As the years tick away in the NBA, the Portland Trailblazers seem to be in a vicious cycle of rebuilding and starting all over again. It isn’t, as some would say, that the Blazers are cursed. What has kept Portland in a rebuilding scenario are needs over wants and a little bit of bad timing in its purest form.
We all know that in hindsight, Sam Bowie is considered the wrong draft pick in the mid-80’s and the same thing subsequently happened again in Portland about 20 years later with Greg Oden. This year though, the Blazers start fresh with newly appointed head coach Terry Stotts and a rookie point guard in Damian Lillard—seemingly the right pick in this past draft for the Blazers.
As of now, though, a concern for Portland, has to be the mentality of all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Time is of the essence and Aldridge is going on seven years deep in the league. As of now, starting over with a new point-guard and head coach probably isn’t where Aldridge anticipated on being, but he’s only in the third of a five-year contract which means barring trade, #12 will be suiting up in the Rose Garden for a couple more years.
“I still have to prove a lot of people wrong,” Aldridge said back in December. “I still haven’t led this team to the second round of the playoffs. People still doubt that I’m a go-to player,” he continued.
Nobody has seen more in a Blazers uniform right now than Aldridge and there isn’t a player on the roster with his tenure. Aldridge has experienced the high-times in a Brandon Roy 24-point playoff fourth quarter victory, to the down-time of never seeing Oden really be able to get in a groove and shine in the Rose Garden.
When you think about it, Roy, Aldridge and Oden could have, and would have, been the first real Big Three in the NBA. It was during the rare moments of health that all three played together and the Blazers had 50-plus win seasons. For Aldridge, this is the positive side of his Trailblazer career. It is the continued hovering around mediocrity during the regular season over the past couple years that has to be getting to the seemingly mild-mannered veteran both mentally and physically.
As he enters into this season, Aldridge has to be feeling a sense of urgency and a justified want to do more than simply make it to the first round of the playoffs and exit. The Blazers need to step up quick as teams like Oklahoma City haven’t gotten any worse in the Western Conference while teams like the Lakers have drastically improved.
Although he’s already so many years in, Aldridge is going to have to be patient as there is going to be a learning curve for Stotts as a head coach and Lillard as a franchise point guard. For Stotts this will probably be a tad easier after spending the past four seasons apart of the Dallas Mavericks organization. Without question for Stotts, there is some valid coaching experience being brought to the table and he probably knows how to deal with a lot that is going to come his way.
“I’m very pleased to be part of a great franchise in a beautiful city with such a proud history,” Stotts said in a news release after his hiring. “I look forward to working hard with Neil (Olshey) and our players toward the ultimate goal of bringing another championship to Portland.”
Stotts, as any head coach, is saying all the right things but it takes more than words to win a championship. Winning a championship in Portland isn’t simply about Lillard, Aldridge and the newly appointed head coach. It’s about the Blazers in full as Batum was rewarded this summer with a four-year deal and J.J. Hickson, who also re-signed for a year, is in prime position to have another productive year in the NBA.
It is Wesley Matthews, if any current Blazer, that could take his game to another level making the team more dangerous than pedestrian. Matthews had his ups and downs last season and to solidify his role, needs to score with consistency and continuously work on his defense because at the two guard spot, he will continuously be assigned to the league’s best.
With an improvement from Matthews and a solid season from Lillard, Aldridge should feel comfortable in continuing and possibly finishing his career as a Trailblazer. If things don’t work out and he ends up with another team, it will be just another loss for the fans of the city and another season to rebuild in Portland.