The Portland Trail Blazers have now lost fourth-straight games and are headed back to Rip City winless after a three-game road trip that ended in a 102-93 loss at Staples Center.
It’s certainly not the outcome Blazers fans could have hoped for, especially as Lakers star Anthony Davis was sidelined, but Portland still has three games at home to finish on a high note before All-Star break.
Unfortunately, another loss on the road means the Trail Blazers have once again fallen in the Western Conference Standings. Portland is now 18-14 on the season, good for the sixth-best conference record.
If you ask ESPN’s Jalen Rose, however, the Trail Blazers can be much higher than that. Following the Lakers-Blazers game, Rose shared his Western Conference Power Rankings, but with one disclaimer:
“This is if each team is fully healthy and it's playoff time and we're talking about a 7-game series,” Rose said.
Despite Portland’s four-game skid, the Trail Blazers made the cut. Here’s why, according to Rose.
“When they get healthy, as much as we talking about the Lakers missing Anthony Davis, and that’s rightfully so for what he brings to the table for that team, but what CJ McCollum brings to the Blazers team is what has made them one of the most consistent teams in the Western Conference the last four years, so I’ll give them the nod at the No. 4 spot,” Rose said.
Utah, the LA Clippers and the LA Lakers rounded out Rose's top 3 in the West.
The return of CJ McCollum can not come soon enough. The Trail Blazers guard was averaging a career-best 26.7 points to go along with 5.0 assists and 3.9 rebounds prior to his left mid-foot fracture suffered on Jan. 16.
McCollum recently told Trail Blazers reporter Casey Holdahl that he’s taking everything one day at a time. He also made it clear that he won’t rush his return, either.
“I’m not coming back until I’m ready, until I feel comfortable, until my foot is completely healed,” McCollum said. “I’m happy with where I’m at. Guys are doing a great job of stepping up and I’m not gonna rush my process. You know when you’re ready and I’ll know when I’m ready.”
While the Trail Blazers anxiously await the return of CJ to Portland’s backcourt, Rose failed to mention the importance of a Jusuf Nurkic return as well. The Bosnian big man, who broke his wrist in January, did not make the team’s recent road trip, but is set to be evaluated on March 2 along with McCollum.
Until then, Rip City is holding its collective breath for the moment a Trail Blazers squad takes the court again in full health… if that is possible. Any NBA team knows Portland could be dangerous in the Second Half of the season with the Trail Blazers at full strength.