Chris Mannix writes about the Trail Blazers' revival after an early season malaise.
The dramatic turnaround can be traced to early December, when the team nearly imploded in the aftermath of a 100-79 loss at San Antonio. Only one starter (Martell Webster) scored in double figures while the other four starters scored a combined 13 points. Afterward, second-year power forward LaMarcus Aldridge took the team to task in the locker room.
"He was really upset," Roy said. "He said we can't quit like that. He said that we have been down by 25 points and won and we have been up by 25 and lost. We have to find a way to play together."
The next night Portland played at Memphis, where the teams went back and forth until Blazers forward Travis Outlaw hit a six-foot runner at the buzzer to give Portland it's first road victory of the season.
"The NBA season, it's too long," Roy said. "We didn't want to go through 82 games saying, 'Let's wait until Greg comes back.' " Instead, Roy said, "Let's prepare now so when Greg comes back, we'll be a year better. When he's back, we can try to mature. Good things can still happen for this team."
Solid. Next up, Steve Aschburner writes that rebuilding teams like the Trail Blazers are showing other rebuilding teams like the Timberwolves that being young doesn't have to mean being uncompetitive.
"We're young, but we weren't going to let them use that as an excuse,'' Blazers assistant coach Maurice Lucas said last week in Minneapolis, after helping some of the kids through pre-game warm-ups. "Same thing with Oden. Why should that stop these guys from getting better?''
Farther down the court, Wolves coach Randy Wittman -- 16-59 since taking over for Dwane Casey last January, with the first loss coming at Portland last winter -- admired the Blazers' turnaround.
"We need to really look at what they're doing,'' Wittman said. "They went through a period, the last couple of years, of trying to figure out which direction they were going to go in -- which young guys they were going to keep, which ones they were going to move.
"That's kind of what we're doing. We're evaluating which guys we want to move forward with, where we need help, in the draft and in the offseason. We're still a long way away.''
It's interesting that, before the season started, there probably wouldn't have been too many national media types who would have pointed to the Blazers and said "That's how you rebuild a team." Now everyone is saying it. That's the definition of "trail blazing."
By the way, it was interesting on this last road trip to see Sports Illustrated guys in two consecutive cities (Aschburner in Minneapolis and Marty Burns in Chicago). Contrary to popular belief, those guys do actually work.