I do a lot of standing around in the Trail Blazers locker room prior to games at the Rose Garden. Sometimes I’m waiting for a player to show up for an interview. Other times I’m just killing time before Nate McMillan’s pregame media availability.
Sunday night, I was killing time. All of the players were either out on the court, in the training room or at chapel and Nate’s pregame was still a ways off, so I stood in front of the white board reading the scouting reports of the opposing players. I do this before just about every game. Always interesting to read what people who really know the sport have to say.
So I’m reading the scouting report for each player on the Timberwolves, and after I’m about halfway through I start to realize something: these guys are going to have a heck of a time winning games this season. Al Jefferson isn’t 100 percent healthy. Kevin Love’s out, so his scouting report isn’t even on the board. Jonny Flynn is talented, but he’s a rookie who only played one year of college ball trying to learn the hardest position in basketball. Corey Brewer and Ryan Gomes are decent, but they’re complimentary players. The team as a whole is undersized and inexperienced.
While I’m reading through the reports, Joel Przybilla sits down at his locker, which is the closest to the white board where the reports are taped. I turn to Przybilla after finishing my overview and say something that, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have.
“There’s no way we’re going to lose to these guys tonight.”
It’s not that I didn’t believe what I said. The Trail Blazer, at home, coming into the Sunday’s game having beaten the Timberwolves the last eight times they’ve played, should beat Minnesota easily. And they did, but it’s never wise to tempt the fates so brazenly.
Realizing the error of my ways, Przybilla did his best to negate the bad juju I created.
“Don’t jinx us man,” said Przybilla, knocking on the wood paneling that serves as trim around his locker. “Any team can get beat on any given night in this league.”
Very true, and very reassuring to hear from a player heading out on a five-game road trip. Three of those games (Memphis, Minnesota and Charlotte) should be wins, but you can’t take anything for granted in the NBA, especially on the road. Not to mention that the Trail Blazers haven’t won in Charlotte since the 2006-07 season, so that’s hardly a gimme either.
The Grizzlies might be 1-6, but they’ve got a whole lot of talent and have played five of their first seven games on the road, so they’re probably not as bad as their record would indicate. (By the way, Zach Randolph is tied for third on the Grizzlies in assists per game with 3.3. He’s tied for second if you don’t include Allen Iverson. Way to dime Z-Bo!)
The Timberwolves also have just one win, but they too have had a tough schedule and have played some good team pretty close, losing to the Clippers by three and Boston by two being the most notable examples.
As for the games against the Hornets and Hawks, those are going to be tough gets. Both NOLA and Atlanta are historically difficult places for the Trail Blazers to get wins. Luckily the Blazers will have a day of rest before each of those games, so hopefully they come out fresh and, especially against the Hawks, with something to prove.
So if you’re looking at the first extended road trip and have already penciled in a 3-2 record, consider knocking on some wood. Joel Przybilla thanks you in absentia.