Following Sunday night’s loss to the New York Knickerbockers, the Blazers’ record dropped to 14-18, marking a new level of mediocrity and futility. Even before the embarrassing 105-113 shortcoming in NYC an air of desperation had already infiltrated One Center Court.

Need proof? Have you ever heard of James Thomas? He’s a 6-9 rookie forward out of Texas who previously found his employment with the Roanoke Dazzle of the NBDL. Roanoke Dazzle? The Blazers, in their hasty attempt to make up for the loss of both Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles to the IR, have signed the former University of Texas player and all-time leading rebounder in school history to a 10-day contract.

Thomas had previously worked out for the Blazers on their Rocky Mountain Revue team in 2004, where he averaged 10 points and 7.6 boards. Thomas had an auspicious debut for Portland Monday night, as he scored four points and grabbed three boards in only nine minutes of action.

The Blazers also recently signed their second round draft pick Ha Seung Jin for the remainder of the season, adding the 7-3 Korean to their active roster in the wake of the injuries.

Thomas and Ha are warm bodies, but their presence will do little to stem the bleeding that Portland has experienced in recent weeks. A combination of injuries and persistent and varied trade rumors has killed the pricey, under-talented team’s focus and motivation. After playing mediocre ball most of the season to remain near .500, the Blazers have dropped six of eight games. They ended their four game losing streak in Philadelphia Monday night to climb to 15-18 but still allowed the Sixers 100 points and are in real trouble on defense.

Granted, many factors are out of the control of both the players and head coach Maurice Cheeks. Abdur-Rahim’s injury has hampered what was otherwise a fine season. After being named the starter at the beginning of the season, he responded with 15.7 points and 8 rebounds through 23 games. However, a persistent right elbow injury has landed Abdur-Rahim on the IR for now, and he is facing surgery that could knock him out for up to five weeks.

His understudy Darius Miles has not fared much better. After accepting the backup role and flourishing with the hustle-oriented second unit, Miles injured his left knee in the Blazers’ 98-102 loss Wednesday against the Clippers in LA. He will be rehabbing the injury for up to two weeks as he joins Abdur-Rahim on the IR.

On top of the persistent threat of trade talks, the Blazers find themselves in a precarious situation. If their offense was criticized for being sporadically ineffective a couple of weeks ago, it could quickly become downright anemic. Portland needs to score consistently to compensate for their increasingly porous defense, which has allowed 100 or more points in seven of eight contests, only two of those games resulting in a Blazer win.

Portland was forced to use usual sixth man Ruben Patterson as a starter against the Knicks and Sixers and he responded with 20 points, 5 boards and 3 steals in a meaningful 41 minutes of play Sunday. Patterson had another nice game Monday, scoring 13 points while helping the Blazers to contain Allen Iverson.

Fortunately, the youth movement is showing signs of life. Little-used forward Travis Outlaw scored a career high 13 points on 6-8 shooting against New York, showing sparks of the vaunted potential that convinced the Blazers to use the 23rd pick in the 2003 draft on him. Portland’s first ever lottery pick Sebastian Telfair also registered a career night in his hometown, dishing out 7 assists despite shooting just 1-6 in the game.

After Monday’s win the Blazers have four games left on their trip, including stops in Minnesota and Sacramento (with new addition Cutino Mobley) to end the eastern swing. The Blazers must build off of their win in Philly, remember how to play some defense and snap out of their funk or poor James Thomas is going to be wishing for those glory days in Roanoke all too soon.