The Portland Trail Blazers have moved on from the rough stretch that was their 2011-12 season.
That lockout-shortened campaign was difficult on many fronts, to say the least.
Just how difficult? Ask starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews.
"Last season was such a debacle," he told reporters on Sunday. "I don't want to talk about it for the rest of my life."
For context, Matthews was responding to reporters who had just informed him that Portland's 102-94 win over the Chicago Bulls had given the team its first three-game winning streak since the start of last season.
From the outside looking in, we knew things were tough for the Blazers -- heck, things were tough for fans, too -- as evidenced by the March firing of coach Nate McMillan, the 28-38 record, the seven-game losing streak to end the season and miss the playoffs despite having a (long) shot at the postseason down the stretch.
But Matthews' comments give us some insight into just how tough things were on the inside for the Blazers.
And hopefully that'll help fans appreciate a little more where Portland is at already this season. The Blazers are 5-5 through their first 10 games, nothing spectacular or stunning, mind you, and to say the bench production has been spotty is about as nicely as I can put it.
But the Blazers are playing with energy on both ends of the court, and they appear to be in sync and, mostly, consistent.
That right there is already a huge improvement from last season, at least from the second half of it.
The 2011-12 campaign wasn't all bad for Portland, of course. LaMarcus Aldridge earned a spot on the All-Star team, and the fact that the team even had a mathematical shot at the postseason in the final month was a testament to the perseverance of the core group of players.
But we can look back with 20/20 hindsight and see, pretty clearly, that the addition of a general manager (finally!), and changes at head coach and starting point guard were probably needed long ago. McMillan's apparent lack of an offensive game plan, and his inability (unwillingness?) to develop younger players had really begun to weigh down the team. And Raymond Felton's funk, and his dysfunctional relationship with Blazers fans, had run their course. Perhaps Felton could have still flourished in Portland under someone besides McMillan, but we'll never know.
Given those particular problems, the fact that Portland is playing well, overall, and in sync, for the most part, is great news right now. Of course, with new, young players and a new coach in Terry Stotts, there will continue to be hiccups and a learning curve, but the Blazers are trending upward, something fans have to appreciate after the tumult of last season. A fired coach, an embattled starting point guard, inconsistent production from top scorers (I'm talking to you, Jamal Crawford), missed opportunities, frustrated players and fans . . . and those were just the issues that were obvious from the outside looking in.
But enough about that debacle of a season. Wesley Matthews and his mates are ready to put it behind them, for good.
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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