Twenty games into the 2012-13 season, the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves 8-12 with a fan base that is starting to head for the exits. Prior to their recent east coast road trip, the Blazers were hovering around the .500 mark. When the Blazers returned to the Rose City after 7 road games in 10 days in which they lost 5 of them and won 2 in overtime, Blazer fans’ optimism began to wane. Then Saturday, they lost to the Sacramento Kings at home by 19. To add insult to injury, two of their top four scorers, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum, went down with injuries. Blazer fans were not expecting the team to be very good this season. The fan base is however devoted, and it is painful to watch their beloved team struggle.
After a quarter of the season, it has become obvious that the Blazers simply do not have the depth or the overall talent to win consistently. Their starting five is talented and in most games has been competitive. The bench, however, has had minimal success which has caused the starters to play big minutes. This is not a sustainable recipe for winning, and their record now demonstrates this.
If you read through the local papers, blogs, or listen to sports talk radio, you will quickly begin to realize Blazer fans are frustrated. The thing is this season is really playing out as expected. Most reasonably educated basketball fans could see that the Blazers do possess some talent on their starting five. They could also assess that the bench was relatively shallow. Blazer fans will simply need to take a breath and be patient and trust that this season is designed to set the team up for future success. A bitter pill to swallow, but as the old adage goes … sometimes you need to take a step back to take a step forward.
With that said, what does it take for the Blazers to take that step forward? They have some core pieces that look to be stars for some time to come. Obviously Damian Lillard is a player to build around, as is Nicolas Batum. Is it best for the Blazers to stand pat, or do they make a move to try to improve the team, if not for this season, years to come?
Many would argue that LaMarcus Aldridge is also one of those essential pieces. Not to take anything away from what Aldridge has provided the Blazers since his arrival in 2006, but he is a veteran that could have value in the trade market. One has to wonder if the way the team is being constructed, if it is or will be the best fit for Aldridge in the long run. From afar it seems that Aldridge is a leader, albeit a passive team captain. The impression obtained of Aldridge is he would prefer to be a dominant piece of a talented team, rather than the leader of a team. Hence, might this be the time to turn the keys over to Lillard, or even Wesley Matthews in the interim and trade Aldridge for draft picks and players that could add some legitimate depth to the Blazers bench?
No matter what the Neil Olshey and the Blazers management decide to do, Blazers’ fans will need to accept the fact that this season will most likely be one of few victories. Success will be judged by how young players like Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, and Will Barton develop. If fans can stomach this and be patient, it is acceptable to believe that the future will be bright.
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx