STAYING IN ONE PIECE: THE 2010-11 PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS SEASON PREVIEW



by wes lilliman

HEAD COACH: NATE MCMILLAN




PROJECTED ROTATION:



PG – ANDRE MILLER
SG – BRANDON ROY
SF – NICOLAS BATUM
PF – LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE
C- MARCUS CAMBY
G – JERRYD BAYLESS
G – WESLEY MATTHEWS
G/F – RUDY FERNANDEZ
F – LUKE BABBITT
F/C – JOEL PRYZBILLA
C – GREG ODEN

On the surface, the Blazers enter the 2010-2011 season with a number of reasons to be optimistic. Franchise player? Check. Solid talent 1 through 5? Check. A good mix of veteran leadership and youth, a solid head coach, and recent playoff experience? Check, check, and check. There’s just this one thing…

… someone out there has a voodoo doll and can’t resist using it to inflict pain in Portland.

Brandon Roy tore his mensicus. Nicholas Batum tore up his shoulder. Joel Pryzbilla ruptured his patella tendon, had successful surgery, and then slipped in the shower and messed it up again. How bad was it? So bad that the Coach Nate mcMillan, short of enough healthy bodies for practice, decided to suit up himself…



And promptly  ruptured his achilles tendon.



Seriously.

And then there’s Greg Oden.

As perhaps the most hyped young big man in recent memory, Oden has spent most of his NBA tenure battling career-threatening injuries off the court and has arguably been most impressive when exhibiting his, uh, 
  “prowess”  via sext messages. While he has been able to show flashes of solid play when healthy, a massive question mark still looms over Oden’s health.



Health aside, this is still a promising squad with a number of exciting pieces. It all starts with Roy, one of the league’s top young players who has a well-rounded game and the type of character and work ethic that any organization would love to build around. His backcourt mate, veteran Andre Miller, returns as the starting point guard and is likely to be more at ease in his second year with the team. The two are backed by the likes of Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez, both of whom are capable of contributing (if Bayless can take the next step and if Fernandez isn’t too pissed off about still being in Portland).

The in-between, big guard/small forward support minutes will likely go to the only two notable additions that were made by the franchise during the off-season. First, owner Paul Allen pulled from his heavy pockets to sign Wesley Matthews away from Utah, who didn’t match the offer sheet because they didn’t want to pay WESLEY MATTHEWS $32.5 MILLION OVER 5 YEARS WITH $9 MILLION UP FRONT. Regardless, Matthews will add his nice combination of decent shooting and defensive skills to the team. Additionally, the Blazers acquired rookie Luke Babbitt on draft night. Babbitt’s a great shooter – just ask him (he reportedly proclaimed himself the best shooter available in the weeks leading up to the draft).

The team’s frontcourt is not without talent either, but a lot of things need to fall into place if the Blazers truly want to contend. Martell Webster left in the Babbitt deal. Marcus Camby is an established, effective player, but he’s getting old. LaMarcus Aldridge has all the potential in the world, but he has to continue to develop. Pryzbilla has to successfully return from his physical ailments. Oden has to do the same.

To me, besides injuries, the biggest obstacle this team faces is finding a way to put a balanced product on the floor. There are only so many minutes for the numerous guards, and there could end up being too many minutes for the big men. Furthermore, Nate McMillan has to figure this out with a new set of assistants behind him. His group is full of experience, but how the gel as a coaching staff remains to be seen.



Also of concern is the fact that GM Kevin Pritchard, the man thought to be responsible for the teams’ recent success, was unceremoniously dumped on Draft night (ostensibly because Ownership felt he was getting to much credit) and replaced with first timer Rich Cho, formerly Sam Presti’s understudy in Oklahoma.

With all of this in mind, don’t be shocked if new GM, Rich Cho, tries to make some sort of deal mid-season to add a piece to the puzzle that could improve the aforementioned balance.


IF THEY GET LUCKY: Everyone stays healthy. Roy continues to shine. The group develops a balance and a chemistry, and maybe even lands a piece that can take them from 2nd-round playoff team to challenging Kobe and company in the Western Conference Finals. And, Oden can finally start saying something other than, “Yeah, but wait ’til you see my dick”



IF THEY DON’T: Oden’s legs fall off before he sees 10 games. Roy’s meniscus acts up. Miller, who was the only Blazer to play all 82 last year, spontaneously combusts. Pryzbilla has another shower incident, and Cho fucks it all up by getting desperate and trading away good talent for some sort of “Tyler Hansbrough/conditional draft picks” package.

REALITY: Barring the aforementioned combination of potentially damaging issues the team could face, they should win about 52 games and make the playoffs yet again. Unfortunately, it just looks like another year of them putting up a valiant effort but falling in the 2nd round. They’re good, but they just haven’t made the changes to make me think they’ll be any more effective than the were last year.



BONUS SECTION: In honor of this blog and its title, can I really go with anything other than this?
















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