Monday, April 14, 2008

NW Hoops Weekend: PDX Doubleheader

It was a big NW hoops weekend for The Painted Area. Earlier, we offered sights and sounds from what might have been the last Sonics game in Seattle. We also attended a hoops doubleheader in Portland on Saturday - here's that report.

First, we went to the Nike Hoop Summit, which featured several of the top-rated U.S. high-schoolers against a select team of international players from around the world. It was fun to watch, especially because it seemed to be played with more of the intensity of a real game than the exhibition craziness which usually takes over the McDonald's game. Some thoughts:

- Demar Derozan, an L.A. product who's going to USC, was advertised as having Vince Carter-like athleticism and he sure delivered, with highlight-reel dunks and blocks, plus a game-high 17 points, that made him the star of the day in the U.S.'s convincing 98-78 win.

- There were four UCLA recruits in the ballgame and they should fit into Ben Howland's system just fine b/c I thought they really competed hard, esp. forward Drew Gordon, who worked inside for 15 pts and 7 boards (6 off.) on 6-7 FG and guard Jrue Holiday (13 pts, 5 ast, 3 stl), who really got after it with his ball pressure on defense.

- Other celebrated prospects included Greg Monroe (Georgetown), who struggled a bit to 7 pts on 3-9 FG but you could see glimpses of the potential in the big lefty, and Tyreke Evans (undecided), who was uneven with a line of 11 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 3 TO, 3-13 FG. Evans made some gorgeous drives and dishes, but also made some careless mistakes and he just looks way off-balance on some of his jumpers.

- Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest) was another guy who caught my eye in making some athletic and heady plays en route to 10 pts, 5 reb, and 3 ast in just 19 minutes.

- I thought 7-1 Alexis Ajinca of France was clearly the most impressive player on the World team on Saturday. He had 13 pts, 9 reb and 3 blocks on 5-9 shooting that included a three-pointer and a couple nice post moves, including a lefty finish. Good agility and presence from the big fella on the defensive end as well.

- The other big man, 7-3 Boban Marjanovic of Serbia, showed a very nice touch at the line (4-4 FT) and good hands, but he was a bit of a plodder. Chad Ford didn't refer to him as looking "kind of like the next Pavel Podkolzine" for nothin'.

- Serge Ibaka (Congo) was erratic - the glimpses of his supreme athleticism were offset by instances of poor fundamental play and decisions.

- Samardo Samuels played on the World team b/c he is of Jamaican heritage, though he was a top high school player in the U.S. and will attend Louisville. He struggled on Saturday with 10 pts on just 3-12 shooting.

In the evening, we attended the Blazers-Mavericks game. After Dallas clinched a playoff spot on Thursday, we were expecting this game to be a fairly dead affair, since it was somewhat meaningless.

Man, no one told this to the Blazers and the raucous Rose Garden crowd. Dallas fought back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game at 101 on a Dirk jumper with :58 left, but Portland fought 'em off for a 108-105 win.

I was extremely impressed by the fight in the Blazers and the energy of the crowd, given that they weren't really playing for anything. You can just feel that the fans sense something special is building, and geez, that they're just thrilled to have a team they can rally around again. Whew, quite a full weekend of compelling hoops all around for the TPA.

Also see: NW Hoops Weekend: Maybe the Last Time in Seattle