Sean Highkin of Hardwood Paroxysm joined USA Today Sports to blog about the NBA this week, and the move caused him to reflect on the last few years, the Portland Trail Blazers' search for a "point guard of the future" and the rise of Damian Lillard.
I spent most of these years following the team purely as a fan, dabbling occasionally in blogging-first on Blazersedge fan posts, then briefly (and regrettably) at Bleacher Report, then on my own long-since-deleted blog-before covering the team on a regular basis during the 2010-11 season at the FanSided site Rip City Project. That season featured a lot of personal firsts for me in this field, and a lot of lasts for the team: the last of Brandon Roy in a Blazers uniform, the last doubts being erased about LaMarcus Aldridge's status as a franchise player, and the last full season of Nate McMillan.
it was nearly impossible for me not to let my fan side take over last Thursday as I watched Lillard dominate Felton's return to the Rose Garden on TNT. I have a complicated relationship with Blazers fans at large, at least the ones I encounter online. There's a thin line between prideful support of a small-market team in a one-sport town with a lengthy history, and a comical persecution complex, and the Rip City faithful overstep those boundaries with an alarming regularity. It has the effect of making me extra critical of someone like Lillard, purely as a gut-level defense mechanism against people I encounter all too often on Twitter making the ridiculous claim that the rookie is already a top-five point guard. Still, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every second of Felton's return and the convincing drubbing the Blazers performed on the Knicks.
Lillard is Felton's polar opposite. Most of the way through his rookie season, he's delivering on the promise of every underwhelming would-be franchise point guard the Blazers have trotted out over the past decade. He's a gifted, athletic playmaker with a penchant for hitting late-game shots that has given me more than a few Roy flashbacks. He isn't a perfect player by any means-his defense is still a liability, and his shot selection can be suspect at times-but he's improved every month of his rookie season in noticeable ways, and his work ethic has already made him a fan favorite. He's going to be in Portland for a while, and the team and the city should feel great about that. As a Blazers fan, I'm overjoyed that we finally have someone running the point that I can believe in. As a basketball fan, I'm thrilled that we have another stellar young point guard to add to a multiplying crop of them, a group that includes Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday, and Ty Lawson.
Congratulations to Sean on the big move.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter