(Don Ryan / The Associated Press)
The secret about the NBA is that the world's greatest basketball players actually run the same two to three plays. Isolation, post-up, pick-and-roll. Simple stuff. So when Eric Maynor made his Trail Blazers' debut on Sunday night, although he had the equivalent of 1-1/2 practices to get integrated, he looked comfortable with his limited knowledge of the Portland playbook.
From the end of the first quarter until the midway through the second, Maynor ran the point for eight possessions.
The very first time he touched the ball, he dumped the pass to Will Barton and floated away for the rookie to go iso at the end of the quarter. By his fourth possession, Maynor ran his first pick-and-roll with J.J. Hickson, culminating with an assist and an easy make. Maynor freelanced on his fifth touch, taking the baseline and scoring the layup. Then by the next possession, Maynor brushed off a pick from LaMarcus Aldridge but Kevin Garnett jumped the screen and forced Maynor to dump it inside to Hickson who traveled.
In these eight possessions, the Blazers committed three turnovers and scored four points. Maynor very briefly paired with point guard Damian Lillard in the backcourt and after his first seven-minute stint with the Blazers, he produced a plus-2 on the floor. Not bad for the new guy.
Wesley Matthews gave it a go in Los Angeles with a bum left leg. He was slow. The guy he was defending dropped 40 points. And yet, Matthews' play was inspiring.
Matthews knew that his teammates needed a win against the Los Angeles Lakers, so he played through the pain of a mysterious injury. Matthews still doesn't know what exactly is wrong but you didn't have to be a doctor to see the hitch in his movement. Even so, playing on one good leg, Matthews' defense gave the Blazers a chance on the road. With the Lakers leading 107-105, Matthews forced Kobe Bryant into a turnover with 32.6 seconds remaining in the game. The Blazers could not even the score on the next possession and ultimately lost the game. Still, Matthews finished with 15 points and a team-high eight assists.
Save the “LOL” for another time, Will Barton.
Late Tuesday night after the Blazers lost to the Phoenix Suns 102-98, Barton’s first public expression was to plead his case to Shaquille O’Neal. Barton had a rather embarrassing rookie mistake near the end of the first quarter, when he stole the ball and forced a 3-point attempt that missed wide left with a lot of time still on the clock.
O’Neal hosts a popular segment called “Shaqtin’ A Fool,” in which he features basketball lowlights. So, in the locker room immediately following the loss, Barton tweeted this: “Ayyeee @SHAQ yall don’t joke me to bad on Shaqtin’ a fool lol.”
Priorities, rook. Priorities.