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Wojnarowski: Trail Blazers Making Conference Finals “Not Inconceivable”

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ESPN’s Senior Insider defends Portland’s plan, calls criticism “ludicrous”.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN Senior Insider, joined Ryen Russillo on the Ryen Russillo podcast this week. Along the way there Russillo brought up the Portland Trail Blazers, asking whether or not they should “blow things up”. The conversation shifted into the environment around Portland’s front office, the culture and what the possibilities could be for Portland’s season.

The first portion was heavy on Portland’s current team structure and what they should or should’t do going forward.

Ryen Russillo:

Speaking of tearing it down…because I always hear frustrating fan bases, I think Portland is a good example and you know…last year’s disappoint with getting swept, what did you think they were really going to do?

They love their back court. They love what Zach Collins may be. They like some of the other little pieces. Just because everyone else has no patience doesn’t mean they should too.

Adrian Wojnarowski:

I think it’s ludicrous. This idea of people wanting.. this race to gut your team to get into the lottery.

How many years of lottery picks is it going to take to find another Dame Lillard or CJ McCollum. You’ll be in the lottery forever if you try that.

Zach Collins, they’re hoping can be that third guy. They loved him since the day they drafted him. They’ve got to wait on his development a little bit- but I think he’s sped it up a bit- he’s been good this year.

The idea that you’re supposed to apologize for being in the high 40s in regular season wins every year… no question they were disappointed in what happened in the New Orleans series. I’m not a big believer in wanting to tear things up after a bad week.

I think you keep finding ways to try and compliment McCollum and Dame. They have a really good GM there a really good coach, two star players, hoping to develop a 3rd one in Zach Collins, and you see Meyers Leonard has had somewhat of a revival this year…so like, to me you keep building around teams like that.

They have a building that’s full every night…they’re really tough to beat at home. You don’t just tear that down. It’s just so perilous getting in the lottery and you’ll just be stuck there for years.

They’ve had a playoff run of 6 straight, 7 straight year and there’s many teams in the West who have done that.

The conversation then pivots to what Portland should do following the sweep at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans when Anthony Davis is ANTHONY DAVIS and Jrue Holiday plays that well.

RR:

Look I agree with you… If they were to get bounced again… I always ask people …what did you think they were going to do? You didn’t think they were going to get swept by New Orleans…Jrue Holiday was terrific. Anthony Davis is one of the best 5 players in the league. You can say you want to break up the the back court and add a big. Well who’s the big?

Tell me what my options are? If the option is I’m competitive with one of the best backcourts in the NBA, well that’s one option and I already have that one. Split it up for somebody worse for other pieces so my team isn’t as good. Unless Lillard decides to go nuclear one day and team up with LeBron, if he’s still okay with it then I’m not in any hurry to break things up and that’s usually how I feel about these teams.

Wojnarowski takes this opportunity to discuss something that has become prevalent in Portland press conferences and media opportunities, the culture of the organization and what it means for Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and potential acquisitions.

AW:

You have players who like being in Portland. Lillard and McCollum have loved being in Portland. Free agents aren’t lining up to go live in the Pacific Northwest. They just aren’t. They never have. Ever. So when you have players like that that embrace the market. Who love being there. You don’t get rid of them.

They tried to use their other pieces to get a third star. They tried to get a Paul George at different times when he was in Indiana coming out and they didn’t have enough pieces to do it, or Indiana took a different deal. You know you’re gonna have to take a risk on somebody at some point and sell them on winning and sell them on the organization and forget the geography. Part of the why McCollum and Lillard have liked being there is the environment and the organization they had a great owner in Paul Allen and Terry Stotts as the coach and Olshey. You create an environment where those guys want to be a part of it and that’s no small thing.

Wojnarowski offers his closing thoughts on where Portland could ultimately end up this season, even suggesting that Portland has the chance to go a place it hasn’t been in nearly 20 seasons.

AW:

You might bide your time for a couple years. You know we’re not better than Golden State. You know we’re not better than Houston. Not sure if we’re better than OKC but we’re kind of in it with everyone else. Then all of a sudden Houston has fallen off and you’re looking around in the West, besides Golden State if you’re going to bed who are you thinking you can’t beat?

They can be right there with everyone else and you don’t just throw that opportunity away and say let’s start over because we can’t beat Golden State. If that were true the whole league would be doing it. I think they stay right on course. They’ve put themselves in a position now where.. it’s not inconceivable that they pop and they’re in a Conference Finals and they’re not beating the Warriors but neither is anyone else.

What are you thinking now? Is there a chance that Portland ends up in the Conference Finals? Is this the time and the year where Portland “takes a chance” on a guy at the trade deadline and sells a player on the culture and the organization? Let us know below in the comments.