Today's guest blogger is the frighteningly-named, yet always astute, Harry Manback. His entry:
Everyone in sports says that it's all about championships. Anything to win a championship. Sportscasters say it, fans say it, coaches say it, players say it. But is it really true? Would you trade long-term success for a single championship?
Let me throw out this scenario: it's the year 2000. It's the fourth quarter of game 7 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. The Blazers, having built up a lead of as much as 17 points, are in a full-fledged panic as they watch their lead dwindle into the single digits. In a moment of desperation, Mike Dunleavy sends his starters to the bench and brings in two young men named Jermaine O'Neal and Bonzi Wells, in hopes of sparking some kind of resurgence. Over the next two possessions, the Blazers pound the ball into the post to Wells, who overpowers Kobe Bryant for two point-blank shots--one a score and the other put back by an energetic young O'Neal.
Though the two young players would be taken out of the game a few possessions later, their contributions on those two possessions allow the Blazers to regain their footing and put away the Lakers. After a short series with an overmatched Pacers team, the Blazers become champions for the first time since 1977.
The fallout of this triumph changes what we now know as history. There is a parade. Players and coaches are happier with their situation on the team. Keith Olberman, in recapping the game, states that after falling to 1-3, the Blazers "showed more mettle than aluminum foil". Through the smoky haze in his living room, Damon Stoudamire wonders aloud, "Did that guy just say that aluminum foil is made out of metal?" He
does not realize how much grief this lesson will save him later in life.
More importantly, the championship proves to Paul Allen the validity of "the plan". Rather than make major changes, he decides in a meeting with Bob Whitsitt to bring everybody back. Jermaine O'Neal remains a Blazer and is promised an increasing role behind an aging Sabonis. The team fails to ever get over the hump and win another championship, but stays in the NBA elite for another year and then settles into the middle of the playoff pack.
Fast forward to today. Without ever undergoing any serious changes and without ever truly challenging for a title again, the Blazers now sit with an aging roster. They have just been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by a Houston squad featuring Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and a promising young rookie named Brandon Roy. Their only tradeable assets are a constantly injured Jermaine O'Neal and a damaged-goods Rasheed Wallace (who has WAY overstayed his welcome). Brushes with the law have been fairly frequent. Playoff series victories have not.
Was it worth it? No future with Roy or Aldridge or Oden. Massive rebuilding project around the corner with limited assets with which to start it. The winning of the championship dragging out the era of the JailBlazers.
Would you take a championship in 2000 at the cost of the core that we have today? If you could give up all of the potential of this team if it meant a single championship and a decade of mediocrity, would you do it?
Provocative questions from Harry! Weigh in below.