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No Whining for Trail Blazers Fans

Friday, March 27, 2015

 

No whining about injuries, Trail Blazers fans.

The recent five-game losing streak should not bring out a “poor us” streak among fans, when never-quit players like Damian Lillard took the “glass is half full” road after Wednesday’s streak-busting win over Utah by saying that injuries to starters have given well-rested backups a chance to prove themselves. 

Yes, Wes Matthews is out for the season, cutting deeply into the team’s heart when the Trail Blazers need a defensive stop down the stretch or one more go-to guy on the perimeter offense.

Yes, top scorer LaMarcus Aldridge is seemingly one swipe of a ball away from reinjuring one of his thumbs to the point that he’s done for the season, taking with him his dependable jumper and consistent rebounding. And of course Nicolas Batum is always battling some sort of injury. 

But all those “woes” – not forgetting significant games lost this season by big men Robin Lopez, Chris Kaman and Joel Freeland – hardly add up to a “curse” befalling the Trail Blazers as they wrap up the regular season and get ready for the playoffs.

In the present, save the dreaded “curse” word for teams without franchise players such as Oklahoma City minus Kevin Durant, Chicago without Derrick Rose, and Indiana losing Paul George before the season even began.

Last season, the Trail Blazers were crazy lucky that their starters stayed so healthy for the entire year. And this season after this weekend’s games Friday night against Phoenix and Saturday night against Denver, Portland still has 10 games left to get guys healthy.  

So no whining please, especially since Portland serendipitously acquired a respectable starter in Arron Afflalo and a decent bench contributor in Alonzo Gee right before Matthews’ season-ending injury. 

Besides, this season’s injuries hardly compare to past franchise-altering body blows for Portland.

Of course, any historical discussion of injuries and the Trail Blazers begins with Bill Walton.

For today’s generation of basketball fans, Walton is likely dimly remembered at best as a Hall-of-Famer --or at worst a middle-age TV color man prone to stray off into bizarre tangents about his beloved Grateful Dead or the vagaries of the outlet pass.

But in the 1978-79 season, Walton appeared ready to lead the Trail Blazers to a second straight NBA championship and perhaps many more in the years ahead. Portland had a 50-10 record when Walton’s chronic pain in his feet and legs prompted him to sit out.

Walton ended up demanding to get out of Portland, furious over the Trail Blazers’ medical decisions.

Amazingly, given Portland’s experience with Walton’s injuries after the 1976-77 title season (and in his first two seasons preceding the championship), the Trail Blazers in the 1984 draft opted for another injury-prone center, Sam Bowie. 

That didn’t work out so well, especially since Portland passed over Michael Jordan to draft Bowie—who played four injury-filled seasons for Portland before going on to healthier and more productive years in New Jersey.

And Portland fans of a more recent vintage naturally can draw on the more contemporary draft-day debacle of passing in 2007 on Durant to select Oden, whose subsequent injury history made Bowie and Walton look like Cal Ripken; as well as the breakdown of Brandon Roy’s body by the 2010-11 season. 

Walton, Bowie, Oden, Roy … now that adds up to an injury curse.

What’s happened so far this season to the Trail Blazers … not so much.

 

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.

 

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