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Portland Trailblazers: A Picture of Spirit and Grit

HOUSTON - APRIL 30:  Guard Brandon Roy #7 of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 30, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Joshua ShannonContributor IJanuary 9, 2010

1,787 days.  42,888 hours.  That much time should create a healthy hunger.

However, the emaciated Lakers of Los Angeles have not won in the Rose Garden since February 17, 2005 (longest streak in the NBA).

Tonight at the Rose Garden, the shorthanded Trailblazers did it again.  In gritty fashion the Blazers, led by Brandon Roy's 32 points, beat up on Kobe and his Lakers 107-98.  This, despite being the league's most beleaguered team playing against the NBA's most prolific offensive scorer. 

And they did it in efficient fashion, shooting 50.7 percent.  The Lakers took 95 shots to the Blazers 69 and could not reach the century mark.  Another interesting stat is the shot comparison of Roy and Bryant: Both scored 32 points, but Brandon Roy only needed 11 shots while Kobe took 37.  

But this isn't the biggest surprise if you're a Blazermaniac...

As everyone in the NBA world knows, the Blazers have suffered immense injuries.  So much so, that they should open a triage unit in the bowels of the R.G.  But they continue to win.

Brandon Roy is the only remaining starter left from last year's playoff squad.  This team is winning games with backup players.  They are winning games with a J.V. team.  And their injured players would probably make a pretty good team in and of themselves.

Nicholas Batum—Shoulder injury.  Should return on the 25th against New Orleans.

Rudy Fernandez—Back.  Should be back next week if not sooner.

Steve Blake—Pneumonia.  Will be returning 1/10/2010.

Travis Outlaw—Foot.  May return in late March.

Joel Przybilla—Ruptured Patellar Tendon.  Out for Season.

Greg Oden—Fractured Patella.  Out for Season.

Coach Nate McMillan—Ruptured Achilles Tendon.

Asst. Coach Maurice Lucas—Bladder Cancer.

Owner Paul Allen—Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

And still at 23-15 the Blazers are sitting in second place in the Northwest Division.  Last year in making the playoffs, they were 22-16 at this point.  

This should excite people in Portland about this team's future.  But what is this team's driving force?  Many could point to Brandon Roy, who is averaging 23.3 PPG, 4.8 REB, 5 ASST, and shooting near 50%.  But they would be wrong.

While Roy is a major key in this team's success, he alone cannot win games.  

Coach Nate McMillan and his staff have been successful in squeezing every ounce of grit out of this Blazer lineup.  In the face of medical emergencies and the loss of any true center, this team will not give up.  They are coached to finish games no matter the deficit or surplus of points.  

And while Coach McMillan is sidelined on doctor's orders to remain seated, coach Dean Demopoulos is more than qualified to lead a team.  Completing this staff are Maurice Lucas, Joe Prunty, and Monty Williams.  This coaching staff is the true epitome of what coaching is: a strategy for enabling others to meet their goals for improved performance, growth, and enhancement.

Since this coaching staff came into existence in the 2005-2006 season, this team has gone from the "jailblazers", a talented group of individual athletes who squandered their talent and brought a once proud tradition of winning and community involvement to its knees, to the current roster of tremendously talented athletes with a will to win no matter what should get in the way.  

And much to the chagrin of Kobe Bryant, February 17, 2005 is a long time to go hungry.

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