Welcome to BlogShakaLaka
By Brian Wheeler
Welcome to the very first installment of my blog "BlogShakaLaka". I could never hope to compete with the writing excellence of my esteemed colleague and good friend, Mike Barrett
, so I will only be blogging once a week. Truth is, I just can't think as quickly as MB!
For my initial effort, I thought I'd speak to the best fans in the NBA. Being a member of the Blazers' traveling party, I have the benefit of seeing all the league arenas and sampling the game presentations, while observing which fans not only come out to support their teams, but also help to create a home court atmosphere that's intimidating to the visitors. You loyal and dedicated fans of the Trail Blazers deserve an A+ in all areas! Not only do you sell-out the Rose Garden to standing room only status every game, but you've made the home of the Blazers a place that visiting teams fear to tread.
The last two seasons we've all shook our collective heads at the bad luck the organization has had with regard to injuries. Despite that, last year's club won 50 games and advanced to the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive season. And if this season ended today, the team again would be back in the postseason. Not to mention with nearly half of this season remaining, there's still plenty of time to improve on the overall record and positioning for the playoffs before April rolls around. So clearly, this is a team that has not used injuries as an excuse, and instead has battled every night with whoever's been available and succeeded in winning more times than not.
And let's not forget that this season has already produced some great stories, even in the wake of some tough injury news to key players. LaMarcus Aldridge has developed into the star power forward that everyone envisioned he could be, taking over as the club's go-to guy and producing All-Star numbers at a position that's as competitive as any in the NBA. Wesley Matthews has blossomed into a star in just his 2nd year, validating the faith the Blazers showed by signing him as a free agent in the offseason. Nicolas Batum is a rising star, and at just 22, has not even begun to reach his full potential, and that's great for the Blazers, but scary for the rest of the league. Patty Mills has been a wonderful story, making the roster initially as a 15th man, and now a meaningful part of the regular playing rotation each night. Rudy Fernandez has now professed his love of Portland, and is once again providing Blazers' fans with a solid presence off the bench each night. And if you don't think you fans and home court matter, how about the fact that Rudy averages about 5 more points a game when playing at the Rose Garden than he does on the road. He's a guy who feeds off the energy of the crowd, and clearly he feels at home in front of all of you! And the veteran influences of Marcus Camby and Andre Miller have had a calming effect on an otherwise young team. Camby has led the club in rebounding and blocked shots all season, and Miller just answers the bell every night in workmanlike fashion, and has paced the team in assists and steals. But this club has one leader above all else and that's Nate McMillan. Well-respected around the league, he's guided the Blazers for 6 seasons now. He'll always tell anyone who'll listen that Portland was the place he hated to come to as an opposing player in his Seattle days. He's glad to have you Blazers' fans on his side.
We can't forget about leadership beyond the coaching staff and players. GM Rich Cho and his staff have acclimated themselves to Portland, and are poised to keep this Blazers' team competitive for many years to come. If you've ever had the chance to send Rich a text or an e-mail at any hour of the day as I have being a late night guy, I'm always amazed at how quickly I hear back from him. If he sleeps, I'm not sure when it is. But in talking to him, I know he has a quiet determination to make the Blazers' a title contender sooner rather than later.
President Larry Miller was on hand for many of the successes at Nike over the years before coming to the Blazers. As a longtime Oregon resident, he's been a Blazers' fan for years, and has always stated that his goal is to make the organization not only the best in the NBA, but the finest in all of sports. Since his arrival, the team has increased its' already strong presence in the local community, and has developed more and more innovative ways to interact with you the fans.
And I save him for last, but without him, there is no NBA in Portland, and that's owner Paul Allen. Thankfully for all of us, Mr. Allen has been an active owner, driven to bring another World Championship to Oregon. No owner attends more games of his team on the road than Mr. Allen does, not to mention how often we see him in his customary baseline seat at the Rose Garden. He regularly receives film of team practice sessions, and is in constant communication with Larry Miller and Rich Cho to make sure he's aware of everything that's going on. And let's remember, we wouldn't even have the benefit of the Rose Garden without the foresight and generosity of Mr. Allen to begin with. The Blazers have been his passion for many years, being the first team he ever owned. And just as you never forget your first love, the Blazers will always hold a special place in his heart.
So the foundation is there, not only for success the rest of this season, but the right people are in place to build things from here. We have a little saying around the organization that you've probably heard of called, "Make it Better". For the most part, it involves the vast commitment to the community that we try to carry out each and every day. But it can also be expanded to include taking the good things that the team already possesses and improving on those even more. Nobody in this organization will be satisfied until we're holding another championship parade downtown.
So in closing, I just wanted to thank you again for being the best fans in the NBA!