Worse Foul: Hit to the Head, or Punch to the Gut?

Last night, the Portland Trail Blazers blew out the Los Angeles Lakers, 111-94. Surprisingly, it was the 7th straight loss by the Lake Show at the Rose Garden. However, the real story of the game was when Trevor Ariza tried to remove Rudy Fernandez’s head from the rest of his body:


But Trevor’s attempted decapitation wasn’t the only bruising belt by a basketball player in the past few days.

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NBA All-Star Saturday: Not Easy Dunking Green

It’s something of a cliche: the All-Star weekend is a celebration of sport (laced heavily with a good ol’ dose of American capitalism).  However, moreso than any other sport, the NBA can lay claim to creating an atmosphere of joy around roundball during its All-Star days.

The Pro Bowl exists as a requirement and a paid vacation to Honolulu (which makes Miami next year an interesting experiment).  For the NFL, the Super Bowl acts as the party, though the nasty business of a championship at the end of the fortnight has the feeling of cramming for a final exam, something an All-Star weekend can avoid.

Dwight Howard at the NBA All-Star weekend

Baseball’s turned their All-Star Game into a vocation, demanding that this time it counts.  Why on Mantle’s green Earth would you make it count?  Not everything has to succumb to the gravity of the moment.  For example, turning the home run competition into the Battin’ Death March by ladeling the commercials on thick.

Dikembe Mutombo at the NBA All-Star weekend

(The NHL? Still a rumor, sadly.  Give it time, though.)

Saturday night at the NBA All-Star Game distills all of the fun into one structure for one night only.  Friday’s for the kids; Sunday’s the formality.  Saturday night is where people come to be seen, especially in their green power suits, and no one seems to be affected by gravity’s weak force.

And now a little photo essay about Marv Albert, Wolf Blitzer, Dikembe Mutombo, and a certain phone booth…
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Speed Read: Nash Brawls While Artest Spectates

The NBA. Where Matt Barnes flattening Rafer Alston with a forearm happens. We soon entered some sort of bizarro world in which Steve Nash is the third man in in a brawl while Ron Artest just observes from the bench. Then, for some reason, Yao decides to fight Tracy McGrady. It was just about the only entertainment in Houston’s suprisingly easy 94-82 win over the Suns.

Here’s video of the incident. It’s the Rockets’ TV broadcast, so of course everyone wearing a white jersey deserves to be shot, according to these guys:

The Celtics got a buzzer-beater from Paul Pierce to hand the Hawks their first loss of the season, 103-102. A tough loss, but it’s clear that Atlanta is going to be a major factor in the Eastern Conference this year. For the second straight night, the champs had to come back from a double-digit deficit at home to eke out a win. One wonders how long the hangover will last for the C’s.

The Lakers remained the league’s only unbeaten team, but had to hold off a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Hornets. L.A. led by 21 at the half and still led by the same margin early in the fourth, but New Orleans went on a run that saw them get within 83-80 with 90 seconds left, but Kobe Bryant hit a dagger of a three-pointer as the shot clock expired to give the Lakers a six-point lead and ice the game.

Greg Oden finally got back on the court last night, and managed to make it through an entire game without suffering an injury. He was far from spectacular in 16 minutes of play, but he did score the first points of his career and showed off some of his strength and defensive prowess. The Blazers beat the Heat 104-96 thanks to 25 points from their less-hyped, but more-talented rookie Rudy Fernandez.

Greg Oden's first points

(he made the shot, and didn’t break any bones in the process)

I didn’t really get to see any of last night’s MAC battle between Central Michigan and Northern Illinois. Oh, I had it on, it’s just that the fog was so thick I couldn’t actually see what was going on. The fog was actually a blessing for NIU, as we couldn’t see that there were only 43 people in the stands. The Chippewas (that’s CMU) blew a 30-6 lead in the third quarter and ended up needing overtime to beat the Huskies 33-30. CMU moved to 6-0 in the MAC and hosts unbeaten #14 Ball State next Wednesday for the chance to put a fork in the BCS chances of the Cardinals.

• Are you unemployed? If so, I’ve got a deal for you. All you gotta do is send in your resume and you’ll get some free NBA tickets! They’re Nets tickets, though. Oh, you aren’t interested? Rather stay jobless than figure out how to take the bus to the Meadowlands? I hear you.

Nets crowd

(Oh, you want to sit here? Get a freaking job, loser!)

In all seriousness, this is actually a pretty good idea. Just send your resume to the Nets, and the team will forward it to 120 sponsors as well a bunch of other companies that have season tickets. And for that, you get four tickets to a crappy basketball game in a crappy half-empty arena that you couldn’t otherwise even afford to attend. How’s that for wake-up call?

• Today’s gratuitous photo comes courtesy of BLAZE OF LOVE, which is enamored with the Portland Blazer Dancers’ new uniforms, now featuring boy shorts. These were clearly Greg Oden’s idea.

Trail Blazer Dancers

Brian Burke stepped down as the GM of the Anaheim Ducks yesterday, and was replaced by Bob Murray, who becomes like the 38th Murray running a hockey team in some capacity. DUCKS BLOG has the report.

• “He’s our head coach and I look forward to him being the head coach for a long time,” is the quote from Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick when asked about Charlie Weis‘ job security on Wednesday (courtesy of the FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM). That’s code for “his ass is toast if we lose to Navy.”

Bobby Knight isn’t just going to be a studio analyst this year for ESPN — he’s going to be a game analyst as well. Don’t call him a member of the media, though.

• The Orioles wish they had a second word in their team nickname they could get rid of, like Tampa Bay, but they’ll have to settle for new jerseys. Not a radical change, but they’ve gone back to wearing “Baltimore” across their chests on the road, something they got rid of in the ’70s when they weren’t trying to alienate the D.C. market. Now, the O’s say the District can suck it. The BALTIMORE SUN was on hand for the unveiling.

new Orioles jerseys

• It’s so cute when Americans try to act like real soccer fans. Apparently the MLS Eastern Conference Final between Columbus and Chicago is so contentious that all Chicago fans are getting a police escort to their seats in Columbus and the two teams’ posses aren’t allowed anywhere near each other. MLS RUMORS lists all of the security policies that will be enacted. They have attack dogs on hand in case of a “pitch invasion.” Good Lord, it’s MLS.

• FANTASY BASEBALL DUGOUT says that Carlos Gonzalez is now a fantasy sleeper for next season as he stands to be an everyday starter in Coors Field. Matt Holliday? Not so much, now that he’s stuck playing in the Mausoleum.  Although, there’s about a 105% chance that Billy Beane is flipping Holliday to the Mets in July for their entire farm system.

Bernard Hopkins is all over Donovan McNabb yet again. From PHILLY.COM: “Some people are athletes, still good, but don’t have that extra ‘I’m willing to sacrifice my life. I’m willing to sacrifice what I have to sacrifice to win.’”

• MLB.COM confirms that the Angels are done trying to sign Francisco Rodriguez, and are going to turn their attention toward Manny Ramirez. Artie Moreno says he thought they had K-Rod locked up last year, but then Mariano Rivera got his huge contract and screwed up the market for closers.

Antonio McDyess has been waived by the Nuggets after they acquired him from Detroit in the Allen Iverson deal. And now any team (wink, wink) can sign McDyess. All 30 teams will certainly have an equal chance (cough, cough) of getting him.  No way he’d have any sort of pre-arranged deal to return to the Pistons. At least that’s what the Cavs suddenly seem to believe, according to the CLEVELAND PLAIN-DEALER.

• ESPN’s Chris Low says Lane Kiffin interviewed for the Clemson job recently, making them the 19th team interested in hiring him. Getting fired by Al Davis is the best thing that ever happened to this guy.

Who you got in a battle royal?

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Trail Blazer Teammates A Little Too Buddy-Buddy

They may not be the Jail Blazers anymore, but two players from Portland are still committing crimes against fashion! (Ba-zing!) In this notebook column in THE OREGONIAN lies a heartwarming tale of laughter, friendship, and Rudy Fernandez pouting like a little girl because his teammates made fun of him.

Step Brothers

Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez had an off day in Los Angeles this past Tuesday, and did what any self-respecting professional athlete would do with free time in a den of iniquity: they went shopping for sweaters! Not just any sweaters; matching sweaters. (Teammates being a little too close, after the jump.)

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