Trail Blazers, Antawn Jamison Should Take Look Around Them
John Canzano sees it. In Wednesday's Oregonian, he advocated bold, decisive moves to tear down, then rebuild, the roster. I am not sure if that's the same as rebuilding. But it certainly is a break with the years of figuring that, once everyone got healthy and mature, these Blazers would take their place among the league's elite. Just like that. In Canzano's mind, other than Roy and Oden, everyone on the team must be put in play.
That's not the same as a fire sale -- in the same way that transforming the roster isn't rebuilding, right? -- but it's the only way for the Blazers to move on. Or forge ahead. Or something.
Roy and Oden don't make the list, either because of their injuries or because some dreams are just too hard to kill. But Canzano is willing to part with Aldridge. And Andre Miller. And Joel Przybilla. And Rudy Fernandez. The only problem is, I'm not sure that's enough to turn the franchise around and have it playoff-bound in no time. Here's Canzano on Aldridge: "LaMarcus Aldridge has big-time value. He'd be the bargaining chip most likely to bring a major shift. And his game isn't strong enough to make him untouchable." Translation: He's half-empty for us, half-full for the rest of the league.
Whether it's the Blazers in Portland, or Antawn Jamison in Cleveland, some of the NBA's saddest stories involve people too devoted, or polite, to seize the effin' day.
It's not surprising that teams, writers, and fans are the last people to shift opinion on a player like Aldridge. It's about feeling like you're part of something big, that the hype is real. The formula set in stone is always more appealing than the ups and downs that most NBA teams must contend with as they lurch into contention. The Oklahoma City Thunder didn't win the space race overnight. There were false starts along the way, such as the trade-and-switch for Tyson Chandler (not looking so smart now), the reach for James Harden, and looking ahead, the decision on Jeff Green. Had the Blazers faced facts about Aldridge sooner, instead of swearing every season that he was on the verge of a breakthrough, the future might look different.
In the winter of 2009, they could have snared Amar'e Stoudemire if they had been willing to part with Aldridge. Would that have saved the franchise? No. Would it have radically altered what we see today? Who knows. The point is, being willing to trade Aldridge then actually meant something. Now, with the Blazers the last to acknowledge that the plan is dead, Aldridge isn't fetching Amar'e any time soon. I know, Amar'e was a bad person then, that's why the Blazers passed, there always might be another malcontent looking for an out. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if taking on Aldridge's contract is still seen as a worthwhile sacrifice.
The Blazers missed their chance to wheel and deal without retreating. It's unclear whether they could even trade their dudes and get what they consider equal value ... whatever the value of Aldridge, Pryzbilla, Miller, or Rudy is. Miller is up this summer, with a team option, but he doesn't make much. Marcus Camby, actually, will be a far bigger expiring deal; his contract ends in 2012. We spent much of the fall hearing about proposed Rudy trades. If I were an opposing GM, the only player I would take a run at is Nicolas Batum, and it's no accident that Canzano doesn't mention him once. Or Camby. I am not sure the Blazers are in a position to be this picky -- nor am I convinced that this team can be "fixed." Sometimes, before rebuilding must come the decay.
Did you hear the one about Antawn Jamison? Jamison suffered through the Wizards' spiral of destruction without a peep. When he was traded to Cleveland, the world rejoiced, as one of the league's real good guys was getting a chance to play for a title. Then LeBron left, and Jamison is right back where he started. Once again, the 34-year-old forward refuses to ask for his freedom, even though forcing Cleveland's hand might be the only way he'll be able to get out of there. Jamison makes a ton, can't defend much, and occupies a weird, liminal slot on offense. Teams aren't lining up to acquire him, especially after he failed to make much of a splash in Cleveland. The Cavs would have to give him away, but no team is doing that unless they are forced. I don't care what an honorable man Dan Gilbert is.
I know, this is all the fault of LeBron James. When he bolted, Jamison was left high and dry. Then again, by going above and beyond what we consider athlete decorum, Jamison keeps putting himself in situations that will screw him. There's being a class act, and then there's career suicide. Sent to a Cleveland team at the trade deadline that might lose its best player? He could have gotten this kind of opportunity a year or two earlier and avoided his current pickle. Speaking of which, by refusing to be a little bit pushy, Jamison could finish his career in Cleveland, or only play meaningful basketball again once his game has all but deserted him.
Inspiring, I know, but is this really the ending he wants? Is there really anything heroic in watching Jamison sacrifice his career for the good of honor -- or in the Blazers hang on to what could have been out of faith? Reality can be a drag, but unfortunately, it will catch up with you at some point. In general, it's a good idea to try and stay a step or two ahead of it.