It’s been just over a week since the Portland Trail Blazers wrapped up their 2019-20 season and left the NBA’s Orlando bubble after the Los Angeles Lakers took the series 4-1.
The Blazers have had time to reflect and recover from the grueling schedule of games every other day.
For Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who joined Jordan Kent and Michael Holton on this week’s Trail Blazers Courtside, has mixed feelings about being back home. While on one hand it was nice to see his wife and sleep in his own bed again, the competitor in him wishes his team was still playing.
During his Trail Blazers Courtside interview, Coach Stotts described life in the bubble, how the restart was more of a mental grind than physical grind, and how there was one delusive storyline surrounding the Blazers in Orlando.
A lot of the chatter on the restart for the Blazers was how important it was for Portland to have Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back on the court when the seeding games began. However, the Trail Blazers were still missing two forwards who could’ve really helped out especially when it came to defending the Lakers and LeBron James in the playoffs.
Yes, people seemingly forget that Portland was without Rodney Hood and Trevor Ariza.
As Hood continued his rehab of a torn left Achilles in Portland and Ariza stayed back to be with his 12-year-old son, there was a gaping hole at wing as the Blazers went 6-2 in the seeding games and 1-4 in their first round series against the Lakers.
“Certainly getting Zach and Nurk back was really important,” Stotts said. “I thought they were one of the positives and there were a lot of positives to the season, but certainly one of the positives was the fact that Zach and Nurk were able to come back, and play, and play well.”
It’s only natural to think about how far the Blazers could’ve gone with both Hood and Ariza or even with just one of the perimeter players.
But then there’s always the other ‘what-ifs.’ Like, would Gary Trent Jr. had excelled on both ends of the court like he did during the restart? He most likely wouldn’t have played the 30.6 minutes per game that he averaged during the playoffs, that's for sure.
“Who knows maybe if we have [Rodney and Trevor] then Gary Trent [Jr.] doesn’t have the breakout bubble,” Stotts said. “So things happen for a reason.”
The NBA hasn’t announced when the 2020-21 season will officially tip-off, but the longer the NBA waits to begin the season, the longer that Hood has to rehab and that’s something that should excite all of Rip City.
Before his injury, Hood was shooting 50.6 percent from the field and 49.3 percent from three-point range in 21 games as the Blazers starting small forward.
“The good thing is that Rodney is on the mends,” Stotts added. “I saw him a couple of days ago and I saw the tweet of him dunking. I think he’s feeling positive about next season.”
Stotts also made sure to note what next season could look like with Hood and Ariza:
Yes, it will Coach. Yes, it will.
[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]: