MEMPHIS — The Portland Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the FedExForum in preparation for their upcoming game against the Grizzlies (tipoff at 5 PM on CSNNW and 690 AM). Some notes from post-shootaround …
— Monday night, Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez posted the photo above featuring himself alongside Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter and professional wrestler Big Show from last night’s edition of “WWE Raw” held at the FexExForum. Lopez said that he isn’t much of a wrestling fan, but that he was happy go to go spend some time with a long-time friend.
“I went to high school with Quincy,” said Lopez. “It was Quincy’s birthday and he got us front row seats. We had a good time … I’m not that big of a wrestling fan. I’m aware of the various wrestlers and everything, but Quincy is a pretty big fan. He watched growing up and everything. I had a great time and I know he loved it.”
Despite the size of his stature and personality, Lopez said he doesn’t think he’s got a future in professional wrestling, though he thought at least one of his teammates could potentially thrive in the ring.
“I suppose anything could happen,” said Lopez. “I’d definitely be the good guy. I could probably see Wes being in that position first.”
— On a more serious note, the team spent a good portion of their off day in Memphis visiting the National Civil Rights Museum and St. Jude Children’s Hospital (I’ll have more on the latter trip later this week). The museum, which is housed at the Lorraine Hotel, the location where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, is just a few blocks from where the team stays in Memphis. Despite playing an overtime game in Houston the night before, the team got up first thing to tour the museum and present a donation on behalf of the organization …
“We think we’re tough – and we are- and we think we go through stuff. I don’t know if I could have gone through a sit-in. I feel like I’m as tough as they come, I don’t know if I could have gone through a sit-in and be beaten up and dragged out and not retaliate. That’s toughness.” — Wesley Matthews
“The things that African Americans went through to gain civil liberties and civil rights took tremendous courage. You don’t know if you have that same courage until you’re put in that situation.” — Terry Stotts
“It was almost perfect, timing-wise. We had just come off two tough losses, two losses where we could get caught up in ourselves and our profession and we forget what’s outside of basketball. It’s always important to be able to have something to bring you outside of this life. Going to St. Jude and the Civil Rights Museum just puts everything back in perspective for you.” — Wesley Matthews
Click here for more photos from the team trip to the museum, courtesy of Jim Taylor.
— Finally, tonight’s game in Memphis marks a homecoming of sorts for Blazers swingman Will Barton, who played his two season collegiate seasons for the Memphis Tigers. Even though he was born and breed in Baltimore, Barton said going back to Memphis feels like home.
“I spent my two years in college here, performed really well and the fans really embraced me and I really embraced them,” said Barton. “They kind of took me in. It’s like my second home now. Any time I come back here to play, it always feels good. It’s just a wonderful experience.”
Despite playing spot minutes, Barton has become somewhat of a fan favorite among Trail Blazers fans for his freewheeling style of play and boundless energy, something that his fans in Memphis appreciated during his two seasons playing under Josh Pastner.
“I get a lot of love because they appreciate what I did here for my two years while I was here,” said Barton. “I really appreciate that. I always say Memphis fans and Portland fans remind me of each other because they’re so passionate about basketball. The fans really embrace the city and the team and the players. I love Memphis, it’s my second home and it’s always good to come back.
“They love me here in Memphis, too. I can go anywhere in the world and make it my home.”