Blazers interact with fans in final practice

Portland finishes season with three road games

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers held their practice at Portland Community College on Thursday -- the key word being community.

As Portland heads to the road for its final three games of the season, interim head coach Kaleb Canales decided to have one more workout in front of anybody who wanted to attend.

“It was an opportunity for us to reach out to the best fans in the NBA,” Canales said. “We knew that on paper it was our last practice in Portland.”

Actually, based on what transpired on the Cascade Campus, the Blazers likely already had their last practice in Portland.

This was hardly the sweat-dripping, drill-sergeant-type workout pro sports teams are expected to endure. In fact, after warming up briefly, players spent the rest of the day putting on an exhibition.

The first order of business? A 3-point shootout.

Players each had one minute to drill as many 3s as possible -- albeit behind the college arc.

Nolan Smith began the festivities by making 12, but Luke Babbitt quickly supplanted him by knocking down 19. Nicolas Batum would rack up 18, pitting him in a final with Babbitt, but Babbitt hit 19 to Batum’s 17 in the second round to take home the title.

Hasheem Thabeet did not threaten.

“That was my first one,” said Babbitt of winning a 3-point title. “We have them in practice all the time, but never officially. I think I should get a trophy.”

Up next was an interactive contest involving fans, media and Blazers.

The teams were split into groups of three -- each having one reporter, fan and Blazer, where each member was designated with making either a layup, free throw or 3-pointer.

Once somebody converted the layup, the foul shooter was allowed to shoot, and once the foul shot was made, the 3-point shooter could fire away.

After all three had hit their shots (there was one team per basket) everyone rushed to mid-court to fling half-court shots. And once somebody from one team made it from half court, they won.

Easy, right?

Well, what’s most important to know is that Joe Freeman of the Oregonian made two bombs from mid-court, while Thabeet swished his final heave to win the championship.

Wesley Matthews was asked what was more surprising: Devin Harris scoring 25 first-half points Wednesday against Portland, or Freeman’s half-court hits?

“Have to go Joe Freeman,” Matthews said. “But that’s a tough one.”

A couple hundred fans were in attendance, and while the event did feel like the closing of a chapter, Canales made sure to stress that the year is hardly over.

“Three games is a lot of time,” Canales said. “I don’t feel like the season ends today.”