A unique situation exists in Portland this year.
A team that has been languishing in the lower bowels of the NBA is on an upward climb, currently positioned somewhere between the mediocre and the elite.
It's that confusing middle ground which has the Trail Blazer fan base exhibiting signs of schizophrenia. The fans' identity seems to change with every win or loss.
Portland fans have a reputation as being knowledgeable, demanding and rabid. For most of the franchise's history, they have not fallen into the apathetic, complacent mold of a perpetual bottom-feeder. Nor have they exhibited the snobbish confidence of a perennial powerhouse.
They have simply been a very engaged support over the years. Part of this is due to pro basketball being the only game in town. Part is due to an elusive championship which has kept most fans hungry.
Portland fans are notoriously short on patience, so give them credit for going the extra mile in allowing this current version of the Trail Blazers a little more time to mature, gel, and learn their roles. Patience is running thin however, and fans are voicing their frustration at the team's recent inferior play, especially on the defensive end.
Weaknesses have been exposed and now the league is beginning to exploit those weaknesses. In a word, opponents have discovered that the Portland Trail Blazers are "soft".
Consensus around Blazer Nation says that the moment has arrived—for a rite of passage. It's time for boys to become men.
Part of the new culture the organization promoted was good character. This is an admirable and desirable quality, especially post-Jailblazer era. Off-court, that's what the fans expect and value.
But on-court, the fans expect 48 minutes of effort and toughness—to the point of thuggery, if necessary (within the rules, of course).
In the locker room, behind the scenes, there needs to be some accountability. Then, those millionaires, whom we all love so much, need to assess their work ethic. Are they earning their pay?
Wins, of course, are great. Even some losses are acceptable—if total effort is demonstrated. The home fans, who pay good money, have done their job...so far.
The Rose Garden has been good to the Blazers this year. Teams who stumble on the road usually crawl home to the waiting arms of their beloved fans.
It's time to right the ship now or these Blazers, expecting the soft petals and luring scent of roses, may find a bed of thorns instead.