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NBA PLAYOFFS PORTLAND VS. LAKERS / SERIES REPORT |
OTHER VIEWS

What's a Motto With Portland?

April 28, 2002|CHUCK CULPEPPER | PORTLAND OREGONIAN

If we're really going to go back indoors to watch more of that, if we're to summon the guts, dig up the resolve, practice the dubious judgment to witness Game 3, we'll need a slogan, a vision, a purpose, to carry us through to blessed nightfall.

In a world where "Beat L.A." seems farfetched, "Beat Contempt" might work. If the Trail Blazers can prove they're better than sheer contempt for once, if they can treat the game and their coach with some respect, win or lose, they can almost render worthwhile these six months and 85 games, even if it ends identically to last year's six months and 85 games.

Other slogans don't quite cut it.

"Drive For Game 5" fails because it would waste jet fuel and man-hours for another inevitable Staples Center loss. "Ignore The Officials" directed toward the Blazers sounds like "Quit Smoking," directed toward an addicted uncle.

"Just Melt Down" seems too obvious. "Remember the Regular Season" would work, except no one with a right mind can.

But "Beat Contempt"? That has a chance. The Blazers could play like they love playing for a living, engage the Lakers in something compelling, appear to appreciate their first-year coach, seem grown-up enough to value a good try above freaking out.

It might seem like bread crumbs, but then, Portland's starving.

Last April, a team too feeble to defeat contempt lived in it, bathed in it, suffered in it. The result of all this defeatism was defeat, three games to none.

This time around, the team did veer toward contempt Thursday night in Game 2, but landed only on exaggerated frustration. Thursday's hideousness, while hideous, came off less egregiously hideous than the hyper-hideous hideousness of the prior Game 2. It's still safe to hope for three games to none with a little victory over contempt, as an improvement over three games to none, period.

If the Blazers can't quite respect themselves enough to avoid self-sabotage, the least they can do is not sabotage their coach.

Maurice Cheeks has endured just about everything in life many NBA players have endured--issues from sociological to hoopological--and has never been anything but a respectable NBA lifer.

Eight minutes to go in Game 2, the coach who had tried a press, careful timeouts and just about everything in the bag, stood watching action squarely in front of him.

Rasheed Wallace, working the left post, turned around to shoot, and Robert Horry rose to swat the ball to Encino.

The hideous third quarter already in the books, the last straws thinning, Cheeks' face dropped, and he began a careful study of the floor, searching it for hope while Shaquille O'Neal dunked for two more points.

There stood one forlorn coach who deserved better, so if the Blazers can't beat Los Angeles to make this first-round loss discernible from the last one, maybe they could beat contempt just for Maurice Cheeks.

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