But snap forward to today. Not only are the Blazers performing respectably on and off the court, but now they're being referenced as a team that other trouble franchises should look to emulate. Case in point: New York Sun writer Martin Johnson thinks the New York Knicks would do well to re-created the Trail Blazers revival:
The transformation of the Blazers is a testament to timing and to drafting well. The market for NBA players is in constant flux, and the Blazers have adroitly managed to maximize the trade value of their talent and get draft picks to rebuild the franchise. They drafted Brooklyn-based high school star Sebastian Telfair, and when he proved to be a disappointment, their response was textbook: Rather than dig in their heels and insist that he would become a star, they moved him while he still had cachet. They analyzed other teams to see who might be interested in a young point guard, and their research identified Boston. The Celts at that moment were struggling at both the point and in the pivot. Also, the locals were growing weary of the pace of the Celtics' youth movement. The Blazers smartly offered Telfair and veteran backup center Theo Ratliff in exchange for Raef LaFrentz and the draft pick that became Roy.
Similarly, when the Blazers saw the Knicks entertaining a buyout of Steve Francis, they moved to trade forward Zach Randolph to the Knicks for Francis, who was immediately bought out. Randolph no longer fit into Portland's future plans, but Francis's contract had two fewer years left on it, so Portland saved money and the aggravation that comes from watching Randolph, an immensely talented offensive player who sometimes doesn't even bother to join his teammates at the defensive end.
The result of deals such as these, as well as solid drafting that brought in talent such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw, as well as backcourt wiz Sergio Rodriguez, has turned the Jail Blazers into actual trailblazers when it comes to franchise rebuilding in the NBA.
The Knicks' current situation closely parallels the predicament Portland faced three seasons ago. Can someone turn the situation at Madison Square Garden around with the same speed? Possibly, but it will take execs with more acumen than Isiah Thomas and James Dolan.
I think it's a bit early and maybe a touch foolish to suggest that the Blazers have completely "turned it around." All of the pieces are certainly in place, but we're just 28 games into an 82 game season. One thing is certain though: New York would be lucky to have what Portland does.