Regardless of what happens from this point on, this has been an incredible season.
I remember having so much hope for something special during the Roy-Oden era, and while there were a lot of great moments, things never seemed to come together. We went from a team full of potential and promise, to a team that briefly lost it's identity. It was hard to see it fall apart so quickly, with the injuries to Roy and Oden, and all chemistry lost when Felton, Crawford, Wallace, etc were brought in.
To see things turned around so quickly, and all that potential and promise return, is incredible. Not to mention a coach who perfectly suits the roster we have, and who has brought back the "Rip City" style of basketball. Aldridge grew as he stepped out of the shadow of Roy and Oden, and became the star Portland has needed, and arguably the best Power Forward in the league. Lillard exceeded all expectations once again, and is now being recognized as one of the most promising Point Guards in the league. Most importantly, the team chemistry not only returned, but reached a level rarely seen in sports.
We went into the season with few people expecting to see us in the playoffs, and even less expecting us to leave the first round. We started off as the hottest team in the league, and were right up there competing for the top record in the league for the first few months.
When things started to go wrong after the All Star break, everyone in the media started writing the team off, and even most of us fans dreaded that it was the inevitable letdown we've become so accustomed to. Instead, the team came together and turned things around, and with the return of Aldridge, we finished off the way we started it as the hottest team in the league, going 9-1.
Despite that, the media once again wrote us off, and pretty much handed the series to the Rockets, before it even begun. Houston had too much star power, and Portland exceeded all expectations as it was, they just weren't going to be able to compete.
The Blazers once again used that as ammunition, and personified why that Dr. Jack quote is on the wall, "Teams that play together beat those teams with superior players who play more as individuals."
There couldn't be a more fitting tribute to Ramsay, than what the Blazers did in the Houston series.
We've seen Batum and Matthews with remarkable defensive games against some of the best players in the NBA, at points. But in this series, they shut down a guy who often gets labelled the best scoring SG in the league, and one of the top five scorers in the NBA. Matthews especially, took this series and his task more personal than anybody else on that court, and willed this team to victory at points.
And while RoLo might not have stopped Dwight, he did what has made us all fall in love with him all season. The dirty work, the job no one else wants to do, the heart and grit that doesn't always show up on a stats sheet. And he did it with a smile on his face, and motivated everyone else to work just as hard. Even at Portland's worst this season, when things fell flat and weren't going our way, you never saw Lopez take a break or give up. Dwight gave us his all this series, and we still won, and Lopez deserves a ton of credit for that.
And of course, Aldridge and Lillard, who both had career defining moments. Who proved that small market or not, they are STARS of this league. Both doing things in this series, that you rarely ever see. Both doing so with the humility and class that so many other stars lack, while always giving credit to every member of their team for instilling the confidence in them, even the ones who never see time on the court.
It's hard not to compare this team to the 77 Blazers who won a championship, because the stories are so similar, and the spirit and identity of the teams seem to parallel each other in so many ways. It's easy to picture Stotts in the role of Dr. Jack, LA in the role of Walton, and a finals with the Heat in the role of the 76ers. This team is special, and for once, all the stars seem to be aligning in our favor.
All that said, regardless of what happens from this point on, we've had a season and have a team to be proud of. I can't remember the last time it felt this good to be a Blazer fan.