Hoops Weekend in Portland
I decided to get a jump on what life will be like for the Seattle-based NBA fan in the future, as I headed down I-5 for what was intended to be a doubleheader of early-season hoops in the great city of Portland, vs. Memphis on Friday and Dallas on Saturday. Here's a weekend recap, in convenient photographic form.
Welcome to the Rose Garden, ladies and gentlemen. I conveniently arrived in time for the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies game after fighting Friday night traffic for four-plus hours (drive usually takes a little under three).
I got there in time to see the Blazers finish off an impressive 110-98 comeback win with a 36-22 fourth quarter, and I gleaned these observations:
1. I was amazed at how full the arena was in the upper reaches, for a November game vs. the Grizzlies.
2. I was amazed at how loud it was for a November game vs. the Grizzlies. The joint was rockin'.
3. Man, LaMarcus Aldridge (who had 30 points) sure looks polished. It seems like big guys who are successful at a young age tend to be force-of-nature athletes like an Amare or a Shawn Kemp. L.A. is not terribly athletic by those standards, but he already has an impressive array of moves, solid footwork and a nice shooting touch. He scored repeatedly down the stretch, in a variety of ways, and it was just really impressive.
4. Damn, these Blazers are an unbelievably promising young club. Even beyond the nucleus of Roy, Aldridge and Oden, young guys like Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster are starting to contribute a little bit. And don't forget they also add Rudy Fernandez and another likely lottery pick next year (though who knows if the lottery's a given with the way these Blazers have played so far!).
Rip City is back, baby.
One little thing I like about the Rose Garden is the quantity and quality of game stat information that's persistently visible in the arena. They've got a player stat board which goes nine deep with points, rebounds, assists and fouls.
Then, they've got about as much team stat info as you could reasonably ask for on a stat board.
And then, there's not a man, woman or child alive who doesn't love a good hustle board. As bankable as a blooper reel.
Portland is America's premier beer city, so what better way to celebrate a Blazers win than with an Oregon microbrew? We visited the Rogue Ales Public House on NW 14th and Flanders postgame, and I went with a Shakespeare Stout - highly recommended, unbelievably smooth.
I grew up in the far Northeast, so I'm a bit biased when it comes to the fall foliage, and I guess I underestimated how colorful Portland was this time of year. With the sunny weather on Saturday, the city was downright resplendent. Summer is certainly the best time to visit the Rose City, but don't underestimate early November - it was an absolutely gorgeous fall weekend.
"Flannnnnnnders... Flannnnnnnnders... Flannnnnnnnders...." The "Alphabet District" of town has street names which run in alphabetical order. Simpsons creator Matt Groening grew up in Portland and notable TV names such as Flanders, Lovejoy and Quimby were pulled from street names in this neighborhood. You'll have to go across the river to visit Van Houten Ave, though.
We were on Flanders because we were making an early morning run to Ken's Artisan Bakery on NW 21st & Flanders for the delectable Oregon croissants.
Look at these babies - buttery croissant goodness filled with genuine Oregon blackberries. Gotta get to Ken's early, before they sell out.
There aren't many better ways to pass the pregame time than by spending a few hours at the finest bookstore in America, Powell's City of Books. On any given Saturday afternoon, I'd estimate that roughly 35% of the Portland population is at Powell's - fortunately, the place is a full city block with multiple floors, so there's plenty of room for all.
Of course, we visited the row of basketball books in the Rose Room. Hoop purchases included a classic Powell's find, a used copy of the 1977 book Idol Time: Profile in Blazermania, a book I'd never previously heard of by Larry Colton, who wrote the acclaimed Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball And Honor On The Little Big Horn.
Other acquisitions included the new George Mikan book, Mr. Basketball, by Michael Schumacher, and one for the hoop library, Outrageous!, the 1993 Charles Barkley autobiography - hey, it was a used copy priced to move at $2.50!
OK, back to the Rose Garden we go, where Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard honored Roy and Aldridge for winning the Rookie of the Year and making the All-Rookie Team, respectively.
Then it was time for basketball, Blazers vs. Mavericks. As impressive as Aldridge was on Friday, Roy was on Saturday, lighting up the Mavs for 32 pts and 7 assists. Again, really impressive that the Blazers have a young inside-outside combo who can both deliver.
On a night when Dallas was without Devin Harris, Erick Dampier, Eddie Jones and Devean George, maybe we shouldn't read too much into the results, but the Blazers controlled this ballgame absolutely from start to finish. I was expecting the Mavs to at least make a run in the second half to make things interesting, but it never came. The outcome was never in doubt in the second half.
Highlight of gar-bage time: a Nick Fazekas sighting!
And finally, just because: Dr. Jack Ramsay's portrait on the Walk of Fame in the Rose Garden concourse. That's all, folks. Back up I-5 we go, to a land where there is unfortunately much less hope for the pro basketball future.