And so again, I have to ask the questions we pondered just a couple of days ago: Who is going to play? And when?
The Trail Blazers added the second new player to their roster in the last 10 days when they signed free-agent center Enes Kanter for the remainder of the season.
Coach Terry Stotts wasted no time proclaiming Kanter, a very good offensive player and rebounder, the team’s new backup center.
“We’re getting a guy who can really score and rebound,” Stotts said. “He’ll help us be a better team. He’ll be our backup five.
“Obviously, he’s going to play.”
That certainly sends some winds of change through the Portland locker room. Meyers Leonard had been getting a lot of playing time in that backup center role with Zach Collins sharing time at that spot and at backup power forward.
This comes at a time when Jake Layman is putting pressure on Maurice Harkless at the starting small forward position and Rodney Hood, acquired in a trade with Cleveland Feb.4, is also expected to get big second-unit playing time.
Stotts was asked prior to the game why Layman or Hood isn’t starting at small forward ahead of Harkless.
“I’m not even going to get into that,” he said. “Thank you.”
Adding another quality player also means a lot of players having to get used to different teammates on the floor with them and all sorts of new combinations being used. But Kanter, a low-post scorer, shouldn't be a problem in that regard.
“I’ve always admired Kanter, because he’s self-sufficient,” Evan Turner said. “He does a great job of offensive rebounding. He gets you extra possessions. It’s a big pickup. A shoutout to Neil (Olshey).”
But how crowded is the rotation going to be?
“You just have to be pros,” Turner said. “Step up and do your job. Sacrifice. And that’s really it. You just have to step up and support our two stars.”
Leonard, having the best season of his career, is likely going to be the player most affected by Kanter’s acquisition.
“The truth is, I have no idea (how his minutes will shake out),” Leonard said. “It’s already been spoken that Enes is the backup five.
“I have played well. Certainly vastly improved. And while I was in there, I felt I gave our team a chance to win.
“I just did my sprints. I’m going to stay in shape, grind every day and if I get put in, try to do my best to help us win.”
Adding players to a roster at or near the deadline can be a dangerous thing for a team’s locker room.
Portland now has 12 players deserving of significant time on the court – and they aren’t all going to get it. At some point, that can cause friction among players, or even cause them to take sides in regard to who should play and what their roles should be.
“No one in this locker room is worried about that,” Layman said. “I know it’s a big topic, but we all just want to win games.
“Whoever is out there playing, we’re all happy for each other. Everyone just wants to win games and play their best basketball when they’re out there.”
That divided locker room happened in a big way to the 2000-2001 Portland team. That season, General Manager Bob Whitsitt brought Detlef Schrempf out of retirement in the middle of the season and added Rod Strickland off the waiver wire. The additions not only didn’t improve the team’s fortunes, they led to dissension and dissatisfaction.
On the other hand, Portland now has veteran players with playoff experience, insurance against injury or younger and lesser-experienced players who may not be handle playoff pressure.
“(Kanter) is a great offensive rebounder, good in the paint and you’re going to be able to give him the ball and he’s going to score,” Lillard said. “And the experience of being on a good team. He’s been on a lot of good teams (in Utah and Oklahoma City before New York).”
But what about the chemistry of this team?
“It’s not a position we’ve been in, the last few years,” Lillard said. “I don’t think we have anybody who will be disruptive. If you’re not upset about not playing, you’re in the wrong game. You should be upset. If they’re not, that’s a bigger problem.
“But I don’t think we have anybody who will be a problem.”