Happy Season's Eve!

'Tis the eve of the season, a time when hope and excitement both run unchecked.  This is our adult Christmas...not the actual holiday but the closest analogy to that wonder we felt as kids knowing that presents tucked under the tree would soon be ours.  We dared to dream of motorized toy cars, extravagant dollhouses, and sparkling Huffy bikes until the inescapable gravity of new underwear, pee-chees, and protractors brought us tumbling back to earth.  We learned the lesson, though, that practicality should not temper those wondrous moments.  They have value in their own right.

And so tomorrow we will open a new chapter in this Blazer story.  We'll begin to taste the highs and lows, the intensity and the peril.  Every heart will quicken and then stop for a moment when the first tap takes flight.  Blazer basketball is back!  Sweeter words were never penned.

A couple people asked me what I was looking forward to most...a question I posed to you several weeks ago.  Besides the general thrill of competition I have several specifics.  These aren't necessarily things I anticipate going well, rather things I'm interested in seeing or finding out.

1.  I want to see Andre Miller play again.  I have opined, along with others, that he is not the greatest fit in Portland's backcourt.  I'd rate the chances of him being traded as high and the chances of him being released at year's end should he not be traded even higher.  This doesn't stop me from wanting to see him.  This guy is a basketball player.  That's not a statement of quality as much as ontology.  He's like Charles Bronson or James Coburn in the Magnificent Seven compared to the young kid.  Can he do anything else but sling his guns around his hips and walk to the next showdown?  Of course not.  The path narrows to a single, inevitable point, at the same time becoming purer for lack of variance.  It's a treat to watch this guy work his craft even if you know the results might not be everything you wish.  To some extent this is true of Marcus Camby too, but there's just something about the point guard...

2.  I want to get a gander at the new LaMarcus Aldridge.  I'm not expecting a revolution here.  The game plan isn't going to shift radically around him which means he'll likely be launching jumpers on offense.  But we've heard so much about his poise and work ethic this summer that I'm anticipating improvement in the more subtle aspects of his game: drive/motor, rebounding, defensive positioning.  LaMarcus blossoming would be a huge boon to this team.

3.  Jerryd Bayless would have been an interesting question but now I'm fascinated with the point guard rotation.  How could you not be excited to see whether Wesley Matthews, Rudy Fernandez, Armon Johnson, or Brandon Roy himself will pick up more responsibility for setting the offense?  None of those names are guaranteed to work out but each one would be ultra-exciting in his own way if he was able to seize the position.  Whatever reservations I have about the capabilities of each get buried under the fascinating permutations.  Throw in the distant possibility of Elliot Williams and you have a lot of toppings for that sundae.

4.  Eventually I'll be thrilled to see Greg Oden return.  I'm not looking forward as much to his first game as to seeing him a month after.  Please, Oh deities of Hoop, give it a chance.  If nothing else the rebounding domination is...satisfying.

5.  I just want to see Dante Cunningham hustling again.

6.  I'm interested to see how and whether Nate McMillan rises to the occasion in this pivotal year.  So much virtual ink has been dedicated to his ability or lack thereof.  This is as close as he's going to get to a full slate of players...his best chance so far in his career to show what he's got.  A great performance by this team has to hush his critics.  A poor performance will call his future here into question.  Crucibles, in addition to being great studies, usually bring out the best and/or worst in people.  Which will we see from Nate and what will that look like?

7.  I want to see the defense!  On paper the Blazers have better defensive depth at both the small and big positions.  I don't believe they'll skip blithely past one-on-one matchups with Ron Artest or Dwight Howard.  But overall I want to see if Portland can get away from the multiple-switch, chaotic, headache-inducing scramble-fest we've seen in the last couple of years.  Can they cover for the starting guards?  This is their best chance for serious success this year.  They can get away with a patchwork offense if the "D" is sharp.  Will we see razor-like precision or a muddle?  Phoenix is a great first test for this too.

I know we covered it before but there's no harm in re-visiting our anticipation.  What are you guys looking forward to unwrapping this year? Share below.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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