It was inevitable, really. The promise held in the 2008 and 2009 seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers have vanished in a blur of surgical knives, press releases featuring the words “out for the season” and a crowd of players in tailored suits on the bench. Joel Przybilla was the lucky one. He only hurt his knee twice. Brandon Roy. Greg Oden. Greg Oden. Greg Oden. The fact is that the team assembled to challenge the West has become mortal. They’re still fighting, and Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge are great players. Andre Miller’s a good player, Nicolas Batum is a very good player, and the youngsters have some potential. But the building blocks aren’t there. And Portland’s GM, Rich Cho, is being honest about it.
From The Oregonian:
The days of proclaiming this franchise “one or two pieces away” have faded. In its place is this matter-of-fact assessment from Cho:
“This team is an average to a little-above average team, and our record reflects that,” Cho said. “And theres not going to be any quick fix to make it into a championship team. This is going to be a process.”
Cho waited until the Blazers had played about half of their games before deciding what his long term plan is for the franchise. He said that plan may become clear to fans after the trade deadline, but added that “winning is still important.”
“But I think you have to think short term and long term,” Cho said. “We are not going to sacrifice a long-term goal for a short-term benefit.”
The Oregonian goes on to report that Cho plans on pursuing drat picks, seeking to replicate the Thunder formula. Ironic, as it was the Blazers’ passing of Kevin Durant that… you know what? I’m going to leave that one alone. Following the Thunder is a good path, at least it seems so at this point, and probably the best pursuit for the Blazers.
But if the Blazers are really going to look at following the Thunder, they should also pay attention to what GM Sam Presti didn’t do. He didn’t start adding veterans. The Blazers, thinking they were set, started plugging in veterans like Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. Veterans are great additions to teams ready to contend for a title. They are anchors around teams trying to find a path towards a successful future, even as their play are some of the bright spots. You simply can’t build around them.
Cho expects to start making moves as the trade deadline nears, and he’s going to have assets capable of moving. He says that Nicolas Batum is part of the future in Portland, but don’t be surprised if instead he uses Batum’s overall value to try and snag something significant. After all, you have to give up valuable assets if you want to get them.
Until then, we’ll watch the Blazers, defiantly plugging in more wins than losses, struggling through injury after injury, and think of what could have been. The fall from grace in the NBA comes just that quickly.