Links: Portland’s Trail

by Lang Whitaker

As a fan of a famously struggling franchise, I feel compelled to offer my congratulations to the Portland Trailblazers, who have won 8 consecutive games. They’ve beaten a lot of good teams along the way, including Utah (twice), Golden State and Denver. They’ve played so well now that they’re one game over .500, and they’re half a game out of the Playoff race. henry Abbott is so excited that he’s doing 1,500-word posts about one game from Brandon Roy. (Just wait until the Hawks reel off 8 straight — I’ll changes all the colors of SLAMonline to red and blue.)

While this Blazers renaissance is fun and all, my question is, what are they doing? Not how are they doing this, but why are they doing this? Shouldn’t they be trying to lose as many games as possible so they can draft Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley or Eric Gordon?

I brought this up in the office and Khalid and Ben immediately dismissed my line of thought, which makes me think I’m onto something. Khalid and Ben agreed that the young Blazers need to learn how to win, that these games are great preparation for the future.

Let’s say the Blazers keep this up and make the Playoffs this season. Great! Then they get knocked out in Round One by the Spurs or Suns. Then next year they try to integrate their franchise player, Greg Oden. Oden’s hanging around the team this year and soaking all this in, but he’s still going to be a square zero when it comes to playing in NBA games, and unless they want to move Oden for a vet and pick up where this season left off, they’re going to have to teach Oden how to win and figure out how to use him within their offense. Which means figuring things out all over again.

If you’re going to have to go through this again next season, why not do it with Oden and Rose instead of Oden and the 20th pick?

The logical argument against this is that the Blazers are already playing all their young guys heavy minutes, so it’s not like they’re bencing the future to sacrifice for a few wins in the short term. But they are playing gadget defenses — a zone! — that aren’t going to win you an NBA title and don’t really do anything to prepare your players for the future. And isn’t now the time to give big playing time to Raef LaFrentz and Darius Miles, who are both under contract next season for a total of $21 million, to figure out if they’re worth keeping around?

Or maybe I’m just sensitive. Remember when the Hawks were dead in the water a few years ago and instead of playing for the future, they played their vets and won a bunch of meaningless games so Terry Stotts could pad his career coaching record? And we won so many games that we couldn’t draft Dwight Howard?

Yeah, that worked out well.

And remember the 96-97 Spurs? With david Robinson injured and down for the count, the Spurs handed the team over to a 37-year-old Dominique Wilkins, who averaged 18.2 ppg and guided the team to a stellar 20-62 record. That summer the Spurs won the lottery and picked some guy named Tim Duncan.

I’m just saying…

• Jamie Lynn Spears. Wow.

• Quote of the year from a TV show goes to “30 Rock” two weeks ago, when Alec Baldwin’s character said: “I love when women have ambition; it’s like a dog wearing clothes.”

• I wrote a new column for today over here.

By the way, does anyone still think the Hawks got ripped off in that Joe Johnson/Boris Diaw trade?

• Some of you might know longtime SLAM contributor DeMarco Williams, who besides hoops also writes about movies. he contributes to a blog about movies here, and today he posted his list of his top five movies of the year and asked for my top five. Who’s in my five? I haven’t seen some of DeMarco’s top movies, but here’s my list…

5. In The Shadow Of The Moon
4. The Darjeeling Limited
3. American Gangster
2. No Country For Old Men
1. Superbad

I went with Superbad at number one because even though a lot of people will say it was juvenile and lame, I laughed more in that movie than I’ve laughed at any movie in a long time.

Give me your five in the comments section…