I moved to Portland in May 1992, the day before the Blazers started their second-round series against the Phoenix Suns. We took out the Suns and Utah Jazz in thrilling fashion before coming up short against the Chicago Bulls in the Finals. Little did I know at the time that the most thrilling Blazers basketball would be played in the first six weeks of my residence in RipCity.
By Another Believer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Since then, we’ve suffered through the “not good enough” teams of the ’90s, the JailBlazers of the early 2000s, the unfulfilled promise of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, and last season’s defection of LaMarcus Aldridge / roster reboot that should have sent us back to the bottom of the league…except it didn’t.
Last year’s unexpected and exciting run to the second run of the playoffs was the most exciting time since 1992 to be a Blazers fan. With Damian Lillard already the face of the franchise and locked into a long-term deal, the team decided that they like its current makeup, and elected to sign their core players to long-term contracts while adding some new key pieces, risking costly salary cap penalties that could hit the following season.
Why would owner Paul Allen take this risk? He clearly believes in the potential of the team. But, what makes it easier is that their players are not only great talents but are tremendous ambassadors for the community and have great fan appeal. The ubiquity of Social Media has allowed the community and the fan base to develop deeper relationship with the players…and might have contributed to them staying here long-term.
For example, Meyers Leonard has tremendous potential as a big man who can shoot 3-pointers like a guard while also fulfilling the traditional defensive / rebounding roles of a center / power forward. He’s yet to fulfill his potential, but he received a 4-year contract extension based on his unique talents. He also likes to dance for his dog and is a fan favorite.
- C.J. McCollum also got a massive contract extension even though he only had his breakout season last year. He combines with Lillard to form an offensive backcourt pairing every bit as good as Curry / Thompson in Golden State. Yet, his newfound success has still kept him humble; though he has guaranteed his financial future, he’s still training for life after the NBA…as a sports journalist.
Allen Crabbe had a solid year as a bench player that generated a huge offer from Brooklyn, which was quickly matched. Like Leonard and McCollum, Crabbe is a very well-liked, popular player and, like McCollum, Crabbe only had one year as a rotation player before the team committed to him long-term. Currently, Crabbe and McCollum are representing the NBA in China…a trip that Lillard made earlier in the summer.
The Blazers also committed long-term to Maurice Harkless, a near “freebie” pickup from Orlando the previous season; Celtics veteran Evan Turner; and Warriors Center Festus Ezeli, who surprisingly showed up in the Portland Airport one day and signed a contract the next.
How will the Blazers do this year? Some of the prognosticators aren’t picking them to improve much despite their very successful second half of the season and maturation of their roster. We think we’re a top-4 team in the West (along with the Warriors, Spurs and Clippers). They should win 50-54 games this year (barring catastrophe) and take the division title away from the Thunder.
Most importantly, this should even be a more exciting season that last year. The fans were excited for the playoff run, but most felt that they’d exit quickly. Nobody could have predicted that they would knock out the Clippers and bloody the Warriors in the fashion that they did. The people in Portland are anxious to see the momentum from the second half of last season extend the entirety of this season; with the new pieces in place and Paul Allen’s financial commitment to the team and to coach Terry Stotts, we’re really excited for a high win total and a deep playoff run.
By Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, is a massive Portland Trailblazers fan. He also has been with 3Q Digital (http://www.3qdigital.com) since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (http://www.sempdx.org) (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.
Images sourced CC BY-SA 3.0, Link