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BEN BOLCH / ON THE NBA

NBA coast to coast: Trail Blazers off to their best start in years

November 30, 2013|By Ben Bolch
  • Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge backs in on New York's Kenyon Martin during the first half of a game on Nov. 25.
Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge backs in on New York's Kenyon… (Don Ryan / Associated Press )

Techno team

The core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum is approaching Big Three status.

Newcomers Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson and Dorell Wright have added quality depth that was missing last season.

Shooting guard Wesley Matthews has made an insane 50.5% of his three-pointers.

There's also the iPads.

The what?

That's right, one of the reasons the Portland Trail Blazers (13-3) bring the second-best record in the Western Conference into Staples Center on Sunday against the Lakers is their use of hand-held devices often associated with playing video games and surfing the Internet.

A few Trail Blazers told Blazersedge.com they watch the iPads on the bench during games to monitor their shooting form, defensive stances and opponents' tendencies, allowing them to make quick adjustments.

"I want to see how they're double-teaming me, where they are coming from," Aldridge told Blazersedge. "If I'm getting double-teamed and I can see how they're doing it, that helps me and all my teammates."

It certainly does. Portland is off to its best start since the 1990-91 team went 14-1 on the way to 63 victories.

Growth industry?

At this rate, the NBA could endorse the use of human growth hormone before it implements testing for it.

A league that has conspicuously looked the other way when it comes to the banned substance was reportedly receptive to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's offer to finance studies to determine whether HGH use would benefit athletes recovering from injuries.

Cuban told reporters the studies could take up to 10 years.

The league seems to be on a similar timetable when it comes to actually testing for HGH. Outgoing Commissioner David Stern has said the implementation of testing has been delayed by the absence of an executive director of the players' union following Billy Hunter's dismissal earlier this year.

Even if studies endorsed the use of HGH as a recovery accelerant, any use of the substance would need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

A longshot request

The four most namby-pamby letters in college sports may not be NCAA after all.

The NAIA is threatening to revoke the amateur status of Cameron Rodriguez after the sophomore forward from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., won $20,000 for making a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder game last month.

Rodriguez's school has appealed, asking if the money can be used to offset tuition costs. Rodriguez, who hails from Elk City, Okla., receives a partial scholarship.

"In my eyes, it's just money," said Rodriguez, one of five Thunder fans to make a half-court heave since last spring. "I know I'm a college kid who can use some help, but my love for basketball and my passion for the sport — it's worth more to me than $20,000."

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