EGGERS: Tennis Federation snubs Portland; Blazers' schedule not friendly; Stotts impresses his players; Doucette gets ready for big award
Notes, quotes and observations in the local sports front
Due to a policy change by the International Tennis Federation at the behest of title sponsor BNP Paribas, Portland won't be playing host to a Davis Cup semifinal or final in the future.
The City of Roses, which hosted earlier round ties in 1981 and '84, was the site for the '07 Davis Cup finals, during which the United State defeated Russia 4-1 at sold-out Memorial Coliseum.
The gate was more than $3 million and, according to Bill Kellogg, past chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup committee, "a spectacular success." Didn't matter to executives of BNP Paribas, a French bank looking for a more worldly site.
"They have no offices in Portland and don't perceive it as an international spot for client entertainment and media exposure," says Kellogg, an owner of the LaJolla (Calif.) Beach & Tennis Club. "They came up with criteria that said the semis and finals have to be in a major city in the world, like a New York or Los Angeles or Chicago in the U.S."
Kellogg is a proponent of smaller cities hosting major events such as the Davis Cup finals.
"Personally, I'm disappointed with the ITF decision," he says. "When you hold a Davis Cup tie in a city like Portland, it becomes a really big deal. Sometimes in a bigger city, it gets lost. It was a special occasion in Portland. The city really got behind it. Cab drivers knew about it. It was on billboards all around town. It was a big deal. When you take it into the bigger venue, you don't get that same community energy.
"I do think Portland, with its great track record with the USTA, should bid to host a first round or a quarterfinal tie again."
Me, too. Get Nike and Adidas more involved. Put it in the Rose Garden. Pack the place. Make some noise on the global front. Make the ITF regret its ill-advised decision, for many of the reasons Kellogg lists.
Boise, incidentally, plays host to the next Davis Cup tie, a quarterfinal matchup between the U.S. and Serbia from April 5-7. Taco Bell Arena, which seats between 12,000 and 13,000, is half sold out. In 2007, Memorial Coliseum tickets were gone in 15 minutes.
The Trail Blazers' playoff chances are much dimmer than those of any of the other four teams -- Houston, the L.A. Lakers, Utah and Dallas -- competing for the final two spots in the Western Conference.
Entering Wednesday night action, Portland (29-34) had 19 games remaining -- 14 with playoff teams, and that's not counting two against Utah and one vs. Dallas. Only Detroit and Philadelphia are future opponents among the league's have-nots.
Houston (34-30) has the easiest path, with 12 of 18 remaining games at home, including seven against non-playoff teams. The Rockets face only three road games against playoff teams.
The Lakers (34-31) have nine of 17 games on the road but still have eight games overall left against non-playoff clubs.
Utah (33-31) has only eight of 19 games on the road and nine overall against non-playoff teams, while Dallas (30-33) faces only seven of its remaining 19 opponents on the road and seven overall against non-playoff squads.
I've known Terry Stotts since his early NBA coaching days as George Karl's right-hand man in Seattle and have always liked him as a person and respected him as a coach. But he has exceeded my expectations as head coach in his first year with the Blazers.
Stotts has earned faith among his players this season with deft handling of a young roster and an extremely weak bench.
"I like how even-keeled he is," rookie point guard Damian Lillard says. "You never see him blowing up on guys. You never see him bowing down, either. He'll say what he needs to say.
"He gives us a lot of freedom, and he puts us all in a position to do what we do best. He puts me in a lot of ball screens. He gets the ball to (LaMarcus Aldridge) on the left block, where he is most comfortable. He gets Wesley (Matthews) and Nic (Batum) going off of player screens and pin-downs. Even with J.J. (Hickson), we get him in pick-and-rolls and lobs and running the floor. (Stotts) has done a great job giving everybody his chance to be in a situation to succeed."
Stotts has been masterful -- probably better than any Portland coach since Rick Adelman -- at devising a play late in a close game. It's not always turned into a winning basket, but it's often given the Blazers a good look at one.
"We have a lot of shooters," Lillard says. "He knows where guys like to take their shots. We always end up in spots where we can make 3s or whatever we need at the time."
Lillard has shot superbly from long range as a rookie despite a trajectory that is lower than most outstanding shooters.
"I used to shoot the ball a lot higher," he says. "When I got to Weber State, I started working on my jump shot, rolling the ball off my fingertips, shooting the ball with some force. That's when my shot flattened out.
"I feel I can control the ball more that way instead of shooting it straight up in the air. It's not a straight line -- I have a little bit of arc on it -- but I feel more control when I'm not letting the ball fly in the air too much."
I caught up with old pal Eddie Doucette this week, nearly a month after he was named as this year's winner of the Curt Gowdy Media Award. He'll be honored during the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in September at Springfield, Mass.
Doucette, who spent seven years calling radio and TV play-by-play for the Blazers in the 1990s, follows the legendary Bill Schonely, who earned the Gowdy Award in 2012.
"I can tell you I feel better right now than Kate Upton looks," says Doucette, who lives in San Diego and is semi-retired. "You don't go through your career in the sportscasting business thinking (winning the Gowdy Award) is one of your goals. When it happens, it's almost daunting. It's like, 'You gotta be kidding me.' "
Like Schonely, Doucette has a personal connection with the late, great Gowdy.
"As a young boy growing up outside of Boston, Curt was my guy," Doucette says. "We didn't have a TV at home for a while, and I remember standing outside the appliance store window and watching Red Sox games Curt was calling. Now I'm carrying his flag into the media section of the Hall of Fame."
Doucette -- who admits to being "a few semesters over 70" years of age -- called some college games for Fox Sports last season and works hard on his pet charity, the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. Last week, the long-time voice of the Milwaukee Bucks was asked to take part in the radio broadcast of a Bucks-Clippers game at Staples Center.
"I did the second and third quarters," Doucette says. "It was a blast."
Speaking of sportscasting, the King of Hyperbole -- Bill Walton -- outdid himself last week during a broadcast of the Stanford-California basketball game.
With the Cardinal leading the Golden Bears 34-31 at halftime, Walton mused, "Can the Cardinal pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of this fantastic conference?"
Cal was 11-6 in Pac-12 play at the time, Stanford 8-9. Jeepers.
Remember what Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said early this season, even after losing center Angus Brandt for the season? "This is the best team I've had at Oregon State," Robinson said.
Then, after losing to Oregon 79-66 in the conference opener, Robinson said, "This team is better than last year's team."
The Beavers finished 4-14 in the Pac-12 regular season. 'Nuff said.