few mailbag questions about the Blazers stayed within fist-pound dista..."/> few mailbag questions about the Blazers stayed within fist-pound dista..."/> few mailbag questions about the Blazers stayed within fist-pound dista..."/>

Ian Thomsen sheds light on Portland

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Well, not really. Thomsen’s response to a few mailbag questions about the Blazers stayed within fist-pound distance of the status-quo, which is why I bring it to your attention. Sure, more and more “experts” (I don’t quote to be sarcastic, only that it’s hard to think that anyone who’s job is to cover the entire league has the time to amass the knowledge required to be an expert on a single team) are straying toward hyperbole when writing about Portland’s future, and most, if not all, have firmly planted in the Blazers in “Playoff Contention.”

But in terms of this season, most are cautious. I don’t mean to pick on Mr. Thomsen, who does a fine job, but he offered the reasons I automatically rebut when I see them. The first, in no specific manner, was health.

Now, Blazer fans who have taken the time to listen to the Quick Chats, read the Homecourt and Mike Barrett blogs as they are updated and generally soaked in every bit of information they can will probably be able to tell you that Greg Oden’s knee is as less of a concern as anything accompanied by the word microfracture can possible be. As for Thomsen, he does say this:

"[Oden] is on target to return to the court in September and to participatein training camp. The Blazers have so much young talent already that they won’tneed him to be a scorer as a rookie, and so he’ll be allowed to work his wayinto the team at his own pace."

August 25th actually, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is that, if all signs point to Greg being suited up in six weeks, why sell him short? The signs also point to Greg being able to at least physically, maybe not yet skillfully, dominate a large portion of the meager offerings the league has at the center position. And yes, as Thomsen said, Oden will improve the team defensively, the one that got outrebounded by a single board every game and often lacked the toughness to defend inside (especially with Joel Pryzbilla out). Considering Portland earned 41 wins with Pryzbilla as there only game-to-game rebounding machine, I’d say the improvement will be worth at least a handful of wins with Pryzbilla locking down the second unit.

Then there was this commitment-issue loaded sentence, which I loathe to read:

"While it will be difficult for a young team like the Blazers to reach the 50-winthreshold of the Western Conference playoffs, at least they continue to addtalent while rivals like the Warriors and Clippers were weakened by free-agentdepartures this week."

At least? I’m fairly certain that when the 9th best team, record-wise, in the West gets much worse, and the Denver Nuggets at No. 8 hardly anything resembling a true power, adding the huge talent of Oden, along with Rudy and Bayless, the window has opened far enough for one of Kevin Pritchard’s nicely baked cakes to push through.

What really got me from the last quote is the notion that a young team has it any tougher to make it in the Western playoffs than any other team. It’s a bit of a cliche thing to say not, but youth is entirely overrated, and I think the youngest team in the league winning 13 straight goes a long way to prove that. The Blazers were young last season, but the difference between them and the Atlanta Hawks is that they were both mature and composed, especially in crunch time (plenty of credit due to Brandon Roy there). If every player on this team was three years older, what difference would it make?

Even the email that asked Thomsen the question said, “Portland has no veteran.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but the point of a veteran is to provide leadership, and nobody is going to come in and provide more leadership than Roy. Leadership helps you buy into winning, which again this team seems to have little trouble doing already.

The truth is that after some early season growing pains, the Blazers proved time and time again they could win close games, and isn’t that where age and experience is meant to give you the greatest advantage? Tell that to Brandon Roy and Travis Outlaw.

The funny thing is that most of these regurgitated buzzwords surrounding Portland will probably drift away come November. The early season adjustments will not be because of youth, hopefully, but the fact that the team added impact players that last year’s squad is not used to (though this will undoubtedly be aided by the August 25 call time). In fact, I fully expect that once the national media microscope zeroes in on Portland and Greg Oden during the weeks before training camp, a few “experts” will make the controversial pick and say the Blazers will make the Western Conference Finals. I wouldn’t bet on that happening this season, but as for 50 wins and glowing reviews from analysts writing “So much for youth” stories, you’ve got my money.