Looking back to April 16, 2010, who would have surmised that such a quiet nondescript day would actually be a turning point in Blazerland history? "I certainly wouldn't have", said grizzled veteran Nicolas Batum, "Brandon was due to have surgery and alot of people were starting to doubt our once promising future."
So it went that day, Brandon Roy, the teams young promising star had successful surgery on his since well healed knee (After several previous trips to the DL the future HOF played out the rest of his career injury-free, nearly eclipsing former teammate Andre Miller's NBA record of 1573 consecutive games played) as the rest of the young Blazers prepared for a trip to Phoenix to face their 2010 playoff opponent.
"Hindsight is funny ain't it?", remarked Andre Miller, "BRoy goes down and everyone else just kind of stepped it up, not all at once, but even in that first series you could see it starting to develop. Aldridge gets 25 and 12 against Stoudemire in that first series and it just sort of snowballed." While Aldridge's output was slightly more than had been anticipated, young Nic Batum's averages of 18 and 8 were flat out eye-brow raising. "While his scoring and rebounding were a nice bonus, it was the respect he earned from the referees that paid off ten-fold down the road", retired former coach Nate McMillan reminisced, "Seriously, just check out what he did to Durant throughout his career!" (Durant averaged 33.9 ppg. against the rest of the NBA, but only 16.2 against Batum)
"I'll be honest with you, if BRoy doesn't go down, I would have been gone that next year...no doubt, no doubt in my mind", said Rudy Fernandez when asked about that fateful Friday. Who can even imagine that, looking back on the 5 consecutive '6th Man of the Year Awards' garnered by the flamboyant sharpshooter? "I wasn't in a good place going into that first series, but after dropping 43 points in game four, it all just sort of clicked...and my brother it's been clicking ever since!", opined the soon-to-be reality television star. (Fernandez's reality show, 'Rudy's World' airs this Fall on Telemundo)
Lost in that series as well as that season was the maturation of a certain HOF'er by the name of Greg Oden. "With my ego and sense of entitlement coming out of college, if those injuries hadn't of happened, if I hadn't been humbled by every beat writer, if I hadn't been doubted and taunted by the Colin 'Coward's' of the world....well I can honestly say I wouldn't be the man I am today." After accepting his second J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award last week, those indiscreet Internet photos seem as though they happened to someone else, a distant and thankfully blurry memory. What couldn't be lost or over-looked was the important re-signing of Marcus Camby the following year. Camby proceeded to show Oden every trick in his arsenal, of which there were many. "I thought I knew defense, but I didn't know squat!", was how Oden put it after their first season playing together. "We added years to each others careers, I'm still not sure how 'Sarge' found the minutes for us, but it couldn't have worked out better", said a smiling Camby at his HOF induction.
When asked recently at what point during the 2010 playoffs did he think something special might be happening, new Blazer Team President Jeff Pendergraph didn't hesitate, "Oh, it was 'The Heave' for sure, that play epitomized our whole team that year." (For non-Blazer fans, 'The Heave' refers to the 3/4 court shot thrown in by Martel Webster in Game 5 at the buzzer that gave the Blazers a hard fought 143-142 win in the triple over-time thriller that is still regarded as the 'Greatest Game Ever Played' in any sport.) Jerrod Bayless often points out that he had 41 points off the bench in the improbable victory, "but all anyone remembers is 'The Heave'!"
"8 Championships later it all seems so orchestrated in hindsight, not that I would take credit for it", says the man responsible for it all, retired Blazer G.M. Kevin Pritchard, "looking back I wouldn't change a thing."