Ogden, Roy and Camby and Aldridge lead the Blazers into the future
When the Portland Trailblazers drafted Greg Oden, they knew they were getting a dominant player but micro fracture surgery kept him out the entire 2007/08 season and returned for his rookie year in 2008. Last season, Oden fractured his left patella in December and missed the rest of the season.
In the draft, the Blazers selected Elliot Williams with the 22nd overall selection and Armon Johnson with the 34th overall selection. In free agency, the team signed former Jazz SG Wesley Matthews.
In the front office, Owner Paul Allen relieved Kevin Pritchard as the General Lanager, hiring Rich Cho to replace him. The team also hired Bernie Bickerstaff, Bob Ociepka and Buck Williams as assistant coaches.
Look for the Blazers to jell throughout the season and become a team to reckon with come the 2010/11 NBA Playoffs.
The Portland Trailblazers are known as one of the teams that perennially enjoy regular season success. The team had a streak of 21 straight seasons of making it into the postseason. The team has housed a number of superstars like Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter, and Cliff Robinson and has had leaders like the great head coach Jack Ramsay. The Trailblazers haven't seen the success that any team would like to see after storming into the postseason 21 straight times. During that streak the Blazers only made it to the Finals twice and didn’t win either one of them. Their sole NBA Finals win came at the end of the 1976-’77 season. The team was led by future Hall of Fame center Bill Walton and head coach Jack Ramsay.
The team finished the season with a 49-33 record which fetched them the number three seed in the Western Conference. In the first round they dealt the Golden State Warriors a 2-1 series defeat that ended their season. The next round pitted them against the Denver Nuggets who were led by a coach by the name of Larry Brown. The Trailblazers won the first game and never faced elimination and won the series by a count of 4-2. In the Western Conference Finals the Blazers met up with the Los Angeles Lakers who were coached by Jerry West and led on the court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Blazers easily booted them out of the playoffs by sweeping the Lakers 4-0 to earn a berth into the NBA Finals. In the Finals the Blazers went toe to toe with the Philadelphia 76ers that featured “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins, and Doug Collins. The 76ers jumped all over the Blazers out of the gates and won the first two games of the series. The Blazers then did the unthinkable by winning the next
four games of the series and clinching the first, and only, NBA title. The Finals MVP trophy went to their big man Bill Walton who averaged 18.2 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists during the playoffs.
Last season was a disappointment for the Trailblazers on a number of different levels. The team failed to finish above .500 for the first time since the 1985-’86 season and they broke the 21 year playoff streak. The team finished the season losing six of ten and missed the playoffs by only two games. Two of these losses included two overtime losses, one to the Denver Nuggets, who won the final spot, by 10 and second loss to the Lakers by three in the season finale. The Blazers collapsed like this in spite of the moves they made to bring in talent and get rid of cancers during the season. The team traded Bonzi Wells to the Grizzlies for cash, Wesley Person and a first round draft pick. They then traded Jeff McInnis and Ruben Boumtje Boumtje for Darius Miles. Their biggest move of last season came when they moved arguably the most talented player on the team Rasheed Wallace and Wesley Person to the Atlanta Hawks for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff and Dan Dickau.
In the off-season Portland was a decently active team making a trade and signing a couple of free agents. The Trailblazers picked up guard Richie Frahm and center Joel Przybilla. The Blazers also traded away Dale Davis and Dan Dickau for troubled and oft-injured Golden State point guard Nick Van Exel. The direction that the Blazers were headed in last year while they were getting rid of perennial trouble makes like Wallace and Wells is completely contradicted with the move to bring Van Exel to Portland. It seems like they made a step forward and took two steps back. The Blazers only hope is that he won’t blow up on his team and be like he was in Dallas two years ago where he made big contributions off of the bench and didn’t make too many waves.
Portland came into the draft armed with two first round picks and they didn’t want to fire any blanks with either of those picks. With their first pick, which was the 13th overall pick, the Blazers grabbed high school point guard Sebastian Telfair. Many experts were thrown for a loop by the selection of Telfair so early in the draft, especially with St. Joseph’s NCAA player of the year Jameer Nelson who had the experience of leading his team to an undefeated regular season as a senior and playing in the NCAA tournament. With their second pick of the first round Portland drafted Russian small forward Sergei Monia.
The Blazers have, as usual, one of the more talented starting fives in the NBA on paper. It’s a little trickier getting these talented teams to play to their full abilities and this year the onus of that job falls on head coach Maurice Cheeks who is entering his third year at the helm. If they don’t perform this year fans may start calling for his job since he was the coach that didn’t lead the team to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.