So who plays? And when?
As the Trail Blazers dropped a not-as-close-as-it-sounds 120-111 decision to the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday, that would be a reasonable question.
Portland needs to find a playing rotation and maybe even a new starting lineup. Coach Terry Stotts used 11 players in meaningful minutes and seemed to be throwing lineups at the wall to see what was going to stick.
The Blazers’ starting guards – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum -- took 42 of the team’s 87 shots and if they continue to deal in that volume, the other shooters are going to have to be steady and accurate.
On this night, Jake Layman played 28 minutes off the bench and scored 17 points off seven shots and had a career-high four blocked shots. He’s looking more and more like a starter but Stotts just doesn’t seem willing to make that move.
He sticks with Al-Farouq Aminu for his defense but often gets little offense from him. But lately whatever he gets from Aminu is more than he’s getting from the other starting forward, Maurice Harkless.
“I liked the way we competed in the second half,” Stotts said. “I wanted to keep Chief out there with Paul George.”
For the record, George recorded a downright next-level triple-double, getting 47 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Good thing they had a quality defender on him, right? The guy might have gone for a hundred.
Harkless played 20 minutes and scored three points, Aminu played 33 and scored 13.
Aminu said. “It’s our job. We have to adapt.”
Meanwhile, Seth Curry – who has played and shot well this season – saw only five minutes of duty, Meyers Leonard played eight, Zach Collins played 10, Evan Turner 13 and Rodney Hood 16.
That’s reminiscent of an elementary-school team where you want to make sure everybody gets to play so that none of the parents gets mad.
“Right now, everybody is just trying to adjust,” Turner said of the playing rotation. “Using more guys and a deeper bench, we all have to sacrifice.”
The only rotation player added to the mix at the trade deadline was Hood, who can play three positions. But his appearance has seemingly thrown a monkey wrench into a rotation that was already unpredictable.
“I’m sure it’s difficult for some guys,” Lillard said, when asked about the rotation of the rotation. “Being in there with some guys for shorter stretches than you’re used to. But that’s part of being a professional. You’ve got to adjust on the fly and that’s kind of where we are.”
Meanwhile, the Blazers’ starting lineup struggled against the Thunder. McCollum went 5-20 from the field and Lillard was 9-22. Jusuf Nurkic scored nine on 2-7 shooting and the starters combined for 11 turnovers.
Yes, there seemed to be some hangover from the loss Sunday night at Dallas but there isn’t much excuse for that from NBA players.
This suddenly appears to be an unsettled team right now. There are roles to be defined and players found to fill them.
Certainly there are plenty of candidates on hand. And we saw them all Monday night.