Last time Heard on the Hill caught up with Sen. Ron Wyden, the 2016 NBA Finals were underway. Asked which team would take home the championship that year, the Oregonian ran with his fellow West Coasters, the Golden State Warriors, over the Cleveland Cavaliers. (LeBron, however, had other plans.)
Now, as the 2019 Western Conference finals tip off Tuesday night in Oakland, the longtime Portland Trail Blazers fan has a more black-and-red choice of a champion.
Wyden plans to cheer on the Blazers “glued to the TV” at home, after showing up in person for their dazzling quadruple overtime home court win earlier this month. But he’ll be back at Moda Center in Portland this Saturday for Game 3 of the conference finals.
We asked Wyden what it means to represent Rip City — and got his surprise MVP pick for the series.
HOH: What are your emotions as the Trail Blazers head into the conference finals and what would beating Golden State mean to you as an Oregonian?
Wyden: Put it this way, I am in full countdown mode until Saturday night’s tip [for Game 3 in Portland]. As an Oregonian, a deep playoff run like this is simply the best, walking around town and seeing everybody wearing Trail Blazers gear. Beating a great champion like Golden State would be better than best — lifting our entire state to heights matched only by CJ [McCollum] on that chase-down block toward the end of Game 7 [of the semifinals series] last Sunday.
HOH: For those who do not know, how would you describe the home court advantage in Rip City?
Wyden: As somebody who’s loved the game of basketball my entire life, I can say with full confidence that Rip City always gives the Trail Blazers a clear home court advantage. Going back to my time watching the Trail Blazers back in the 1970s at the Memorial Coliseum, the Portland crowd is always rocking from the opening tip and doesn’t let up supporting the team. In a city the size of Portland, the Trail Blazers are just as much part of the community’s DNA as the views of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens.
No way this @trailblazers season was ending today. Congrats to the team and all of #RipCity for making it to the Western Conference Finals & providing so many memories along the way. Feels like there are many more to come against Golden State. pic.twitter.com/l1jBAiDcRl
HOH: What is your relationship to the Blazers organization and particularly to Coach Terry Stotts?
Wyden: I go back to the days of Harry Glickman and Larry Weinberg, who asked me in the 1980s to go to the then-Soviet Union and help secure the services of Arvydas Sabonis. I’m a big fan of Coach Stotts — and more importantly, it seems the players are huge fans of Terry because he always puts them in good situations to succeed.
HOH: What are your predictions for the series? How many games?
Wyden: Blazers in 6, clinching at home.
HOH: Which Trail Blazer will be the MVP?
Wyden: Hard to bet against Dame [starting guard Damian Lilliard] heading back home to Oakland or CJ after that Denver series. But I will give you an X factor for this series — [starting center] Enes Kanter seems poised to have his way in the low block against the Warriors.
HOH: Where do you plan to watch the series opener tonight?
Wyden: I will be where I often am when I am in Washington and the Trail Blazers are on — glued to the TV in my house.