"Anybody expecting those players to be able to play at the same level early in this season for the first couple of months, I think, is mistaken," said former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy. "The people that will pay for it are the fans, because they're not going to see the usual great product that the NBA produces under normal conditions."
I'm sorry I started this blog with such a tough image to look at. I had to, though. Because in order for me to give an honest assessment of this team after barely over a month of play in 20 games, I needed to be honest with myself about not having "#7" out on that court. The comfort of Brandon having the ball in his hands in the 4th, with the clock winding down, the shot, the buzzer and a swish. This team doesn't roll like that anymore. That being said...
LaMarcus is Killing it! Averaging 22.8 pts., 9 reb., 2.7 asst., and 1 steal a game is definitely worth the All-Star nod. Like most Blazers, he'll be the coaches' pick. Let's face it, even at times when we're consistently getting deep into the playoffs, our Blazers never get the exposure they deserve.
The only thing he could do to score even more like an All-Star is to get to the foul line while being double teamed rather than passing out of it. The leading scorers in the league average about 4 free throws more a game then LMA. As well, those aforementioned double teams are costing him a career high 2 turnovers a game. He's not the only one struggling with those, however. Thankfully we also picked up "The Rhino", who has not only been extremely aggressive from off the bench, but he also has the fan "Charisma" of a...domesticated rhino? Anyway, Craig Smith has really helped keep LMA's minutes down this season (LaMarcus is second all time for Blazers in min. averaged in a season as a result of last season!).
Aldridge has stepped up as a leader and has been a defensive focus for any team that knows we're next on there schedule. I wonder how many teams have heard the sentence "You have to keep Aldridge under 20 pts."?
Man, Marcus Camby has been a rock, hasn't he? Multiple 20 rebound games, an amazing "Alamo" type defense in the paint, and how a 37 year old, 6'11" center has hands faster then Billy the Kid I won't be able to tell you. I've never heard him talk in a quiet half time locker room. By face value alone though, you know his voice is heard during tough moments. I won't talk about how much we missed him on the court during that first road trip...We all know.
So you want to take back the trade of Miller for Felton? I can understand that after these tough performances by our new "Court General". He's had issues with turn overs, his shooting was way off in the early part of the season, and some of you think he's "out of shape".
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Miller. I was at that game that ended his consecutive games streak. I think knocking over "Mr. Hollywood" Griffen was worth it (and I hope Dre feels the same). He's playing really well for Denver this year too...as a reserve. Sure, Miller could be a starter for any team this year. But what this team needs is to be younger and faster. And we need to be younger and faster for longer then just this season. Sadly we gave up continuity for this. Every PG passes a little differently, and Felton is still learning the way his new teammate's flow on the court. His team is still learning how to play "Run 'N Gun" basketball after years of a slower half court offense. Besides, after what he said about Westbrook
after that win in OKC, I'm willing to give him more then 20 games to establish himself on this team.
So what could possibly be wrong with this team? We're 10-1 at the Rose Garden, which is awesome...Oh Wait...3-9 on the road?
Well the first thing that jumps out at me is that Gerald Wallace, the "Trade Deadline Steal" last year, feeds off the cosmic energy here at the Rose Garden, but apparently is dying from cosmic hunger on the road. Eight of our nine road loses have been decided by less then 10 pts. 10 pts. is also the margin between Geralds's home vs. away scoring averages.
Is Gerald alone in the blame? I don't think so.
The biggest issue we seem to be having is knowing who is supposed to have the ball in the 4th. We're having trouble even keeping above a 20 pt. average in 4th quarters. People seem to say, "Well, feed the L-train!", but by the time the end of the game comes around most teams have resorted to "Code Red". This is what Pheonix yelled in the playoffs when LMA looked at the ball. He would then be immediately either double or even triple teamed.
Some people think that's why we brought in "Mr. Tough Shot" (@Jcrossover)
himself. However, Jamal was brought in to mesmerize the benches of
other teams with his smooth dribbling and sky scraping fade-away shots. I would love for him to
fill that clutch void we seem to have when games are close. However, if we
are truly going to let this starting line up gel, they should
suffer the losses together.
I know it, you know it, and he would be the first to tell you. Wessywes has not shown up to a game yet this year. To me, this season will not be defined by Aldridge getting to the #ASG, it won't be defined by our Win/Loss record, and it doesn't matter how far we go into the playoffs. This is Wesley's year to step-up. After not being drafted in his class, he has shown the NBA that all 30 teams overlooked him. What the next couple of seasons will show is by what margin was he overlooked. Does Wesley have it in him to lead a team as a starter at the 2 spot?
We haven't seen it yet. His shots just aren't falling for him. But we hope they will. If Mathews is truly going to find his role on this team, I think he needs to take the 4th quarter challenge. He already leads by example with his awesome defensive presence. Now he needs to lead on the offensive end. Instead of waiting for his shots to fall, he needs to start getting creative and find those spots 'slashers' can get through.
Mathews needs to ask for the penetration plays...maybe some "pick and pop" with LMA. Mathews needs to aggressively take the 4th into his own hands. I know he's not a pure shooter out there in 3 point land, but he is
a play maker. Most importantly, what makes him stand out as someone we can depend on late in games, is his undeniable work ethic and
these two quotes: "Everyday I try to get 1% better", and, "We play for
each other". The strong words of a 'go-to' guy.
The only other answer I have for this quick and the dead, off to the races, grind it out #lockoutNBAseason is that, luckily, there are still 21 road games left. We have time to figure it
But one thing is for sure: well before the buzzer sounds, we'll know whether or not a game is ours. This team plays with heart and determination, and without needing to bank on a "Miracle Moment".