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Watershed Moment?

A question drifting through my mailbox from a couple of sources:

Do you think Kevin Pritchard's firing is the beginning of the end for the Blazers?  It feels like the team just fell off a cliff.

Before we get to that, in a Fanshot fila26 posted this RealGM article mentioning David Aldridge's report that Pritchard has an interview with the New Jersey Nets which conflicts with an earlier New York Post report that "discounted" the possibility of KP taking over for Rod Thorn.  Two things:

1.  The Nets job would appear to be ideal for Pritchard.  He'd have an inexperienced, fabulously-wealthy owner ready to make a big splash and he'd be taking over a Superfund-level disaster reclamation project...his specialty.  Match made in heaven.

2.  That RealGM blurb had the annoying, erroneous tagline that Pritchard was fired "one hour before the 2010 NBA Draft".  I swear this is going to become one of those urban legends that persist forever.  15 years from now it'll be spoken as the gospel truth.  You can define "firing" in one of two ways:  either when a person is told he's being relieved of his duties or when he actually quits working for the organization in question.  The former happened before that 60-minute mark.  The latter didn't happen until after the draft was completed, as Pritchard worked it in the Blazers' war room.  The only thing that happened an hour before the draft is the news leaking.  Us finding out about something does not define its reality.  Bad form, RealGM and others who print that story.  The chastisement is not meant to excuse or ameliorate the significance of the event, but the process was confused and painful enough as it was without adding in things that aren't accurate and make it seem even worse.

Back to the question at hand...

There are certain watershed moments when you can clearly identify something is going downhill.  Gopher leaves the Love Boat.  Miley Cyrus turns 17.  The Knicks sign Amare Stoudamire to an obnoxious, inflated contract.  Or wait...the Knicks sign Eddy Curry to an obnoxious, inflated contract.  Or the Knicks acquire Stephon Marbury's obnoxious, inflated contract.  Or Steve Francis'.  Or Zach Randolph's.  But I digress.

The KP firing is not likely to be such a moment for the Blazers.  As much as we loved Kevin, unless the Blazers go out and hire Isiah Thomas the fall-off in GM performance is not likely to be that steep.  Even if it was, it would take a lot of working over to rid this franchise of all its hope.  The Portland fan base has hit a rough patch here but you also have to acknowledge there's a lot of gloom and doom surrounding a 50-win team.  Let's say that again...a 50-win team where health is the only known, tangible barrier to achieving more.  As long as the players take the floor next fall in reasonably good physical condition we'll probably be able to back-burner the June of turmoil.  There's no need to talk about falling off cliffs yet.

I must admit, though, that I've wondered the same thing in my heart of hearts.  Except even if you take the pessimistic view you can't tag any decline on Pritchard's firing alone.  If this team is going to be scuttled it'll be scuttled by the Darius Miles reinstatement costing $9 million in cap space that could have brought a prime free agent, by the inability to move Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract, by Oden's health problems and missing out on Kevin Durant.  Even if you throw the KP dismissal in there it's only the latest factor of many and many of those factors happened under KP's watch.

In short, one of two things is happening.  Either the Blazers are going to be fine and we don't have to worry or the Blazers are continually getting hamstrung by a host of little things that we'll string together 20 years from now as an explanation for where this promising era went wrong.  This summer could be a factor in the latter but it won't be THE factor.  Personally, I'm still hoping for the former.

--Dave (