Thursday, February 19, 2004
posted 12:17 PM
After re-reading my last blog, and after witnessing some of the new things happening in the Blazer world, I hereby offer the following.
Perhaps I should clarify that most of the trades and management decisions made by the Portland Trailblazers were made before a new management team took over at the beginning of this season. Bob Whitsit was the General Manager until he lost his job last summer. Don't even get me started on Bob Whitsit! The new Blazer management team has actually made an attempt to a) get back on the fan's good side, and b) make better trades.
Admittedly, the Blazers have been a little slow on making reparations with their fans. (It doesn't help that every other week there for awhile, a different Blazer player was in the news, and not because of their stats or their commitment to community service). They've lowered ticket prices, food prices, season ticket prices, and added several "family-oriented" aspects to game nights. They added a new mascot last year, "Blaze," (it's a cat!?) to spark up time-outs and halftime. (Now we feel like a real NBA team, like Phoenix and their gorilla, or that weird thing they used to have in Philadelphia!).
It's been tough for the Blazers to realize, after so many years of not having to encourage people to attend games, that they have to actually work now to get fans to the arena. But, Blazer fans are also very fickle. They'll boo you when you come into the game after you've made some negative comments to the media, then stand up and cheer when you sink that 3-pointer. They pay top dollar for their seats, and in return they only expect miracles, whether they deserve them or not.
I really believe that the last few trades the Blazers have made are good things. I wasn't really too happy about trading Bonzi Wells – I personally liked him – but I also know there was a conflict there with Coach Cheeks, and you just can't have that. I'm really impressed with Darius Miles – he's an awesome athlete! I was sorry to see Wes Person go to Atlanta in the trade with Rasheed (Person was one of the good guys and a real family man), but now that I've seen the first few glimpses of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau, all I can say is wow! They are all great athletes, and have the potential to be NBA champions. Abdur-Rahim has every bit of offensive savvy as Wallace, but in a more active way. Combine his inside game with Mile's fast-break abilities and you've got a winner. Ratliff is the NBA's leading shot-blocker, and proves it every night. Dickau is a home-grown boy, can shoot three's like nobody's business, and the fans think he's the cat's pj's. Plus, we still have Derek Anderson, Rubin Patterson, Zach Randolph and Dale Davis. (as an aside, let me just say that I feel bad for Zach Randolph – he's a little out of sorts now. He went from being the league's up and coming new star (22 ppg, 11 rebounds) to not even being a starter. People forget that he played very much off of Rasheed, and the Blazers – out of necessity – have changed their game. He'll find his niche again, though.)
When you look at the talent, athleticism and youth of the current Blazer's roster, you can't help but think that in a few years, they have the potential to be a contender again. As one Utah Jazz broadcaster put it, "Portland is now the scariest team in the NBA." It will take awhile for the new team to gel, and it will take awhile for them to get the confidence they need to be winners. I truly believe that with the talent and disposition the current players have, Portland is on the road to recovery, both on the court and in the eyes of the community.