Trail Blazers Stretch Winning Streak To Nine

Portland's NBA team is riding a hot streak. Host Scott Simon talks with NPR's Tom Goldman about the Trail Blazers, a new champion in chess, and how John F. Kennedy's assassination set a precedent for how sports commissioners handle cancelling games after tragedies.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. I wait all week to say time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And the Portland Trail Blazers are blazing. They defeated the Chicago Bulls last night for their ninth victory in a row, but that game was overshadowed by another injury to Chicago's Derrick Rose and the whole league, whole basketball is concerned. For more now, we're joined by NPR's Tom Goldman from Portland, Oregon in his hemp slippers, I'm sure. Thanks for being with us, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Your Trail Blazers - actually they're Paul Allan's trailblazers - but I know you have a special interest in the team, are just on fire, but we have to ask about this injury to Derrick Rose. Third quarter, his right knee buckled, he hobbled off the court. How serious is this potentially for his team, but also for a young man who is almost the biggest star in basketball but may never have the chance to show how good he is.

GOLDMAN: We won't know until the details of an MRI today. The team is flying to LA - has flown to L.A. - and he'll get the MRI there. He reportedly appeared to be in pain as he left the locker room last night on crutches. You know Scott, that's just an image so depressing to Bulls fans and NBA fans, as you pointed out, because a lot of people were rooting for Derrick Rose after he tore the ACL in his other knee two years ago and he missed all of last season rehabing.

Again, we'll have to wait for the MRI. But it certainly appears he'll miss some time. Now, it's important to point out, the Bulls learned how to win without him last season. They made it to the second round of the playoffs, where they lost to Miami. But, you know, that goal of getting past the Heat and LeBron James, and winning an NBA title, obviously a lot tougher without Rose, who was the league MVP in 2011.

SIMON: And he's a Chicago kid. I mean, he's just so important to that team and that city, our city. Look, the Blazers won 98-to-95. They've won nine in a row. Boy, they're on fire.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, they really are. They're 11-and-2 now, third-best record in the league behind San Antonio and Indiana. It's a testament to a bunch of guys in uniform, obviously, and to a guy in a suit and tie. General manager Neil O'Shea was hired in June of 2012. He went out and addressed Portland's biggest need from last season - depth. The Blazers had a starting, a talented starting unit, but an extremely thin bench.

O'Shea brought in center Robin Lopez, veteran guard Moe Williams, former college star Thomas Robinson, and those guys are all contributing. Before coming to Portland, O'Shea helped turn the L.A. Clippers into a playoff team. For the time being, he seems to have worked his magic again with Portland.

SIMON: Tom, first let's note, Magnus Carlsen of Norway is the new world chess champion. He's 22. OK, we noted that.

GOLDMAN: Checkmate.

SIMON: All of this week we've been talking about the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination and it's time to recall in the aftermath NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle let the games go on as planned. His decision has hung over sports ever since when officials have to decide whether or not to play in the wake of a tragedy.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Rozelle said he made his decision after consulting with White House press secretary Pierre Salinger who told him JFK would have wanted the games to go on. Salinger reportedly never regretted saying that, but Rozelle said years later that it was the biggest regret in his career to let the games go on.

It has become a template, in a sense, for how not to respond to tragedy. There's been a greater likelihood not to play. We saw that with 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing. You know, Scott, the games are judged to be trivial at the time of these events, but as the acute pain recedes, you'll often find sporting events have this redemptive power. You think of the 1963 Army/Navy football games two weeks after the JFK assassination; the World Series in 2001 after 9/11 with the Yankees battling the Arizona Diamondbacks down to the wire.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

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