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Portland Timbers

by: , GUANTE

Next: Portland (3-0-0) plays host to Rochester at 7 p.m. Thursday.

• The NBA playoffs have been more fun for some Timbers than others.

Midfielder Miguel Guante, from Sierra Vista, Ariz., likes the Phoenix Suns. 'Don't remind me,' he says. 'Are you trying to rub it in?'

Defender Leonard Griffin, who grew up in Palmdale, Calif., and went to UCLA, roots for the Lakers. 'Showtime,' he says. 'Been a fan since Magic, (James) Worthy, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Byron Scott and Michael Cooper were there.'

Guante says he was in favor of the Suns' trade for Shaquille O'Neal. 'I thought it was a pretty good deal, initially,' he says. 'There's a lot of big men in the Western Conference. It hasn't quite panned out, but I still think it was a good trade to make at the time.'

Griffin says 'this could be the year' for his Lakers, and not just because of Kobe Bryant, whom he believes should be the league MVP. 'I like all their role players,' Griffin says, 'guys like Luke Walton, Jordan Farmar, (Vladimir) Radmanovic and Derek Fisher, of course.'

• Midfielder Shaun Higgins, on his game-winning goal in the 65th minute versus Minnesota: 'It was harder to miss than it was to make.'

• Owner Merritt Paulson knows the value of in-season exhibition matches, and Portland's first one this season is set for June 14 against a team from Italy.

A recent game in Seattle between Mexico and China drew 56,416 fans. Portland won't be able to reproduce that figure, but the Timbers' largest crowds could come when they play out of the league. Paulson says the Timbers have been trying to lure 'a big Mexican team, an English Premier team and potentially a couple teams from Spain.'

'Getting some geographical diversity makes sense,' he says, adding that Timber partner Nike is helping line up the games.

- Steve Brandon