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Monday Musings

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We're starting a new feature this week which I hope will run most weeks unless it gets insanely busy (like a Sunday and Monday back-to-back, which I think happens rarely if at all).  In this feature I'm going to respond to the most commented on topics and issues from the week past, judged mostly by frequency and intensity of comments in the fanposts and post responses.  This is kind of like offering my thoughts on the things you've been talking about, just on the main page instead of in the comments.  I'll still be commenting in the sidebar too, but this lets me respond more universally and give credit to the people who are generating these conversations.

Here are the hot topics of the week (in no particular order):

1.  Sergio's Trade Request

This one has generated a lot of emotion along with the analysis.  Some people are angry at Sergio, some at his agent, some at Nate or the team.  My thoughts:  we probably shouldn't be angry at anyone as everyone is doing pretty much what they're supposed to.

Sergio has an absolute right to be frustrated.  He wouldn't be in this league if he didn't think he could play and play well.  He's generated some great moments on the court and shown as much spark as people who have played in front of him.  In his mind he's got to believe he can do more.  He's been living with frustration for a year plus and it doesn't seem to be getting better.  You can question his timing and ask whether he's given the new season enough of a chance, but I suspect any of us in his situation would feel similarly.

Sergio's agent is also doing exactly what he's supposed to.  His job is to champion his guy above all else.  That's one of the checks and balances that keeps the system running.  If his client is frustrated long enough it's his job to try and break the logjam, up to and including making the dreaded trade demand.

Nate is also doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing, which is running this team in the way he feels will produce the most wins.  It's not his job to make Sergio happy.  Having communicated what Sergio needs to do in order to prosper it's not his job to make sure he carries through either.  There are solid reasons Sergio is not on the court more and I doubt many people would argue he's ready for a starting role or to take some of Rudy and Roy's minutes.

This is simply a case of everybody doing what they naturally should and those different aims not meeting.  That happens sometimes.  We'll see how it develops, but for now it's no harm, no foul.

2.  Does Travis Outlaw stink?

This was the topic of the week before the Sergio storm hit.  I'm going to write a post very soon covering the things I don't understand about the way people see the game and fandom.  Among those questions I have is why, when people celebrate a new fan favorite, it leads in so many cases to them finding fault with the old players who are still in front of him.  As soon as Nicolas Batum had a couple good showings, it was Travis' turn to get barbequed. 

Travis does not stink.  Travis is Travis.  He's the same player we all cheered in the fourth quarter last season, with one or two improvements.  That means Travis is a scorer who uses his athleticism to generate jump shots that he makes at an astonishing clip given their difficulty.  He's going to give you scoring every night and a sterling all-around effort about one game in four.  He's gotten better at his long-range shooting, a critical step for a small forward in the Blazers' offensive system.  His defense leaves much to be desired.  Whether he can play small forward consistently or whether he's better as a back-up power forward is still an open question.  And that's about it.  He's good at a few things, unique in one or two, pedestrian in most others, bad in a couple...about an average NBA player.

Nicolas Batum has different strengths.  That doesn't mean he's a better player than Travis at this point, nor does it mean he should be playing to the exclusion of Outlaw.  Whether (and when) they're called upon is less a function of talent than a function of team needs at the moment with perhaps some experience factor thrown in.

3.  Iverson for Billups

As I said on the podcast last week, I was underwhelmed by this trade.  I think it smacks of desperation on Detroit's part...a classic attempt to jam a crowbar in the window when you feel it closing.  That doesn't work.  It doesn't make Denver better statistically, not even in assists.  It probably balances out team chemistry but at the opportunity cost of them being able to steamroll you on a given night.  It certainly doesn't take them farther up the contender ladder.  Nor is it a move for the future.  If Chauncey Billups were the player he was three years ago he never would have been traded in the first place.  He's 32 years old to boot.  Whatever marginal gains they make this year (if any) they're welcome to.  It won't matter in three years and they're not going to win a title before then.  Unless this is a move to set up another trade I can't think of a more obvious way to say, "This team is going nowhere important" than to engineer a trade like this.  At least the original Iverson deal had an outside chance of creating something special.  This is incremental improvement to a non-special team.

4.  Guilty Blazer Confessions

Dougall5505 started this thread about stuff we're not proud to admit as Blazer fans, such as owning J.R. Rider jerseys and second-guessing KP draft picks.  After 195 comments from others I feel compelled to add my own:

--I supported the Jermaine O'Neal trade without a second thought.  I was excited to get Davis in fact.

--I used to think Bob Whitsitt was one of the greatest GM's ever.

--I liked Darius Miles' dunks way too much in his contract year.

--I once thought the Showtime L*kers were cool for about a month as a kid.

I am shamed.

5.  Is This Blog The Same Anymore?

This came from the 300-comment behemoth started by Charles Barkley McLovin.  I've read through the thread and even left a couple of comments of my own.  I'm not going to rehash the moderating here because, you know, I feel like I've said enough about that over the past six months or so.  We're always learning and refining those things but along with that truth comes the corresponding truth that you'd have to look long and hard to find conversation as good as happens routinely on this site.  I've read all the comments, agreed with most of them, and taken them to heart, filing the conversation away for further reflection as the moderation of this site evolves.

I will, however, offer this bit of historical perspective.  Take it or leave it as you choose.

There's a cycle that goes on around here.  I think most any long-term member will recognize it when it's explained.  It goes like this:

1.  The site gets a boost in popularity.  People come here in waves with significant Blazer events.  Some leave after the event is over.  Many stay, and thus the site has grown quite large over time.  This happens with regularity.

2.  Along with the influx of new people come some with rough edges and an outright troll or two.

3.  The trolls are usually gone within a few days but the whole incident stirs people up.

4.  In the midst of this stirring up someone says, "It's not like it used to be back in Time X here..."

Here's the crucial thing...the perspective.  "Time X" is never the proto-history of the site when there were a few dozen people here and conversation was truly intimate.  Instead "Time X" is when the commenter joined, which was usually in the last big influx.  At that exact same "Time X", which to the commenter is the barometer of intimacy and good conversation, someone else was posting "It's not like it used to be back in Time X here..."

I do not deny that during these waves conversation gets diluted somewhat and occasionally uncivil and out of hand.  It's up to all of us to keep standards up and it's good to be reminded of that.  But I strongly suspect that the "not like it used to be" conversation is a stage that we all go through as we become familiar with the blog and its people.  After you've spent some time here it's never going to be like it used to be for you, any more than your spouse is going to seem exactly the same as they were on the first date after you've been married for ten years.  "Is it like it used to be?" is probably not a fair question.  "Is it good?" is the standard by which we should be measured.  In some ways, no, some of the conversation is not good.  Some of it makes me cringe...even some of the stuff I choose to leave up.  But I promise you that I was also cringing at certain comments back in whatever your "Time X" was.  (Reference the Sergio debates last year or the Zach Randolph debates the year before.)   On the whole, on the balance, the conversation remains strong around here and it will continue to be so.  

Being here through all of this growth has taught me this:  when the wave recedes and the trolls are gone more people are left here than were here before and the conversation returns to 99.9% good...a new rosy "Time X" for a new generation.  I suspect some people don't make it through the new wave.  But I also suspect those who do are amply rewarded.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  I'm only going to do five topics each week but since this is the first one I'm going to add a short sixth.  The Comcast situation seems to be on a low boil.   It probably should be a high boil by now.  I'm not going to say much more about it, as nothing has really changed since the last time I commented.  But I will say this:  As someone who gets asked a fair amount about TV availability I will say that the Blazers have, hands down, the most confusing TV coverage/availability situation of any professional sports team I've ever known.  That can't be a good thing.