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Forward Thinking

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One of the things we didn't have time to cover with Gavin Dawson on Saturday that I think is important is how a couple of the forwards have been contributing lately.

Lamarcus Aldridge has been overshadowed by Brandon Roy in the star department so far this year.  We all know he needs to rebound more, defend better, and develop more consistency in his moves.  But those critiques and his relative lack of publicity compared to Brandon shouldn't overshadow what he's been giving this team.  He started out strong in November with 13 of 15 games in double figures.  In December he had the foot problems and his production slipped.  But for the last month he's been delivering regular double-digit performances again (in 16 of his last 17 games, in fact).  Quietly he's putting together a nice second year.  If Brandon weren't here he's the guy we'd be pinning hopes on.  We probably still should be.

The other guy deserving (and getting) recognition is Travis Outlaw.  His game needs work too, but he's starting to develop some really nice traits.  He averaged 15.3 points a game last month, the exact same as Lamarcus.  He has scored in double figured in 13 of his last 14 games.  Even more impressive, have you noticed that when we need a critical shot (not just the game-enders, but the pivotal plays) we're starting to go to Travis nearly as much as to Brandon?  His ability to separate himself, get shots, and hit shots is distinguishing him.  The team seems to be building a bond of trust with him that wasn't even close to being there in years past.

This is pretty important stuff.  Brandon Roy is still the heart of this team and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  He's like a trump card in our hands.  But even the best trump only takes so many tricks (a lesson Kobe Bryant has learned well in the last couple of years).  You have to have a strong supporting hand if you want to win.

Even during the winning streak the Blazers were seemingly winning a different way and with different people every night.  This showed us what was possible, foreshadowing how good we are becoming.  But if you want to translate "possible" into "real" consistency is the key ingredient.  Not everybody has to be dead on every outing, but you do need some wingmen for Brandon that won't rise and fall radically night to night.  Winning a different way every night is not sustainable.  You have to win the same way most nights and pull pleasant surprises every so often.

A month is just that...one month.  It's not enough to build a season on, let alone a future career.  But we shouldn't miss how important these two guys are becoming to us and we should hope very hard that their promising flashes of brilliance blossom into slow, steady progress towards bankable greatness.  You can see a day not horribly far off when Brandon averages 20, 7, and 6 with Lamarcus at 20 and 9, a clutch-shooting Travis at 17 and 7, and Greg Oden at 18 at 10.  That has the potential to be one of the legendary lineups in league history.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)