Jan 21

When we arrive at hotels on the road, there’s usually a table set up in the lobby upon which various items sit. Things like bottles of water or Gatorade, cookies, fruit and those stubby glass bottles of pop that only hotels seem to stock. But the most important item, one that is a sight for sore eyes when you’re arriving well after 2 AM in the morning, is the envelope containing the keycard for your room and a sheet of paper that lists everyone’s room number and the location of the room the team will use for catered meals and meetings. On the front of each envelope is the first initial and last name of whomever it happens to belong to, with the room number typically handwritten on the flap. It’s a system far superior to the alternative of having 30-some odd people traveling with the team going to the front desk one-by-one to check in.

The same scene played out at around 3 AM in the morning when we finally arrived at the hotel we stay at outside of Detroit after a longer than expected commute from Toronto. White envelopes sat on a black tabletop right inside the doors of the hotel. Players and staff filed off the buses into the frigid early morning air, walked through the doors, found their envelopes and then either headed up to their room or waited for their luggage to be unloaded from the box truck before turning in for the night, or rather, the morning.

LaMarcus Aldridge sits in the back of the player bus and is usually the last to exit, as was the case Saturday morning. He carried with him a large brown Louis Vuitton duffel bag, a piece of luggage popular with many Trail Blazers and NBA players in general, that visibly contained a basketball, presumably the game ball from his historic 33-point, 23-rebound, 5-assist, 2-steal performance in Friday’s night’s 94-84 victory over the Raptors. I saw LaMarcus walking off the bus as I stood contemplating whether I should go up to my room first then come back down for my luggage or just wait until my bags were unloaded off the truck and complete the ordeal in one fell swoop. To be honest, now that I think about it, I don’t remember which I opted for.

The decision I do recall making, however, as I saw LaMarcus walking toward where I was standing near the table, was that I was going to pick up his envelope and give it to him as a sign of respect and, more importantly, so he could get up to his room without having to expend even a few extra seconds looking for his keycard. I figured that after ten days, over 4,000 miles, five games and 202 minutes of court time that LaMarcus had endured during the trip that any bit of extra rest, even if measured only in seconds, was the least I could do.

But in my grogginess I had forgotten something that, had I not been walking dead, I would have otherwise remembered. Aldridge, as is the case with several players on the team, registers under a pseudonym while traveling on road trips. So there was no envelope labeled “L. Aldridge” sitting on the table, though that didn’t keep me from looking for a good 30 seconds. LaMarcus walked up, briefly surveyed the table and picked up the envelope printed with the first initial and last name of his alias. During the momentary pause between finding his envelope and heading to the elevators I told LaMarcus, feeling slightly like a boy who wants to help his father with a chore but is too young and inexperienced to do so, of my not-so-well-thought-out attempt to pay homage to his performance Friday night and during the 2010-11 season in general.

“’Preciate it Casey,” he said.

There’s not even time or energy to pronounce words completely this season.

As the team wraps up a six-game trip tonight against the Pistons, someone is going to have to do a much better job of helping LaMarcus Saturday night than I did early Saturday morning. The return of Marcus Camby, whose presence Friday night helped Aldridge turn in a once-in-franchise-history performance (though “Uncle Cam” would take no credit for it) is a start, but it’ll likely not enough to give the Trail Blazers a chance to finish the trip a very respectable 3-3 going into the meat of a six games in eight nights stretch that started Friday against Toronto, a stretch that might be one of the most physically taxing in Trail Blazers history.

It may be Gerald Wallace, who has made just 20 of 56 shots in the last five games, all on the road. Or it could be Raymond Felton, who had arguably his best offensive performance as a Trail Blazer on Friday night with 14 points of 6 of 9 shooting. Maybe Wesley Matthews shakes off the shooting funk he’s been in to finish the trip on a positive note. Nicolas Batum, who is shooting 57 percent on the trip if you don’t count the eyeball poke-shortened night against the Hawks, is also a good candidate. And it could be someone entirely unexpected. But whatever the case, it has to happen, even against as Pistons team that is struggling mightily, if the Trail Blazers are to take any momentum into a back-to-back-to-back stretch starting Monday at the Rose Garden.

In short, LaMarcus has done most of the heavy lifting so far, and now it’s time for one of his teammates to pick up his envelope.


  1. Nice blog Casey. It's hard to imagine just how tired everyone is, but the caring each blazer family member shows is remarkable. Rest well and keep on keeping on.

    by longtimeblazerfan on 1/21/2012 12:18 PM
  2. Great article Casey, but may I make one grammatical suggestion? "3 AM in the morning" is totally redundant, like saying "devoted Blazer fan" or "arrogant Laker fan." Minor nitpicking aside, nice article about life on the road in the NBA. Thank you.

    by pablazerfan on 1/21/2012 1:41 PM
  3. That's more stylistic than grammatical, but point taken.

    by caseyholdahl on 1/21/2012 1:44 PM
  4. I agree Casey, someone else had better be prepared to pick it up, or Detroit is going to top their dismal season so far with a very nice W :)

    Hoping it will be Wesley, Jamal, Nicolas, or even better...all 3!

    by SisillaRiann on 1/21/2012 3:13 PM
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