Since the Portland Trail Blazers were founded in 1970, the franchise has been through plenty of ups and downs. This week we’re looking back at Blazers history, decade by decade, recounting and ranking each ten-year span. Today we examine the 2010’s, a defined so far by heartbreak and resilience.
Seasons: 2010-11 through present
Key Players: LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum
Playoff Appearances: 5
Playoff Series Victories: 2
Best Record: 54-28 (2013-14)
Worst Record: 33-49 (2012-13) *worse winning percentage than 28-win lockout-shortened season
Though the decade is not yet complete, the Portland Trail Blazers have spend the 2010’s on a roller coaster ride. The current era of Blazers basketball has not been for the faint of heart, but bright spots have all but erased the memory of the tragic 2000’s era.
Despite a gritty performance from injured shooting guard Brandon Roy, the Blazers suffered a first round exit in the 2010 NBA playoffs at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. But this wasn’t the biggest news of the summer. A month later the Blazers ended up firing General Manager Kevin Pritchard mere hours before the 2010 draft, letting him make the team’s selections afterwards before replacing him with the relatively-unknown Rich Cho.
Knee injuries limited Roy to just 47 games the season after, although he was able to make a memorable comeback in a playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, scoring 16 off the bench in Game 3 and sparking a 23-point second half comeback in Game 4. The Blazers still lost the series in six games to the eventual champions and Roy announced his premature retirement before the following lockout-shortened season.
The 2011-12 season became a disaster of epic proportions. Raymond Felton, acquired from the New York Knicks for Andre Miller during the 2011 draft, entered the shortened season out of shape. He never endeared himself to the Portland fans. The entire team played uninspired for much of the season. Head Coach Nate McMillan was fired in March. The brightest spot would not be realized until the summer after when a first-round pick acquired from the (then) New Jersey Nets for Gerald Wallace would become the next franchise leader, Damian Lillard.
2013-14 was the team’s best season of the decade to date. The core of Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, and Lillard marched into the second round of the playoffs as Lillard redeemed the entire decade with a buzzer-beating, series-winning three-pointer against the Houston Rockets.
The team expected a deep postseason run the following season but it came to naught when Matthews ruptured his Achilles tendon in March, effectively ending that year’s championship aspirations. The stumbling finish set up a domino effect: Batum was traded to the Charlotte Hornets, Aldridge left for San Antonio, then the team declined to re-sign Matthews and Lopez, opting to rebuild with youth.
2015-16 featured a surprising upswing, as a squad predicted to win in the 30’s instead won 44 and went to the second round of the playoffs, falling to the Golden State Warriors. 2016-17 produced only 41 wins (and another exit courtesy of the Warriors) but featured a potentially-defining trade as Portland moved center Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for center Jusuf Nurkic, who provided a much needed shot in the arm.
The injuries to Roy and Matthews robbed the Blazers of two potential extended runs of good basketball, forcing them to start over not once, but twice. Though Lillard, Nurkic, and CJ McCollum have the franchise in a promising spot, so far the obstacles of the 2010’s outweigh the achievements.
Timeline of Key Events
June 2010: Kevin Pritchard fired as GM, replaced by Rich Cho.
January 2011: Brandon Roy undergoes arthroscopic surgery on both knees, missing just over a month of the season.
December 2011: Roy announces retirement; Blazers use amnesty clause on him.
March 2012: Coach Nate McMillan fired, replaced the following season by Terry Stotts. Greg Oden is officially released.
June 2012: Neil Olshey hired as General Manager.
June 2012: Damian Lillard drafted.
August 2012: Terry Stotts hired as Head Coach.
May 2013: Lillard named fourth Rookie of the Year in team history.
June 2013: CJ McCollum drafted
May 2014: Trail Blazers defeat Houston Rockets in first round of playoffs, lose in second round to San Antonio Spurs.
March 2015: Wes Matthews ruptures achilles tendon against Dallas Mavericks.
July 2015: LaMarcus Aldridge signs with the San Antonio Spurs.
May 2016: Blazers defeat injury-depleted Los Angeles Clippers in first round of playoffs, lose to Golden State Warriors in second round.
February 2017: Jusuf Nurkic traded to Portland for Mason Plumlee, second round pick.
Do you agree that the 2010’s have been the second toughest in franchise history so far? Where do you think the decade will rank when all said and done? Share below and be sure to check in throughout the week as we move to the brightest times the franchise has seen.