Mar 10

Fork in the Road

By mikebarrett

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.


  1. Same attitude, same result.

    by Ancientone on 3/10/2012 10:06 AM
  2. Mike: I got this blog. Missed the last one.
    Some times in a severe beating you forget how to fight. I was beat up severely by a thug one time years ago. The first time he knocked me down, I immediately got up and started fighting again. the second time he knocked me down, I didn't get up so fast and I only tried to fight. the third time he knocked me down, I seemed to forget how to get up and wasn't sure why I wanted to. so I rolled over on my stomach, covered my head and let him beat on the back of my head. Not smart, but I lived to face the next day.
    I am not sure that has anything to do with what the Blazers are going through, but they were definitely severely beaten by thugs last night and I am not sure they remember or have lost the fight that they had in them, but for sure they have a hard road ahead of them. But guess what they will live to see another day.

    by Hg on 3/10/2012 10:12 AM
  3. Grow a pair for sure. I keep waiting for this team to get mad. To say enough is enough. No more "we are a better team than this". "We have to figure this thing out". You are who your record says you are.
    We can blame the refs. Coaching. Personally my frustration made me point a finger at management. Forget all that. At the end of the day it is 5 on 5.
    On the lighter side. That's the beauty of sports. Some teams come together with a smorgasbord of players and find magic. A perfect storm if you will. It appears the Blazers are experiencing an imperfect storm.
    I don't have the answers. I bleed red. GO BLAZERS!!!

    by Divotking on 3/10/2012 10:13 AM
  4. you going to grow a pair? great line mb. i know it must be horrible and draining for you and rice to have to continue to call these dismal games. the blazers do not have any because they have completely quit on nate. i had the luxury of seeing the beginning of the game and when i saw the score of 10 16 boston i turned the channel. except for pryzbilla, is there anyone playing their heart out? l.a. has continued to get his, but at the cost of them getting him his 22 and 10 then shutting it down. the play where camby threw the ball near the rim for aldridge and he was nowhere near the basket help reirriate camby's lack of iq on the basketball court. also, since he never rotates what other reason does he need to be a blazer. matthews is just horrific this year. he is always hovering around the 3 point line waiting to miss another basket to help the team. his outside game is low, so why not change your game, go inside. crawford is a shell of his former self. yes, you are playing outside your position, but as much money as you make you can make adjustments. l.a. seems to have just gone in the going through the motions phase. he doesnt rebound, he is looking soft because teams dont double team him anymore. the list goes on and on with this team. high hopes have become low expectations and as dwight jaynes said on talkin ball, this organization has accepted its way below average players disrespecting the fans and the city.

    by Imwytdashyt Epps on 3/10/2012 10:18 AM
  5. Well, it's not horrible and draining to call the games. We've been through some very lean times, and I have always loved it. Yes, it's much more fun when things are going well. We travel with these guys, and spend so much time around them, that's it's impossible not to get emotionally invested. That being said, I've got a lot better perspective than I had 10 years ago or so. I used to take losses back to my hotel room and I wouldn't sleep (like a coach). My dad was a coach, so that's what I knew. But, it's not like that anymore. Part of that is because I still believe this team can find its way out of this hole. I'm not going to use excuses, but don't forget what Brandon Roy meant to this team. He was the undisputed leader, go-to guy, and put the team on his shoulders so many times. You lose him the night before training camp begins, and it's just been tough. W haven't talked about it much during broadcasts, but it's such a huge, huge factor not having him around. That being said, these guys should be playing better. I love them all, and this isn't an issue of them not caring. They've just had their spirit broken. But, it's also up to them to get it back.

    Thanks for the comments. Gotta work on my game stuff. Got in late last night.


    by mikebarrett on 3/10/2012 10:26 AM
  6. Call me a fairweather fan if you want, but I just couldn't watch any more of the game really after about half time. I stuck around through the second quarter, hoping they would turn it on, somehow. Even then though, i remember thinking that Nate should just clear his bench and see what happens. They certainly couldn't have played any worse than the starters and normal second-string guys were playing.

    There are 2 things that stuck out to me as I watched the first 1/2 of that game. Lack of leadership was the thing that stuck out to me the most. The other thing is that the players seemed to have no idea what to do on offiense, hence the 18 turnovers in the first half, and the points-off-turnovers for Boston that was the difference in the score at halftime. Either the players aren't listening to Nate or Nate is as confused as the rest of the team. Either way it's a bad sign for Nate's future with this franchise. And I'm of the opinion it's time for him to go. It's really too bad we can't get a Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich kind of coach in here, or even Jerry Sloan.

    This team has loads of talent, at every position. But talent without leadership is at least 1/2 wasted. Last year we had Roy and Miller to look to as on-court leaders. Who do we have this year? I think the players are still searching for that someone. We keep urging Aldridge to step up and take that role, but he doesn't really want it I don't think. I don't get to see much of what goes on off-court, but on the court I don't see him being particularly quick to give encouragement or coaching to teammates.

    If they can find a player to fill that leadership role, either by looking within themselves, or look for that type of player in a trade, they might have a chance to salvage the season. But it needs to happen very, very soon.

    by soulseeker on 3/10/2012 11:55 AM
  7. Greetings, first off, have to say I love your blogs and insight Mr. Barrett. And I thank you for the work you put in. In saying that, I do disagree with you from time to time. When you said the Blazers lost the ball game do to the bad Foster call, I had to disagree. The Blazers lost the game, It was on them, jus tlike the recent play. Official or no, the team did not dig deep enough. I had a similar thing happen to me in a game. We felt ewe got a bad call that resulted in an O.T. The difference was that our team was not willing to lose no matter how many chances the other team received. Our mindset was this:How ever many Overtimes the refs wanna make this game, that's how many times we are doing to defeat this team. Ref or no, this team is not gonna lose on this home court. The game went 2 over times, and we won the day. Had we lost you ask? we would have pointed the finger at ourselves. I dont see this happening, too many pointing fingers in the wrong direction.

    I agree 100 percent with the rest of your post. Sorry to bore you with this.

    by L.T.G on 3/10/2012 12:34 PM
  8. I've been one of the biggest Blazers fans for the past 15 years, hardly missing a game. Since about a month into the season, this team's lackluster performance has turned me off, even more than when we were at the bottom of the league before Roy and LaMarcus came to help revive the franchise. Assuming that most coaches have a similar ability to coach X's and O's, then their true value lies in their ability to motivate millionaires to go out and compete at the highest level. In that respect, I would say that Coach Nate has failed this season.

    by C. Larry on 3/10/2012 12:54 PM
  9. I agree with L.T.G. about the Scott Foster call. Yeah, it was unfortunate timing but that was NOT what lost the game for the Blazers. If they had been playing GOOD basketball the entire game that would not have mattered. As for MB's reference to Brandon Roy....yes, unfortunate that we lost him but ONE player does not make the team. This team needs to learn to work together. I heard something the other day about motivation, or lack thereof...what about their multi million dollar paychecks? That would motivate me! What about trying their best, all the time, what about all the fans who come to see me? Aren't they worth giving it your all every single day? They do pay your paychecks after all! C'mon Blazers...you definitely have the talent to win games. Don't try to be the 'star' of the team, try to be A TEAM..and let's get some wins!!

    by TeddiBell on 3/10/2012 1:27 PM
  10. Mike, I need a favor. Would you please take Nic to Crawford, Felton and Thomas and reintroduce him to those three guys, please. Tell them that Nic is our second option and to give him the ball. When Nic is cutting through the middle on a fast break, give him the ball. When he's begging for the ball from beyond the arc, give him the ball. I would appreciate your help and I think the rest of the Blazer fans would too.

    by Mieke Appel on 3/10/2012 1:36 PM
  11. It is always interesting to read your perspective. You are a Blazer employee and therefore cannot say all that you know/feel. It is part of your job to keep certain information to yourself and to bolster the fan base with the most optimistic possible viewpoint. And your most optimistic viewpoint isn't all that optimistic!!! It seems that this season's schedule combined with many new players is working against Blazer success. There is very limited practice time. Nate is a very hard working coach and I believe he is a great guy but have never been all that impressed with his rotation/minutes, offense/defense sets and quick thinking x/o adjustments. He's done very well when the team is dessimated with injuries. His rotation choices then become very limited and he is given the benefit of the doubt re: pretty much everything, as he has been able to motivate players who ARE healthy. His rookies have to play...I don't think he has all of a sudden forgotten how to coach. I think that he is coaching as he always coached only this year without the benefit of an on court general like Miller and a talent like Roy. He also has to figure out rotations/minutes with a full roster and hasn't shown that he is all that talented in this area. His stagnant offense and lack of trust in rookies has become very evident. I'd like to see him move on. Both for his sake and for the sake of the team. I'd like to believe that the players lack confidence in the head coach.I want to believe that it is NOT a bunch of fragile egos that have lead to the Blazer losses.
    The play that has been shown as of late is pitiful and this is either due to players having a complete lack of self-respect, motivation, ability to listen to/trust one another...all of which I want to doubt...OR...they want a change and completely not showing up on the court is their way of asking for this.

    by natsthecat on 3/10/2012 3:04 PM
  12. Hope the guys on this team read this blog Mike. I'm a season holder for the first time this year. I renewed last week, and not regretting that I did, but just hoping that they don't crawl into that fetal position. I still have hope that all the pieces of this time will come back together, and the confidence will grow, and we'll come out of this with a halfway decent finish. Heres to getting the first win on the road trip tonight!

    by blazerglen on 3/10/2012 2:35 PM
  13. Bet the Blazers go 0-7. This was my prediction before the road trip, due to the play I've seen while they were at the RG. Someone said a was an idiot because I predicted this. I hope that the Blazers prove me wrong and that my prediction is idiotic. But I have a feeling that I am not....sometimes it is better to be proven wrong!!

    by natsthecat on 3/10/2012 3:08 PM
  14. Hg,

    I'm sorry, I shouldn't of kept hitting you once you were in the fetal posistion.

    Anyway, good win tonite.

    by mgb on 3/10/2012 7:42 PM
  15. That is what I was thinking. you big bully LOL.

    by Hg on 3/10/2012 9:21 PM
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