HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We hesitate here at Hang Time to act too prematurely, to jump the gun, to make a statement that’s obsolete in five minutes. But we’ll venture on a limb and say tonight’s game in Portland between the Blazers and Lakers (10:30 ET, TNT) has statement-making written all over it.
Just look at the Blazers. What are they doing leading the Northwest Division, ahead of Denver (another neat story going on there) and especially Oklahoma City, the sexy pick to make it out of the West? Isn’t this supposed to be a year of adjustment in Rip City, if only because Greg Oden is down (and perhaps out for good) again and Brandon Roy hung it up?
Well, nobody told LaMarcus Aldridge anything about that. Same goes for the rest of the Blazers, who are piecing together a rather fine start and making you suspect this crew might have some staying power in a 66-game season.
Portland has made a habit recently of overcoming crummy luck to carve out some respectability for itself, and this season appears to be no different. Obviously the Oden situation remains haunting, and nobody saw Roy suddenly developing senior citizen knees and Rudy Fernandez never worked out to the satisfaction of everyone, especially himself. Still, the Blazers have stockpiled some solid talent in spite of everything, and more important, the talent seems to work well together. Ray Felton, Gerald Wallace, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews were very nice pickups the last few years, and somebody needs to tell Marcus Camby (almost 10 rebounds a game) he’s old. Wait, don’t bother, since he won’t act his age, anyway.
It makes for a tricky visit by the Lakers, because as Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports, the Rose Garden has often been very thorny for Kobe and Co:
It’s that time again — unfortunately, for the Lakers.
Coach Mike Brown has no idea what awaits him Thursday at the Rose Garden, a misguided arena name if ever there was one for a Lakers opponent.
The issues are much more than thorny up here. They’ve lasted almost a generation for the Lakers.
Since acquiring Kobe Bryant in a draft-day trade in 1996, the Lakers are 6-23 in Portland in the regular season, falling to the Trail Blazers year after year, whether rain or hail or the occasional burst of sunshine as their bus pulls into the oversized garage.
Phil Jackson used to blame the weather. Then he blamed the team’s semiannual visits to the Nike store in nearby Beaverton. Then he went back to blaming the weather.
It will be noisy — the Blazers’ fans are among the best in the league — adding a Super Bowl-type din to their den whenever the Lakers arrive.