With the recent news about Greg and Brandon's respective knees, and with the Blazers starting the year 7-5, some fans have been suggesting that it's time to Rebuild. Tear it down and start all over. Do like was done after 2003, when the JailBlazers young and old were getting bounced in the first round and spending more time in court than on it.
The rationale is tempting. There's only a handful of cities, of franchises, which have been able to attract the superstar free-agents needed to win titles. Miami. Los Angeles, New York. Perhaps, the Bulls. Trader Bob tried to do it with trades--and it almost worked--but not quite. (Danny Ainge succeeded with trades, getting a title in Boston, and another Finals appearance last year). But it seems to be a common view that the real way to build a long-term contender is to build via the draft--and to do that requires getting deep into the lottery--and doing that requires, assuming you can't find some idiot GM to rip off (I'd keep David Kahn's phone number handy, but not count on drawing any water from that well) "rebuilding".
But in case Blazer fans have forgotten what "rebuilding" means, here's a reminder.
A. Rebuilding means sucking. And sucking hard.
B. Rebuilding means losing. Rebuilding means seasons in which you lose 2 games for every one that you win. If you are lucky.
C. Rebuilding means counting moral victories, not just actual ones. It means being happy about a 14-point loss to the Lakers at home, because the team kept it within single digits until the fourth quarter, and looked sufficiently scrappy.
D. Rebuilding means counting moral losses as well--games in which your team is so completely outclassed
that it looks like it isn't even trying; games in which the Blazers look like a Division II NCAA squad. And player learning how to lose, and how to accept losing.
E. Rebuilding means giving minutes to guys who have no business being in the NBA. To Juan Dixon or Sergei Monia in the starting lineup. Rebuilding means role players starting; scrubs getting heavy minutes, and guys like Ha-Seung Jin on the end of the bench.
F. Rebuilding means the seeing the players you traded away having success on other teams, and wondering if the team should have held it together for another year. Rebuilding means having these guys play extra hard against Portland, just to prove the Blazers wrong.
G. Rebuilding means wondering if Sergio Rodriguez, or Sebastian Telfair, or Darius Miles, or Zach Randolph might be your team's savior. Rebuilding means guys like this getting good numbers on a bad team. Rebuilding means fans yelling at the coach when a talented but flawed player is kept chained to the bench, nevermind that there might be a good reason.
H. Rebuilding means those fans who enjoy basketball--the sport itself--bitterly disappointed, as they are forced to watch it being played poorly.
I. Rebuilding means plenty of empty seats at the Rose Garden, except when the good teams come to play.
J. Rebuilding means whining from management about "broken financial models", when fans and TV networks aren't willing to pay top dollar to see lousy basketball. Rebuilding means talk around the league that the team's gonna move--or in the current climate, be contracted.
K. Rebuilding means that many of the talented young players who do have that are healthy--Batum, LMA (even given his flaws), Matthews--are probably gone--mortgaged for draft picks or to unload poison-pill contracts. And lets face it--if you keep some of the good players around, the team won't suck sufficiently enough to have a legit shot at high draft picks.
L. Rebuilding means that even those players who might consider Portland a good free-agent destination probably will hang up the phone when Rich Cho calls. Nobody wants to play for a loser--and does the team really WANT guys like Joe Johnson, more interested in being "the man" or getting paid than in being a winner?
M. Rebuilding means sacrificing an entire year of our fandom, just for a lucky bounce of the ping-pong balls. Rebuilding means lottery parties.
N. Rebuilding means staking the future on a crapshoot--even if you do win the lottery (or at least come up with a high pick), staking your future on a teenager who has (in all likelihood) only played a single year of high-level competitive basketball. Rebuilding means dealing with the fact that the vast majority of players taken in the draft, don't get a second contract.
O. Rebuilding means being accused of "tanking"--and in some sense, having those accusations being correct. Even if the players are trying their hardest, rebuilding means deliberately exchanging the present for the future.
P. Rebuilding means having strangers look at you weird for wearing the scarlet and black--even in Portland. Rebuilding means the fair-weather fans, who waved Blazer banners the past two seasons, once again start laughing at true Blazer fans as they switch to the Heat or some other star-studded squad.
Q. Rebuilding means being the laughingstock of the NBA. It means being lumped in with the Clippers or the Timberwolves or the Nets--except on the days when those teams beat you. Rebuilding means depending absolutely on the hope that Paul Allen is a better owner than Glen Taylor or Donald Sterling--and that something more than mere fate separates us from the perennial bottom-feeders of the league.
R. Rebuilding means a few years of wondering if there IS a way out--or if the team is doomed to remain in the lottery for a long time.
S. Rebuilding means, in all likelihood, a new coach every couple of years, as the prior one becomes the designated scapegoat for the team's failures. (Unless Nate is willing to stick around for another reclamation project--despite his faults, this is something he excels at).
T. Rebuilding means everything the team doing being second-guessed by an impatient fanbase and media, who see every step backwards as proof that the long-term strategy is doomed. Rebuilding means reporters peeking through the curtains at workouts; and columnists wondering if Portland sports fans wouldn't be better off if the team just packed up and moved.
U. Rebuilding means trading sustained mediocrity for absolute terribleness--all for the chance at future greatness.
V. Rebuilding means chemotherapy. It means long nights of feeling worse than you ever felt before, hoping that some day, the cancer will go away--but not knowing when, or if, that will occur.
W. Rebuilding means hoping that the Blazers follow the path of the Bulls (which saw the "baby Bulls" rise, then fall to pieces, only to rise again with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah), and not the Grizzlies (which rode Pau Gasol to the playoffs a few years back, but regressed--and have stunk ever since).
X. Rebuilding means another hackneyed "rise with us" marketing campaign, made to look ridiculous by what happened last time.
Y. Rebuilding means Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.
Z. Rebuilding means dying. And hoping to be reborn, not knowing if the next life will be any better than this one.