Last week, after a season of blowing all expectations out of the water, the Blazers were finally sliced from the playoffs by the Houston Rockets. It was painful. It was a tough game to watch. I blindly believed the Blazers could go all the way, all they had to do was get by Houston (Portland matches up well with the L*kers, and would play with abandon as an underdog again).
I spent 6 games hating the Rockets, crying against every Greg Oden foul (a 20 year old rookie will not get calls against the entire shoe-buying population of China), mentally stabbing Luis Scola in a back alley, and watching in horror as my favorite college baller of the last decade, Aaron Brooks, slipped past Steve Blake like one of these around one of these. Also, Lamarcus Aldridge solidifying comparisons to Rasheed Wallace by resorting to long jumpers despite being one of the most gifted low block talents in the NBA.
So it pains me, just a bit, to announce I'm rooting for Houston for the remainder of their playoff life, for these reasons:
- I can't help but like Yao. Sure, he represents a massive country with a dubious human rights record, but he also carries the burden of 1.3 billion people on his shoulders, and he seems like an affable guy. In the Rockets' game 1 upset of the L*kers, Yao looked done for good after knocking knees with Kobe Bryant. In the tunnel, being helped out, he suddenly stopped and told the trainers he had to go back. They made him to a few deep knee bends to see if there was any damage, and Yao was back on the court in a few minutes.
Either it was the most scripted act in NBA history, or it was highly inspiring. With David Stern, I'd believe the former, but with Yao, I believe the latter.
- Ron Artest is crazy, but he's awesome crazy. Sure, he was a main culprit in the most infamous incident in the last decade, but he also called Brandon Roy the best player he'd played against in a more understatedly crazy way.
If Ron Artest were white, he'd be beloved as Chris Andersen (who's off-court behavior has been even worse), a tenacious defender and a player who gives his all on every play. There's a chapter about him in FreeDarko's Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, which helped explain him.
(By the way, I don't care if you're not into sports...you MUST read that book. It's a brilliant piece of art, from the incredible writing to the drawings to the way it will make you love basketball the way you'd love a Russian novel.)
- Aaron Brooks. Early on in Brooks' senior year, the Oregon Ducks were down 10 to the Rice Owls with 1:43 to go. Then they were down 8 with :56 left. I turned the game off. The Ducks came back to tie after Brooks and Tajuan Porter shot the lights out, and they won in overtime. After that, I never turned another Ducks game off early again, and I never worried when they were down big. That team pushed into the Elite 8 before they were snuffed out by a Florida Gators team (again assisted by some dubious officiating - Florida shot 43 free throws to Oregon's 16) that later won its second NCAA championship.
Watching Aaron Brooks score is a thing of beauty, especially down the stretch, so watching him against the Blazers was a bit like watching your best friend get the crap beat out of him by Kimbo Slice...you may hate what's going on, but you can't deny it's fun to watch.
- Rick Adelman. He lead the Blazers to some of our best seasons in the '90s, and was the head coach of some great teams that just came up short (those Blazer teams, and the Kings in the early '00s). He has strong ties to the Portland area, still owns a house there, and his family coaches around town. He also looks weirdly similar to my dad.
Every time I see look at that second image, I hurriedly begin cleaning the house an muttering, "Please don't hit me, father. Not again..." Instinct, I guess.
So until next season, at which point the Blazers hopefully have a decent point guard, go Rockets!
(This post dedicated to Leo Longoria and Chris Seay, who enjoyed talking trash via Facebook messages. I'll take solace you both live in one of the worst cities on earth. Have fun with that sprawl!)