We conclude our recap of this year’s team with a look at the front office. Since we already talked about Coach McMillan during our initial season review a couple weeks ago I’m going to define “front office” as coaching staff, basketball staff, and administrative staff all lumped together. By any measure all of these folks did a fantastic job this year.
Going back to last summer a wish-list of goals and priorities for the season might have looked something like this:
--Don’t let the Oden injury submarine your season…win some games anyway.
--Continue developing the new Blazer culture and community relations.
--Make room for the cultural leaders to become team leaders as well.
--Improve the offense and defense.
--Acquire or develop some perimeter shooting.
--Figure out how to clear cap space to enable us to fill in missing pieces.
--Sell some tickets.
These goals range from the obvious (developing the stars) to the near-unimaginable (cap space, for one). Up and down the list the team managed almost all of them. You could quibble about the offensive development some. We did see better ball movement but we also saw far too many jumpers. I think you could also argue that as long as the Comcast deal prevents Oregonians from seeing the team on a regular basis there’s a gap in community relations. But those pale in comparison to the rabbits the coaches and office personnel were able to pull out of their hats:
--Brandon Roy was an All-Star in his second season and Lamarcus Aldridge has opposing teams drooling.
--We saw more advancement and consistency from Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw this year than we have their whole careers.
--The love affair between fans, media, and the team continues to grow. And this without Kevin Pritchard having to appear every second day to talk up the team. Various media outlets and fans themselves are starting to promote the team, which is the key to success in
--Our defense was markedly improved.
--Our perimeter shooting was better this year than it’s been in a decade. We got James Jones for a trade exception. Steve Blake had an incredible year from distance. All of a sudden our greatest offensive weakness is one of our strengths.
--Ticket sales are up and continue to rise.
Then you get the big-ripple items:
--The trade of Zach Randolph opened up this team on and off the court. Even with the near-mandate to let him go, giving up your leading scorer is a courageous move. It paid off big-time.
--We won FORTY-ONE games! It’s in the nature of fans to inflate expectations for their own team. This shouldn’t blind us to the fact that there’s no way 41-41 should have happened. This team was led by two second-year players. The supporting cast was nearly as young and would not have been deemed strong or reliable by NBA standards. These were kids out there. The Western Conference was as tough as your grandma’s behind. With Oden’s injury this team had every reason to say, “Don’t hold us responsible for what happens this year. The real stuff comes later.” The national pundits who predicted a low-20’s winning total didn’t know the Blazers. (There’s a surprise, huh?) But most reasonable people would have told you anywhere north of 32 wins would have been decent. We obliterated that mark. In combination with everything else that made this one heck of a year.
I’m hard-pressed to think of one facet of the administration who shouldn’t be proud of this season, from the scouts to the GM to the coaches to the ticket and media relations staff. If you hadn’t seen such a pronounced turn-around in the last two years you’d be tempted to call this season “charmed”. The truth is they’re probably just that good. And right now they’re hitting on all cylinders.
Nicely done, folks.
Here’s what it feels like to be a Blazer fan right now. What more can you say?