Rip City, Where Coach Nate Bear Hugs Happen!
It has been an incredible season here in Rip City! I've been privileged to witness most of it among a great group of fans in Section 305 Row B. As the regular season came to a close last night I was honored to share it with my beautiful Wife, our great new friends Josh and Sarah, and an old friend Steve who we don’t see often enough. As the evening came to an end I grabbed my wife's camera (since I can't take my SLR into the Garden) and tried to capture a few images.
First the bench mopped up a game that they were largely responsible for winning. Then the team celebrated amongst themselves and gave high fives to Brandon Jr. Then each member of the team met a lucky fan at half court to give them a goody bag.
The whole thing really got me thinking about how special this team, this night, and this season has been.
We saw one of the youngest teams in the history of the NBA grow from a team that looked shell shocked in the season opener against the purple and gold on ESPN grow into a very dangerous playoff team that has been dismantling opponents one after another. The last victim was a Nuggets team that couldn't match the fire and intensity of our young Blazers as they were crushed in the season finale. Fittingly the game that closed the season and shed light on the second season was also televised by ESPN.
We saw a young star that had achieved fame in his Pacific Northwest home burst onto the national scene to become a legitimate superstar! From the game winning heroics vs. Houston, to the the 52 points vs. Phoenix, to the 10 steals vs. Washington the legend seemed to grow from game to game and month to month. Capping the season with a Player of the Week award that was very appropriately given not for individual statistics, but to acknowledge the leader of a team that has burst onto the NBA landscape, was the icing on the cake.
We saw young LaMarcus Aldridge grow into a dominating force at both ends of the floor. We saw Steve Blake have a career season and become the player whose presence this team misses more than any other when it is absent. We saw Joel Przybilla dominate the paint on the defensive end and lead the team in retiring the "soft" tag. We saw Nicolas Batum grow from a lost teenager in summer league into the legitimate starting small forward on a playoff team. We saw Greg Oden learn that when he takes a step back, smiles, and enjoys the game he can be a major force in the NBA. We saw Rudy Fernandez dazzle us with jaw dropping passes, high-flying dunks, and the NBA Rookie record for 3's. We saw Travis Outlaw take his game to another level while continuing to be one of the keys to the best locker room in the NBA. We saw Sergio Rodriguez bring a remodeled jump shot back from Spain and re-awaken late in the season as a first rate change of pace backup Point Guard. We saw Channing Frye bounce back from injury to become the glue that holds one of the league’s best benches together. We saw Jerryd Bayless show signs of what he can be in the future while proving to be the hardest working player we’ve ever seen. We saw the guys deep on the bench stay ready for their opportunities and be positive contributors to the new Blazers culture.
There will never be another season like this one. This is the only time we will be able to break the longest lottery streak in the league and burst onto the playoff scene with a vengeance. This will be the only time that this group full of promise become a team of men on a mission to prove they belong among the NBA's elite. This will be the only time that the team's goal of 15=16 is shattered with weeks left in the season and replaced by a quiet confidence that there is no ceiling of where they can go. This will be the only time that four rookies play 50 games on a team that wins 54 games and a division title. This will be the only time that the team once and for all sheds the dark days of the early part of the decade and bursts into the light that could shine brighter than it ever has before in Rip City!
Take a moment and breathe it all in. This is a very special time. We have our beloved Trail Blazers back, and they are going to do things we can only dream about it the days, weeks, and years to come. The door to experiences like this can only open for the first time once, and this team has not just cracked it open; it has broken it off of it's hinges!
This is the best time to be in Rip City!