Do we have to stop playing now? That’s probably what they are wondering in the Blazers locker room, after a victory over the sliding New Orleans Hornets extended Portland’s streak to sixth headed into the All-Star Break.
“I think we’re in a great mindset, a great place,” said Aldridge, whose emergence as a consistent go-to guy has been the top story of the year for Portland. He’s posted MVP type numbers in the month of February, averaging 28.5 points and 8.5 rebounds on 56% shooting, and the maturation of his all around game has been a pleasure to watch.
For all the tribulations that Portland has faced, the six game streak sends them into the break with an identical record to last year, 32-24. Like last year, they have battled to keep their heads above water, and now that the worst appears behind them, they are starting to hit their stride.
Wesley Matthews has been forced to bear a larger responsibility than any Blazer fan could have imagined, yet he’s been up to the challenge. Signed to a five year, $34 million deal last summer, Matthews has proved invaluable, often guarding the opponents top perimeter threat and becoming arguably Portland’s best three point shooter. After a purposely inflated first year figure, his contract will without question be of the NBA’s top bargains. He’s a tough guy with the muscular frame to back it up, and coupled with the long-limmed, silky Batum, the Blazers are well equipped to guard the top wings in the league. The Blazers young core of LaMarcus, Matthews and Batum are beginning to distinguish themselves, and optimism has incrementally risen along the way.
With his smarts, steady demeanor and playmaking, unsung veteran Andre Miller continues to be the linchpin for Portland. He’s remains at the center of plenty of trade talk, but as I have said on this blog before, his value likely is greatest to the Blazers. In the last few days we’ve heard rumblings that Portland has shown interest in Net point guard, Devin Harris, who could be the younger, long-term solution the Blazers seek. However, short of acquiring such a player in a substantial deal, expect Miller to remain with the team. Playing as well as they are, Miller won’t be dumped without procuring a viable guard to take his place.
Brandon Roy was wisely held out until after the break, and with both he and Marcus Camby set to return the Blazers have a chance to build some momentum as we head down the stretch run. Not long ago they were clinging to the final playoff spot in the West, but their ascension, coinciding with the struggle of their most immediate competitors, has vaulted them into a virtual tie for the 5th seed in the conference.
The Hornets have two wins in their last 11 games, are without center Emeka Okafor, and as we saw last night, Chris Paul doesn’t look like himself. Utah has been floundering for a month, losers 13 of 17, and their coach of 23 years, Jerry Sloan, called it quits. Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets remain in limbo until Carmelo Anthony is traded, and when he is they almost certainly will slip further.
While just 5.5 games separate the 5th seed from the 10th, Portland is one of few teams headed in the right direction. Thus, the decisions they face at the deadline have not been made easy. Miller and Camby, set to turn 35 and 37 respectively in March, obviously don’t have a place in the franchise’s long-term picture; tempting Portland to get something for them before they depreciate any further.
We are sure to get some answers within the next week, and I’d love to hear from Blazer fans about what you’d like to see happen. Are you OK with GM Rich Cho retooling on the fly here, and trading one or more of the vets. Or would you prefer they ride this season out with Miller/Camby, considering how well they’ve played of late?
Let me know what you think, and I’ll be sure to check in, if and when something goes down prior to the trade deadline.
Enjoy All Star weekend!
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.