Since the Blazers' schedule was released yesterday I suppose we should take the obligatory moment to reflect on the interesting quirks before the subject gets done to death and those quirks become tidal waves of certainty (later dashed on the rocks of reality when the games actually start). I have a few minor observations and one major one.
- The Blazers have been indifferent starters over the last couple of seasons. This schedule offers interesting texture in the first few weeks. Opening night against Phoenix should announce how Portland intends to attack the year. Strong would be good. Plus Portland has 3.5 four-game road trips in the first month and a half (one of those trips technically containing a game at home). To my mind that's good news. If they're going to waver they might as well waver on the road where they might have lost anyway. Perhaps the early travel will bond the team, however, and we'll see a focused unit more quickly. This will be especially important as they'll be integrating Greg Oden...again.
- Portland has also finished strong over the last two years. This year's slate will challenge that resolve, as March and April are tough months, not only because of the quality of opponent but because the games are packed tightly. Ideally the team will be cruising so fast that momentum carries them through to confirmed elite status by beating some of those tougher teams later in the year. They better not need to right the ship late though, as they're likely to get swamped if they're not prepared.
- Portland has no road swing longer than four-games this season. I can't remember a year absent five, six, and seven-game jaunts. Hopefully they'll be able to stay fresher that way.
- If the Blazers do start hot mid-December through mid-January could be time to turn hot into blazing.
Now the major reflection: None of this, nor any other stat or trend you can cook up, should matter. This is the year where the Blazers officially stop asking what the schedule can do to them and start asking what they can do to the schedule. Winning is all that matters. If you look at any scheduling characteristic and speculate it'll likely cause you to lose you're taking the wrong approach. Obviously certain games are still penciled in as losses. But those games are just that: individual games. You don't let travel, opponent strength, or any other factor tip your apple cart for more than a single night, two at the most. This team is no longer truly young. This team has a clear bar in front of it. This team ought to come out loaded for bear and ought to keep firing every night until the playoffs arrive. There's no excuse, least of all one found on paper, for anything else.