Column: While children fight, Blazers lose the game
Woke up early Friday morning in a post-Kevin Pritchard, after-the-chaos haze.
Wanted to keep dreaming. Momentarily tune everything out. Stay in bed, let the day disappear, and watch all the bad, embarrassing, black-and-red news drift by.
Then foolishly made coffee and tuned the dial to a local radio station. Life is to be lived, and all that.
Soon, it was ex-Portland Trail Blazers president Steve Patterson yapping away.
“Yap, yap, yap,” said Patterson, who evidently had just been released from a witness-protection program. “Yap. Yap. Yap!”
Man, Patterson had some really good stuff. Heavy-duty, JFK-like conspiracy theories.
The sudden rise of Pritchard, former Blazers general manager. The fall of Pritchard. The sudden rise of Tom Penn, ex-Blazers vice president of basketball operations. The fall of Penn. Bert Kolde, Blazers co-director, drawing attention on the grassy knoll. Paul Allen, Blazers owner, as the lone gunman. And Patterson watching and knowing it all, capturing history just like Abraham Zapruder.
Credit to Patterson: He spoke up and spoke his mind. And as he was speaking, it was all there. Everything made sense. And then … the sense suddenly drifted away.
Poured more coffee. Immediately started thinking about Pritchard, Penn, Allen, the Vulcans, Portland coach Nate McMillan, and the future of the Blazers for the 1,000th time since March 16.
Next up was a pile of reporter notebooks. Pages upon pages, filled with mysterious names — Mark Warkentien, “The Hat Man,” Kolde + Warren LeGarie = ? — notes and quotes. All very useful. But somehow now very useless.
Then I found it.
Not the truth. But what I was looking for.
In some ways, it’s the most mundane thing the Blazers hand out every season: the team media guide. Free to the press, often helpful, but basically dead paper once a year is complete.
First, I wanted to see the faces.
Page 14: Allen is smiling.
Page 16: Blazers president Larry Miller is smiling.
Page 17: Pritchard, smiling.
Page 18: Penn — looking sharp as ever — smiling.
McMillan got pages 20-21 (good for you, Nate).
Then a bunch of nice names and pretty photos and assistant coaches (who are no longer assistant coaches).
Then, finally, the one page and the one thing that truly matters: the Blazers’ roster.
There was Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless. Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla and even Rudy Fernandez. Newer names such as Marcus Camby had yet to be added, while rookies Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson were still stuck in Nevada.
But even in its outdated, out-of-touch form, it was still enough. Because it was proof.
Proof that no matter what went on behind closed doors during the past three months, the Blazers still had it. Proof that no matter how clean or how dirty Pritchard or Penn had been in the past two years, Portland still had it. And proof that no matter how badly outside forces or inside distractions had tried to burn down the house, the Rose Garden was still standing.
And in just four quick months, the Rose Garden is going to be packed once again. Roy will hold the ball. Aldridge and Camby will work down in the low post. Oden might be healthy. Miller or someone new and promising will eye the court from the point. And if all goes according to plan, the 2010-11 Blazers are going to be even better than the 2009-10 Blazers were.
Which said absolutely everything about just how ridiculous and selfish and wasteful the past three months have been.
Rich, well-paid, well-off, grown men often behaving like children. Men who do not play the game. Who are too old or tired or out of shape to bleed the game. But men who seem to think that they own and control the game.
Which, despite all the money and power involved, they don’t.
Roy controls the game. Aldridge and Camby control the game. And with the Blazers still one healthy season and one run of good luck away from returning to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2000, the game needs to return. And the power struggle needs to vanish.
The Blazers are bigger than Penn and Pritchard and Allen and jealousy-filled conspiracy theories.
The Blazers need a real, true GM and a fresh, new start.
And the Blazers need to get back to basketball.
Brian T. Smith covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. Contact him at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Blazer Banter blog at columbian.com/blazerbanter. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/blazerbanter