It's been a while since we've had time for a Mailbag. I should probably cover half a dozen questions from half a dozen people. Or, well, there's this submission from Matt:
I've got a multi-question, multi-answer mail bagger for you...
1. This year is our best shot at a championship since 99-00. I have high hopes for a deep run. Do you share the same sentiments?
I want to distinguish between two definitions here:
1. Best shot at a title.
2. Playing the best as a team/Having the brightest outlook.
I don't see the Blazers having a better shot at a championship this season than the Rasheed Wallace-Arvydas Sabonis-Scottie Pippen teams had in 2000. They were 12 minutes removed from an NBA Finals appearance against an over-matched Indiana Pacers squad. Only the Lakers stood in their way. We all know what happened there, but given 6 do-overs that outcome might show up once or twice. The Blazers were within a toenail.
Not only have this year's Blazers not gotten that far, they face stiffer competition. The Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder all have serious shots at coming out of the West. The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Clippers could trip up any of those higher-ranked contenders. Including the Blazers, that's 8 teams you wouldn't be surprised to see in the Conference finals and a half-dozen who could go all the way. The 2000 Blazers faced the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, and San Antonio Spurs too, but you pretty much knew it was coming down to Portland vs. L.A. before the season got past December. Beating 1 ultra-serious opponent is easier than facing pretty serious ones.
However I've already gone on record saying you have to go back to the Clyde Drexler-Terry Porter teams before you'll find a Blazers roster playing with this much continuity. You can skip right over the Traveling All-Star squads. They didn't have what this team does. I've only seen it three times: the Bill Walton Championship unit, Drexler's Blazers in their prime, and now. I'm not going to discount the possibility that the Blazers do have what it takes to win it all. I wouldn't be shocked to see them on top of the league soon. It wouldn't shock me to see them make it this year either, but that level of immediate success not as much of a given as the 2000 team was.
2. Great work on your "History of the Blazers" series during that lockout shortened season a few years ago. Essential reading for any Blazers fan. Seems like that's book worthy stuff.
There are people far more qualified to write a book about the Blazers than I. I've been toying with the idea of writing a book about the story of Genesis...not necessarily a "for religious people only" thing but a discussion piece on some of the questions that Genesis evokes. People bork things so badly when it comes to scripture...kind of like they do when it comes to sports. They seem to want to write the definitive tome to shut down discussion instead of opening it up. Either that or they bend everything to a particular moral agenda that they wish to espouse (but that doesn't necessarily fit with the words on the page). I think I could do that in a way that everyone from priests to atheists might be interested in reading. So that's first on the agenda, assuming anybody would be interested. Until that's done you'll just have to get your Blazers stuff here. I've probably filled a shelf of books with my Blazer writing by now anyway.
3. Given the Blazers chances this year, do you think NO rolls the dice a little and makes a move that immediately improves us this year but perhaps compromises some flexibility this offseason?
Check out the podcast and our talk about Jeff Green. Also note the Jermaine O'Neal rumors. These are coming from the media and not the front office, but more and more people are sensing the smoke rising and speculating where the fire might appear.
You have to ask what the Blazers are saving off-season flexibility for. If they're re-signing all of their current starters that flexibility is gone before it arrives. They won't have money to do much else. If they're hoping to sign a free agent, you have to ask who they're going to dump from the starting lineup to make that possible and what free agent would be good enough and available enough to fill that hole. The list will be small. Plus you have to figure that everybody will have cap room when the new TV deal comes in, rendering it less valuable to any given team including the Blazers.
A trade makes more sense than any other avenue of improvement. "Now or Later" remains the question. If Green gets dangled in front of the Blazers for peanuts, they'd have a hard time refusing no matter what the cap hit would end up like this summer. But summer cap space can be useful in facilitating imbalanced deals. If the Blazers don't get their sweetheart move now, there's no problem with waiting until summer and seeing if a little extra cap space will open the door for a different deal.
I suspect the front office will be more willing to make an immediate-improvement trade at this juncture than they have been at any time in Neil Olshey's tenure. I don't think they'll hang on to cap room just to hang onto it. It doesn't play a single minute and the number will be small anyway. But that doesn't mean a trade is likely. They never are. It just means one is more apt to happen now than was the case a year ago.
4. Joel Freeland has been playing great. The only thing that would tweak is that I wish it was Meyers showing these flashes. But great job to Joel. (I realize there's not really a question there.)
And great job to Meyers! Notice I waited until after the Los Angeles Lakers game where Leonard posted his double-double to run your question.
5. What are your hopes and fears for the next Star Wars movie?
I like the Star Wars movie. I own all of them. I've watched them several times. This means I'm also acquainted with the dirty little secret of the franchise: those movies aren't actually that good. Empire Strikes Back was a fine piece of work, to be sure, but the cultural impact of the original Star Wars movie exponentially outpaced its actual quality.
It's kind of like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. You know that chocolate isn't the best and the peanut-butter filling tastes mass-produced, but somehow there's a chemical thing in your mouth that makes the experience way more than it actually is. But even Hershey's can't make 6 different versions of the cup taste good. They come out with white chocolate, caramel....I even had a half-pound giant version of a standard Peanut Butter Cup the other day. You wouldn't think that could miss, but it did. As soon as you taste the other versions you remember this is just a candy bar. It's not bad, but it's not the revolutionary experience you remember.
That's exactly what happened to George Lucas and his movies. The original was a candy bar that touched the consciousness of a nation. But it was still just a candy bar. As soon as he produced different movies the veil of mystery (and corporate/cultural consciousness) came down and we realized these were just movies. Since that didn't match up to the memory, everybody got disappointed. Then Jar Jar Binks showed up like a hundred-year-old egg inside your caramel nougat and everybody got really disappointed. But come on...we've been through this at least 4 times now. We should know that nothing will ever equal the original. Even the original can't. That doesn't mean we'd be better off without Star Wars movies. It means I'm approaching this by saying that Disney can do whatever they wish. I'll withhold judgment until I've seen it. If it looks good, I'll keep watching. If not, no biggie. I can just go back and watch the ones I like.
I don't have many hopes or fears for the next incarnation of the franchise. As long as they keep making them there's a chance that something good might come out of it even if we have to suffer a little in the meantime. If they decide to stop making them, I can still ride with Luke down that Death Star canyon anytime I wish.
6. I see a Finals matchup of Blazers/Bulls. It is ripe with match ups: Lillard/Rose, LA/Noah, Matthews/Butler, RoLo/Gasol, and don't forget Blake/Hinrich. Who do you want the Blazers to face from the East?
I don't know who the Blazers would face or would want to face. If you're telling me the Blazers will get there, I'm happy. That said, be careful what you wish for in Derrick Rose. He may be hobbled and a shadow of his old self but he's still MVP every time he plays Portland.
Send your Mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can now phone them in to our weekly podcast at 234-738-3394. You may want to keep that number handy. In a couple weeks we're going to do more things with it...