Monday, July 17, 2006

Seven Reasons

If you're reading this blog you probably don't need encouragement to follow the team this year, but maybe you have friends, neighbors, spouses, or siblings that you have to convince to hop back on the bandwagon (or at least convince of your sanity for doing so yourself). So after this long desert drought in which excuses to NOT to love the team were as plentiful as grains of sand, here are seven reasons to start following the Blazers again this year.

1. Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge
Neither one of them is going to be a superstar this season, or maybe ever. In fact they may not even get that much playing time in their rookie campaign...especially Lamarcus. But as I said from Vegas, what you do see of them you will love. They are different than most of the rookies we've acquired in this decade. They're well-rounded, play defense, and can score in a variety of ways. They make an effort to play right even if they don't always succeed because of their youth. They also seem like decent people and are unlikely to let you down in the public relations department. Dare I say they might bring back a little of that Blazer community pride? Perhaps that's going too far, but one can hope. Even if both turn out to be good-but-not-great players, the picks will have been worth it, especially in this relatively weak draft year. It's always fun to follow and speculate about rookies. This year will be good in that respect. (Let us make a communal pact to save the "Why doesn't he play Aldridge more?" chants though. Let them grow at their own pace.)

2. Martell Webster
He's pretty fun to root for all on his own, but I also think he may become a big key to the Blazers' future. And I say this not because I think he's the next Clyde Drexler. To the contrary, I'm becoming more and more comfortable with the realization that he's not. Of course he will improve and I expect his game at the end of this year will look light years better than at the beginning, but realistically he probably will never be comfortable handling the ball or taking people off the dribble for the majority of his points. He's going to need a lot of help from teammates to shine. But we'll need him to shine in order to win. That means his colleagues will have to play unselfishly. Big men will need to set him up with screens, guards will need to watch for him and get him the ball, and he'll have to hustle to take advantage of both. He'll also need to work hard and do the little things on the other end of the court in order to justify all that help. In short, if you see Martell contributing big it'll probably mean we're playing good team ball on both ends of the court. His advent could finally put a wooden stake into the heart of that old "give one guy the ball and watch him work" style of offense. And that funeral is long overdue.

3. Nate McMillan
We'll go easy here because Nate was the main publicity point last year, but that doesn't change the fact that we've got a good, good coach. The national media recognizes it, Team USA recognizes it, we should too. Even though he wanted veterans, part of the advantage of going young is that Nate and his staff will be able to mold these guys more freely. What this team looks like in three years will be largely due to his efforts. It'll be fun to watch him try and build them into winners.

4. Plenty of Intrigue and Drama
And thank goodness it's ON the court this year. Other than Zach's downtown drag race, last year was clean as a whistle as far as Blazer incidents. I don't think many people noticed that. I don't expect that will change this year, so it's time to retire the off-court problems talk until further need. There's still plenty on the court to keep fans busy though. How will Zach handle the influx of new talent and the maturation of our sophomores? Who wins the point guard spot and who gets the backup minutes there? Can Travis Outlaw step up and earn some consistent small forward minutes? Who backs up the big spots? And, of course, who gets traded and who comes in? Mind you, controversy is not a good sign for a winner. In fact if you think back to the early-90's teams and the '77 championship squad, there was none. Let's face it...drama like this is a sign you're bad. But it also makes being bad a lot more interesting.

5. The Tickets are Cheap Still
I don't know if you noticed last year, but the Blazers were giving away tickets for next to nothing...sometimes literally free. After 21 wins and not adding any brand-name talent there's no basis to change that. While most of the world still hasn't noticed them, this is a chance for you early birds to get in on the cheap. You can probably get half price tickets at Bi-Mart or Costco or wherever they were selling them last year. You can probably get another couple with a fill up on gas. You're not going to see LeBron, Shaq, or Kobe, but truth be told those aren't always the most interesting games anyway. (OK...the Lakers are always interesting.) I'd look for games against Seattle, the Clippers, Charlotte, New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, or Toronto. Those are going to be as exciting as any big-name franchises coming through. If you're really excited and if they're available again this season, I'd get three of those three-game $76 packages they keep offering on the at the beginning of the year, one mid-season, and one at the end. You'll get a good chance to see how the kids develop over the year and you'll see roughly a quarter of the home games in person for a little over $230.

Also, if you do want to go to a few games, with the relative paucity of people you have a great opportunity to become the next Dancing Lady, Hippy Guy, or Grandma Endzone superfan. Got a schtick, gimmick, or even just a cool sign or two? You know you're going to get noticed. If you're one of the new-century hipsters who believes your life isn't real until it's on TV, this is your big chance!

6. Keep It on the Down Low, but Possible Upswing Ahead
I don't want to overstate this, because many folks will start to go bananas with predictions as the season approaches and most will overestimate in favor of improvement. I remember the indignant uproar when John Nash foretold 20 wins last season. I also remember the cries of 35, 40, 45! Guess what? Nash was right. And despite the optimism over the draft nothing much has changed since April. Nevertheless, this is the first year since 2000 that we can even think about saying with a straight face that the Blazers have a chance to do better, or at least not sink. It's not the light at the end of the tunnel, but it might be the bend before it. No matter what the win-loss total says at the end of the year, I expect you will see players playing better, harder, and more as a team. And that bodes well for seasons to come.

The big question will be "When do you think the Blazers will actually BE better?" With due credit to Chuck Woolery, my answer to that is simple: 2, 2, and 2. Two trades, two acquistions (likely one from those trades or free agency, one from the draft), and two years. At that point I think we'll be able to talk about the Blazers making a run at a low playoff seed and maybe being considered an up and coming team.

7. Joel Believes, Why Don't You?
No explanation necessary.

Something I missed? Add your own below or by e-mail.

--Dave (


Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

When will the Blazers be better, you ask? Like, right now! "Better" is not always measured in wins. Like a friend of mine oftens states, 'sometimes your add by subtraction'. Martel, Jack, Aldridge & Roy were outstanding selections at the time and that effort is applauded. Blake & Dixon & Skinner will help fill in while the pups get some experience. So, to me, I don't care how many games we win next season, we're a better "team" and clearly making good management decisions these days (overall).

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Dave said...

Right, don't have to convince me. But I think once the owner/management situation is settled, you'll see another wave of believers get on board (providing Allen retains ownership). There are a lot of hold-outs waiting for Darius to be shipped, too.

Nice tip on the tickets!

2:52 PM  
Blogger BlazerBandit said...

No. 8 Won't have to hear Mike Rice's love affair with Viktor "the Wolverine" Krhyapa.

classic moment:
Mike Rice: "The Wolverine is playin some super defense out there"
Mike Barrett: "You cheer for Khryapa when he gets on the bus!"

o snap i love Barrett

4:27 PM  
Blogger ignacio said...

It's an interesting team.

7:40 PM  
Blogger jojack said...

yes dave yes!!! please kill the evil four guys watch one guy offense. it's worse than freddy or jason!! every new coach says "we want to pick up the transition game and run a little more" and yet they almost always can't resist the lure of the 4GW1G offense. it's like they're junkies... just a few post plays for zach, maybe a couple for darius.... next thing you know you're diagramming set plays for theo ratliff. what was up with that? that's like calling a set play for boris karloff. ratliff's got anvils for hands and post moves that make manute bol look fluid (and please no indignant comments about that heinous hook shot of his. please.) of course you realize that this perfect game plan for webster basically makes him a 3, which i've been saying for months. run from wing to wing. look for screens and back cuts. crash the boards from the weak side. play good perimeter d. gain a little strength so big 3's can't back you down. the guy's 6'8, he, roy, and jack are our best players (eventually)... play him at the three.

8:05 PM  

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