Change happens slowly. On Tuesday morning, it finally reached the farthest outposts of the NBA.
On that day for the history books, at sharply 10 o’clock in the morning, a Portland Trail Blazers employee walked across the stage and carefully removed a black curtain. Behind the drape, there was a new logo and thus, a new era for Blazer basketball in Stumptown as the team announced the name change of your beloved Rose Garden.
The Moda Center.
Go ahead. Read it aloud a couple times and start getting acclimated to the Blazers’ home sounding like one of those funky holistic retreats. The name will hang over the arena doors for at least the next 10 years, so here’s my advice: get your moda running and embrace this change. (Oh, the corny puns will be plenteous. Get used to that, too.)
Difficult as it might seem for all the Blazer fans who held cyber-space town hall meetings over their angst with the new name, change could serve this organization well. Because really, generations from now, how will we judge the Rose Garden era? For its deep playoff runs? Conference and league championships? Hall of fame players?
Hardly. The Rose Garden is now buried and in its plot here lies 18 years where mediocrity was celebrated to the hilt.
If 1977 still stands as the zenith of professional basketball in Portland, then by 1995 the city had reached uncharted heights with the opening of the beautiful and brilliantly named Rose Garden arena. A 20,000-seat capacity, world-class showpiece in Northeast Portland.
The team got a new home that could rank among the best in the league, but lost the guy who helped build it — on Feb. 14, 1995, the Blazers traded Clyde Drexler to the Houston Rockets. So, began an age of uninhabited hope and unchecked expectations that only $262 million could buy.
Sure, no place rocked like the RG and there were good times — to name a few, standing-room only crowds witnessing the 1999-2000 Blazers’ 59-win season, the epic return of the old B-Roy and the Game 4 comeback of the 2011 playoff series against Dallas and Damian Lillard hitting the game-winning shot last season against New Orleans. All these moments appear muted in print but replay in living color inside the heart of a bleed-black-and-red Blazer fan.
Even so, these memories still do not justify anyone tightly clutching the old name like it’s a family heirloom.
When remembering the good ol’ times inside the Rose Garden, don’t forget to look at the whole picture.
Eighteen years and only one divisional title won outright. Six straight first-round playoff exits lasting until 1999, and no postseason appearances at all from 2004-2008. And the very definition of average: a .530 winning percentage over the 18-year span of the arena.
Please, let the Regular Garden era fade away.
The house hangs far too many jerseys from players of the Memorial Coliseum days and sets the bar too low that November through April wins over the Los Angeles Lakers live on as some big thing. Trust me, I get it — Blazer fans want to beat L.A., but it’s time to demand more than just a few crumbs of victory thrown here and there by your favorite team.
The Rose Garden name carries civic pride, but this is a basketball arena and not a city park. Fans should not feel like they’re losing a bit of Portland with the new name.
Instead, shed that skin and embrace something new. Moda Center won’t automatically usher in greatness for the Blazers, but when you think about it, neither did the Rose Garden.