To whom it may concern…

Dear Blazers Fans,

With just three games remaining in this roller-coaster season, the Blazers playoff positioning is the only battle remaining—the waters calmed after a turbulent March. As the team and their fans saddle up for the postseason—the team’s first in three years—some perspective needs to be shed before the blood begins to spill over their playoff successes or failures.

This season, no matter when it ends, was a rousing success.

Flash back to October: Game one of the preseason had come and gone, and it looked as if nothing had changed. Robin Lopez looked a mess in the middle, abused and toyed with by Deandre Jordan of the Clippers. Los Angeles left the Moda Center with an easy victory, with Portland falling. Looking strikingly similar to last season, when a once promising season was flushed away with late-season injuries and a painful 13-game losing streak.

It looked as if year two of the Olshey rebranding would look a lot like the year before, just littered with more questions. Would Lamarcus Aldridge sit quietly as another year passed with limited success? Would the bench be as woeful as the year before, despite offseason acquisitions? Would a serviceable center ever emerge?

Flash forward to now, and not one Blazers fan should feel anything less than jubilant with the answers.

Lopez has been the shining star, a behemoth of a man who has played within himself, been a team glue-guy, and outdone any sort of expectations that may have followed him to Portland. He is a candidate for Most Improved Player, an honor he more than likely will not win because of stats. But stats don’t tell the story, as Lopez has been as impactful a free agent pickup as any player in the league.

He’s helped elevate Aldridge from All-Star to Superstar. He’s masked defensive deficiencies of teammates, been a locker room leader, and most importantly, answered the question of whether Portland will ever have a center worth building around.

The Twin Towers they are not, with one standing at just 6 feet 3 inches, but the two pillars of the franchise, Aldridge and Damian Lillard, have put the Blazers on the NBA map, solidifying the Blazers as a dangerous team for years to come. On a roster littered with players not yet in their prime, these two stand out, winning games night in and night out with breathtaking plays, clutch shots and game winners.

And, if they lock down Aldridge with a contract, there’s plenty more to come.

But that’s a story for another day. Today, Blazers fans, it’s time to sit back and be in awe of the season that has been, and thankful it wasn’t the season it could have been. Will success follow them to the playoffs? We won’t know that for a couple weeks yet. In reality, it doesn’t matter. This season, no matter how it ends, has been beyond fans’ wildest dreams, and that cannot be forgotten.

Whether it ends in a first round loss or a championship, the future is bright. Perhaps brighter than it’s ever been, and that should be the real takeaway.

The rebuild is over.
Rise With Us no more,
Joel Gunderson
Vanguard Sports Desk