Blazer fans (myself included) are famous for lamenting our misfortunes long after the horse is dead. This latest one, to be fair, is fresh. We all have been anticipating the super-fun B-Roy/Lamarcus/Oden era for quite some time, and it seems unjustifiably cruel that it would come to this point where we now KNOW it will never happen.
Fact: Negativity and self-loathing never gets anyone ANYWHERE. This Blazer team is still filled with quality players and high-character guys who WILL rise to the occasion. While the sadness lingers (and it will for a while), it's important that we realize several reasons to be unreasonably optimistic for this season and the future:
1) The Blazers have, over the last few years, THRIVED when people started to write them off. Anyone remember last year? It's announced Oden would miss another season and shortly after, Roy goes down. Blazers are toast, right? Instead, the floor opens up, the offense flows, and LA emerges as a beast. Which brings us to...
1a) We have Lamarcus Aldridge BARELY ENTERING his prime! I don't think any of us realize just how good LA can be. And instead of keeping that potential dangling in front of us (like so many NBA players do) without actually realizing it, LA is ACTUALLY GETTING BETTER AND WILL CONTINUE TO GET BETTER. After last-years snub, he WILL be a 2012 All Star.
2) Crash will be in Beast Mode. Mark my words...barring injury (yes...I know his history) Gerald Wallace will rise up and have a monster year. I love the way this guy plays...we've needed someone like him for a long time. He didn't have enough reps last season to get truly comfortable (and STILL contributed significantly) so I'm greatly anticipating what we get from GW as the year progresses.
3) Batum will make "the leap." Do we realize this dude turns just 23 next week??? And he hasn't just been sitting at home or playing charity games during the lockout. Instead, he's been tearing it up overseas against quality competition. Like LA, he's improved every single years and actually learned from his setbacks. I think we will see more than just "improvement" in #88...I think he emerges as a true force that opposing teams will have a hard time dealing with.
4) Wes Matthews will continue to play with a chip on his shoulder and get better and better. I love the guy's work ethic and the way he carries himself.
***I think these 4 reasons are almost iron-clad (barring injury), and should invoke optimism in and of themselves. However, there are several wild-cards that, if any of them come to fruition, could make the Blazers even more formidable.
5) Does Ray Felton = Poor-man's Chris Paul? Errrrrr...maybe not. But do we really know? There's a reason we traded Andre for him. While I really liked Andre, there was really no upside moving forward. So I love the fact that we took a shot and traded for a much younger guy who has AT LEAST proven to be a solid starting PG in the NBA (which is all you need if you have pieces around you). Once again, I may be accused of being unreasonably optimistic here, but my gut feeling is that we are going to end up really liking Ray Felton.
6) Does Marcus Camby turn back the clock and can we find another serviceable big man? I think this is the biggest wild-card of the year. We need to take the pressure off Lamarcus down low (he had guys hanging all over him by the end of last year when all our big men were down). If we can get a quality year from Camby with some help from the younger bench guys around him, then good things will result.
7) ELLIOT!!! FREAKING!!! WILLIAMS!!! Ok...I know it's a loooooong shot. Have we ever experienced a first-rounder that has received LESS buzz? It's like he never existed. However, he IS a Blazer, and by all accounts, a healthy Elliot Williams can do some pretty fantastic things on the court. I really hope he gets the chance to contribute...everyone loves the "where the hell did that guy come from" story.
Now would it be great if we could add a circa-2008 B-Roy to this list? Sure. But it's just not reality...and now that we have closure on that "reality-that-shouldabeen-but-never-was," we can focus on a present and future that looks extremely promising.