Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/9/14

This just in:  Roy Hibbert isn’t coming to Portland.  This also just in:  The sky isn’t falling.

As I write this, it’s apparent that the coveted free agent (restricted as he may be) center the Portland Trail Blazers targeted will not be a Blazer.  The restricted free agent (Nicolas Batum) they currently hold the rights to allegedly wants out.  And former team president Larry Miller, as of last weekend, is now the former Trail Blazer team president.  They also remain without a coach, have stated to have little to no interest in other free agent acquisitions, and appear on the verge of another playoff-less season.

And people are wigging-out.

While normally more-than-willing to go “negative” in such a situation, I’m not only willing to look at the bright side, but am for the most part on board with what appears to be a long-term plan towards future franchise success.

I don’t care that Nicolas Batum prefers to play in Minnesota, nor do I blame him for his reasons for thinking such.  He’s a young, highly skilled player who spent the better part of 3 seasons handcuffed by a coach who spent the better part of those same 3 seasons catering to the wants and needs of a player holding all the cards, and the latter part of those 3 seasons trying to undo it.  Nate McMillan did a lot for the Blazer franchise, is owed a debt of gratitude for captaining its revival from the “Jail-Blazer” era, and is, by all accounts, an upstanding human being. But his propensity to play to Brandon Roy’s strengths resulted in accentuation of the remaining roster’s weaknesses.  And now you’re seeing the fallout.  Batum wants to play basketball and is convinced a coach of Rick Adelman’s ilk will afford him that opportunity.  I don’t think this is an Adelman thing, a Kevin Love or Ricky Rubio thing, or even a Minnesota thing. I think it’s just a player running from a situation he’s familiar with, and towards one that’s simply “not” that one in which he’s familiar.  If the Blazers hired a coach with a record of success and/or a scheme with a history of succeeding, Batum would likely be open to a fresh start here in Portland.  But without a coach and with a lackluster scheme fresh in his memory, he wants to look elsewhere for something he believes doesn’t exist here.  I’d like to see him stay, for I’m curious to see him under the tutelage of a capable coach. But if he’s unhappy and due to such the organization chooses to send him on his way, his position and his presumed $14 million slot will both become available.

I also don’t care that the Blazers swung and missed at Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.  How are you supposed to make strides towards a level of desired success without attempts to do just that?  I love the fact that the organization, along with new general manager Neil Olshey took a flyer on one of the most exciting young centers in the league.  The fact that he’s going to remain in Indiana has nothing to do with a lack of desire to play in Portland and shouldn’t be painted as inability to “close the deal,” but rather as the what it truly is; merely a right exercised by a franchise fully aware of what they’ve got.  There’s a reason Portland wanted him, and there’s a reason the Pacers didn’t want to let him go.  It didn’t work out, but you never know until you try and I’m not going to knock a franchise and it’s new GM for giving it the “Old College” one.

The Portland Trail Blazers are truly in a transition period.  They’re no longer the Roy/Aldridge/Oden nucleus that most hoped would make a run for a title, and because of such they have to turn the page.  In order to get where you and they want to go, they’re going to have to draft well, use their cap-space wisely and fill gaps through available free agents.  This is not a formula new to most, nor is it a reinvention of the wheel, but for some it’s a “seamless process in which no worthy team has failed.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are no guarantees.  Portland could do everything right.  Draft well, spend wisely, and fill the necessary gaps with role players “seemingly” perfect for the job…and it might not work.  Five years from now, we could be in this very place; wanting what others have and thinking of ways to get there.  Or, we could be harvesting the fruits of the very swings-and-misses many are harshly critiquing as I speak.

Let this team work.  I know it’s become popular to bang on Paul Allen, call him a meddler and question his commitment. But since purchasing the team in 1988, he has led them to 2 NBA Finals and 3 additional Conference Finals.  The guy wants to win and in today’s economic climate…that’s not to be taken for granted.  He hired a general manager who’s saying the right things, drafting the right players and taking an aggressive tact.  They’ve cleared cap space, addressed positions of need through the draft, and allegedly developed a plan to get this city’s pride and joy to the promise land it so desperately wants to go.  Will it be next year?  Of course not.  Will it be the following year?  Likely not again, but I believe it will be headed in the proper direction and that’s enough for me.

Roy Hibbert isn’t coming, Nic Batum might be going, and people outside of the organization are panicking about what is and isn’t happening surrounding this team.  But the sky isn’t falling in Portland these days, in spite of what the Chicken Littles of this market will try to tell you.


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