If the Dallas Mavericks are my wife, the Portland Trail Blazers are the hot, nice co-worker. I don't know them nearly as intimately as I do the Mavericks, but every time the Mavericks break my heart, it seems like the Blazers are right there, with a dynamic performance from Brandon Roy or an upset over the Lakers, and they look all right to me.
If I knew them better, I would probably know their flaws, and they would probably be nothing special, but as it is, they are a team I turn to in my darkest hour.
GM Kevin Pritchard deserves a lot of praise for building an exciting young team. Unlike other teams that were lottery-bound between 2004-2007, Pritchard found players that were able to step up in their early years in the league.
He traded for Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Jerryd Bayless on draft day, picked Greg Oden (which was slightly questionable; more on that later), and has dumped some bad contracts while not taking on any more.
But this summer, things have gone very wrong for the Trail Blazers, and now, instead of facing a bright future with up-and-coming likable stars locked in for years to come, it's slowly coming apart and could be over just as soon as it started.
It actually started when they failed to turn Raef LaFrentz into an impact player at the trade deadline, and we saw how that worked out in the playoffs.
There's the Hedo Turkoglu situation, which I don't particularly blame them for. He obviously wanted to live in Toronto, and sometimes you can't fight the family stuff. I don't blame them for that. To be honest, I think they dodged a bullet.
Turkoglu had one-and-a-half good seasons, and now he's making $10 million a year until he's 36. For a guy with a history of ankle problems, that doesn't sound like a good investment.
I also won't jump on them for missing out on Paul Millsap. They did all they could and probably expected it anyways.
But I'm not letting the Blazers off the hook any more. The rest of the summer is all their fault.
For instance, they toss all that money at Turkoglu, but they're almost completely ignoring Lamar Odom. Why?
He's younger, has a championship, and has such a flexible game that he can play both forward spots should they go small with Aldridge at the center.
Plus, the money they offered Turkoglu would be enough to outbid the Lakers easily. Why aren't they pursuing this?
A big three of Roy, Odom, and Aldridge is an exciting thought, and I can't understand why Blazers fans aren't up in arms, particularly when it should have been elementary.
Odom would be perfect. He would be the third (or fourth, depending on Bayless' minutes) option in the offense, but he would provide a much more athletic 6'10" body than Turkoglu, who they chased from day one of free agency.
I would love a Blazers fan to let me know why this is so. I don't follow all the inside stuff, but I'm very curious.
After Odom, the biggest mistake they're making is with Brandon Roy. He wants a max contract, and deservedly so. The Blazers are hesitant to give him a fifth year.
Let me see if I can understand this. You've got the best 25-year-old shooting guard in the game, and he wants to commit to your team for his prime.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM HERE?
They're dicking around with Roy over an extra year of his prime, by which time he will most likely be the best shooting guard in the game. The contract would expire as Brandon turns 30, which is the same age Kobe is, and he just won the title.
Let me tell you something. Brandon Roy is one of the several players around 25 and under that a franchise needs to keep at all costs, and that every other franchise in the league will kill for. Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Danny Granger, Carmelo Anthony and of course LeBron are the others.
If Roy wants you to murder his ex-girlfriend, you call yourself a discrete hitman, and you get it done. It's that simple.
Now Roy is upset, possibly to the point of getting disgruntled. Since his contract is in the air, he's not going to recruit free agents for you.
For an organization that has been lauded for their smarts in building a young team, the fact that the signature on Roy's max contract isn't long dry by now is appalling.
Again, Blazers fans, please comment below. I would be ready to storm the Rose Garden in a bloody coup if my team was doing this.
Now you've got LaMarcus Aldridge's contract situation coming up, and if they're not careful, they're going to be playing "Dueling Banjos" with these two young stars, both of whom want and deserve a bigger payday.
Otherwise Aldridge becomes a restricted free agent next year, and there's a decent chance that some team with a lot of cap space that doesn't get a big-name free agent (*cough* Knicks *cough*) will overpay him an amount that Portland can't or won't match.
This summer just isn't turning out so well for the Blazers. They still bring back a core of Bayless-Roy-Aldridge-Oden, and if they can fill the hole at small forward with Odom or David Lee, they should make some waves.
But it could all come crashing down, and for a region that just lost a basketball team, another one disappearing back into lottery hell is not what they need.
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