I know fan fest is designed to allow the average fan greater access to the players, seeing a side they don't usually get to observe. Still, the event is always scripted to the nth, with carefully planned publicity designed to make the team look good.
Last night I was fortunate enough to be able to attend as a member of the media, and as such I was able to observe some of the underbelly of the operations... And you know what? Even away from the attentive eyes, ears and mouths of Portland fans these guys are fun to watch.
I didn't get to do much in the way of actually talking to the guys, but almost to a man they were polite, willing to high-five or fist bump without a sideways glance and just generally fun to be around.
One of the primary observations I had is that the rookies are just as much a part of the team as the 'veterans'. Maybe that's part of having a team that's so young across the board, but watching Jarrett Jack pull Taurean Green, Brent Petway and Chris Ellis on stage to dance to a Soulja Boy rap... It wasn't just picking on the young guys, it was including them. Especially considering that two of those guys will probably not be here after next week.
Another observation: Greg Oden HATED not being able to participate. I didn't get to watch him with fans... he seemed to be hidden somewhere, but I hear he was signing autographs. He was having fun with his teammates, but you could tell he was down about the crutches he was forced to hobble around on. Despite that, the other players included him in the banter, making an obvious effort to keep his spirits up.
I wasn't able to stay for the whole scrimmage, but watching warm-ups I can attest to a much prettier jump shot from Joel Pryzbilla, Steve Blake was much more in control of his team than Jack was and overall the fans seemed to be having a BLAST.
This team may surprise some people. That success is a fragile thing and could become another high draft pick if Roy, Aldridge or Pryzbilla (yes, he is that important this year) gets injured.
Overall I think no matter what happens there are going to be more highs than lows this year, and a lot more to be happy about than last year. Still, the one thing we're going to ride on this year... is hope for NEXT year.