The Trail Blazers have released their schedule for the upcoming season, which is always an opportunity for a little shameless optimism. Over the past four seasons, the Blazers have improved from a 20-win doormat to 54-win Cinderellas, transforming the entire city of Portland into Happyland—not to mention perfecting cold fusion, giving Xbox 360s to every area child, helping old ladies across the street and changing the tires of stranded motorists. Put in the context of the gang world, if the Jail Blazers of the mid-decade were the mafia, the current crew is the Little Rascals (with B-Roy as Spanky).
The schedule will be the only leaked news for two months (other than Roy’s much-deserved contract extension), and it will be fussed over by basketball obsessives to the point of madness. Still, knowing as little as we do about injuries, conditioning, and off-season improvement, it would be unfair to come up with any sort of genuine analytic overview at this stage of summer’s doldrums. Instead, here’s your emotional preview of what will (should) happen over the course of the new season.
September: Boredom. Preseason hasn’t started yet. The inundation of “Can Oden Get His Groove Back?” articles causes migraines.
October: Nostalgia. The Blazers return to Memorial Coliseum for an exhibition game against the Phoenix Suns to celebrate the team’s 40th anniversary. No word yet on whether Dairy Queen will step up to the plate and make glasses with cartoon images of this year’s team.
November: Euphoria. After last year’s grueling schedule at the star of the season, the Blazers should theoretically breeze through the beginning of the season undefeated. Calls to canonize Kevin Pritchard ring out far and wide.
December: Disengagement. The Blazers hit a massive wall during a road trip against the Spurs, Magic, and Mavericks. The first slump of the season leads to a flaming bag of poop left on the doorstep of Paul Allen. Allen’s cyborg ninja security team makes sure this doesn’t happen again.
January: Uneasiness. After a rough patch, the Blazers win some big home games against quality teams. Fans will buy the Brandon Roy Slam Dunk Over Chiekh Samb commemorative plate at the Rose Garden, but pass on the Nicholas Batum basketball phrasebook Jouez Avec Moi due to tempered enthusiasm and maxed out credit cards from Christmas.
February: Restlessness. A game against the Lakers is the only thing to look forward to during one of the coldest months of the year. We recommend knitting Blazers pinwheel-shaped oven mitts.
March: Relief. The Blazers clinch a berth in the playoffs for the second straight year. And it looks like they could have home court again, too. Joel Przybilla invites the entire team over for a barbecue to celebrate. No one shows up due to recurrent cloudbursts. Awkward air and leftover hot wings permeate the locker room for about a week.
April: Anticipation. Playoffs are around the corner, and the season’s last week includes a game against the Lakers on ABC in a potential Western Conference Finals preview. Paul Allen’s cyborg ninja security team leaves flaming bag of poop on Jack Nicholson’s doorstep.
Of course, after this comes the requisite four months of playoff basketball, culminating with the finals in August of 2010 as David Stern extends each round to best-of-thirteen series to make up for budget shortfalls. The Blazers stuff Shaq, LeBron, and the rest of the Cavaliers in 11 games.
We assure you that at least 10 percent of what was said here will happen. Good luck with the math. —Robert Runyon