In response to a most interesting article by David Berri …
The Impact of Losing Greg Oden
The primary purpose of this post was to highlight how good Oden had played this season (to see how good, please read the post). Certainly it’s possible that the Blazers could overcome this loss. But it seems fairly likely that Portland’s season is not going to go quite as well as I thought earlier this year.
1. The Blazers were NEVER going to be the best team in the West this season.
2. The Blazers’ overall development arc, as “one of the best teams in the West”, will involve a wider sweep than just 2 or 3 seasons.
3. The problems with this year’s Blazers [at least, so far] this season were not rooted in the play of Greg Oden but in the following list of developments from the last 6 months:
i. Unnecessarily soliciting the services of Hedo Turkoglu [SF/Orlando who eventually signed with Toronto as an UFA], which upset/disrupted the flow they had been developing with Travis Outlaw [PF-SF] and Rudy Fernandez [SF-OG-PG];
ii. Unnecessarily signing a superfluous, ball-dominating PG, like Andre Miller [as an UFA/Philadelphia];
iii. The protracted contract extension negotiations with Brandon Roy [OG-PG-SF] and LaMarcus Aldridge [PF-C]; and,
iv. Re-integrating Martell Webster [OG-SF], a top 8 player, returning from an injury-lost season, into their everyday rotation.
v. The injury sufferred by Nicolas Batum [SF-OG], a long and athletic player who can Defend and Rebound at his specific positions;
vi. The injury sufferred by Travis Outlaw [PF-SF], an under-sized but very versatile and effective player who can: A. take/make big [jump] shots [catch & shoots, plus pull-ups] in the 4th quarter; B. Defend, at the #3/SF or #4/PF with good length and athleticism; and, C. Rebound, at the #/SF or #4/PF position with good length and athleticism.
vii. The long term effects of the “health scare” which their owner, Paul Allen, had last season, that artificially “pushed forward” the team’s perceived “development arc” this past summer in a way which their team was unprepared to cope with at this time … i.e. trying to “win now [!]” instead of gradually continuing their “incremental build-up” over an extended number of years [5-7?].
If Kevin Pritchard truly understands what’s been happening with his squad this season, from a team-building standpoint, then, what he’ll do now is:
I. Not try to “replace” Oden from outside his current group of players;
II. Continue to repair their internal relationships with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez;
III. Move Andre Miller for another better-fitting asset, asap;
IV. Allow his group of Core Players to continue to grow together organically … while integrating this off-season’s main additions from the 2009 NBA Draft, i.e. Dante Cunningham [PF-SF], Patrick Mills [PG] and Jeff Pendergraph [PF].
If Kevin Pritchard does things things and then simply waits on the eventual return of Greg Oden … what he’ll have on his hands, 2 seasons from now, is a fully grown team that is ready, willing and able to challenge the Lakers, as the No. 1 outfit in the West, just as Kobe Bryant’s “development arc” is finally beginning to flow downwards its end-point.
On the other hand …
If Kevin Pritchard does not understand these things about the state of his own team, then, what he’ll do instead is “continue to try and rush” the Blazers through this key stage of their “upward arc” … which involves “learning how to lose before learning how to win”, just like Jordan’ Bulls and Zeke’s Pistons and Hakeem’s Rockets and Robinson’s [and Duncan’s] Spurs and Shaq/Kobe’s Lakers each went through before emerging as multiple-time league champions … then what he’ll do is make the WRONG MOVE at the WRONG TIME and end up blowing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which has come his way in Portland, i.e. to construct one of the NBA’s all-time great franchises with the likes of [youngsters] Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless, Dante Cunningham, Patrick Mills, Jeff Prendergraph and [a healthy] GREG ODEN, plus [oldsters] Joel Przybilla [C], Steve Blake [PG] and Juwan Howard [PF].
The ball is in Kevin Pritchard’s court.
For the Blazers’ sake, it’s important that he doesn’t drop it.
PS. FWIW … Please know that ”curses” do not exist in pro sports. Poor decision-making skills – e.g. bringing injured players back too soon, acquiring ill-fitting players, trying to speed up the development process, etc. - on the other hand, can be found in abundance.