Well, that's a wrap on the Portland Trail Blazers season. Now that the escalating cycle of terror and elation that sprang forth from the team's regular defiance of low expectations has slammed into a wall, we can just appreciate this team for what is was: fun as hell.
They were an Oceans 11 crew of basketball brilliance, a Fox Force Five of fun. Damian Lillard was the leader, both bland and exciting in all the right ways. He's the Trail Blazers' Leonardo (the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' version.) He always says the right thing, he doesn't pop off in the media, and even his rap songs perfectly toe the line of braggadocio. He may come off as bland, but then those swords come out and he slices through the opposition, and does things on the basketball court that seem impossible and make you question how the two of you are even the same species of animal, and you're like, "Oh yeah... this is the farthest thing from bland," and you're reminded that he's the Trail Blazers' Leonardo (the art version).
It's not just our star that lit the sky, though. The whole team was a joy to watch. CJ McCollum was the young upstart; Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee worked so hard on the court that you forgot they were winners of genetic lotteries; Al-Farouq Aminu was lovable until someone uncovered his weird homophobic tweets (and then honestly he was still kind of lovable, but the whole time you're thinking, "FUCK YOU FOR MAKING THIS WEIRD FOR ME, AL"); Alan Crabbe was Alan Crabbe... fuck, I could go on forever, but I only have so many words. And if you loved this team, you already know why you loved this team.
This season is over though, and this team won't be a delightful surprise anymore. Next season they can either be delightful or a surprise. People aren't going to shrug anymore if Damian Lillard gets left off the All-Star team, they're going to look for someone to blame. People aren't going to celebrate when McCollum drops 20, 30, 40... they're going to expect it.
So what's next season going to be? What's lurking in that part of the map that hasn't been filled in yet? Do we finally get to see the blossoming of Meyers Leonard? Does Noah Vonleh turn into an NBA basketball player and justify the Nic Batum trade, arguably the lone misstep of Neil Olshey's tenure? Does Portland lure any capable free agents, or do we stay the kind of city that's nice to visit, but for a litany of reasons, repels young black millionaires? What will I use this column to write about now that the season is over? All questions will be answered in time. Go Blazers. @IanKarmel