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Blazers Find Lessons For Future In Season-Ending Loss To Spurs

Portland fought valiantly, but ran up against a wall in San Antonio that should have them thinking about what they can do in the offseason.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

A lot can happen in twelve months.

For the Portland Trail Blazers, it's been a whirlwind of trades, draft choices and three-pointers. At the end of a 33-win campaign in 2012-2013, it looked as though the coming season would be yet another rebuilding year in Rip City. But as Indian summer turned to fall, Portland went on a run that had them facing serious consideration as a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

Wesley Matthews shot the lights out, Damian Lillard provided All-Star caliber play at the point position and LaMarcus Aldridge, long the second banana for the Blazers, turned MVP candidate. Then, things peaked in late April when the Blazers took down the Houston Rockets in a wild first round series that ended on a Damian Lillard game-winner at the Moda Center.

Portland looked rejuvenated after their long March, and as they moved to the second round for the first time in 14 years, it had me thinking about how far I've come during one of the most entertaining Blazers seasons in years.

Eleven months earlier, I'd crossed the Hawthorne Bridge in full business dress after a day at the office to watch the 2013 NBA Draft at our favorite local pub. Tired and uncomfortable from the heat, I simply wanted to watch the draft and see whom the Blazers selected, even if it meant entertaining a friend of a friend's good-natured obsession with Isaiah Canaan.

Everyone in Portland knows what happened in the offseason. Neil Olshey revamped his entire roster: He traded for Thomas Robinson and Robin Lopez, signed Dorell Wright, Earl Watson and Mo Williams and drafted C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe. With things happening at One Center Court, things changed down the road in Laurelhurst as well.

A month after the draft, I began writing on my own site at an unprecedented clip. Portland's coverage was well rounded, and finding my niche took some time. Eventually, I settled on game analysis and breakdowns, a straightforward way of looking at the NBA that appealed to me most.

What happened between October and May was unexpected. My breakdowns moved to Blazersedge; I began working for SB Nation's news desk; I became the Staff Writer for the Portland Timbers.

In a very short span of time, I've gone from working in communications to paying my rent with the words I type onto this keyboard, all about sports. My friends and family congratulate me, appreciative of what talent I may have as I feign nonchalance toward my exciting new career in sports.

Never stop moving.

That's probably because none of this has really quite hit me yet. Switching gears has felt unnatural at times, a difficult trade I've often felt ill-prepared for. Things that are new are often unsettling, with apprehension and adrenaline combining to a stomach-turning cocktail. But even worse is the feeling of complacency.

Not the type of person to sit satisfied, I've convinced my poor editors to give me byline after byline. I've soaked up all can, but the fact remains that I still have so much farther to go.

So do the Trail Blazers.

Yes, taking home a series win has placated an aggrieved generation of basketball fans in Portland. But a young core and a handful of playoff wins is by no means any kind of realized potential.

The Blazers will need to maintain an active approach after taking a good team to the semifinals only to lose to a great one. The summer is short, and there is much to learn, especially as those around them continue to hone their playoff acumen.

It takes a lot of work to be as good as San Antonio, but Portland got a front row seat on how basketball can be played at the highest level this series. Given this team's history, it's hard to predict if the Blazers will be in this position again come playoff time next year. Will they be better? I think so. Will they be back here again? I'm not sure. They'll need to work as hard as they can if they want to realize their goals.

Because if I know anything, it's that a lot can happen in twelve months.