Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Moving Day

The news today is not so much about the Blazers as the Blazer Blog universe. As you may or may not know, there’s been a little bit of a shake up in our blogging world. The long and short of it is that Lance Uppercut can no longer run the blog at Blazersedge.com and I will be taking over that site effective today. The details of the switch are mundane. Basically when he found out he couldn’t continue Lance wrote and said something to the effect of, “I’ve grown this blog from its infancy and if I have to leave it, I want you to be the one who takes over.” Having become attached to this blog after only five months of doing it, I could empathize with how he feels. And frankly, when somebody asks you that way you don’t say no…at least not in my world. It was an honor to be asked. So I agreed to make the change.

Hopefully this won’t affect the community we’ve formed too much. It will mean bookmarking a new site and re-registering your name if you want to keep your moniker. Blazersedge does allow anonymous comments if that’s more your style, but I’ve been registered there for months and I’ve never seen any ill effects from it. The biggest positive is that the audience will be a little wider and thus we’ll have more potential for conversation. We’ll also be connected to a nationwide network of NBA team blogs which should open up new avenues for synergy. This could be really neat when the season starts. Finally, because the site is attached to a professional organization, there is opportunity for a little financial compensation for the work, which frankly never hurts.

I’ve talked with Sportsblog Nation, the parent company that owns the Blazersedge site, and they’ve assured me that they’re both familiar with and appreciative of the work here and don’t expect the style of blog to change at all. (Please bear with and have empathy for the Lance fans for whom this will take some adjustment though.) Believe me, if I had any doubts about being able to do the blog my way--which basically means inclusive, respectful, and as fairly and thoughtfully as possible--I would not have taken the opportunity, extra readers and compensation or no. I’ve never been a person to chase those kind of things for their own sake and I never will be. I’ve never even had a visitor counter up at this site…that’s how concerned I am with numbers. The most important measurement to me is how wonderfully and well you respond with your comments and e-mails. More than any particular brilliance of mine, I’ve always seen the passion you guys put into what you say as the best feature of the site, and that “facilitated conversation” focus will not change. I simply see this as an opportunity to take the conversation we’ve had here and open it up to more of the world. I still maintain that at this point in time opportunities to connect and converse like this are important in the Blazer universe. Many, many of you have introduced yourselves by saying, "I can't talk Blazers with any of my friends." I hope this blog has brought you some new ones.

This site will remain up and functional as an archive spot, though this will be the last new post here. There is absolutely no way to express my heartfelt thanks to all who have written and commented as the site has grown. I have become very attached to all of you and I hope you will be willing to make the switch along with me. It wouldn’t be the same without Jorga, The Prophet, Sean, Dr. Dave, Ken, Ignacio, Scott R, TP43, Earl, Eli, Noah, Robert, Marc, SchoolMarm, and of course Fatty…and all the rest of you folks too. Part of the underlying thesis of this little blog experiment was that fans really can and do make a difference, and you guys have proved that in spades.

See you at the Edge!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Monday, August 21, 2006

GM Talk

All the GM/President/Team Official talk both here and elsewhere over the weekend got me thinking...

In many ways it must be a royal pain in the butt to be an NBA GM. Here are guys who have dedicated their whole lives to studying the game. Sure there are a couple of former-star-player GMs out there but for the most part guys still come up the hard way: coaching in other leagues, becoming a scout, maybe serving as an assistant coach or in a minor front office job with more hours than power or pay. Let's face it, you never hear the names of most eventual GMs until they actually take the main seat. That's because they spent the last ten years taking notes on a clipboard in places like Minot, North Dakota or Eastern Europe (take your pick which is more hospitable) or teaching your 11th man how to set his feet properly or watching 92 hours of tape a week and hoping to get a word in at the meeting. In many cases they've taken away from their families, their homes, their finances, and everything else in their lives to pursue this passion and goal.

Most people would be overjoyed to be in the top 10% in the world in some endeavor. Being in the top 1% would put you in another stratosphere. When you're an NBA GM you're sitting somewhere around the 10 millionth percentile. That's how fully ensconced in the elite you are. And yet with all that, any and every yahoo with a mouse, keyboard, and a head full of incomplete information is fit to criticize your work. And they will...constantly. Every time one of your guys underperforms, every time some other team makes what looks like a flashy deal (whether you had any chance to go after that player or not), every time somebody likes the draft pick from their alma mater over the player you selected, and every time (heaven forbid) you just make an honest mistake like everyone else in the universe, you will be skinned, shish-kabobed, and grilled over an open flame with hate sauce.

How many of your critics have scouted one game in Minot, watched one hour of tape, or even know proper footwork when they see it is up to debate. That you're their target is not. I imagine it's frustrating. Even if you had the time and energy to defend your work you couldn't. You'd have to divulge information that fans can't know (like who you're interested in or willing to trade) or that fans don't want to know (like what's really wrong with their favorite player off the court). And even if you did lay it out there for all to see, half the people wouldn't understand and a good portion of the rest would disagree. So you learn to keep your head down and your mouth shut, isolating yourself from the criticism while trying not to appear distant or uncaring. The best GMs successfully walk a tightrope, balancing good public relations with keeping their sanity. It's no accident that most of the best GMs are relatively quiet and nondescript, flying below the radar until there's something tangible to announce.

And we haven't even tackled the potential problems in dealing with your owner, who may be a meddlesome fan looking over your shoulder and pushing for a fantasy-league approach or may be a businessman for whom winning is an incidental convenience as long as the bottom line is good. Nor have we talked about dealing with your coach, who more often than not is strong-willed, demonstrative, and completely convinced of his own vision, which may or may not coincide with yours or that of the players you've acquired. He has greater access to the media (and sometimes your owner) and half the time he's thinking he could do your job too. And don't even start with the agents, constantly angling for sweet deals and more exposure for their clients whether it's in the best interest of the team or not. And there you are, at the crux of all of it...relatively powerless to affect any individual part but largely responsible for making sure it all works together.

Maybe the appropriate question isn't why we don't have a GM yet. Maybe it's "Are you sure you want to be one?" I hope I'm at least a semi-knowledgeable fan, but I know that I fall so far short of what would be needed in that position that I'm like a sub-atomic quark on the butt of a giant. It's easy to pick out one or two examples of people who have failed in the position and say, "I could do better than THAT" but that's not reality.

I imagine that the Portland GM position at this point is fairly complex relative to the rest of the league. We may be headed in a positive direction, but we're still a long way from normal around here. The fact that we're even dealing with the GM issue and nobody knows what's going on (just like nobody has for the past five years) illustrates the point. Do you see other teams having these kind of discussions/issues? The good ones don't. We're reminiscent of a recovering junkie who's off the stuff but whose life is still so full of wild extremes that you don't quite trust him yet. And we're looking for somebody to come in and be the conscience and guiding force in this mess. That isn't going to be easy. In fact if nothing changes I'd presume a very high rate of failure for whoever takes the job.

I'll be glad if Pritchard does get the spot, but in reality probably more for us than for him.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

More PR

As I sauntered to and fro through Stumptown on my vacation, a few more possible Blazer PR ideas occurred to me. Maybe these are obvious to some, but keep in mind I haven't frequented the city for more than a couple days in...oh...probably five years or so. Having lingered a while this time, here are my impressions/suggestions:

1. It seems nowadays that the most visible symbol of what's right and vibrant in the city is the MAX system. So why isn't there a Blazer-themed MAX train or two? Everybody else seems to have them painted up, so you know it's possible. How cool would a black train with red and white highlights look? The Blazers could also request it run past the Rose Garden on game nights.

2. Despite the growth/renaissance in certain sections of the city, others look quite dilapidated. The I-84 and I-5 corridors are particular eyesores. There are any number of cold cement bridges, overpasses, underpasses, and business buildings with ugly facades facing the freeway. A little public art is called for here. Forget investing big time into TV ads which are unlikely to astonish anybody. (Who's forgotten that the Blazers exist? The problem is people see them as disconnected to the community. TV ads address the former, not the latter.) Why not commission some artists to decorate those structures with murals of past and present players? You know that grain elevator by the Steel Bridge that Amazon.com has an advertisement scrawled on? How great would that look with a 100-foot tall Martell canning a jumper on it? You could go all up and down the freeway corridors with a Blazer hall of fame. When you ran out of room there you could start placing murals all over the city. Eventually it could become a neat project trying to track them all down. (Have you found Lloyd Neal yet? I hear he's somewhere on Killingsworth.) All you'd need (besides the funding from your budget) would be for the city and/or businesses to give permission. And who wouldn't go for that? You'd be beautifying the town and giving it distinction as well as getting your name out there. Plus you'd be employing some local artists. It's a win all the way around, and something I really think people would grow to appreciate.

3. I've seen a few plaques around public buildings and institutions crediting the Paul G. Allen foundation for its public donations. That's nifty and I'm glad Paul has done those things for the city. But if he's really intent on owning the team long-term and really wants to connect them with the people again, wouldn't it help if those donations were made in the name of the Portland Trailblazers? I know they're handled through a charitable trust and there are rules about that kind of thing, but how hard would it be to do? The reasoning is simple. When folks see Allen's name up there I'm sure they appreciate it but they also think, "Eh...he can probably afford it." In fact some crass people might think, "$50,000? What's that to Allen? He should have financed the whole building!" But every time the people see the Trailblazer name up there they get reminded that the organization is an integral part of the community.

I'm not sure how practical any of these ideas are, but again these are the type of things the Blazer PR department should be throwing around in their internal meetings...

Back from vacation Monday.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday Guest Spot Part Four

Dr. Dave (just like me but with a better degree) has some interesting thoughts in our Guest Spot today. I'll let him speak for himself...

---------------------------------------
Oregon Trailblazers

Let it resonate... give it a moment to sink in...say it slowly a couple of times. It does roll off the tongue quite nicely. If your reaction was negative, I understand. I can almost hear the choruses now; "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Or "It's always been that way!" Or perhaps "Please, no more controversy". Yes, I'm proposing an idea I'm sure has been batted around before: let's change the name of the team to reflect the loyalty of fans all over the state. From one who resides in the southwest corner of Oregon, it seems perfectly natural and right.

I understand why the franchise probably chose the name of Portland in the beginning. No one at that time could have predicted the huge following of fans outside the city limits. In the glory days of Blazermania and Rip City, I can tell you from experience there was hardly a vale or burg in the state out of range of the voice of Bill Schonely's narrative. Now, less than half a dozen stations outside Portland carry the games. Yes, interest has waned of late. Some of that is due to the recent downturn of the organization. Some is due to Trailblazer management underestimating the fan base outside the metro area. Not to mention the invisible political wall which separates Portland/Salem from the rest of the state. Keeping the Rose City's name associated with 'our' team inadvertently perpetuates that division. As things are, fans living outside Portland are excluded in a sense from the Trailblazer identity.

In my proposal, Portlanders would not be excluded since we're all Oregonians. (Note to those Blazer fans living outside Oregon: that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Please submit your own proposal.) Right now, as the team is re-tooling with young players and a fresh outlook, it would be a good time to make the change. Let the kids come to know and love Oregon as well as Portland. The Trailblazer name itself refers to the first pioneers who made their way west on what would become known as the Oregon Trail.

I'm sure my bias in this matter is in full bloom now. However, I do speak for many Trailblazer fans who are feeling somewhat shunned. Remember that in the great expanse between Seattle and Oakland there is no other top level professional team we can call our own. It would be nice if the Blazer PR guys got a little creative in trying to recapture a huge following out here just waiting for an excuse to jump back on board. In reality, I know there's not a cat's chance in a kennel that this will happen anytime soon. I'm sure there must be some contractual snag that would prevent it. And my optimism for the future will not diminish even if it never happens. I'm just sowin' a little seed. Lord knows we have some fertile minds in here, right?

C'mon... say it one more time...O-r-e-g-o-n Trailblazers.

Ain't it sweet?
--------------------------------------

Hmmmm...I'm not sure how I'd feel about that, but it is a different proposal and Dave makes some good points about the fan base. Comment below or to my inbox.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Over/Under

One more vacation-type question and then we have what I think is a very interesting (and perhaps controversial) Guest Spot Friday on a topic that I've never heard broached before.

Question of the day:

Who do you think is the most underrated Blazer of all time? Who is the most overrated?

As usual you can use any criteria you want but please keep in mind that underrated and overrated DON'T mean "good" and "bad" respectively. A lot of people would probably name Clyde as the all-time best Blazer, but it'd be hard to argue that he was underrated. Similarly (as heretical as it might seem to some) folks might think Terry Porter was a really good player but got more credit than he was due on those early 90's teams, especially when compared to Buck, Jerome, etc. (I wouldn't say that, but I could see where someone could make that argument.) That doesn't mean that they think he was a bad player.

I almost hesitate to comment on this one because being on shore leave I haven't researched very thoroughly, so understand that I'm shooting from the hip here. But I'll try anyway.

I have about four candidates for underrated. I'm going to choose one and see if anybody names any of my other three. I'm going to go with Geoff Petrie. I know he was big in his day, but when you list all-time great Blazers now his name barely ever gets mentioned. His career was only six seasons long, but in those six seasons he topped 24 points per game three times. He also gave you around 5 assists and 3 boards. He shot over 45% for his career too. To put things in perspective, we're all excited about Zach's offensive potential because he once averaged 20 points for a season. Petrie averaged that for his career.

Overrated is much harder. I think I'd have to go with Billy Ray Bates though. He set our imaginations on fire, that's for sure. And there was that one, glorious alley-oop. But he wilted as soon as the league figured him out and even in his great year had more flashes of brilliance than substantial contributions. He's one of the great quirky characters from our team's history and our mythology would be poorer without him, but probably more is made of him than his play strictly warranted.

Your candidates?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Worst Moments

Still updating from vacation and depending on you guys to do most of the heavy lifting as far as comments and such. Today's the second half of the mother of all Blazer questions: What is your worst Blazer moment? Again it can be a game, a season, an event, or some personal reflection/experience having to do with the team or its effect on your life somehow. Again I'll grease the wheels with my Top 3:

1. The ball slips through Cliffy's hands in the closing minutes of the 4th quarter of Game 6 of the '91 Western Conference Finals. Big comeback, forced turnover, two-on-one break, Jerome has the ball and a lane but opts to pass to Cliff. The pass was a little late, Cliffy didn't expect it or follow through...it's nobody's fault...it's everybody's fault. We ended up losing the game by one. With it came the end of the series and of the best season the Blazers have ever had. And we lost to the Lakers no less (who went on to play pathetically against the Bulls in the NBA Finals). I'm not sure any single moment has elicited such a simultaneous groan from Blazer Nation as this one. It kind of encapsulates every dream that should have come true but didn't.

2. The news breaks that Clyde is traded. I know he wanted it and I know it was time, but that didn't stop the empty feeling. And somehow it just wasn't possible to get that excited about getting Otis Thorpe in return. It was the end of a very good era.

3. The Blazers lose in the first round against Seattle in '78. This will be beyond the memories of some of you young-ins. Indeed, I was just a kid myself. We had won the championship the year before. We were 40-8 to begin this season. Walton went down late in the season, made a brief comeback, but couldn't bring it for the playoffs. Surely we'd win anyway, right? Wrong. Since I had only started watching the year before and since I was innocent to the cruel ways of the world, this was my first introduction to everything not going exactly as planned. I still remember the feeling. "Did that really happen?" If I had known that almost 30 years later we'd still be looking for that second ring I might have cried.

What are yours? Listening ears and sympathetic shoulders abound...

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Best Moments

I'm on vacation IRL this week and I can't do much extensive blogging without getting "The Glare" from the old ball and chai...uh...I mean my dearly beloved. There will still be posts every day, but my interactivity level (comments and e-mails) will be lower until next Monday. I'll depend on you guys to fill in the gap a little with your comments and stuff.

So let's get this started with one of the two mothers of all Blazer questions:

What is your favorite Blazer moment ever? It can be a game, a game result, an acquisition, a specific play, or even just some random childhood memory regarding the team.

I'll give you my top three to get the wheels turning.

1. The Championship. Nothing will ever, ever beat that in my mind. Such a dizzy, wonderful feeling it was. What smiles that put on the face of a little kid.

2. Winning game two of the 1990 NBA Finals. Remember what a thriller that was, with Laimbeer hitting all those shots and us coming back and all? This was in the fairly early days of the 2-3-2 Finals format too, and it seemed like all we had to do was take care of business at home and that title was ours. Who knew that we'd not win another game? Actually at that point I wouldn't have wanted to know, because I just loved that moment of anticipation.

3. Jerome Kersey dunks during the Perfect First Quarter in 1991. Yes, I was there. Yes, it was more than awesome. The Coliseum was SO LOUD that night too. I don't know that we'll ever see another twelve minutes of Blazer basketball like that in one stretch again. And Kersey's dunk just put the exclamation point on the whole thing. The crowd was out of its mind and San Antonio just didn't know what to do.

I have more to say on each of these moments but it'll have to wait until another "story day" post. Register your votes for Best Blazer Moment Ever!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)