Monday, October 5, 2009
Portland Puts The 'Fan' In Fan Fest
Usually when the Trail Blazers lace ‘em up at the Rose Garden, the play on the court is the big story. But Sunday night the 16,752 fans that nearly filled all three levels in the Rose Garden stole the headlines at the 2009 Wells Fargo Fan Fest. Not to take away anything from double-doubles put up by LaMarcus Aldridge (13 points, 10 rebounds), Greg Oden (12 points, 12 rebounds) and Fan Fest MVP Steve Blake (17 points, 11 assists), but when nearly 17,000 people show up for an inter-squad scrimmage, they become the story.
“I think it shows what type of fans we have,” said Nate McMillan. “We have fans that are very supportive. They love the Blazers. They like what we’ve been doing the last few years. We’ve got an exciting team. Everybody is looking forward to seeing this team play, our fans as well as me and the rest of the guys. Four years ago when I came here we may have had 1,000 or 2,000 people in the stands at that time. To see this grow and to see the fan support come back, it’s a great thing.”
McMillan can pat himself on the back for much of that renewed crowd support. His no-nonsense, team first approach has been instrumental in getting Portlanders back where they belong: in the Rose Garden. According to McMillan, the willingness of fans to show up for Fan Fest gives the scrimmages a little extra something that can’t be recreated in the seclusion of the practice facility.
“Once they get in front of a crowd, they play. You can tell them to take it easy and we want to be careful out there, but once the fans are in the building and the lights go on these guys compete.”
Brandon Roy, who played just 22 minutes because he’s Brandon Roy, was appreciative of the turnout but he wasn’t necessarily surprised to see the Rose Garden nearly full knowing the rabidity with which Portland supports the Blazers
“This is my fourth year but if you would have asked me before I’d have said at least 15,000 people were going to be here,” said Roy. “Our fans love this team. We have a really neat bond with them. Any time they say the Blazers are playing we expect them to come out and support us because they really push us and motivate us, especially during training camp.”
Steve Blake, who’s showed off a pain-free shooting stroke for the first time since the middle of last season, was a bit more taken aback than his backcourt partner.
“It’s crazy we had that many people there. That’s pretty exciting. The intensity they brought to this is as good as some other home courts for some people, so it was fun.”