Portland Trail Blazers: Getting to the Root of the Issue

Joshua GraberContributor IIJune 7, 2011

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 28: (L to R) Gerald Wallace #3, head coach Nate McMillan and Wes Matthews #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers gather during a time out in the fourth quarter of Game Six of the Western Conference Quartefinals in the 2011 NBA Playsoffs on April 28, 2011 at the Rose garden in Portland, Oregon. The Mavericks won the game 103-96 to win the series and advance. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Hanging in my kitchen window, just to the left of a cabinet stacked full of miscellaneous mugs and assorted cups hangs my Pothos–a green leafy plant that I acquired years ago and has become a relatively permanent fixture in our house.

Oh yes, this plant has seen many-a-day pass by, and many-a-moment as well in our home. The birth of my firstborn, birthday parties, Christmas gatherings, rain pouring down the window outside, and even sometimes (emphasis on sometimes), a sun-ray streak through the clouds above giving life to my little plant. Oh, and would you believe that my Pothos talks to me?

I'll explain myself later...

Players: I think most fans would admit that the Portland Trail Blazers have a great base of player talent–LaMarcus Aldridge, a budding All-Star; a force on the glass in Marcus Camby; newly acquired forward Gerald Wallace who seems to be still in the prime of his career; young Wesley Matthews, Andre, B-Roy, Nic... the list goes on.

Looking at the Blazers' roster, I would quickly guess that Blazer fans may have bragging rights to perhaps being in the top 10 of the NBA for our depth and talent. So why aren't we among the top 10 playoff contenders in this year's NBA Playoffs? Hmm... a good question that deserves an answer if we are going to remedy our little dilemma.

Coaching: Nate McMillian is a great coach. Perhaps he doesn't have the standing that the likes of retired legends Phil Jackson or Pat Riley do, but nonetheless, Nate is our guy for now. After several years riding herd on the bench, he knows this club and they know him.

He is a stand-up gentleman and a general that demands hard work–and isn't afraid to lead by example (remember a couple years ago when we were so short of players on the practice floor that we couldn't even put together a descent scrimmage? Nate stepped right onto the court and gave it his all, sacrificing his body with the hopes and intentions of improving his players–right up to the moment that he ruptured his right Achilles tendon and had to have surgery to repair it).

Management: The Trail Blazers front office is about as steady as a 15-year old girl's dating habits, especially at the position of GM, the guy who is supposed to be in charge of player movement.

A year ago we entered the 2010 NBA Draft without a bona fide General Manager running the show. A year later, after a short stint with Rich Choe as general manager, we now enter the 2011 NBA Draft with the same deficiency–no proven leader to make the big decisions during a time when big decisions can make or break a ball club.

Sometime this summer we will hire someone to fill the role of GM and will be paying three General Managers to do the job of one. I have reason to believe Kevin Pritchard and Rich Choe are still on the books, though they are probably basking in the sun on the big island, giggling in wonderment how they were able to get this mega-sized paid vacation.

Recently I was reading some comments online about Portland's GM issue. They went something like this:

Question: Why would anyone want to be Portland's GM now?

Answer: $$$

I follow up with my own question and answer:

Question: Why do we have to offer copious amounts of money and overpay our general managers in order to get someone to consider taking the job?

Answer: Because there is something rancid at the root system of this franchise.

Back to the story of my Pothos...

Like I mentioned earlier, my plant talks to me. No I’m not delusional, and no I don't need to see a shrink. It's leaves, once vividly green, begin to show signs of malnutrition–turning a yellowish brown as they begin to droop; the tips no longer perky but down turned. My plant is telling me I have neglected to give it water or sunlight.

What I see on the surface is only an indication of what has already transpired under the soil, deep down in it's life-sustaining roots when they lack something vital to their survival.

The Trail Blazers are no different. Our lack of ability to win big is at least part to blame on our franchises root system. Fix this and the vitality of life will once again flow to the team's major phallanges, and we will again see the fruit of a healthy core: winning games.