It’s something that wasn’t really brought up over the last few seasons, because it didn’t need to be with the continuity in Portland.
But now, with a total of seven new players added to the Trail Blazers roster, team chemistry is a big topic of conversation.
Portland is currently 1-2 in the preseason with its only win coming against Maccabi Haifa.
With that being said, is there concern that the team chemistry is not quite there yet?
No, not at the moment.
The Blazers feel they still have enough time to develop the necessary camaraderie.
“In general it’s going to be a work in progress,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said after Monday’s practice. “Whether it’s Dame [Lillard] and Hassan [Whiteside] in pick and rolls or Zach [Collins] and Hassan as the two bigs or whatever it is – Mario [Hezonja] playing the four, I think there’s just a lot of newness and for all of us that we’re still trying to figure it out,” Stotts said.
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Developing that loyalty among each other seems to be lacking a little more on defense. That was evident in the Blazers loss to the Suns on Saturday after Phoenix hit 24 three-pointers on the night.
“After a short amount of time it hasn’t been bad,” Stotts said of the Blazers building more team chemistry. “It probably shows itself more at the defensive end than the offensive end.”
“Defensively we’ve still got to learn how to trust each other,” Collins added.
Collins believes building that chemistry on the defensive end is all about trust.
“To get real Xs and Os about it, I think just getting up into the ball on the perimeter as a guard, and trusting that you have help behind you, and not letting them shoot a three,” Collins said. “[We need] more reps and I think that’s why the preseason is going to be great for us.”
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For Collins, who will probably see time at both the four and the five this season, he enjoys playing alongside Whiteside. He also understands what is being asked of him when he is playing the four.
“I think regardless of who is the five, it’s just me being more effective defensively, guarding shooting bigs and guarding… mobile fours that can take it off the dribble and do other things besides just being at the rim,” Collins said.
“As far as playing with Hassan, if anything, he just makes everybody’s life easier because, like I said, getting up into the ball on the perimeter knowing you have a guy like that at the rim who is going to contest everything it just gives you confidence to put more pressure on the ball,” Collins added.
Whiteside admitted this preseason has been difficult for him because he missed 10 days of training camp after he tweaked his left ankle.
“That kind of messed up my momentum, but everyday is a day we are getting better at it,” Whiteside said of his connection with the Blazers’ guards.
Whiteside did want to mention as he adjusts to his new teammates, he is enjoying being on the floor with veteran Anthony Tolliver, saying AT is ‘big man friendly.’
“I’m still getting to know the other guys too. They’re getting to know me, feeling that chemistry. The guys have been doing a great job of just passing the ball, communicating. Tolliver is an amazing passer. He’s really big man friendly. So, he likes to throw it down to the big men,” Whiteside said with a smile.
It sounds like from the coaching staff down to the players, everyone is glad there is still a week left of the preseason.