Hard Facts: Blazer pride is back

December 27, 2007 05:01 pm

Blazermania is back!

Run as fast as possible to jump on the bandwagon.

The only professional sports team in Oregon is causing the Rose Quarter to bloom again.

Give credit to Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen, general manager Kevin Pritchard and head coach Nate McMillian, because the "Jail Blazers" are no more.

And for a silver lining, a former Husky is leading the Blazer revival.

Sure, every major sports writer is predicting doom for the NBA's hottest team, which has an 11-game winning streak and is 11-1 in December. Many are saying the Blazers won't make the playoffs.

Maybe.

Seven of the 11 wins during the streak have come at home, where Portland is 13-3. The naysayers' reasoning may be due to the Blazers' youth and inexperience.

This young team still needs to learn how to win or at least spilt on the road, where the Blazers are 3-9.

Still, one immeasurable quality is heart, and this team has it.

Take a look at the nationally televised game Christmas Day against the Sonics.

Sure, the starting five struggled. Former University of Washington standout Brandon Roy looked awful in the first half. Resiliency paid off, and he finished with 17 points.

LaMarcus Aldridge never recovered from an awful start, finishing 1-of-10 from the floor for two points.

As a team they probably looked horrible to the casual viewer — shooting 31 percent from the floor. But this team, whose players average 24 years old, scares other teams throughout the league.

Why?

They still found a way to win. They used depth.

Jarret Jack and Channing Frye scored 17 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench.

The Blazer bench outscored the Sonics' starting five 48-45.

Maybe not all the fans realized what they were seeing, but this team is poised for a playoff run in an open Western Conference.

Food for thought: The the Blazers have had the second-toughest starting schedule in the NBA. Against teams over .500, Portland is 9-6.

More than a quarter of the way into the season the Blazers are sitting at the seventh playoff spot.

Will they make the playoffs?

It's tough to say, but I wouldn't count this group out.

There's a poised Utah team right behind them and a strong Houston team dealing with injuries.

One thing is for certain. There will be a packed house to watch them one way or another.

Attendance is up by more than 2,000 tickets per game this season.

At this rate the Blazers will sell 72,000 more tickets than a season ago and will easily top the season-ending attendance marks of the past four years.

Hope cures a lot of ills.

This young, likable group is only going to get better. Remember that Greg Oden, the No. 1 draft pick, is sidelined for the season.

Hurry, seats on this bandwagon are filling up quickly.