Not very long ago the Blazers were considered an up and coming franchise that could compete for titles year after year. A potential powerhouse even. The Blazer faithful saw Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge as the foundation of something special. But its time for the Blazers to rap their heads around the stark reality that such promise will not be realized. At least not with those three. It may be hard, but you can’t look at this team through Roy colored glasses.
It’s a terribly sad story for Roy, Blazer fans and the league as a whole. We’re talking about one of the top 15 players in the league. He’s as smooth and effortlessly good on the court and as humble off of it as your going to find in the league today. However it doesn’t take a doctor to know that no cartilage in your knee is serious issue for a professional athlete. And its hard to read bone-on-bone without cringing, no less imagine what it feels like if your trying to play basketball at the world’s highest level. Whatever medical/surgical options they are considering, you have to think he will be out for upwards of a year if not more. Whether you’re a Blazer fan or not, you hope Roy can return to provide something more than the sobering feeling that he will never be the same again. He won’t be the same.
Greg Oden is a sad story of a different kind. As promising as his small samples have been, he’s played just 82 out of a possible 328 games as an NBA player. Exactly 25 percent. Precedent is all we have, and it tells us not to expect to rely on someone whose only out there a quarter of the time. It’s hard to say you’re missing something thats never there. And lets not forget we’ve all seen this guy run; it just doesn’t look good.
It’s a harsh reality for Blazer fans to accept but all is not lost in Portland. Let’s not get bogged down in what was, and focus on what is. Because these Blazers are playing their best basketball of the season, competing quite admirably given the decimation that they have faced. We are seeing LaMarcus Aldridge become more and more comfortable in his new lead role. Wesley Matthews, whose contract was questioned by many has been nothing short of a revelation, and he has the Blazers front office not- so-quietly gushing. They are getting comfortable running things through Aldridge and allowing the ball to find the offense, and there is still room for improvement.
How does Rich Cho plan to retool his team for life without Roy? In his short tenure thus far we haven’t received any indication yet, however he does come from a tight-lipped organization. It seems many Blazer fans are frustrated by his lack of action but everyone has to remember this guys a lawyer, and this is just how lawyers conduct business. Let’s take a look back at what Sam Presti said about Cho when the Blazers hired him;
“He’s got a lot of versatility to his skill set. He’s going to put in an incredible amount of work and he’s going to think things through and be very analytical about how he approaches decisions,” Presti said.
Cho, in his opening press conference said that they would be, “process oriented and methodical in our approach.”
It should come as no surprise then that he is following through and taking his time to evaluate his new team in thoughtful and calculated manner. He promised he would people. It feels like a near 180 for Blazer fans from the very proactive Kevin Pritchard era, and understanding that fans want action when they aren’t satisfied, you can see why people may be antsy in Portland. No one says they shouldn’t be. The Blazers do need to be proactive, as this team needs another perimeter threat, and a playmaker. But let’s try to give Rich Cho and his team the benefit of the doubt in saying that the “process” is ongoing and that they are talking to other teams.
The long term picture of this franchise without Roy now centers around Aldridge (25), Matthews (24) and Batum (22), and I’d feel good about having that in place. Then there are veterans Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. It would be difficult for this team to maintain it’s playoff pace without them and their also the two most obvious candidates to be dealt. It will be a big subject of debate, which if either should be traded. Andre Miller’s option for next year is held by the team, which gives them the flexibility to trade him as an expiring contract this year, or next if they choose to pick up the option. As much as his heady play would be missed, I’d be more worried about the crater that Camby’s departure would create, and that leads me to believe that if someone goes, it will be Miller. With Camby signed through next year, you’re in no rush to trade him until you either get an offer you can’t refuse or your comfortable with your replacement. The way the team is playing at the moment gives credence to the idea of keeping both veterans in Blazer uniforms through the end of the season.
This upcoming home stand may well dictate what direction the Blazers go in; if they continue to play like they have of late, by ripping off an 8-2 stretch for instance, they may be compelled to supplement what they have for a playoff push. Maybe they do more than supplement. On the other hand, if they flatten out it may lead them toward a more long term view of things.
I don’t think anyone would claim that they can contend for a title this year, but you can argue a competitive playoff showing would go a long way towards assuring the fan base, and even the team itself that there are still plenty reasons for optimism. This is the point of the methodical approach though. Allowing information to be gathered from each game thats played provides more answers than anything else right now. More than a hasty trade for trades sake. Clearly this guy doesn’t make deals until he has a strong hold on the value of what he has. Let’s try to roll with it.
He said himself he thought that the team was just a piece or two away, which lead you to believe they will be more inclined to add then subtract. With a lockout looming, and taking into account everything this franchise has endured in the last year, sacrificing the short for the long-term is probably a hard sell.
Regardless of the approach they take, this isn’t a time to think about with longing all the things that could have been. Management can’t hold their collective breath waiting for Roy to ride in on his horse and save the day.
They need to move forward and forge a post-Roy future.
We are sure to find out soon some of what that future entails. Just have a little patience Blazer fans. Just a little.
About the Author
Written by Brandon Marcus
I am 25 year old native New Yorker. I went to the University of Florida where I got my degree Sports Management. I am a die hard fan of the New York Giants, Knicks, Mets and the movie, Die Hard. I'll be covering the Portland Trail Blazers, but also will keep my eye on the league as a whole, and will drop in from time to time with some random thoughts.