The Portland Trail Blazers have given their fans plenty to be thankful for. Since Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving today, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller are going to share some of the things that make them smile, then we’ll ask you to do the same.
Dave: So, Dia, what are you thankful for most as a Blazers fan?
Dia: There are so many things that I’m thankful for. But let me start with something kind of outside the box and maybe completely out in left field, but also very fitting. I’m thankful for Blazers Twitter. I didn’t even know this world existed a year ago, but the community and the interactions that have developed there are something I value and look forward to. Rip City is a special thing to be a part of, and as someone who no longer lives in Oregon, I’m so thankful for the online banter and conversations that take place on twitter and make me feel like I’m home.
I spend more time on there than I’d like to admit, especially during Trail Blazer games. But really and truly, I’m so thankful for the community of Blazers fans and the sense of family that is felt amongst Blazer Twitter.
I never thought I’d be making friends online, but sports really do bring people together, and interacting with other Portland fans online has been one of my favorite things. If it weren’t for twitter, I wouldn’t be here at Blazer’s Edge, so I’m especially grateful for that.
Dave: Oh, you’d have made your way here eventually. All the brilliant people do. *blowing on back of fingernails and buffing them against chest*
Ok, enough of that. I’m thankful that, after years in slow motion following the Summer of 2016, the Blazers are finally out from under the roster-gumming mess and they got to do something in the off-season! I’ll say it again: this season is going to be different from the nanosecond all those players step into camp. It may not be the championship run everybody is hoping for (knock on wood, though), but it’s finally going to be real. Real, meaningful games, real chances in the playoffs, real basketball with multiple options and...defense! It’s like Santa Neil left a big old present underneath the tree of Blazers fans everywhere.
I am happiest for Damian Lillard, who at least gets to drive a car that runs fast now. He’s put in so much work for so many years. Toss that man the keys and let us all be thankful watching him peel out of the garage!
Can you remember more excitement starting a season? I can’t since forever.
Dia: I agree. It’s so exciting going into this season and feeling like when I say we are going to win it all, I don’t sound quite so delusional. Which is also what I’m thankful for— a fan base, and arguably a team— that tends to be nearly as optimistic as I am. I love watching Blazer fans argue that we will win it all even when the chances are so slim. I love seeing a team that plays as if their lives (and championship hopes) depend on it. I think that’s always been the case with Portland, but I think especially with our current players. I’m thankful for somewhat blind optimism.
Dave: I think much of that optimism hangs on defense, which is anticipated as a stronger, if not flat-out strong, point in the coming year. I don’t subscribe to the theory that adding defensive specialists automatically improves your defense or your win total. You have to be able to play them. They have to go both ways to make a real impact. But the Blazers have layered so many defenders in there—Robert Covington, Derrick Jones, Jr., Gary Trent, Jr., even Rodney Hood—that they should be able to slide enough defenders into the rotation to improve. I’m grateful that we’ll finally get a chance to see it.
Keep in mind, too, that the defense of Damian Lillard looks way better when he’s surrounded with defensive help than when he’s on an island, carrying the load on that end. To a lesser extent, so does CJ McCollum’s. I’m grateful that they’ll have help on that end.
Dia: I’m grateful for Terry Stotts. I’ve got to say it. I think he’s great. I like him as a coach, he contributes the the culture and community we talk about so often with the Blazers, and he is clearly loved by these guys. I love to see that. I love his quiet but firm manner. I love that he keeps his cool, until he doesn’t. I love that he has their backs and fights for calls. I love that he trusts our guys and seems to understand what they need. Have you ever watched him during a game? He’s one of my favorite parts. His reactions and expressions are so underrated. I know this can be somewhat of a hot take amongst rip city—-it seems that fans are either really hot or really cold about Stotts, but I’m thankful he’s our coach.
Dave: The Blazers have been blessed with some great coaches for sure. Nate McMillan, Rick Adelman, Jack Ramsay, even guys like P.J. Carlesimo and Lenny Wilkins. Stotts stands tall among them. The Blazers have run some beautiful offenses during his tenure. You don’t have to watch many Houston Rockets games to understand that’s not a given. The Blazers have played more like a team under Stotts than any coach I can remember. You’d have to go back to Ramsay to find the equivalent, probably.
Personally, I’m also thankful for all the players who have suited up and played more limited roles so the people around them can look good. You have recent and famous examples like Ed Davis, but you also have centers of yore like Joel Przybilla, Mason Plumlee, and Caldwell Jones. There’s Richard Anderson, Dorell Wright, and Ime Udoka, or point guards like Greg Anthony and Danny Young. The texture of the franchise is wonderful. I wonder who other people would remember in roles like that?
Dia: I think we are going to be seeing more of that this year in guys like Carmelo Anthony, who I’m also thankful for. I’m thankful for an organization that is loyal and that valued loyalty. It makes it really fun to watch and to be a fan. On a completely selfish level, I’m really thankful I get to wear my Melo jersey again this year!
Dave: W00t! (See, I used two zeroes there. Because ‘Melo. Uniform number. Get it?) I hope your Carmelo passion gets full expression this year. Win one for the Hall-of-Famer!
Besides all that, Dia, I’m thankful I get to write with you, and now podcast. It’s been good getting to know you over the past few months.
Folks, if you haven’t already, check out the first two episodes of “Dave and Dia”, our new Trail Blazers-oriented podcast. We’ll be coming at you each week with thoughts about basketball and life in general!
Also feel free to share what you’re thankful for in your universe today. Blessings on your holiday for all those in the U.S., and a Very Happy Thursday to everyone else!