Jonah Writes About the Blazers for Propeller: Thoughts on Batum, Mathews and Stotts

Propeller Magazine is a great literary site to bookmark, run by the excellent Dan DeWeese. In addition to running the site and the magazine, DeWeese is the author of the story collection Disorder and the novel You Don’t Love this Man. Also, he has been kind enough to post my writing at the site, which furthers his excellence.

Here are the three pieces focused on the Blazers, as they continue on their entertaining playoff journey.

Nicolas Batum: Whatever You Need Him to Be

The word “versatile” gets tossed around a lot when describing certain basketball players. They can shoot with range, dribble through traffic (insert busy Portland intersection here), and make cross-court passes others can’t imagine in split-second scans of the court with their peripheral visions. More than anything else, though, versatile players play defense.

I devoured the sport of basketball as a kid. I played one-on-one with my older-brother in our cracked driveway. I played before school with my elementary school classmates. I played on traveling teams in the New England winters, riding in cars filled with seventh-graders all over the Greater Boston area just to sit on the bench for most of the games. I played through humid, sweltering summers on outdoor courts at basketball camps. I won trophies. I broke my right thumb trying to steal a pass. I fractured my right pinkie after instigating an argument with my older brother, who was refereeing my birthday party basketball game at a rented gym. My brother tried to kick the ball I was in the middle of dribbling and connected with my pinkie instead. Party over. I still play piano a little funny with the right hand. I had one glorious season, freshman year of high school, where all of my efforts (running cross country that fall to get in the best shape of my young life) paid off and I had a few proud moments on the court, leading my team to victories with shooting and defense.

What does any of this have to do with the Portland Trail Blazers? Tonight, the Blazers come home to Portland up 2-0 in their first round series with the Houston Rockets, that team that initially drafted Nicolas Batum, the wiry young lad out of Lisieux, France. And Nicolas Batum is versatile. He is whatever you need him to be.

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The Power of Hunger: Reggie Jackson, Troy Daniels and Wesley Mathews in the NBA Playoffs

As you may have noticed, the NBA Playoffs have been proper mental/downright insane/absolutely ridiculous/completely awesome so far. As an NBA obsessive, this is both an awesome and overwhelming time.

Attention: Adam Silver

After you do everything in your power to suspend Clippers “owner” Donald Sterling, please leave the conferences exactly as they are. The absurd imbalance that occurred this year has resulted in the most exciting first round of playoff basketball in the NBA’s history. The West is so good that all eight teams fully deserve to be here, and all four Western Conference series are must-watch basketball.

Oklahoma City-Memphis (2-2), Game 5 in Oklahoma City, Tuesday

With his heroic Game 4, Reggie Jackson saved the Thunder from a 3-1 deficit and tied their series with the Memphis Grizzlies at two game a piece. Watching Kevin Durant embrace Jackson after the game, it was telling just how thankful Durant and Coach Scott Brooks must have been.

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World Traveler: Terry Stotts’ Long and Winding Road

Do you eat the same thing for breakfast every morning? The San Antonio Spurs do. They have a plan. They stick to the plan. That plan involves precision, strategy, and mental toughness. They know how to get the best shots. They get the best shots. Also, they have two of the most dynamic athletes in the NBA. The creativity of Tony Parker propels the offense. The athleticism and agility of Kawhi Leonard leads the defense. Gregg Popovich presses “Play,” and makes wise decisions every so often.

The Portland Trail Blazers do not eat the same breakfast every morning. They play with a free-wheeling spirit that echoes their 1977 championship team. The ball moves. And keeps moving. While possessing the flexibility that leads to endless offensive options, they know that the best defense is a low-turnover offense. In this analytics era, they have the best mid-range shooter in the game in LaMarcus Aldridge (yes, Dirk Nowitzki passed the torch recently). And for the analytically minded, they understand the value of three-point shooters and penetration that surrounds Aldridge. They have the preternaturally poised Damian Lillard running the point, and fantastic complementary pieces in the ever-lovable Wesley Matthews and the Scottie Pippen-clone Nic Batum. They have cult hero Robin Lopez, who could make things messy for the ageless Tim Duncan.

The lopsided Spurs victory in Game 1—these things happen—may have dimmed enthusiasms a bit, but this series should be beautiful to watch. Both teams play an aesthetically pleasing, up-tempo style that emphasizes passing. The ball doesn’t stop. The players are in constant motion. Instead of watching the ball, watch the baseline. Watch the furious running along that line, amidst the smattering of camera guys. Batum and Matthews for the Blazers, while Parker, Leonard, and Danny Green run obstacle courses for the Spurs.

Click here to read the rest and check out Propeller



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