The Future Is Always Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You could feel the vibe from 3,000 miles away.

That energy was real.

The Portland Trail Blazers were on the verge of something special with one of the league’s best young executives, Kevin Pritchard, best young coaches, Nate McMillan, two new young stars, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, already in the fold, and the new No. 1 pick, Greg Oden, smiling on the stage in front of a sea of thousands and the “Welcome To Rip City” banner hanging behind him.

Nearly five years later, Aldridge is the only one left amid the rubble that was the Trail Blazers’ championship blueprint. Pritchard was the first to go, fired on draft night two years ago. Injuries forced Roy into retirement in December, McMillan was fired Thursday and Oden’s injury-plagued career with the Trail Blazers (82 games is all they have to show for his actual game time in uniform) came to an end later that evening when he was waived.

This isn’t yet another savage poke at an already wounded rabid and wickedly loyal fan base in Portland. On the contrary, they have been the one constant and positive force surrounding this cautionary tale. Their plight is a reminder for any fan base, and the franchise they love, out there dreaming about what could be. The future is always now in the NBA, right now, in fact!

And if you operate with any other theories in mind, you do so at your own risk.

Even the very best of plans can be undone by a series of unforeseen events that can lead to the complete decimation of not only that rebuilding plan, but a franchise.

That’s why we cringe at the trade deadline every year when we hear people talking about “blowing things up” and “starting over” by acquiring future draft picks and the like. There isn’t a Oklahoma City for every Portland. There are three or four Portlands a cycle for one or two Oklahoma Citys every four or five years.

There are just too many variables involved for any franchise to assume they can outsmart the competition via the draft, stay on the right side of lady luck and attain any level of consistent success based on what they might do with a cache of assets in the future.

That’s why the historically elite franchise’s (Los Angeles, Boston, San Antonio, Chicago, Dallas and we’ll throw Miami in there as well) tend to be the most proactive teams during the three times each year an organization’s ownership and front office honchos earn their money. If you don’t come up with the right combinations on Draft night, at the trade deadline and in free agency every summer, you are simply gambling with the fate of your franchise.

That’s why we were somewhat relieved to hear what we heard from Nets general manager Billy King in the wake of the game-changing events in Orlando Thursday that saw Dwight Howard delay his potential free agency for another year, throwing the Nets’ future plans for a Howard and Deron Williams tag team in Brooklyn into disarray after a wild and crazy four months leading up to the deadline.

King is right, high draft picks don’t guarantee a thing. And that’s why we don’t see a problem with the Nets snagging a starting small forward (Gerald Wallace) for a draft pick that in most cases will not produce a player of comparable ability in time for the Nets to make a case for Williams to stick around for this rebuilding process.

“You never want to trade a pick, but you look at the pick and the potential of what you may get there,” King said in a radio interview with WFAN. “And meeting with our scouts, we felt that the player that we may draft beyond the protection would be somebody that would take a couple of years. At this point, we’re trying to speed the process up a little bit and start winning a little further, rather than doing a rebuild.” 

“We met the last couple of days. A lot of the scouts we there and we talked about what could be there. Everybody’s talking it’s a deep draft, but a lot of times, it could take two or three years. We didn’t feel that there were guys further down that were franchise guys. So in trying to build, I don’t know if we had a chance to wait and just keep building with youth. And we still have the Houston pick in the draft so it’s not like we got completely out of the draft.”

King’s experiences with past drafts (everywhere he’s been) is his guide this time around. And he’s wise to choose a different path. Because not every situation is the same, not every draft produces the type of transcendent talent that can alone lift a franchise from the depths of the lottery.

Sometimes it’s okay to be a prisoner of the moment, to put the benefits of what a player like Wallace can give you right now ahead of the promise of what a lottery pick might give you down the road.

Because of the three aforementioned money-maker nights for owners and executives, Draft night is by far the riskiest of the bunch. You can fix a bad free-agent signing and find a way out of a trade that goes awry. But you don’t get a Mulligan when you botch the No. 2 pick in the draft (sorry Pistons fans, but we’re not letting the Darko Milicic pick fade into the ether).

Five years ago we all thought Oden and Kevin Durant would be rivals for the next decade or so, battling each other for supremacy and positions among the very best players of their era.

Little did we know …

All we know is this: future plans are just that, for the future.

And in a league where the future is always now, that means you sometimes have to trust what you already know as opposed to betting on what might be.


29 Comments

  1. Rapsfan says:

    “high draft picks don’t guarantee a thing”

    its true. But neither does free agency or trades. Neither does having a 35 year old player or a 20 year old player.

    Nothing is guaranteed.

    Hardly makes it a reasonable argument as to trade away a high pick in one of the deepest drafts in a decade. If the Nets are unable to retain Dwill (or maybe even more specifically obtain another stud) … that traded draft pick will be a HUGE set back to the organization as they traded away a great opportunity to not only get a great player, but a great player at a cheap cheap price.

    The draft is there for a reason.

  2. kiddunot says:

    only problem with this thinking is that the Nets DID WAIT for YEARS all for nothing.

    Also, at least the draft pick is signed for more than 20 games – which is all that you’re getting out of Wallace

  3. Paul says:

    So, they should throw away a potential all-star draft pick because POR has had a few injuries in the past decade? Those injuries still don’t increase the odds that Wallace will keep Williams in NJ and it definitely doesn’t affect the fact that the pick will probably end up being better than Wallace is by their second or third year.

  4. N.YMARK says:

    I dont know if someone said it but, maybe Dwight Howard convinces D.Will to come to beautiful Orlando and Magic instantly become championship contenders. Hope it doesnt happen(guess i shouldnt be airing it out). Sure someone suggested it before. Nets would be cringing, as Derrick Favors is becoming a BEAST.

  5. DevynAUS says:

    Man this makes me miss Brandon Roy so much. I absolutely loved watching his silky smoothe play. I hope one day he will be able to make a comeback

  6. T-MAC101 says:

    If they (roy oden) were healthy they’d be like a more atheletic 2001-2002 sacramento kings with LA and GW lol and would probably beat miami everytime they meet in the finals

  7. BATAS says:

    i agree with what joaquin said, and plus the factor of the younger guys’ athletisism, that would really be one big factor for the other teams in the league-one big problem, and it is same as what blazers team back 90’s when steve smith, scottie pippen, chris webber(i think) stacey augman, sabonis,those guys that almost beat the lakers.

  8. Jandy says:

    The Nets will still come up as losers no matter what happen.

  9. TS says:

    Jerryd Bayless should be a candidate for NBA player of the week, he’s blowing up!
    Last 5 games for Toronto: ‎21.8 pts 7.6 ast 3.6 reb 1.8 stl

  10. jasper says:

    Don’t borrow anything from the future.

  11. Mehmet Erdoğan says:

    Why Sekou Smith speaks favourably of Nets all the time, in NBA official website? In Howard situation the headline was “Give it up Orlando”.

    Even there were signals about he wants to stay, they nearly tried force him out of Orlando.

    And now, again, he writes the things Nets fans and management want to hear. Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace are both free agents this summer. There is a good possibility that both of them will not sign with the Nets. Portland can build, or can not, their decisions will shape it. But Nets wont be able to rebuild. At least for next 3 or 4 years.

    • N.YMARK says:

      Thats not speaking favorably if he suggesting both Wallace and Williams will walk away. Not good for the Nets no. Furthermore Wallace just arrived you think he made that decision already????

  12. Sosay says:

    good trade?! thats crazy yo. this is the 3rd year in a row the blazers traded a 1st round pick. they just turned their blueprint of williams, howard, 2012 first rounder, and a new arena in brooklyn to gerald wallace and a new arena in brooklyn. williams is playing in dallas next year

  13. Blazer Fan says:

    FML…

  14. outcast says:

    Let’s put some things into perspective: The Blazers started the season 7 and 2, clearly it had the talent and the capability to go far in the playoffs. But then they started playing abysmally on the road, and then when their road game started infiltrating their home game the franchise fell off a cliff. So what went wrong? A lot of it centers on Felton. He came in out of shape and refused to take any responsibility for it. Instead he essentially formented a rebellion against McMillan. He was joined in a way by Camby and Wallace. All of them created a toxic environment in the locker room, an all pervasive attitude which hampered the performance of Batum, Aldrige and others who really did care. Under those circumstances drastic and immediate changes were needed, and excellent acquirable players were hard to come by elsewhere in the league.

    The firing of Nate was unfortunate, but needed to be done. The team had tuned him out, and considering that he was there for many years it was time for someone fresh. It wasn’t his fault, but it happens. In fairness to the Blazers front office they actually did try to get rid of Felton, but no other teams wanted him. After going from being one of the better point guards in the league to the worst, it’s not hard to see why. We’ll no doubt see many more major changes during the summer, but for now this was the best that could be done.

  15. rdeano7 says:

    this blazers story leaves me sick to my stomach! could you imagine if they had a big 3 of roy, oden and aldridge at full fitness and strength. aldridge, who is now one of the leagues elite players, would be there third option! with them all being so young when they joined i think they could have gone on to be one of the all time great teams!

    • Joaquin says:

      Exactly, i feel really bad for Portland, hell, Roy being the number 1 option and Aldridge the second option, Oden would only need to play D and grab rebounds. It is a real shame, I hope there si an alternate universe where they are all healthy right now and totally owning the league or something. I still hope for a Brandon Roy comeback though, get that specil Kobe Bryant treatment and come back Roy! he was one of my favorite players, really down to earth despite the immense talent he had.

    • Yomama says:

      don’t forget Gerald Wallace…B-Roy at 2, Wallace at 3, LA at 4, and Oden at 5. they were never able to figure out the PG thing but with that starting 4 it might not matter…

    • Yomama says:

      don’t forget Gerald Wallace…B-Roy at 2, Wallace at 3, LA at 4, and Oden at 5. they were never able to figure out the PG thing but with that starting 4 it might not matter…oh well, coulda woulda shoulda

  16. Dave says:

    wow…goodbye raptors no doubt

  17. charles says:

    If you have a great team, you compete now. If you have a mediocre team, you try to make that trade or free agent signing or get the coach that can put you over the hump. But if you are a team that is low on the talent pool, there is only one way: Draft and hope to make the right calls. The portland Trailblazers simply had bad luck. But their good decisions in Aldrich, Batum, Matthews are still with them. They still need a solid point guard and a solid center (although Hasheem Thabeet is still young and who knows?). Trailblazers are one good draft or one good free agent signing away from being a real force.

  18. Grant Stern says:

    Don’t forget that the Heat had their own star crossed bad luck and procedural errors in the way to becoming an elite Organization. The Juwan Howard debacle ate our teams cap space for half of Zo’s prime, then his sudden illness took away the second half of his prime while simultaneously locking the roster into 2 over priced complimentary players without a Superstar.

    • Huh says:

      Um, pretty sure Howard never played for the Heat until he signed for the vets minimum a few years ago…..