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EGGERS: Blazers need bench help

ALSO: Why it's CJ, not C.J. McCollum ... Harold Reynolds in FOX lineup? ... Dick Fosbury jumps -- into politics ... and more column notes


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Joel Freeland, challenging a shot by Orlando guard Jameer Nelson, will be out of the Blazers' rotation for a while because of injury.Knocking it around on a variety of subjects …

• The loss of Trail Blazers center-forward Joel Freeland for at least a month (MCL sprain, right knee) only heightens the need for some additional beef up front.

I haven't given up on Meyers Leonard, but for now, Portland's 22-year-old center is not ready to defend the big boys. Power forward Thomas Robinson, who turns 23 next month, isn't there yet, either.

A veteran "big" to bring off the bench and provide some defense and a little scoring behind Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge -- a Kenneth Faried or Brandon Bass or Glen "Big Baby" Davis or even a Samuel Dalembert type -- would be at a premium.

Carl Landry, an offensive-minded 4, is back with Sacramento after hip surgery but not playing much. Brendan Haywood, a defensive-minded 5, will soon return to Charlotte after a foot injury.

Maybe these players aren't better than are Leonard and/or Robinson in this situation, but somebody has to be out there. I'm guessing Portland general manager Neil Olshey is working every angle to try to find additional help -- without touching the starters and reserve guards Mo Williams and CJ McCollum --before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.

The problem is, there are precious few commodities to deal. Assuming the above-mentioned seven aren't trade bait, that leaves Leonard, Robinson, Dorell Wright and Will Barton -- not exactly centerpiece material. The Blazers don't own a draft pick or a trade exception this season, either. The first-round pick goes to Charlotte unless Portland gets lottery pick 1 through 12, which won't happen. The second-round choice went to Denver as part of the trade that sent Raymond Felton to New York.

Next year, Portland will own its first-round pick, but the NBA prohibits trading one two years in a row.

Rock. Hard place. The Blazers are in between.

• Going into tonight's visit to Staples Center to face the L.A. Clippers, the Trail Blazers' bench ranks last in the NBA in scoring at 22.8 per game in an NBA-low 13.5 minutes a game and 26th in point differential (minus-7.3).

A year ago, the Blazer reserves were last in scoring (18.5), minutes (13.3) and point differential (minus-17.7), surely one of the weakest sub clubs in recent history.

This year's reserve corps is better, but still ranks on the low end in the league.

• McCollum's given name is Christian James. Since third grade, he has been known as "CJ" (without periods).

"I started writing CJ because it was shorter, and it carried over," he says. "My mom didn't like it at first, but she got used to it. She calls me CJ now, too."

McCollum grew up in Canton, Ohio, home of the NFL Hall of Fame. Has he ever visited the hall?

"Too many times," he says with a smile.

Was he ever a football player growing up?

"I played football, but it's too cold in Ohio," McCollum says. "I'm not an outdoor guy. I switched over to basketball pretty fast."

• Damian Lillard is not a favorite to win either the slam-dunk or 3-point contests during All-Star weekend. According to Bovada/Las Vegas odds, the Blazers' point guard is a 5-1 choice to win the dunk fest behind favorites Paul George (6-5) Terrence Ross (7-2) and John Wall (9-2). In the 3-point competition, Lillard is tied for sixth among eight entrants with 6-1 odds. Stephen Curry (2-1) and Kevin Love (4-1) are the favorites.

• From the no-need-for-false-modesty department:

Ex-Blazers guard Steve Smith, working for NBA TV, asked LeBron James to rank himself among history's greatest players.

"I'm going to be one of the top four that's ever played this game, for sure," James said. "And if they don't want me to have one of those top four spots, they'd better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody's gotta get bumped, but that's not for me to decide. That's for the architects."

James may be right. I just think it's more becoming when others say it, not him.

REYNOLDS• Word is that negotiations are ensuing for Corvallis native Harold Reynolds to replace the retiring Tim McCarver as baseball broadcast partner with Joe Buck on Fox Sports.

Reynolds, the former All-Star second baseman for the Seattle Mariners, will soon begin his sixth year as a studio host and analyst for MLB Network.

• Have gotten a few emails about the size and length of contract for Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson. Here are the details:

Robinson makes a base salary of $1.26 million this year, including media/PR obligations, plus bonuses for postseason appearances. He has three additional years on his contract, escalating to $1.38 million for the 2016-17 season. That means he has roughly $4 million left on his deal.

Football coach Mike Riley, by the way, earned a base salary of $1.5 million, including media/PR and apparel commitment, plus bonuses. Riley has a rollover clause that adds a year whenever the Beavers make a bowl game. He is contracted through 2021, when he turns 67.

• From the do-not-miss department: the 40th annual Prefontaine Classic May 30-31 at Eugene's Hayward Field. It's annually the greatest track and field invitational in the country -- among the best in the world -- and I can't imagine promoter Tom Jordan would have anything less.

• High-jumping legend Dick Fosbury is trying his hand at politics.

Fosbury, a Medford High and Oregon State grad who lives in Ketchum, Idaho and turns 67 next month, is running for the Idaho Legislative District 26 as a Democrat. The 1968 Olympic champion, a retired engineer, is focusing his campaign on education funding, increasing per capita income and increased maintenance of public facilities.

Foz, a former president of the World Olympians Association and a key figure in bringing back men's track and field at Oregon State, knows how to get things done. Were I an Idahoan, he'd have my vote.

• Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, writing about the protective cap major-league baseball pitchers are now authorized to wear: "Most of the guys say the cap is just too dorky to wear. The most oft-asked question this spring will be, 'Does this cap make my butt look big?' "

• Kasey Closs, who caught 63 passes for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior in his first season at Portland State last fall, is no longer a walk-on.

Coach Nigel Burton has given a scholarship to Closs, a Lake Oswego High grad who transferred from Saddleback (Calif.) JC and caught passes for more yards in a season than anyone in Viking history except Randy Nelson (1,299, 1969) and Terry Charles (1,171, 1999).

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Twitter: @kerryeggers