With the Blazers having clinched the playoffs last night I have a whole mix of feelings today.
The first, and probably most important, is simply a sense of appreciation. This is the goal the team set itself to. They worked hard to accomplish that goal and achieved what they set out to do. It wasn't a fluke. It wasn't a streak. It wasn't luck or the schedule or a gimmicky style of play. This was Roy-Aldridge-McMillan Era Blazers, pure and simple.
That's pretty important, I'd say, because you don't progress far in this league by getting hot. Streaks look nice in the standings and record books, but the teams who put together consistent seasons (often quietly or in a way that's taken for granted) succeed. The gruelling 7-game playoff treadmill ensures that if nothing else. You might get hot and take one series from a good team. It's not going to happen twice.
The Blazers had one losing streak of three games so far this season. Besides that they lost twice in a row only four times. No longer losing streaks. No huge dips. That's solid. That's repeatable. Though the learning curve isn't complete yet, that's pretty much going to be Blazer basketball for the next decade.
That brings up another reaction...that this really is the tangible beginning of the new era we've been talking about for the better part of two years now. You're unlikely to see a long playoff run this year. The full flower comes later. But the green shoot has just peeked above the soil for the first time. That's a moment worth remembering.
This day also brings up recollections of years past, hearkening to a time when the playoffs were practically our birthright as Blazer fans. Two decades is a long time to get used to something and then do without it. I'm ready to reclaim that birthright and that history. I'm ready for people to just assume that this is a winning team again. We're still in the appreciation stage rather than the assumption stage, of course, but there's more to come.
And that's the final impression I'm left with. According to Jason Quick the team has some of this impression too. This is wonderful, but it is only the beginning. There's more to be done this regular season, this post-season, and most importantly of all in years to come. Four years from now this brilliant accomplishment will be sneered at if it's simply repeated each season. The same fans jumping up and down in glee right now (me among them) will be saying, "Why can't we get out of the stinkin' first round?!? Is mediocrity all we're good for???" unless more follows. It's guaranteed we're in the top half of the league right now. Compared to where we've been that's heady territory. Compared to where we're headed it's a rest stop...perhaps a convenience station. Grab some twinkies, Slim Jims, and a 44-ouncer and back in the bus.
Part of me is joyful, part of me is proud, part of me is anticipatory, and part of me is pretty business-like this morning. I think they all have their place.
The Blazers' place? Well, that's in the playoffs now, isn't it?