Last night at the Rose Garden, the Los Angeles Lakers were completely and thoroughly out-played, out-hustled and definitely out-scored by the up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers, 111-94. In another display of poor defense, the Lakers couldn’t even rely on their offensive prowess to pull them out of this contest. Portland led after one, 25-16, then 61-38 at the half. Any chance for a spirited comeback was quickly extinguished as the lead ballooned to 30 in the third. Later in the quarter, with the team teetering on total collapse, Trevor Ariza was ejected and assessed a Type 2 flagrant foul for his hard contact on Rudy Fernandez’s drive to the basket. Numerous technical fouls were called in the ensuing fracas as Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge tried to get to Ariza. Josh Powell and Travis Outlaw also picked up technicals as players pushed amongst the crowd near the end of the Lakers bench. Suspensions may loom for Lamar Odom for straying too far from the bench area as he jawed with Roy. Meanwhile, Fernandez lay on the floor under the basket for ten minutes as medical personnel attended to him. He was carted off on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. Luckily, he was conscious, had full movement of all extremities and did not appear to have suffered a head injury. Complaining of chest pain, Fernandez spent the night in the hospital with a diagnosed soft tissue injury to his upper right chest and side.
The foul was clearly a flagrant and warranted an ejection because of the fall that Fernandex took. But it was just as clear that Ariza was making a play on the ball and was not intending to cause harm or injury. Unfortunately, he caught him in such a way to cause him to lose balance, twist in the air and fall, unable to brace himself properly. Injuries and hard falls in sports are inevitable. Athletes do not compete at half speed, or play with reservation when the score is lopsided. They are taught to go full-bore, all the time and every time. While injuries sometimes occur, they are seldom caused by ill-contempt or malice. This was not Kevin McHale clotheslining Kurt Rambis. This was not Karl Malone chopping down Isiah Thomas. Instead, this was just a hard foul committed in the heat of a lost battle by a player intent on preventing any more humiliation. The 4th quarter was reasonably much more subdued, even allowing the Lakers to score 38 points to make the final score somewhat respectable. Kobe Bryant finished with 26 points on 11-29 from the field, followed by Pau Gasol with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Lamar Odom was again a non-factor with only 7 points, but more telling, with 4 turnovers and a continued downward spiral from his spirited play from last month. The Lakers clearly called this one in after halftime, unable to generate the type of energy to fight back on this given night. However, it is one loss, and on a night when Orlando, New Orleans and Denver also lost, and where Cleveland and Boston also lost games over the past few days, we take this in stride and move on to Houston. But it is with slightly slumped shoulders, somewhat uncertain of our immediate personnel status and our current state of mind.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
Preseason expectations turn into disappointment as quick starts transform into minor set-backs. Hope changes into despair as fresh beginnings quickly become mired in problematic, lingering stints on the inactive list. And projections of post season glory ultimately fade as the realization of another wasted season takes hold and becomes reality. This is quickly becoming the Greg Oden story. Oden and Andrew Bynum both did not play tonight due to injury. I surely hope that ‘Drew is merely the unfortunate victim of a pair of freak accidents. Unless of course, those conspiratorious Lakers are purposely trying to immobilize their gifted, young center, first with Lamar Odom falling into his knee last season, then with Kobe Bryant careening into his other knee this season. Honestly, I truly pray that he has not been bitten by the injury bug, forever rendering his career as brief moments of greatness scattered across a handful of games played. Some players fall helplessly into this realm, and Greg Oden’s name immediately comes front and center. Perhaps it’s fate, bad karma or just plain crappy luck. Whatever it is, he has been robbed of his chance to compete as only he knows he can since he entered the league as the number one selection in the 2007 NBA draft. His inner vision of greatness and glory come crashing down each time he gingerly takes a step onto the court. Yet through it all, Blazer fans continue to hope that he will someday actually play as advertised and make a difference for the franchise. With Bynum, we have been reservedly optimistic, knowing all too well the disappointment endured from last season. We all said, “Wait ’til next season when Bynum’s back,” now we find ourselves in an almost eerily identical place.