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MARK HEISLER ON THE NBA

Hatred isn't a two-way street in Portland

The Trail Blazers and their fans seem to have worked themselves into a state of righteous anger toward the Lakers, but the feelings do not appear mutual.

March 15, 2009|MARK HEISLER

OK, it's a holy war now, the Lakers and . . . Trail Blazers?

Who are the Trail Blazers, again?

Oh yeah, they're the young guys from Portland, who couldn't miss with Greg Oden, the center of his generation, joining all their rising stars.

That was before Oden's rookie season was cut in half by injuries, after being deferred for a year because of microfracture surgery, leaving Andrew Bynum as the center of Oden's generation.

If the Trail Blazers pounded their chests after their manly response to Trevor Ariza's foul in Monday's game -- actually, they just ran over to Rudy Fernandez and acted upset -- it was another night on the road for the Lakers, who have seen . . . and invited . . . worse, as when Phil Jackson called Sacramento Kings fans "semi-civilized redneck barbarians."

If the Lakers have lost seven in a row in Portland, it's less a concern than a revelation.

With Portland finishing 15th, 12th and 10th in the West the last three seasons, Lakers players are more like, "Really? I slept through most of those trips."

Now the Trail Blazers think they're ready, and their fans are up for jihad.

If it was sobering to see Fernandez taken off on a stretcher, Ariza wasn't even trying to take a hard foul, catching Fernandez's wrist while trying to block his shot from behind.

Nevertheless, the call went up for blood. Lakers blood.

Wrote the Oregonian's John Canzano:

"An ejection won't do it. A

suspension doesn't cut it.

. . . This can only end with

justice.

So where does Rudy Fer-

nandez get his?

. . . God willing, Fernandez

has a quick recovery and

gets back in time to stick a

dagger in the Lakers' hearts

when they meet April 10.

. . . The Lakers are bullies.

. . . puffing up their chests,

jawing, slapping, shoving

and intimidating. . . .

drunk with arrogance. . . .

Wait for a suspension. Lis-

ten for an apology.

Hope the league handles

this act seriously. . . . I sup-

pose in that moment the

Lakers got exactly what

they wanted.

Now, let's hope they keep

getting what they deserve.

The league didn't suspend Ariza, who did apologize. The Oregonian ran a follow-up, headlined:

"Fernandez: not as bad as it looked"

Canzano is a tough writer, in the forefront of coverage when former Trail Blazers president Steve Patterson turned the team into a police state and warred with the local press with such fervor, the Oregonian felt obliged to hire an outside ombudsman to analyze the rift.

The rise of the new, wholesome Trail Blazers is such a joy for the community after years of Jail Blazers agony, everyone seems dizzy with relief.

With brash young management and owner Paul Allen's coldblooded Vulcan Corp. henchmen, known as "the Vulcans," still lurking, the team's preoccupation with itself led it to -- how to describe it, oh yes, the pinnacle of arrogance -- threaten to sue any team signing Darius Miles.

This led to a pratfall, in which the happy scenario turned out to be Memphis' sneering at the threat and signing Miles.

The bad scenario might have been Miles countersuing and winding up owning the team. (Or maybe that would have been good for everyone but Allen.)

In a more traditional part of growing up, the young Trail Blazers think big teams are out to punk them, which was why an unprovoked Oden shoved mild-mannered Ray Allen out of bounds in their Dec. 30 win over the Celtics.

The Lakers have all they can do to avoid being punked but have long lived to condescend, from Magic Johnson's leading them on the court with his nose so high, it was surprising he could find it, to Kobe Bryant's lordly disdain.

Of course, if that's intimidating, it's on the Trail Blazers, who won't notice it if they're ever as good as the Lakers, which hasn't happened yet.

It's not just Portland. For all the Western teams, the Lakers are Jerusalem and they're Crusaders.

Now, if any of them is ever as good as the Lakers again. . . .

As the Lakers showed last week, as things tottered after grisly road losses in Denver, Phoenix and Portland, with Lamar Odom suspended for the game in Houston with San Antonio waiting, no one in the West is in their class yet.

Utah is rising but could use a shot blocker. San Antonio got Drew Gooden, who isn't David Robinson, but will help. (In another positive move, the Spurs made him trim his goatee, or get rid of the gerbil that had been hanging on his chin.)

Then there are Destiny's Pacific Northwest Darlings.

Perhaps fueling anxiety is the nagging fear of replicating another unhappy chapter, "We Take Sam Bowie Instead of Michael Jordan," with Kevin Durant, whom they passed up for Oden, flourishing.

Oden, once unpolished but explosive, is now unpolished and slow. New York Knicks President Donnie Walsh, the former Indiana Pacers president, who watched him as a prep, says he looks entirely different.

The arch-conscientious Oden may have bulked up too much in his year off, so the Trail Blazers have to slim him down and speed him up or figure out Plan B.

No, it's not suing anyone.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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