In 1977, both the “Star Wars” and Portland Trail Blazers franchises found great success. “A New Hope” introduced audiences to Jedi, the Force, and a galaxy far, far away; Portland won its only championship after beating the Philadelphia 76ers. Both franchises have changed since then, evoking several new incarnations. The Last Jedi era is led by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver; the Neil Olshey era captained by Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
As “The Last Jedi” releases Friday, we’re asking you to name the Star Wars character that best represents the 2017-18 Trail Blazers.
For me, the choice is clear. Portland straddles the line of mediocrity: not awful, but worlds away from the top contenders. One of their biggest strengths, three-point shooting, hasn’t come through for them, making them more bark than bite. Who in the history of the “Star Wars” movie franchise is known for being the sidekick and having the most memorable bark of all? Chewbacca.
Always the Sidekick, Never the Lead
When either Chewbacca or Han Solo appears in the movies, the other is probably right beside them. The guy bursting with confidence and things to say pairs well with the fuzzball who seemingly only talks when making fun of him.
Han’s bravado charges with him into battle. Chewbacca is cute, but not the main threat. That’s the same relationship the Blazers and the league’s top teams have. The Blazers are a cute story (two years ago they lost four starters and made the playoffs, remember?) but they’re not taken seriously as a contender. Teams like the Warriors, Spurs and Cavaliers are the hot shots, the ones that everyone’s trying to beat. Not Portland.
A Harsher Threat When They Can Shoot
Chewie is not without resources and weapons, including his powerful bowcaster, Portland has the high-scoring backcourt of Lillard and McCollum.
Remember in “The Force Awakens” when Chewie gets hit in the arm during a shootout with one of the gangs? He crumbles to the floor, can’t shoot in retaliation, and has to be helped up by Han. While Chewbacca is a physical menace—he stands 7-foot-4 and weighs 246 pounds, according to Wookiepedia—his main strength is his is shooting ability. He’s deadly with the bowcaster. That makes him fairly one-dimensional, unless it’s close combat, where he can send someone flying across the room in one swing. Portland is much the same.
The three-point shot is an easy choice to define the Blazers’ offense. Whether it comes from Lillard shooting off a dribble move, McCollum spotting up, or one of the guards drawing help from the defense and kicking it to a man in the corner, it’s Portland’s calling card. Yet, we’ve seen some u-g-l-y performances from beyond the arc:
- 14-point loss to the Raptors (8-26)
- 9-point loss to the Jazz (9-34)
- 4-point loss to the Kings (7-25)
- 20-point loss to the 76ers (7-26)
- 12-point loss to the Bucks (6-23)
The Blazers are scary when they’re hitting threes, and it allows them to contend with top teams. Against the Houston Rockets, Portland hit 18 threes—only losing by seven points to the league’s second-best scoring offense. But if they can’t hit (at least) double-digit bombs, the threat they pose isn’t as deadly.
Is Chewbacca the Right Fit?
There’s more to pull from Chewbacca’s movie history. For example, Chewie fighting over the scraps of C3PO’s dismembered body is like the Blazers fighting for scrap players like Evan Turner in free agency. The Wookie easily falling for the trap of meat on Endor, leading to the group being captured, is like when the Blazers easily fall for the trap of not moving the ball or not giving 100 percent effort some nights, hurting the team as a whole.
Is the comparison right? Does another movie character better represent this polarizing Blazers team? Did Chewbacca not get enough credit? What’s a character to positively describe this team?
Don’t spoil The Last Jedi, but go ahead an spoil us with your own character choice and explanation. And may the force be with you...or at least with the Blazers as they battle the Orlando Magic in the home of the Disney-Star Wars franchise tonight!