure he isn’t the only athlete who has used alcohol as a coping mechanism for the good and bad things going on in their life.
Oden, who underwent five knee surgeries during his time in Portland — including three microfracture surgeries — was released by the Blazers in March. He appeared in just 82 games as a professional and hasn’t played since Dec. 2009. He spent much of his time in Portland alone or rehabilitating. All that time and freedom led Oden to alcohol, he said.
That’s because it wasn’t an NBA veteran who took Oden under his wing in his second season — it was his veteran cousin from the Air Force who moved into Oden’s house in Portland.
“If you know anything about guys in the Air Force,” Oden explained, “it’s that they drink a ton. My cousin got wrapped up in the NBA lifestyle and threw parties at my house all the time. So I got wrapped up in it too. When I played well, I’d drink to celebrate. And when I played poorly, I’d drink to forget. That second year in Portland I pretty much became an alcoholic.”
Back in June 2011, Oden’s agent Bill Duffy acknowledged that Oden had undergone “interventions” to help deal with the mental side of his injuries. He wants back in the league in 2013, but I just don’t see it happening. I wish him well and hope he does make it back, but it will and he will never be the same.
With March Madness, NFL free agency and baseball’s Spring Training in full swing at the beginning of March, sports fans may forget about the NBA Trade Deadline on March 15.
It may be a snoozer of a deadline as the playoffs begin just six short week later and as some general manger begin to question whether this is the right year to wheel and deal. The NBA lockout put a hinder on a lot of things and this year’s trade deadline may feel the negative effects the most. So NBA fans, don’t be holding your breath that your team is going to make that one move to put them over the top next week. It likely won’t happen. Be that as it may, deal will be done. They probably just won’t have that blockbuster title with them.
Obviously there will be a lot of discussion over Dwight Howard and the ongoing saga of him going to the L.A. Lakers. But other than that, the transactions will be at a minimum during this deadline. So with not much to work with and even fewer rumors, here’s Couch Side’s predictions on the top five players who could be dealt close or the day of the NBA Trade Deadline:
Throughout the season, Howard has been asked to be dealt. First, it was the Lakers. Then it was the New Jersey Nets. Hell, the L.A. Clippers were even up for discussion as a possible new team. Regardless of everyone wanting him, no one was willing to pay the price that Orlando wanted. Hence, the 26-year-old is still in black and blue and the Magic are the third best team in the East. So why would the Magic want to trade him? It’s simple. D-How does not want to be there. He wants to win a ring right away. And the only way he could do so is if he ends up with the Lakers, which is about a 50-50 chance right now, in my opinion. According to a handful of general managers, teams are actually waiting on Big D to be traded before they’ll even test the swapping grounds. So if Howard doesn’t get traded soon, the deadline may be even quieter. But L.A. will most likely be the front runner if anything happens at all. Howard would be walking away from $30 million if he accepted a trade. What’s even worse, to me, is that if he gets traded to another team that already has their superstar (i.e. Kobe Bryant with the Lakers) he won’t be the main dude in that city. I honestly believe the Magic can win the Finals as early as this year, but that’s only if Superman stays in Orlando. And the only way he’ll be playing in yellow and purple is if the Lakers are willing to trade Andrew Bynum, which a lot of sources say he will only be moved in a trade for Howard. So if L.A. is willing to part ways with their center of the future for basically the same thing only more talented, than Howard may just end up in L.A. by Wednesday. (more…)
BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com contributor
Can we all admit the Slam Dunk contest is a bloated waste of time at this point? It was a bit pathetic to see Derrick Williams attempt his between-the-legs-reverse-jam 15 times without success, which once again provides an opening to flood a pretend suggestion box with ideas.
It’s not that difficult, at all. Take a look at this HORSE competition between Bob McAdoo and Pistol Pete, you can tell that this exercise is actually fun and entertaining to all.