Blazers’ season has been rather gray

Roster could get new look for second half of season

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

Published:

 

There is a scene from the former HBO Series “The Wire,” in which a boss is complaining to his employees that they’re bringing him “nothing but 40 degree days.”

He said that when it’s 50 degrees, people start smiling. When it’s 60, folks break out the barbecues. When it’s 20, everyone’s moaning.

But nobody remembers a 40-degree day.

So far, the Blazers have produced a 40-degree season. Eighteen wins. Sixteen losses. Eighth place in the Western Conference.

The sky isn’t falling — but it’s not blue, either.

As we’re about to enter the second half of the season, there are several questions surround the team and it’s quest to increase the temperature, such as ...

Will Joel Przybilla’s return have an impact?

It will definitely have an impact on the decibel level in the Rose Garden when he first takes the court. Przybilla has long been a fan favorite — to the point that many lamented his trade to Charlotte despite the fact that it brought Gerald Wallace to Portland.

The thing is, folks were cheering his personality more than they were his production.

The 7-foot-1 Przybilla averaged just 1.8 points and 3.9 rebounds last season. Perhaps more significantly, he played in just 36 games and only 30 the previous year. He twice injured his patellar tendon and has yet to prove that he can play at the same level he was before the rupture.

So while the 32-year-old will give Portland more size, it might be a stretch to think he’ll give them more wins.

Was the Blazers’ first-half record indicative of their talent?

Yes and no.

There are a lot of good players on this Blazers team, but only one that’s borderline great. And while LaMarcus Aldridge is having the best year of his career, he’s far from that elite level where he can single-handedly make his team a contender.

At the same time, Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews are underachieving, each putting up career lows in field-goal and 3-point percentage. Those numbers aren’t necessarily likely to improve, but it’s hard to imagine they can get much worse.

Additionally, the Blazers should actually be encouraged by their 2-10 record in games decided by five points or fewer. OK, encouraged might be the wrong word, but if you’re 18-16, wouldn’t you rather be 2-10 in close games as opposed to 10-2? Yes, actually.

Portland’s inability to close out may suggest a dearth in confidence, but it also means that its record could be a lot better, and not much worse. As Washington coach Randy Wittman said when the Wizards visited the Rose Garden, “Those things tend to even themselves out.”

What will this team look like after the trade deadline?

That’s a big mystery right now.

Acting Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan told Blazer’s Edge recently that the team is not currently considering trading any of its players, with Buchanan emphasizing the word himself.

Marcus Camby and Raymond Felton are in the final year of their contracts. Jamal Crawford and Gerald Wallace can opt out next year, and Nicolas Batum becomes a restricted free agent.

So will the Blazers try to acquire someone like Steve Nash in hopes of making a run? Do they have the bargaining chips to make an impactful deal? Will they trade away someone like Wallace, hoping to salvage some value out of fear he will leaving next season? Do they really want to keep Felton on the roster?

Trade season is always interesting, but it might be a little bit more than usual this year. Paul Allen doesn’t seem like the type of owner who wants to rebuild, even if it is necessary to trudge out of incessant mediocrity.

Don’t expect Portland to evacuate its roster next month — but don’t expect any big moves, either.

Will the Blazers make the playoffs?

Yes, but they won’t stay there long. Denver (18-17) and Minnesota (17-7) are the most likely candidates to supplant Portland in the playoff race, as they sit a half a game and a full game behind the Blazers, respectively. Utah (15-17) is also in contention, but seems to be fading away.

For the reasons mentioned earlier, the Blazers are more likely to play better in the second half than they did in the first, but then again, if Western Conference teams find themselves making moves, the season’s conclusion may be tough to forecast.

Optimism is always high for this team, but the truth is, without Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, the two players who, along with Aldridge, were supposed to revitalize this franchise, it’s unfair to place too lofty of expectations on the Blazers.

This is a short season. The postseason should be short, as well.

Matt Calkins covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com. Follow on Twitter www.twitter.com/blazerbanter