Over the course of time I find a few e-mailbox questions repeated more than others. Among the most echoed by Blazer fans and non-Blazer-fans alike is the simple, "Do you really think the Blazers will be that good?" Well, that's how the non-Blazer-fan asks it anyway. Blazer fans are more like, "Do you really think the Blazers will be that good? (Please say yes! Please say yes! I'm nervous! What if we didn't make the right trade? What if we didn't get the right draft pick? What if KP really was the key? What if Kobe Bryant never...gets...old?!?!?!?!????)"
Some level of angst is understandable after a season where the team won a couple fewer games than hoped, when Greg Oden was injured (again), when Brandon Roy was injured (again), when LaMarcus Aldridge didn't make huge strides, and when the draft was mostly a non-factor. It's no surprise that national media folks aren't on the Blazer bandwagon anymore, nor that they're all over Oklahoma City's.
Excursus: The OKC thing shouldn't worry Blazer fans at all, by the way. How many extra wins did the bandwagon produce over the last couple of seasons? How many knees did it save? How much does it matter to national media folks if they're even close to right anymore? A season later they only bring up the predictions they got right. Besides, somebody's got to be the eventual Western Conference Finals opponent for Portland. If it's Oklahoma City, so much the better.
Back to the Point: Right now there are plenty of reasons for Blazer fans to be nervous. Except Blazer fans don't really need to be. It's highly likely that those reasons will evaporate once the season starts.
I don't claim to be perfect at what I do, nor in my predictive powers. In fact I don't lean on the latter much, preferring analysis and talking about the game. But I've been around long enough to know that when there's smoke it usually walks and quacks like a duck and not the elephant in a china shop. I'm not always right, but I'm seldom flat-out wrong. Lots of people like to call me wrong in a given two-week period, mind you, but when you look back two years later the balance has tipped the way it was supposed to, eh? So hear me now and believe me later: this team is going to be fine. In fact this team is going to be more than fine. If Greg Oden had been injury-free we'd still be anticipating multiple championship runs. I'm not sure that will be the Blazers' fate...at least not so clearly. But even with the bumps and bruises there's going to be a 3-4 year period at least where this team contends seriously in the conference and probably league-wide. This team isn't going to be considered good. It's going to be considered great. Whether it's head-and-shoulders above the small handful of other great teams in its era will depend on the players. We haven't seen enough yet from any of them to say for sure, nor from most of the potentially-great opponents. But in this transitional time when the guard is clearly changing it's pretty easy to anticipate that nobody will forget Portland when the next order is established. They'll be in top-four discussion yearly. Hopefully that will evolve into top-two and just top-PERIOD as time progresses.
So don't sweat the small stuff. Don't sweat the point guard situation this year or the schedule or what the Heat did. Most of that will be yesterday's news when the pot gets to a full boil around here. Worry a little about whether the Blazers will jump all over Phoenix in the opener, how quickly they'll adapt to the new roster, and how they'll deal with favored status if they do manage to get ahead. Those will give you a glimpse into the short-term adjustments that need to be made (coaching, roster, and otherwise). But also realize that the team's growth curve is both long and strong enough to absorb some short-term difficulties. We haven't come close to seeing the Blazers' full fury yet...not for a month, a week, not even for a whole game. When the storm is unleashed you won't even remember what you worried about prior.