With a first-class owner providing the bankroll, i.e. Micky Arison, a terrific young coach at-the-helm, i.e. Erik Spoelstra … and the legendary Pat Riley pulling the strings behind the curtain … it is going to be very difficult indeed for any other outfit in the Eastern Conference to stop the Miami Heat from returning to the NBA Finals next season [and, for the foreseeable future].
in spite of also having to cope with the fact that their head coach, Nate McMillan, is still in ”recovery mode”, himself, from a torn achilles tendon injury, sustained when he stepped into practice earlier this season because the Blazers did not otherwise have enough “healthy” players on their roster to be able to conduct a full scale session.
If Portland can sustain their current level of performance … especially their present Points Allowed Ranking and Rebounding Differential Ranking … now that some of their walking wounded are finally beginning to return to good health, and make the Western Conference playoffs, then, there should be NO DOUBT, whatsoever, which coach should eventually receive this year’s Coach Of The Year Award, in the NBA.
Prior to the start of NBA training camps this fall, if someone had told you that the Portland Trail Blazers would suffer the following list of injuries to key personnel:
Nicloas Batum, SF – Out for seaon, shoulder surgery
Travis Outlaw, PF – Out for season, foot surgery
Rudy Fernandez – Out indefinitely, back surgery
Greg Oden, C - Out for season, knee surgery
Nate McMillan, HC – Out indefinitely, achilles surgery
Joel Przybilla, C - Out for season, knee surgery
all before December 24, 2009 … and, yet,
their Won-Loss Record would still be 18-12/.600 [2nd, Northwest Division; 6th [tied], Western Conference],
it will simply be astounding, if the Blazers are able to compete effectively in their match-up this evening with the San Antonio Spurs, and then for the remainder of this season.
Whatever “deal with the devil” Paul Allen [owner] and Kevin Pritchard [GM] may have made, in regard to the ridiculous level of NBA talent which Portland has been able to assemble on its roster over the last few seasons, surely, cannot possibly be worth the degree of adversity their franchise is having to endure this season … could it?
If the Blazers can somehow make it through this season without falling aparat, completely … it says here that the old adage which goes like this:
“That which doesn’t kill you only serves to make you stronger.” - Anonymous
will never have been more accurate/true for any other franchise in the storied history of the NBA.
There’s a world-class champion incubating in the Pacific Northwest … if it can just manage to successfully navigate these incredibly turbulent waters this season.
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.
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
- Lao Tzu
Portland 122, Chicago 98: Everything falls into place for Blazers For a night, at least, order was restored within the Trail Blazers. Brandon Roy was back at shooting guard and controlling the pace and precision of the offense. Andre Miller, steadfastly saying he is accepting the reins of the second unit, played perhaps as hard and determined as he has all season. And the inside combination of Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant like never before.
The Blazers didn’t just beat Chicago on Monday, they overpowered them — dunking over, cutting through and stepping all over the Bulls during a 122-98 victory in front of 20,383 at the Rose Garden, its 79th consecutive sellout.
“A number of things are just starting to come together,” said Roy, who had 18 points and seven assists despite sitting the final eight minutes. “I think guys are back in their natural positions and we sensed that we have to get this going, too.”
Oden tied his career high with 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds, and Aldridge recorded his fifth double double of the season, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds. While the Blazers’ big men helped create a 50-32 advantage in points in the paint, the perimeter duo of Roy and Miller (16 points, five assists) not only flourished in separate units, they also thrived when they played together.
Building a championship calibre organization in the NBA is about making small steps forward each and every day … not swinging for the fences.