Blazer success just beginning

When Brandon Roy was announced Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, the Blazers’ light at the end of the tunnel became a little brighter.

When Brandon Roy was announced Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, the Blazers’ light at the end of the tunnel became a little brighter. With head coach Nate McMillan, general manager Kevin Pritchard and now a franchise player in Roy, Portland has all of the pieces in place to make a playoff run as early as next season. At least that’s the hope.

Roy, who received 127 of 128 first-place votes, provided the Blazers with almost 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and four assists a game last season. Roy’s only lost vote came from Toronto play-by-play announcer Chris Swirsky, who cast his vote for Raptors rookie Andrea Bargnani. The former Husky standout supplied a calm and collected leadership style that had been absent in Portland for quite a while. His statistical output and leadership gave the team an 11-game improvement, but Roy’s most significant contribution is instilling a sense of hope in the Blazer faithful.

A franchise ravaged by immaturity and poor publicity over the past decade now has a much more hopeful face in the R.O.Y. The team also has a promising future under Roy’s care. And, for the Blazers, the combination of finally having a worthy face and bright future means that lofty expectations have just begun to brew in this one-sport city.

Coming off a season where excitement was frequent and improvement was common, more than ever Portlanders want to revisit a place they traveled to for 21 consecutive seasons-the playoffs. Blazers fans are done hearing the words rebuilding and improvement. Instead, they want to hear “Portland, welcome to the 2008 NBA playoffs.”

Roy points the team in the right direction. Winning this award proves he gives the franchise an opportunity to once again become an elite NBA team. But first, Blazers’ management must wheel and deal this offseason to meet fans’ desires and expectations. The faster this is done, the better the probability the Rose Garden is packed and the Blazers are winners come next season.

Luckily, for Blazers fans, Pritchard is the one occupying the GM’s office at 1 Center Court and not former headman Steve Patterson. Pritchard is an intelligent young executive who isn’t afraid to let it all out and make some risky deals. The draft is his forte, as he was the mastermind behind orchestrating six trades to nab Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez in last year’s draft.

Pritchard’s chances of getting the number-one overall pick may be slim at only 5.3 percent, but prognosticators predict this draft will be the richest in years. With freshmen Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Mike Conley Jr. forgoing the rest of their collegiate careers, and others like Aaron Afflalo, Corey Brewer, Al Horford and Julian Wright all ripe for the picking, the Blazers’ GM shouldn’t have any trouble finding a suitable player for this team on the precipice of the postseason. A big pick will really do wonders for a team right on the precipice of greatness.

Brandon Roy winning the R.O.Y. is just the beginning of the Blazers’ success. For most cities, this award is nothing more than another 30-pound trophy to stow away in the display case. But it has a much greater significance in Portland because it symbolizes a changing of the guard. It proves the Blazers have a foundation. And, with some swift dealings this offseason, the playoffs could be around the corner.