Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lineups May Change, But Goals Don't

The 2009-10 season started out with incredibly high expectations, and with good reason. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge signed contract extensions, assuring their place as pillars of the Portland roster for years to come. Greg Oden was healthy, in shape and prepared to take his place among the best centers in the league. Nicolas Batum had a great summer, making his bones on the international circuit with his fellow Frenchman at EuroBasket. Rudy Fernandez added another medal to his already impressive trophy case. Andre Miller was signed to shore up the backcourt and provide veteran experience. Same goes for Juwan Howard. Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph and Patty Mills were brought to as rookies to provide toughness and speed. And Steve Blake, Joel Przybilla and Travis Outlaw were all coming off their best seasons in the NBA. Things were looking solid.

And then, the injuries struck. There’s no point in recounting all of the bad luck that has beset the Trail Blazers this season when it comes to infirmities, but it suffices to say the worry that there wouldn’t be enough playing time to go around on a roster with so much talent was unwarranted. That’s a problem we’d be lucky to have.

Now those sky-high expectations, if public sentiment can be accurately gauged via blogs, message boards and talk radio, have come crashing down. But in the Trail Blazers locker room, there’s been no such reassessment. The objective, though now more difficult to achieve, is still the same.

“The one main goal is to win every game you play in,” said Steve Blake. “That’s all you really need to think about. You shouldn’t really look ahead; you should be thinking about the game in front of you. That’s all the goal there is.”

It’s all the Trail Blazers can concern themselves with. There is still plenty of work to be done, and that’s not going to change just because an unfortunate number of players are showing up to games in street clothes. All you can do is forge ahead. Take it, as the tired old saying goes, game by game.

“You’ve got to stay in the moment and look at what we have here,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “We have a bunch of guys that are good and we’ve just go to stay in the moment, stay hungry and work hard.”

“This group, the group we’re in charge of is staying in the moment right now,” said assistant coach Dean Demopoulos. “We’re going to try to squeeze every ounce of every second that we’re out on that floor. That’s our goal. That’s our goal … and that’s what we’re going to do and see what happens.”

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