Since the Lloyd Center Buffalo Wild Wings is halfway between my place of business and where I live, I choose to make a pit stop on my way home from work this evening to check out the Blazers’ Draft Lottery Announcement Party.
I usually skip out on these types of events. To me they always feel a bit forced; an attempt by management to scrub the memories of Blazer fans while at the same time reminding them how great their team is so they don’t forget to buy tickets when ticket-buying time rolls around again as it always does. I don’t know if you feel like I do, but I’m a Blazer fan regardless of the team’s record, and I don’t need to be pumped up about the team at every available opportunity.
Also, covering the team has become somewhat of a semi full-time job. One that I don’t get paid for, mind you. Putting in the hours doesn’t bother me that much during the regular season, when there are actual games to cover and stuff, but I take the idea of an off-season seriously, using the few free hours I have during the summer to do things that aren’t basketball related.
But Wednesday’s Draft Lottery was one of the more important Draft Lotteries of recent Blazer history, and since the bar where the official team party was being held was on my route from downtown to North East, I figured I might as well check it out.
I slipped into Buffalo Wild Wings just as the envelope, or whatever, was being opened that showed the New Jersey Brooklyn Racial Slurs Nets had been given the sixth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. A loud cheer ripped through the packed bar. The Blazers would be getting Brooklyn’s first round pick. Portland’s Draft future was official; they would be picking 6th and 11th.
The scene at Buffalo Wild Wings confirmed one other thing too: Portland’s off-season is now officially over. I hope you enjoyed it. For the Blazers, the 2012-13 season began Wednesday.
This fan base is ready to go, and Portland’s front office better be ready. From now on, every move, every breath, every half rumor can and will become front-page news. I hope Larry Miller and his staff got some rest over the last month and change—the Blazers’ final game was April 26th—because they aren’t going to get a second of shuteye the rest of the way.
Along with the 6th and 11th picks, the Blazers will be selecting 40th and 41st in the second round. Portland will also be dealing with an assortment of free agent related situations. Which leads to the scariest part of the Blazers’ present and immediate future.
As we all know well, Portland is without either a General Manager, or a Head Coach. The GM situation seems to be getting closer to wrapping up. Although, every new Tweet seems to have a revolving door of top-three candidates followed by a fourth and/or fifth candidate, how that equates to being close to finished is beyond me. Seemingly, the Head Coaching appointment will come down to where Stan Van Gundy lands, and how quickly the Blazers can jump into the fray, if and when SVG decides not to come to the Rose City, and grab whichever top coaching prospect is left standing.
In many ways, Portland’s Draft positioning should help solidify the GM search. Paul Allen can now ask his favorite candidates what they would do with the 6th and 11th picks (and the 40th and 41st), knowing that in fact those will be the picks the Blazers have.
Unfortunately for whoever Allen decides to hire, their very first executive decisions are not going to be done behind closed doors. Portland’s new GM will have to decide who to draft, or if to trade the picks, or whatever in full view of fans that are expecting to be treated to a sea change in the franchise. That’s a lot of pressure.
I don’t believe the franchise will be made or broken on Draft Night. The Blazers don’t need a franchise player since they’ve still got LaMarcus Aldridge. They also don’t need a second or even third scorer; they’ve got Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews in that order.
I would go as far as to say Portland doesn’t even need to draft a point guard or a center. Yes, Portland desperately needs new blood at both of those positions, but that doesn’t mean they have to fill those gaps through the Draft.
That being said, what the Blazers need to do, more than anything, is show up with some conviction. That means not passing on Kenneth Faried to take a flyer on Nolan Smith. That means putting together a trade package—if that’s the course of action Yet To Be Named New GM should choose—that brings Portland something significant, not just cap room, cash, and/or more future second-round picks.
It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, I know. The table is set, the Blazers have one of the more enviable positions in a super-duper load Draft. Certainly whichever Blazer staffer was tasked with manning the Trade Phone has their hands full right about know. Lots of interest in Portland’s picks means the Blazers have the ability to better control their fate and won’t have to jump at the first offer that comes along.
But if history is any indication, one area of management where Portland excels is making an absolute mess out of even the most straightforward situation.
Let’s hope that Portland’s GM of the future sees the group of rowdy and cheering Blazer fans filling a barroom on a Wednesday evening to watch what is an otherwise boring ceremony as eager masses waiting to embrace their next savior, and not a coming together of restless and skeptical townsfolk ready to claim the head of their next victim who, regardless of how hard he tries, won’t be able to satisfy.
Whoever that GM of the future turns out to be, their job started today.
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