If you were surprised that Trailblazers head coach Terry Stotts got fired last night, you’re a casual. That’s a term by the way that gets thrown around a lot, as in “casual” fan. Usually it’s hurled by anonymous trolls on-line at anyone who dares to disagree with their take that, oh I don’t know, Danny Ainge might get fired for being incompetent? Or that Brad Stevens was really a bad coach this year despite all the injuries.
In this case? If you think Dame is going anywhere, you a casual.
They’ve been engraving Stotts’ gravestone for a long time. Even with a loaded line up, he’s been bounced four of the last five years in the first round. More importantly, he’s had one of the worst defenses in the league. And when I mean bad? I’m talking “olé bullfighter” bad. Other teams eat like a murderer’s last meal against Portland and have for ages.
Here’s a fun fact for you. This year, Portland was actually the worst defensive team in HISTORY and gave up the most points in a season ever.
So yeah, Stotts being fired is not a shocker. As a life long Blazers fan, the inevitable happened. And now, those same people (i.e. “casuals”) who seem to be surprised Stotts got fired, are now saying that Dame is all but gone from Portland.
And yeah, I get it. It didn’t look great for a hot minute when he put out a cryptic IG post with the caption: How long should I stay dedicated? How long until opportunity meet preparation?
Ruh. Roh. Even I was shook.
Knicks. Celtics. Warriors. Heat. Lakers.
In other words, just about every big market “contending” team.
But if you think Dame is gone, you clearly don’t know Dame. I think.
He’s talked at length about how much it means to him to stay in Portland and how it doesn’t matter if he never wins a title. The only thing that matters most is loyalty, and how he wants to be loyal to an organization that had his back before anyone knew he’d be Dame Time. Long before God mode, Dame felt at home in Portland.
All of this to say that Dame isn’t James Harden. Or Kyrie. Or Kevin Durant. Or LeBron. He’s not even Kevin Garnett, a dude loyal to his core who was basically forced out of a place he loved (Minnesota) by a dysfunctional front office.
Dame’s connection to Portland is as meaningful to him as Akron is to Bron. Dame was not highly recruited. He didn’t play at a top tier school. He, because of limited options, had to play in Ogden, Utah.
So a team like Portland salivating over him like they did pre-draft, committing to him as early as they did and making him their “guy” hit Dame differently. His jersey number signifies the letter O for Oakland, Ogden and Oregon.
And now, as many would say FINALLY, he is exerting his franchise superstar power.
He’s done something I haven’t seen in a long time: make his opinion clear. He has decided which head coach will step in and he announced it to the world with his full throat.
“Jason Kidd. That’s the guy I want.”
So it all seems to be set in stone. Portland is Kidd’s job if he wants it. Dame was speaking directly to Neil Olshey, and now it’s in management’s hands. They know what to do to keep their superstar happy.
But if for some reason Portland doesn’t adhere to Dame’s wishes? After he has given this organization more rope than they deserve and made it clear they need to contend ASAP? Then… that’s when I will feel more uneasy with Dame’s future.
Dame has more leverage than almost any NBA star has right now in the league. He gets to call the shots because unlike the Lakers or Heat, Portland needs him more than he needs them.
The one thing I can say for sure is this … I am dead certain Dame retires as a Blazer.
But if Jeff Van Gundy is named the head coach of the Portland Trailblazers? All bets are off.
Dame in a Knicks uniform? Ugh.