18 March 2010
No one thought they’d be reading it with Portland knee-deep in a playoff run.
When news hit Tuesday night that the Blazers had fired Tom Penn, Vice President of Basketball Operations, the report was soon followed by speculation of Penn GM job hunting with the Los Angeles Clippers and talk of his “ladder climbing” and abrasive demeanor. But that talk has been going on for some time including last summer, shortly after Hedo Turkoglu snubbed Portland for Toronto.
It was then that a trusted person who works for the organization and has close ties to the front office revealed that Penn was creating on aura of distrust within the front office by instructing a generally open Kevin Pritchard to tighten his circle of trust.
This “person” felt then that this wasn’t good for the organization. Pritchard was growing hard to reach, “moody” and just “not himself”. Not good at all.
Eight months later, Paul Allen and his brain trust apparently felt the same.
Then again, we can only speculate – and will and have been – on the true reasons for yet another newsflash striking Portland out of nowhere during a season filled with soap opera-like tendencies.
Call it, “General Hospital”: Twelve different Portland players have missed a combined 280 games because of injuries (205 all of last season), second only to Golden State and well ahead of third-place New Jersey.
Call it, “All My Children”: From a beleaguered Andre Miller exploding at Nate McMillan during practice in January, to weeks later Greg Oden apologizing for explicit photos posted on the internet.
Call it, “Young and the Restless”: What was really going on with Rudy Fernandez and those reports he’d welcome playing back overseas? Rubbish.
Yet through months and months and months of distractions – and a major trade for Marcus Camby - Portland continues to find a “Guiding Light”, if you will. They’ve persevered time and again, and chances are the departure of Penn won’t be a deterrent these last 13 regular season games and with the start of the NBA playoffs just a month away.
What a season. No one could have drawn it up this way. So Portland simply will do what they've been doing all season long: the Blazers move forward. Again.
Out of their remaining regular season games, 11 are against Western Conference foes with the Blazers sporting a 26-15 record against West rivals. Against the seven other playoff teams in the West – re: those in place to make the postseason – Portland is 10-8. Even as they occupy the eighth spot on West and inch closer to the seventh seed with San Antonio losing to Orlando on Wednesday night, the Blazers look to do a little “ladder climbing” of their own.
Portland believes they could be ranked fifth heading into the playoffs.
They believe a 50 win-season is realistic.
Seven games. Portland's playoff position and regular season win total all depends how they handle the rugged road ahead, particularly the following seven games: Phoenix, Dallas (twice), Oklahoma City (twice), Denver, and the Lakers. The other six games should be locks – “should” being the keyword here.
Now without Penn in hand, Portland can write their own script heading into the playoffs.
Will it be a must read?
Baring any more distractions, it should be.
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