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Welcome to Rip City! Friday, June 29, 2007

Thousands of Trail Blazers fans cheer June 29 as the franchise introduces Greg Oden to the city. Oden, who was selected first overall in the NBA draft, arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square for the midday event by MAX train with Portland Mayor Tom Potter and members of the Blazers executive.

When I came to Portland a year and a half ago, the Trail Blazers were in the middle of one of the worst seasons they have ever had. They lost three games for every one they won. The players all wanted out. The fans wanted out. Even owner Paul Allen wanted out.

In the off season, they made a number of moves, including the acquisition of Brandon Roy, who would become the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year. The Blazers still finished well below .500, and well off the pace in the competitive Western Conference, but they did increase their win total by 50% over the previous year.

Then, about a month ago, the miracle happened: Though they only held a 5% chance of doing so, Portland won the NBA draft lottery, and would have the first selection in one of the highest rated draft classes in recent memory.

Blazermania kicked into full gear in the Rose City, with billboards proclaiming "Oden—honk once. Durant—honk twice."
The Blazers say season ticket sales have shot up in the past four weeks. And, about 6,000 fans went to the Rose Garden yesterday just to watch a guy in New York stand at a podium reading names.

Now, before anybody gets too excited, we should remember that Oden is just 19 years old. And remember, too, that back in 1984 Portland used their second overall pick to select Sam Bowie, instead of some guy named Michael. Charles Barkley and John Stockton were also in that class.

Nevertheless, the 2007-08 season—and, if they can keep their squad together, those that follow—should be an exciting one for Portland. Rip City, here we come!