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Are fans getting what they paid for?

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Just a few more NBA thoughts:

Shutting it down: Last week I was chatting with an NBA front office bigwig and he brought up the number of players who had been removed from the lineup for health reasons down the stretch of the season.

Obviously, it has something to do with how talented Greg Oden and Kevin Durant - the predicted top two draft picks - are projected to be. Teams know that by losing, they improve their lottery prospects. In this case, even slightly better odds is worth it because of the impact these players could make on a franchise.

But there's another side to this, and it was bothering the NBA guy.

'I'm hearing teams all over the league talking about 'shutting players down for the season,' ' he said. 'I've never heard of this before. A lot of these guys are healthy enough to play and should be playing. You pay them for 82 games, and they should play 82 games.

'Besides, I think teams need to remember their fans. I wonder what would happen if fans began to call the office and say, 'You know, I see you're shutting some of your players down. Well, I've decided I'm going to shut my season tickets down for the year, too. You can just mail the refund back right away.' '

A house call: Last Tuesday, when the 1977 Trail Blazers were gathering in Portland to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of their championship and to retire Lionel Hollins' number, Dr. Jack Ramsay paid a visit to the locker room of the current team.

There wasn't much of a fuss made about it, but those who were in the room tell me the team was spellbound as the 82-year-old Ramsay spoke. This is a man with basketball credibility and a personal charisma that hasn't diminished with age. And, if the young Blazers came away impressed, so did the ol' coach.

'You know, when you talk to a group of people, you get a feeling about them,' he said. 'I looked around the room, and every guy was looking me right in the eye. I liked that a lot.

'I really like what they're doing here. In Nate (McMillan), they've got an outstanding coach and leader, and the young players are going to be good. I'm very impressed.'

Ramsay, by the way, looked terrific and said he was doing well. It's no secret he's been fighting cancer for a while, but if not winning he's at least holding his own.

'I feel good,' he said. 'Still swimming just about every day.'

The man is an NBA treasure - a generous, articulate, passionate basketball guru. I wouldn't mind seeing the team bring him back to town once in a while as a guest consultant, for players and coaches.

He's one of those people who makes you feel better just by being around him. And, as a source of knowledge about the league, its players and basketball in general -I'm not sure you can do much better.

We need to see more of this man in Portland.

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