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15 Most Important Games Of The Year: A Big Arrival

  1. Written by: DHawes22  / avg. rating: 5.0

    It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of an NBA season. There's little time for reflection when the focus is always on the next game.

    With the 2009-2010 season behind us, now is a good time to count down the 15 games that shaped the season and, possibly, the future of the franchise. Game No. 4: A Big Arrival

    Links: Game Recap || Game Notes || Photo Gallery

    The trade deadline offers up an array of options for NBA teams in the middle of February. While some seize the opportunity to find the missing link or patch up holes accumulated throughout the season, others try to shed salary or filter out the bad apples in hopes of greener pastures the following season.

    Approaching the 2010 trade deadline, the Los Angeles Clippers owned a 21-31 record and postseason dreams became just that, dreams. Combined with the fact their center Marcus Camby could leave at the end of the season, the realization of getting something positive in return was too enticing to turn down for Mike Dunleavy, then the Clippers General Manger, when Kevin Pritchard came calling. Portland’s need for improvement at the center position in the anticipation of the upcoming playoff push, compiled with Los Angeles’ desire to add to the bottom line was a match made in heaven when the expiring contracts of Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake, along with 1.5 million in cash were offered up for the services of Camby.

    Being traded is never an easy transition for an NBA player. Saying goodbye to former friends and teammates while wondering how their new ones will welcome them in, adjusting to an entirely different playing system, and learning how to navigate a new city are all part of the job description. But imagine being a family man and having to either uproot your better half and children or, in Camby’s case, be away from them for the rest of the season. So, one could only imagine what went through Marcus’ head when he found out about his new destination at a team dinner the night before he was set to play the Trail Blazers.

    "I only brought one change of clothes," said Camby back in February. "It's been a real rough, rough 24 hours for me, but real exciting at the same time….I think it's a great situation for myself. It's a first-class organization that really takes care of their own. I hope I can bring my knowledge of the game, and blend in these last 27 games. I'm really excited to be here."

    Before the season, not many could have foreseen a Thursday night game against the L.A. Clippers being such a hot ticket, but after centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla were lost to injury earlier in the season, the much needed arrival of Marcus Camby, along with Brandon Roy's return from a month-long absence due to a pulled hamstring, had the Rose Garden at a fever pitch.

    With Camby on the bench, waiting in the wings and cheering his teammates on and Roy'spresence on the court, Portland raced out to a commanding 49-38 lead at the half, aided by stifling defense and four Martell Webster threes. Everything seemed as if it were going according to plan, until Roy wasn’t to be found on the hardwood to start the third quarter. This was not the first time Brandon had tried to play on his bum hamstring. He re-aggravated the pull nearly a month prior in Philadelphia, which is why Roy could have been a little gun-shy about pushing his hamstring to the limits against L.A.

    "I feel like I'm probably going to need to stop playing for awhile," said Roy, who had four points on 2-of-7 shooting in his 15 minutes. "It's hard to get a rhythm. I was more concerned about [making] the move than shooting the basketball. If I'm thinking that much about playing, it's not worth being out there."

    As they did all season, the Trail Blazers rolled with the punches and held a seemingly unconquerable 69-48 lead mid-way through the third, but a rejuvenated Clippers bench fought back valiantly over the next nine minutes, using a 26-10 run to pull within five, 79-74, with 8:48 remaining in the contest. Following suit from their head coach, Portland didn’t panic. Instead of getting flustered, the Trail Blazers went back to what got them the lead in the first place, defense. 11 of the Clippers 21 turnovers came within the game’s first 16 minutes and Portland went back to that attacking mentality, swarming Chris Kaman whenever he got the ball and constantly keeping him out of rhythm the entire night. Most of the credit goes to LaMarcus Aldridge, who put in yeoman’s work on the All-Star center, containing him to only 4 points (1-6 fg), 8 rebounds, and forcing a game-high 7 turnovers out of the L.A. big.

    “Just doubling him, just try to find him, double him quick, and never let him get comfortable,” Aldridge said on the team’s defensive strategy on Kaman. ” I felt like he never really established himself or felt comfortable.”

    While Aldridge helped restore order on the defensive end of the floor, it was Martell Webster, filling in for the hobbled Roy, igniting the Trail Blazers offense when they needed it most. Immediately after the Clippers crept within five points, Webster converted a three-point play, jump starting an 11-0 Blazer run to all but sign, seal, and deliver a Trail Blazers win to the Rose Garden faithful. But to ensure there would be no more miraculous comebacks on this night, Marty dropped in three treys over the course of the final 3:12 to help Portland thump L.A., 109-87.

    "It's getting repetition up -- going back to the basics, really," said Webster, who was 9-for-13 shooting, including 7 of 11 from downtown. "The second half of the season, with the position we're in, we have to have a sense of urgency. Everybody has to be at the top of their game. I want to make sure I start on the right foot. I got a good start tonight."

    The importance of this game was threefold. First and foremost, yet another player, this time Martell Webster, answered the call when Roy exited at the half with his game-high 28 points. While the Trail Blazers aren’t a championship caliber team in every facet of the game right now, the ability to have multiple players who are capable of rising to the occasion when needing to do so is invaluable. Secondly, even though it appeared that Roy had done more harm than good to his hamstring, he learned how to override the pain of the injury and mentally bear down and focus on the task at hand; he wouldn’t miss any more games due to his hamstring the rest of the way. But the addition of Marcus Camby trumps all.

    As courageous as it was watching undersized players, Aldridge, Cunningham, Howard, and Pendergraph battle against the tall trees of the league, it become painfully obvious that Portland’s playoff aspirations could be in major jeopardy without some added size in the middle. Camby’s arrival not only breathed new life into a mentally exhausted Blazers locker room for the time being but also provided the coveted insurance at the center position for future seasons as well.

    "We won pretty much everything except the boards and I thought at times, they got to the basket fairly easy so yeah, we do need him,” added Coach McMillan. “What he brings to the floor, we are missing – a guy that will rotate and defend the basket as well as rebound and block shots. We need that. We were trying to get that from Greg and Joel and at times we did, but that’s his strength. I’m looking forward to getting him out there.”

    Previous Important Games
    #5 || #6 || #7 || #8 || #9 || #10 || #11 || #12 || #13 || #14 || #15

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