As we approach Game 20 we're going to take a look back at our pre-season player previews and solicit opinions on players' progress for the first quarter of the season. Before we do that though, since we're in the midst of a little downslide and there's likely more to follow on the road trip next week, it seemed appropriate to share what I believe based on what I've seen so far. Though this is in the form of a public affirmation, I am not making this up nor trying to be flowery or overly optimistic. This is honestly what I believe right now.
I believe that Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge are exactly the type of two-way players this team sorely needs. It may take them a while to become stars. They may never become true superstars. But because along with their offensive ability they're showing a commitment to defense and the subtleties of the game, even at this young stage of their careers, those two are someday going to help us to a lot of wins.
I believe that though he still has a lot to learn and his eventual role may be up in the air, Jarrett Jack is approaching this season exactly the right way and showing signs that he's going to be a very steady guard in this league for a long time. He passes, he rebounds, and he has worked so hard not just on how to score, but when and where to score. He may never be the world's greatest individual defender at the point, but that aspect will get better with time and experience. I am impressed.
I believe that Martell Webster's shot is so pure that he's not going to be able to do anything but make it in this league. He is struggling big time right now, but that skill won't forsake him even if his confidence does for a while.
I believe that Sergio Rodriguez will be a fan favorite every time he steps on the court.
I believe that this new blood is exactly what the team and community needed, and that sooner or later you're going to see the fruits of that in the stands.
I believe that Zach is working harder this season and that he has made something of a mental recovery along with his physical one. This is more than I expected.
I believe that Ime Udoka should have a spot on this team for at least the next three years.
I believe that the role players on the squad are all doing what they're supposed to do. I cannot fault them for being the players they are and not the players they're not. Whether they'll end up being on this team if and when it makes a big resurgence is up for debate, but for right now I think they're doing what they're supposed to be doing.
I believe that Nate McMillan is absolutely the right coach for this team right now because he's going to coach it his way, which is hard and right and with attention to detail. This is exactly what this young squad needs. He will not let go of it either. If someday they learn to tune that out and a new voice is needed, so be it. They will not have forgotten what he said or how he brought them up. They will know what the right way to play is.
I believe that this team will NOT be very good this year. They will have lapses and have trouble putting together 48 good minutes in a row. They will struggle to win on the road. Players will progress and then backslide and then progress again but the team as a whole is unlikely to gain much momentum unless everybody magically progresses at the same time. (But even then the group backslide will be hell.) But I also believe that they don't have to be very good this year. This year will be full of small indications of what they can become. It will not be a binding witness to what they will become. If they win 22 games, they win 22 games. That will not hurt my ego. It should not crush theirs.
I believe that there are reasons to be a fan of this team right now besides wins and losses. Is it pointless to watch a child grow because they are not yet the adult they will become, or to watch a puppy drop a stick that someday it will catch blindfolded when it's grown? Of course not...those early moments give the later ones more depth and meaning. I believe it's actually pretty easy to be a Blazer fan right now. The last 24 months of the Jailblazer era made me sick to my stomach. We looked like a third-class organization heading rapidly into no class at all. Watching us most of last year on the hardwood made me just as ill in a different way. If somebody had asked me, "Should I watch the Blazers?" I honestly would have told them not to bother...that they should go somewhere and watch some real basketball. Even if some of the results are similar in losses this season, the attitude and approach are night and day different, on and off the court. Far from warning friends away, I am inviting them to watch...and to listen...and, well, to believe.
And that's it. That's what I've learned so far this year. Losing the next ten straight wouldn't change that, as long as we tackle things the same way we've been trying to tackle them: with persistence, unselfishness, and honest effort. I don't know about you, but that's mostly what I want to see.