mikebarrett

Nov 27

Trip Starts in New Jersey

By mikebarrett

It’s not like there’s ever a good time for a four-game road trip to the other coast, but…   I know, I know, we’ve mentioned so often in the past that road trips can be the perfect opportunity for a team to come together, bond emotionally, and perhaps earn back a sense of urgency.  We’ve always meant it, and there’s certainly some proof that it can be effective.

The last couple of seasons, the Trail Blazers have used road trips to post some of their more impressive victories and have been very good at building momentum while away from home.  Perhaps it’s the “us-against-the-world” mentality that is gained by being in hostile territory, or maybe it’s simply that being away from home cuts down on distractions and forces a team to focus better on the task at hand.

This probably sounds like I’m reaching, or trying to suggest that this is somehow a major crossroads in this season for the Trail Blazers.  Even though I wouldn’t say it’s a major crossroads, I do think we’re about to learn a thing or two about where this team is at emotionally.

Clearly, they’ve got reason to down and there are several excuses they could be tossing out there at this time if they wanted.  Take your pick- untimely injuries, the loss of a friend, a brutal early-season schedule.  But, it makes no difference to start all over again suggesting these things.  And, I haven’t heard the players and coaches talking about such things.

The last two games have been frustrating, obviously.  On Friday night the Trail Blazers looked good at times, early in the game, but seemed to lose all confidence at the first sign of trouble.  Against the Jazz last Saturday the situation was similar.  We’ve come to expect this team to buckle down in crunch time and win the close games, as they have done the last two seasons.  Last year they were particularly good in tight games.

We even saw that early this season, when the Trail Blazers won their first three games thanks to huge fourth quarters.  Lately, that hasn’t been there, and there is reason to be concerned.

So, following a late night Friday, and a long flight to the other coast, we get set to tackle this four-game trip.  It starts against the Nets, in Newark on Sunday.  That’ll be followed by games at Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington.

I will say that it’s pretty amazing that we’re only 15 games into this season.  It seems like a lot more than that, given all that has happened.  And, even though things haven’t gone their way lately, they are still above .500.  So, even though the last two games did raise issues, we are still early. 

So, for you, a couple of questions.  Is this crossroads time for this team?  What are the issues in your mind, and why do things feel so unsatisfying through one month of the season? 

We’ll have a lot more to talk about following the first game of this trip.  I agree that we’ll learn a lot over the next week, as we always have during long trips.  I don’t know what your expectations are for this trip, but I’d also like to hear those as well. 

 Talk to you on the air from New Jersey on Sunday night.

 

21 Comments

  1. Thanks for the blog, Mike. I'm very concerned about the mental state of the team. This simply is not the Blazers of the past four years - they seem totally disconnected with each other. Was Monty a key to teams of the past, or is there something else going on?

    by DeVinMzM on 11/27/2010 9:42 PM
  2. Good blog, Mike. My concern with the team right now is their lack of a killer instinct. They just can't seem to have the mentality of putting a team away when they have the chance to do so. Just look at both OKC games and the Utah game. When they stopped being aggressive, especially on offense, those teams came back and the Blazers never got the momentum back and it killed them. 3-1 on this road trip is realistic, but even a .500 record wouldn't be the end of the world, as long as they can get the killer instinct back.

    by blazerdarren77 on 11/27/2010 10:37 PM
  3. focusing right in on friday, i think a major part of the dissatisfaction/disappointment was the fact that joel did not return as had been suspected/anticipated/expected for about a month. this would not have been such a big honking deal except for the fact that joel is/has-been/always-will-be the silver lining to bad news about greg. without pryz, when the hornets got physical, the blazers wilted.

    focusing on the road trip, i think that the team can do well. there is definitely break even potential, if not 3-1 or sneaking out to 4-0 if they get hot. if they can stay solid and stay together, they should have success in the coming week.

    focusing on the longer term, we've had a slew of discussions over the last several seasons right here on the barrett blog (and it's previous format on eblogger) about the need to add a physical presence. with batum, aldridge and camby as the starting front court, the bench needs power players to compliment the length and finesse of nic, lamarcus and marcus. joel will help. dante is solid in his efforts, but there is a glaring spot needing to be filled between the two of them. dante is 6'8" and 230lbs. joel is 7'1" and 250lbs. they need that guy that slots in right between them at 6'9"-6'10" and 240-245lbs. having pendergraph would be nice, having oberto would have been good, and sean marks sure was giving it a shot last night before he landed on someone's foot.

    in previous discussions here we've mentioned: gerald wallace, david lee, brandon bass, ronny turiaf, kevin seraphin, kevin love, taj gibson, paul millsap, jason thompson, and a slew of others as guys that could add size, toughness and physical presence to the blazer front court. i am certain that the blazer front office are aware of the need for greater power in the line-up, as evidenced by their attempt to acquire millsap (and especially in light of greg's latest surgery), will attempt to use their available resources to make a move when one is there to be made.

    in the near term, i think getting joel back this week helps a lot. playing dante at times as a 3/sf would help also, but this depends on match-ups (he can't be expected to keep battling 7 footers as an undersized pf). if sean marks can keep rambling like he was before tweaking his leg sunday, that helps too. andre, brandon and wesley being physical at their positions need to focus on rebounding as well. they need 5 guys on the defensive boards, and everyone to start giving some lumps if they start taking them.

    the team has shown in the past that they respond pretty well to these challenges, and my expectation remains roughly the same. the real question for me is whether or not they can get real hot and do something extraordinary. can lamarcus go for 30 on the nets? can brandon and andre combine for 55 against the 76ers? will they put 6 guys in double figures to upset boston? i want to see them get hot and put together an impressive second month to the season.

    by reverse on 11/28/2010 12:18 AM
  4. Here's my take on the road trip. We are a good team, but we lack a steady diet of shot making. A diet of making our freethrows. A diet of fastbreaks, and points in the paint. NO! this isn't by any means a crossroads. We as fans place maddening expectation on this team. Put yourself on the team for a second and look at what you may come up with. Our bench isn't as strong as it once was. We got rid of the players that bailed us out in the fourth quarter. Westley has heart, but we still have to give him time to adjust. Batum is adjusting to his new roll of scoring and that causes his defence to suffer at times.
    My wife Cathy who thinks her son is Brandon Roy is a believer once again, and the way she got back to that spot is due to the direction the team is headed. In the adversity we've faced here recently it's difficult to find a positive at times, but we most take a page from last year and begin to THINK POSITIVE! Fans we owe it to ourselves to not look at things always in a negitive way. It's a new season. It's a new day. Watch for the following. Wesley will find his shots coming to his easier due to the squad looking to get him the ball. Armon the Hammer will seek to dish out assists and not take shots he has no business taking at this point. I'm not saying that as time moves on and he works hard at shot selection he won't become a great shooter. The first quad looks good. IMO Batum is key to that squads success on this road trip. He must score in double digits. On the second squad Rudy is key. Rudy must also score in double figures.
    That's my take on this road trip!

    by civilhold on 11/28/2010 1:27 AM
  5. Look at us, and then look at the Heat. Notice anything similar? Both were given expectations. It's still too early, but we're seeing a trend that both teams can't live up to those expectations. I do not see this team beating anyone in the playoffs except OKC at this point, or maybe if we're lucky against Phoenix or San Antonio, who knows. But one thing is for sure, concern is at it's highest.

    The worst part? I feel more confident on the road. We seem to play more professional. At home? We look like a young team trying to please the crowd with highlight plays or big shots. I'd be much more pleased with an impressive victory over a playoff opponent than some of the bad shots Portland took last night.

    The thing that bugs me is I hear commercials about how the time is "Now" and everything is "Now" by Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby. It doesn't appear to be now. In 2009, we saw our uprise. In 2010, our expectations fell short due to severe injuries. Yes, we are badly injured this time around (again), but the worst part is taking a step backwords, or not moving at all.

    I posted on the last blog that Portland has won against only 3 potential playoff teams. Phoenix, Denver, and Memphis. They've lost 7 games to basically guaranteed playoff teams in LAL, NOH, UTA, OKC, and CHI. If you told me the Blazers would be 8-7 at this point, I'd have called you a hater.

    So, to answer your questions MB.

    Crossroads, whatever... things need to get back on track.

    Issues on my mind? We have no Oden AGAIN, and he needs playing time before he can bring us a Championship. Another issue is that Roy returned and played fairly well. But the team shot down. Andre played bad. Batum played bad. And for some reason we stopped going to LMA. Camby got screwed over the refs, and Rudy and Marks probably won't play these next two games with their injuries. Another thing is fans are starting to doubt their team. I'm starting to doubt the team. I stick by them 100%, but it's really frustrating seeing them suffer from the same struggles EVERY YEAR like we don't learn.

    Honestly, starting to think we need to look for a replacement with Nate. He got outcoached by Monty big time, and he's horrible in close game scenarios as a coach.

    by Herr on 11/28/2010 2:19 AM
  6. Herr you just spoke about the injuries and in the same breath want to git rid of Nate. Do you thinked Roy is 100%? Do you think Batum scoring only 4 points is an issue? You were right about the shot selection. This team is hurting to no fault of Nate. No! this team isn't at it's strongest right now. You can't blame Nate for missed shots. We had many open shots and just blew them. It's the same as a quarterback throwing a pass to a wide receiver that is perfectly thrown but droped. Sure it goes in the books as an incomplete pass charged to the stats of the quarterback. Would you get rid of the quarteback. These guys have to make shots that's the point that must be made. Armon when in the game must start running the team getting the other players the ball in their sweet spots. To early for a so call crossroad. You, me and the rest of the fans are just sick of the injuries, and to be truthful we all are just hurting right now. BUT MAN UP AND CONTINUE TO SUPPORT YOUR TEAM WITH NO RESERVATIONS!

    by civilhold on 11/28/2010 4:22 AM
  7. Herr you just spoke about the injuries and in the same breath want to git rid of Nate. Do you thinked Roy is 100%? Do you think Batum scoring only 4 points is an issue? You were right about the shot selection. This team is hurting to no fault of Nate. No! this team isn't at it's strongest right now. You can't blame Nate for missed shots. We had many open shots and just blew them. It's the same as a quarterback throwing a pass to a wide receiver that is perfectly thrown but droped. Sure it goes in the books as an incomplete pass charged to the stats of the quarterback. Would you get rid of the quarteback. These guys have to make shots that's the point that must be made. Armon when in the game must start running the team getting the other players the ball in their sweet spots. To early for a so call crossroad. You, me and the rest of the fans are just sick of the injuries, and to be truthful we all are just hurting right now. BUT MAN UP AND CONTINUE TO SUPPORT YOUR TEAM WITH NO RESERVATIONS!

    by civilhold on 11/28/2010 4:30 AM
  8. Mike:

    A great blog and great questions. Now, if I had some great answers to your great questions I would be happy.

    First of all, I don't feel this is a crossroad trip, maybe as TravisD said, a refocused trip. Losing two in a row is not a panic time.

    We have had to adjust and re-adjust many times this year. This is the second bout with Rudy's injuries, and BRoy playing great then bad because of injury concerns and pain; Dre and Matthews going from focus to secondary role players causes their game to suffer; LMA, being the new focus on defensive schemes surely have taken a toll, but I think that will get better once BRoy gets more of his game back; Batum was getting his points from slicing and cutting to the basket, but Monty seized that from us by denying entry passes at precise times to LMA and Camby. That took LMA, Camby and Batum out of their games.

    BRoy did great in the last game IMO. He seems to be somewhat tentative at time though. Camby got in foul trouble, Matthews got his bell rang; Marks got a turned ankle just when he seemed to be adjusting to Nate's game. All this is temporary of course, but does take time to recover. So I do not believe we are at a crossroad.

    When I first started blogging, I asked you why the whole team seems to go cold at shooting at the same time. Your answer was that opponents are always using different schemes defensively to disrupt flow and take players out of their games. That is why there is always little runs in a game. It is a continues adjust and re-adjust scheme.

    If you look at the last game, that was exactly what Monty did. His players contested most of the shots taken, they denied easy entry passes to LMA and when he did get the ball, he was somewhat ineffective because of the attention he was getting and the timing of the pass. The same goes with Batum. He couldn’t cut if LMA never got the ball. Anyway, all the games we lost this year have been against rough defensive teams. That uses different schemes to push some of our players out of their comfort zone and makes us resort to jump-shooting.

    That has been our biggest problem for the last three years, when defenses takes our flow away we end up jump-shooting. If the shots are going down we usually win, but if not the defense just sags to the middle. Mike R and you said doing the game if you live by the 3 you die by the three. I have said the exact same thing after all our losses, because that is the one thing that all the losses has in common. When our outside shot is not falling, it makes the whole game change. I have no idea how to fix it other then listening to other posters of ball movement and player movement.

    by Hg on 11/28/2010 4:40 AM
  9. Civilhold:

    a great post, When the going gets tough, the tough gets going and the quitters quit.

    by Hg on 11/28/2010 4:49 AM
  10. Civilhold
    Your comparison of a quarterback not responsible for catching the ball doesn't hold water. We shouldn't be passing and throwing bombs in the first place. We should be mixing it up with runs up the middle and end arounds. The other team knows our game plan and they just sit in the backfield and are picking our passes off! This team knows how to win. They showed it in the first half a dozen games of the year. It almost feels like they have lost their desire to play hard D and move without the ball. You can blame some of that on Roy and his tendency to slow the game down but a lot of the blame should go to Coach. Why does a coach let us pass the ball downfield every play? Coach is the person that should communicate to mix it up and rip them when they are not. And that ain't happening. Why is Mcmilliam getting pissed that this lackadasical play? He should be showing his disdain at the poor discision making and lack of intensity. Instead he says "They wern't hitting their shot". If the team isn't doing the intangibles, its up to the cach to make it happen and it isn't happening.

    by Gavinfan on 11/28/2010 9:13 AM
  11. I agree road trips can bring the team closer especially when they are stuggling. Hopeing this trip will do just that!

    by RedRudy5 on 11/28/2010 12:31 PM
  12. Sorry about the horrible spelling just in a hurry and venting! It is up to Nate to make this whole thing work. We have as much of or more talent that any of the teams we've played. Why can't Nate talk to Roy about ISO's and playing better defense? Why didn't Nate rip these guys about getting on the boards, playing better D and being more active out there? It the coaches job to make adjustments and set some fires under these guys.

    by Gavinfan on 11/28/2010 3:17 PM
  13. This team has always been one of the closer knit teams, at least that's what it appears from afar. I do think this road trip can end up being a turning point, not necessary a defining point, but a turning point. We have an opportunity to come together or further extend the recent trend on faltering late in games. Too bad Joel will not be back in New Jersey, but definitely the right call to keep him home. I a predict 3-1 road trip. It will be good to witness a win at the RG next Sunday against the Clips to cap the long week off.

    by Napoleon7 on 11/28/2010 4:41 PM
  14. just got done watching another fourth quarter fold, this one against new jersey. there's really no excuse for it.

    yes, we're constantly adjusting to adversity. yes, the health of nearly all of our players is a constant topic of daily conversaion. yes, we are missing a couple of guys.

    but you know something; a lot of teams are dealing with similar topics. what seems to be happening now is that entering the fourth quarter, someone turns off a switch and we miss shots, fail to defend correctly and cannot close out games. we stand at 8-8, which is certainly not the end of the world.

    we can go and say we need this guy or that guy as if the other team has no say in such a trade. you can say we need another center, pf, sg, etc (for some people, they say this in nearly every comment). you can say we should have gotten a certain player in the off season.

    should we make a personnel change? maybe. but until we do, we have to deal with what we ACTUALLY HAVE, rather than what we WISH we had or whom we WISH the team would trade for. it's great to have a wish list (this is the time of year for that sort of thing, as a matter of fact), but let's try dealing in the present, shall we?

    what we're lacking is intensity and energy for 48 minutes. we play 30 or 36 sometimes, but it's been a long time since we played 48 as a team. we need smarter coaching for 48 minutes. as of late, Nate has been a disappointment. someone, i can't remember whom, said on the live chat tonight that they thought Nate's days were numbered. if he doesn't make the necessary adjustments soon, i can't disagree with that.

    Nate did some amazing and remarkable things last year and maybe he's simply run out of gas. we need him (or someone else) who will not run out of gas.

    again, probably more questions than answers, but after driving 10-and-a-half hours today back to school to get here just in time to have my hopes rise, only to fall in the final stanza, i may be a bit cranky.

    but with how the team and its coach have been letting down late in games the past couple of weeks (sans the denver game), i think we all have the right to be a bit cranky.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 11/28/2010 8:10 PM
  15. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! ...Oh wait, it already fell and I've got clouds stuck to my shoes. Bummer.

    I missed this game because it was a gimme and I figured I might catch the replay for laughs later on. Then I turned on the computer and saw the score. 2 pts? The fact that it ever came down to 2 pts in Newark is disturbing enough, then you look at the stats...

    We had 19 more shot attempts. We out-rebounded, out-stole, and out-blocked the New Jersey Nets, but on the back of a balanced scoring load, and a solid performance from Devin Harris, they took the taco.

    So what the heck happened? Not having seen the game, I can only guess why Nicolas scored his only 2 pts at the free throw line. Did Travis put the hammer down? (Another fan told me he's battling the flu, but Batum's been off for weeks so that's gotta be one bad mother of a flu).

    Having only the boxscore, I am in the dark as to how Armon comes in, misses two shots, and is yanked back out after 6 minutes. Did he trip on Nate's foot on the way in, knocking over Bobby O's coffee, which spilled into Bernie's briefcase? I'd like to pose one of my questions to Dave again:

    How will Armon Johnson's experience with the Blazers be different than Jerryd Bayless'?

    Sounds like a repeat of JB's rookie year to me, except we don't have a more polished PG to put in front of him: we've got Rudy. Oh well, I guess all Armon has to do is have a perfect night and live up to it for the rest of the season; then maybe he'll get minutes over Rudy (who will probably still be here). That, or get to Nicolas to show him how to make a voodoo doll.

    This game had a lot of stuff to like: Brandon Roy finding his groove, Wesley Mathews getting in sync, Aldridge going to the line 10 times. A better game from Batum, and we win. But even without Batum, it should never get down to a 2 pt game in Newark.

    by 500Dogs on 11/28/2010 8:45 PM
  16. 500Dogs: it was a letdown in the fourth quarter. the nets made a run in the third and we fended it off. then, in the fourth, we stopped hustling. Rudy was the pg ahead of Bayless? funny, i thought that was Blake and then Andre.

    as for Nicolas, prior to friday's game, he had scored in double figures in 10 straight games. he played fewer minutes tonight because Nate went with Wesley instead. Nicolas was not the reason we lost this game.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 11/28/2010 9:25 PM
  17. maybe we are not a championship team,maybe we are a mediocre team,every year its the same thing,we need to make a big trade.Im tired of waiting

    by sebastianudo on 11/28/2010 10:00 PM
  18. Like I said in my earlier post Batum needs to score now. BATUM TAKE IT HARD TO THE RIM WHEN YOUR SHOT ISN'T GOING. WE NEED MORE THEN 2 POINTS FROM YOU!

    by civilhold on 11/29/2010 12:07 AM
  19. This might make alot of people mad. But i sit here thinking to my self Why? why is it we look like the chemistry is gone. why is it last year and this year the team looks distraut. there is 2 things that are holding us down.

    First agree with or not doenst really matter just my observation. Andre miller i think he is a great point gaurd i think he is under rated. But with that being said he is not the point gaurd for this team. i go to most of the games, and he seems so distant from every one else. He looks out of place. he just doesnt have that blue collar grit and i think our team thrives on those types of players.

    second talk about blue collar i also notice this team is not the same with out steve blake, and Joel. I realy think joel is the glue we are missing atm. he is hard on his team mates because he exspects 100 % at all times. if a guy is slacking on D or slacking on helping out the weak side. you will see him sternly let them know your not doing your job. He exspects perfection much like howard did. Getting joel back is key. not to mention he is a tremendous rebounder. I hope he can come back and produce at that level. but knowing what i know about him he will push himself to be even better.

    also for those of you who dont have trust in brandon any more. I have seen you guys flip flop on this blog often. im not saying all of you just some of you. Brandon is the best player we have. there is not a player on the court with the basket ball IQ he has. yea he may be hurt from time to time. but i promise you one thing if we didnt have him we would be alot worse off. Unless we land Chris paul, bryant, wade or some one of the calaber wich we wont. The game against New oleans the other night was not lost cause he slowed the game down hor cause nat didnt coach right. it was lost because we missed a crud load of shots. to nights game was lost becasue they gave up at the end. not giving that 100 % that is needed. any way sorry for long post like i said just my views

    by Avgjoe28 on 11/29/2010 1:30 AM
  20. a few weeks ago i commented on how i thought our chemistry was slowly coming together. wow, do i feel foolish now. we look disconnected and as if we're just going through motions.

    this team isn't right. what exactly that is i don't know. one thing i do know is oden's injury plays no bearing on all of this. and camby is a top center in the nba. we have enough guys out there that are more talented at their position on so many nights but like tonight we fail.

    i thought the jazz were stinking it
    up earlier in the season but look at them now. this is a long season and there are ups and downs. i totally believe we can turn things around but as to how i have no idea how.

    lets get things going!

    go blazers!


    by thedanman on 11/29/2010 6:45 AM
  21. I'm kinda disapointed on Blazers right now too, folks.

    Wich doesn't mean I'll start bashing players and/or coaches, or stop supporting this team.

    We have what we have (and it's a LOT better than what many teams in this league would die for!). Things will get better, so stop complaining and let's get back to supporting this team more than ever.

    As MB always say, there's no "excuses", and no one feels sorry for us in this league, so... Let's cheer and let thins go on :D

    by Tiago Torigoe on 11/29/2010 6:54 AM
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