MINNEAPOLIS – After CJ McCollum suffered his knee injury March 16 at San Antonio, Portland Coach Terry Stotts was faced with a decision.
Who starts alongside Damian Lillard in the Trail Blazer backcourt?
Stotts opted to start Jake Layman, who had spent most of his career as a forward, in that spot and even though Layman didn’t set the league on fire, the Blazers went on to win six straight games.
And Stotts is a bit more old-school when it comes to lineups than you might think. He stayed with that winning lineup with Layman a part of it.
But Saturday night in Detroit, Portland lost to the Pistons. After the winning streak was snapped, would Stotts, asked at the team's Monday morning shootaround, then consider a change in the starting lineup?
“It’s possible,” said Stotts, who very seldom reveals his starting lineup until he has to, just prior to the game. “I think we have to look at some things. You win five or six in a row without CJ and you don’t want to change things up. It’s more about getting wins than experimenting.”
Stotts has several options. Seth Curry has been scoring very well off the bench and certainly would be a candidate for that starting spot. So would Rodney Hood, who has started 224 games in his NBA career.
But the Portland coach could also reach past the second unit, as he has in the past so as not to disrupt his bench rotation. That could perhaps mean a chance for rookie Anfernee Simons.
Yes, that sounds like a bold move, but Simons has played 8:45 in the last two games and hit four of his five shots. He’s played well in his limited time on the court recently. And a good many insiders with the team – including players – believe he is going to be a very good player.
Would Stotts make that move at this point of the season?
“I don’t think that would be fair to them,” Stotts said. “This is an important stretch and those minutes – we really don’t have those minutes to spare, because it’s a 10-man rotation. Seth is going to play 30 minutes. Rodney’s playing. Jake’s playing. Those minutes (to Simons) would come at the expense of one of those players.
“I don’t think we have the luxury to do that. It would be a good experience for him. But right now, the rotation’s tight.
“At this point of the season, fighting for home court, I just don’t think it’s fair to put him in that situation now.
Or to the other players. I don’t think we’re in a position to do that.”
So, we must wait until tonight. Will it continue to be Layman? Or someone