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Dave Deckard writes  for the Portland Trail Blazers blog, Blazersedge.  You can follow Blazersedge on Twitter @blazersedge.

Portland Trail Blazers Mid-Season Review

As has been the case in each of the Portland Trail Blazers’ past two seasons, assessment of their success depends solely on perspective. The Blazers left port in October sailing a refurbished but impressive ship. Most of the team was healthy. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Andre Miller, and Nicolas Batum made an impressive starting five. The bench had been streamlined and strengthened. With Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez manning various small positions, Portland awaited the return of centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla in November. Big men in tow, all guns loaded, their sites were set high.

A second microfracture surgery for Oden plus chronic, debilitating problems in Roy’s knees torpedoed the boat before the journey was fully underway. Nagging injuries to Camby, Przybilla, and even Aldridge have proven sharks in the water. The Blazers have zero chance of making it to their planned destination. The ship’s nose is barely above surface. Everyone is treading water. From that perspective the season is a failure and will remain so.

As far as treading water goes, though, the Blazers are doing reasonably well. In the absence of major stars they’ve managed to keep above .500 and give a solid effort most nights. Free from the shadows of co-stars (actual and prospective) Aldridge has emerged as an All-Star candidate via strong post play and active defense. Matthews’ contract was derided during the off-season but his 16 ppg and strong defending have kept the team afloat on multiple nights. Andre Miller is playing seamless basketball. As in the case of most tragedies, heroes emerge to mitigate the devastation and these three have done exactly that for the Blazers.

Forward Nicolas Batum has had an inconsistent year, disappointing as he was supposed to emerge even with a full-strength roster. His inability to string great games together when the team badly needs them and nobody blocks his way is discouraging. The Blazers and most of the league remain high on him, largely because of his impressive defense, but he’ll have to show more results and less promise to justify that love.

Portland’s bench–once a strong point–is criminally thin. None of the bench players produce consistently. Gains earned early in the first and third are lost early in the second and fourth, making every game a struggle.

Though Roy is hoping to return before the season is done the forecast for Portland is more of the same. The Blazers are unlikely to make enough progress to climb past the lower reaches of the Western playoff bracket. Even if they make the playoffs, once in a seven-game series they’ll be dissected by an opponent focused on exploiting their multiple weak points and lack of alternate plans. Before the season Portland’s goal was to get past the first round. That’s not going to happen. The year will end on a sour note and the Blazers will go back to the drawing board, nursing wounds and trying to figure out how to tape together these oft-broken pieces into a contender.