Blazers stay loose preparing for Spurs

Players say they came out flat in loss to Clippers

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

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TUALATIN, Ore. — The Trail Blazers must have felt the enticement of the weekend — not just the San Antonio Spurs — after Friday's workout inside the practice facility.

When Ronnie Price finished his assigned shooting work, he ushered in some light-hearted target practice by launching full-court length bombs.

Wesley Matthews joined in and Nicolas Batum heaved one, but it was center J.J. Hickson, on the first attempt no less, who swished his shot in from roughly 60 feet away.

Hickson then turned to the sideline and playfully pleaded with reporters if any one had captured it on video.

Unfortunately for Hickson, no video evidence exists of his miracle shot. Although cameras did not pick up the loose and lively shooting session, the Blazers' energy still showed through — a good sign as the team tries to get back to its animated ways before Saturday night with the Spurs.

"I think we're going to come out ready," Hickson said. "We're not going to wait 'til the second half to pick it up because if we do, it'll be a game like it was (Thursday)."

As Hickson noted, the Blazers (2-3) played a deep Los Angeles Clippers team in front of a revved-up Rose Garden crowd as well as a national television audience but did not respond to the moment until trailing by 21 points at halftime.

After the 103-90 defeat, several Blazers, including Batum and Damian Lillard, remarked how the collective team energy was not where it should have been in the first half.

The numbness only began to break at the 7:12 mark of the third quarter.

"I think in the third quarter, it was Wes that got us started," team captain LaMarcus Aldridge said. "We were still kinda going slow and he stole (the ball) and he dove for it. I think after that things changed for us."

The numbers back up Aldridge because after Matthews' hustle play, the Blazers outscored the Clippers 18-4. Although a Meyers Leonard fourth-quarter dunk brought the Blazers back to 86-82, the Clippers weathered the flurry and held on for the win.

"Honestly, I just think it was one of those days where you come out flat. Once you realize you're flat and you don't have any energy and everybody's not bouncing on their toes, it looks bad," Hickson said. "It looks bad for the team, it looks bad in front of our home fans and we just want to pick it up.

"In this league, you give yourself 20-point deficits and it's just tough to come back."

Blazers react to Laker shakeup

By the time the Blazers arrived at their Tualatin facility for 11 a.m. practice, news swiftly spread that the Los Angeles Lakers had fired head coach Mike Brown. News that surprised Aldridge -- well, to an extent.

"I think it's kind of early. I don't know what to say …" Aldridge teased through a chuckle, "(but) if Kobe isn't happy, then that's tough. So, I've been getting word that he wasn't happy with the way things were going and if he's not happy then your chances there are very slim. As you saw with Shaq."

The Blazers' Terry Stotts has twice been fired from head coaching jobs, even getting relieved of duties during the season — Milwaukee fired Stotts in March 2007 after the Bucks fell to 23-41 — and expressed his disdain for Brown's quick hook.

"I never like it when coaches get fired," Stotts said. "I know it's part of the profession, but it is a fraternity and you hate to see a coach get fired, especially this early in the season."

The Lakers began the season 1-4 under Brown and lost their first regular-season game to the Blazers, 116-106.