The Other Side: Portland Trail Blazers
The Wizards go from facing the Eastern Conference player of the week (New Jersey's Devin Harris) one night, to getting the Western Conference player of the week (Brandon Roy) the next. Roy and the Portand Trail Blazers make their lone appearance in Washington tonight, and they are on a roll. The Blazers and Wizards both had success in the New York metro area on Tuesday night, with Portland (13-6) extending its win streak to five games with a 104-97 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Portland has gone 9-3 since Greg Oden returned from a foot injury in the season opener, but that is almost coincidental. It's not that the 2007 No. 1 pick Oden hasn't had an impact, he's just been a solid, relatively consistent role player, averaging 7.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game. He had just 2 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes against the Knicks.
But nobody is complaining because Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are playing well and Portland has another center that is playing pretty well (more on that later). It's still pretty amazing that only five of the 14 lottery picks from the 2006 NBA draft have amounted to anything thus far -- and the Blazers got two of them (Rudy Gay and to a lesser extent, Ronnie Brewer and Andrea Bargnani are the others). Here is some other information you should know about the Blazers heading into tonight's game:
Brandon Roy = Dwyane Wade Lite
1. After holding the red-hot Devin Harris to just 18 points, the Wizards have another challenge trying to contend with all-star Brandon Roy. Roy is averaging 20.6 points, 5.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds during the Blazers' five-game win streak. He had 23 points, six assists and five rebounds in New York last night, but the performance that sealed his player of the week award came Friday night, when Roy had 25 points and a season-high 10 assists against New Orleans.
That performance led Hornets Coach Byron Scott to offer some praise: "He's just a very, very good basketball player. Very smart. Very heady. He can do a little bit of everything on the court. As coaches, when we scout Portland we kind of put him in the same category as Kobe [Bryant], LeBron [James], Dwyane Wade. We treat him the same. He's that good."
2. Blazers Are on Fire
The current win streak has vaulted the Blazers into a first-place tie with the Denver Nuggets in the Northwest Division. Sports Illustrated's Marty Burns and ESPN's Marc Stein both have Portland ranked as the league's fourth-best team, while ESPN's John Hollinger has them ranked third. Things are going so well, that players don't even have to order chicken nuggets before games to eat them afterward anymore.
Roy and Aldridge have certainly been at the forefront, but the Blazers have gotten contributions from all over, including rookies Oden, the high-flying Rudy Fernandez, and Nicolas Batum, a 19-year-old who has started at small forward while Martell Webster recovers from a broken left foot. They've also spent ample time working on their defense.
3. Not Oden, Not Godzilla, Not Bootzilla, It's Przybilla, Baby!
He might not have the hype of being a former No. 1 overall pick, but Blazers center Joel Przybilla has one of the most difficult to spell but fun to say last names in basketball (It's pronounced Priz-BILL-a). And when the Blazers want to get funked up, they make their funk the P-funk. Przybilla averages just 6.3 points and 8.2 rebounds this season, but he has been invaluable to the team, helping it withstand Oden's early injury and providing timely rebounding and defense.
Przybilla has never been one to brag and boast, but could you imagine how any player in the NBA would react to shooting 82 percent from the floor (50-61) -- for the season? Shaq would be referring to himself as The Big Automatic, right? Przybilla had eight points, 14 rebounds and two blocks that changed the game against the Knicks.
To this day, the most fun regular season game I ever covered was when Rasheed Wallace made his lone appearance as a member of the Atlanta Hawks against the New Jersey Nets in February 2004. I think I was just so amazed to see Wallace wearing a Hawks No. 36 jersey. It was the first game after a post-All Star Game/trade deadline frenzy for the Hawks, who had also acquired Przybilla in a separate deal.
Anyway, during the fourth quarter of the game, Przybilla got tangled with Nets forward Rodney Rogers (who just had an unfortunate ATV accident). While Rogers was walking away, Przybilla hunted down Rogers like he wanted to fight and shouted, "Don't push me like that."
Wallace actually stepped in to serve as a peacemaker. But during a timeout, Wallace couldn't contain his excitement as he screamed, "That's what I'm talking about, Joel! Don't back down!"
Przybilla, Ernie Grunfeld's first pick as general manager in Milwaukee, started the rest of the season in Atlanta -- after hardly ever playing for the Bucks. He went on to find a home in Portland that summer.
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