It wasn’t supposed to end like this.
The final home game, completely out of playoff contention. Rolling out a starting five of Wesley Matthews, Nolan Smith, Hasheem Thabeet, J.J. Hickson, and Nicolas Batum.
Two franchise cornerstones in Greg Oden and Brandon Roy gone, the third in LaMarcus Aldridge shut down for the rest of the year due to injury. The coach and GM both carrying “interim” tags.
Even in the most negative projections heading into the beginning of this year, nobody assumed Portland’s season would be this dismal. And yet here we are, the Blazers limping towards the end of their year, a broken team with a broken spirit.
When asked what went wrong this year, Nicolas Batum sounded defeated.
“This is the same question you ask every day now. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what happened. We had a great start, then we started to lose one and two games in a row and the confidence never came back.
“It’s been fast and quick the last two months,” he added. “We’ve been one of the best teams in the West to one of the worst teams in the West in two months. What happened? I don’t really see what happened. I don’t really know what happened.”
Batum said he spoke to Tony Parker who wished that this was the only year Nic would miss the playoffs, and judging by his postgame honesty and introspection, it was clear Batum felt the same. Time to get ready for next year, time to put this one behind.
The Utah Jazz won by twenty-one points tonight, and it was never even close. Custer’s Last Stand this wasn’t. Just a fitting final home game to an utterly lost season, and obviously a perfect time to honor the fans who didn’t abandon the team.
”It’s been great,” said J.J. Hickson of the fans. “They come out and show support, night in and night out, no matter what our record is and who we’re playing or how many guys we got injured. They’re definitely our sixth man. They definitely help us win games.”
Added Coach Kaleb Canales: “I’ll continue to say it. I believe it. We do have the best fans in the world. I know it has been a challenging season for us, but we appreciate what they give to us.”
”Even at the end,” said Batum, “we lost. We played a bad game. And we lost. But there are some guys still there giving an ovation at the end. They are the best in the NBA.”
There are more games, one final road trip, but for all intents and purposes the year is over. The Rose Garden faithful officially no longer have to suffer, despite being praised by the players and coach.
The final free chalupa has been handed out for the 2011-2012 season. And now we come to the end.