Monday, October 20, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Oh, hey, did you guys hear the Blazers are going to be pretty good this year?

Oh, you did?

That's all then.


Okay, I guess we'll do the preview. Your opening preview is by Rob Mahoney.


I’m going to take you to a magical, mystical world of fantasy and wonder. It’s a world where every team gets their dream big man in the draft. A world in which the stars, no matter how good they get, seem to only be getting better. A world where despite the fact that you overachieved last season, you still get one of the most dynamic players in the draft. A world where your biggest problem is that you might have too many good players and not enough spots in the rotation. A world in which every team has a damn Kevin Pritchard clone.
Ah, what a world that would be.

I kinda want the Blazers to be bad. Mostly because I’m bitter. I know they’ve had a bad run, some bad luck, and some general misfortune, but it’s like every person in that front office is collecting their karma checks all at once. The surprise team of the league last year wasn’t good enough, so you give them Oden and Bayless. THAT makes sense.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways in which the Blazers won’t make the playoffs this year. I expect this to be a yearly tradition from now on, only next year it’ll be why they won’t win the Northwest, and the year after that it’ll be why they won’t win the damn championship. Screw you, Pritchard. You too, McMillan. And that goes DOUBLE for you, Roy, Aldridge, Oden, Outlaw, Webster, Fernandez, Bayless…DAMMIT.

But anyways, here’s what I’ve got:
  1. Carmelo Anthony switches bodies, minds, psyches, et al with LeBron. This is probably the most likely out of this list.
  2. Baron Davis plays 95 games this season, Marcus Camby averages over 10 points, and Chris Kaman develops a three point shot.
  3. Spencer Hawes stands on Brad Miller’s shoulders, they wear one uniform, and convince league officials that their souls and auras have “merged.” It’s a new age, man. Brencer Mawler 4 MVP.
  4. Doc Brown grabs Monta, gives him the whole “Where we’re going we don’t need mopeds” routine, and saves his ass from a killer injury and basically puts $3 mil in his pocket.

Andddddd that’s about it. The Blazers are that good, and they’ve gotten that good that fast. Envy ensues.

Watching Oden in pre-season is a treat, although it is a bit worrying that the season hasn’t even started yet and he’s already had two ankle sprains. But I’ve shaken up the eight ball, and all signs point to him being a shot-blocking awe-inspiring big man throwing it down constantly. What we saw was the pre-season, and only a taste. He was just whetting our pallates. I can’t wait.

Roy and Aldridge are the tandem that really drove this team a year ago, and they will only get better. Brandon’s elusiveness and ability to create for…well, pretty much anyone wearing a Blazers jersey (I think he might have set up Drexler for an easy bucket last season), including himself. This guy seriously needs a nickname. Broy Wonder? Greased Up Snake? I don’t even know where to begin, but we’ve gotta think up something.

Aldridge is absolute money on the midrange game, but can still bang down low with the best of them. I’m glad this team has Oden because otherwise I’d fear for him being forced into the center position, which just wouldn’t be right. The guy is a beast, and I look forward to him and Oden making me annoyingly giddy for years to come. Plus, he just happened to play his college ball at the best university in our fine country.

Where this team gets truly ridiculous though, is what lies beyond those three. Travis Outlaw may or may not have already put himself on the trading block, but he’s as athletic as they come, has a nice midrange touch, and a pretty decent defender. Can’t ask for much more than that out of your role players. Martell Webster is a classy guy and a nice complimentary player, even if Outlaw does have strange visions of strangling him in his sleep. Rudy is Rudy, and while he’s yet to play a real NBA minute, how could you not have high hopes? Combine that threesome with Steve Blake, Channing Frye, Ike Diogu, Joel “The Vanilla Gorilla” Pryzbilla…this is a Dream Team of role players. Seriously.

The Blazers really are the bell of the ball; the may not leave with the prize, but everyone will have their eye on them. Damn them for being so good and so likeable. DAMN THEMMMMM!


From Jailblazers to Trailblazers, the youth movement is here. Greg Oden. LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Roy. Rudy Fernandez. Shall I go on? This team is the one to pick if you're looking for young guys playing with energy, passion and heart (of course, I will also be watching my boy OJ in Memphis for a double dose of this, as well). We've currently got five, count them (Bayless, Oden, Hill, Fernandez and Batum), five rookies on the roster and all eyes are set to be fixated on Oden when the Big Chill finally takes it to the court and plays out his rookie season. After a year of emerging into excellence, Brandon Roy is going to be beautiful to watch as he only continues to progress and have Oden to pass the ball to.

Aldridge was a pleasant surprise last season and he will continue to make me smile. Travis Outlaw is like that guy who is just hanging out in the background, waiting for the opportunity to pounce with a game winner and rookie Jerryd Bayless is looking to make waves in the rookie pool. Ike Diogu is looking to get on track with his new team and Channing Frye has put in work this summer, hitting the gym hard and watching that diet like a hawk. With Fernandez dropping buckets all over the place in the gold medal game against Team USA, you know Portland fans are salivating at the very thought of him going up against Kobe, Dwyane and Bronny again.

While part of me will always miss the beautiful disaster that was the Jailblazers of old, I'm so very excited at the chance to watch this team come together and figure it all out.

Add Joel "Ghostface" Przybilla, Martell Webster and rookie Nicholas "Is this dream or reality" Batum and this team will be the dream, to watch. With Coach McMillan keeping a watchful eye, defensive mind and close rein on his boys, the team is sure to inspire and yes, surprise, even with high expectations and all eyes on them.


If you can find any reason to hate the Blazers, then you are an unrepentant terrorist and hate America. That is all.


I'll see your challenge, Corn. You want reasons to hate this team? How about the fact that they haven't actually done anything yet? Meanwhile, Greg Oden thinks you are being a meany weany to him. Please. Step up, big boy. All you've done so far in the league is brush off our nickname (which we're still using), and walk around hurt. Not impressed, kiddo. You want the expectations to ease off? Go play D-League. Otherwise man up and keep that goofy smile you always have on your face.

Oh, what's that, Brandon Roy? You don't think you get the credit you deserve? Really? Well then quit forcing the entire team to cater to your exact game and maybe we won't have that problem. Jerryd Bayless is being shoved into the point guard position like he's playdough.

Nic Batum may start for this team. Come now. Have we not had enough of the French oppression?

If you want to hate these guys, hate them because as Rob mentioned earlier, they get everything to go their way. Do you get the first doughnut every time at the office? Does everyone remember your birthday and send you a present? Do you accidentally, slip, fall and land in bed with supermodels? Envy is a totally reasonable reason to hate a sports team. That's why you should hate the Blazers.


I fear for Jerryd Bayless. The complex relationship of brilliance to regrettable in the Blazers' acquisition of Bayless pecks at the corners of my mind when I'm contemplating the league. The Blazers managed yet another in a long line of steals. They grabbed an all-world talent with a mean streak to add to their already loaded roster.

The issue is that they need none of what comes naturally from Bayless. At Summer League, Blazers Edge asked McMillan about Bayless after his detonation against the Suns which had the entire building on its feet. After showcasing an explosiveness and versatility that was simply stunning, McMillan said, essentially, that they already have a two-guard, his name is Brandon Roy. He said that if Bayless wanted to play, he'd have to play point.

One slight problem. Bayless is to point guard as Lamar Odom is to center. Oh, sure, he can play it, but it's not a good idea and you're removing him from all the things he's good at. Bayless is Tommy Gun, not a samurai sword. He's best with the ball in his hands, and he has the usual rookie problem of not giving the ball to the other team, or "turning it over."

The Blazers can gamble on Bayless' transformation, though, because they're so obscenely loaded. But to waste Bayless as a project, to try and put him through the playdough grinder and make him into something else is almost obscene. It's experimentation and development to the point of hubris. The basketball equivalent of playing God. It's possible Bayless could manage his turnovers, learn to distribute better, and end up as a complement to Roy that is simply devastating before you even reach the Aldridge-Oden battering ram. But to me a more likely scenario is Bayless getting limited minutes and eventually being shipped out as fodder, only to return and repeatedly take out his frustrations on the Blazers at every opportune moment. Bear in mind, this is a kid that said in a 'Dime' interview that when he's on the floor, he wants to "destroy" his opponent. There's a genuine malice in Bayless' approach that's tempered by his kind offcourt demeanor. The usual result of this is the kind of player you don't want to run into in a dark game in March.

Matt: bastard-son
Rob: okay
Matt: punished
Rob: innate
Matt: ricochet
Rob: survival
Matt: ballast
Rob: destructive
Matt: penchant
Rob: forlorn
Matt: syringe
Rob: disguise
Matt: careen

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