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Portland travelblog: Tiger Woods in the morning, Thunder in the afternoon

Sometimes, things turn out your way. That certainly happened Sunday in Portland. And I’m not talking about the Thunder-Blazer game.

Watching the Masters coverage on Saturday afternoon came incredible news. Inclement weather was headed to Augusta on Sunday afternoon, so the fourth round was being moved up.

The final group would tee off just before 9:30 a.m. Georgia time. Do the math. That’s just before 6:30 a.m. out West, where we find ourselves for a few days. With an afternoon tipoff for the Thunder, the Masters was going to be played without me.

Then came the schedule change. I woke up around 6:20 a.m. Portland time, flipped on the television, and Tiger was on the first teebox. Viola.

I got to see almost all of the final round. Some in my hotel room. Some on the television in the Residence Inn’s workout room, where I spent 30 minutes on a treadmill. Some on my phone, walking the one mile to the Moda Center. The rest in the press room at the arena, where the interviews are next door so even when we were talking to Terry Stotts and Billy Donovan pregame, we missed just a few minutes of golf coverage. Everyone at the arena was talking about the Masters anyway – Stotts included – so there was no conflict of interest.

Until the 19th hole, it was Tiger’s day.

I like afternoon games anyway – deadlines are the bane of my existence – but to also get to see the Masters was an extra blessing.

Outside of the Thunder’s atrocious shooting, it was a good day.

I had a big breakfast at the Residence – I rarely eat breakfast, but I was too tempted. Waffles, biscuits and gravy, a breakfast burrito. Then Erik Horne and I walked to the Moda Center, through the Lloyd District.

The Moda Center sits on the east side of the Willamette River, same as our hotel, so we didn’t have to cross a bridge. We enjoyed the stroll, with temperatures in the high 40s, going through a couple of blocks of housing and some commercial areas as well.

I’ve been to probably half the NBA arenas, and the truth is, on the inside, they’re all pretty much alike. Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Dallas’ American Airlines Center stand out as a little more opulent and/or cool than the others. But they’re all pretty much the same.

The Moda Center, originally known as the Rose Garden, was built in 1995. That makes the Moda Center 24 years old. But it’s still in great shape. The arena and the concourses seem fairly similar to Chesapeake Energy Arena. The bowels are a little different but have much of the same characteristics as the rest of the NBA coliseums.

The Portland crowd is very good. Always has been. Remember in the old days, when the Blazers first entered the NBA and seven years later won an NBA championship? Portland set a pro sports record for consecutive sellouts, something like 20 years running.

The Blazers do many of the same in-game operations as other NBA teams. One thing that distinguishes the Blazers from the Thunder is Portland displayed a couple of videos involving the players doing silly things, giving the fans a slice of their personalities. You don’t see that in OKC.

The Moda Center hosts a variety of other events and teams – including a junior hockey team in the Western League – and once was home to the Portland Forest Dragons of the Arena Football League, which moved to Oklahoma City in 2002. Portland doesn’t seem to mind as much as Seattle minded losing the SuperSonics to OKC.

The Moda Center never has hosted the NBA Finals. The Blazers’ two Western Conference title teams (1977, 1992) played at old Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which still stands.

Our seats at  the Moda Center are solid – about midway up, across from the Thunder bench. The only problem is that we’re right behind the fans, so when they stand, we have to stand. That’s a hassle with all the stuff we do during games, but it’s not like working in the salt mines.

The Blazer support personnel is quite helpful and nice. Really first class. And the setup is very convenient. The interview room and the press room are right next to each other. In Oklahoma City, they are on the other side of the arena.

Perhaps you saw the postgame. The Blazers won, so all of Portland was happy, but even so, the quality of the Portland interviews was striking. Damian Lillard was interesting and insightful. We’re not really used to that with the Thunder. Enes Kanter, of course, is fantastic no matter which jersey he’s wearing. Those two and C.J. McCollum all came in separately. Russell Westbrook and Paul George continued the Thunder tradition of superstars coming in together, which is fine, since Westbrook doesn’t really say anything and George, while at times interesting, isn’t loquacious.

Give us an afternoon game, and we’ll use the extra time. I haven’t written a Thunder game column with any time cushion in forever. So I did a Thunder report card, compiled a Q&A with McCollum and then wrote my column, all without sweating or looking at the clock.

Some of my time was spent wrestling with videos. We use our iPhones to shoot the interviews, but transmission sometimes is difficult. We finally got them to go through Sunday. I don’t know if it was bad internet connection or what.

When we finished, about 6 p.m. Pacific, Erik and I walked back to the Residence Inn, another pleasant trip. We flipped on the Rockets-Jazz game while we podcasted.

Then Brian Brinkley and Nate Feken swung by and picked us up for dinner. We went to a hole-in-the-wall taco joint just off downtown, recommended by OU publicist Ben Coldagelli and my former Oklahoman colleague Gina Mizell. Por Que No, it’s called.

Someone looked it up and said Por Que No is Mexican for Why Not? Someone needs to tell Westbrook, who has adopted Why Not as his personal theme.

The food was good. I had three tacos, we had some guacamole and salsa. That’s all I needed. That big breakfast still was paying off.

The place didn’t have televisions, but that was OK. Houston blew out Utah, so we weren’t exactly missing the Masters.

Back at the hotel, I was still on Oklahoma time, so I was ready to crash. Knowing that when I got up on Monday, Tiger Woods would not be on the first tee.

Related Photos
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6ed74a6cf01c58dab991bcbeb150df9e.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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