Why Blazers Fans Should Think Positively
Friday, May 08, 2015
Coming into this season there was a lot of excitement and anticipation of what this team could do after capturing the hearts of the city, and the nation, with “the shot” against the Rockets that led them to the second round of the playoffs. The expectations coming in the 2014-2015 season were sky-high; a lot of fans thought it was NBA Finals or bust.
The injuries, losses, and disappointments have been, and will be, continually covered. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see the season for what it was … a 50 win season that saw the Blazers in the playoffs in one of the toughest conferences in league history.
Here are a few of the highlights of the season for me:
- Triple Overtime Thriller in San Antonio – Portland played the reigning champs neck and neck the entire game. The Spurs were playing on the second night of a back-to-back but didn’t show it until late in the game. Damian Lillard scored the final 8 points in regulation for Portland and took things to overtime. The Spurs jumped out to a 6 point lead in the first overtime but Portland battled back to extend the game. Déjà vu in the second overtime as the Spur jumped out to a 6 point lead and the Blazers battled back to tie. Then in the third overtime, the Blazers exploded for 17 points and beat the Spurs 129-119. Lillard recorded a career-high 43 points.
- Northwest Division Champs – Ask someone in Oklahoma City about the division title and they will say the only reason that Portland won it was because their MVP Kevin Durant was injured for the vast majority of the season. Ask someone in Portland about the division title and they are likely to say Portland was the better team anyways. Either way, the Blazers will hang a banner that says “Northwest Division Title – 2015”. This is only the 5th such division title in the team’s storied history, and the first since 1999. Yes, it is a big deal!
- 50+ wins … Again! – The Blazer now have 13, 50-win seasons in the teams’ 44-year history. This year they made is to 50 wins for the second year in a row. That is a huge accomplishment. In the late 80s-early 90s, the Blazers had four straight seasons of 50+ wins. Can this team pass that mark? Time will tell.
- Maturation of the Bench – For being such a relaxed and go-with-the-flow city, Portland can be a little too anxious with their sports franchises. Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum were both lottery picks. Because of the instant success that Lillard saw his rookie year, I think that a lot of fans expected Leonard and McCollum to have the same learning curve. That was an unfair expectation to begin with. But this season the pair of young, bench players started to live up to their potential and expectations. Towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, Leonard was oozing with confidence. When he shot a three, the whole crowd thought it was going in. He learned how to beat and bang in the post and became a formidable defender. McCollum is a talented scorer and is one of the few special players that can truly create their own shot. In Game 5 of the first round matchup with Memphis, McCollum made Blazer-franchise history by scoring 33 points off the bench, the most for any Portland bench player in the playoffs. Those two have bright futures ahead of them, as evident at the end of the season.
- Rip City Spirit – This is an incredible city to live in and be a basketball fan. The atmosphere in the Moda Center is truly unlike any other. In a lot of other cities, I would almost rather watch the game on my flat screen at home. Not Portland, Portland is special. As the off-season gets more hectic and noisy with free agency and the draft, just think back to what a big game feels like in the Moda Center; the chants, the cheers, the excitement. Unfortunately we don’t get any of that until October.
As you can see, there were plenty of positives to call this a successful season. As a basketball fan these days, you never know what is going to happen next, but as we reflect of this season, remember it with a smile and think of what Brian Wheeler always says, “And once again we can say, it’s a great day to be a Blazer.”
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Alex Morgan, 25, is a forward for the Portland Thorns. She recently signed with the club in January of 2013 after playing for the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Sounders. She rose to prominence because of her success playing for the United States women’s national soccer team. Morgan was the youngest player to represent the U.S. during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She will once again represent team USA this summer as they prepare to head off to Canada for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Photo credit: Alex Morgan's Facebook page
Meyers Leonard, 23, was the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Over the past few years he has been diligently working with the Portland Trailblazer’s coaching staff in order to refine his game. The Illinois alumni’s hard work has been paying off considering he’s having the best season of his career.
Photo credit: Meyers Leonard's Facebook page
Kaylyn Kyle, 26, is a Canadian soccer player who currently plays for the Portland Thorns. She is also a member of the Canadian women’s national team. Kyle was part of the 2012 Canadian national team that defeated France in the bronze medal game. She is also an ambassador for, Right To Play, which is an organization dedicated to using soccer as a resource to educate and empower children from disadvantaged communities.
Photo credit: Kaylyn Kyle's Facebook page
Gaston Fernandez, 31, is a striker for the Portland Timbers. The club signed the Argentinian striker back in January of 2014. During his MLS debut with the Timbers he scored an equalizer goal that extended the Timbers unbeaten home record to sixteen.
Photo credit: via forums.bigsoccer.com
Marcus Mariota, 21, is coming off one of the best seasons any Oregon Duck quarterback has ever experienced. He is the first Hawaiian-born athlete to ever win the Heisman trophy. This season he also led the Ducks to a 12-1 regular season record. Duck fans everywhere will be anxiously waiting to see where Mariota goes in this year’s NFL Draft.
Photo credit: via Oregon Football's Facebook page
Ellie Cribbins is a second year Blazer Dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. Cribbins is originally from Portland, Oregon but attended Oregon State University. This season proved to be a unique one for Cribbins since her sister also made the Blazer Dancers last August.
Photo credit: via Ellie Cribbin's Facebook page
Jake Gleeson, 24, is a New Zealand born goalie that is currently playing for the Portland Timbers. He signed with the club in February of 2011. Gleeson has taken pride over the past few years of being a young player who has worked his way up the ranks.
Photo credit: via solofutbol.cl
Janie Takeda, 21, is a senior outfielder for the University of Oregon. The Dallas Charge of the National Pro Fastpitch League recently drafted her 26th overall. Takeda was also selected to play on the United States women’s national team during the 2015 summer season. She is set to graduate from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication this spring.
Photo credit: Janie Takeda's Facebook page
Damian Lillard, 24, was the NBA’s 2012 Rookie Of The Year. He was the 4th Portland Trailblazer to ever win the award. Since then he’s been named an All-Star twice, as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection. Lillard had one of the most rememberable performances in Trailblazer history after he hit a three-pointer that defeated the Houston Rockets in game 6 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
Photo credit: Damian Lillard's Facebook page
Maggie Rouse, 20, is a junior cheerleader for the University of Oregon. She just completed her third year on the team. When she tried out as a freshman she never expected to make the squad. Yet, here she is two years later. She is currently majoring in Educational Foundations.
Photo credit: Maggie Rouse's Facebook page
LaMarcus Aldridge, 29, is widely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA. The Texas native is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. He is also a four-time NBA All-Star. On March 10th, 2015 Aldridge became the Trailblazers all-time leading rebounder.
Photo credit: LaMarcus Aldridge's Facebook page
Kaytianna McMillan is a gymnast for the Oregon State Beavers. Over the course of 2014 McMillan battled a series of injuries, yet she was still able to overcome them in order to become the Co-Champion of the 2014 NCAA University Park Regionals. Oregon State will be lucky to have her for the next couple of years.
Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics website
Devon Allen, 20, just completed his freshman year as a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. Not only is he the starting wide receiver for the Ducks he also runs track for the Oregon Outdoor Track and Field team. He recently earned a Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Although he is recovering from a torn ACL we hope to see him back on the field during the 2015-2016 season.
Phot credit: University of Oregon Facebook page
Chase De Leo
Chase De Leo, 19, currently plays center for the Portland Winterhawks. His quickness and overall creative offensive game earned him an invite to Team USA’s selection camp back in December of 2014. Of all 30 players who were invited, he was only one of 2 WHL players.
Photo credit: Chase De Leo's Facebook page
Darron Thomas, 24, is a professional quarterback for the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. During his college days he played for the Oregon Ducks. While starting for the Ducks he led to the team to the 2011 BCS National Championship game, as well as the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Texas native recently partook in the NFL Veteran Combine with the hope of upstarting his NFL career.
Photo credit: Portland Thunder Facebook page