Well I'm sorry to say that ship has come and sailed.
The Blazers have faded away in the West, and have become a distant memory. Since the end of their streak, Portland has gone 15-18 and fallen out of the Western Conference playoff race. Currently, Portland is 7.5 games out of the eight and final seed, behind their division rival, Denver.
They were full of young talent, as Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge were the glue of the team, with Jarret Jack, Travis Outlaw, and James Jones acting as premiere complimentary pieces. Portland's shot at a berth this season may be wishful thinking as the West is as good as it’s ever been and with no teams on the downslide (except for Phoenix which they will never catch).
However, we all know that nothing good lasts forever. They may not have a player over 30 but pretty soon their age was going to catch up with them. In fact, they are the youngest team in the NBA with an average of 24 years per player. Yes, they have the skill set to make it to the bonus land, yes, they have a worthy coach to lead them there, and yes they have the whole Rose Garden supporting them.
The questions left unanswered are: Do they have enough stamina to make it? If they do make it, will they make a scheduled first round exit? Do they have the necessary composure to beat a San Antonio or a Los Angeles team?
Obviously, all the answers there are no. For the Blazers to make it to the next step in the season, they must go on another ridiculous tear and add to it a whole lot of bad luck from Denver and Golden State. Something must light a fire under this team and give them the intensity to make it to April.
Ten of the team's final 19 games are against fewer than teams that are less then .500 on the season. The rest are as followed: two games against the slumping Suns, one against Lebron and the Cavaliers, one against inconsistent Dallas, one against a streaky Golden State, one against the reigning World Champs, the Spurs, one against the hot and Yao-less Houston Rockets, and two against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thirteen of those games are certainly winnable, and will be key in their run down the stretch to the finish-line. If they do make it, they will probably be an eight seed and it makes me wonder, will they follow in the Warriors' footsteps and upset L.A. or San Antonio? We had the defending champs depart early last year in the Eastern Confernece.
Will it be a repeat?
They are smart in their own right for not rushing center, Greg Oden, back into the post, and perhaps mortgaging the young man's bright future in the league. If Portland makes it into extra innings, it will definitely be an achievement for that squad, and group of talented youngsters.
If they don't, it will just be a case of absent veteran leadership. Coach Nate McMillan will gather some talk for Coach of the Year, but in all likelihood, it will fall into the hands of Byron Scott down in the Big Easy, or up in Utah to Jerry Sloan.
Such a shame.
In whatever way this year unfolds, I say good luck to you Portland! You've made this season an exciting one to remember.
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