By Raul Dominguez Associated Press
SAN ANTONIO — The Portland Trail Blazers were clearly rattled by the San Antonio Spurs in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals, and they were almost snake bit before Game 2.
A baby rattlesnake, estimated at about 3 to 4 feet, was discovered in the team’s locker room at the AT&T Center about two hours before the game Thursday.
It was found by reserve forward Thomas Robinson, who recoiled a few feet after seeing the snake when he moved a bag from his locker.
“I didn’t (see it),” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They said it was a young one.”
Young or not, guard Mo Williams tweeted that it was a scary experience.
Rattlesnakes are a venomous species that can grow up to 8 feet and weigh more than 10 pounds. It takes its name from a “rattle” at the end of its tail that produces a rattling sound when shaken to warn predators of its presence.
It is unknown if the rattlesnake found in the locker room made any noise, but Robinson’s cries were enough to alert his teammates of its presence.
“Well, it’s bizarre to have a venomous snake in your locker room,” Stotts said. “I don’t know if it’s ever happened before. That sounds like an ABA story.”
The Spurs have a history in the ABA and also with critters in the AT&T Center.
The stadium hosts the San Antonio Stock Show &Rodeo each February and its grounds are used for livestock shows during the three-week event.
Spurs guard Manu Ginobili also swatted down a bat that was flying above the court at the AT&T Center on Nov. 1, 2009. Ginobili had to have rabies shots after striking the bat with his bare hands.
Fortunately for the Spurs, Ginobili wasn’t needed to corral the snake.
“I think some people here (captured it),” Stotts said, smiling. “They have them on hand at the AT&T Center. They have a specialist.”
It probably wasn’t a good omen for Portland, which is seeking to even its series with San Antonio.
“Or a good sign,” Stotts said. “We survived.”
The Trail Blazers will gladly accept any good fortune after being walloped in their first second-round appearance in 14 years.
San Antonio led by as many as 31 points and never trailed in rolling to a 116-92 victory on Tuesday. Tony Parker had 32 points and nine assists, as many as Portland had as a team, as the Trail Blazers never threatened the defending Western Conference champions.
Stotts was asked if he thought someone from the Spurs had planted the snake to rattle his young charges.
“You’re the investigative reporter, you figure it out,” Stotts said, tongue in cheek.
Stotts was then asked if he considered returning the favor and planting the snake in San Antonio’s locker room.
“That thing, it’s like Fort Knox over there. You can’t get in,” he said.
Well, the room with officials Joe Crawford, Bill Spooner, Derrick Stafford and Sean Wright is only about 50 feet away from the Blazers’ locker room.
“And I can’t comment on the officials,” Stotts said, laughing.