Unlucky streak

The owner wants to leave, the team finished with an NBA-worst 21-61 record last season and the roster lacks a legitimate star player. Right when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, tragedy struck Portland’s lone professional sports franchise once again late Tuesday afternoon.

After finishing with the league’s worst record last season, the Blazers were nearly guaranteed the first pick in the NBA draft. They were given a 25 percent chance to obtain the draft’s most desired position, that is one out of four, which is significantly higher than any other team. But, as usual the Blazers didn’t follow the plan.

Instead of being the last team to have their logo revealed by NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik, Portland earned the fourth slot. The Toronto Raptors, only given an 8 percent chance to get a hold of the first pick, defied the odds and walked away the obvious winners of the lottery by securing the first pick. However, possibly more detrimental than having the first pick elude them was the fact that the next two picks followed suit, conveniently slipping away from Portland’s grasp and forcing them to make do with the fourth pick.

So, the Blazers failed as a franchise once again. The feeling of despair that surrounds the Blazers’ franchise is really beginning to take its toll on the fans. In a matter of a couple of years the Blazers have taken a considerable fall in respectability. Remember, they were the team that earned headlines and recognition around the league for making 21 straight playoff appearances, a streak that ended in 2003. Now, they are a team that is searching for an opportunity, some kind of chance to redeem themselves after a couple of miserable seasons.

That opportunity was thought to arise on Tuesday afternoon. The Blazers were supposed to arrive in Secaucus, N.J., the site of the NBA Draft Lottery, hear their name called as the honorary owners of the first pick, and begin the process of turning this dreadful situation around in the coming weeks. But by now we all know that wasn’t the case.

By not acquiring the first pick Portland just squandered all hope for next year, unless Steve Patterson and John Nash can work a miracle in just a few months. With the first pick the Blazers had all of the options in the world. To name a few, they could keep the pick and take their chances drafting a young prospect like Tyrus Thomas, LaMarcus Aldridge or Adam Morrison. Another possibility was packaging the pick with a disgruntled player like Zach Randolph or Darius Miles and trading for an established star like Kevin Garnett.

However, with the scene that unfolded on Tuesday the Blazers are left with very few alternatives. Frankly, the fourth pick doesn’t have the appeal of the first pick. The difference between the two picks may look like only three slots on paper but in reality it is like comparing the careers of Jordan and Sam Bowie. It isn’t even close. So, right now the Blazers better start scouting these young stars to figure out who is the marquee talent, because no general manager in their right mind is going to accept a trade for the fourth pick and the childlike Randolph or Miles.

Here is reality for the Blazers. If they don’t make even a marginally intelligent pick in the draft, the 2006-2007 season could be worse than last season. They have the potential to win as few as 15 games next season with their current roster. It is unfortunate but it is the truth. They lack a consistent post presence, guards that can shoot and penetrate, an electrifying player that can excite the crowd and most of all a player with the right mix of talent and maturity that can put the team on his shoulders when tough times come.

Nash and Patterson better start scouring this year’s draft class, telling the scouting department to watch every single clip of these players they can get their hands on because if they don’t it could mean their jobs and cost this team another year in the Northwest Division cellar. Fans, the fate of this upcoming season and future of this team will be determined during the next month leading to the NBA draft.

If Portland makes the right moves they could be somewhat competitive next season, but if their scouting process falters it could be an another season that results in the best chance to walk away with the number one pick in the draft. Nash and Patterson, get to work boys!