HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The days of the Portland Trail wading two and three months into the NBA season before knowing who and what they are over.
They don’t have to wait until (insert whatever injured player’s name you want here) gets healthy to find out exactly what they might be capable of. Brandon Roy‘s knees finally got the best of him. Greg Oden‘s knees have worked him over to the point that it’s clear now that he will never be what he might have been with two sound and healthy knees.
In short, the Trail Blazers are what they are. And if you look closely, you might actually like what you see. They are a solid bunch from top to bottom, even without two of the franchise’s biggest draft picks of the past 20 years.
Sure, they might not be the up and coming Western Conference contender they appeared to be on paper a few years ago.
But they remain a formidable crew with one of the league’s best coaches in Nate McMillan, an All-Star caliber anchor in LaMarcus Aldridge and a rugged supporting cast of talented and accomplished veterans (Gerald Wallace, Wes Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas among others) that are better today because of all the adversity this group has had to deal with over the years.
Toss in HT fave Jamal Crawford, one of Roy’s best friends and a fellow Seattle native well-versed in the passion and tradition of Pacific Northwest hoops, and you have the makings of a crew that could very well upset the order of things in the Western Conference this season.
They have their deficiencies, like every team chasing the top spot. And they showed in their season-opening win over Philadelphia, when they ran out of gas a bit late. Those same warts will be on display again later tonight when they face Sacramento. But so, too, will the undeniable focus and blue-collar (and that’s a compliment around here) attitude of McMillan’s outfit.
The twist comes in the form of those two new backcourt additions — Crawford and Felton. They played huge minutes in the opener, combining for 24 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to spark the Trail Blazers to the win over the 76ers, who left impressed with the opposition:
“That Portland team is good. They’re really good. They’ve got size, they’ve got versatility,” Sixers coach Doug Collins told reporters. “”Jamal Crawford is going to be a really terrific player for them. Raymond Felton is going to be big for them.”
No doubt about it.
And come playoff time, this is probably team most everyone else in the Western Conference will want to avoid.