I've noticed your assessment of the Blazers summer falls below the national media. I'm not disagreeing. What you say makes sense and I lean more towards your take. I just wonder why the national media is bullish on the Blazers moves when they normally ignore Portland. Why the gap?
Several national writers have given positive reviews to Portland this summer. I have been more measured. But I don't think the discrepancy between us is as wide as it seems at first glance. You have to ask the right questions to get the right answers.
It's fairly easy to say Portland had a good summer in the most general sense. They needed a center. They got one. They needed bench help. They got it. That's good. The Blazers are in better position than they were four months ago. Nobody disagrees with that. It's easy to see, easy to write about.
Things get more complicated when you ask what effect the "good summer" actually has. Head back to all those writers who credited the Blazers with some nice moves and look at their playoff predictions.
So, friendly national pundit, you said the Blazers had a good summer. Are they in position to challenge San Antonio and Oklahoma City now?
"C'mon. Let's not get crazy."
OK, well then are they a threat to Golden State or Houston or Western teams that made major moves? Could they maybe get a mid-level seed?
"No, I wouldn't say that."
Do you have the Blazers firmly in your lower playoff bracket? Wait...are they in there at all?
"Errrr... I guess they could make it? I have to look at those teams on the bubble."
These guys aren't making up stuff. They do think the Blazers had a good summer. But I'd bet if we resolve the picture a little it's the same "they did good" that you talk about when a little brother has lost 21-5 to his older brother every day for a month and then he shows a little something and only loses 21-17. Give him credit! He did do well. He's showing signs. But he's not exactly ready for the varsity squad yet.
ESPN has been running surveys from their "Forecast Panel" all summer. That would be a group of 215 of their NBA contributors from the website and around their corporate network. When asked to forecast the biggest team turnaround in the coming season they picked the Blazers 9th. Only 12 teams total received votes. That was better than Portland's results in the voting for best newcomer...the player changing locations most likely to excel. 23 guys got votes including Al Jefferson, Andrea Bargnani, Marco Belinelli, and Jared Dudley. Not a single Blazer got mentioned in a summer when new acquisitions were the main--in some ways only--story.
These surveys aren't the be all and end all, but they do highlight the difference between national folks saying "good summer" in the abstract and putting it in context.
The other day we talked about statisticians loving players whom their formulas highlight but the public underrates. That's the golden egg, being able to point out someone that nobody else notices. The same holds true for writers and teams in these forecasts. Nobody is going to spend column space telling you that Miami and San Antonio are good. That's not interesting. Playing up a gamble is much more exciting and rewarding. It's not lying. Nobody will applaud a team they anticipate will stink. But it's easy to lean heavily on a marginal increase on the chance it turns into a significant one. There no risk. Nobody is going to ask these guys what they think of the Portland Trail Blazers at any point in the season unless the Blazers exceed expectations far enough to enter the national consciousness. If that happens, well, there's already a column on record pointing out how good Portland could be.
Our situation is different at Blazer's Edge. We answer questions about the Blazers every day, have to put them in context, and live with our analysis over the long haul. To us the Blazers aren't the little brother, they're the only team we write about. Therefore our take on "good summer" will look different than you'll find in a national column. We're dealing with different expectations from a different point of view.
You share your basketball views. I find myself curious about where they come from! I understand if you don't want to make your private life public but could you share more about your background? Basketball or personal is ok.
Most of it has been pretty well chronicled for long-time readers so I'll give the Cliff's Notes version here and try to throw in some personal story as well.
I was a kid when the Blazers won the title. At that point I was hooked. For life. One of the saddest days of my life was when the Blazers got eliminated by Seattle the next year and I realized they wouldn't always be World Champs. I stayed in denial for a couple of years, considering the Blazers the "real" world champions still. Eventually I got Steve Coltered and Kevin Kunnerted enough to figure out they weren't returning to the top of the podium soon. But I still followed as I could, letting Bill Schonely guide me through exciting games.
The flowering of my fandom came during the Drexler era. I was old enough to fully understand the process, young enough to still be innocent about it. Watching Clyde and Terry and Jerome and Buck was like a second childhood. It just so happened that my first childhood had ended in a bout of depression so I owe those teams for keeping hope alive at a time I didn't have much of it elsewhere. Losing the Finals in '90 was rough but losing the Conference Finals in '91 was probably the hardest thing to take. Though my heart said differently I kind of felt the '92 Finals loss to Jordan coming. It seemed like the team and Clyde had redlined the RPMs just to get to that Finals series.
After that Drexler got traded and the dream was no more. That was sad, of course, but the very sadness of the losses and the dissolution of the era spurred me to understand more about why things happened in the NBA. Maybe it was a defense mechanism of sorts. Forewarned is forearmed? I started making a more serious study of the game, paying more attention than I had at any time since high school.
This period coincided with the glory years of Arvydas Sabonis, who was plenty fun to watch. Around this time I also found my career, finishing college, packing everything I owned into two footlockers underneath a Greyhound Bus, and heading off to Minnesota for seminary. I dealt with Timberwolves fans and analysts for a few years, giving me more of an outside perspective and teaching me the difference between spin and reality. (The 'Wolves were heavy on the former, light on the latter.)
I was primed for the Wallace-Pippen-Smith Traveling All-Star Team run but it didn't feel quite the same as the Walton or Drexler glory years. The team was more mercenary. But dang, I would have taken a title happily! I was appropriately bummed after the fourth quarter collapse in '00 but it wasn't the same loss as '91. I also grew to hate Shaq. I used to have a six-page list of disparaging nicknames for him, many of which I employed while discussing the Blazers over the internet in an e-mail group which eventually got me in with the local media which eventually got me blogging on my own which eventually brought me to Blazer's Edge.
Having been through three major eras, plenty of disappointment, several hundred games, and several years of intense discussion about the team I was fairly well set to write online. I decided early on I didn't care about anything except for telling the truth as I saw it and providing a place for fellow Blazer fans to do the same. Traffic and acclaim and etc. all came later, but the foundation of the site was careful, extensive analysis followed by good discussion. I've not deviated from that philosophy. It has held me in good stead. If it's honest, accurate, and surrounded by thoughtful comments I'm good. If one of those things is missing then nothing else matters.
Along the way I've had the privilege to meet new friends, hear from plenty of NBA folks I never dreamed I'd talk to, and be interviewed in ways and places I didn't know existed. I've gotten to fulfill a few dreams and help others do the same. But really, this is just the same thing I've always done: talking about the Blazers. I do it more comprehensively and carefully now (and hopefully much better) but this site is just an extension of my community and life.
I guess I didn't get that personal-personal there but I'm going to save that for another time. If you have specific questions just e-mail them in and I'll see if I can answer in another Mailbag.
Jason Quick leaves the Blazers Beat at the Oregonian, Candance Buckner leaves the Columbian, turnover is everywhere! Please tell us you guys aren't leaving!
Not a chance. I've already said I'm not even thinking about moving on to other endeavors until the Blazers win another championship. Y'all can forecast how long that'll be.