A semi-home for a semi-pro

A professional basketball team calls Portland State’s campus its home court. The Portland Chinooks are one of 23 teams that comprise the International Basketball League (IBL).

A professional basketball team calls Portland State’s campus its home court.

The Portland Chinooks are one of 23 teams that comprise the International Basketball League (IBL). Though “international” might be a bit of a stretch, as the farthest teams in the league hail from Tennessee and Michigan.

On Sunday at the Stott Center, the Portland Chinooks defended their home court, holding off the Lewis County Raptors’ late-game rally to win 137-135.

Portland nursed a comfortable lead almost all game long before a barrage of Raptor threes put Lewis County up with 8:03 to play in the fourth.

But the Chinooks answered.

Portland guard Kenny Tate, who finished with a team-high of 25, fought his way to the line and hit his late free throws. Forward Mike Parker got stops, rebounds and steals down the stretch, and guard Robert Day knocked down clutch perimeter shots.

And while the combined score of 272 seems pretty high by most basketball standards, in the IBL it’s expected. Teams average an astonishing 126 points per game. But make no mistake, this is not basketball’s twisted sister of Arena League football.

As explained by the IBL’s website, the league’s rules closely mirror those of the NBA with two exceptions: teams are allowed only a single timeout per quarter and players are required to inbound the ball immediately.

The first rule makes some sense, as NBA games, under a barrage of timeouts, sometimes have a tendency to limp through the final minutes, which should be the most exciting. In theory the IBL’s reduction of timeouts does limit clock stoppage in crunch time, but the shift is not without its drawbacks.

Star players on both teams appeared quite exhausted as Sunday’s game wound down. Without time to catch their breaths, players often failed to finish plays they made earlier with fresh legs, as well as being called for a number of careless exhaustion fouls.

In the end, the number of fouls committed basically equaled the same amount of play stoppage that a few more timeouts would have.

The IBL’s second rule, an immediate inbounds, was not clearly executed or officiated.

This year the IBL celebrates its third year as a league. With Sunday’s win, the Portland Chinooks are 5-1, putting them on pace to better 2006’s record of 9-11.

For their efforts, IBL players make anywhere from $30 to $300 per contest and the league’s travel schedule is designed so that players are able to easily keep their day jobs while participating.

Presumably those playing in the IBL do so because they love the game, not because they harbor NBA (or even European league) dreams. Still, some of the players, many of which have spent time in the NCAA, CBA and the like, have skills to display–most of them offensive.

In fact, Sunday’s game was almost completely defense-free. Leaning on their more fashionable skills, players were not afraid to force shots, or just take the ball up court and bomb a three-but like those who dominate the street courts and recreational leagues, these guys nailed an uncanny amount of difficult shots.

But true to IBL form, the offense-centric game was fun to watch. The players were in the game, screaming and pumping their fists even after inconsequential successes.

At once it seemed like Slap Shot, the old Paul Newman movie about a rag-tag hockey team. The court was full of characters, each fun or funny in his own way. The older guy that can still play, the loudmouth, the tough guy, the one who’s too short or too heavy to be playing basketball, and the overlooked star. They were all there.

And then I realized once you get to know this team, following them with a few friends would be a lot of fun.

The next home game is scheduled for Friday, April 20 at 7:15 p.m. against the Chico Force.