Nov 29

Blazers Still Winless on Trip

By mikebarrett
Can you rank losses in the NBA?  Do the players rank losses?  Or, is that just a job for fans and those who cover the team?

Clearly, we know that some losses, and some wins for that matter, are much more symbolic than others.  I guess the bigger question after one of those results is more about the reaction to the loss or the win. 

Last night in Washington the mindset going into the game against the previously-winless Wizards was different.  And, it was a bit scary.  As we mentioned on the TV broadcast, the fear was that the Blazers would approach the game with a different motivation.  There was a heck of a lot more to lose than there was to gain with a win.  It's cliche, but it gets potentially dangerous when you're playing not to lose instead of playing to win.  There is a huge difference between the two. Ask any coach or player.

The Wizards had been close in some of their 12 losses this season.  They had dropped four games by four points or less.  They had dropped three games in overtime, including one of their losses coming in double overtime.  Their big gun in the middle, Nene, is now back and healthy after missing nine games.  In short, they came in last night probably a lot better than their 0-12 record suggested.  Of course, that doesn't make anyone feel any better today.  The fact is, the Blazers turned out to be Washington's first victim of the season, and that's all that's being talked about today.

We should talk a little about the actual game, rather than the fallout that has followed.

The Blazers did cure one problem that has persisted as of late- they got off to a very good start.  Portland was hot early and jumped out to an 11-point lead.  The goal, when you're playing a team that's an underdog, is not to let them think "this could be the night." Portland succeeded in taking early control of the game.

After watching Washington come back to take a 15-point fourth-quarter lead, the Blazers were also successful in getting the Wizards into a close game, where they've failed so many times this season.  You could see the collar tightening on the Wiz as Portland went on a 16-0 run to take a one-point lead at 80-79.  But, as you know by now, the Blazers then had a few empty possessions, the Wizards got the big basket they've been looking for all season, and they were able to win 84-82.

What happened in Portland's locker room after the game has been reported well.  Evidently Wesley Matthews, who is undoubtedly the emotional leader of this season, challenged his teammates in a player-only meeting.  Jared Jeffries, who is also outspoken, echoed the point Matthews was trying to get across.  

Meetings like this, and speeches like this, aren't totally unusual in the NBA.  And, I think, in this case, it's a very good sign to see players challenging their teammates.  Knowing Wesley, I'm confident his little speech wasn't meant as a critical attack, but was more an attempt at leadership.  Good for him.

Hopefully, this will end up being one of those things we'll look back upon as the season continues and remember it as a turning point.  I still remember the blowup the Blazers had at a practice in San Antonio a few years ago, where they yelled at each other, chairs were thrown, feelings were hurt, people were called out, and the team responded by winning 13 games in a row.  It would be unrealistic to expect that kind of response here, but it's very realistic to think that last night's post-game chat will have some kind of positive result.

The players were embarrassed, disappointed, and frustrated.  All of that is a good sign, as even as painful as the loss was to witness.  

We're 15 games into an 82-game season.  How this loss, and post-game reaction, will ultimately be remembered, will be determined over time.  I think it's too early to state that this team has reached a fork in the road, as many have said, but I do think that the fork is in site.   Even that may be an overreaction.  

It seems like we've been on this trip for a month, but there are still four games left to play on this particular journey, and 67 games to go in the regular season.

Next up, it's the Boston Celtics, who will be shorthanded following the fight in their game against Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

It's Portland's fight that could very well determine what kind of game it will be, and how this, their longest road trip of the season, will be remembered.


  1. Hi Mike: I am somewhat bewildered, so I welcome your post as in let Mike do it;

    I had the feeling that the Blazers wasn't playing Blazer ball all night, that they were afraid of losing; so as you said they were playing not to lose, somewhat like the prevent defense in football, that prevents the team from winning. I thought they were a step slow most of the time and just played it safe.

    You know I preach it all the time "Live by the three die by the three" To shoot jumpers all night you have to rely on offensive put backs and with Washington's forwards that is a big task; now, I am not saying we played stupid, more so I am saying they played lazy, but either way it played right into Washington's gameplan, Make us shoot from the outside and retrieve the rebounds to prevent second shots.
    It was said many time that Washington had the worst offensive team in the NBA and should not win to the highly rated offensive team of the Blazers, but to counteract that Portland has the worst defensive game in the NBA; to counter that the Washington's defense is moderate to good. My point is you have said that it is important to be a great offensive team, but defense is where the game is won. Therefore, I rest my case;

    One more thing, as Kassandra and I have always said, that the Blazers has to quit playing down to what they think the team is according to their record and just play Blazer ball, but regardless, there is nothing for a young team to be ashamed of. When we beat the Celtics tomorrow not do you think they will bow their head in shame for being beat by a lesser team, I should hope not.

    by Hg on 11/29/2012 10:35 AM
  2. You're a good emotional leader yourself Mike. I can tell you that with my busy schedule it's hard to watch Blazer games. Games like that one make it even harder to watch. I want to watch, I've been a Blazer fan for life and posting on these blogs for nearly 3 years now. But, it's hard to get into it when its just disappointing.

    I've asked a few people at my job if they watch the Blazers. It's always, "No, they're always disappointing". I haven't given up, but my patience is limited. I'm such a hardcore fan that sometimes the outcome of these games effect the mood I'm in for the rest of the day. Working Graveyard, that can become an issue since these games are on during my mornings.

    The one thing I have to wonder though is if Stotts is doing his job correctly. Not many have been talking about him, but a player-only meeting this early in the season makes me scratch my head. He also seems to leave his bench out during crucial times of the game and we all know how bad their production is. If we end up going 0-7 on this road trip, which seems likely at this point, one has to wonder if we're going to be seeing Canales as the temporary coach for another season.

    by Herr on 11/29/2012 10:37 AM
  3. @Herr:
    IMO, to be a hard core Blazer fan, you must recognize the team in a growing year.
    Every game is a learning game, true that is slow at times, but progress can't always be measured in leaps and bounds. How many experienced teams has lost, because they didn't pay attention to detail against a lesser team or just coasted because they thought they could pour it on and win in the end, only to lose because of a bad call or the bounce of the ball. To be fair to you I agree, Portland should not have put themselves in that situation, but as being a new team, looking at the schedule, in the middle of a gruesome road trip, they made young teams error in trying to win the easy way. Whether you are disappointed or not the Blazers are not really that good yet. I can understand how your patience is worn thin, but the way to gain more patience is to be given more task to learn patience, so therefore, the Blazers are helping your emotional maturity☺. As far as being in a bad mood after a loss, is also understandable, but I have always told my self that since I wasn't playing the game and had no input to the loss, I had nothing to feel bad about. Of course that doesn't always work but it is a start.
    As often is said a loss is a loss and a win is a win regardless of who the opponents are. I could go along with winning the games we should win, if somebody would point out to me what teams we should beat by means other then their win loss record, because records are too deceiving.

    Hey, I am not critiquing you, or challanging you, I am just responding to your post.


    Harold Gene

    by Hg on 11/29/2012 11:05 AM
  4. I'd love to see this team turn it around. I am, however, worried that the coach is losing the team's trust. I have to assume, from the way he has been using his bench, that Stott's theory has been that he wants to give the rookies farther down the pecking order limited opportunities, while the higher priority guys--Lillard and Leonard--get a chance to grow into their roles, on the theory that the team will collapse into Wizards-type futility if too many raw players are on the court. So the hope was that the core could do what they had been doing, winning their share of games with minimal help from the bench. That would provide an environment where the young guys could grow, seeing the success that players had with the coach's system.
    But the bench of trustworthy veterans with limited skill sets--Price, Jeffries, Pavlovic--plus Meyers, who has a lot to learn about positioning, has been a failure, providing far fewer points than a team needs. The younger guys have more to bring to the table--Babbit and Claver can shoot, Freeland has some post moves, and Barton's physical talent is impressive--but there's a been a reluctance to suffer through their inevitable growing pains. Instead the coach has adjusted his rotation to try to make sure a couple of starters are always on the court, but the understandable attempt to win each game has resulted in too many minutes for the starters. This has caught up with the team on this road trip, adding travel fatigue to the equation, along with the first extended experience of NBA road-trip for the rookie point guard. And Lillard's first extended shooting slump is the most obvious factor in the string of road losses. We all talk about how great it is that he has the confidence to keep taking his shot, but when the shot isn't there that approach takes the team down with him.
    There are other, bigger problems. The team defense continues to be appalling; it seems like every team we play shoots well over their normal percentage against Portland. Any defensive turnabout will require belief and commitment on the part of the players, and I wonder if we'll ever get that commitment to a new coach who hasn't yet won the team's loyalty. I suspect that his history of short stays as a head coach has coach Stotts a bit too anxious for the wins he knows he'll need to stick around for long, and that partly explains the way he has been leaning on the players he feels he can count on, instead of developing the talent we'll need for the future. It's a very tricky balance for a coach, to provide the rigor and structure players require for team success, to get the players to accept that rigor, and also to provide the positive feedback young players need. If the coach's anxiety, his worry that this may be his last chance to hold a head coaching job, starts to sour his relations with his players, this could turn into a very ugly season. Maybe we'll get lucky, and the players will snap out of their funk very soon, and we'll start to have something to cheer. Maybe a close loss to the worst team in the league is a wake-up call. Or maybe it's a sign that this team has more serious problems than some of us have wanted to admit.

    by David Maclaine on 11/29/2012 11:11 AM
  5. Being a life long fan myself it is hard at times, but I am still there watching every game and root them on no matter what. Right now, our loses boil down to one thing and one thing only...no good bench play. I don't care what coach you have, unless we have some offensive production from our bench we are going to have plenty of these types a games. The Wizards out scored our bench something like 44-4 and that is not acceptable in professional basketball. Many will argue that our bench provides a defensive spark...well, ok maybe a tad but if you are not putting the ball in the hole at the other end the game goes nowhere. The stats tell the whole true story. We have 5 guys averaging double figures...normally you would think that is a great thing but in our case it is the opposite. Those are the only 5 that can score!!!! They are only human....they get tired and wear down. The Blazers need ONE person that can provide an offensive spark from the bench, and not just once in a while...every game!!! Time to start drawing up some late season trades...

    peace out,

    by daddylogan on 11/29/2012 11:17 AM
  6. A disappointing loss to be sure, and don't count on a win Friday as Doc Rivers called out his team as soft after their loss on Wednesday. They should be fired up to show him they are tough and go at the Blazers who aren't known exactly to be tough!

    by dockaren on 11/29/2012 12:17 PM
  7. Time for a gut check. What kind of character do these players have.

    by Ancientone on 11/29/2012 12:40 PM
  8. I too am a Blazer fan no matter what!

    I applaud Stotts use of the bench. We can complain all we want about not having a bench but we will never have one if we can't get them some playing time. Price is coming around. For Leonard and Smith, the game seems to be happening to fast. They're reactions are too slow but playing time should help improve that. Whatever, the starters can't go all the time or we will lose them as well. Probably would have won the game the other night with LA in it.

    I wish we could figure out how to draw the foul and get close calls when we need them. Why does Love get more calls than LA. We need to get our swagger on--haha. Coach, too! I watch all those other coaches up and chatting with refs about the calls and it pays off sooner or later. Our guys need to walk with confidence too! When I was a kid we called it "cheating on the close ones" not that anyone was cheating. It was about acting like the close call should be yours. LeBron is a pro at this. And yeah, he is Lebron but he walks with confidence first. Our guys, not so much.

    Looking forward to Friday's game. They are my team!

    by allie-oop on 11/29/2012 12:44 PM
  9. No doubt that these east coast road trips have been painful these past couple seasons. Its been hard to watch at times, and while I'm glad to hear Wesley give the team a pep talk, its gonna take more than that to get this thing back on track.
    We do catch a break for Friday with Rondo being suspended however, but none the less, its still Boston in the Garden on a Friday night. Not going to be easy for sure.
    I am a passionate Blazers fan, spend a lot of time and money going to games, and hope that this group can come together and figure out how to keep teams to under 45% shooting and out of the paint.
    I do have faith in this team and organization that we will get some big wins. Lets hope Friday is the start of it turning around and coming home 4-3 on this road trip. GO BLAZERS!

    by blazerglen on 11/29/2012 3:22 PM
  10. This has to be the worst I've ever seen our team play in 15 years. I'm not kidding. I don't miss watching games from NJ NBA League pass! LA is not the leader type. Why force him to be. He's a very good player and person. Get some real leadership on the team. Portland fans have been thru too much and been very patient. The team had plenty of time to get ready for the season. Make a trade even if it means Batum...and get the team back on the board. A real center is great. Keep JJ as backup. The coach is average and will be a good assistant. Get a real coach. Jeff Van Gundy or Brian Shaw. Please!!!

    by karenrbrown63 on 11/29/2012 3:49 PM
  11. Why is everybody going to pieces so quick? We are only 14 games into the season and we have a new team. with a new system, a new coach and a new direction. What did you expect? Karen!!!! I have been watching our team for 42 years and no year has been as low as last year with Felton and Crawford.
    Please don't start screaming new players and new coaches when we haven't had time to produce what the coach we have has to offer.
    I do agree that LMA is not the leader type, and I am sure before long it will be Lillard's team, but with LMA being the center key to the team. Can you guarantee us that making a trade for what will be available or what other teams are willing to give up will make us better, we have tried that so many times that it is starting to be funny.
    It doesn't sound like the fans are being very patient when they are ready to trade of the whole team for a quick fix. The fans want wins and they want them now, not tomorrow or next week but right now, that does not sound like patience to me.
    I can almost guarantee you that anybody we can get right now would not help us right now because our biggest problem is Defense and that takes Chemistry in knowing each and every player as well as you do yourself. And that is the problem we have on D right now. One player goes out to give help and the other one forgets to cover his back.
    I tell you all right now, I enjoyed watching the Blazers play and win when they were giving up 50-60 % shooting from the other team. but as soon as we started to try cutting down the opponents shooting % we start losing. Nevertheless we have to address our defensive problems are we will never get better, and to do that will take time, and yes maybe some trades, but to make major changes will cut down the energy and flow of the offense for a short period, and that is where we are at now. That is where we must have the patience. We can watch exciting street ball type play and have fun, but that won't win us the championship, and that is what the fans really want, but in the mean time they want their cake and eat it too. As in playing exciting ball and win the championship too, with no D. That would be nice if it works.

    by Hg on 11/29/2012 5:24 PM
  12. I'm not throwing Stotts under the bus...I am questioning our defensive assistant Kaleb Canales and our big man coach Kim Hughes. I think we need a better defensive assistant coach and a free throw coach. We are shooting 66% as a team at the line and if we made free throws we win at least half of the games we've lost and we would've beat the Wizards. Team defense and free throws are a glaring problem so far. LaMarcus...back spasms throughout the road trip, Wesley sprained thumb on shooting hand, Nico..recovering from a nasty flu bug..our starters are fine if we shoot well but we'd still win if we made the free throws....how about bringing in a true defensive minded assistant coach. Kaleb worked for a long time with Nolan and Luke and honestly, I'm not impressed with the results. The offense will come. Stotts has half a team of rookies with no NBA experience to speak of. Sasha should have played half the night against the Wizards given Wes' slump and injury. I'm still optimistic we can get back to 500

    by riverman on 11/29/2012 10:54 PM
  13. I'm with you Hg...it's going to take 30 games before chemistry becomes second nature. There's 0 history not only for the players but the coach as well. I'm enjoying seeing growth from JJ, Damian, Meyers, Barton, etc...fan reactions remind me of last season when after starting out number 1 in the west, we lost a few games and the whole team and staff unraveled. This is not the season for instant gratification. We're young and in transition.

    by riverman on 11/29/2012 11:01 PM
  14. There are quality defensive minded unemployed coaches who could contribute to our bench...Mike Brown is one, Stan Van Gundy is another, both are unemployed and way more experienced than Kaleb although he's a loyal guy he's not in their league as a defensive coach

    by riverman on 11/29/2012 11:07 PM
  15. I have been a Blazers Fan since 1970 when Glickman brought them into the League. Two things, Terry Stotts is not a defensive coach. Never has been never will be. Secondly, the fingers needed to be pointed at the Players pure and simple. The only two players that are earning their money are JJ and Wesley. They are not afraid to get in the paint and mix it up, for the most part they are the two best defensive players we have and Championships are won with great defensive teams. Terry Stotts is not an Defensive Coach that is why he has failed at his previous two Head Coaching stints and why he was the Offensive Coach in Dallas.

    I remember when Roy got hurt and LA became a beast as he played in the Low Post. Where is the LA. These outside jump shouts of him are driving me nuts every time I watch them play. He has the talent to play the Low Post and when he does the Blazers win.

    Looking in from the outside, it appears to me Paul Allen wants a small market team to be profitable over winning. Yes he got burned in the Jail Blazer era, but come on, get over it. Their were better coaches he could have had, and he chose Stotts over D'Antoni. He could have had Van Gundy over Stotts, but they wanted to much control, more than Allen was willing to give.

    But again, this right now is totally on the players, LA & Batum need to grow a pair and be aggressive on both sides of the ball, not just when it is convenient on defense and LA need to start playing a Low Post Game. We need to get some bench strength (easier said then done), we need to ship Freeland and his non existent shot to the D League. I could go on and on, but my prediction, based on things now, this team will only win 25 games. If they have a heart transplant who knows.

    Just curious, why was it Matthews and not LA leading this meeting? To me, it just shows, that maybe LA is not that committed to Portland, and time to trade him to a contender where they will like that outside jump shot and get a couple of quality players in return who are hungry.

    There are two many things to speak about, and the more I do the more frustrated I get.

    by BlazerManiac on 11/30/2012 6:36 AM
  16. it's not panic time or anything like that but jeesh, if there's any game we should win, it's that one. there was no fire or effort after the first quarter. it's truly sad that we can't lift ourselves up to beat the team everyone else had beaten.

    then again, that's the team we are. we ocassionally play up to the level of competition and usually play down the the level of the competition. perhaps that's what the basketball gods have ordained for us.

    you know, injured thumb aside, where was Welsey's emotional leadership BEFORE and DURING the game? to be honest, i'm not all that impressed with postgame fire from a guy who shot 20 percent from the field and was largely ineffective on defense. leaders lead ON the court not IN the locker room.

    despite the last paragraph, i hope it helps.

    @riverman@ we briefly spoke of this in the chat, but the issue is not our "defensive assistant" coach. it's our head coach. In fact, despite the fact Stotts inferred Canales could be our defensive coordinator, there's been no indication of how much emphasis Stotts puts on defense in practice and how much of instructional rope he gives Canales. no, its not time to lay blame on someone for doing a job when we don't know how much, if any, he's actually doing. the buck lies with the head coach. we are. 400 right now, which is basically on par with Stotts career coaching winning percentage. i guess t's great to conjecture and speculate one, but i, for one, would rather rely on fact.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 11/30/2012 7:27 AM
  17. @Kassandra:
    You are right IMO, it is not panic time; in fact, the team feels it is not a do or die year, just a growing year. That in it self may be the problem. The team puts so much emphasis on just getting better and being competitive that they forget to have a killer instinct.

    It is not that I disagree with you on the problems, as your points are well taken, but you can point to any one of the players or coaches in this matter if you choose to and probably be right, so conjecture and speculation is great, but the fact is pointing the finger at one coach and one player is showing bias to your beliefs not fact. The fact is this is a new team, new coaching philosophy, with new direction and a new GM. So, IMO again, the fact is this all takes time, and regardless of who the players are and who the coaches are, it will take time to get the unity, especially in team defense where trust and timing is essential.

    Again, I say I am not debating your assessment of the problem, but I feel it is just part of the problem. We both agree that the Blazers played with no fire and more like as Mike said, they played not to lose and that very seldom works for the Blazers.
    I have said from the beginning that I didn't care if they win or if they lose, as long as they play to win and be competitive every game. The game against the Wizards was not Blazer ball, not taking anything away from them, as Nene has been injured and his return makes them a completely different team, but we fans are just as guilty as the players, in saying we shouldn't lose to a team that has not won a single game. That is making our predictions on the win and loss records and not the FACTS of the team we are playing. How many games they have won is immaterial, it is the fact that the Wizards has good players with injury problems and like the Blazers some things take time, they are adjusting to playing without their All star big man playing and their All Star PG being injured, but they are adjusting, so to take them lightly is a gross mistake. So unlike most I suppose, I am upset as you said, we played down to what we feel their talent level is and that again is a gross mistake.

    by Hg on 11/30/2012 8:35 AM
  18. Hey Mike,
    It appears the recent losses have stirred up some emotions in Blazer land. Of course the first reaction from the fans is to go head hunting for the coach. It happens in every sport.
    Losing to the Wiz hurt but we have to stay in reality. This team is young. We have 5 NBA rookies. That's unheard of. The sad part is they are better than our two vets that sit at the far end of the bench. This is a developmental year. If we had beat the Wiz no big deal. To me losing the game carries the same weight. Us Blazer fans are hungry for any win.
    The first year Durant and Westbrook played together I think they won 23 games. The next year they won over 50. My numbers might be slightly off I didn't take the time to look it up.
    It has been apparent to me Wesley has been the leader of this team. He never proclaims it. True leaders lead by example. No one works harder than Matthews. LMA has said he wants to be more of a leader.
    Kass; Once again we disagree. I know you are in Cali. Do you watch the games? Do you get you information from box scores or nba.com.

    by Divotking on 11/30/2012 8:43 AM
  19. @Divotking;
    As I am not a BB guru and go by information gathered, therefore although I disagree with some of Kassandra's writings, I could never knock her energy in fact finding.
    You say we have to stay in the reality, the reality is the Wizard's are a fair to good defensive team, Portland is a fair to good offensive team, The Blazers are young and undeveloped, the Wizard's have been playing without their All Star PG and All Star, Nene So their record is somewhat deceiving. So in reality I would not say one team is better then the other, but if I was the guru that some are, I would look at the facts and realities of the game. As in the Wizards game if my offense was lacking I would play Nate's style of ball, slow the game way down and depend on my bigs, Okafor and now Nene to defend and get offensive rebounds and put backs. As in the Blazers case, I would try to play uptempo ball and use my offense to win the game. But that is not what happened, We tried to play a defensive game against a defensive team and got showed up. But, I ponder on what would have happened if we would have said to hell with the % and go out have fun and play our to our strength, which is offense. I do agree in the long run we do need to have our offense and defense about =, but why we are learning this, the REALITY is that the loss to Washington is no more a hurt then any loss would be. the reality is it is part of the growing pains, and don't ever take a team lightly because of their win-loss record. Look at the REALITY of the team we are playing, they have good players and have lost many close games the same as Portland, We could have very easily been 0-12 ourselves.

    by Hg on 11/30/2012 10:56 AM
  20. Hg;
    Hang in there bud. Brighter days are ahead. It's 5 on 5. Don't overthink it.

    by Divotking on 11/30/2012 11:42 AM
  21. Hg;
    Hang in there bud. Brighter days are ahead. It's 5 on 5. Don't overthink it.

    by Divotking on 11/30/2012 11:42 AM
  22. Terry Stotts needs to be gone ....... Im sorry to say that but look at our record... We need Kaleb Canales ..... Waste of money going to see the blazers and they just loose...

    by LA 2012 on 11/30/2012 12:23 PM
  23. @ fickle fans, this is to ALL of u: Get lost! We don't want/need ANY of u here! U morons act like we were primed to win the championship this season & we were going to have a perfect season! PLEASE! I'm all about being proactive w/ things in life (I've lived my whole life this way & I've made some VERY good decisions this way & c this as the logical/right way to live/do things for the most part) but 2 start in right now & say that we're totally hosed/bad team & we need 2 change EVERYTHING & flush our loyalties is JUST A BUNCH OF MONSTROUS CRAP! Our record is not great (Is it the worst? NO! There r other teams worse off than ours; some teams have better records than OUR guys BUT we're STILL a better team; this ISN'T even the Homer in me speaking) & I'm not going to say that it is; we're ONLY 15 games in, aren't there like 82 games in a season? OUR Blazers r having some problems right now, YES but they NEED OUR SUPPORT NOT our criticism.

    @ ANYONE who considers themselves a Blazer fan, we've heard "gut check" being throw around all over the place lately when it comes to OUR Blazers; I say... it's "gut check" time for US fans as well! How much do u REALLY LOVE & SUPPORT YOUR/OUR TEAM? IDK how many of u r w/ me but I KNOW & will tell every1 that I HAVEN'T/WON'T give up on OUR guys!

    by Simpson on 11/30/2012 4:08 PM
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