Fork in the Road
As bad as things have been lately, this team still has the ability to get hot and get right back in the race. Portland isn’t the only team in the Western Conference battle that is struggling right now.
The problem is, it seems like I’ve been saying that same thing for about three weeks.
Last night in Boston was utterly disappointing, as you know. It was a very quiet plane ride from Logan to Dulles. The frustrating part of the first quarter of that game (where the tone was set and the game was lost), was that the Trail Blazers acted almost surprised that Boston came out and looked to immediately start punching. That’s always the game plan against a team that’s struggling. Get them on their heels and they’re finished. That’s certainly what has worked against Portland as of late.
What was troubling, and what stayed with everyone long after the conclusion of this game, was that the Trail Blazers simply seemed to accept the beating. It’s not like they enjoyed the way it felt, but didn’t seem to have it in them to punch back. They do. That’s the disturbing part.
Confidence is a fragile thing in this league. When you’ve got it, and on-the-court chemistry is on your side, it feels like you’re going to win every game. When it’s gone, and it’s gone right now, nothing comes easy. Everything you do is a struggle.
I’ve never been around a team that has better chemistry off the court, and simply can’t find any on the court. That’s the enigma that is this Trail Blazer team right now. When your confidence is gone, it doesn’t take much to derail you. Strength of character is what gets you through. For whatever reason, this team just looks defeated right now.
When you’re going through a stretch like this you search for reasons why it is happening, and how and when it started. It’s not as simple as this, I understand, but I point back to February 5th. That’s the night the Blazers lost a heartbreaker at home to Oklahoma City. Yes, that’s the night of the infamous Scott Foster goaltending call that cost Portland the game.
In this league, things come full circle quite often, and tonight, for the first time since that game, and that call, Foster will referee a game involving the Blazers. I’m not going to dig up all of that stuff and start going at Foster again, because he’s a good referee. But, that was an extremely unfortunate incident for both parties, and it’s such a strange twist of fate that we’ll see him again now when seemingly this team is still picking up the pieces from that call.
There is plenty of blame to go around right now, as you know. I’ll just say this about Nate McMillan. He hasn’t suddenly forgotten how to coach. Is his message suddenly falling on deaf ears? Perhaps. But, unlike everyone else out there, I’m not predicting a coaching change anytime soon if things don’t dramatically change. It could happen, but I just don’t see it happening yet.
It’s on the players to decide they are tired of feeling this way. The comments after losses are strong, and are getting stronger. Nic Batum said the Blazers disrespected themselves, the organization, and the fans with their performance in Boston. Others echoed the same kinds of things. But, those are just words, and we’re well beyond that now. Time to stop talking and play. Time for someone to lift the team with their actions. If you don’t like the situation, then change it. It’s more complicated than that, but time is running out.
There’s a fork in the road for this Trail Blazers team. We’ve been seeing it approaching from a distance, but it’s in front of us now. This is the third game of this seven-game road trip. No one feels sorry for you, and no one is going to make life easier on you. For opponents, blood is in the water and you’re going to be relentlessly attacked. What is your response? You going to grow a pair and work your way out of this situation, or will you go into the fetal position and wait for it to end?
Boston blasted the Blazers last night. Washington blasted the Blazers last month. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue tonight. The clock is ticking.
Talk to you after the game.