At a time when diversions from real life seem more welcome than usual, it is a pleasure to announce the start of the NBA season and the return of the Portland Trail Blazers to the Moda Center. Last Friday, the Blazers took on the Sacramento Kings in a tight, high-scoring contest that went into overtime and hung in the balance until the final possession of the game. The game was typical of the Blazers’ performances this season; when their stellar backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum hit shots and got into rhythm, the Blazers opened leads against the Kings. When their shooting touch deserted them, the Kings closed the gap to low single digits, mostly by out-rebounding the Blazers and relying on the tough inside play of their star center, DeMarcus Cousins. Though the Blazers finally prevailed 122-120, it was clear that they are a work in progress despite their respectable record to date. Hopefully, they will find a way to solidify their defense and take some of the burden from Lillard and McCollum, but we can at least be certain that with these two on the court, the Blazers will be one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA in 2016-17. If you happen to be fortunate enough to see them in person, don’t take your eyes off the game for a second. You will miss something amazing.
Exciting as the game was, the real world intruded briefly in the third quarter, when the announcement flashed on the scoreboard that both I5 and I84 were closed due to the protests that had been going on for the past couple of nights. After about a half hour, with most of the fans undoubtedly checking their phones for routes home via side streets, the news came that the freeways had been re-opened. I was relieved at this, as well as after the game when rumors that the protesters were approaching the arena failed to materialize. The experience was very much an exception to my prior visits to the Moda Center, where I have always felt safe to wander around. I hope that Friday night remains an outlier in this regard. It may not say much for my character, but when things get rough, I lean on the side of discretion.