Lockout + 20 games =
Exhilarating wins over major contenders, deflating failures against some teams with the worst records in the league, you just never know what's next with this incarnation of our Trail Blazers. One thing is clear, Portland fan’s love for their home team is certainly reciprocated by the players love for their home court, with one of the best home records in the league. A game in the Rose Garden must be a troubling prospect for visiting opponents. Portland’s excellent performance at home has been mirrored by remarkable futility on the road. Mercifully, the Blazers did manage a victory on the road against the now division leading Thunder. But a number of disheartening collapses against numerous road opponents is a real continuing concern.
There are a number of factors which might offer some explanation for the wide swings in performance of the team. Of course the first is significant changes in the roster itself, starting with the stunning medical retirement of the teams all star, Brandon Roy and the emergence of our new all star, La Marcus Aldridge.. We are in the midst if a significant change in the teams style of play, with increased tempo and ball movement. With the rather remarkable statement of confidence by coach Nate in our relatively new star player, Gerald Wallace, where Nate declared that 'Crash' needs to play his game, a fast, open style is encouraged. And if Crash is going to play that way, well, the rest of the team be needin' to join right in as well! Initially the Blazers had stunning success with strong wins with this strategy at home against good teams. But weak performances on the road have fans scratching their heads. Insufficient pre season preparation and just not enough time for tired bodies to recharge have taken their tool. This condensed schedule is the curse of the extended lockout. Let's not do that again!
Our new point guard Raymond Felton has had a rough start, which has made him a preferred target of fan frustration. It probably didn't help that he was visibly out of shape coming to town, as he seemed to run out of steam late in games (not to mention charge full steam into some nasty turnovers). But there have been signs of improvement as Raymond settles in. Of course, he may be sitting out a while with his foot sprain, which should give fans a chance to see more of their favorite rookie: Elliot Williams, who has been getting some minutes of late. Elliot’s eye opening flight and general offensive performance is pure entertainment. We want more. Meanwhile, Jamal Crawford has shown us something as our emergency starting point. He can add assists to his offensive skill set, which is a welcomed, and needed, development. It will be interesting to see how this role for JC develops. This point guard situation is the most likely position for some changes before the trade deadline, as the Blazers seek an experienced backup (Patty Mills ?).
Patty the entertainer !
Like the crankshaft in an engine, quietly doing its essential job holding the pieces together has been our own essential veteran component, center Marcus Camby. His makes 20 rebounds routine, and is a critical piece of the defense which initiates many of the glorious fast break points we so enjoy. It was a relief they way he blew through that ankle sprain and got right back to playing. With all that La Marcus has to provide as the central star for this team, the load Marcus carries is an essential assist.
Nate’s been showing surprising flexibility and adaptability this season, which adds interest. Perhaps the most challenging ‘logjam’ is balancing his utilization of small forward talent between Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum, both fan favorites. I actually like the interaction between the two when they can get on the floor together. This is yet another plotline to follow. Despite the publicized injury losses, this Blazer team continues to show promise. On any given night, the Blazers can beat anybody. This next home game against the Thunder should be a good one. You have to stay tuned - you just never know.