Last night's game against the Memphis Grizzlies was a small step in an intense journey towards the post-season that's going to culminate in a vigorous seeding battle over the next month. There will be bigger steps and higher-profile games along the way. However this tiny step shouldn't pass without celebrating the number 42, which is not only the meaning of life, but the mark of a winning team in the NBA.
The accomplishment seems small next to the expectations for this season, let alone for this team in seasons to come. It seems odd to point to 42 wins as a milestone, since ending the season close to that number would be a massive disappointment. Winning would be a technical distinction alone. It would feel like losing.
However we should take a moment to look back as well as forward...to remember the seasons when 42 wins would have been a miracle, not a disappointment. How many of us wandered through the wilderness of the 20-win seasons of 2004-05 and 2005-06? How many of us prayed that Sebastian Telfair would turn out to be the next franchise point guard, that Theo Ratliff would get healthy, that Zach Randolph would turn into an all-around star? A lot of hopes and dreams died without the team getting anywhere near this record. Five entire seasons came and went without even this much to celebrate.
You have to go back to the 2002-03 campaign and names like Wallace, Pippen, Randolph, Wells, Davis, Sabonis, and Stoudamire before you find as many wins as these Blazers have managed. If they do end up exceeding 50 you'd have to go back to the 1999-00 Western Conference Finals team--the height of the 'Sheed era--before you'd find their equal. Before that season you'd have to search back to 1992-93 and the Drexler teams. That's pretty lofty company for a team this young.
42 wins isn't near enough for this team. But we should take a moment to honor the day when the Portland Trail Blazers officially proved they were playing winning basketball again. I know they can't stop to breathe right now, let alone let anything like this sink in, but I'll say it anyway: Congratulations, Blazers! And thank you.