Portland, Oregon is a unique, special, weird, passionate, sleepy corner of our country. More famous for plaid shirts and craft beers than sports, that town has one lonely professional sport team to embrace, to which they have deeply enamored themselves. The Portland Trailblazers are woven into the fabric of that city, from the Rose Garden (don’t ever call it the Moda Center, fuck that) to the shared battlecry of “Rip City” coined by the local iconic voice of Bill Schonley in a 1971 comeback against the Los Angeles Lakers. Six years later, the Blazers won their first and only NBA Championship. 1977 lives and breathes in Portland — hell, there’s a bar three blocks from the arena called “Spirit of ‘77.”
I was born and raised in Portland. I grew up in a fanbase where offseason hope springs eternal, where being discredited by the national media is an annual recurrence, where being the small market underdog is in our DNA. “This is the year,” we tell ourselves. We’ve made the playoffs 10 of the past 12 seasons… but we are accustomed to being let down. Time and time again, we make a run at the playoffs, only to lose in infuriating fashion, or to fall at the hands of a buzzsaw like this year’s Lakers team. That won’t stop us. We will always believe, and hope, that we can finally return to glory. We pride ourselves on grit, on passion, on the homegrown talents like Damien Lillard that want to stay and put in the work instead of running off to join the next superteam in hopes of a ring (yeah, we’re still mad at you, Lamarcus Aldridge). We’d rather win it the right way.
Is this year different? I don’t know. Neil Olshey, the GM for the Blazers, made a pretty big splash on Monday night, sending Trevor Ariza, a 2020 first round pick, and a 2021 first round pick to Houston in exchange for small forward Robert Covington. For years, Rip City has been screaming for a big move. We have Lillard, we have C.J. McCollum, we have Jusuf Nurkic (when he’s healthy). We’ve been screaming from our couches for a physical wing that can contribute on both ends of the court — and we finally got one.
Covington fits exactly what this team needs. For his career, he has averaged 12.7 points, 40.6% shooting, 35.6% from 3, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game. He gets it done on offense and defense, and has to be respected from deep. He spreads a defense, which will give Dame and C.J more room to work. The numbers are good, but Rip City hardly cares about that. He’ll arrive in Portland and, eventually, get on the court with C.J. and Dame. They’ll show him what it means to be a Blazer, that this is a team of “we” not “me,” that culture and passion are the hallmarks of this franchise, and that a crazed and loyal fanbase will welcome you and back you feverishly if you work hard. Work hard, and Rip City will love you.
This is the type of trade that shows this fanbase that Olshey sees the talent and opportunity in front of him. He’s buying. He’s pushing his chips in on this Dame/C.J backcourt, and the fanbase deserves to be excited. Maybe, just maybe, this is the year.