Blazerless playoff? Not so fast
By Associated Press
Published February 29, 2004
For the past 21 years, the Trail Blazers have been part of the NBA playoffs.
Thanks to a recent surge and general manager John Nash's remaking of the roster, the Blazers have a chance to match the league record for postseason perennials.
The mark of 22 consecutive appearances was set by the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers franchise from 1949-50 to 1970-71.
Utah also is closing in on the mark, but its streak is in jeopardy of ending at 20. Portland, however, has moved within striking range of the Rockets and Nuggets.
"We have to put pressure on these teams. It's certainly a goal," Nash said.
Nash has been one of the league's busiest executives, pulling off three major trades.
Nash's first deal, Bonzi Wells to Memphis for Wesley Person, was widely panned. His next two, Jeff McInnis to Cleveland for Darius Miles and Rasheed Wallace and Person to Atlanta for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau, drew more praise.
"I wish we would have had more time to balance off the roster," said Nash, whose deals left the Blazers with voids in backcourt depth and outside shooting. Nonetheless, the acquisitions addressed some of Portland's long-standing weaknesses.
"Theo automatically makes you a good defensive team, and we were one of the worst defensive teams in the league before his arrival. He's been a major factor," Nash said.
Ratliff tied a franchise record with nine blocks Tuesday night against Orlando.
Abdur-Rahim had been coming off the bench behind Miles before moving into the starting lineup and playing 43 minutes against the Magic.
"He brings an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win," Nash said. "Some players of his stature would have groused about not starting, but his is a classy professional attitude."
HOME SWEET HOME: Forgive the Spurs and Clippers if they seem a little exhausted. A month on the road, give or take a few days, will do that.
The Spurs didn't play their first home game of February until Tuesday, getting kicked out of their arena while it hosted a rodeo.
San Antonio played seven consecutive road games and won six, mimicking its success of a year ago when a nine-game, rodeo-forced trip jump-started San Antonio's title run. (It went 8-1).
Starting Saturday against Denver, the Spurs play 12 of 17 at home.
The Clippers, meanwhile, played their second home game of the month Friday night, with Bobby Simmons' 19-foot jumper with 21.3 seconds left helping Los Angeles hand the Knicks their fifth straight loss 96-94. Los Angeles was forced out of the Staples Center by the Grammy Awards and the All-Star Game.
The Clippers' 99-93 loss at New Orleans wrapped up 13 games in 13 cities, and they played the role of the exhausted vagabond well. After not committing a turnover in the first half, the Clippers had 13 in the final 24 minutes.
"It's hard," coach Mike Dunleavy said. "I just keep saying, "Hey, they're young and they'll learn.' We get so close, we get so many opportunities. I'm just hoping as I keep pounding it in and keep teaching that certain things stick better."
PRO-READY PREPSTERS?: Dwight Howard of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy and Sebastian Telfair of Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., made the Eastern squad for the McDonald's All-America Game, and Joe Crawford and Malik Hairston of Detroit Renaissance High made the West. Howard and Telfair are widely expected to enter June's NBA draft, as are McDonald's All-Americans Josh Smith of Oak Hill Academy and Shaun Livingston of Peoria Central High.
Slam Magazine senior editor Ryan Jones was spotted at All-Star weekend wearing Livingston's Peoria jersey, perhaps signaling a trend toward throw-forward gear instead of throwback.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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