With the Blazers and Knicks heading in opposite directions prior to Friday’s clash at the Rose Garden, Newsday’s Alan Hahn quizzed former Portland fixture Zach Randolph about the circumstances surrounding his move to New York.

Considering the dramatic turnaround the Portland Trail Blazers have enjoyed since his departure, Zach Randolph wonders what type of reception he will get when he returns tonight with the Knicks.

“I don’t know,” Randolph said. “A standing ovation?”

Randolph doesn’t dispute the wealth of young talent the Blazers have, including first overall pick Greg Oden, who hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury. But he believes he could have been a part of this Rose City renaissance, in which sellouts again are a nightly occasion at Paul Allen’s Rose Garden.

His bitterness isn’t toward the organization – “They gave me a max contract,” he said. “I can’t say nothing bad about Portland” – but toward the man who moved him, general manager Kevin Pritchard. It took Pritchard some serious campaigning to get Allen to sign off on moving his team’s top scorer for an overrated lottery pick (Channing Frye) and a washed-up veteran (Steve Francis). Despite his off-court troubles that often embarrassed the franchise, Allen was quite fond of Randolph

“I think that was all Kevin Pritchard talking to Paul, coming to Paul thinking they should trade me,” Randolph said earlier this season. “But it’s a business. I don’t think it was up to Paul. I think Pritchard brought it up to Paul.”

Randolph scoffs at the talk surrounding his publicized rap sheet in Portland – “Portland’s real small, so . . .” he often will begin – and downplays the suggestion that he’s followed the straight-and-narrow in New York, where it was suggested at the time of the trade that he might find even more trouble.

“I don’t know if I tried to change my image,” he said. “I’m a man. A lot of stuff happened, but I’m a man.”

Hardwood Paroxysm bypassed this evening’s telecast of “NBA Shootaround”, figuring the rhetorical explosion in the wake of Pau Gasol’s trade to LA would sound something like this :

Do you have any idea what Walton’s going to do tonight after this trade? The superfluous exaltation of the Lakers will be unheard of. He’s going to say they’re the greatest team ever formed. He may make a blood sacrifice to them. Stephen A. is going to talk about how “THIS JUST PROVES HOW GOOD OF A PLAYER KOBE BRYANT REALLY IS. HE MANAGED TO SCARE THE GRIZZLIES INTO GIVING THEM GASOL FOR NOTHING! NOTHING! KOBE BRYANT IS THE GREATEST PLAYER, NO, PERSON, NO, GOD, TO EVER WALK THE FACE OF THE EARTH! AND WITH PAU GASOL, KOBE BRYANT SHOULD WIN EVERY GAME, EVER! PERIOD!” Let’s just put it this way. My wife rented “The Notebook” on Netflix. I’m opting for “The Notebook” over this show.

Actually, I watched the show, and wonder of wonders, Stephen A. pretty much echoed my earlier sentiment that forcing Grizzlies fans (all 20 of ’em) to watch Kwame Brown and Jason Collins on the same team was tantamount to cruel & unusual punishment.

OK, that’s not exactly what Stephen A. said. Nor did I preface my earlier remarks by turning to Bill Walton and saying, “….and you know I hate to be negative.” But I’d like to try that sometime.

Behind 22 points from Provine Posse member Justin Reed, Austin’s D-League Toros are a few minutes away from running their record to a Southwest Division-best 17-9 with a home win over Utah. As one of those who scoffed at San Antonio’s decision to hire the disgraced Quinn Snyder — whose Toros have experienced wild roster turnover since November — I should probably acknowledge the former Dookie is making decent strides in career rehab. R.C. Buford has used his local NBDL franchise as a taxi squad far more than most of his NBA counterparts, and despite the lack of continuity, Snyder has Austin playing with something approaching poise on most nights.

(UPDATE : Utah’s Morris Almond missed a game-winning 3 at the buzzer, and the Flash and Toros are heading to OT, tied at 92. While Almond scored 53 against Bakersfield on Wednesday, he’s 4 of 17 from the field tonight. It must be all those special dead spots in the Austin Convention Center parquet floor that I read about while growing up).

(UPDATE DOS : Austin 105, Utah 100, finale. The Toros blew a 22 point 2nd half lead and somehow came out hungry in overtime — ATX’s most watchable team, amateur or pro, and nobody’s watching).