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How Trail Blazers Fans Can Stay Married to Scoot Henderson

A lesson in celebrating people for who they are.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the Portland Trail Blazers players mentioned in submissions to the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag, Scoot Henderson outweighs the entire rest of the team by a 2-to-1 ratio. Anfernee Simons stands at the center of the hottest controversy in Blazers Nation right now, a victim of his own prowess (and offense-domination) since his return from injury. But Henderson is going to win the marathon race this year for the most controversial Blazer overall.

Scoot’s advocates and detractors duel it out in my inbox on a daily basis. Most ask for justification, but some want judication, as demonstrated in this submission.

Dave,

What do you think of Scoot now? He is getting better by the eye test as far as my eye can see but he is still a bench player and I don’t know if he could or should move into the starting lineup ahead of Ant or Shae or even Brogdon. Most of all I can’t shake the feeling of disappointment that I thought we’d have more by now. They traded Dame for this guy after all. Can you take away some of my buyers remorse or is it justified?

Bobby B

This discussion starts and ends with a basic affirmation when dealing with human beings. If you want to survive, let alone thrive, in relationship with anybody, you have to adjust your expectations.

Anyone who’s ever been married (or in any kind of serious romantic relationship or friendship) understands this. You cement the union with a fancy day full of cake and dancing. Everything is as near-perfect as you can make it. Then, beginning the moment you drive away from the party, you spend the rest of your lives trying to figure out how to make it work.

At the beginning, the expectations of each person are as shiny and pristine as the idealistic celebration was. “My spouse will love me in every moment, always be happy and cheery, give me foot rubs and brandy-laced coffees whenever I desire! Music will sound in my head every time they enter the room and their kisses will taste as sweet as nectar.” Then ten seconds later you’re having a full-on fight in the Walmart peanut butter aisle because they only eat crunchy and your family always bought creamy.

At that moment, you realize the only way to maintain sanity is to release those abstract expectations and start building a way forward with the spouse you’ve actually got. Obviously there are boundaries. If it’s not workable, if the differences are too severe and the relationship unhealthy, you move on. But as long as you’ve got ‘em, you have to celebrate successful steps with the person you have rather than mourn the distance between them and your imaginary ideal. Sometimes your partner buying your kind of peanut butter is as romantic as the Caribbean vacation you once fantasized about in your dreams.

As we said, this mutual development is also necessary with friendships, other romantic liaisons, parent-child relationships (you paid for med school and they decide to devote their life to abstract art...yippee), and even professional relationships to an extent.

Your job listing probably includes 102 ideals and responsibilities you’d like filled. Their resumé promises a thousand applicable qualifications and experiences. After the hire, the two of you sit down and figure out how this is actually going to work, which usually includes a long period of growing together and concentrating on 3-4 things that actually matter in the moment. Six years on, you might actually have the employee you once idealized, but the position has evolved around them as much as they grew into the position.

That brings us to Scoot Henderson. The only way to remain sane, and bring out the best in him—which is, after all, the point—is to let go of the “should be” and grow with each bit of progress in the “is”.

Is it ideal that the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft is coming off the bench, averaging around 25 minutes for a team that’s winning 27% of their games? It is not. Ten years from now we may look back and say, “That should have been a big clue right there.”

But this is not ten years from now. This is still 2023. Right now Scoot Henderson is still a prized, 19-year old player with enormous physical gifts and the kind of tough emotional make-up that lends itself to becoming a star in this league. But he’s never going to get there if the people around him lament the things he isn’t (yet) instead of supporting the things he brings to the table.

Henderson has a fantastic body and huge defensive potential, even if he’s not quite apt in applying it yet. When he gets rolling downhill to the bucket, nothing short of a brick wall is going to stop him. His pull-up jumper is a thing of beauty. He remains a willing and eager passer, and his court sense has improved radically since the start of the season. (Scoot has registered 9 games with 3 or fewer turnovers so far this year. 8 of those 9 have come in the last month.) Even his justly-maligned three-point shot appears to be improving slowly. He’s posted 5 games shooting 40% or better from the arc in the last month and his misses are starting to fall short or long rather than randomly sideways.

Should we have to talk about Scoot Henderson like this? Not if you compare him to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, or even Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy. But none of those players are suiting up for Portland anytime soon. And for a Scoot Henderson—who, again, has untapped potential and might well become special in this league, or at the very least will probably have a long and serviceable career—this is really pretty good.

At this point, I’ve adjusted my expectations to celebrate what Scoot is, and be calmly honest about what he isn’t yet, rather than stress over what I hoped he’d be. It’s a safe bet. He’s 19 years old. Three years ago my man was getting is driver’s license. If it takes three more for him to become a devastating driver in the NBA, that’d still leave him short of the age many players are drafted. I see enough in him already to forecast that the future with him has a chance to be good, if not great. As long as that’s the case, I’m not going to bother too much about the day to day, assuming he continues to grow through it.

Thanks for the question! You all can send yours to blazersub@gmail.com and we’ll try to answer as many as we can!