Mark it down: October 14, 2010, was the beginning of the post-Sonics era of pro basketball in Seattle. Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers held an informal scrimmage at Garfield High, alma mater of their star guard Brandon Roy. Had the Blazers held such an event two years ago, it would’ve been a flashpoint for aggrieved Sonics fans. But last night, Sonics fans were sparse–or at least not identifying themselves. I saw plenty of Portland and UW jerseys. I even saw a Shaun Alexander replica. But not a single Sonics jersey.
It started tonight with a scrimmage attended by a few hundred in an inner-city high school gym. Next time it will be an exhibition game at KeyArena. Maybe someday a regular-season game or two. And as young Seattleites with no memory of the Sonics grow up, they’ll naturally adopt the team that’s barely a three-hour drive away–just as Portlanders long ago adopted the Mariners and Seahawks.
But enough of this bally rot, how about the scrimmage? Well, it was pretty damn fun. A low-volume hip hop mix played as the “Black” team, with Blazers starters Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby, played the “White” team, with backups Jarryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez, and some other dudes I couldn’t pick out of a lineup.
During stoppages of play, there were games and giveaways, including a free-throw shooting contest that matched Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and players Justin Forsett and (Garfield alum) Isaiah Stanback against three Garfield students. The Seahawks won, barely, thanks entirely to Forsett. Other entertainment of note: The SeaGals danced, there was a tricycle race, and Brandon Roy announced a $20,000 gift to the Garfield High School Foundation.
The game was slightly more competitive than an NBA All-Star Game; players were actually playing defense, but also trying for alley-oops, behind-the-back passes and other high-entertainment-value plays. One player stood out–rookie guard Armon Johnson out of Nevada. Johnson made several nice passes, playing the majority of the minutes with the first team as Andre Miller sat out most of the game.
Watching the game: UW coach Lorenzo Romar and two of his current players, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Abdul Gaddy. Former Garfield and UW star Will Conroy was there as well, and, a name that probably only Garfield diehards will know: Gabe Rapier, a state sprint champion and slithery forward on some state tourney teams of the early ’90s.
If the Blazers are trying to make inroads into the Seattle market, it worked. On me, at least. Seeing a team in person is so much more intimate than seeing them on TV. Watching Batum glide down the court, then burst to the basket, controlled but explosive. Watching Brandon Roy swish fallaway threes against any defender his coaches cared to match him up with. Even seeing Joel Pryzbilla looking bored, arms crossed, as if he were an A-list comedian booked into the Chuckle Shack. I’ve been avoiding Comcast, but I think I’m going to cave and get cable, primarily to watch these Blazers.
Let the healing begin.