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Lowe: Trail Blazers Future Could Be at Stake as Season Closes

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ESPN’s foremost analyst looks at how Portland’s short-term success may affect their long-term goals.

Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

As the long NBA season nears completion, the Portland Trail Blazers are locked in a frantic duel for prime positioning in the 2018 NBA playoffs. Tiebreaker status and home court advantage may not be all that’s at stake in Portland, however. In this week’s “Lowe Post” podcast, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com brought on fellow analyst Tim MacMahon and the duo spent a good amount of time taking a look at causes for celebration and concern for the Blazers.

First off the good stuff: Lowe on Damian Lillard’s ridiculous run of play during the month of February (Lillard posted 31.7 PPG, 6.7 APG and 4 RPG while shooting 48.1 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from three and 92.5 percent from the free throw line.)

“Damian Lillard, he’s had 85% of the February that Anthony Davis has had and he’s gotten 20% of the attention. He has been phenomenal, lights out.”

Lowe adds in that the supporting cast is finally ya know, supporting.

“Harkless has played well after falling out of the rotation and now starting. Nurkic has perked up a little bit, their bench is pretty good.”

While Lowe finds the Blazers an interesting team on a number of levels, it doesn’t appear that they yet carry enough weight to hold his gaze for very long.

“They are in that sort of 80% crew to make the playoffs. They are fascinating … just from a nerd perspective. They are the only team all seven (tiebreakers) of those are undecided as of right now. They are going to have so many games with massive playoff implications starting tonight...”

“I think the Blazers are solid but like if you tell me they miss the playoffs, I’m like OK, I don’t know.”

MacMahon didn’t stay in the moment, instead opting for big-picture discussion focusing on the two most important figures for the Blazers right now: Paul Allen and Damian Lillard.

“The Trail Blazers are fascinating to me from that perspective because when Damian Lillard goes and meets with the reclusive owner and basically says hey there’s got to be a sense of urgency here. If they don’t make the playoffs or if their playoffs are a brief little whimper, what’s the next step there? The immediate future of that franchise could be at stake in the last month and a half plus playoffs of this season.”

Behind the veneer of Damian Lillard’s rise to superstardom and the promise of playoffs glory lie serious questions about the outcome of the team regressing. What happens if their recent improvements are nowhere near enough and Portland disappoints in the playoffs? What was the intention of Lillard’s meeting with Allen? Was it reassurance and affirmation or an ultimatum? MacMahon’s last comment pertains to these questions. While things look good right now, the storms could easily return.

“Because the next step for Damian Lillard if he doesn’t feel there’s legitimate proof here, this is a place we can win, the next step is hey we tried where do you want you to trade me, actually that’s not it, hey here’s where I want you to trade me.”

Lowe and MacMahon also talk Western Conference playoff races, the battle between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, and the marvelous run of Anthony Davis. The podcast is always worth a listen.

In the meantime, where do you find yourself regarding the Blazers? Are you enjoying the ride, living in the moment and loving every minute of this? Or, do you feel like despite everything seemingly improving there’s still a lot that needs to be answered? Perhaps you have another idea? Let us know below in the comments section!