5 Reasons to root for Damian Lillard & the Portland TrailBlazers
The Sixers suck. The Phillies suck. Everything sucks. Ok, the Flyers still have a chance (or else we wouldn’t have a podcast!) and the Union are looking good.
To put it simply: getting swept by Boston hurt. And I mean REALLY, REALLY hurt. Hurt that is beyond the typical anger that follows after your favorite team loses a game. Hurt that has fans questioning and arguing everything about the last few seasons. Sam Hinkie, who never got a real shot to build the contending team after The Process years, had his foundation of draft assets, young talent, and salary cap absolutely wasted and ruined thanks to Joshua Harris, Rod Thorn, Adam Silver, Jerry Colangelo, Brian Colangelo, and now Elton Brand. If anything, I would argue that Elton tanked this the franchise by risking what was left of the salary cap to sign Tobias Harris and Al Horford to $180 million and $109 million contracts, respectively. While Brand did make these moves with Colangelo’s underlings still working the front office, they collectively decided (because we really don’t know who’s in charge), to sign "bullies" for a team "built for the playoffs" in an era that is dominated by position-less basketball where making three pointers is more valuable than ever. Trust me, I feel incredibly stupid for talking myself into thinking last off-season’s plan would work. I was on record for saying I was cautiously optimistic, but in reality, I have to admit I was wrong.
So what now? This will be a strange off-season, but before discussing the Sixers', we owe it to ourselves to enjoy the game of basketball. If you’re like me, it helps to have a small rooting interest watching any game that doesn’t involve your favorite team (if you’re a betting man, this doesn’t apply to you) [Editor's note: It me]. So who is my team that I’m rooting for the rest of this season? Easy –Damian Lilliard and the Portland Trailblazers. Relax, don’t get too exited or fly off the handle just yet. Prior to you @'ing me on Twitter [Editor's note: Do it now} or screenshot the stupidity of my tweets or article, just know that you are allowed to have a mild rooting interest in a non-home team in the playoffs when: your team is out, as long as you’re not rooting for a division rival, and your allegiance does not change permanently. Regardless, the Trailblazers are by far the most exciting team this summer [Editor's note: Steve clearly hasn't watched Luka]. So without further adieu, here are 5 reasons why you should root for the Damian Lillard and the Portland TrailBlazers.
1. They’re Playing the Lakers
One of my rules dictates you can't root for a division rival…but you should be hating the Lakers no matter what. You should also hate LeBron James. He barely took a meeting with the Sixers two years ago during the most activated off-season ever, and teased everyone for a good 48 hours. LeBron is 3-6 in the NBA Finals, so he’s had his chances. Don’t you want him to keep failing, just to avoid more MJ-LeBron debates? I certainly do. And let’s not forget – they’re the #1 seed. Since the NBA went to a best of 7 format for first round games, only 3 teams went on to win the series against a #1 seed: Golden State (2007), Memphis (2011), and yes, you guessed it, the 2012 Sixers when they beat the Chicago Bulls sans Derrick Rose in his prime. In a year that’s all about making history, wouldn’t you love to see an 8 seed make a Finals run?
2. Dame 3:16
I’m not a sneaker head, or whatever you call those guys that spend hundreds on a pair of Jordans they never wear and display them on a bedroom shelf. BUT – these shoes are straight fire. Collaborating with the Stone Cold Steve Austin? Come on man, it doesn’t get better than that. Upon some quick research, Dame is a huge wrestling fan and even knew Austin from his “Stunning Steve” days. When the Rock (one of my personal favorites along with Austin) sells Under Armour headphones and shoes that are well over $200, it’s satisfying to see some sweet sneaks at a reasonable price (previously $61 on Adidas' website).
(If you're reading this part, I take it you're a wrestling fan - and if so, checkout our wrestling pod Powerbombs & Potables!)
3. Dame D.O.L.L.A.
In an era where players care so much about “their brand” than most things, Dame drops a new EP, “Live From The Bubble”, under his alter ego Dame D.O.L.L.A. Honestly, I’m not hip-hop or rap expert, but this one isn't bad. One of his tracks, “Blacklist,” is among the anthems for the Black Lives Matter movement, which fights police brutality and systemic racism, as well as fighting for equality for persons of color. To work on an EP in a bubble while also dropping anywhere from 30 to 60 points a game makes you the hardest worker in the gym and in the (hotel) room.
4. No, the TrailBlazers do not have Evan Turner
Before writing this article, I told myself I can’t root for a team that has a former Sixer most fans grew to despise. But like many things post-COVD-19, I totally forgot that Turner is no longer on the Trailblazers. After signing stealing a 4-year, 70-million dollar deal from Portland in 2016, he was traded to Atlanta for Kent Bazemore last off-season. This year Turner has been plauged by injuries and appeared only in 19 games. Turner was then traded to Minnesota (OOOF) as part of a four-team deal. It gets better: he was working a buyout with Minnesota that never materialized. Then, Minnesota allowed him to workout with the Clippers and Trailblazers while trying to negotiate a buyout, but that didn't work out. So Evan Turner remains in Minnesota purgatory doing what he does best: not living up to expectations.
5. This is likely Portland’s only shot
For the first time in several years, the NBA title is up for grabs. There appears to be no clear-cut winner or heavy favorite. No Spurs, Warriors, or Cavalier teams entering with the highest expectations. Portland’s two best players, Damian LIllard and C.J. McCollum, are 30 and 28 respectively. Not that they’re necessarily old, but closer towards the end of their prime rather than the beginning. If they don’t win a title, they’re going to be in the category of great players who just never won (the Charles Barkley or Vince Carter or Chris Paul categories). Playing in a smaller market like Portland, such talent is only going to come via the draft. Even if they have the cap room, Portland isn’t a sexy destination like L.A. or New York where the biggest of star players can maximize their brand. Lillard and McCollum have made it as far as the Western Conference Finals just one time, and have crashed out of the first round three times in six playoff appearances. But this year could be different. Could this be the start of their destiny and historic run? We shall see. Though some may put an asterisk on this year’s champion, it may be the only legitimate shot the TrailBlazers have to go all the way. Besides, wouldn’t you just love to see Dame on a championship float, crushing beers, raising hell, and giving stunners?
If so, give me a HELL YEAH.