In the spirit of Dave's excellent posts on the five false reasons for hope and the five resons for (cautious) optimism, I put together my own list of five reasons this season will be better than last. But I am going all-in, no equivocation, no maybes, ifs, ands, or buts. These are five reasons I am certain this season will be better. Spoiler alert - none of these reasons is the overall record. The only reason anyone thinks we might have a better record is because they only remember the lineup we finished the year with, not the lineup that got most of the wins. Anyway, without further adieu, here are my five reasons (below the jump).
2 ) No punch to the gut to start the season. OK, the lockout was bad. Then it ended, and somehow, almost unbelievably, things got worse. Sure, I knew the odds of getting a full season from Oden or Roy returning to his form of old were long to say the least, but it was possible. Maybe Roy would reinvent himself as the leagues best sixth man; maybe Oden would finally give us some good games, get healthy, and re-sign, and come to dominate like he was supposed to. There was always the dream. Then, bam, in just a matter of hours that era was over. Suddenly we were just another mediocre team. Now, I hate to risk jinxing anything (particularly with poor Williams already done), but I am willing to bet that this season does not start anywhere near as bad. We will not begin this season losing our Heart and our Hope in a day.
3) No team mutiny. It is hard to remember now, but last season actually began well. Sure Felton was out of shape and playing the worst ball of his career, but the team was winning. Then it stopped. Then it began to look like the team had stopped trying. The rumors came out, and finally the coach was canned. It is never a fun to watch a team turn on its coach. Even if you think that a coaching change is needed, you want to believe that the team is going to keep trying, that even if they are not a bunch of buddies they are at least a bunch of professionals who go to work each day and try their darndest, whatever they think of the boss. Eh, not so much. On top of this, the apparent ringleader was the very man who was most stinking things up. You have to work hard to get serious consideration as a team's all time most-hated player in only one season. Felton made a very good run at it. (As an aside, how many mentions would Jamal Crawford have gotten in that debate if Felton hadn't been here?) Now I cannot actually guarantee that there will be no mutiny this year, but signs point to no.
4) Fun watching the development. We actually started rebuilding at the trade deadline last year. And the one fun thing about rebuilding is that you get to watch the kids play. You don't have to think about every little thing they might do that hurts the team as it tries to win now, you can just focus on what they do right and how that might develop. The problem last year was that our youth movement was Nolan Smith, a re-injured Elliot Williams, and Luke Babbitt. Sure, at that point I was still rooting for them to get minutes over Felton and Crawford, but basically I was watching saying, "Hey, if he keeps this up and works hard he might be a legit situational reserve some day." Cast-offs Johnny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet gave a moment of hope, but they were short-term rentals and it quickly became clear why they had been cut loose by others. Only JJ Hickson gave some really interesting moments, but even setting aside the shortcomings he was backing up the best player on the team, so the potential upside as a Blazer was always limited. Now I don't know if Lillard will live up to the hype or if Leonard will ever develop, but I am betting it will be more fun to watch them than last years crop. Oh, and now Smith and Babbitt can actually audition for the bit parts rather than having to pretend to leads.
5) Hope. Even before the catastrophe, last season had an air of desperation. We really knew that Roy's knees were shot, and that Oden was likely gone at the end of the year even if he was able to play. We were just clinging to the last vestiges of an era that died before it was born. Even when the season started well, at best it promised a surprise trip to the playoffs and an early exit. Then there was just a holding on until the end, with no real idea what we were building toward. Now we have Lillard and Leonard, plus Aldridge in his prime and Batum and Matthews. Is there a promise of championships to come? Well, not really, but if Lillard is the real deal, and Leonard can develop, and we can add another piece in the 2013 draft... OK, I am starting to fall into the "things any team could say" trap, but if you want real reasons for hope, go re-read Dave's piece.
Anyway, there you have it, five reasons why this season will be better than last. The wins may not roll in (better draft pick...) but all in all I am willing to wager that this Excellent Adventure will be much better than last years Bogus Journey.