The pro basketball playoffs have started, and watching them is a strange addiction. The Blazers are long since out of it, but having seen some of the playoff teams here in town as Blazer opponents during the year, I find it interesting to watch them go head-to-head with more serious competition in the championship tournament ordeal. (It runs about two months.)
I see several former Portland players on playoff teams this time around. Rasheed Wallace, one of the Rip City team's all-time head cases, holds court on the Detroit Pistons these days. Yesterday they beat the Orlando Magic in the first game of their series. "Ra" had a nice game, and he also taught the referees a thing or two with his brilliant commentary on their calls. Good for him.
Juan Dixon, who was part of last season's Blazer ugliness (largely through no fault of his own), has wound up on the Toronto Raptors, who lost their first game at home yesterday to the New Jersey Nets. The Nets, of course, hold a soft spot in my heart -- blood is thicker than water. Dixon played just 15 minutes, hitting two shots, including a three-pointer. He missed three others, and had a couple of turnovers.
On the Nets roster, believe it or not you still find Cliff Robinson, a throwback to the Blazers' Clyde Drexler heyday. Uncle Cliffy turned 40 years old his season, but he stills gets some playing time. For the season, he averaged 19 minutes a game in 50 games. He didn't get in the game yesterday, however. Today's trivia questions: (1) Which female Portland police officer did Cliffy punch outside a Northwest Portland nightclub in his early days here? (2) How did Cliffy get in trouble with paintball?
Remember Viktor Khryapa, the Russian forward who looked good as a rookie in Portland last year? He is riding the pines on the Chicago Bulls now, playing in fewer than half their games and only for a few minutes per game when he's put in there. His team looked quite strong as they beat the creaky old Miami Heat in Chicago yesterday. In that game, a talented Bulls swing man from Sudan, Luol Deng, tore the place up.
Bonzi Wells is still technically on the roster of the Houston Rockets, who scored a nice win at home over Utah in the last game of the night. But as we noted here last week, he quit the team recently and may very well have worn his last NBA uniform.
Speaking of ex-Blazer bad apples, did you hear the latest about Bassy Telfair? Locked up over his stupid gun again. You'd think he would have learned after his famous incident in Portland a year ago, but no. I knew this fellow was not quality people; we should be glad that he's some other city's problem now. Ex-Blazer Danny Ainge, running personnel for the abysmal Boston Celtics, bought that project. Thanks, Danny. Hey, do you need a power forward?
Four more playoff games are scheduled for today, and we'll report any other ex-Blazer sightings tonight. If I overlooked any former Blazers in yesterday's contests, I'm sure someone out there will let me know.