The business side of the franchise has done wonders this off-season. Without hitting a home run, the business side has been hitting doubles and triples with every at-bat. Now, it's time for the basketball side of the franchise to perform.
Phase 1: Coming out Swinging (Oct 30-Nov 14): 8 games (SA, Hou, Sac, Det, Pho, @Pho, @Den, @Sac).
With the Suns continually in the news for negative stories(Beasley' pot/Gortat' foot/etc), the Blazers need to start the season winning in Phoenix. The Blazers should win 1 of the 2 home games vs the Spurs and Rockets. My expectation is that they'll dominate the Kings twice in their home-road b2b. While the Blazers have a tough first 4 games, all potentially losable(we should remember that the 2006-07 Mavericks who went 67-15 were 0-4), I see us at 2-2. Finally, while the Pistons have remade their team, and should be an exciting team, I can't imagine them coming into Portland and winning. We never win @Denver and Phoenix never wins here.
Phase 2: Surviving the Initial Eastern Attack (Nov 15-Nov 22): 5 games (Chi, @Bos, @Tor, @Bkn, @Milw).
The only game that should be a loss in @Brooklyn. Going 2-2 in the other 4 games shouldn't be much trouble. Milwaukee wants to lose. Boston and Toronto shouldn't pose too much of a threat, so splitting those 2 seems reasonable. I also don't think we lose at home vs the Bulls, but I didn't want to go all Mike Rice in my predictions.
Phase 3: Out-gunning the Run and Gun (Nov 23-Dec 4): 6 games (NY, Ind, OKC, @GS, @Pho, @LAL).
Humorously, I think we could win all of these games, or lose all of these games: All that will matter is who has the bigger gun on the given night. It is important that we go into Thanksgiving with the road win at Phoenix(the origin of run and gun). Other than that, if we can go 2-3 with the remaining 5 games in the phase, I'll be a happy fan.
Phase 4: Slaughtering Middle America (Dec 4-Dec 20) 8 games (Utah, Dal, Hou, @Utah, @Phil, @Det, @Cle, @Minn).
This is the point in the season where everyone starts to pay attention to the Blazers. We win all 3 home games, and the road games @Utah and @Phil. After that, I'm taking at least 1 more win out of the remaining 3 games(@Det, @Cle, @Minn). The Blazers could easily win all 8 of these games, or win just 4 of the games (I'll split it).
Phase 5: The Holidays (Dec 21-Jan 1) 5 games (NO, LAC, Mia, @NO, @OKC).
We should take at least 1 of the 2 games vs the Pelicans, and 1 of the 3 games(LAC, Mia, @OKC). The Blazers will need to take care not to lose focus during this stretch, as all 5 of these games will be very difficult (in the backdrop of Christmas and New Years).
Phase 6: A New Hope (Jan 2-Jan 16) 6 games (Char, Phi, Or, Bos, Clev, @Sac).
The holidays will be tough, but luckily the schedule provides a 2 week confidence builder. There isn't any game in this phase, where the Blazers shouldn't be 5+ point favorites. I'm looking at the Blazers winning all 6 of these games, and feeling good about themselves before they go on the road to attempt the Texas Trio + OKC.
Phase 7: LaMarcus' Return (Jan 17-Jan 21) 4 games (@SA, @Hou, @Dal, @OKC).
We're going to win at least 1 of these games. LaMarcus Aldridge is not going to go back home, and lose 4 games in 5 days. It's just not happening. :-)
Phase 8: Make Yourself at Home (Jan 22-Feb 2) 5 games (Den, Minn, Mem, Tor, @GS).
We never win at Golden State, but I think we should win all 4 home games. None of the home games are the second night of a b2b, so we should have no excuses. We need 4 of these 5 games, as they're our playoff competition. Playoff teams don't lose these type of home games.
Phase 9: An Uphill Climb (Feb 3-Feb 14) 6 games (OKC, @Wash, @NY, @Ind, @Minn, @LAC).
This is the final stretch to the all-star break and Valentines Day. Where the Blazers are picking up the 2 wins I'm predicting, I'm not sure. Not one of these games screams win to me, but I have a hard time imagining losing all 6 games going into the All-star break.
Phase 10: The Prodigal Child Returns (Feb 15-Mar 6) 8 games (SA, Utah, Minn, Bkn, Den, LAL, Atl, @Den).
This is the Blazers opportunity. Finishing up a road trip, before going out on their final 2 long road trips, the Garden will be rocking. We need to win the games against Minn, Den, and the Lakers, as they will be our playoff competition. I'm taking for granted wins against Utah and Atlanta at home. While it would be nice to win 1 of the other 3 games(SA, Bkn, @Den), I don't feel they are 'needed.' We take 5 of the 8, I'll be satisfied.
Phase 11: A Western Moving Spirit (Mar 7-Mar 16) 6 games (GS, @Dal, @Hou, @Mem, @SA, @NO)
Once again with the crazy road Texas Trio. This is going to be gut check time. We need to take at least 2 of these 6 games. And while I honestly think we could win 3 or 4, I'm keeping my prediction to just the 2 wins. After the final long west road trip, we return to the Garden to face off on the Warriors; this game has the makings of a 130-122, with the two teams combining for 5 players scoring 30+ points.
Phase 12: Once More Unto the Breach (Mar 17-Mar 28) 7 games (Milw, Wash, @Char, @Mia, @Orl, @Atl, @Chi)
There are 3 teams in the Wiggins lottery here: Milw, @Char, and @Orl. In addition, the Wizards are 19-90 on the road, since they drafted John Wall (however, we all know they swept us last year). In addition, I like our chances against @Hawks, and for some unknown reason the Heat have had trouble with the Blazers. I think winning 4 of the 7 games is a reasonable goal.
Phase 13: Bringing it Home (Mar 29-Apr 16) 8 games (Mem, Pho, NO, Sac, GS, LAC, @LAL, @Utah).
Coming down the homestretch, we should be gaining momentum as we plough into the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. With 6 home games, and a road game @Utah(desperate to win the Wiggins lottery), the Blazers should control their destiny in the final month.
So, my Blazers regular season prediction: 48-34.