You can’t beat the holidays in New York City. With the lit Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the bright lights of Times Square and the world famous Rockettes performing in their annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular – tourism is at a high this time of year. But for the visiting Portland Trailblazers, a trip to the Big Apple is just another business trip in just another city. After arriving Sunday night via their chartered 747 plane, painting the town red was the last thing Blazer players were trying to do.
“No, I didn’t do anything last night,” Brandon Roy said before Portland’s game against the Knicks. “Way too cold out there.”
Last Sunday, the team started their four-city Eastern road trip that covers four games in seven days. By NBA standards, this cross-country trip is a walk in the park compared to other teams’ travel schedules. Every November, the Bulls take their annual “circus” road trip where they embark on a six or seven game Western road swing that lasts around two weeks while the United Center plays host to Ringling Brothers Circus.
After landing in New Jersey, the team proceeded to practice at the Nets’ practice facility before the team checked into their plush, five-star Midtown Manhattan hotel. From there, guard Steve Blake grabbed dinner with his sister and some friends from his hometown of Miami, FL, who were in town visiting. As for the rest of the Blazers, most said they packed it in and just lounged in their rooms, Skyping or iChatting with family. Or so they say. A witness from Dime, caught veteran forward Juwan Howard hanging out at the Meatpacking District hotspot The Pink Elephant. Second-year guard Jerryd Bayless stays away from the club scene all together on the road.
“Not during the year, I’m still trying to get established in the league,” says Bayless, who has reportedly asked to be traded. “I don’t have that luxury to do that.”
On Monday, before their game against the Knicks, most of the players continued the theme of staying in their rooms. LaMarcus Aldridge, who just signed a $70 million extension with Portland in the offseason, was able to get away from the hotel to do some shopping on the trendy and pricey Fifth Avenue. Asked which stores he shopped at, Aldridge casually responded, “Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the usual stores.” What about taking in Central Park or head down to Ellis Island? “No, I think when you travel in high school and college you go to most of these cities, so I’m really past [sight seeing] now.”
Martell Webster is another guy who isn’t big on exploring the city. Despite being in NYC several times over the years to play the Knicks and Nets, he probably can’t even give you a restaurant suggestion here.
“I really don’t know the cities to tell you the truth, especially this one,” admits Martell. “I’m a room service guy, so I don’t even go out to restaurants. But big cities like this? I couldn’t tell you where to go.”
Not going out has its perks. Webster is able to save not only his salary, but also most of the $108 per diem each player is given every day on the road. “It’s funny, because I kind of save it,” says Webster. ” If I can come up $200-300 off a road trip, that’s going straight to the bank.”
However, all the resting in the rooms didn’t payoff for the Blazers, who lost 93-84 to the Knicks at the Garden on Monday night. Immediately after giving their post game interviews, the team boarded a plane right to Indianapolis for their second stop on the trip. From there the team will head to Cleveland, where point guard Andre Miller started his NBA career 11 seasons ago. “I’ll be cool,” Miller says of his return to Cleveland. “I’ll get a chance to see some of my friends from back in the day.” The Blazers finish their road trip Saturday night in Milwaukee. There, Webster will see his brother, who will make the drive down from Chicago to watch him play.
Overall, this trip will probably be forgotten in a week for most of the squad. With hundreds of flights a year, these guys are pros at traveling. Just because Webster can’t tell you where to get a good slice of pizza in New York City or recommend a steak house in Chicago, doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to be an efficient traveler.
“One thing my grandma told me was always pack a lot of underwear,” says Webster. “If you’re going to have a surplus of anything, make sure it’s underwear. I might have to wear a pair of socks again, but I’ll never run out of underwear.”
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