Trail Blazers at the Trade Deadline
By BillWaltonHomer Posted in: JoelPrzybilla
No one likes change. Most people's lives fall into a routine that they are comfortable with and try desperately not to disrupt. Sports fans are the worst when it comes to this...maybe because we live vicariously through our players, maybe because we spend money on their merchandise and don't want to shelve that Zach Randolph jersey we paid so much for...but whatever the reason, no one likes it when their team gets blown up. And I don't know about you, but the word "rebuilding" actually causes my stomach to rumble. I hate it.
Having said that, I don't think anyone could look at our team over the last month and say that it wasn't broken. I think back to the 05-06 season when KP took over coaching the team after Mo Cheeks was let go and young guys like Travis Outlaw got a lot of playing time on the way to 21 wins that season. I remember getting a handful of tickets and asking friends if they wanted to go to the game with me. For free. I rarely had takers. We were filled with players who had no chemistry, no leader and no direction.
Then KP and staff began the NEW era of Blazer basketball. Brandon Roy told Zach to stuff it and grabbed the reins of this team. Locker room chemistry was at an all time high, no one was getting pulled over for DUI's at 3 am...we could once again be proud of our team...and as sports fans that's one of the major things you want...to be PROUD of your team and the effort they are putting forth every night. Over the next three seasons, pieces were added, chemistry was maintained and despite a heart-crushing series of injuries, each year the team improved by about 10 wins.
But then something else happened...KP was let go...Greg had another surgery...Rich Cho was let go...Greg had another surgery...and most devastating of all...Brandon Roy retired just as the strike-shortened season was about to begin. (I know this blog is supposed to be about the trade deadline...I am getting there...) It wasn't just the loss of our clutch scoring machine. It wasn't just the loss of our only All-Star player...it was the loss of the glue that held the locker room together. The captain...the emotional fabric of this team. Yes splashy moves were made to compensate...and while it could be argued that if you combined the talent we had plus the talent we added, there should have been no loss of quality...what we didn't have anymore...what we didn't add was that leadership.
Some will argue that with "seasoned veterans" like Camby, Thomas, Crawford and Wallace there should have been someone to take those reins...or that as a group they could have kept it going right, but that isn't what happened. They weren't here when Nate had to be Sarge...they didn't claw their way up from the bottom like our core group did. No one was here to hold us accountable...they were just here to point fingers and that wasn't going to get us anywhere but right back into the lottery.
Sports columnists will tell you that the minute a coach "loses" the team, his job is pretty much done. As much as I HATE to agree, I have to agree...when the players lose respect for you, and no amount of benching them or pushing them will bring it back, then you should probably look at making a change. Having said that, losing Coach Nate is a hard thing for me and a lot of fans because we know and saw first hand what he did to bring this organization back from the "Jail Blazer" days...and know what a fantastic coach and man he is. But this is a different Blazer team then we had six years ago...and maybe it's time to try something new. I don't think Nate wanted to go through another "rebuilding phase" so I think this is probably for the best.
(See...now I am current...) As for Gerald...like a lot of fans, I fell in love with the HYPE surrounding "Crash" and I guess you can't argue that he put up somewhere between 13 and 15 a night...but let's be honest here folks...how many points would he have had if he COULD have made a layup? 25? 30? Maybe. But you and I both know that isn't the reason he was moved. Whether a team is filled with "character" guys or "troublemakers" it still has to have chemistry...and if you aren't a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem. I don't know about you...but one gigantic expiring contract, one disposable contract and a INCREDIBLE first round pick sounds pretty fantastic to me. I personally like ++ this move.
Marcus Camby is a great guy and brings a lot to the table, but the same rule applies from earlier, if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem. A problem that was partially solved with the return of the Thrilla (If he isn't the hardest working man in basketball I don't know who is) and finally brought to a conclusion by sending him to his hometown of Houston to finish out his career and pick up two pretty good potential players in Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet AND another second round pick. Please stop laughing...I am serious.
I know what you are going to say...and yes it IS true that Hasheem Thabeet only averages a little over one basket a game (2.2ppg) and almost three rebounds a game (2.7 to be exact) but he's 7'3. Yes...I know Ha Seung-Jin was also 7'3...but in Thabeet's defense his ppg average is better. But hear me out on this one. In his last year of college ball he averaged 13 points, 10 rebounds and had 152 blocks that season. The guy CAN ball...but on every team he's been on, he's been sent to the DL and kind of cast off. We have two veteran big men in Joel and Kurt who can work with this kid, not to mention Buck to instill some toughness...I sincerely think Hasheem CAN make a difference.
Jonny Flynn is a baller. He had hip surgery in the summer of 2010 and then had a bad 10/11 season...but he's a year removed from that and let's be honest again...we really need a little help at point guard.
No matter how you look at the loss of Coach Nate, Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace or the arrival of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn...what we WERE able to do is grab expiring contracts and move into even BETTER position to re-sign Nicolas, bring in a max contract guy and add other pieces. In ADDITION to all that we also grabbed a couple more picks in what should be a stellar draft.
I don't mind my routine shaken up for a helping of THAT! It's a GREAT day to be a Blazer fan...