As the Trail Blazer season winds down, we have to admit these guys had a much better record than most of us predicted. And it's been incredible to see Blazermania return with enough force to make sellouts common at the Rose Garden.
And while just about all the goals for the season have been met or surpassed, there's still one major one left - and I'd like to gently suggest it ought to be addressed before it's too late.
This was to be a season when a lot of personnel questions were answered. A year to find out whether certain players could contribute and be a part of the big picture here. Or not.
And, frankly, in the rush to win games (I'm not knocking that), some of the player development and player discovery has been forgotten.
Isn't it time? I mean, do we have to wait until the team is nine games out of playoff contention with eight games to play before we admit that the playoff run is over? It's done, already. And that's OK - it's been a surprisingly good season.
But now it's time to tinker. To experiment. To really give some players a shot at playing time or try them at different positions.
This hit me a few days ago when the team farmed forward Josh McRoberts out to the developmental league. I'm hoping that was just to get him warmed up and ready for playing time with the Blazers in a few games because, at this point, he ought to get a chance. Why not?
People who watch practice tell me he's one of those energy guys who makes something happen whenever he's on the court.
And how about playing a few games with Martell Webster getting a guaranteed 38 minutes? Get him 20 shots. Put him in a spot where he's the go-to guy for a while. If he can produce, at the very worst it makes him more tradable. If he doesn't produce, oh well, you can cut ties with him and at least feel like you gave him a chance at a major role.
At point guard, let's see Sergio Rodriguez in the starting lineup for a few games. Why not let him play enough minutes so that he doesn't worry that every missed shot means he has to go sit on the bench?
And while I'm at it, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge have been terrific. They've improved a lot, played hard and played hurt. What would be wrong in going easy on them over the last few weeks of the season?
Cut their minutes, let them relax a little. They'd probably play better, because they'd be fresher. It also might decrease the chance of a late-season injury.
Doing something like this, of course, would have to come as a directive from the front office. Coaches - not just Nate McMillan, but almost all of them - will do everything they can to win every game. It's what they're paid to do. I understand that - it's why you see star players still on the floor at the end of blowout games.
But right here, right now, it's time for some discretion.