It was the start of the second weekend of December.
The Blazers were a top the Western Conference, having won 17 of their last 19 games, losing only once in their last 9 road games. The season was going spectacularly well, with the Blazers having already reeled off an 11 game winning streak.
The Blazers second year coach had just won Western Conference Coach for the month of November. Earlier in the week, the Blazers had decisively beat the Indiana Pacers at home, effectively putting the whole league on notice.
One of their 2 losses during this incredible 19 game streak had been a crushing 14 point defeat to the Phoenix Suns on November 27th.
Earlier tonight, on the front end of a back to back, the Blazers jumped out early, scoring almost 40 points in the first quarter, basically doubling up the worst team in the Western Conference, a team with a sub 25% winning record. A team that had lost 7 consecutive games to start the season, and had won just 1 road game out of 10. Despite this horrible record, they had come into the game vs the Blazers relatively hot, having won 2 of their previous 4 games.
Tomorrow, the second night of the back to back, the Blazers were hosting the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks sported a 3-6 road record, and were just 1-4 on the road against Western Conference opponents.
It was the night before the Mavericks.
Paul Allen sat staring out the open window: the freezing December breeze encompassing every part of his being. He dared not move to close the window.
He had become one with the wind.
Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes. He had played this out in his mind a thousand times.
He knew the visions couldn’t be wrong; they never were. His talented Blazer team was at the brink of greatness; his Blazers would be a team of destiny.
For the first time, he felt a complete confidence in his organization: from top to bottom. Everyone had bought in. His second year coach was proving his meddle, pulling out win after win against the predictions of all those prognosticating 'experts.'
He took a deep breath, holding it in, before slowly exhaling.
And then another.
It was time.
He opened his eyes; his gaze immediately falling to the Blazers board hanging on the wall.
He looked directly at the center of the board, where an 8x10 picture of his 8th year superstar had been pinned. The Texan collegiate superstar had been to a couple all-star games, but was now being recognized as one of the top 10 players in the league. He had crossed that invisible line from star/all-star to superstar. Could he possibly be the leagues' MVP, or at least in the discussion, as the Blazer fans had been so loudly chanting this week? He was a true master of his craft.
The 28 year old all-star had become the Blazers #1 option, following the departure of his former all-star SG two seasons ago. Born and raised in Texas, his superstar, with a killer smirk, was going to be something amazing.
That much was certain; the numbers didn’t lie.
The cold wind continued to engulf him. He quietly stood up and walked towards the window.
Taking one last breath of the fresh cold air, he closed the window, before walking over to his sound system.
The surrounding cabinets contained thousands of alphabetized LPs, but he knew what needed to be played. He slowly bent down, taking out an LP by his favorite artist Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced. Placing the empty case back into it's designated place, he set the b-side of the LP onto the player.
Since closing the window, the silence of the room had become deafening, but was interrupted as he dropped two ice cubes into a crystal glass. Deliberately, he unstopped the decanter holding the 23 year Dalmore single malt, pouring himself a healthy amount.
Gently, he set the needle down, and so it began.
He took the few steps back to his seat, placing a sticker to his tongue, before taking a sip of his drink.
Once again he let his gaze settle upon the Blazers board.
"After the Jacks are in their boxes and the clowns have all gone to bed; You can hear happiness staggering on down..."
It had been more than a year now since he had fleeced the Nets in a trade, landing him the final major piece to his Blazer board: A picture of his prize was sitting in the top left corner of the board. What a steal! In his first year with the Blazers, his prize had jump-started the Blazers, and taken Rose City by storm.
Now, the former rookie of the year was going to help lead the Blazers to greatness.
Smiling at his craftiness, he briefly closed his eyes and took another sip.
Goosebumps ran down his arms.
Upon opening his eyes, his gaze stopped on the top right corner of the board: a heavily x-ed out picture of his former top-rated serial-injured center. How many times had he x-ed out that picture?
He had parted ways with the center over a year ago, and yet... The picture had remained a constant reminder of the cloud hovering over his team.
Still the facade continued to stare back at him without remorse.
Hendrix’ words slowly drifting in and out of his consciousness, "A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life..."
After five years in Portland, having played just 20 some odd games over his last 3 seasons in Portland, it had been time to sweep the center away. But not having him under contract was very different from actually letting go. Letting go. Letting go is so much easier said than done.
The shadow had remained.
"Will the wind ever remember the names it has blown in the past. And with his crutch, it’s old age, and it's wisdom: It whispers no, this will be the last."
His last conscious thought before he drifted away, 'Injuries are an impossibility to foresee; even for the greatest visionary. You have to let go.'
And with that, as the X's on the picture becoming triangles, triangles becoming boxes, boxes becoming pyramids, he was lifted out of the current reality.
When his mind returned back to the room, he realized the record player had stopped playing some time ago. The room was completely silent. His mind was empty.
However, he felt at ease with the world; something he hadn't felt in many years. He had finally let the shadow go.
He was ready.
He got up, slowly walked to the board, and removed the heavily X-ed out picture.
Carrying the picture with him as he walked to the record player, he flipped the LP and again gently set the needle down.
As he dropped the picture in the trash, it was as if his old dream had been displaced with a new dream. An immense weight dropped off his shoulders as the picture fell.
He took another sip, and immediately, he knew his mind was about to experience something amazing. It was as if that jettisoned weight had finally enabled his mind take control and take off.
With his mind already floating, he decided to sit down, right there on the floor. Setting down his drink, he let his fingers touch the blue plush carpet. His fingers were becoming dissociated from his body.
He settled his eyes on the bottom left of the board: a picture of the Blazers new starting center, whom had been born on April Fools day. April Fools Day. Hah. Was he a fool for believing in him?
The 7 foot defensive minded center was a respectable 73.7% free throw shooter and a defensive force. The front office stats guys had told him that the center had contributed 5 defensive win shares over his first several seasons, as they convinced him to trade for the center. His center did all the little things; he was exactly what the Blazers required.
A perfect piece, fitting beautifully into his puzzle.
His eyes moved to the picture directly to the right. It was a picture of his newly acquired backup combo guard.
It had been several years since the guard had made his only all-star team. Initially, he had worried about the dynamics of integrating such a talent into the team. However, in the first 20 games, all doubts had been dispelled. He could do it all: run the offense, play off the ball, shoot the 3. There was no noticeable drop off when he spelled the starting guards.
Having a former all-star guard coming off the bench was proving to be a godsend.
With his mind starting to leave reality, he wanted his last true image to be of the Blazers board.
His gaze found his 6th year starting SF, who had truly come into his own. What a late draft pickup he’d become! Around the league, the talented SF had become famous for his ability to ignite arenas with his spectacular chase-down blocks.
"Purple haze all in my eyes; Don't know if it's day or night.
You've got me blowing, blowing my mind;
Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?"
His mind continued to wonder; he knew this was the vision he required. The one that would set in motion the Blazers future.
In his mind, it was starting to come together; his mind just needed to relax and dream away. He took control of his breathing, slowing it down, and relaxed further into the floor. His fingers were no longer apart of his control.
He was becoming at one.
He knew he was close; the Blazers were close. The talent was there, the pieces were there.
The focus was there, it wouldn’t be long now.
His mind started to wonder.
The L*kers had been winning championships on and off over the past decade, and always seemed to be in contention. It finally looked like the L*kers run as a Western Conference contender was coming to a close. Were they truly done, or did they have one final run in them? Did he need to worry about them?
His thoughts transitioned to the Eastern Conference, which was now dominated by just 2 teams. But who can worry about the East? His focus needed to be solely on the Western Conference.
He couldn't let his mind wonder. Why was he letting his mind wander?
He needed to take back control of his mind. This control was what set him apart from the rest.
His mind focused.
The Blazers were red, hot and rolling.
Greatness was at hand.
And then, for a brief moment, his mind was in complete control: time ceased to exist, his mind moving around the pieces of multiple realities, fitting them into his ideal image of a future reality.
He was the Maker.
A Western Conference Finals appearance was in store.
The pieces of realities were fitting together. When he was satisfied with the future reality, he let go of his control.
His mind focused; it was the start of the second weekend of December.
It was Dec. 13, 1990:
- his 28 yr old Texas born and raised superstar was Clyde Drexler, replacing the Blazers former #1 scorer, all-star SG Jim Paxson
- his former rookie of the year steal from the Nets was Buck Williams
- his now departed injury-prone center was Sam Bowie
- his replacement center whom had been born on April Fools day was Kevin Duckworth
- his newly acquired former all-star combo guard was Danny Ainge
- his 6th yr talented defensive minded SF was Jerome Kersey
- his 2nd yr coach was Rick Adelman
His mind flickered.
As he sat on the floor, his mind being brought back to the present; he forced his eyes open, the world just a glob of random colors and streams slowly fading back into focus.
Too soon. He closed his eyes, and consciously started to count.
A warm feeling of accomplishment surrounded his being.
He once again slowed his breathing.
As he floated through his mind, feeling the last effects of the vision, he became acutely aware that the music had once again stopped some time ago.
The sound of the wind, now audible through the closed window, was all that remained, engulfing his mind.
Reality started to creep back into his conscious.
He once again took control of his breathing, allowing himself to return fully to the current reality.
He opened his eyes; this time the objects of the room had chosen their independent forms.
He focused his eyes upon the Blazers board:
- a picture of his 28 year old Texan superstar was LaMarcus Aldridge, not Clyde Drexler; Aldridge had replaced the Blazers former #1 scorer, all-star SG Brandon Roy, not Jim Paxson
- a picture of his former rookie of the year steal was Damian Lillard, not Buck Williams
- a picture of his new April Fools Day-born starting center was Robin Lopez, not Kevin Duckworth
- a picture of his newly acquired former all-star combo guard was Mo Williams, not Danny Ainge
- a picture of his 6th year starting SF was Nic Batum, not Jerome Kersey
- a picture of his 2nd year coach was Terry Stotts, not Rick Adelman
In the trash sat a heavily x-ed out picture of Greg Oden, not Sam Bowie.
As the current reality crashed back into his consciousness, he smiled.
While 23 years may had passed, he had been here before.
Taking one last sip, finishing the scotch, he relaxed. Waiting a few minutes, allowing himself to stabilize upon the current reality, he finally stood up and walked back to the window.
Looking out the window into the cloudy black of the night, he knew.
He opened the window slightly, letting the wind once again become apart of him.
He closed his eyes once more, and smiled.
The Blazers were about to become something special.
For it was the night before the Mavericks, and he had gazed into the future, and seen.
(1) The last place Western Conference team the Blazers played Dec. 13 1990 was the Sacramento Kings, who came into the game with a 3-15 record, just 1-9 on the road. Going into the Dec. 14, 1990 game vs the Mavericks, the Western Conference number 1 seeded Portland Trailblazers were 19-2.
The last place Western Conference team the Blazers played tonight was the Utah Jazz, who came into the game with a 4-16 record, just 1-9 on the road. Going into the game tomorrow vs the Mavericks, the Western Conference number 1 seeded Portland Trailblazers were 17-3.
(2) The differences between the 14 point losses to the Phoenix Suns on November 27th: in 1990 the game was played in Portland, while the game in 2013 was played in Phoenix
(3) The Blazers won the Dallas Mavericks game Dec. 14, 1990: 106-104. As stated above, both Mavericks teams came into the Rose City with a 3-6 road record, and just 1-4 on the road against Western Conference opponents.
(4) I don't know if Terry Stotts and his wife Jan have children, but if they do, I would like to start the formal recruitment to get them to enroll at my alma mater, Jesuit High School in Beaverton. My Sophomore year the Crusaders won the 4A Championship; on that team were Mike Dunleavy Jr. and David Adelman, sons of the other two Blazers coaches whom have won Western Conference Coach of the Month for the month of November: Adelman(1990) and Dunleavy(1999). It was always a bit surreal seeing coach Adelman and Dunleavy in our high school gym, rooting on their children. It was also the year I hit 5 foot and 100lbs; needless to say I wasn't part of the state championship team. My English teacher that year was Rick Adelman's daughter, Kathy Adelman, who also coached the Jesuits women's varsity team.
(5) I wanted to do a couple other comparisons, but couldn't find any fun way to write in the parallels:
- Drazen Petrovic and Victor Claver: both Europeans who won the Silver Medal the previous Olympics, who were publicly discussing their desire to play for a team that would give them playing time
- Danny Ainge and Dorell Wright: both first year Blazers, who had led the league in made 3pt makes 3 seasons prior
- Cliff Robinson and Thomas Robinson: both being second year backup power forwards
(6) I started this post from a short story I wrote here on BlazersEdge on Feb. 18th, 2012: The Night before the Hawks.
This post was deleted along with all my other BlazersMakr posts, but can still be read via the Internet Wayback Machine if you so desire: