The Portland Trail Blazers will not win another NBA title in my lifetime. I’m 64 and expect to live until I’m 80.
The streak between titles has reached 40 years, and the franchise is not even close to duplicating the magic of 1977.
• Zero appearances in the finals since 1992
• Zero appearances in the conference finals since 2000
• Just two playoff series wins since that 2000 season, both of them with asterisks. If Damian Lillard’s 3-point prayer is not answered in 2013-14, they lose at Houston in game 7. And does anybody really think the Blazers would have ousted the Clippers last year if L.A. had been at full strength?
• The Blazers are 6-18 in playoff series since falling to you-know-who and the Bulls in the 1992 finals.
• The Blazers have won more than 51 games twice since that 2000 season in which they lost to the Lakers in game 7 of the Western finals.
The Blazers are relentlessly mediocre. Somehow they won 41 games this season — with the third-highest payroll. Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Evan Turner combined to make nearly $44 million this season. Ed Davis and Festus Ezeli made another combined $14M. Are these rational decisions? You do the math.
Aside: Where was the Portland media, the mashed potatoes conglomeration of the Oregonian, various cable/network TV talent and the hard-to-keep-straight sports talk radio combos when the Blazers’ brain trust was putting together this $140M lineup? Who yelled out THIS IS INSANE! No one. End aside.
Another thread. How many coaches in the NBA have rings? I count 6: Popovich, Lue, Rivers, Carlisle, Spoelstra and Kerr. Does Terry Stotts of the Blazers belong on that list? I say no. Will he ever coach the Blazers to an NBA title? Doubtful. So should they fire him? Interesting question.
But let’s back up a bit. Paul Allen bought the Blazers for $70M in 1988. Since then he has had 10 general managers (counting current holder Neil Olshey), eight head coaches and seven team presidents. The last time a Blazers honcho won NBA executive of the year was 1991, when George H.W. Bush was president (it was Bucky Buckwalter by the way). Coach of the year? 1998-99 season, Mike Dunleavy.
Allen thinks he knows something about basketball. So he meddles. The results are clear. Allen also owns the Seahawks. He doesn’t meddle there. And the results are equally clear.
Plus, pro hoops has changed dramatically since those finals appearances in 1990 and 1992. To put it bluntly, major stars do not want to play in Portland. In an era in which players have taken the upper hand on the mobility front (see LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) the Blazers are nowheresville. Is it a fair system? No. Are there a lot of good reasons why an NBA player could survive in Portland? Sure? But they aren’t comin’ … at least not right now.
Have the Blazers had some bad luck? Sure, Brandon Roy’s knees gave out … ditto with those of Greg Oden. But Blazers officials have said that Durant turned in a perfect workout when he tried out with Portland. And they drafted Oden anyway. They went with conventional wisdom. They didn’t rock the boat … and the boat is taking on water in the Willamette.
Had a hoot listening to the talk radio guys doing a post-mortem after the Warriors vaporized the Blazers in game 4 of their first-round series. The Warriors, with no Kerr or Livingston and a gimpy, rusty Durant, led 14-0, 22-3 and 35-9. Game, set and match.
And the radio guys are bemoaning the Crabbe, Leonard and Turner contracts. Where were they when the Blazers foolishly signed the checks?
And the radio guys also argued with some Laker fan. Hilarious. Since the last time the Blazers made the finals the Lakers have been there seven times, winning five. The Lakers have appeared in the finals 31 times … the Blazers 3. Does anybody out there seriously think that the Blazers are going to win a title before the Lakers? Sorry. Not happening.
And that leads me to my final point. There is this arrogance among Portland fans. As if they are somehow entitled to a title. And it hurts the Blazers that there aren’t any NHL, MLB or NFL teams to keep people on a more even keel. Titles are won by being smarter than the other guys (see St. Louis Cardinals, S.F. Giants, Warriors, Spurs, Patriots, Steelers, Seahawks), by having a management team that is creative, figures out a plan and sticks to it.
The Blazers continue to flounder. And, somehow, people keep thinking that, somehow, they are just one expiring contract a way from being a contender or winning a title.
Won’t happen in my lifetime.
There. I said it. Again. Disagree? Comment below.