Is that you my friend? It has been a long time since we last met, and I fear you have found me in dire straights. The drought of Off-Season has tortured my mind, and I fear I may soon go mad. I am starving for the start of the new season. My soul is aching for the first word from training camp. I am awash in the sea of...nothingness, my only bastion of sanity the memories of last season. Let me take you on a journey through the thoughts of a madman.
The glorious arrival at the Oasis of Post-Season was as amazing as it was brief. The bittersweet twist of Fate that resulted in our contest with the Rockets of Houston in the first round was an unfortunate pairing, but ultimately may prove a blessing for the early lessons it taught our young warriors. Finesse and skill are fine traits to poses, but strength and toughness are to be prized in tandem.
Rarely are those traits seen in the young. They must first be tempered in the crucible of combat before they are honed to a fine edge that is both flexible and strong. Only one of our throng showed himself up to the challenge of the moment. Our Captain. Roy. He alone was able to confront the opposition and elevate his game in the face of all the forces arrayed against him. He is our leader. At his side others are poised to apply the lessons learned from Fate's hard tutorial.
Aldridge is the Lieutenant that may arise from the ranks to become a bulwark in the post and wing. Like a hawk, he can soar along the perimeter and attack close to the goal. He, amongst the host, has the greatest potential to fly this year.
The Spaniard is another with skills and talent continuing his training across the sea during the drought of Off-Season. If nothing else, he is a smarter man than I, for he at least is able to feed his hunger for THE GAME. But will his continuing experience grant him the needed toughness required for the challenges that lay ahead? This I do not know, my friend. His path has many possible branches, and we will not know which he will travel until Fate grants us the knowledge. Will he fight for the privilege of 30+ minutes per game, or will his defensive handicap keep him a sixth-man? In my dreams I hope that he will become a core of our band, but in my heart I fear his desires for individual glory will overreach his role and cause a rift that can only be mended through trade. I pray that my heart is wrong. Rudy is not the only young soldier in our band, however.
A young warrior from France is gaining prominence in an arena of significant need for our troop. Defense. As a youth, he was selected above all as the one possessing the defensive potential to halt the best among the league. Although defending may not gain the young man acclaim, among warriors the rank of Defensive Specialist is one that is highly honored. Too many times the young ones arrive with thoughts of offensive glory running through their heads, but they are quickly disabused of that notion. It is a hard road to unseat those offensive legends that bedeck the highlight reals of the four-letter network. But there is a rare exception that joins the ranks with a true will to frustrate the opposition, putting their whole will into foiling the well-laid plans of the foe. Even rarer is the player that can combine the fire for offensive glory with the strength and heart to stand against the tide of the opposition's onslaught on defense. Aside from Aldridge, Batum has the fire to become a great Trail Blazer. His defensive abilities can only be overshadowed by the hulking presence that will vie for the position of our starting center.
Oden. Much has been written and spoken about this young man. My head and heart are together when they say that he will be better, but not the greatest. He doesn't have to be. The fog of my insanity dissipates when I conjure the fate of Oden. Time and time again the Fates reveal to me a behemoth of a man that destroys an enemy's attempt to dominate the paint. We may not win the battle, but we will never lose the war. This trait alone is worthy of the #1 pick upon which he was bestowed. The flair for offensive talent is in the rightful hand of our Captain, which he has already proven he is worthy to hold. The defensive battle is one that should be fought by those with the aptitude and desire to dominate on that end of the floor. Oden is that prodigy. With a renewed lust for life and the desire to rip the heart out of any enemy offense, this defensive wunderkind is about to announce himself to the NBA in a way not seen since the days of the legendary Bill Russell in his prime. Many will feel these are the ravings of a madman, but they are the prophecy of The Hedge. So it is written, so it shall be done. I am but the Oracle. Pay heed, for the power of this prophecy is great.
The Fates have spoken upon the futures of both Outlaw and Webster. Outlaw will be sent to other lands to play for lesser kings. Although many will mourn his loss, both he and our band will flourish with the change. Outlaw will bring a new spirit to the group he joins and will propel them to the playoffs; a height they'd not seen in many seasons. They will fall far short of the finals, but he will be hailed as a great warrior for his deeds. Our Trail Blazers will not reap the immediate returns many would expect, but the speed of their progress will accelerate. The true seed of the trade will flourish in the future and will bear fruit when we are most in need.
Webster will rejoin our band after a long absence without missing a beat. Unfortunately, his ability to elevate his performance is gone and he becomes a role-player. Although his value to the team is high, he will never live down the "could have had Chris Paul" chants. Fortunately for our clubhouse, Webster doesn't read sporting news and is not aware of the unwarranted criticism. His play off the bench will be directly responsible to at least two Portland championships and comparisons to the legendary Big Shot Rob for his timely shots and veteran defensive plays.
My gaze is obstructed when I attempt to look upon the outcome of the Blake/Miller fight for starting position. My head says Miller, but my heart is silent. Take that as you will, for even I do not know where this will eventually end.
These flashes of foreknowledge seem to be expanding as I'm getting more revelations from the Fates. Bayless, will remain as a Blazer, but will see limited time. Much like a volcano, he will sleep and bide his time; honing his skills. When he is unleashed upon the league, he will make his name known. In two years he will challenge Roy for the main scoring option. Never will he be the distributor that we hope. Roy will fulfill that need as the team evolves, and as a true Captain, becomes what his team needs most.
Joel will be supplanted by Oden and will eventually relocate to another team with a greater chance to play, but he will never find lasting team-success on the field of battle. He will have a long career of veteran ability, but will ultimately end his career without a title. This will not matter to him in the slightest. He is a warrior that knows he left his heart on the court. No regrets. He will retain fond memories and move on with his life and family, and forever he will be remembered in Portland for his contribution in building a championship and teaching the younger players what it takes to be a true competitor and champion.
The visions have gone, and I am once again left bereft of basketball. Being alone with my thoughts is unbearable without the occasional dose of Dave and Ben. How many times can I listen to a podcast before my heart knows the words in advance? Once. I have devolved into a sponge of Blazer rumor and fan-hype. If I was at least able to know that the upcoming season was viewable in HD on Comcast, I would be mollified, but alas, that isn't the case. I'm outside the realm of Comcast, and as such am unable to see the Blazers in HD for every game. My misery grows with every recount of my torture.
I must close now and drown my sorrows in more spirits. May I find oblivion before the sun comes up and so spare myself another day of forced abstinence.
You are welcome to share my dwelling for the night, my friend, but I fear you will not find the comfort of spirits before you slumber. I am well ahead of you on that score and have drained the small supply I keep on hand in order to deaden the pain and keep the madness at bay. The Fates speak more clearly and I can pretend so much easier in this inebriated state. Do not think less of me, for I am just a man. Rest well, my friend. My your dreams be untroubled, and your tomorrow serene.