"Come take these guns off of me. I can't shoot them anymore."
—Robert Zimmerman, old weird dude, songwriter, voice of LaMarcus Aldridge's ailing body
LaMarcus Aldridge is Portland's All-Star. Grown right here in Rip City. It says so on the giant tarp that hangs out on the giant silo in front of the Rose Quarter.
Now, setting aside that LaMarcus was grown in Texas, that piece of tarp is, for a lot of Blazers fans, more like a security blanket: Oden's bones may have betrayed him, Roy's legs crumbled underneath him, but LaMarcus is still standing, still healthy, still—
An abnormality? Like what? He's got a fuckin Kuato growing out of his hip? Does his hip now look like the Frieze at the National Cathedral? The word "Abnormality" is about as clear as mud, but that's nothing compared to Aldridge's own inability to be clear.
My body is pretty beat up. I'm definitely not getting any better. But I haven't said anything about it.
As a reminder, this is what he told a reporter at the beginning of this week, during the period of time where he admits he knew his body had been beaten to abnormality:
You don't reach your prime until you're about 28 or 29. I'm 26 so I got a few more years until then.
Sure you do - if you mention to people that you're getting physically abused in the paint BEFORE your body starts spontaneously growing martian mutants out of your bones. Christ, Aldridge.
So of course, the question isn't even "Will he play today" but "Will he sit the rest of the season?" Nobody's ruling it out, nor should they. In fact, I'm gonna go so far as to say yes, he should sit the rest of the season. It's kind of a no-brainer. It's gonna be hard for him to hit that prime the Blazers will need him to hit in three years if he's puttering around the low-blocks with the help of this device:
That's the "Uprise" model walker from Onyx, it retails for $62 online, cut-in-half tennis balls not included.
But there's an upside here, and that's the knowledge that with Aldridge out, not only will this mean more Kurt Thomas and Hasheem Thabeet on the floor -
- but it means more J.J. Hickson playing time, and that means way more controlled bodily explosions per minute of basketball than almost any other player in the league.
So yeah. Let's sit Aldridge for the rest of the season. Let's turn this circus over to Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton for the last two weeks. Let's roll this motherfucker til the wheels fall off. What could possibly go wrong?
Today's game is The Green Game. That means inbetween ads for Pizza Hut and The Leading Retailer of Processed Beef Slurry-Filled Tortilla Tubes, there will be ads for recycling and stuff. There are also recycling logos on the floor. If they really wanted to go all the way with this, they'd replace the hoops with wastebaskets and everyone would have to crumple up balls of paper and shoot those.
We also got a look at a Beaverton Elementary School's P.E. program. Normally, before the games, a 4th grade basketball team comes out, or a junior high dance troupe does a routine, but today, they just basically had a bunch of kids rush through what P.E. classes are now. P.E. is apparently a layup line, some jump ropers, kids pushing themselves around on scooters, and 2 or 3 kids on stilts. I wanted to scoff at the cardiovascular effect of stiltwalking, and then I thought about it, and I'm pretty sure I have never in my life seen a tubby stiltwalker. So maybe there's something to it.
No Aldridge, so Hickson gets the start. For Golden State, it's pretty much the same team that came to Portland a couple weeks ago. I'd expect Klay Thompson and David Lee to score significant numbers without Aldridge around to keep em out of the paint. Again - J.J. Hickson is a barely controlled explosion in human form, but he's not the most disciplined defensive player. He's going to gamble a lot and lose, and there are some plays he won't even see developing until way too late.
But on the other hand - a completely unleashed J.J. Hickson on the offensive end should be all sorts of nice to witness.
Nolan Smith selected today's warm-up music. It's Taylor Gang by Wiz Khalifa. The "Be safe and don't get drunk and disruptive PSA" starts playing just as Wiz reminds the crowd it's time to throw their sets up. I don't think these two requests are mutually exclusive, really. I hope all the set-trippers in the crowd remain respectful as they stack their signs.
I'm gonna be honest. I'm hoping for a glorious trainwreck. Like 20 cars full of sloppy joe mix derailing and crashing into a slaughterhouse.
8:57 - See, what's funny is, I asked for a glorious trainwreck, and the only thing in the building that complied was the Rose Garden wireless, which splattered all over the inside of my laptop, preventing me from liveblogging the ridiculous offense this fast & loose Blazers team put up. Steals, trick shots, alley-oops - the game looks like a bunch of JV players going batshit on a 9ft dunkhoop.
(By the way, I think the single simplest, game-changing alteration Stern could make to the rules of the game would be to actually drop the height of the hoop to 9ft. You say sacrilege, I say genius.)
So, anyway - In this game of NBA JAM on easy mode, the score is currently 13-10, Blazers.
5:12 - A timeout is called after about 7 different players just dived to the floor for the same loose ball and nobody got it. The ballboys having to clean up that sweat seem extra harried. So much they have to mop - such LITTLE mops. Seriously, the Rose Garden got em out there with fuckin Swiffers. Maybe it's because it's Green Night. I dunno. Next home game the ballboys will have gas powered floor mops made out of styrofoam and the hopes of the poor, which are super absorbent.
5:01 - The crowd demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge re: TV History. PA system starts playing The Addams Family theme. They nail the first two clapping sections - but come in two beats too early on the third. Normally this could be written off as just a natural occurrence of having this many white people in one place at the same time, but c'mon - it's THE ADDAMS FAMILY.
Anyway, J.J. Hickson has flailed mightily at least 4 times already, and only two of them were called for fouls. The other two were rebounds that led to baskets. He's made out of rubberbands, and some invisible sixth grader is constantly sproinging his limbs in 15 different directions. 15-14, Blazers.
3:23 - another pick from the Blazers, another fastbreak, Jamal Crawford (who has already checked into the game, along with the Rhino, Craig Smith)gets around his defender, and leaves a layup at the rim. It doesn't go in. BUT LOOK! IN THE SKY.
LUKE FUCKIN BABBITT
It wasn't a dunk, but I just saw that kid sky for a midair putback. I am goggling at this wondrousness.
My excitement is squashed by a three from Richard Jefferson within 10 seconds of checking in, and David Lee going low and exploiting the fact there's nobody there to guard him. J.J. Hickson answers with a mid-range jumper. 21-19, Blazers.
1:26 - Jamal Crawford comes up with another pick (more like Jamal Crawford was standing not playing defense and Nate Robinson just threw the ball at his chest inexplicably) and the Warriors D got back and began barking and pointing in the direction of J.J. Hickson. With the most fun option taken off the table, Crawford settles for "how bout I jack up a three?" He gets hit by David Lee while shooting, and nails all three free throws, and then drains a jumper on the next possession. 28-21, Blazers.
:24 - a full shotclock and Jamal Crawford with the ball? Let's see how long before he either jacks up a three or drives to the basket without even trying to set up an offensive play.
:9.9 - it was a layup. 30-25, Blazers.
The buzzer sounds after one more turnover, and a hail mary from Nolan Smith as the buzzer sounds. it drops about 4 feet wide of the hoop. 30-25, Blazers.
11:21 - Craig Smith recieves the ball down low with nobody around, so he does what every power forward in the last 20 years has been trained to do: Frantically double clutch until a double team apparates in front of him, and then he tries a dipsy-doo layup while drawing contact. he hits em both. 32-27, Blazers.
10:48 - Luke Babbitt, fouled on a drive (!) goes to the line. MISSES A FREE THROW. Press row is advising he shoot all his free throws from behind the three point line, since he's obviously the most comfortable there. Brandon Rush hits a three, and it's a 1 point game again, 33-32, Blazers
9:42 - Luke Babbitt just airballed a wide open three.
I think he's on drugs.
There's also a kid in the crowd who got a cheer for holding up a handpainted sign that said "LUKE I AM YOUR SON." I think it was supposed to be a Star Wars joke but you can't put shit like that on a sign at an NBA arena, man. That's scarier to a pro than a dude in a Jason mask holding a machete behind the basket. Kid might as well have been dressed up as a child support check.
9:06 - Jamal Crawford just got a dunk off ANOTHER Golden State turnover. I think they have like 10 this half. 38-34, Blazers.
8:03- Przybilla and Batum finally checked back into the game. The Blazers are only up by 4 but everything about this game screams Garbage Time, and as such, I'm surprised as hell that Batum and the Vanilla Gorilla are back in the game. The Warriors seem equally surprised, as the guy Nate Robinson just tried to pass to, Charles Jenkins, was looking at Joel like "you back in the game? THIS game? Really?" Nolan Smith picks the pass, and scores on the layup. 43-36, Blazers.
6:40 - J.J. Hickson is physically unable to just jump straight up for a rebound. He jackknifes into the air like a broken protractor, all curves pushing one way, and sticky points going the other. David Lee scores on the other end, Raymond Felton cuts through a bunch of bewildered Warriors, but misses his layup and the putback. David Lee picks a pass and gets an easy dunk. J.J. Hickson winds up with the ball and 8 seconds on the shotclock. Kicks to Matthews, who drains a fadeaway with Klay Thompson in his face. 45-42, Blazers.
3:58 - Mark Jackson called a timeout after Dorell Wright airballed a three into the 2nd row. The crowd here couldn't complete their airball chant - too much laughter. Nobody seems too concerned that the Warriors are only down by 1 point even though they have roughly 73 turnovers in the half. 45-44, Blazers.
3:49 - J.J. Hickson takes Jeremy Tyler off the dribble, goes at the hoop with a modicum of composure, gets hit, gets the layup, gets the free-throw. The only indignity is that the PA system blared out a loud "Dy-No-MITE!"
Get it? Because his name is J.J.? Like in Good Times? You know, the TV - fuck it, you can't even clap in time to Addams Family. 48-46, Blazers.
2:50 - Luke Babbitt just passed up another wide open three, only to throw it back to Raymond Felton, who looked at him like "What the fuck are you doing? Shoot it." So he threw it back to him, and he shot it, and it was good. And then Nicolas Batum got a pass from Felton on the next possession, and Nicolas Batum is a starter because he doesn't need to be told to shoot that wide open three. And so he does. It is pretty, and it is good. 56-50, Blazers.
1:36 - David Lee with a really pretty spin move right off J.J. Hickson's back. Hickson's gonna want to repay that on the other end, but he'll have to wait his turn as Jamal Crawford runs a little give & get-back w/ Raymond Felton for a 15 footer. Charles Jenkins goes right at Hickson on the other end, and as much as he doesn't want to bound skyward like an eager puppy jumping for a treat, he does, and he smashes into Jenkins, who gets the bucket and-one. Hickson gets the ball at the top of the key, and drains right in Lee's face. His vindication is partially completed. Babbitt gets the board off an errant Warriors jumper, and with 6 seconds left, Crawford crosses up Dorell Wright TWICE, but clangs a jumper as the horn sounds. 62-55, Blazers. HALFTIME.
11:06 - Felton hits the first basket of the 2nd half on a shotclock beating 3, after the Blazers offense breaks down twice in 24 seconds. Mark Jackson immediately calls a 20 second timeout. He must be pissed. I'd be too if my team had a better FG percentage than the team I was losing to by 10. 65-55, Blazers
7:36 - a buncha shit happened. Most of it was good. I couldn't tell you about it because the Rose Garden internet took a nap inside my laptop. In a strange turn of events, I am THE ONLY PERSON on press row that this seems to be afflicting. I don't know why, but I'm guessing it's somehow John Canzano's fault. That fuck. 74-60, Blazers.
5:58 - Raymond Felton overthrows Joel Przybilla down low, which is kind of like throwing at an oak tree from 10 feet and missing it. It lands in David Lee's hands, and he throws a PERFECT pass about 30 feet downcourt - it bounces twice before popping up directly in Klay Thompson's hands - he dishes to Dorell Wright for the easy layup. Coach Canales was out on the floor and stomping to his strategy circle with his assistants before the play was even over. 74-62, Blazers.
The crowd just saw a sign on the jumbotron. It said "Put a bird on it Portland!" there were various multicolored cardboard birds taped to it. The sign was booed. Loudly.
4:51 - Wesley matthews just drained a wide open three. The announcer just said "Wesley Matthews from HAAAHN FHYAAAAA." I don't know what that was supposed to be, or what that means. The next possession, the offense completely disintegrates, ending with J.J. Hickson on the floor, squirming to keep possession of the ball with the shotclock winding down. He rolls/passes the ball to Przybilla with 4 seconds. Przybilla dumps it in Felton's lap with 2. Felton throws a lob to Batum from 35 feet out. Batum dunks it with less than a second left on the clock. The crowd is giddy at how well everything is going for the Blazers. We've all forgotten that Aldridge has a fucking hubcap growing out of his hip and we're playing a Warriors team so sloppy their newest sponsor is Manwich. 79-67, Blazers.
2:53 - Mark Jackson calls timeout after Dorell Wright fouls Jamal Crawford in the act of shooting a three AGAIN. I've also, since I've been covering the team for the Merc, never seen him miss a free throw. Let's count down how long until this inevitable jinx I just laid on him comes to fruition.
2:51 - it didn't happen! He hit all 3! And that's because the completely unrelated act of me talking about his streak up here in the stands has nothing to do with his ability to hit a free throw! Because superstition is fucking dumb. In other news, leaving the room because the Blazers are playing poorly doesn't actually remove any inadvertent curses you are casting and allow the team to play well. It's total coincidence, because you have absolutely no bearing on the outcome of any game. So just relax and have some more chips.
Jamal Crawford just hit another three, by the way. 84-70, Blazers.
1:24 - Wesley Matthews just airballed a desperation three as the shotclock wound down after some clumsy ballhandling in the last 10 seconds. The ball appeared to hit a Warrior in the hand before Matthews recovered and hit a falling, reverse layup. But the refs didn't think so, and blew the whistle on the shotclock violation. The crowd is LIVID. SO ANGRY. It appears Portland simply wants blood tonight. It does not care that the team is up 13 points against a wounded animal. There will be BLOOD, dammit. There are throats visible, and they must be stepped on. While the crowd grumbles, Nate Robinson drains a two, and Richard Jefferson hits a three, and Jamal Crawford airballs a last second three before buzzer. 85-75, Blazers.
Before the quarter started, McDonald's sponsored a contest in which three adorable elementary school children are put on toy tractors & tricycles, and asked to race each other. The winner of this race will get an extra value meal from McDonalds, one a week, for the rest of the year. This seems counterproductive. "Here, healthy children! Pedal your ass off for a chance to win a weekly stipend of food that is fucking terrible for your growing, developing bodies!" Apple Pie is not technically a vegetable. Neither is ketchup.
11:46 - Richard Jefferson opens the fourth with a drive down the middle and an uncontested dunk. Richard Jefferson. I didn't even know he was still technically MOBILE. 85-77, Blazers.
They just showed Adam Richman on the jumbotron. The crowd LOVES this guy. He's also the only celebrity I've seen in my short tenure as Blazers Blogger who is actively mugging for the camera. He's got a fake Blazers tat on his hand and he's shaking it at the crowd. The crowd is taking all the happiness they can get because right now, they've turned every offensive opportunity into a miss, or a turnover, and there's been nothing but dunks on the Warriors end (including ANOTHER ONE from Jefferson.) I'm not even kidding, aside from a Nate Robinson jumper, everything the Warriors have scored since I started typing this paragraph has been a dunk. It's like they only just now realized Aldridge isn't down there. And now they're within 2. 89-87, Blazers.
8:10 - J.J. Hickson is no longer randomly blowing up like faulty Nightcrawler teleports. He's focusing his game, getting boards, wresting possessions out of Warrior hands, and getting putbacks. The Warriors would have overtaken the Blazers at least 3 times now were it not for Hickson. And yet - nobody seems to be able to stop NATE ROBINSON, of all people. Tie game: 91-91
7:00 - Przybilla decides to do something about this Robinson problem after a jumper from Crawford gives the Blazers the lead. Robinson runs in front of him. He just shoves him down to the floor by the waist. Robinson simply gets back up, recieves the inbound, goes back to the hoop. And who is there to answer on the other end? J.J. Hickson with yet another layup. 95-95
5:40 - Crawford drives to the hoop with the shotclock running down. Goes skyward. Is blanketed by arms. Is bailed out by Przybilla standing a couple feet behind him. The pass comes flying out, The Vanilla Gorilla gathers it up and directs it towards the hoop in one motion. 97-96, Blazers.
4:51 - Even though the Blazers only hold a 3 point lead after Crawford hits two free throws, the crowd is only concerend about one thing right now - GETTING THAT FREE DIAPER FULL OF RECONSTITUTED DOGSHIT AT TACO HELL. And Raymond Felton delivers it for them with a long deuce. The Rose Garden holds roughly 8000 dicks right now. They are all cumming. Blazers and Warriors then trade threes, and now the Blazers fans are sweating a 2-point lead with fever dreams of free food in their heads. 104-102, Blazers.
2:30 - a timeout is called, which gives me time to send a special message from Rob Simonsen of Portland Roundball Society - Bizarro Ezra, if you're out there? Rob misses you. We all miss you.
2:17 - Blazers come out of the timeout and run the first perfectly executed offensive play of the night. It's a play designed to get Batum the ball on the three while wide open, within 10 seconds of the ball being inbounded. it works. After a defensive stop on the other end, Crawford deflates the room by chucking up HIS THIRD DESPERATION LAST SECOND AIRBALL to get the 24 second violation. 109-104, Blazers.
1:00 - the one time Hickson isn't there to clean up the board, David Lee swoops in, sends it out to Klay Thompson behind the three, who jacks it up and finds nothing but net. 109-107, Blazers.
44.4 - The "Lets Go Blazers" chant is about half as loud as the "Cha-Lu-Pa" chant. Wesley Matthews wakes em up with a jumper off a curl. there's another defensive stop, and Raymond Felton runs down the clock for a few seconds before finding Matthews alone behind three again. He drains with 15 seconds to go. 114-107, Blazers.
15.4 - Nate Robinson gets his layup checked by Nicolas Batum, Jamal Crawford gets fouled after getting the board, the PA announcer starts playing the Rolling Stones "Time is on my side," and we're pretty much done here. Brandon Rush hits a junk three from 30 feet out, and then, inexplicably, David Lee fouls Felton with 1.5 to go, down by six. He hits em both. That's your final. 118-110, Blazers.
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