Trailblazing into the past
Alterations to the roster, coaching staff and front office occasionally left fans wondering what the game plan was.
When the Tralblazers looked like they were taking a step forward, to becoming one of the elite teams in the league, they often ended up being knocked two steps back.
The 2011-12 season will be a measuring stick for the Blazers as to whether they should blow up the team and rebuild, or add one more component with hopes of reaching the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
1. MASH UNIT
Throughout the 10-11 season the Blazers roster may have been in the operating / trainers room more than they were on the court.
Jeff Pendergraph, Elliot Williams and Greg Oden all had their season cut short due to injury, while Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby all missed significant time for medical reasons.
2. MATTHEWS AND CRASH
Brought in to help bolster then second unit, Wesley Matthews found himself inserted into the starting five when Roy was on the bench in street clothes.
Draining approximately 16 points a night, Matthews proved to the Blazers brass that the five year, $34million was a worthwhile expense. Moments before the trade deadline, the Blazers pulled off a 3-1 deal that brought over Gerald Wallace from Charlotte for the blue collar trio of Pendergraph, Sean Marks and Joel Pryzbilla.
While the presence of Pryzbilla would be missed in the paint, the addition of Wallace allowed the Blazers to play a more uptempo small ball lineup, moving LaMarcus Aldridge to the post.
Wallace would provide the Blazers with 15 points and 7 rebounds a night over the course of the final twenty three regular season games, and notched an extra two boards in the playoffs.
However a lot of what Wallace provided the Blazers with, may not have appeared on the stat sheet, as there is no “hustle” column in the box score.
3. EMERGENCE OF LA
With all the changes to the roster last year, the emergence of Aldridge continues to give the Rip City faithful hope for the future.
Last season proved to be a coming out party for the 6’11 Texan, as he posted career highs across the board (21.8ppg, 8.8rebs, 2.1ast, 39.6mins), along with a career high 42 points against Chicago.
For his efforts, Aldridge was twice named the Western Conference Player Of The Week (Jan, Feb) as well as the February Player Of The Month.
Although he fell short of receiving the Most Improved Player award, Aldridge was recognized by the NBA and named a member of the All NBA Third Team.
4. MANAGEMENT ISSUES
After serving Kevin Pritchard a pink slip one year earlier, Paul Allen said goodbye to his replacement Rich Cho, in the summer of 2011 as they failed to see eye to eye on a number of issues.
While Pritchard’s dismissal was unapproved by fans, the firing of Cho was even more baffling as he was part of the group that brought in Matthews and made the trade for Wallace in order to keep the team in the playoff picture, despite all the bumpy roads they had been down.
5. THANKS (FOR NOTHING)
Good fortune appeared to be returning to the Blazers in the offseason, as rumors of Roy’s health came across as positive.
While there was no training camp and team sanctioned events, Roy had appeared at a number of summer runs stating that his knees felt good and he would be anticipating a return to the starting unit. There were even rumors that Nate McMillan was considering returning Roy to the starting five.
However all those hopes were squashed on the morning of December 9th, the first day of training camp, as Roy officially announced his retirement.
While Roy parted with the team after five amazing seasons, it was Greg Oden who received a qualifying $8 million offer prior to the start of the season, and although that is currently being tinkered with due to Oden’s updated health issues, it is as painful to know that Oden (who has played only 82 games with the team in three years) has the opportunity to return, as I am sure it is for him to try and play.
5B. WELCOME HOME
Although the team was on the receiving end of the worst off-season news possible with regards to Roy and Oden, the acquisitions of Ray Felton and Seattle native Jamal Crawford will help band-aid some of the wounds.
In order to get Felton, Portland parted with aging Andre Miller and an unhappy Rudy Fernandez.
Last season, Felton posted career best numbers and at 27 years old, he gives the Blazers a more youthful backcourt leader.
Throughout the locked out summer and fall, Aldridge and the Blazers did their best to recruit Crawford to come run alongside close friend Roy, and although Roy was no longer part of the Blazers plan, Crawford felt the warmth extended by the entire Blazers organization and returned to the Northwest.