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Its time to give Damon the props

Notes from a busy sports week:- nWhat would be wrong, at some point, with giving Damon Stoudamire a little credit? He's having a very solid season, and nobody on the Trail Blazers has made more clutch fourth-quarter shots. I think he's one of the toughest players in the NBA.

nThe luckiest rookie? For my money, it's Seattle's Luke Ridnour. He is fortunate enough to have landed on a team that features former Oregon Stater Brent Barry, a class act from the moment he stepped into the league.

Barry takes his role as a mentor seriously. If he's smart, Ridnour will keep his eyes and ears open as one of the smartest players in basketball teaches him the ropes.

'I really like Luke,' Barry says. 'The kid is a gym rat. He loves to play, and he'll work hard enough to get stronger and better. Right now, he's a very exciting player. On the fast break, you better have your hands up or he'll break your nose with a pass.'

How good can he get?

'He's got better court sense than Steve Nash,' Barry says. 'That's the player you'd compare him to. But Nash is bigger than him, and that's the one thing you worry about with Luke is his size. But I think he's going to be a very good player.'

Barry believes the NBA is finally figuring out that smart players have value.

'I think more and more coaches are deciding they want basketball players instead of athletes,' he says.

nKudos to Mike Bellotti and Mike Riley for making a pretty good recruiting haul. I don't really know what that means, but a lot of fans sure believe it's a big deal. I guess I've been around too long Ñ I remember all those highly touted recruits of days gone by who ended up fizzling out.

nOne source inside the Blazers tells me it's still pretty certain Rasheed Wallace will be traded before the deadline. I have a great deal of confidence that whatever happens, Steve Patterson and John Nash will do the right thing. They aren't going to take any expensive long-term contracts in return Ñ unless they're getting a superstar.

nThe Winter Hawks' 1,000th game in Portland was a 4-2 Sunday night win over Moose Jaw and one of the best games of the season. I know, all I have to do is write about boring hockey and they trot out a couple of dandy games.

nBill Walton skewered Wallace throughout Sunday's ESPN telecast of the Sonics-Blazers. Say what you want about Walton, but he and Charles Barkley are the only commentators right now with enough courage to rip the players they're covering.

nA while back I wrote an item about ex-Oregonian sports columnist J.E. Vader. I said that before she got her job at the daily, she had no column-writing experience. That was a mistake. She wrote at least two 'Point After' columns in Sports Illustrated. I regret the error.

Dwight Jaynes can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .