Fans and media are always giving their opinions on what the difference and similarities are from one team to another. It is all too easy for people from the outside looking in to judge.
But when you are in the trenches and with your teammates day in and day out, those are the people who can make a real comparison. Trail Blazers players and Coach Terry Stotts have noticed a few changes from last year.
Damian Lillard, who has discussed how he is a ‘true veteran’ now, compared this year’s Blazers’ team to the 2013-14 team.
“I think this year kind of reminds me of my second year, you know we had guys out there that complimented each other. I think ET comes in and he’s going to be on the point and then you got guys like Nik and Seth out there who are playing off the ball, they can shoot, they can put it on the floor and do something, but ET has command of what’s going on out there and those guys are complimentary to that. So I think that’s the difference this year from the past few years,” Lillard said.
The biggest difference and question mark right now is the Blazers' bench. This offseason, Portland parted ways with Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, and Pat Connaughton. The Blazers guaranteed Jake Layman’s contract, while also drafting Anfernee Simons with the 24th pick and Gary Trent Jr. in the second round. In free agency, Portland picked up two shot makers in Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas.
With the additions of Simons, Curry, and Stauskas, the Blazers goal was to space the floor and make sure the offense does not completely stop when the starters come out.
“In the past we’ve had some trouble scoring points off the bench and I think all those guys have the ability to make shots. They can put the ball in the basket, so hopefully we can get that from them consistently,” Lillard said.
Yes, there has been so much talk about how the Blazers’ offense has gotten better especially with the new additions to the second unit, but what about the defense?
“I think this year if we can take steps forward defensively, but then our offense comes around where we are flowing well at the beginning of the game and then when the bench comes in they continue to give us a spark offensively, if we can get that, I think we’ll be pretty good. Last year we were really good defensively, had our offense been there we probably would’ve had a much better start to the season,” Lillard said.
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Coach Stotts is focused on making sure the defense mentality from last season doesn’t get left behind.
“We were good defensive team last year, I think so far our offense is ahead of offense last year, defensively it’s not where it was… I think it’s a little difficult to compare the two teams right now. Our offense—I think there’s a good feel for it, but our defense has to maintain the level that it was at last year,” Stotts said.
The national media is projecting the Trail Blazers will be anywhere from just barely making the playoffs in the West to being on the outside looking in, but for CJ McCollum he believes that after getting swept by the Pelicans that should help propel them, if only mentally this season.
“A year of experience, a year older, mature, better perspective going into the season—you go through turmoil, losing games, losing a playoff series you grow from it,” McCollum said.
It’s time to see if the differences in the Blazers’ bench and going through turmoil will get the Blazers back to one of the top team’s in the West Conference and help them exceed the national media’s expectations once again.
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