After another less-than-inspiring Trail Blazer performance -- a Sunday night loss to shorthanded Charlotte -- it’s time for a few serious questions.
Portland has lost five of its last seven games and is bracing for a difficult week, with home games against the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and, twice, the Memphis Grizzlies.
And it isn’t just that the Trail Blazers are losing. There has been a certain stale quality to their play. They have been flat and seemingly uninspired in several games and apparently unprepared in others.
Coach Terry Stotts was asked about his team’s preparation after Sunday’s game, when the Blazers allowed 44 points and trailed by 20 after one quarter to a Hornets team without Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball.
“We had the same preparations we always do,” Stotts said. “But it didn't work out in the first quarter. I don't think it was a preparation thing, as far as knowing their sets, knowing their style of play, knowing what type of team they were. I don't think it was a question of preparation.”
The key part of that is “the same preparations we always do.”
And that may be the problem. What’s happening with the defense certainly isn’t working -- the defensive rating has been 29th in the league for virtually the entire season. Lately, the offense looks flat and too rooted in isolation plays. Overall, the team's net rating to date is -0.2, In other words, giving up a fraction more points than it is scoring.
The Trail Blazers don’t change much. Stotts has pretty much the same plays, same defensive philosophy and, probably, the same messages to his team, that he has had for years.
He seems very reluctant to change, which means his team is more predictable and easier to prepare for.
And in situations like that, you have to wonder if things stagnate. Is this team just tired of doing – and hearing – the same thing all the time?
Have they tuned out their coach? Stotts is in his ninth season here and it is very rare that coaches stay that long in one spot.
Unless they are winning championships.
This is probably the most talented roster Stotts has had in his coaching career. Expectations were very high for this season.
The players say they love playing for Stotts, but could that be because they are so comfortable? Are they being held accountable for their mistakes? In spite of the failure to measure up to this team’s potential, are things too easy?
There is no way of knowing that. But I would say that unless the Trail Blazers find some motivation or inspiration in their final 16 games, this season is not going to end well for this team.