Young Trail Blazers Learn Some Vital Early Lessons
It’s no secret young teams in this league face struggles. When you analyze the perennial title contenders you see common threads, one of which is veteran experience. Following the end of last season and the rapid reconstruction of the team, the Trail Blazers are now one of the youngest teams in the league, a fact not tipping the scales too heavily in the experience department. That said, each and every game will lend itself to new lessons. Two specifically have been learned so far.
First, overtime in Houston. The Trail Blazers came together after a tough loss in Oklahoma City to put up a fight against the unbeaten Rockets. They pushed hard through 48 minutes and turned up the heat to completely dominated the overtime period. Winning in overtime is no easy feat and Portland made it look easy taking away the ever-important confidence to close-out a tight game.
Second, perseverance against the Clippers. Down by as much as 25, Portland fought back from a 21-point halftime hole to get within four points against a very deep Clips team. In situations of great deficit it’s easy to resign yourself to a loss and move on to the next game. Instead, the Trail Blazers fought back and proved to themselves they can be down by a hefty margin and still have the ability to claw their way back into the game. Another important lesson.
“I think there was good growth for us to be able to come back in all of those games’ LaMarcus Aldridge said of the challenges. “I think that a young team like ours is gonna be up and down. But I felt like it’s a part of our growth to get better, is learning how to come back. And now we’re doing that, but we gotta learn how to close games together. I thought Houston was a good start for us, but teams are gonna be up and down when you’re this young.”
One of the young leaders of the team, point guard Damian Lillard takes each of these learning experiences to heart and uses them to build his confidence while still addressing the reality of the growing pains on a youthful squad.
“We know that when we play like that, with a lot of energy, and when we flyin’ around, playing hard and moving the ball, we can play with one of the best teams in the league,” Lillard said. “At the same time, we can’t put ourselves in that hole, because we’re not that level of a team to be able to fight back every time.”
Resiliency and dedication are important in the NBA and especially for a young team like the Trail Blazers. And every night they take the floor is another opportunity for them to improve and learn lessons they’ll carry into the next.