Here I was, all hyped up to do an stirring, long schedule analysis post and...pfffft. The schedule looks pretty normal. It's nothing like last year's early-season grindfest nightmare. On the other hand the Blazers did exceptionally well during that early-season grindfest which set up their 54 wins. There are few extended uphill runs this season but that means there are also few downhill coasting opportunities.
If you're looking for a tough patch, mark down the L*ker games on January 8th and February 6th. They bookend a stretch where 12 out of 16 games are against playoff-caliber opponents. Fortunately only 5 of those 12 tough games come on the road. Other than that you've got some tough 3-4 game spots, but little extended brutality.
The longest road trip for the Blazers this year is 5 games, which happens twice. Portland also has three 4-game trips. Mid-November sees a relatively tame trip featuring Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Charlotte, and Atlanta. December gets hairy with a 4-game jaunt to New York, Indiana, Cleveland, and Milwaukee followed by two games at home and then another 4-gamer to Orlando, Miami, Dallas, and San Antonio. The last 4-game trip comes in January versus Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and Detroit. The final 5-game swing comes at the end of February with the Blazers traveling to New Jersey, Toronto, Chicago, Minnesota, and Memphis. Of all of them the second December trip is obviously the most difficult.
With the rough trips all done by the 1st of March Portland has a chance to finish the season strong. This is the opposite of last year when they really needed to win in January to pad their record for the spring onslaught. If the Blazers are looking good in mid-February there's a good chance they'll have a fantastic season.
This seems like a year when the Blazers will win and lose solely on their own merits. A couple teams in the West have gotten considerably weaker. Outside of Dallas there's nobody really barking at them from behind. The field ahead is crowded but closely so. If the team can keep their collective heads on straight and punch hard in the early season again there will be plenty of chances to pass teams. If the Blazers lose concentration, however, the margin still looks thin. This schedule won't hurt you, but it doesn't go out of the way to help you either.
The other news that broke yesterday was Jason Quick reporting that the Blazers and Brandon Roy are getting closer to a contract signing. "Closer" is a nebulous term here, as we don't really know how far away they were in the first place. But Roy's agent is described as "optimistic" and agents are usually the best barometers in these situations. There was no doubt about a deal getting done, of course, but it'll still be interesting to see what the eventual terms are.
Let's take this opportunity to talk about Brandon, which is something we don't do much because he's the least squeaky of all the wheels on the Blazer bus. I'm not sure there's much more you could expect of him as far as contributions to the team so we're going to buzz over that discussion for now and go to a more speculative question.
If you ask who the greatest player in Blazer history is I would suspect a majority of people would say Clyde Drexler. Bill Walton would get some votes also, and appropriately so. Had he not gotten injured he would have finished ahead of Clyde even, for championships if nothing else. There's no way that Brandon deserves to be mentioned in that conversation yet. Anyone tempted should look at Clyde's stats and the number of wins he led the Blazers to over his 11+ years in Portland. However I suspect most of us could envision Brandon taking that (admittedly unofficial) title someday. Here are the questions: Will Brandon one day be considered the best player ever to don a Blazer uniform? What would it take to make him so? Why do you think he will or won't make it?
Prognosticate and debate below if you wish.