FanPost

Uncertainty rules the Blazers

I think the biggest problem with the Blazers right now is uncertainty. I cannot recall any NBA team ever with so much uncertainty in so many areas, both short-term and long-term: Brandon Roy's knees and future. Greg Oden's knees and future. The Collective Bargaining Agreement and possible lockout. Rudy Fernandez, going or staying? Nate McMillan, new contract or boot out the door? Paul Allen's health. The Vulcans. The mix of Roy and Andre Miller in the Blazers backcourt. The rise of Wes Matthews and how to use him. The decline of Nic Batum and what to do about it. Can the team still make the playoffs? Should they keep or trade Miller and Marcus Camby, the aging veterans? Retool the team? Blow it up? If Blazer management seems not to know which way the winds are blowing, you can hardly blame them. You would need an Old Testament prophet to plot a course for this franchise right now.


Roy is the eye in the center of the Blazers' hurricane. Will his knees stabilize or will he be in and out of the lineup not on a coach's plan but according to his level of pain? If that issue is not resolved, neither Roy nor the team will know what he can and cannot do on the court from game to game. Nate, or whoever replaces him, will not be able to settle on an offense or a starting five. Rich Cho won't be able to make trades because he won't know whether to build the team around Roy. Roy's teammates won't be able to settle into a game plan and rhythm because he'll be in and out of the lineup so unpredictably.

We all want this issue to be settled but I don't think that is possible this season. Roy will do his best to remain the center of the offense and earn his big contract until his knees, Nate, or a trade force him into a reduced role or off the court for an extended period of time. Management does not want to rush into a decision that has so many profound short-term and long-term impacts. Meanwhile, the losses are piling-up. It won't be long before making the playoffs stops being a realistic goal.

What are the possible outcomes?
* Roy continues to struggle, having just enough good minutes to convince Cho and Paul Allen to keep the experiment going. 
* Roy realizes he cannot sustain major minutes and agrees to move to the second unit. Nic Batum returns to the starting unit at SF and Wes Matthews becomes the starting SG. The net result would probably not be as positive as some on this site believe.
* Roy sustains an injury or suffers enough pain to keep him off the floor for a number of weeks or months, giving Nate and the team a great opportunity to see what the team can do without Roy.
* Cho makes one or more trades, none of them involving Roy, who is possibly one of the least-tradeable players in NBA history. I doubt any player Cho could get would improve the Blazers this season, especially coming in a midseason deal.

I'm guessing that nothing significant will happen this season and what we've been seeing is what we're going to keep seeing. Roy has too much clout right now for anyone to overrule him. Nate is looking and sounding more and more like a lame-duck coach. The lockout seems likely to happen, so no one knows what the new CBA will look like or how it will affect the team's ability to make trades. Allen is not going to want to pay a luxury tax for this non-contender. Camby and Miller's trade value is going to decline after this season but I doubt they will get traded because I don't see management being able to make that decision until next summer at the earliest.

Best case for the Blazers is that the lockout wipes-out the 2011-2012 season completely, which I think could happen. That would give Cho and Allen more time to evaluate Roy, and to see whether and how well Oden rehabs. It will probably settle the issue about Camby and Miller if that isn't decided before this summer.  A year-off would enable the Blazers to decide on a new coach and direction, and so on.

Until then, there's just too much uncertainty.

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