Nowell: Blazers finding new identity on and off the court
ESPN.com’s NBA blog, True Hoop, is now changing the way they cover specific teams in the league. In previous years, they had a network of blogs with one for each team.
However, they have now changed to a new approach featured on the NBA section of the website called “True Cities” and in the first installment of “True Portland,” Portland-based writer Daniel Nowell looks at how the Blazers are finding their identity on the court but also the changes made on the business side to capitalize the Portland brand.
Nowell writes on the new arena experience:
On the concourse at the Moda Center, Blazers fans can now choose from one of several locally owned food options — Sizzle Pie pizza, Fire on the Mountain wings and Killer Burger have all been installed to lend the arena a more native flavor. The pre-game safety video shown on the Jumbotron now features “Portlandia’s” Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, in costume and character, riffing on arena etiquette and protocol.
It’s clear that the Blazers’ braintrust is moving toward capturing the essence of Portland at a moment when that essence is more easily commodified than ever. The town has developed a certain set of associations in the popular imagination: the left coast Brooklyn; the moustache wax capital of the union; a place where an honest-to-God professional cuddler can pay her rent; “where young people go to retire;” haven of food carts and flannel. As the conception of Portland approaches self-parody, it also approaches profitability, and it would seem that the Blazers would like in on the take.
Nowell also talks about how the team on the court is developing their identity with a new team
Like McGowan, Blazers coach Terry Stotts and general manager Neil Olshey are entering the second year of their tenure; unlike McGowan, who has pursued splashy moves geared toward the bottom line, Olshey and Stotts have ushered in a reign of pragmatism. This offseason, as some fans called (somewhat unrealistically) for the addition of a high-priced center like Tiago Splitter or Nikola Pekovic, Olshey decided instead to flesh out the rotation, signing Mo Williams, Dorell Wright andRobin Lopez to transform the league’s shallowest team into one with respectable depth. Hardly high-wattage moves, but moves that have allowed Portland to get off to a 6-2 start.
Likewise, Stotts has brought an even keel and tempered approach to a franchise whose past decade has been most linked with injury, organizational tumult, flashes of brilliance, and heartbreak. While the Blazers play a free-flowing, shot-happy style, Stotts is unwavering in a sort of laid back caginess, while locker-room leaders Wes Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge favor a relatively tight-lipped professionalism. Whether wary of placing too many expectations on the team or weary of the scrutiny a small market can bring, Portland’s leadership tends to keep things close to the vest. When you add it all up, what you find is a team in the second year of a new era with relatively few defining characteristics.