As the Trail Blazers continue their painful march towards the end of what appears destined to be a disappointing season, it’s been interesting to watch the changing cast of characters attempting to pull the team out of its tailspin.
Expectations aren’t being met and a high-payroll, veteran team is not the quality we thought it would be when the season began.
Portland has lost three straight games, five of its last six and seven of its last nine.
Coach Terry Stotts has often taken creative approaches to his lineups and rotations. There have been times during Stotts’ eight-plus seasons in Portland when certain players have toggled between being in the starting lineup or not playing at all – or have played well and then not played again for several games.
Lately, though, Stotts has taken that to a different level.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson signed a 10-day contract with the team April 8 and Stotts used him sparingly in his first two games, benching him completely in the next two. Then he gave him a starting role April 18 at Charlotte – a game in which the usual starter, Derrick Jones Jr., did not play at all.
Hollis-Jefferson had seven points and five rebounds in that game.
In the following game, Stotts used Hollis-Jefferson for all but four seconds of the fourth quarter of a tight game.
And he did not use Robert Covington – who has been a stalwart at both ends of the court for this team all season – in the final period.
Then, after praising Hollis-Jefferson’s play Tuesday, Stotts did not use him at all Wednesday vs. Denver – using the addition of Jusuf Nurkic to the lineup as a reason for not having minutes for Hollis-Jefferson. Which ignored the fact that Jones was unavailable for the game due to injury.
Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony continues to get extended minutes, regardless of how well he shoots the ball, which is his primary responsibility. One has to wonder where Nassir Little would be right now if he had gotten Anthony’s minutes all season.
Which brings us to Anfernee Simons, whose playing time has been a rollercoaster ride throughout the year. Very often he gets limited duty unless there is an injury, no matter how well he plays when given the chance.
All in all, the rotation is difficult to predict, much the same as the team’s performance.
Something is going on with the Trail Blazers and no matter who plays or doesn’t play, this is not the team we thought it would be.