Thank You, Portland Trail Blazers (LO Farewell)


THANK YOU Paul Allen, for having the wallet of George Steinbrenner with the benevolence of Jack Kent Cooke. THANK YOU for showing up to games even though you live a ways away, and for actively supporting the change philosophy necessary to restore the team to former glory.

THANK YOU Larry Miller, for bringing Allen's commitment to the daily operations of the Trail Blazers as a business operation and corporate citizen, recognizing the team's unusually strong, Brooklyn Dodger-esque connection to the community and working to embrace and foster that connection.  And THANK YOU for ceding most of the spotlight to the guy who really thrives on it, below.

THANK YOU Kevin Pritchard, for being the driving force behind the team's acquistion of some nice role players for the team, guys like Brandon Roy (over people like Randy Foye), LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez...THANK YOU for giving this group of 15 a chance to see what they could accomplish this year, without bowing to the considerable temptation for tinkering in order to win now at tomorrow's cost. 

THANK YOU Nate McMillan, for being the laconic, straightforward father figure in the mold of the Yankees' Joe Torre. THANK YOU for sticking to your guns in the face of Canzonian attacks, the clamor of blogger cranks, and the chatter of national hoopheads, and building a scheme high on fundamentals and team offense that gave the players a foundation on which to rely when youth and inexperience flared. THANK YOU for staying calm and making enough right moves for 54 wins--which doesn't happen without a lot of right moves from the coach. 

{more thank yous, below} 


THANK YOU Raef LaFrentz, for giving us something to talk about at the trade deadline, for being perhaps the first player to be readily recognized by an acronym (RLEC), and for keeping the Blazers from being the youngest team in the NBA. 

THANK YOU Shavlik Randolph, for being the clearest sign that a game was over by your presence on the court. THANK YOU for trying hard despite that, and giving it your best every time you got a chance. 

THANK YOU Channing Frye, for being the most Portland of any Blazer, embracing everything the city has to offer and genuinely forming a love affair with your adoptive home. And THANK YOU for accepting gracefully what must have been a difficult personal comedown, to arrive a promising role player and finish the year as an emergency option or foul fodder. 

THANK YOU Jerryd Bayless, for bringing the excitement and playing the role of the only true bonus baby (Oden technically a rookie by injury, Batum too mature in his play, Rudy only an NBA rookie). THANK YOU for the Simba Face. 

THANK YOU Michael Ruffin, for arriving midstream and just trying to fit in, like the seasoned pro you are.

THANK YOU Sergio Rodriguez, for helping us get through those games where Blakey and Roy were out at different times. You weren't always a worldbeater, but you were always ready to take on the challenge. And THANK YOU for being half of the Spanish Armada, showing off some pretty fancy passing.

THANK YOU Martell Webster, for working hard, perservering, and even trying to push yourself to help the team down the stretch or in the playoffs. 

THANK YOU Rudy Fernandez, for being our Rookie of the Year, setting some nice NBA rook records, and for bringing the ladies to the games. THANK YOU for being the other half of the Armada, for giving us some off the hook reverse alley oop jams, for the OK-3 hand sign as you backpedal, for Rudylucion, and for inventing the phrase "put points on your face." 

THANK YOU Travis Outlaw, just for being Travis--and for being the one player on the team you can describe that way and have everyone know what it means...the good Travis, the bad Travis, the funny Travis. THANK YOU for the best line of the year, after 21 pts and 4 assists against the Thunder: when asked where the assists came from, Outlaw's response was "I just got tired." That's Travis. 

THANK YOU Steve Blake, for taking the constant criticism and using it as a motivator, believing in yourself and that you were indeed a worthy starting PG in the NBA. THANK YOU for proving it when you were injured and we saw the difference. THANK YOU for those major buckets when you came back, that often made you the crucial "3rd guy" on offense, at a defense-stretching position. THANK YOU for dropping 14 dimesin a quarter and shoehorning yourself into the record books this year with Rudy.

THANK YOU Nic Batum, for hands down the most jaw-dropping moments of the year, so much the sweeter for being on defense. To catch up from behind and swat the ball from a streaking fast breaker headed for an easy deuce, is henceforth known as Batuming the ball. THANK YOU for stepping up to the starting role and manning up on some of the toughest offensive forwards in the NBA, night after night after night. And THANK YOU for that 17/4/2/1/2 against the Nets (on 7-8, no less!) in 32 minutes, showing that for all the promise in so many Blazers, the most may lie inside your angular French frame. And let's not forget the 2-fingered salute to Pau Gasol. 

THANK YOU Joel Przybilla, in my view a Defensive NBA 1st teamer this year, and without question the lunchbucket soul of the team. THANK YOU for being the designated guy to not take shit from nobody, directed at him or any other Blazer. THANK YOU for being the NBA's best rebounder of 2008-09, overall and especially offensively. Way to go showing your FT% improvement last year was no fluke, too. And THANK YOU for being a total pro about the debut of the guy below--even to the point of helping him learn how to take your job faster. It takes a certain level of class to teach a guy to make you from a starter into a reserve, and it's why everyone loves you.

THANK YOU Greg Oden, for playing with the weight of the national and local media observing your every move, reporting your slightest failure and dismissing your broad improvements. THANK YOU for working through all of that PLUS your rather freakish injuries, and actually towards the end of the season finding some of that goofy kid we loved when you got here.

THANK YOU for the 3/4 court shot, the video of which you rightfully and successfully "demanded" be made into a commercial, and which is a prime example of that goofiness returning. And THANK YOU for showing there's a reason you were the #1 pick. Don't listen to the haters, you had a very solid rookie year all things considered--and there were flashes of latent dominance on both ends that made us tingle with the thought of regular doses. 

THANK YOU LaMarcus Aldridge, for stepping up as the 2nd Guy this year. There has already emerged a messianic player on the Blazers, and we know it's not you, it's the next guy below on this list. But seldom are championships won on the back of one player anymore, and to be totally honest, you have the tools, the committment and the youth to be every bit the uberstud Brandon Roy is.  Who's to say might get the accolades when your chapters are written?

THANK YOU for banishing the "soft" label and carrying the team into the playoffs and a homecourt seed with some signifcantly elevated play down the stretch. Inside, outside, foul line, aggressiveness--you showed us why the predictions of greatness are solid ones. And THANK YOU for being the 2nd Guy with that typical Blazer grace, embracing your role and acting as the on-court mentor for the 2nd Unit all season while Brandon got some of dat G2. 

And of course....

THANK YOU Brandon Roy. You're 24, and you carry the hopes and fantasies (basketball ones, anyway) of a Blazer-crazy town on your shoulders. You just finished your third year, and you're starting to be mentioned in the same breath as the names on the lips of pundits and fans around the world. And why not, you were worth more wins this year than anyone in the NBA except five players--and those five are pretty good: Bryant, Howard, Paul, Wade, James. 

THANK YOU for recognizing your status in Portland, accepting it, demanding it from yourself, and carrying yourself as someone who deserves the honor--while also possessing just enough swagger mixed in with the team-first philosophy to make it cool. 

THANK YOU for all those fourth quarters. THANK YOU for 52. THANK YOU for playing with the flu, high on Pepto. THANK YOU for 42 in Game 2. THANK YOU for being the guy who would go to the hole when no one else would or could. THANK YOU for taking all those drops onto your butt when you did, only sometimes getting the call. THANK YOU for cheering on your team as they beat the World Champs without you. THANK YOU for another great All-Star performance, and for making 2nd Team all-NBA. We had lots to be thankful for, didn't we? And how could I leave you without a big THANK YOU for this:


THANK YOU to the Blazers Assistant Coaches, all of whom did a nice job aiding Nate this year with a pretty big development task, molding so many young players at once.

THANK YOU to Mike Barrett, for being the nice mix of homer and tell-it-like-it-is, and for keeping the next guy down, in line. Also THANK YOU for your excellent blog work. It was better than the regular beat writers, at times, and certainly beneffitted from your close contact with the team. Also THANK YOU for my favorite broadcast line of the year, "If there was a stat for crazy, the Nuggets would lead the league."

THANK YOU to Mike Rice, for the hilarity, the blatant homerism we pretend to think is shameful, and for cheerfully letting your self-deprecation and antics cover up the fact that you're a brilliant basketball analyst. THANK YOU for doing your homework, and actually knowing what the opposing players are capable of and how they play. And THANK YOU for so many lines like Barrett's above, that no single one could stand out enough to matter. 

THANK YOU Rebecca Haarlow, for taking a rather silly job seriously, and also doing your homework. Thank you for improving your courtside technique on-camera, and giving actually very strong reports from inside the huddle as the team comes from timeouts. THANK YOU for wearing your crush on LaMarcus like a cheap suit, it's adorable. And THANK YOU for respecting the kwan and never EVER wearing the wrong colors on game night. 

THANK YOU to Casey Holdahl and the rest of the Blazers office people, for a splashy website, an aggressive and fun marketing campaign, and a generally well-run and exciting fan experience.

THANK YOU  for making believers out of us again. THANK YOU for making it OK to like the hometown team again. THANK YOU for 54 big wins, and a heartbreaking but enormously hard-fought playoff series. THANK YOU for punking the L*kers twice at home, keeping Kobe frustrated in Stumptown. THANK YOU for a league-high number of comebacks, signalling your heart, your talent, your stamina, and even if it wasn't your intent, to make the games that much more exciting and keep us from ever turning one off too soon. THANK YOU for exceeding expectations, doing it with class, and truly, legitimately making it finally OK to say with pride, 


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