2012-13 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS SEASON PREVIEW
Over the past several years, the Portland Trail Blazers have dealt with major injuries to star players and massive contracts that simply didn't result in success in the win-loss column. As a result, during the team's tumultuous 2011-12 campaign, the Trail Blazers fired coach Nate McMillian, traded away a series of their expiring contracts and decided to embark on a full-scale rebuilding project to plan for the future. While the team finished with a 28-38 record last season, the team is hoping that its new blend of savvy veterans and young talent will be enough to get them back into the Western Conference playoff conversation and back to the glory days of the franchise.
During the middle of the 2011-12 season, the Trail Blazers got serious about their rebuilding project by shipping off former cornerstones like Gerald Wallace, Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford. The team brought in new coach Terry Stotts, who brings a wealth of experience to the young rostewr. While the team scored a series of lottery picks like point guard Damian Lillard, center Meyers Leonard and guard Will Barton, the Trail Blazers' upcoming season will largely be predicated on the ability of the players on their current roster to play up to expectations and fulfill the promise they had when they were signed in the first place.
The Trail Blazers' scoring attack revolves around their duo of dynamic forwards, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldrige. Both of these players have All-Star quality talent, but it’s the pieces that surround them that will make the difference in the team's playoff chances. At point guard, the keys to the offense will be handed to the rookie Damian Lillard, who will be spelled occasionally by Nolan Smith and Ronnie Price. At the shooting guard position, Wesley Matthews and Will Barton are solid, if not unspectacular, while at center, the Trail Blazers boast one of the best in the business in J.J. Hickson. Ultimately, with a strong starting five, the Trail Blazers will need a welcome boost from their bench players to put them over the top in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Trail Blazers have succeeded in dumping some of the large contracts that have held them hostage over the past several years, but this year's season will be judged on how quickly the young players come along and whether or not the team can successfully build for the future. The team is loaded with talent and if they come along a bit sooner than expected, the Trail Blazers could be a surprise playoff team before all is said and done.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS FRANCHISE FACTS:
Location: Portland, Oregon
Stadium: Rose Garden Arena
Conference: Western Conference
Division: Northwest Division
Notable Players: Clyde Drexler, Bill Walton
Portland Trail Blazers Championship Titles: 1
Portland Trail Blazers Conference Titles: 3
Portland Trail Blazers Playoff tickets
Portland Trail Blazers Season Preview History
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS EXPERIENCE:
The Trail Blazers, who were originally known as just the Blazers, were acquired by Portland in 1970 following the merger of the American Basketball Association with the National Basketball League. Although the Blazers were hardly a contender early on, the team eventually grew to become one of the most dominating teams of the decade.
The franchise won its first championship title in 1977, which was also the first time the team recorded a winning season, finishing the year 49-33. Portland made it to the postseason and ended up facing the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals, who eventually lost to them in six games.
Following their first championship win, the Trail Blazers started out the 1978 season with a bang, going an astonishing 50-10 after the first 60 games of the season. A big contributor to this streak was Bill Walton, who finished his career with two championships to his name and was honored as the Most Valuable Player in 1977. However, Portland's fire began to fade, and the franchise ended the year 58-24 after Walton suffered an injury. The team ended up losing in the conference semifinals that season. Although Walton left the team shortly after the injury, he was valued for his contribution to the franchise and was eventually inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Trail Blazers also retired the jersey he wore while playing with the team - number 12.
It wasn't until the 1990s that the Trail Blazers began to heat up again and get back to their winning ways. The squad's best season came in 1990-91 when they finished 63-19. The team ended up reaching the finals twice more in 1990 and 1992, but lost to the Pistons and Bulls respectively, before entering another rebuilding period, focusing on bringing in younger, talented players that have kept the Trail Blazers one of the better teams in the Western Conference during most of the 2000s.