sarahhecht

Dec 29

'We Play For Each Other'

By sarahhecht Posted in: WesleyMatthews, WesleyMatthews
Originally I planned to write tonight’s story about the guards stepping up. In Portland’s first two games forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace carried the team to victory—they were the only two players to score 20-plus points in either contest. I’d mapped it all out in my head and narrowed my focus to this: Wesley Matthews nailed some huge shots that sparked a fourth quarter in which only three guards scored all 28 Trail Blazers points. He’d lit the fire and Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton got some burn.

That’s what I was going to write about.

Instead, I’ll tell you about what happened post-game in the locker room. I think it’s a story you’ll appreciate much more.

I made the rounds to the lockers of Matthews, Crawford and Felton looking to hear their thoughts on how they’d gelled on the floor and pushed the Trail Blazers to a win. Wesley gave me fantastic quotes about the three getting familiar with each other and how knocking down big shots was contagious. Everything was going according to my plan until he said something that just about knocked me off my heels. Five words hidden in an explanation of shooting patterns: “we play for each other.”

This may not strike some of you as it did me, and it’s hard to explain why I was so taken with the phrase, but if you could have heard the way he said it...

He’d been leaned back in his chair during the bulk of his media session, relaxed and nonchalant like he usually is. As I spoke to him after the scrum dispersed he maintained the posture and used the same tone of voice. But as he said those words, “we play for each other,” he shifted. He leaned forward and looked me straight in the eyes like he’d never uttered a truer phrase.

The NBA is a business, we all know that. Individual talents mesh into a system to produce wins in the NBA season juggernaut. Guys go to practice, they bond with their teammates, they play night in and night out, and they show us their passion for the game. In the end it’s a job.

Very rarely group bonds are formed that stray from the normal working friendship. But sometimes, just sometimes, lightning strikes. It becomes about more than one or two guys. It becomes about the team.

I’ve told you about Wesley, and how pleasantly surprised I was with his candid description of the special camaraderie of the Trail Blazers. If you liked his description, you won’t be disappointed with the next stop on my rounds.

I crossed the locker room to Crawford. As he was talking to other media members I took a few moments to process what Wesley had told me and how it was going to fit into my piece about the guards. When the crowd cleared I asked Jamal questions similar to what I’d asked Wesley and heard asked to Felton.

Again, I was completely unprepared for the answer I got.

“The chemistry we have here is rare, honestly. I’ve been on other teams, and we [Portland] all play for each other,” Crawford said. “LaMarcus will be an All-Star this year, Gerald’s been a All-Star and may be an All-Star again, Raymond’s a top-level point guard, I won sixth man, Wes is one of the more underrated players in the league. So we have a lot of capable guys, but we all play for each other.”

I couldn’t believe I’d just heard the same words. I was stunned.

Even as I sit here in the office, attempting to express to you what was shared with me I’m in awe.

As an invested fan of this team it’s about more than just the wins and losses. I’m sure it’s the same for many of you. We’re here because not only do we love basketball, but we’ve become invested in the men that wear our colors. The character of these guys is just as important as their shooting percentages. We share the ups and downs. We feel the agony of defeat and the elation of success.

The five words shared by one new Trail Blazer and one old spoke to what Trail Blazers fans feel collectively, we play for each other.

13 Comments

  1. Oh Miss Sarah How beautiful.
    BTW, Jamel said the same thing to Holton in the post game interview.
    I was so much impressed with that, I wrote in Kassandra's blog that Crawford was moving up on my fav list. I am still a Batum goon, but everybody is getting very close.

    The way I see it is we have now three wins, and we have won them in 3 different ways. When one comrade was taken out of his game another one stepped on the gas in all three. The only thing that stayed the same was Never Giving Up, and Keep Playing For Each Other.

    I think in the spirit of BlazerNation, You Kassandra and Many of us others has taken on our part of We Play For Each Other. That is why we don't critique when a player has a bad night. Why we get angry at the naysayers that bash Nate, why we stay with the team through all the adversity. We as the BLazerNation play for each other, that includes the fan, coaches, front office, your group, and all of the players.

    That my friend gives me goosebumps and watery eyes because I feel so much more connected---I thank you Miss Sarah for sharing that with us.

    One more thing on the 3 wins, Mike Rice said in the first game, was when our bread and butter was taken away from us, instead of quitting we just found different ways to win. Or the Team Plays For Each Other.

    by Hg on 12/30/2011 2:08 AM
  2. I do feel the need to congratulate Sarah, though she does not yet play. A team with six and maybe seven players able at any moment/play to score more than 20 points, or then just be working/playing/building for the rest, is a team in the way to a championship, if the spirit of sharing and playing well and together is maintained. A team playing a winning and beautiful ballet. We must also think in beauty and generosity for success, a way is open.

    by sopadeajo on 12/30/2011 8:23 AM
  3. It is nice a little (relatively speaking, of course) town - not the richest and powerful one - might be the best.

    by sopadeajo on 12/30/2011 8:27 AM
  4. Thank you Sarah. That was beautiful. It's the simplicity, and the honesty that is so striking. The authenticity that exists within what can be such a cold, hard business.

    The adversity this team has faced has produced a toughness and a confidence in one another that likely wouldn't exist otherwise. This is something that is contagious to any player that comes here. It's become as much a part of the fabric of the organization as clean character and winning have. The RG, the fans, the PF, and the locker room are all infused with the bitter disappointments, the past shame, and the glorious rising up out of that dark period in our team's history. They say that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger, in speaking about trials and tribulations. What's missed is that as a group, it also brings us together. Like HG said above, we ALL play for each other here in RipCity, and it's beautiful.

    I hear/read a lot of criticism about this team's personnel decisions. That we could have drafted better, traded for better guys, brought in better talent. Sometimes I agree with it, sometimes I don't. One thing I try to keep in mind is that the front office is probably just as concerned with finding guys who FIT IN personality-wise with this team as they are talent-wise. This is another legacy of Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge. As LA stated, they came in together, wanting to change the culture. They did that in part by being enormously talented. They also did it by being really, really good guys. LA and Roy proved that you can build a winning team with men who are winners in every way, not just on the court. I think it is to the organization's credit that they recognized the need to maintain that good vibe in the locker room and have perhaps sacrificed "better" players in order to not only keep it, but build on it.

    I have been a fan of BB since 1983, when Magic and Bird drew me in with their intense "hatred" and rivalry. I've been rooting for the Blazers ever since, with Clyde and Terry's team being my favorite group of course. At least, until now. This group, these men, they have far surpassed that late 80s-early 90s team, and not by winning on the floor. They have drawn me in completely with who they are, how they play, how they interact with fans, and by saying things like, "we play for each other."

    I know the big trophy is the most important thing in the NBA world, but honestly, when I hear the guys are having the experience they are having, I hope that they recognize that what is happening among them is of far more value and worth than winning it all could ever have.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long comment, lol! Love that you wrote this, and shared it with us :)

    by SisillaRiann on 12/30/2011 8:34 AM
  5. EowynAmarie:
    You also have a beautiful flow of words.
    I understand that anger and disappointment is part of any culture, but use it diplomatically. I am not a hater or a basher, but the OKC ruckus should have been dealt with behind close doors. And there shouldn't be any angry words to any player while playing the game. Of course, I realize that the media blows things out of proportion, but it is unnecessary things that we they have to live with in order to survive.

    Great writing EowynAmare. I don't care how long your comment is as long as you are commenting and making a point.

    by Hg on 12/30/2011 9:49 AM
  6. it's the team-first mentality trumps the individual performances, the boxscore and the personal accolades. it's the reason why this fan base has become as strong as it is. i happen to know of one college dormmate who abandoned the idea of following her two hometown teams for the simpole fact that the blazers are team-first and really seem to enjoy playing alongside each other.

    to hear that unselfishness is there is wonderful. it's like more fuel to the fire of fandom and should give us even more cause for optimism.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/3/2012 8:35 AM
  7. Wow.

    by occassia on 12/30/2011 12:11 PM
  8. I understand that Felton had something to prove to his old team but I wish he would look to make passes that guide players to the hoop rather then look to score first then pass only to the top of the key or to the post where teammates must make their own move or pass the ball back. The team would be so much better if Ray improved his assist ability, with the talent around him he should average 12+ assists a night of which 6 should be alley-oops. Camby looks more like a point guard from the assist side of the 1 guard position. I think Ray brings a lot to the table but if he is going to score 20 points, he should get 10 assists as well.

    by mbmurr1 on 12/30/2011 2:51 PM
  9. I love the blazers, I think it is great that they play for each other but as time goes by someone needs more assists and I think that person is R. Felton simply because he plays the point guard position. If the team can work it out and everyone can get more assists I think Ray can fit in easier as a penetrating point guard.

    by mbmurr1 on 12/30/2011 2:59 PM
  10. Sarah, nice blog. I've been thinking about what each player has said about playing for each other. You know each of our rotation guys have talent but never been the top "dog". I think each of them has a bit of a chip on their shoulders because they know they have talent, but just haven't gotten the recognition for whatever reason, perhaps due to playing in small market locations. But my point is that they don't have the big ego to feed that some players seem to need. I believe they really do have the mind set of playing for a "team," not for themselves. It is this mentality that could really bond them together and make them better as a whole then individually. It could make for an exciting year ahead and one can't help but care about them for the "good guys" they are. Gotta love 'em. #RipCity

    Sarah, keep up the great blogging, chat room moderating, and being a tbtv "celebrity."

    by longtimeblazerfan on 12/30/2011 3:17 PM
  11. Thanks for sharing this piece of information, Sarah. I hope to incorporate that type of mentality in the blogger chat. So from now on, when one of us writes a blog, 'we blog for each other'.

    by blazerdarren77 on 12/30/2011 3:42 PM
  12. @Sarah I know of 3 other guys by the name of Vinny - Joe & Isiah that also played for each other. One night in particular when they each went of for 50 plus in a 4 OT game against Denver scoring a total of 186 points. That's what hard nosed defense and sharing the ball can do!! Their philosophy (Pistons) was this, whoever's hot give him the ball til he's not. Balance on both sides of the ball will ensure a consistent winning percentage. My personal opinion is that a strike shortened season is a great opportunity to turn some heads and take teams by surprise!!! What do you think about that??? Not saying we have three guys, other then Gerald, who could potentially score 50 in a game, but I do like us pushing the ball. I think we can win games with numerous styles. Whether we are grinding or running and gunning I like our chances!!!! Felton was a huge addition!!!! Have a great day!!!

    by BLAZER BELIEVER 1288 on 12/31/2011 12:28 PM
  13. The game you are mentioning was a 3 OT game with the final score 186-184. It was one of the worst defensive games ever because everyone had it going that night.

    In all, 12 players scored in double figures - Thomas (47), John Long (41), Tripucka (35), Terry Tyler (18), Laimbeer (17), and Vinnie Johnson (12) for Detroit and Kiki Vandeweghe (51), Alex English (47), Dan Issel (28), Mike Evans (16), Richard Anderson (13), and Danny Schayes (11) for the Nuggets. The teams combined to shoot a remarkable 56.6 percent from the field en route to a league-record 142 field goals.

    by bfellows9 on 1/1/2012 1:38 AM
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