As the hourglass continues to slowly trickle and we limp our way to the start of training camp, more focus needs to be put into what could happen this season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Generally speaking, during the off-season, what you hear in stories is guys looking to ‘prove’ something. For different guys, it’s different things: it could be proving they deserve money, proving they deserve a starting spot, proving they deserve hype or proving they deserve a spot in the league. I think basketball is one of the ultimate sports where you have the ability to prove your naysayers wrong with your performance. When you look at this Blazer team, you have to ask yourself, who has something to prove?
A name many would throw out there is Coach Nate McMillan. I disagree. It may be his contract year, and Blazer Nation may love to complain about his ability, but I don’t think he has a thing to prove. Back-to-back 50+ win seasons, including making a macaroni salad out of last year’s fiasco tells me he’s got the goods. The only thing I would say is that he needs a playoff series win, but I don’t think he has much to prove to anyone.
The team as whole is a different story. The Blazers have back to back 50 win seasons…but not much else to show for them. Two playoff appearances, two first round exits. As a matter of fact, in the past 2 years the Blazers only have 1 more playoff victory than the Milwaukee Bucks. Skewed stat indeed, but telling as well. As a matter of fact, did you know this? Since the 05-06 post-season, only five Western Conference teams have not advanced past the first round: The Grizzlies, Thunder, Timberwolves, Kings…and the Portland Trail Blazers. This is a team that has to prove they can win when it counts. There’s no doubting the talent, the ability, the potential. The question becomes can they do it, can they win when it counts. The championship window is still wide open, but eventually you have to start climbing the ladder to go through it.
As far as players go, there’s an argument that every guy has something to prove. Some don’t. Example #1: Brandon Roy. I don’t want to hear the ‘down year’ nonsense or that he has to prove he’s a superstar in the league because he already has. Marcus Camby doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone in this city, not after this moment. Ditto for Andre Miller he had to prove himself over and over again last year.