Growing up, one constant was listening to "the Schonz," Bill Schonely, call Blazer games on the radio.
Players like Jim Paxson were celebrated not for their stunning talent but because they were Blazers, drafted and developed by the team. Anyone who followed Paxson's career knows he was a decent but unspectacular guard...but Schonz loved him anyway.
When the Blazers made their big run in the late '80s-early '90s, they had a fount of home-grown players; Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, Cliff Robinson and Kevin Duckworth were not only the bulk of the lineup, they were drafted or acquired extremely early in their careers by the Blazers and felt like they had never been in another organization.
Admittedly Buck Williams was a key member of those teams, and I am sure Nets fans still rightfully think of him as theirs.
But most of the team was acquired on or around draft day.
That is what used to make the recent talented editions of the Blazers exciting. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Nicolas Batuum, Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless, Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham were all acquired on draft day, some via draft and others by trade.
Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla made conscious choices to come to Portland for less money and felt like they were part of the organization.
Unfortunately, basketball is a business. Sometimes, it is possible to get lost in fandom and forget that.
Thus Drexler, Porter, Kersey and Robinson moved on and finished their careers elsewhere after the run was over.
And now, the run I was looking forward to watching has taken yet another blow.
It started with the trade of Blake and Outlaw for Marcus Camby. While it filled a need, it started a decline in my interest.
As talented as Andre Miller and Camby are...they are mercenaries. Hired guns. Guys with no ties to the team or my heart.
Yes, okay...so all players are really mercenaries. It is doubtful many of them would show up for these games if they were not getting ridiculously overpaid to play a game for a living, but bear with me.
Now Webster is gone, Bayless has been sent packing and Fernandez may be on his way out. Bit by bit, the little things that make this "my" team are moving on.
It is interesting that such a minor trade, Bayless for a draft pick, would bother me. His presence, or the lack thereof, will not make or break the Blazer season from the standpoint of victory totals. He is a nice second-line player with potential to be a Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson type who can spark the second unit.
The thing is...if I do not care about the players I am watching, Portland is NOT the team I would choose to watch.
I vastly prefer 115- to 120-possession track meets to the 80-possession grind games the Blazers put on the floor. I root for them because of A) proximity and B) likable players.
Compare that to the pseudo-local Seattle Seahawks or Seattle Mariners. They have proximity, but they rotate players so quickly that I can name maybe two starters on either team. They do not have players I have an affinity for and play boring brands of ball. As a result, my entertainment dollars are not exercised in going to their games.
When it comes to basketball, if I were to root for a team based on style it would be a team like the Suns, Warriors or Knicks.
Well, not the Knicks. I can't remember the last time I rooted for anything about New York. Not even a fast-paced style could change that.
The point is, if my reasons for rooting for the local team are more due to an affinity for the players than how they play the game, then am I obligated to stop rooting for them when those players move on?
A lot of Blazer fans have an inexplicable, misinformed hatred for LaMarcus Aldridge and are constantly coming up with trades to improve the Blazers that have to do with moving him for "upgrades" with less talent and less productivity. This I do not understand.
It is not as if 17-point, eight-rebound power forwards are falling out of the sky, nor is it as if the Blazers get more likable by trading a stretch forward who has never worn any other pro uniform along with more players for a headcase like Amar'e Stoudemire, as I often saw suggested last season.
If I had my druthers, there would be no more moves for the Blazers. I despised the Fabricio Oberta signing. Yes, they are thin up front. But bringing him in does two things:
A) It adds a marginally talented import to the roster who again will make no positive impact on the number of wins they pull in.
B) It takes yet another step towards having re-trades, and thus makes the roster less homegrown and more about "follow us because the team name is Blazer, not because you have built any attachment to the players."
I can call to mind great moments from so many of the players who have been sent packing: the Sergio Rodriguez to Fernandez alley-oops, the Outlaw game-winning shot against Memphis that started the Blazers on the path to greatness, the record-setting assists in a quarter for Blake, Bayless taking over when Roy went down, etc.
While Miller and Camby have had memorable moments (Miller's dunk against Denver, his 52 against...was it Dallas? And Camby getting the "Marc-us Cam-by" chant after coming over from the farm club in Los Angeles) those moments are few and far between.
They are not organic.
All the sending off of familiar players in favor of short-term rentals has me far from excited about the season.
It should be a very good season, with 55-plus wins and a run at the Western Conference championship as the low end of where they should go. It starts Tuesday.
And this is only the second piece I have written about them in four months.
Back before the players I liked started getting sent packing, I would write four-part previews of the season. Now I would rather write about teams I am starting to like more than the one I grew up rooting for.
So far Rich Cho has made two moves; signing Oberta and trading Bayless. I hate both moves.
If he does make a "big move," like the once-rumored Batum/Oden/Bayless for Chris Paul (a pipe dream many Blazer fans were sure was going to happen), I would pretty much be done with them.
Let us watch the players we have some history with. If it is just about watching winning teams, we would all be Laker or Heat fans. If it was about style, we would be watching the Suns.
It needs to be about more than that. Enough tinkering. Release Oberta and call it a day. Your slogan is "Rip City United." How about showing some loyalty if you expect us to unite with you?