A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THE "IT" TEAM
Are the Blazers doomed simply because of their current status?
Should they be worried by being "it?"
[Ed's note: The author of this post's birthday is November 7 (start shopping now). When he was about to turn 12, his mom asked him "What do you want?" He responded: "The Blazers to beat the Nuggets."They did, 123-104. As for that author, he's still never been to Portland.]
Saturday mornings used to mean two things: (1) waffles and (2) NBA Inside Stuff. We grew up on the east coast but we loved the early 1990s Portland Trail Blazers teams. Why? How could you not? Clyde Drexler was as silky as they came, George Gervin with seemingly more skills. Terry Porter never met a shot he didn't like, but he knew how to run an offense. Buck Williams was just an honorable guy. Danny Ainge was on those teams! So every Saturday morning, we munched on waffles and waited for Ahmad Rashad to voice over last night's west coast highlights. Invariably, the Blazers won—unless they were playing the Bulls or Pistons in June. Sigh. We remained Blazers fans: this choke in the 2000 Western Conference Finals pretty much caused us to fail a final in college.
So here we are, on the cusp of the season with the Blazers back in contention as the "it" team of the NBA moment. At a brewery tour over the summer, we made a bet with a friend: title within five years or we pay him 100 bucks. Seems reasonable we'll hold onto the money, right?
Then why are we so scared?
Being the "it" team in any sport is dicey. Heck, this year ESPN The Magazine put the Houston Texans on their NFL preview cover; we ran this article accompanying the spread. Check the second paragraph: "Turned out the 2007 Niners were just the latest in a long string of alleged It teams to bite the turf. In 2006 the frauds were the Cards. In 2005, the Jets. In 2004, the Lions. (The name Joey Harrington still makes us shudder.) " Indeed. (In our defense, the Texans are on a winning streak right now and their next few opponents aren't tremendously formidable.)
The NBA is obviously quite different than the NFL, but a year ago this week, everyone and their dog walker's cousin was talking up the Chicago Bulls. Know what happened? They ended up being awful and getting the No. 1 pick in the draft. Why? We're not smart enough to come up with all the reasons, so we'll suggest you read this. In 2006, after finally appearing in the playoffs the year before, the world was ready for the close-up of the Los Angeles Clippers. They finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs. The year before that, some people were picking an Indiana Pacers team (which, like the current Rockets, had Ron Artest) to reach the NBA Finals. They bowed out second round.
Point being, we 'spose: heavy is the head that wears the "it" crown. No true regular for Portland this season is going to be over 24 years of age, so you can't expect those dudes to have composure when facing a tight game against the Celtics in Boston, or even the Utah Jazz, who have been together a few years now. The best approach is (thankfully) from head coach Nate McMillan: "It's like baking a cake. We have all the ingredients. We just gotta let it rise on its own."
We just hope it rises in a half-decade, or we gotta come up with 100 bones.
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