The winds of change are swirling in Portland.
The team effectively imploded its roster and has decided to start the rebuilding era on its own terms rather than have it unceremoniously thrust upon them.
The regime change all started at the top, with the firing of head coach Nate McMillan. A surprising move to say the least, considering many people around the league believed McMillan to be the only real stable thing about the franchise with the seemingly endless roster changes.
Along with handing McMillan his walking papers, the team also finally ended the relationship with former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden that had long gone sour. Through a series of season ending injuries and constant surgeries, Oden was walking on delicate ground for the past few years, and the Blazers finally made the move to dump him.
Considering the direction this season has taken, the Trail Blazers (20-23, 12th place in the Western Conference) were right to pull the plug and get ahead of the curve.
McMillan joined Portland in 2005 with a mission to rebuild the Trail Blazers into a Western Conference contender and repair the once-proud franchise's tattered image with its loyal fan base.
Well, mission half-accomplished.
After instilling a new culture of accountability for a team that was plagued by malcontents like Darius Miles and Zach Randolph before he arrived, McMillan had largely restored the overall dignity and respect of the 'Rip City' franchise.
On the other front, however, the division titles and playoff successes have proven far more difficult to come by. And with the losses getting uglier each time they hit the court, the Blazers brass felt it was time for McMillan to go and light dynamite to the roster; ushering in a new beginning all over again.
The McMillian and Greg 'I'm made of glass' Oden moves came one day after a 42-point demolishing at the hands of a New York Knicks team that was suffering under their own cloud of turmoil.
McMillan's firing, which was first reported by Yahoo! Sports, (and the release of Oden) means three-quarters of the nucleus that lead the Blazers back to the promise land is now gone. With McMillan drawing up the plays for All-Star guard Brandon Roy and forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and with Oden getting acclimated to the league as a prized rookie, the Blazers won 54 games in 2008-09 and looked to be a team on the rise.
Fast forward to now and the franchise is entering full rebuilding mode after seemingly being hit by a multiple season long hurricane.
Roy was forced to retire because of recurring knee problems and Oden saw yet another season go down the drain when he had his third micro-fracture knee surgery in February. He was waived to make move for a flurry of new players Portland made moves for.
The Blazers traded veteran center Marcus Camby to the Rockets for center Hasheem Thabeet and point guard Jonny Flynn, and sent versatile forward Gerald Wallace to the Nets for center Mehmet Okur and forward Shawne Williams on Thursday. It was a house-cleaning for a team that has lost seven of its last 10 games to fall out of the Western Conference playoff race in a condensed season.
"That's hard to come back from, but we feel we've set a course," acting general manager Chad Buchanan said. "Obviously, LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star player in our league. We've got a lot of room to spend this summer. We've got some really attractive draft picks. We feel good about the direction we're setting ourselves with."
The Blazers' fans are in for some tough times in the immediate future, but with multiple first round picks and cap flexibility heading into the summer, it's likely going to be a relatively quick turnaround if all the pieces fall in to place.
Good luck, Portland -- I hope the cards fall your way.
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