Media day revelations

The Portland Trail Blazers officially opened their 35th season as a franchise much as they have the past few seasons: under intense media scrutiny and with a glut of talent and nowhere to put it. This year, however, there are a few key differences that put the Blazers in an even more tenuous position than years past.

The 2003-2004 season saw the Blazers miss the playoffs for the first time since before many PSU students were born. Most fans were willing to forgive the team as long as they were winning, but last year saw the attendance at the Rose Garden sink to record lows as the team sputtered to a 41-41 record. That said it is no surprise that the Blazer organization launched a summer long program to reach out to season ticket holders, culminating with the desperation move of sending flower bouquets to quell the disgruntled fans.

Given their recent history, it isn’t shocking to see that there was a definite air of forced optimism as the Blazers paraded players and management in front of the media on Monday at the Rose Garden. President of the Blazers Steve Patterson took the podium and claimed, “Hope springs eternal. This season will be fun.” Patterson may be exercising a little wishful thinking, because this is a team that is running scared right now. They are at the very least a little nervous.

Much of the tension stems from the situation brewing with Ruben Patterson, the Blazers disgruntled small forward who saw his minutes disappear last year after the late season acquisitions of Darius Miles and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “I’m too good to sit on the bench,” Patterson complained. “I’m gonna need about 25 minutes a game.” If Patterson gets five minutes a game he will be lucky. And he won’t be happy. Moving him at this time was declared unrealistic by team GM John Nash.

Patterson’s fiery temper worries Damon Stoudamire, who last year emerged as a clutch player late and the true leader of the team. “Anyone complaining about PT is out of place. We don’t need any distractions right now,” Stoudamire said, in reference to Patterson. Stoudamire also acknowledged that the Blazers are stacked with forwards and guards and are on the small side for an NBA team. “We are small, definitely. We need to come up with some defensive schemes (to compensate),” he said.

Derek Anderson, co-captain along with Stoudamire last season, echoed Stoudamire’s concerns about Patterson and the overstocked Blazers. “We’ve seen that too much talent has been hard for us,” Anderson said. “It’s been like that for the last three years.” However, Anderson stressed the importance for all the players to be professional and stay focused on the upcoming season.

Staying focused may prove difficult as the Blazers have several questions to answer as they go into camp. The most obvious is deciding who will start at small forward when the season opens on Nov. 3. Darius Miles inked a new 48 million dollar contract this summer and the Blazer management appears committed to him for the foreseeable future. He still has to earn his starting spot, though, and there will be plenty of competition from Abdur-Rahim.

Despite initial appearances the Blazers may be more ready for the season ahead then many give them credit for. They have a loaded frontcourt and genuine stars in Zach Randolph and Theo Ratliff. Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles will have a lively competition for the starting role at small forward and either player will do a competent job