If you have followed the Trail Blazers during the pre-season, you know that expectations are not high for the 2012-13 season. Let’s be honest, it’s going to be a long season. Despite the pessimism that surrounds this team there are a number of bright spots.
For starters they have a full-time general manager in Neil Olshey, who Blazers owner Paul Allen hired over the summer. This in itself is an upgrade, as last season they operated without one. In Olshey’s limited time with the team he selected two promising prospects in point guard Damian Lillard and center Meyers Leonard. Both players have exhibited potential and could become corner stones of the franchise for years to come. Olshey also went head-to-head with the Minnesota Timberwolves to sign Blazers free agent small forward Nicolas Batum. If Batum lives up to his potential and the riches of a 4-year $44 million contract, this will prove to be a shrewd move by Olshey.
In addition to adding and retaining players, Olshey also hired a new head coach. He selected former Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks head coach and recent assistant coach of the Dallas Mavericks, Terry Stotts. What Stotts will bring to the table is a more exciting brand of basketball, a motion oriented offense and hustle defense. This should be a welcome change from Nate McMillan’s lethargic isolation basketball.
Time will tell, but the Trail Blazers starting five, which will consist of point guard Damian Lillard, shooting guard Wesley Matthews, small forward Nicolas Batum, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and center J.J. Hickson; should on most nights be able to contend with the full spectrum of NBA competition. Their bench however is not deep nor is it strong. Just like the starting five has some young talent that should improve over time, so does the bench. Players like previously mentioned center Meyers Leonard, guard Will Barton, forward Victor Claver, and power forward Joel Freeland should benefit from time on the court this season. Minutes they may not get on a more proven team.
The challenge for the organization for the upcoming season is not how many games can the Blazers win, but rather how patient can it be with a team that is sure to lose. Paul Allen does not have a strong track record for being patient. At times his ownership style resembles that of a fantasy basketball team owner. Making Band-Aid moves that give the fan base false playoff hope in an effort to keep the Rose Garden full of spectators.
If theBlazers as an organization can stomach the growing pains that are sure to come with a young team, new general manager and coach, the future could be very bright. There is some talent on this team, players that could blossom into all-stars. Olshey seems to have an eye for guys that can play and the savvy to get deals done. Stotts' record thus far is up and down. With Milwaukee and Atlanta he did not have a lot of success. With Dallas he was given credit for creating an offense that enabled the Mavs to win an NBA championship. In his short tenure with the Blazers, Stotts seems to have the gusto of a winner.
Despite the fact that expectations are not high for this season, the fan base appears to be willing to accept a losing season in exchange for an organization with a vision and the perseverance to see it through. Blazer fans have been regularly giving to the team by filling seats at the Rose Garden. Now is the time for Paul Allen to repay in kind by having the fortitude to allow Neil Olshey the latitude to craft a roster that can sustain winning seasons for maybe not this season, but many seasons to come.