State of the Season: Trail Blazers Mid-Season Report

With the frigid temperatures here in Korea, and the non-stop TV coverage of the horrible crisis in Haiti, it seems as if there’s not a whole lot to be happy about. What’s saving my sanity during these trying times? It’s the mid-way point of the NBA season, the only games I have missed were because of my vacation through Vietnam and Cambodia, and this Blazermaniac couldn’t be more proud of the Portland Trail Blazers. Nobody could have foreseen the adversity that this team has had to endure, and on the extreme off chance you did, there’s not a soul alive that would have predicted the success that this group of ballers have achieved.

Before the injury situation had even reached the pinnacle, in a blog entry that was linked as a feature on Blaze of Love, I wrote about the curse of the Trail Blazers. Things had gotten out of control and it was far from over. In addition, Przybilla went down for the season with the patella injury rendering the Blazers without a center. Roy has missed games with a strained hamstring. Aldridge has missed games with his ankles. Blake was in the hospital with pneumonia. When it’s all said and done, they have had 8 surgeries and have missed something like a collective 190 games. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Even with those astounding numbers, at 25-16 the team has the same record they did last year at this time, when they went on to win 54 games and got in to the playoffs. I believe they can hold on to and achieve their publicly stated goal from the pre-season of running over the Nuggets to win the Northwest Division and solidifying a playoff spot. And the reason why is the outstanding play of so many contributors, holding it down while the rest of the team is nursing their injuries.

You could argue that Brandon Roy is playing the best basketball of his career. All but guaranteed a 3rd consecutive All-Star appearance, he has put this team on his back and carried them with his performance on the court and his leadership off. His shot has been so on lately, I don’t think he’s touched net in weeks. But this is no surprise.

Jerryd Bayless is close to my biggest surprise of the season. I was beginning to question his abilities at the pro level. He hasn’t been consistent, but he has flourished at times in his increased minutes. He’s certainly gained the respect of his opponents, and has become one of the most highly sought after Trail Blazers in trade talks. It’s nice to see him finally get the chance to show what he’s got. He’s a spark plug off the bench, who still seems a bit out of control at times, but not quite as much as before. And how about him hitting the jumper finally?

The play of the rookies has been amazing. Dante Cunningham has been great, but Jeff Pendergraph is my biggest surprise of the season. A guy who didn’t even plan to get minutes, and is coming off a hip injury that sidelined him for the majority of the first half of the season, he has made quite the impact is his short career. He’s huge, intimidating and a little crazy. He doesn’t give a rip who you are and what you’ve accomplished, he’s gonna sky over your back and elbow you out of the way to get the ball in his hands. Not only does he wait in the tunnel to welcome all of his team mates off the court, but he’s now featured in the middle of the pre-game circle, jumping around and acting a fool to get the guys amped for tip-off. And, he’s hitting shots. My girlfriend says he’s replaced Daron Williams as my man crush. (Yes, I despise Utah like any right minded Blazer fan, but come one, DW has mad game)

I’d like to say that the play of Juwan Howard has been a surprise. His 1 year contract in the off season was seen as an insurance policy, a good locker room guy and voice of reason, able to speak in the ear of Greg Oden, give him advice and up his ego. But come on, we all know what he’s capable of. Yes, Old Man River is no spring chicken, something like 16 years in the league, but he’s still got what it takes. What solidified his status in my mind as one tough old dude was the monster jam on Chris Kaman in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.

It’s awesome to see Martell Webster come back after the foot injury last season. The start of this season was a bit shaky, and frustrating to watch, but he has really turned it on recently. You could argue that he’s playing the best basketball of his career as well. Between the scoring and the tough defense that he’s played on perennial All-Stars like Kobe Bryant, Martell is playing with emotion and hustle and I think he’s for real.

Once thought of as a mistake, who was being forced to fit in to the Portland culture, Andre Miller has been playing great ball. His sneaky quickness and pump fakes that you know are coming, but you still fall for every time, have seen more and more success in a Trail Blazer uniform. Steve Blake is knocking down 3’s and is feisty as ever as seen against Orlando just the other night when got in Dwight Howard’s face after drilling a tre in front of the home crowd.

It’s getting exciting. Rudy Fernandez is back. Nic Batum is on the current road trip, though he’s not expected to play just yet. GM Kevin Pritchard says he still wants to win the division and is active as always in trade talks to get them the power forward or center they so desperately need. However, you gotta give up something good to get anything of value in return. Blazer fans may end up shedding a tear if Fernandez, Blake, Bayless, Webster or Outlaw get traded but I’m interested in seeing what kind of big man is available. David Lee? Brandon Bass? Brendon Haywwod?

I’m proud as hell of this team. Bring on the second half.

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on January 18, 2010.

One Response to “State of the Season: Trail Blazers Mid-Season Report”

  1. Now this is the kind of post that I’m talking about. It’s funny that you should mention Martell as one of the possible dudes to be traded because now that I’ve become fond of him and his idiosyncratic behaviour, I’d be pretty bummed to see him leave. With that being said, we do need a Big Man! I miss GO 😦 Can’t wait to watch the next game with you.

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