Tales of a weary traveller
Back from the grind of four games in five nights, including two hellacious back-to-backs of L.A.-Portland and Seattle-Phoenix, will a few tidbits to clean up.
So before heading to the mall to shop -- shouldn't be too many people out there, should there be? -- here's a few items rattling around in the brain.
Portland is good. Really good. And with the potential to be great if Greg Oden comes back healthy.
The best thing about it: The fans there finally have something good, and some good players, to cheer for. There may not be any more passionate fans than in Rip City and it was nice to see them packing the joint last week and cheering.
Was talking to Blazer GM Kevin Pritchard before the game and he said it was a conscious decision to get good guys, as well as good players, to turn around the Jail Blazer rep. That they can play is a huge bonus and I can absolutely see them challenging for seventh or eighth in the West this year.
Brandon Roy is the real deal, LaMarcus Aldridge is right now a poor man's Chris Bosh (which isn't a bad thing at all) and the supporting cast of guys like Travis Outlaw is solid.
And here's a bit of Blazer trivia: GM Pritchard was the first player ever signed by the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Dipping into the mailbag prematurely, we get:
Q: I'm a little worried. What's with all these articles going around of TJ being out 5-8 weeks and premature retirement. Are they true?
Drew G, Whitby
A: Premature, at best. No one knows for sure, it could be that long but I'd be surprised. No one connected with the team has as much as seen T.J. since he went to New York on Wednesday and then home for Christmas.
We'll get a lot better idea this week when he rejoins the club in Texas but to suggest any time frame right now is folly.
Is Juan Dixon the real deal as a backup point guard until T.J. Ford gets back?
Could be. He didn't look out of place in either Portland or Seattle and seems to have supplanted Darrick Martin in that role.
And for all the Nervous Nellies out there who worry about the minutes piling up on Jose Calderon, let me point out a couple of things.
Among the top point guards in the league, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams all play more than 37 minutes, Mo Williams in Milwaukee plays 36 so asking Jose to play 35 or 36 is hardly onerous.
The thing, I guess, that has some people up in arms is that it's a departure from what Calderon normally plays but it's not like he can't handle it. And it sure doesn't look like it's bothering his performance.
Mark wonders, over in the comment section, what a lot of you are wondering.
Whether or not Roko Ukic could be here this year if something catastrophic happens with T.J. Ford.
Short answer: No.
As Bryan Colangelo told us in training camp when we saw Ukic, his buyout from Roma is so convoluted and expensive it's prohibitive for this year. And possibly next. It's going to take lawyers and accountants -- and likely the negotiating talents of Maurizio Gherardini -- to get him free to even possibly come to camp next season.
Memphis for Vancouver was the worst trade in the history of the NBA, perhaps the worst trade in sports history but let me say this:
Oklahoma City for Seattle would be 1A.
But the Key Arena's a dump and the Sonics can't survive there. Unfortunately, that'll mean the thousands of Raptor fans who make the trek down will be robbed of a chance to see their boys. And judging by how many we saw, that'll be a large number of disappointed fans.
Remember when Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph were going to dominate all over Eastern Conference front courts?
Uh, not so much.
Check out my man Frank Isola in the NY Daily News today.
Guess that Curry-Randolph experiment has failed.
And, in a nice contrast to what's going on in Porltland, here's what one Western Conference scout told me: "They (the Blazers) got better trading away 25 points a game. What's that tell you about Zach?"
With the lads off now until Dec. 26 in San Antonio, it's going to be quiet times around the blog, too. But don't forget, we've got the regular Friday mailbag to worry about. Just click here to send something.
Hey, everyone: Have a Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Be safe, hang with the family, do nice things for others.