The Other Side: Portland Trail Blazers
While the Washington Wizards were getting trounced in Los Angeles on Thursday night, Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy was in a much more celebratory mood back home in Seattle, where the Washington Huskies retired his No. 3 jersey. Roy is a long way from having his No. 7 jersey retired by the Trail Blazers, but the 2007 rookie of the year and 2008 (and likely 2009) all-star is certainly moving in the right direction. He is averaging a career-high 22.3 points and has the young Blazers (25-17) in the thick of tightly-contested race in the Western Conference.
Wizards fans are familiar with Roy after he scored 12 of his 22 points in the final eight minutes of Portland's 98-92 win in Washington on Dec. 3. Former Wizard and Maryland standout Steve Blake scored made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 13.2 seconds to secure the win. Blake is averaging career-highs 11.6 points and 43.4 percent three-point shooting (82 of 189), but he won't be around for the rematch because has missed the past four games with a separated right shoulder and is expected to miss another one-to-three weeks.
The Trail Blazers are 2-2 without Blake, with Sergio Rodriguez replacing him in the starting lineup. They are 15-5 at Rose Garden this season, and they are coming off a 104-98 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Here is what else you should know about the Trail Blazers before they host the Wizards on Saturday night:
1. The Blazers Are Still Taking Hits Over Miles Mess
Portland didn't completely apply a blow torch to all of the good will it had established over the past few years, but the despicable manner in which the franchise handled the whole Darius Miles fiasco has provided a serious blemish to a season that should end with its first playoff appearance in six years.
You might recall that the Trail Blazers attempted to block Miles's comeback from a serious knee injury because it would add more than $18 million to their salary cap and result in a luxury tax penalty for billionaire owner Paul Allen. Portland threatened the other 29 teams with litigation for if any signed Miles and allowed him to play the 10th game needed to legitimize his comeback.
It even tried to sign him and stash him. Miles is playing relatively well in Memphis, forcing General Manager Kevin Pritchard to be more creative in how he will improve the team in the future. No matter what Pritchard does, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote that the incident forever tarnishes his reputation. Oregonian columnist John Canzano wrote that while Pritchard is disliked by many league executives, he wasn't to blame for the whole debacle.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge Is Arguably The Difference Maker
Brandon Roy is the all-star. Greg Oden is the franchise center. But several league executives contend that 6-foot-11, third-year forward LaMarcus Aldridge is the player with the most potential. Portland Coach Nate McMillan compares Aldridge to Rasheed Wallace and said he could someday dominate the game on both ends of the floor. McMillan often pushes Aldridge to be better, and ESPN's Rick Bucher has an awesome profile looking into what makes the soft-spoken, often-overlooked talent tick. Aldridge is averaging 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, and has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games.
3. Greg Oden Is Getting Older
While some like to joke that Greg Oden is aging in reverse like Brad Pitt's new Oscar-nominated, "Mork & Mindy" inspired, film, he actually is getting older like everybody else. Oden turned 21 on Thursday, but he actually showed tremendous growth earlier in the week when he had a career-high 24 points and career-high tying 15 rebounds in a 102-85 win over Milwaukee. Oden is averaging 8.4 points, 7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in his rookie season, but he hasn't been having much fun. Reports out of Portland say that Oden has been surly, grumpy and distant all season - and that the Blazers have been overprotective. Oden hasn't been a disappointment - big men take a longer time to develop - but how good would Portland be if it drafted Kevin Durant instead?
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