Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy could have another potential R.O.Y. as a teammate next season.
|Eric Millegan was born in Hackettstown, N.J. and raised in Springfield, Ore. He is a huge Blazers fan but has compassion for all 30 teams. He has previous blog experience, writing as "The Fan" for Oregonlive.com about his beloved Blazers.|
You can catch Eric as Zack Addy on FOX's series "Bones". Eric's other TV credits include guest spots on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and Sidney Lumet's "100 Centre Street." On film, he starred as Ed Simone in "On_Line"- Official Selection of the Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and Cinequest Film Festival (Best Narrative Feature Award).
I had been dreaming about it for the past few weeks, knowing it was possible if unlikely. But it felt great to have a chance. I was on a plane home from Hawaii during the draft, but when I landed, I checked my messages and there was one message from my youngest brother Patrick and he excitedly said "Dude, we got the #1 pick!" Best Phone Message Ever.
Now, I'm already looking for the bad news in this like "oh my... what if we blow it like we did with Michael Jordan!!" Granted we only had the #2 pick that year, but we still blew it. What if we pick Oden but Durant turns out to be the better player? And the #2 pick goes to SEATTLE, our division rivals? How awful is it if their guy is better than ours? Who cares though, right? We get to choose first. They're both good, right? Oh man. We're gonna be on TV this year! We're going to make the playoffs or at LEAST compete for a playoff spot and in two years, we'll probably be contenders!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's funny, my friends in the OregonLive.com Blazers Forum are all talking about today as being their favorite day ever as a Blazer fan. It's pretty great. And all the fans there were getting worried because we won a critical game vs Seattle late in the season and their was concern that Seattle would get the top pick, a pick WE would've gotten if we had tanked that game. Well we won that game AND the number one pick! How beautiful. I have no idea which player we should draft, but this Blazers Forum post was interesting:
356423. There is NO DEBATE
by BrianWheeler, 5/23/07 1:41 ET
Durant Comparisons: Dirk Nowitzki, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, George Gervin. Total NBA championships: ZERO.
Oden Comparisons: David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Russell. Total NBA championships: SEVENTEEN
GO BLAZERS. YOU WON THE LOTTO.
I texted my brother today. It read "A Utah-Cleveland Finals looms again. Like when we were kids."
He texted back "Yep," knowing exactly what I was talking about.
With the Mark Price/Brad Dougherty Cavs and the Stockton/Malone Jazz near the top of their perspective conferences, Jeffrey (my brother) and I would always joke about how horrible and boring it would be if the Jazz and Cavs met in the NBA Finals. How horrible and boring it would be for the league, the fans (outside of Utah and Cleveland, for TV ratings, etc. And in 1992, it looked very possible as the Jazz and Cavs were competitive against the Blazers and Bulls in the conference finals.
I was, of course, pulling for my Blazers and I guess I was kind of pulling for the Cavs to upset the Bulls even though I liked the idea of beating the Bulls ourselves much better. As fate would have it, the Jazz and Cavs fell and the Blazers and Bulls met in the Finals where Jordan hit a bunch of threes, set a record, and then took down the Blazers in a 6th game in which the Blazers had a 15 point fourth quarter lead. Horrible.
Anyway, back to the Jazz and the Cavs. Here they are again in 2007, with the chance to meet each other in the Finals and this time around, I wouldn't mind it so much. It would be thrilling to see if LeBron James could carry a 17 win Cavs team to the championship in only four seasons. And it would be something else to see Jerry Sloan have a chance at winning the championship he so richly deserves. Then again, the thing with John Amaechi. Maybe, I'm not a big fan of Sloan actually.
And let me say that I do love the Spurs and Pistons. I have a lot of respect for both teams and certainly wouldn't mind a rematch of the 2005 Finals. I would of course, be rooting for my boy Rasheed. I guess those are my two favorite players remaining in the playoffs- Rasheed Wallace and LeBron James.
Who do I root for in this next series? LeBron. Sheed has his ring. It would be exciting to see LeBron get there for the first time.
Go Blazers. Win the lotto.
2001- Best regular season record: Spurs; Champion: Lakers
2002- Best regular season record: Kings; Champion: Lakers
2003- Best regular season record: Spurs; Champion: Spurs
2004- Best regular season record: Pacers; Champion: Pistons
2005- Best regular season record: Suns; Champion: Spurs
2006- Best regular season record: Pistons; Champion: Heat
2007- Best regular season record: Mavericks: Champion: Not the Mavericks
This first round, during which three of the six division winners were eliminated (Miami, Toronto, & Dallas), left me confused about a couple things. The first was what I just mentioned. I will spend the rest of the playoffs wondering why the Rockets didn't foul. Tracy McGrady misses the second round again? He has now blown a 3-1 lead (vs the Pistons in 2003) and two 2-0 leads (vs Mavs in 2005 and vs Jazz TONIGHT). I just got back from watching the game at ESPN Zone and I can't believe the Rockets blew it. Wow.
The second thing that confused me was the Game 6 performance of Dirk Nowitzki, who played like he had money on the Warriors. I PICKED THE WARRIORS TO WIN THE SERIES, but I didn't think it would be because Dirk Nowitzki would totally tank like he did. One thing that was great about tonight's Game 7 between the Jazz and Rockets was that all of the top 4 players had big games- Boozer, Deron Williams, McGrady, Yao. They all played like superstars. Great game. Stupid finish. But Dirk played like.....EIGHT POINTS? Horrible. And don't get me wrong. I was rooting for the Warriors. The drubbing of the Mavericks was so much fun to watch. I remember cheering on those other famous 8th seeds- the 94 Nuggets and the 99 Knicks (who, don't forget, not only got out of the first round but reached the NBA Finals!)- when they pulled off their upsets, and I had a great time watching it happen yet again. But it left me in confusion. How could Dirk play like that? And even more so.... HOW did the Mavs win SIXTY SEVEN GAMES? HOW did they win 51 of 55 games at one stretch? AND (changing the subject) WHY DIDN'T THE ROCKETS FOUL?
Well, now that the Rockets are out of the playoffs, I'll be pulling for the Warriors the rest of the way. Is there any room on the bandwagon?
Go Blazers. Win the lotto.
1) Seven of the last eight championships have been won by either Duncan or Shaq. 1999- Duncan's Spurs. 2000-02- Shaq's Lakers. 2003-Duncan's Spurs. 2005- Duncan's Spurs. 2006- Shaq's Heat.
2) Shaq has been eliminated from the playoffs three of the last 4 years. Each of those eliminations were at the hands of Ben Wallace. 2004- Shaq's Lakers lost to Ben's World Champion Pistons. 2005- Shaq's Heat lost to Ben's Pistons. 2007- Shaq's Heat lost to Ben's Bulls.
So... if the Chicago Bulls don't win the championship this year, it will be the first time since MJ's 1998 retirement, that a championship was won without Shaq, Duncan, or Ben Wallace. I predict Yao will be the next big man to add to that list.
Go Blazers. Win the lotto.
P.S. Oh man, I'm watching the Spurs-Nuggets game right now and Bob Horry did it again. He did it again. Amazing. What a career. Could he win his SEVENTH title this year? Time will tell.
Spurs go down. Mavs go down. The Warriors are for real.
Dallas lost their first four games of the regular season. They cannot afford to get off to a start like that in the postseason, can they? This is all such a perfect story. The Dallas Mavericks go 67-15 but they're paired up in the first round with the one team that they have been unable to beat. And that team is coached by their former coach! This is gonna be a great great series. Can't wait for Game 2.
And how about those Nuggets? So far, no surprises here. Oh, I shouldn't boast. One game is just one game. I remember when the Spurs lost their first game of the playoffs to Marbury's Phoenix Suns and still won the championship.
Watching the Magic-Pistons game right now. Magic are hanging in there. I don't care who wins this game. I am a Rasheed Wallace fan, yes, but he got his ring and maybe it'd be fun to watch the Magic put some pressure on them. Rasheed Wallace just fouled Jameer Nelson. That puts the Magic in the bonus. I'll keep watching.... That's all for now.
I hate to make playoff predictions, cuz in a way, I like to be wrong. I like to be surprised. Alas, I said the same thing last year when I picked the Heat to beat the Mavs in 6 games. Lo and behold, I was right! So I'm going to make some predictions again. I won't explain. I'll just type them out for you. You might think I'm crazy, but hey, I was right last year!
Warriors over Mavs in 7
Rockets over Jazz in 6
Suns over Lakers in 6
Nuggets over Spurs in 7
Pistons over Magic in 5
Heat over Bulls in 6
Cavs over Wizards in 5
Nets over Raptors in 6
Rockets over Warriors in 6
Suns over Nuggets in 7
Pistons over Heat in 7
Cavs over Nets in 6
Rockets over Suns in 7
Cavs over Pistons in 6
Rockets over Cavs in 7
Finals MVP: Yao Ming
Go Blazers. Win the lotto.
So will Nash win it this year? Who else is up for the award? It's kinda too bad that Nash outshines Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, both of whom are MVP candidates in their own right. In my opinion. I guess Nash's only real competition, though, is Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on the best team. The thing is, the Suns are close behind and they put the beat down on the Mavs in their last two meetings. So I think Nash might win.
Who else might deserve it but no one is talking about them? What about Tim Duncan? All he does is dominate on both ends of the floor and lead his Spurs to one of the top records in the NBA. They would be NOTHING without him. He is very valuable. Others... Gilbert Arenas looked like he might have a chance earlier in the season, but the Wizards slipped and then he got hurt, which is a shame. I was looking forward to watching him in the playoffs. Boy, the East team that ends up being seeded to play the Wizards, lucks out. Right now, that lucky team is the Toronto Raptors, which is ridiculous because the Cleveland Cavaliers have a better record. This playoff seeding crap is horrible. Why does one earn a higher seed but then doesn't have home court advantage? It makes no sense. I guess having a higher seed means you play a lesser team in the first round, but the very fact that the seeding is messed up by this system makes it all moot. Agh! It's horrible. I hate it. The old four division system worked great. With the way it is now, they should just seed the teams 1 through 8 based on record. OR if you want to give division winners an advantage, then give them home court advantage no matter what their record is. It just doesn't make sense the way it is now. It's a mess.
Back to the MVP race, if you go by the Larry Bird rule (also known as the Efficiency Rating at NBA.com), Kevin Garnett would win the award, but of course, he won't. Second place is Dwayne Wade, whom I'm sure everyone would have loved to have given the award to if the Heat had won more games. Third place is Kobe Bryant, who did score 65 points in a game (I was there) but has his team on a free fall right now. Okay, let's talk about that. How about the Lakers? Wow. They got off to such a great start this season and now they are a game away from missing the playoffs. That would be astounding. On the other hand, the Lakers could still hold on to the 7th seed and would then very likely land in to an intriguing rematch of last year's very exciting seven game series with the Phoenix Suns. Raja Bell vs Kobe Bryant: Round 2! It would be a great matchup of last year's very exciting seven game first round series. On that note, if the Warriors beat out the Clippers for the 8th spot, they would have a very intriguing matchup with the Dallas Mavericks team that they blew out last month to end the Dallas' 17 game winning streak. For these reasons, I can't wait for the playoffs. They're going to be very exciting.
What about the Nuggets? Are they for real? Camby is playing out of his mind. Had a near triple double the other night with 9 blocks. And they WERE on a big winning streak and I was going to blog about wondering how well they might play in the playoffs now that Iverson and Melo are clicking and Camby is playing so amazingly, but then they went ahead and lost to the worst team in the league so now they look like Spurs fodder to me. Still, they will be a team to watch in the playoffs. This will be a very exciting first round, I think. I mean, Cleveland and Miami could play each other first round. LeBron vs the Champs!
I also want to give a shout out to Dwight Howard for his unbelievable stat line vs the Sixers. 14-15 from the field. 10-10 in the first half. That's amazing. Will be fun to see former Pistons Grant Hill and Darko Milicic play in a likely first round matchup with their former team.
Of course, all the teams that aren't in the playoffs are crossing their fingers that they will win the chance to draft Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. The Bucks sat Bogut down for the season. The Blazers ended the season for both Zach Randolph and Ime Udoka. It's no secret that the non-playoff teams are racing towards the bottom. But you're not supposed to SAY it. I leave you all with the quote of the week, from Boston Celtics forward Ryan Gomes who sat out the fourth quarter of a 2 point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks:
``I probably (would have played), but since we were in the hunt for a high draft pick, of course things are different,'' Gomes said. ``I understand that. Hopefully things get better. Now that we clinched at least having the second-most balls in the lottery, the last three games we'll see what happens. We'll see if we can go out and finish some games.''
Well, I went to Madison Square Garden ready to do my job. Cheer for the Knicks. First of all, we were treated to a buffet dinner in a special suite. There, I had the chance to meet actor Matthew Modine. The executive producer of "Bones" and his family were also there. My partner, who was with me, was amazed to see Vanessa Redgrave there as well. After the dinner, we were escorted to our seats. Best Seats Ever. We weren't courtside, but we were pretty close, just four rows behind Spike Lee. It was really cool to see the players up close like that.
I rooted for the Knicks like I was instructed. I tried to give myself inspiration. There was, of course, the remote possibility that the Knicks could still qualify for the playoffs. Let me interject here, that when I lived in NYC for 10 years, I rooted for them a lot (except when they played the Blazers). One of my favorite playoff runs of all time was when the Knicks, as an EIGHTH SEED, made it all the way to the Finals. That was very exciting. Camby stepped up and had a great run. Sprewell and Houston were unconscious. LJ was hitting those threes and making the L sign with his arms. Very cool. So, back to last night's game. I figured I'd root for them to make the playoffs. And if they made the playoffs, they'd probably end up playing the Pistons, so that seemed like an interesting story to follow.
Things did not look good for the Knicks early on. Playing without Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford didn't help. I decided I'd enjoy watching the extremely short Nate Robinson play amongst the giants. During the second quarter, I was approached and asked if I could be interviewed on TV during the halftime show. That was pretty cool. Made me feel like a celebrity, which I kind of am. A little bit. Later that night, I got an e-mail from a friend who said he turned on the game at the gym, and there I was. Very cool.
Okay, back to the game. I decided to keep my eye on Nate. And I rooted for the Knicks to give the ball to Eddy Curry who had scored 43 points against the Bucks in their last game. Suddenly, Eddy and Nate came alive and the Knicks went on a sweet sweet run. They turned a 10 point deficit into a 10 point lead. The Garden was alive and I was having a great time. But then the Knicks blew it and it sucked. But all in all, I still had a great time.
P.S. Like I said, keep your eyes on the Houston Rockets. Yao and McGrady are playing REALLY well and no one is paying much attention to them. These guys are going to steal the spotlight from the Suns and Mavs during the playoffs. You heard it here first.
P.P.S. Oh, I forgot to tell you. I got to meet Patrick Ewing! Very cool.
Lemme take a break from my beloved Blazers and look to the rest of the NBA. The big team that I'm championing is the Houston Rockets. Before he got hurt, Yao was having an MVP season. He's back and playing very well. And so is McGrady. I think this team is ready for a real playoff run and they're kinda flying under the radar right now.
Look for McGrady to finally get out of the first round. And I think they have a legit shot to take down Phoenix and/or Dallas. Watch out for the Houston Rockets.
Also, how incredible are the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers? They're both hitting their stride at the right time of the year and Miami is doing it without Wade. Could Wade possibly return and lead Miami to another title? And how will LeBron do in his second playoff run? He was pretty amazing in his first go-round.
And how about those Pistons, sweeping that West road trip? I'm thinking the playoffs, even without my Blazers, will be exciting as hell.
P.S. My NBAE team, the Bulls, only had 4 guys yesterday and we still beat Superman Brandon Routh's Phoenix Suns! Great win to end the regular season. We start the playoffs against the Pistons next week!
And I can't believe that I'm as interested in a team that is 11 games under .500 as I am, but there's something about these guys. Our team is way better than our record. If Roy hadn't missed a bunch of games at the beginning of the season, we'd have more wins, no doubt. But going into our game against the Spurs, I believed we could win and I still believed that we could challenge for a playoff spot. And we had 'em. We had 'em!! We led by 7 with a couple minutes left and it really looked like we were going to close the deal. And then suddenly, and without warning, we were down 5. It was surreal. How did we go from 7 up to 5 down? We didn't even seem to have done anything wrong. The Spurs just dropped 4 threes on us and it was over. Devastating. Devastating.
But I'm not giving up on these guys. We are still only 4.5 games out of the playoffs, and I want to believe we can start stringing together some wins and at least compete for that 8th spot. Watch out for my Blazers. And if they don't make it this year, they will move up the standings next year.
By the way, props to Mo Cheeks for leading the Sixers to six straight wins. Impressive.
Oh yea, and Go Ducks!!
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