No matter playoff fate, Blazers quietly developing into juggernaut
I don't care. OK, Houston 108, Portland 81 in a calamitous Saturday night. I'm still loving the Trail Blazers. Loving the talent, loving the personality, loving the coaching, loving the front-office decisions.
The Blazers didn't need that Hazmat spill of a Game 1 to be reminded that they don't yet rate championship-contender status. There may not be another team less in need of a reality check. Portland is a city that embraces its NBA entry as a civic institution, so, yeah, the safe bet is that the 2008-09 roster gets frequent updates of where it stands compared to where it wants to be.
In the real message, this is only the coming attraction. The Trail Blazers of opening night in October were the second-youngest team in the league, trailing only the Warriors, yet still won 54 games. A candidate to start at small forward,
The franchise's best season in nine years was a shot across the bow to the rest of the league, and nothing that happened Saturday night changes that. The Blazers could leave the Rose Garden toes up Tuesday night as well and it won't change that.
The team wants a ferocious response in Game 2, of course, and the ability to at least push back will be an important read on the emotional toughness of a roster of nice guys. But out in the real world, Portland has had great forward movement this season no matter what becomes of the first round. This season was always about great forward movement more than a real title shot. The Blazers are playing with house money the rest of the way.
"We feel like we've overachieved for a young team," general manager
The Blazers are the first team in league history to win 50 games while playing four rookies at least 50 games. The No. 25 pick in the draft,
And yet: 54-28 and home-court advantage in the first round.
"They might be the deepest, most-talented team in the league," Popovich said.
There had to be a misunderstanding. Either Popovich thought I was asking about the Lakers or I misheard his answer about the Blazers.
Deepest. Most talented.
The Portland Trail Blazers.
"I think so," Popovich said. "You look at some of those young players. I think that the Lakers fit together really well and they've got everything covered, and Phil's done a great job pulling them together. But when you look at six-seven-eight-nine-10 [in the rotation], Portland's got some hellacious depth. And like you said, Webster's not even on the court. Very athletic. Very long.
Imagine when they get good.
Really sending the rest of the league diving for cover, the Trail Blazers are this much of a factor without coming close to their potential. Viewing their prospects with an updated perspective changes everything.
Oden: No longer has to be a superstar. Just developing into credible and dependable gets Portland to another level. Though that personal improvement alone won't save him from the daily grief of hearing about a No. 1 pick gone bad, it will put him on course for a meaningful career with a legitimate shot at a ring. It won't be the glam life
The front office: Pritchard will be aggressive again this offseason. He always is, only now it gets really, really interesting because the Blazers, with trade chips and
Blazermaniacs: Their dedication pays off. In one of the few instances where a fan insurrection went beyond talk and became impetus for actual change, turning their back on the beloved franchise during the dark Jail Blazers days forced management into major renovations. Then the new team started to win and the turnstiles whirred again.
"I think the guys on this team have been extremely tough and played through injuries," Pritchard said of the root of the success. "That's No. 1. No. 2 is the character of our team. Everybody in this locker room is a good guy. It's off the charts. Are there small things? You bet. But never has there been a big issue."
So far. We're not at the future yet.