The Portland Trailblazers have made some major changes so far this off-season, and rumors have it that there is more in the works. I didn’t like the removal of Kevin Pritchard or the method of accomplishment, but KP will land on his feet and those things are just the nature of the beast. The NBA is not a normal business and is not really a sport anymore, unless you consider the World Wrestling Entertainment or roller derby a sport. It has really evolved into a showcase for highly paid actors to show off in front of thousands of people three or four times a week. I don’t have a problem with that. It is what it is, and it is up to me whether or not it is entertaining or interesting enough to watch. For me, it is like reading a work of fiction. I like Sci-fi and Horror, but in order to appreciate the story I have to read it with a certain level of suspension of disbelief. I have to accept that certain fantastic situations and objects are normal in the context of the story, and this same skill is necessary in watching the NBA these days. Star treatment and the rewarding of acting skills, sometimes very bad acting skills, are just a part of the genre. This show business aura is rampant throughout sports, from the players through the coaches and even into the front office and upper management. KP just upstaged a bigger player a couple of times too often, and so they found someone who would not be upstaging anyone.
I watched some of the summer league games, and it looks like we have a couple of good young players who will be able to come in and contribute some in their first year. It looks like Patty Mills will continue his career elsewhere. He had a decent summer league, but didn’t set himself apart from Armon Johnson, who looked very good for a rookie. I think Patty succumbs to the numbers crunch at point guard.
Cunningham and Pendergraph both looked solid throughout, and Luke Babbit, the other rookie who was able to play, rounded into form in the last couple of games. He is a shooter. Just what the doctor ordered with Martell trying his fortunes elsewhere this year.
If Greg Oden can stay healthy this year and Lamarcus Aldridge can play the role that he is most suited to, I think that the team is looking pretty formidable for the coming season. I love the addition of Buck Williams to the coaching staff. I think that all the coaching hires look like upgrades . Bickerstaff has wisdom that comes with experience to add to the mix, and Ociepka sounds like he brings the tough, in your face kind of defense that was sorely lacking the last two years, especially when they got to the playoffs. I like his philosophy of hitting an opponent who cuts through the lane and also getting physical with the opponent’s pick and roll. Those are two things in particular where the blazers were especially exploited last year.
It looks like Rudy Fernandez will be wearing a different uniform this season. I like Rudy, and he has a certain skill set, but his ego is larger than that skill set. He wants more minutes, but has failed to deliver when given the opportunity. It is probably good both for the Blazers and for Rudy that he find a different situation in which to play. He can find out once and for all if the NBA is the place for him, or if he should go back to Europe and be the big fish in the small pond that probably suits his nature. It looks as though we have already upgraded at his position in obtaining Wesley Matthews from Utah. He had better be an upgrade, considering the nearly 8 million difference in salary. (Yes the Blazers overpaid for Matthews, but it IS Paul’s money, and if it helps bring more wins, especially in the play-offs, then what the heck is the criteria for overpaying, anyway?)
The coming year should be exciting for Blazer fans. If Paul can stay out of his own way long enough to see some success.