I am still a Blazer believer (kind of)

I was annoyed when the pious and frosted-hair Dallas fans hoisted up their “got pot” signs, followed by “jail blazers” banners. I mean, as a friend of a friend of a friend who works for the organization said, “Who doesn’t smoke pot in Portland?”

Being positioned against the Dallas Mavericks (who possess one of the best records in all of the NBA) in the first round of the Western Conference NBA playoffs, to me, was a blessing in disguise. The Mavs do not have the sheer muscular strength and athleticism that the Portland Trail Blazers have. The Blazers do not, however, have the poise of Nowitzki and Nash, who consistently run the ball and penetrate the paint time after time after time.

The runaway wins of Game 4 and Game 6 assured wayward fans that when the Blazers ran a tight defense and hit, even 40-plus percent from the field, they were unstoppable.

In Game 6, the Blazers completely dominated the Mavericks, shutting out both Nash and Nowitski (they both “achieved” season scoring lows). Ironically, it was Blazer’s coach Maurice Cheeks’ rotating mix of players on the court that completely destabilized the Mavs (in both Games 4 and 6). This can, alone, indicate the overall talent in Whitsitt and Allen’s multi-millionaire roster.

Despite this, the Blazers still lost and ended the season, even after rallying from three games down. Even after public perception of the Blazers organization shifted on the singing talents of Cheeks in Game 3 (and made a star of a certain 13-year-old). Even after the home-court roasting of the Mavericks in Game 6 (Portland was ahead in the third quarter by 32 points). Even after the hopeful, collective sucking sound of Blazer’s fans holding in their breath at the beginning of Game 7. Even after Rasheed Wallace becomes ever more inconsistent and Zach Randolph ever more the opposite. So, now what?

“The Blazers just didn’t want it enough.” At least that is what resonated from the sidewalks of Portland the day after our third first-round loss in just as many years.

I disagree. They wanted it. They wanted it so bad they fought back, as Rasheed said, “when their backs were against the wall.” They were just not being led on the court by a consistent physical and emotional leader who could complement the buoyant direction of Coach Cheeks.

Ironically, the dramatic change-ups and substitutions that guaranteed their wins in Games 4 and 6 (the Mavericks were simply outmuscled in Game 5) was their undoing in the final two minutes of Game 7.

No one could clearly and consistently step forward into the role: Sabonis fouling out opened a hole for the Mavericks at the basket. This could be the story of the season. This is the story of the season.

And, by the way, Rasheed’s gotta go.