Van Exel, Mariners' rookies don't hold winning cards

Teams in the National Basketball Association have begun "reshaping" their rosters in preparation for the opening of training camps, (although it seems to me like the Pistons just got done stunning the world), so it won't be too much longer before the guys in the baggy shorts begin hitting the hardwood courts once again.

A number of teams are seeking replacements to fill the positions of "all-star" free agents who have departed seeking greener pastures, franchises with deeper pockets or teams with owners seeking to file Chapter 11 at an early age.

The buzz, in reality merely a little more than a low hum around Portland, is the trade for Nick Van Excel is going to solve a major problem for the Blazers.

Folks, I've got a good bridge for sale - anybody got any money?

A couple of years ago, a Van Exel shot sunk the Blazers' playoff hopes so I guess the old adage: "if you can't beat 'em, trade for 'em," must therefore be true.

He is supposed to be the point/shooting guard the Blazers have been looking for, but somehow I have a problem with that.

About all Van Exel's donning the red, white and black is going to accomplish will be making Cheech Stoudamire complain more about the court-time he isn't getting and make the Blazers' first-round draft choice of a high school "phenom," who's height and ability are both subject to question, a moot point and a waste of a No. 1 pick.

Here are a few statistics the newest "franchise savior" brings to the team.

Last year he played a whopping 39 games for the Golden State Warriors and averaged an impressive 12.6 points per game. This was a career low as was his .309 field goal percentage, his .307 percentage from three-point range and .707 average from the charity stripe.

Not exactly what I'd call a franchise-turn-around-type player's statistics.

His acquisition cost the Blazers Dale Davis, which leaves the team even weaker in the middle. A 7-6, 17-year-old rookie player from Korea picked in the recent draft isn't going to be ready for NBA competition in the foreseeable future.

As far as the other "big man" the Blazers took in the draft, the team indicated they don't think they are going to be able to sign the Russian this year or maybe not even next year. Again you have to ask, why was he drafted in the first place? It defies all logical reason!

Even with the Van Exel trade, Portland still won't be able to beat the Lakers for the Western Conference championship even though Shaquille O'Neal isn't on the roster anymore.

In case you haven't heard, Vlade Divac will be rejoining the Lakers, and he can bang people around under the boards nearly as well as Shaq. He hits the 15-foot jumper with consistency and you can't play "Hack-A-Vlade" late in the game because he can shoot from the free-throw line.

Also gone in the Blazers' two-for-one trade for Van Exel is Dan Dickau, which in my opinion is a big mistake.

Keeping the local player on the Blazers' roster might have created some excitement or brought fans back to the Rose Garden, sort of like Bucky Jacobsen has done for the Mariners.

Still, Van Exel may be a good acquisition for the Blazers. He reportedly has an attitude problem from time-to-time and an article in The Oregonian indicated he is is subject to "a hot temper and chemistry-killing mood swings."

Hey, great! Those attributes should make him fit right in with the rest of the Portland bunch!

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On the topic of the Mariners, if announcers Rick Rizz or Dave Henderson make one more comment lauding the accomplishments of the young players who have been inserted into the starting lineup and have created "a second half of the season turnaround," the people living as far away as Prairie City will be able to hear gagging noises coming from the residence of the Blue Mountain Eagle's sports editor here in John Day.

Second-half turnaround!? The Mariners are 6-5 since the all-star break and are still 21 games below .500!

Here a few statistics you might want to mull over concerning the "new" players on the roster and how they've "changed" things.

Justin Leone was hot for about a week until teams figured out he has a hole in his swing. Right now, his batting average stands at .226.

Jolbert Cabrera is probably the best of the bunch, at least right now. He is batting .291 and can play just about anywhere in the field.

Jacobsen got Safeco Field rockin' the first few times he came to the plate and reminded me of the days when Jay Buhner was a fan favorite. The Hermiston rookie hit some shots out of the park but recently, like many AAA players in the "Show" for the first time, he's got to figure out pitchers in the big leagues throw the slider a heck of a lot better than those in the Pacific Coast League ever thought of doing. That's why they're in the "Bigs." If he doesn't, he may soon long for the glory days of 82 RBI's at Tacoma.

Ask yourself, are these guys, along with a couple of AAA and former Independent League pitchers, going to create the big "turn-around" for the team? If your answer is yes, maybe you're the one with the bridge for sale!

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