Coach Nate McMillan……..fired.
Gerald Wallace……shipped off.
In one fell swoop, the Portland Trail Blazers have gone from playoff aspirations to a team in complete disarray.
Can you blame them for it?
The Blazers were a good team. They weren’t great. They had a roster designed to get them into the playoffs, but not a roster that could win you a series or even a championship.
The time was now to blow it all up.
From a fan’s perspective, this must really hurt to watch. To have your head coach get fired, your starting center and small forward get traded at the deadline and your former #1 overall pick who was supposed to be the saving grace of your franchise (“spoiler alert”….he never amounted to anything) get released must be very disheartening.
Unfortunately in sports, sometimes you have to lose a lot before you win the big one.
The Blazers were winning, but it wasn’t getting them anywhere fast. The team has been hovering around the .500 mark for a majority of the season. In the competitive and incredibly deep Western Conference, that wasn’t going to cut it.
The core of the Blazers looked great on paper. You had an all-star in Aldridge, young promising wing players in Batum and Matthews, a former all-star in Wallace, a deep bench featuring one of the best sixth men in the league in Crawford and a 7-foot defensive center down low in Camby.
The talent was there, but it never come together in the right way on the court. Players seemed unmotivated at times. They were blowing huge 4th quarter leads and getting blown out by 40+ points on more than one occasion. The passion was completely gone.
Cue Nate McMillan getting fired.
For whatever reason, the players were completely zoning out McMillan. His hold on the team had disappeared. It’s as if the players wanted him to get fired. Their performance on the court in recent weeks was indicative of that. I choose to not put all of the blame on Nate’s shoulders though. Despite what some experts and fans may think, the Blazers were probably never as good as some figured them to be.
Cue Wallace and Camby getting sent away.
Gerald Wallace had become a shell of the player that dominated in Charlotte and made the all-star team. His numbers have been on a steady decline for the last 3 seasons. He became expendable.
Marcus Camby has been in the league for over 16 years and is entering the twilight of his career (if he hadn’t already hit that point 4-5 years ago). It was the smart move to send him on his way and get some sort of return (Johnny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, 2nd round pick) while he still had some value.
Remember that Greg Oden guy? The player who was selected before Kevin Durant?
He’s gone too. In 4 years in the league, Oden has played 82 games, which is the equivalent of one full season. I think it’s safe to say that Greg Oden is the Blazers new Sam Bowie (the man who was picked before Michael Jordan). If Kevin Durant was a Blazer, this franchise wouldn’t be in the trouble it is right now.
So what’s next for the Portland Trail Blazers?
It’s clearly time to begin anew.
If my name wasn’t LaMarcus Aldridge or Nicolas Batum, I wouldn’t feel safe about my job in Portland. Those 2 (especially Aldridge) are the type of players that you can build your team around. On top of that, the Blazers will (more than likely) have two lottery picks in this summers NBA Draft (1 from the Gerald Wallace trade courtesy of New Jersey, 1 of their own). The pieces are there for a quick and successful rebuild.
Now obviously this isn’t going to happen overnight. This is going to be a long and hard process for the franchise. Building themselves back up to the point where they are still first round fodder for the elite teams of the Western Conference simply won’t do. They need to re-evaluate their strategies as it pertains to who they sign and who they draft.
Selecting another Greg Oden and signing more Felton’s and Crawford’s will only hold this team back.
This team had a lot of promise and potential at one point in time.
Now its back to the drawing board.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and the lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports