Feb. 15 Blazer page
Excerpts from this week’s Blazer page that was published Feb. 15 in The Columbian.
Last week’s record: 1-1
Recap: Another up-and-down week for the Blazers. An 89-77 home loss to Oklahoma City last Tuesday was followed by a spirited 108-101 road victory over Phoenix. Portland continued to tread water without injured All-Star guard Brandon Roy, while holding on to the eighth position in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Bright spot: Three starters scored at least 20 points during the win over the Suns, while all five first-unit players reached double figures in scoring.
Low point: Nearly everything about Portland’s disappointing loss to the Thunder. After falling behind 15-2, the Blazers outscored Oklahoma City in second and third quarters. But a 30-16 Thunder fourth period awaited, and Portland was eventually embarrassed on its home floor. Blazers coach Nate McMillan used the defeat to challenge his team. And Portland responded the next night, picking up an impressive road victory over Phoenix. But the rough loss to Oklahoma City served as a strong reminder that a Blazers team playing without Roy and a center is a limited team — one that must play nightly with energy and emotion if it hopes to prevail.
Dante Cunningham: The rookie forward out of Villanova has excelled while the pressure has mounted.
Cunningham is averaging 9.6 points and 4.4 rebounds during his last five games while shooting 64.7 percent (22 of 34) from the field. In addition, he scored a season high 14 points and collected six rebounds during Portland’s loss to the Thunder. Cunningham followed up that performance with a 13-point outing on 6-of-7 shooting in the win over Phoenix.
Despite watching his playing time and role in the rotation fluctuate all season, Cunningham has maintained his focus. His perseverance has payed off, and the 33rd overall pick of the 2009 NBA Draft has been rewarded with more touches and increased minutes in recent games.
Cunningham’s versatility is his biggest asset. On the offensive end, he mixes a soft touch with solid footwork. His appreciation of shot selection also keeps his percentage high, while making sure he stays out of McMillan’s doghouse.
Defensively, Cunningham rivals fellow rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph as Portland’s best rebounder off the bench. Factor in the former Wildcat’s tough, fearless approach, and Cunningham should continue to receive minutes until Travis Outlaw returns from injury.
By the Numbers
Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez’s 3-point shooting percentage during February. Fernandez is just 3 of 19 beyond the arc, and he is shooting a lowly 25 percent (7 of 28) overall from the field during the stretch.
Blazers guard Steve Blake’s average points per game through Portland’s first five contests in February. Blake was held scoreless in two games, while scoring just three points during a Feb. 6 defeat to the Los Angeles
Blake’s point total during the Blazers’ road victory over Phoenix. The mark set a season high for Blake, who shot 7 of 12 from the field and hit 2 of his 5 3-point attempts.
Game of the Week
Friday: Celtics at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. at Rose Garden (ESPN, 35)
Key matchup: Blazers’ Martell Webster and Nicolas Batum against Celtics small forward Paul Pierce. Portland must prevent the 2010 NBA 3-point champion from going off. But it will not be easy. A rested Boston team should be ready to go after the All-Star break, and Pierce will likely be riding a new wave of confidence.
Key stat: The Celtics top the NBA in fewest average points allowed (93.7), while the Blazers are tied for 23rd out of 30 teams in average points scored (97.5).
To win: Scoring will be at a premium for Portland. Roy should be back, which will help. But the Blazers must receive production from role players such as Fernandez, Blake and Webster to pull out a victory. Beating Boston is never easy. And there is no way the Blazers will do so unless Portland stretches the floor and shoots well from the perimeter.
Name: Chuck Charnquist
Years with team: 40
Resides: Beaverton, Ore.
Job description: “From 1970-92, I worked part time as (the Blazers’) head statistician. I did that on the side. … Now, I’m called ‘historian and archivist,’ because they can’t figure anything else out (to call me). And, really, having a title helps me in organizing.”
How it started: “I was a sports information director at Portland State, Lewis & Clark and then Linfield for about 25 years. I wrote sports and was on the sports staff at The Oregonian. … In 1991-92, I semi-retired from college work, and (the Blazers) needed somebody to put their media guide out. And I was still doing stats for them. So, I did stats, I did their media guide. And the next year, I did their game notes.”
Main job: “One of the real challenges I’ve got now is taking about 150,000 images that are in transparencies, and sorting them out, and knowing what to save and what to get into a digital format. (With) the 40th anniversary, there’s a lot of opportunity to connect points, both visually and story-wise. … That’s been a lot of fun.”
Game days: “I manage the press room. Make sure everything that goes on in there is on schedule, and people get their needs met.”
Favorite era: “There’s obviously the icon points of Blazer history. The (1977) championship year. When you’re sitting courtside for the greatest thing that ever happened in Portland — you were there; you were involved in it. I think the start of the franchise, that was fun. … I think the run in the (19)90s was incredible. I think the 1992 (NBA Finals), just as a personal experience, with (Michael) Jordan and (Clyde) Drexler going at it. About eight days later, we had the first NBA Draft held outside of New York. … Two weeks later, we had the Tournament of the Americas.”
Still working: “I guess it’s just become part of me. Forty years. And you do things you really enjoy. I never, ever have not enjoyed coming to work. I’ve got a feeling if I had been an accountant or an engineer, sometime I would say, ‘I don’t want to go there today.’ … And the people I’ve gotten to know … have become very good friends.”