Farewell to the Vanquished, Worthy Fuckin' Adversary



It is spectacularly bad form, almost as bad as it is to trot out the millions of cliches we substitute in for true communication, to turn our attention to the GOLIATH that is the Spurs before us without first taking a respectful moment to reflect on our now fallen adversary.  

After all, this isn't 'Nam, it's just entertainment-oriented basketball.  There are rules.

While Lorenzo Franceschi Bicchierai has rightly kicked off the victory parade and considered the Sunny Side of things, I point your attention to those tortured souls now awash on the internet.

Here's my thoughts on seeing the Blazers this year, my thoughts on what's next.  I encourage to add whatever positive, insightful and constructive thoughts you have about Blazernation today and tomorrow.  I'll delete with prejudice any comment that does not meet that criteria. Those comments do not belong in this particular thread.

For my part, it has been really great to see new faces in the playoffs - for the Suns to face a team without a long history of grudges.  Without the tired litany of the same subplots that the NBA media subjects us to ad infinitum.   It's time to make some new grudges, and I thank Amare for helping those along.

Among those great stories were the comeback of Roy, the return of Martell's shooting touch and Rudy finding his mojo, albeit all of them just a little too late to change the outcome of the series.  Those stories, the 5lb roundie will stick with me and I will follow to see if these players continue to rise in their games, or backslide into their injuries, their inaccuracies or their psyches.

What have the Blazers accomplished?

When stat geeks review the playoff record, the 4-2 series will not adequately convey Portland's potential nor the danger they posed the Phoenix Suns, particularly in Game 6.   In Game 6, they showed their potential with their bench getting the team back into the game.  Had the Martell and Rudy been left in to continue bombarding the basket with interballistic roundies, the outcome of the game could have been far different.

The Blazers have put on a good show, making their way into the postseason two years in a row.  They have graduated from being a lottery-wallowing rebuilding team on MBA talent welfare.  They are here and they are here to win in the toughest conference in the NBA.  The Blazers, despite their obstacles, or possibly because of them, have reached the standard that only successful rebuilding programs achieve - a perennial place at the playoff table, but with almost certain first round rejection.  It was a great step into the playoffs.  However, it is a far larger incremental step to get into the second round.  Not even established teams have good chances of regularly getting into the second round. 


Where do the Blazers go from here?

the main problem, as Joe Dumars has famously argued (end of season presser, 2008), is that young teams cannot go deep in the playoffs.  That the way to build a championship team is with winning veterans, not wallowing in the draft for a decade.  Only the right mix of star players in their prime, savvy vets and gifted young players can go deep in the playoffs.  Andre Miller and Marcus Camby are big pieces in the current Blazers' team's success, and bigger pieces to their future than their ages suggest.

Suns fans all have great sympathy for the coaching plight the Blazers face.  Both teams have suffered the pains of an exceptional coach exceptionally focused on only half the court.  Without Brandon Roy, or even with him at half capability, the Blazers were not able to achieve much offensively in the series.  It's possible to win in the NBA with an offensive that can barely weeze its way to 100, but it's very very hard.   

Regarding injuries and youth, I make the following two observations.


The Lemons - next year may not be better

When I grew up, my Dad preferred to repair old cars rather than buy a new one.  Repairing an old car for $1000 was certainly cheaper than shelling out 10K for a used car.  The devil you knew was better than the devil you didn't know.

It was common in some years for us to put $3000 to $5000 in repairs into our junker cars, but it was always in smaller periodic amounts of $300 to $800 with an occasional $1500 here or there.  Each time, the decision made sense.  $800 repair was way better than buying another car. Each time, I heard the discussion between my parents, saying, "We've replaced the clutch, alternator, radiator, brakes...etc... So, we've replaced most everything in the car which means we likely will not need to do any more repairs for a while."

However, it never worked out that way. Over time, we were often worse off because repairs had a way of begetting more repairs.  I never knew why until later in life, hearing the stories from my one-time best friend and auto mechanic.  He told me how mechanics are paid by flag hours.  Getting a 2-hour job done in 1 hour meant 2-hour's pay for 1 hour of work.  You can see how that's not good for you, right?  I discovered that mechanics can do substantial damage to other parts of the car when repairing one part, or when they undertake expensive shotgun troubleshooting.

Now, I don't necessarily think that doctors in sports medicine beget more injuries when they go in to scope a knee, but I do think that injuries are persistent and that addressing an injury need not preclude more injuries.  That the Blazers have endured 311 lost days at work speaks volumes to me.  Do not think your team will come back next year without facing similar adversity.

Brandon Roy may not suffer recurring injuries.  Or, he may be another Grant Hill, another Tracy McGrady, or perhaps just another Amare StoudemireGreg Oden may come back and take his place ahead of Kevin Durant.  Or he may suffer the ailments common to big men.  There are no guarantees as to what the future health of anyone's roster, but we know injuries are often persistent.

One of the silver linings surrounding these injuries was the speedier development of the young players. They all got minutes and chances to play.  They've all shown they can succeed and succeed together.


Bad News: The Winners' Curse

The winner's curse is when the winning bidder overpays.  Often with assets that are hard to value (like players), the highest bidder or acquirer, as a purely statistical phenomenon, is the one overpaying. 

However, that's not what I mean here.  Instead, I mean that by virtue of making good draft and trade selections, the future costs of these successful players will outpace the salary cap.  Many teams that undertake the strategy of stockpiling young talent often find that talent to evaporate and dissipate over time.  One of the difficulties of stockpiling so much young talent is that eventually, you will have to pay for that talent.  Unfortunately, if your young players are as great as Blazernation thinks they are, the falling cap says you will not be able to afford them once have developed.  You will have borne their growing pains, taken their rookie fouls, watched them blossom, only to find that there is not enough money to keep all of these stars.

Then again, perhaps, if all of the Blazers' young prospects pan out, being able to pick the best among them is a blessing rather than a curse.


Farewell to the Vanquished. 

The men in the black and red pajamas, Dude.

Worthy fuckin' adversary.

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