mikebarrett

Apr 17

Blazers Fall in Finale

By mikebarrett
The NBA's third-youngest team (which has been using the league's youngest playing rotation lately) has seen it's season come to an end.  The Golden State Warriors, who were out to secure the sixth seed in the Western Conference, had to fight down the stretch, but ended up recording a 99-88 victory.

I'm going to keep this relatively short, as one normally gains a good amount of perspective after a short time.  I hope the fans have that, even as this year's team closed the season on this losing streak.  

There's all this talk about growth and progress, and how the future of this franchise is bright.  l do believe that.  But, for me it comes down to some pretty basic thoughts.  As I was sitting courtside wrapping up the broadcast, I was remembering back to how the season ended a year ago and was easily able to remember my thoughts then.  Uncertainty and disappointment was overwhelming, as we knew the team had a coaching vacancy to fill, a GM job that was open, and roster spots that would soon be available.  

Even if this team fell short of your expectations, the situation after this game feels entirely different.

Yes, Damian Lillard, and his historically-good rookie season has a lot to do with that, but it's actually more than that.  There is stability, a clear-cut plan in place, a core to build around, and the right people are pulling the strings.

Lillard will be the Rookie of the Year.  The only question is, will he will the award in unanimous fashion?  I think there's a good chance of that happening, but I also know there are some voters out there who will choose the path of the contrarian, if for no other reason that to be contrary.  That's their right, and I'm not going to get too caught up in that.  I also know this- it won't really matter to Lillard himself.  At times he almost seems embarrassed by all the attention and the awards, and his only focus will be on the team getting better.

That may sound cheesy or cliche, but that's just what Lillard believes.  As good as he's been on the court, he's even better off of the court.  He's a leader, he's a budding superstar, and he's humble.  He's proof that you can be all three at the same time.

Of all his accomplishments this season, the fact that he was the only Blazer to play in all 82 games may be among his most impressive feats.  He actually ended up leading the entire NBA in minutes played.  He's a rare talent, and I honestly feel that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I talked to Damian briefly after the game, congratulated him, and told him goodbye.  He said, in his usual straight-forward fashion, "goodbye?  I'm not going anywhere.  I'll be right here in Portland, getting better all summer."

We have talked so much about Lillard here late in the season, but there's something else that bares repeating.  LaMarcus Aldridge had a terrific season.  He had 30 points and 21 rebounds in this final game.  He was an all-star again, and his importance to this team has been very evident late in the season.  

Wesley Matthews, who had to struggle with injuries for the first time in his career, vowed to come back stronger than ever.  Nic Batum battled injuries as well, but also had his best season, playing up to and above the big contract he signed last summer.

Will Barton has a long way to go, but showed with opportunity came the chance at production.  He was one of the bright spots over the final few games.  And, Meyers Leonard will only get better.  There were times he looked like he was over his skis, but that's how most rookie seasons go.  Measure him by Lillard's yard stick and you'll be disappointed.  But, looking at his progress since the opening day of camp and you have to walk away pleased.

Then there's Terry Stotts.  He can coach, and he can lead.  He is the right coach for this team. This is really an area where I'm actually too close to give an objective opinion, because I like the guy so much.  I wasn't sure what to expect when the Blazers hired him, but I have to say that he's blown away my expectations.  He's got a great balance to his teaching, a great perspective on life, and his players love him.  They also respect him, and that's probably the most important thing.

At times in my job, especially during a season like this, we spend a lot of time selling hope. And, even with the season ending the way it did, complete with falling short of the playoffs, this feels like an easier sell than ever.  

The Blazers will enter draft lottery in the 10th spot.  Going into the final night of the regular season, the possibilities were 10th, 11th, or 12th.  Even though I never see any positive benefit of losing, I'm not going to deny that landing in that 10th spot feels pretty good.  

A lottery pick, cap space, and a system in place.  A veteran core that is just about to reach its prime, the rookie of the year, and a clear plan.  That's what you want.  That's what the Blazers have.  

It should be interesting.

I'll be back soon to post again, and to update many of these same themes.  I'll also pick a few moments from this past season, once I take time to digest them, and list my favorites.  But for now, it's time to get some sleep and start the process of unpacking.  The season is a grind, physically and mentally, and now it's over.

Thanks to all you great Blazer fans for watching our broadcasts, and for reading and commenting on the blog.  

I'll talk to you soon.


11 Comments

  1. Thank you Mike B for another great season of broadcasting and keeping the fans in touch with your thoughts. You are truly one of the best in the business. Have an awesome summer.

    peace out,
    daddylogan

    by daddylogan on 4/17/2013 11:29 PM
  2. Mr Mike: great season we had regardless of the losses and the injuries.
    Thank you for filling me in on all the info that you bring, I use it all the time

    by Hg on 4/18/2013 12:42 AM
  3. Mike, the only thing you forgot to mention is the contributions of JJ. I think he makes a better rebounding center than a shooting power foward. He's aggressive and his double doubles speak volumes. Why we would consider trading him for some unknown hopeful is beyond me. He lends pure energy to our game and God knows, we need that. He allows LaMarcus to do what he does.

    I hope we keep our core in place and find some shooters. Guys who can drive to the hoop, draw fouls, shoot from the line. Three more for the bench. Then we are cooking.

    I am sorry to see the season end. Love me some Trailblazers. I look forward to next season

    PS I am a Stotts fan too!

    by allie-oop on 4/18/2013 6:07 AM
  4. MB,

    Great post. I was at the final game and couldn't be any prouder of this team despite the loss. They truly gave their all. I'm thinking about giving a season recap on my blog. We'll see. Have a great summer and thanks again for all that you do.

    -Max Milander '14

    by linfieldrunner on 4/18/2013 9:39 AM
  5. Mr. Barrett,
    Is it really over? My first prediction is, this will be the shortest season we have here for a while. Playoffs.
    It was a fun season of basketball. Many surprises. Overtime wins. Come from behind wins. Damian Lillard. Is it too early to say hall of famer?
    My second prediction. Our core group ALL have the best year of their NBA careers.
    Thank you Mike. To me, your blog, has become part of the Trailblazer season. Off season too. Yes?
    Goodbye to all of Mike's blog followers. Thank you for your participation. I've enjoyed all the different points of view.
    GO BLAZERS!!

    by Divotking on 4/18/2013 2:36 PM
  6. by Divotking on 4/18/2013 2:39 PM
  7. well MB, it's another season in the books and i have very mixed feelings on it. in many ways, i think we should have fared better. most of the win predictions had us at 35-38 wins, but i think those losses to sacramento, detroit, toronto and washington were games we should have won. that's 5 or 6 more wins that were certainly attainable. unfortunately, for several seasons now, we seem to play up or down to our opponent. we need a group of guys that bring it every night.

    we lacked depth this season, but the young guys made some strides. i look at the beginning of the season with guys like Victor, Meyers, Joel and Will all improved. just think how much better they could have gotten with a coach who had a clue as to how to rotate players.

    i know we have some options this summer. Olshey said the next two months of the year are the most exciting part of his job. i like his enthusiasm and trust that he's already working on all those options. i think we made some progress this season, but i hope for even more next year.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 4/20/2013 7:36 PM
  8. @Divotking: MB blogs during the summer, just not quite as frequently since there aren't so many games to keep up with. it's a year-round blog.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 4/20/2013 7:43 PM
  9. Thanks MB, and to MR also, for another season of being the best at what you do. I've caught many of the other broadcasters on NBATV and NBALP and I can say with no hesitation that you two are the cream of the crop.

    An Oregonian article recently pointed out that both GM Olshey and Coach Stotts are highly respected by players around the league and that this could be a great advantage in luring top quality free agents to Portland this summer. That, and a true NBA center, are all we need to become a long-term playoff contender. How nice would it be to return to those glory years! This team has that chance, now let's make it happen.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/21/2013 4:10 AM
  10. The Knicks have some nice pieces. Shumpert ect.
    Felton is a cancer. Move him.

    by Divotking on 5/11/2013 6:51 PM
  11. Kaleb Canalas is gone now Jay Jensen is gone after 19yrs Really?

    by LA 2012 on 5/14/2013 10:10 AM
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