Scott Howard-Cooper
Wednesday July 22nd, 2009

The recovery, a healing time as rubberneckers slow down to survey the misfortune and probably delight in the indignities, comes with the reminder that Portland is still a team that won 54 games last season with the second-youngest roster in the league. It still has $7.7 million of salary-cap space, still has a limitless future, still has an owner who will spend and a front office that will deliver. So maybe this isn't such a recovery period.

The potential perception that the Trail Blazers will leave the offseason with nothing more than a tattered, unfinished to-do list could last all the way until opening night. Meanwhile, do Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and the rest of the Blazers come back lasered in after the franchise's first playoff berth since 2003? Will Greg Oden and Martell Webster come back healthy? That is Portland's successful offseason.

No question it has been a July of setbacks. Hedo Turkoglu jilted the Blazers, bailing on contract talks at the last moment. The Jazz turned back the Blazers' failed but admirable attempt to steal Paul Millsap, matching the front-loaded offer sheet. The hits were close together and, given the prominence of both free agents, very public misses. But Millsap would have been a backup and Portland can already choose among Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez and, presumably, a healthy Webster at small forward, the spot Turkoglu would have played.

Either addition would have been meaningful -- the experience and ball-handling of Turkoglu, Millsap as needed depth behind Aldridge at power forward -- but neither loss changes the trajectory of the franchise. Remember the words of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich in April: "They might be the deepest, most talented team in the league. ... I think that the Lakers fit together really well and they've got everything covered, and Phil [Jackson] has 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. ... Very athletic. Very long. Nate [McMillan] has done a great job with them. Defensively, they've gotten better and better as the year has gone on. They believe in themselves now. I think they're a monster."

Lineup departures in the intervening three months: Sergio Rodriguez (15.3 minutes a game in the regular season, a non-factor in the playoffs) and Channing Frye (11.8 minutes in the regular season, a non-factor in the playoffs). Possible lineup additions: second-round picks Jeff Pendergraph, Dante Cunningham and Patrick Mills. (First-rounder Victor Claver is expected to remain in Spain.) Sort-of lineup addition: Webster (scheduled to be back after losing all but five minutes of his 2008-09 season to a stress fracture in his left foot.

Fifty-four wins, tied for the second-most victories in the Western Conference, the first team in league history to win 50 while playing four rookies at least 50 games ... and still with many reasons to see improvement. The rookies will be experienced. Roy will be all of 25, Aldridge 24. Maybe -- maybe! -- Oden will stay healthy after sitting out all of 2007-08 and missing 21 games last season.

This is a franchise that is supposed to be weeping over the last few weeks?

Boo. Hoo.

"Sure, I think there's a perception issue," general manager Kevin Pritchard said. "But we went into the summer knowing there were a couple players we wanted and there were risks going for it. But you have to take that risk. When you see the pitch, you have to swing. And we're going to keep swinging.

"Maybe there is a disappointment, maybe disappointment is too strong a word. We knew going after the two guys we were going after that there was a chance we might not get them. But we still feel good about where we are. We still feel we have a bright future. We still have most of the team back that won 54 games."

They'll keep looking in the meantime. Free-agent point guard Andre Miller is the name that comes up most often, but the Blazers already could have stepped in that direction if there was real love. Maybe an aggressive organization makes a move before camp. Maybe it holds the cap space, reassess the landscape around the league and remains a prime trade partner leading up to the February deadline.

"That's a difficult question," Pritchard said a few days ago when asked to map out the rest of the offseason. "I'm not trying to sidestep it. I would tell you that we're open for business. Could something happen tomorrow? Probably not tomorrow. But something could happen in the weeks ahead."

The rubberneckers will be watching.

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