So how are you feeling about the Trailblazers with the season winding down to the stretch run for the playoffs? Do you think that they will make the playoffs? Will they win a game? A series? How far have you lowered your expectations for this season, and was a long playoff run ever in your projections? Do the Blazers still need to make a move before they are ready to make a strong run at the championship in the next couple of years, or are all the major pieces already in place?
I thought at the start of the year when everyone but Batum was healthy, that a championship run was within a year or two and not out of the realm of possibility this year. Then, as one by one we saw that hope go down with each player who was lost to injury, but I think that we all kept faith that we would make the playoffs. Juwan Howard was much more than advertised, Lamarcus Aldridge stepped up to provide whatever was needed, and Brandon Roy was even more Brandon Roy than we thought possible. Each game another of our first or second year players stepped up to provide that foundation that the stars needed to hold down the fort until we got some of the troops back. The pieces that have been added so far have suited the needs of the team and the personality.
Along the way we said good-bye to two players that were like family to most of us. Steve Blake was never flashy but seemed to always know where to get B-Roy or LA the ball, and he didn’t lose you games. Travis brought an athleticism and a purity to the game that is tough to match and the big shots that he made for us still resonate throughout Rip City. I’ll miss them both, but I do think that the move was necessary and good for the team. In a perfect world we would see Travis back at the end of the year when his contract runs out, and I would give up Travis Diener or Patty Mills to get Blake back in a Carlton minute.
I fear that the lure of the big free agent free-for-all may bite the Blazers this summer, but my hope is that they wait to see what they have when everyone gets back next year and also have a better idea of the structure of the collective bargaining agreement and how it will affect their ability to keep the team together and on track for a championship or three.