Ben and I must be on the same wavelength. In his post below talking about media coverage in the Bay Area he invited (presumably former) Warriors fans to try out the Blazers for size. I wanted to do a post for new Blazer fans, folks on the fence trying to decide whether Portland is a team to follow, and our legion of internation fans beginning to follow our multi-national team. So without further ado, for anyone needing them (or just curious), here are five reasons you should consider watching the Blazers in the upcoming season.
1. Brandon Roy is a pleasure to watch anytime, anywhere.
Seriously, on most nights Roy is a one-man Beautiful Basketball clinic. Watching him you're going to see a young guy who plays the right way. He has a knack for knowing when to pass and when to take over. His moves are effective to the point of being unstoppable without seeming showy. This is a different kind of star, one you can't grasp through the Sportscenter basketball we've been fed over the years. Give him two weeks. You'll fall in love too.
2. Forget those guys in Chicago and Miami. Greg Oden is going to be the rookie story this year.
I don't necessarily mean Oden will rack up the best stats or that he'll win Rookie of the Year. He may even get off to a slow start. It doesn't matter. If you're looking for a long-term effect on the game, Oden is going to be your guy. In a strange way whatever struggles he has will only add to the drama. It's going to be like watching sportscars against a steamroller in a straight, downhill race. The cars may jet ahead, but if they're still on the track when the 'roller gets going full speed it ain't gonna be pretty. When Oden does bust out with a highlight, you will have been HIGHLIGHTED, baby. Nobody in this rookie class is going to drop your jaw harder.
3. But wait, there's more! Act now and we'll throw in two sleeper rookies!
If there's anything better than watching a top-notch rookie, it's following those sneaky, sleeper rooks from the ground up. These are the guys who make you look smart four years later when you're saying, "I called this back in Game 2 of their careers." Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez have a chance to be that kind of player. If the NBA kept stats on mean gazes Bayless would register double-doubles every night. He's a tough, quick, brick of a kid with a cold WWE attitude and no back-down in him. Plus the guy can score. Given playing time, he's going to be in double digits every night. Spain's Rudy Fernandez is tough in a different way: tough to guard. He's comfortable inside and out on offense and can dribble with both hands. He's likely to play the Puss in Boots Shrek role to perfection. He won't be the main guy but many will find him adorable and occasionally he could steal the show.
4. Portland plays team basketball.
I'll let you in on a secret: The Blazers should not have won 41 last year. Had they played by the standard NBA script Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge would have averaged 22 shots per night while the rest of the team tried to milk a turnip offensively. The star duet would have rocked the stat page and Portland would have won 33-35 games. Instead neither guy averaged 16 attempts, Roy scored 19 and Aldridge 17, the whole team shared the wealth and depended on whoever was open, and they finished at .500. This happened after they traded away the previous years' leading scorer and watched their #1 overall pick go down for the season. For a basketball purist, the attitude was a delight. The Blazers are well-coached and will be easy on your eyes most nights.
5. Resistance is Futile
Portland fans have never appreciated bandwagon hoppers, probably because the Blazers played the lovable loser role for years until they gave up the "lovable" part in favor of wretched, stinky, and abominable. Those years are done now. In fact if you're going to point to one team in the league that's not only likable but legitimately on the rise your finger had better drift to the Northwest. Obviously if you're a true front-running fan Portland's day has not come yet and you're going to have to do something gauche like rooting for the L*kers or Celtics. Personally I'd rather give an elephant a prostate exam on Chili Day. But if you want to claim a team early on that has a good chance to give you bragging rights into the next decade the Blazers are your squad. They'd make a great adopted team or secondary rooting interest. Careful though...they have a way of becoming a primary passion. In any case, a few years down the road you can rightfully claim that you were there when it started. There are few greater satisfactions in sports than that.
Maybe Portland isn't the most obvious choice for mass consumption. This isn't your Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's kind of experience. This is that newly-opened restaurant down the street where the food is fantastic but the crowd is only beginning to buzz. It can be your intimate little place for a while, then when it hits the big-time you can say you knew it all along. Get yourself a dish subscription, set your TiVO, and prepare for an interesting season. The door is open...give it a try.