They Can't All Be Winners, Part 27: Portland Trail Blazers

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I nearly went to the grocery store the other evening. Felt an anxious twinge, needed to get out in the air. I traced the walk in my head, imagined myself soaking in Beach House’s sad buoyance, sweating in the heat, the stress filtering out of me. I thought about what I might buy: jasmine rice, some vegetables, maybe a skirt steak. I told my fiancee I was going out for a bit; she said okay and gave me a sweet and uneasy look that appears on her face whenever I begin to seem like a dog grappling with its own existence. I grabbed my wallet, remembered my shoes were in the other room.

And then I just sort of didn’t go. I read part of an interview in The Paris Review. I checked my phone for a soccer score. I had a maté. I cooked home fries and an egg. Not once did I waver in my assumption that all of this was leading up to me going to the grocery store. I went to bed at three am, treating sleep like a prelude. Let me just rest my eyes for a moment, then I will grab my messenger bag and leave.

The Portland Trail Blazers have been intending to go to the grocery store, off and on, since Bill Walton’s foot decided to sabotage him. Their fallow period hasn’t been like a lot of other franchises’. The post-Kareem Milwaukee Bucks, for instance, just haven’t been particularly good at any point. The Blazers are in a continual state of building a project that looks like it could go somewhere, then having it explode in the hangar. Sam Bowie sunk the Drexler Era; the Jail Blazers were thwarted by crummy playoff luck and a predilection for misdemeanors; Brandon Roy’s knees were bone-on-bone before the team around him was truly ready to ascend. Last season’s squad was humming along just fine, then Wes Matthews tore his achilles and now he and LaMarcus Aldridge play their basketball in Texas.

As is his wont, Dame Lillard is saying all the right things, claiming he’s excited about being the focal point of a renovated squad, but he must be reeling a little bit, in the way you do when you’re suddenly flung headlong into a new stage of your career without your consent. What are you supposed to do, when the franchise that historically balloons, then eats itself does just that, but be thankful that you have not been consumed? Dame has his health, at least, and he has more than that. He’s a brave player. Some of the reason he caught a lot of the love Aldridge didn’t in their years together was because Dame is a better quote, but it was also because he tries to score like he’s been in the locker room reciting Shakespearean battle speeches to himself, like if he drops 40 tonight, he’s going to become king of Ireland. Any season that gives him the opportunity to lead a doomed team to a woefully insufficient amount of wins while hoisting up threes like elegant middle fingers can’t truly be a lost one. Dame’s poetic like that; even when he’s down, he’s not down.

Previously on TCABW: Charlotte Hornets | Philadelphia 76ers | Houston Rockets | Los Angeles Lakers | Dallas Mavericks Indiana Pacers | Oklahoma City Thunder | Memphis Grizzlies | Chicago Bulls | Washington Wizards Cleveland Cavaliers Brooklyn Nets New York Knicks Denver Nuggets Miami Heat Los Angeles Clippers Atlanta Hawks Utah Jazz Sacramento Kings Milwaukee Bucks Toronto Raptors Detroit Pistons New Orleans Pelicans Phoenix Suns Boston Celtics | Orlando Magic

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