Semi-annual Sports Post, Blazers Edition

Jeff Alworth

I know I should be focused on bigger things.  My eyes should be directed at Salem, and Governor Kulongoski's proposal that state workers take a 24-day pay cut (let's dispense with the "furlough" crap--this is clearly a proposed pay cut).  Or the "jumbo" bridge proposal by mayors Adams and Pollard.  Or Obama's speech and its ramifications.  But sometimes in the swirl of important things, you gotta talk hoops.

In today's Oregonian, Jason Quick despairs:

But the bottom line is that for all the talk of this being a team on the rise, and for how good their upper-division standing appears, the Blazers are now 1-10 on the road against the top nine teams in the West. The only road victory is at New Orleans, when star Chris Paul left with an injury.

Look. The Blazers are a team on the rise.  Their win totals the last three years: 21, 32, 41.  Reasonable people assumed they'd be shooting for fifty wins this year, maybe settling for a game or two less, and hoping to break into the playoffs.  A really great year would be a 50-win season, a mid-seed playoff berth, and a first-round win.  At present, the Blazers are the fifth seed in the West, have a .625 winning percentage, and are on track to finish with 51 wins.  Half our remaining games are on the road, half at home.  Even if they completely collapse on the road, the Blazers, with a 23-5 home record, look to finish up the final part of the season no worse than .500--putting them at 48 wins.  So the range is still exactly where it's been since the start of the season.

Following every game, it seems like the Oregonian sports writers craft a narrative based on that single result. Oh Joy, we won!--the Blazers are an elite team challenging the NBA's best.  Oh no, we lost!--the Blazers are a fading also-ran.  Actually, they've delivered exactly what we expected: an up-and-down season by the league's youngest fielded team with the prospect of a playoff bid.  We got a few bonuses along the way: improved defense, surprise stars like Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless, and Rudy Fernandez, some dazzling wins and performances, and the impressive maturity of Roy and Aldridge.  We'd love Oden to stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble, but his game is coming along.  All systems go.

When this train left the station, it was scheduled to arrive in 2009-'10.  It's still on schedule.  Go Blazers!

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    Rudy isn't a surprise star -- though he was a surprise to get. And I did win a Fernandez jersey the other day - hooray!

    The challenge, of course, is there are nine teams closely competing for eight playoff spots. I'm confident we won't fade this season, and hopefully we'll not only get into the playoffs but past the first round!

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    Rudy was a bit of an unknown quantity, and I think he arrived in Portland with a lower profile than a player of his stature might otherwise have carried. But what really surprises--and thrills--me about Rudy is his D. It was terrible to start the season, and now he's like the human octopus out there now, arms waving so fast it looks like he's got eight of them.

  • Joseph (unverified)

    Good call. I'm about sick of professional analysts and reporters acting like a) this season has been a failure or b) this team is ready to make the Finals this season.

    Neither is true. Anybody that's been paying attention since before this season knows it isn't about this year. The Blazers are showing that they're further along than we expected, and also that they're not quite there on a few things that will probably keep them from making a deep playoff run. That's consistent with what we all should have expected from this season. Show some promise, get close to 50 wins, make the playoffs, come back next year.

    Baby steps, people!

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    Rudy's D is really not that great, still. He's good at face-up D when the PG is dribbling outside the arc, but he's really still pretty bad at fighting off screens, and offers little to no weakside help on bounds. He's better overall at D than say, Sergio or Travis, but he's not as good as either Bayless or Batum, IMO. Maybe he's still learning the American game. Rudy gets a lot of lame touch fouls when he defends.

    And three cheers for more Blazers coverage at BlueO! If I can be permitted an on-topic plug, recaps of every game, plus detailed LIVEBLOGS of most home games and other special content (like stats analysis), are a major focus of this winter and spring. Rip City!

    And if you really want the best in Blazers coverage, I 100% recommend Perhaps the best fan oriented sports team blog on the net!

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    And if you really want the best in Blazers coverage, I 100% recommend Perhaps the best fan oriented sports team blog on the net!

    Also worth nothing: Blazers Edge is part of the SB Nation network - owned by Markos Moulitsas and Jerome Armstrong. Yeah, that's Markos of and Jerome of - progressive bloggers both.

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    I assume that wasn't Freudian Kari, and you mean it's worth NOTING...

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    Heh, that's funny.

    Yeah, TJ, Rudy's D isn't uniformly superb, but the guy played zero defense when he arrived. Just sort of chased after guys. Big improvement.

  • Gil Johnson (unverified)

    Could someone tell me why McMillan plays his starters and top players meaningless minutes at the end of games? Such as tonight, why was Roy, Aldridge, Blake, Outlaw and Fernandez in there in the last minute or two when the Blazers were down a dozen points? And why did he play most of the same guys right up to the end in a recent blowout? Does Nate yearn to feel like Greg Popovich and see if he can win games while his best players are injured?

  • fbear (unverified)

    I was a Blazers fan before they existed, but as long as they're owned by the owner of Hate Radio Portland, I root against them.

    It would be one thing if it was just honest, conservative talk, but KXL hosts have said that police killing unarmed civilians is a good thing, and have called for war crimes to be committed. And they seem to lie with impunity. KXL's standards seem to be "if they get good enough ratings, we don't care if they're making stuff up."

  • Fair and Balanced (unverified)

    Cheap shot at "furlough", Jeff.

    There are some big differences between a furlough and a pay cut. With a furlough:

    Your hourly pay stays the same.

    You get to take some time off work.

    After the emergency passes, your pay automatically returns to the previous level.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    On an ESPN morning yak fest Tuesday AM, a reporter stated that he polled several GM's about who they would rather have, Brook Lopez or Greg Oden. 2 said Lopez, no doubt about it. Now, either we really have a problem with Oden, or two teams need new GM's.

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