13 April 2011
In Portland’s last two games of the regular season and with NBA postseason positioning falling into place around them on Tuesday night, the numbers are starting to tell the story.
Before the Blazers tipped off against Memphis, the dry erase board in Portland’s locker room proved as much: “Be A 48 Minute Team”, was scribbled out in black marker.
48 minutes. The message didn’t fall on deaf ears as LaMarcus Aldridge used a double-double (22 points and 11 rebounds) to help push Portland past the Zach Randolph and Tony Allen-less Grizzlies, 102-99.
The next number: 6.
The Blazers finally locked up their postseason position and now with Wednesday night’s game at Golden State, patiently wait for the other seed scenarios to figure themselves out in the Western Conference. Yet lost in all of the playoff prep work and trying to figure out exactly who the Blazers will face when the NBA playoffs start this weekend, there is another number hidden in the shadows that deserves to come to light.
That’s the number of championship rings this Blazers’ 15-man roster boasts. And it belongs to the newest Blazer, Earl Barron.
“Not too many people know that,” Barron told Beyond the Beat, about winning a title with the Miami Heat back in 2006 when he was a rookie.
“It’s back home in a safe deposit box.”
Undrafted out of Memphis, Barron has been around the world and back again. He’s balled in Italy, Turkey, the Philippines, various stints in the D-League and spot NBA contracts with Miami, New York, Phoenix and Milwaukee, where he played in 19 games between the Suns and Bucks. From stop to stop, the 7-foot center knew he belonged in the league and knows that championship ring serves as the reminder just how far he’s come – even if Barron keeps it tucked away.
“I really don’t wear it too much. I wore it a couple times when I first got it. The attention I got with it on was crazy. People were grabbing me and looking at my hand from the other side of the mall. I’m not into all that stuff anyway, but I cherished it. I was 23 years old and was like, “okay, I won a championship. Oh well”.
Now 29, Barron flashed a quick smile as he listed to the long list of names and greats who have played in this league who never won a ring. There may be some in the Blazers’ organization who may experience the same heartache.
The ring may be out of site, but it’s never out of mind.
It’s what everyone in the league - even the 15th man burried on the bench or player added for a playoff run -is gunning for right now as the regular season comes to a close and the playoffs steadily get underway.
“As the years have passed and I left Miami and went to other places, I felt maybe I needed to cherish that moment a little more,” admitted Barron.
Tuesday night was a night of firsts for Barron. After signing with Portland earlier in the day, he scored the two final points for the Blazers and helped Portland clinch that sixth spot in the Western Conference. He’s hopeful Wednesday night at Golden State yields a little more run.
“I know the window was slowly starting to close and the chance to sign with a team and even a playoff team at the end of the year. But I just kept the faith and continued to work out. You just never know what is going to happen. I got the call and was in great shape and ready to roll, and then came in here and took care of business.”
Portland director of NBA scouting, Mike Born, could only applaud Barron’s dedication.
“We had a small pool of players we wanted to take a look at,” Born started, with Barron beating out free agent bigs Robert Swift and Dwyane Jones.
“He was just ready to go. Look, he won a title with Miami and I know he didn’t play a lot there, but that kind of championship experience is priceless. It’s what everyone in that locker room wants.”
Leaning back in a chair by his locker, Barron tossed some headphones around his neck and looked around the locker room. Since arriving in Portland on Sunday night and enduring a group workout on Monday, it was his first chance to take it all in.
Marcus Camby answered questions from reporters about who he’d like to see Portland face in the playoffs. Andre Miller exited stage right with his postgame meal – a fresh box of pizza. Wesley Matthews watched the final minutes of the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs game, and Nicolas Batum could be heard quietly chanting, “Beat L.A.—Beat L.A.”.
Still, another number to consider.
That goes to the smile on Earl Barron’s face as he thought about one day winning another ring.
“I look back and see how fortunate I am,” he explained.
“I’m lucky. I’m one of the fortunate ones.”
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