Friday, 23 July 2021 08:32

Mt. Melanson Errupts on Muscle

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Portland, OR - The Lumberjacks welcomed the Detroit Muscle to Joe Mufferaw Arena Friday night.   Yet, amid this dismal seasons are laced beams of light.  One of the few teams struggling as mightily as the Lumberjacks, the Muscle came in trying to even the season series at two apiece.  Of note was the absence of small forward Edward Baranowski who recently broke his foot in a game against the Sharks.  He has been replaced by the blazingly fast Carol Lerch so there were concerns from Lumberjacks faithful (those who are left anyway) about how Efrain Vanover would fare.  In a season of dark clouds with more hail and destruction than silver linings, Lumberjacks fans were just looking for a few rays of light.

 

One such beam have been the few upsets they have pulled.  While their struggles this season have received most of the attention, their ability to play spoiler has not.  In the past two months, the Lumberjacks have flopped against fellow bottom dwellers like the York Labradors and sagging teams like the Philadelphia Americans.  Yet, by contrast, the Lumberjacks have posted upset wins against the London Knights, Toronto Huskies, and Kentucky Stallions.  Each of those upset wins is punctuated by an outstanding game from the Lumberjacks All Star, Kendall Melanson.  Melanson, who has changed the name on the back of his warm up jacket to "Atlas" has literally taken the fortunes of the team upon himself.  "Look, if I don't get it done," said Melanson of his play of late, "we aren't getting it done.  I'm putting in the work of Ye [Yevegny Ilgauskas] and the Stay Puft Marshmallow man in the middle there [referring to Desfontaines] for half the cost.  I deserve a damn medal of honor for the fire I've taken this season."  While it may seem to some like a no brainer that the fortunes of a team are hitched to their all star, it's painfully apparent to the Lumberjack Faithful that Melanson needs some help.  His brash assertions are not off base either... Ilgauskas is scoring 8.7 points for a hefty $14.6 million dollar price tag and Desfontaines scores 15.1 points per game for $20.7 million.  Compared to Melanson's 25.4 points per game for $17.5 million.  Obviously, the mismanagement of the contracts by prior management and failure of the staff to help both young players blossom is where the fault truly lies and neither Ilgauskas or Desfontaines have sway there; however, Melanson is making it his own personal vendetta this season and taking it out on other teams like a waterboy in the face of a bunch of Gatorade lovers.

 

The other brief bright spots is winning a series which the Lumberjacks did against Detroit last Friday.  The Muscle vs. Lumberjacks matchup features two very skilled interior matchups in Weatherford vs. Desfontaines and Sage vs. Melanson.  Sage, a free agent signing by Detroit from Portland, has lived up to his billing for the Muscle and posted 18 points per game on 50.6% shooting while grabbing 9.0 rebounds per game (3rd best in the league).  Sage's emergence was a big part of Portland's winning seasons and, this being the first season gone, the Lumberjacks are struggling mightily in his absence.  In the teams' first two matchups, it looked like both teams were going to focus on delivering body blows and letting these guys go at it.  Game one in Detroit saw the Lumberjacks come out on top as their interior scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to Detroit's 26 points and 12 rebounds in a two point victory.  Game two, Portland's duo got fed but the rest of the team seemed content to just watch them go as the interior starters accounted for 63 points and 22 rebounds.  In that game, Weatherford for Detroit seemed to wilt while Sage thrived and, to hear accounts after the game, that is where a grudge began.  Sage had a signature performance that game going 17-26 on the night ending with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks like a cherry on top.  During the game, Sage could be seen turning to go nose to nose with Melanson and, at one point early, fans heard Sage should, "All night!"  Despite a fantastic game from Melanson (39 points and 13 rebounds), he was uncharacteristically reserved after the game.  Source around the locker room said that he changed and left without much to say at all which was somewhat odd. 

Fast forward a few months... Kendall, now an all star, leads the Eastern conference with an all business 31 point performance.  Many looked at the All Star game as a more relaxed, fun game but Kendall was getting sweaty about it and went 14-20 on the night.  After every basket, he just turned and ran back to the other end.  Even announcers though that his lack of aggression seemed odd and one quipped that he looked like a volcano ready to erupt.  Thus, the Mt. Melanson meme was born.  Several shares later, #mtmelanson went viral followed by hats and t-shirts.   Each game that the Lumberjacks have played since has seen local sports commentators have an "eruption alert" as part of their pregame show.  Few have felt the force of the rumblings like the Detroit Muscle.  In their next two meetings, the Lumberjacks beat the Muscle by eight and 11 points respectively but what is more telling is the Melanson/Sage matchup.  In both games after the all star break, Melanson has averaged 33 points on 61% shooting from the floor.  He's grabbed 12 boards on average and thrown in 1.5 blocks for good measure.  By contrast, Sage produced 8.5 points per game (a full 10 under his average) on 36% shooting.  Sage has also averaged 5 fouls per game as well causing Detroit fans to cry conspiracy (since both games were played in Portland).

Be it a grand conspiracy by Portland referees to protect the all star, simply gaining the respect that comes with being an all star, or just a coincidence of two bad games from Sage met with two top shelf ones from Kendall, fans and local sportscasters alike can agree that Mt. Melanson has definitely been rumbling of late.

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