The season started for the Trail Blazers with the avowed purpose of improving the team’s defense. Everybody knows that. But at first, there wasn’t a lot of evidence of things getting better.
Lately, though, as the Trail Blazers ride a three-game win streak into Sacramento for a Wednesday night game, things are obviously better. Portland’s defensive efficiency rating is up to No. 23 in the league. Still, not great, but a big jump from the 28 and 29 spots where it has resided since last season.
“We started doing a five-game rolling average of our defensive rating and our last five games have been a big improvement,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “You know, obviously, in the first five games with the Utah game, the Clipper game, it kind of overshadowed the overall rating.
“But I like the direction it's going. I think we are improving. Like every team, we’ve got to be a little bit more consistent, but I think the last five games have been a marked improvement.”
Robert Covington, who came to Portland as part of that structural renovation, agrees.
“A lot of guys have taken a lot of growth,” Covington said. “You know, Dame, CJ, Melo -- they're prolific scorers. But they understand that in order for us to be great, we’ve got to get it done on both ends of the court.
“And the new way that we're playing, everyone has bought in and they're changing. They're adapting and they're locked in on that side as well, so you’ve got guys that you were calling upon to do so much on the other end that are committed to making the strides on the defensive end.
“You know, that just shows the willingness of what the demeanor of this team wants to become and, like I said, we've done a tremendous job.”
And without benefit of a lot of practice time with the every-other-day game scheduling of the league.
“Granted, we haven't had the necessary time to do certain things, but the chemistry is starting to build more and more as we get more and more games under our belt,” Covington said. “When you see the leaders sitting down, taking on that challenge as well, that means guys honestly want to get more involved and, you know, do more.”
And with that, certainly progress should be made.
“We've shown tremendous strides,” Covington said. “As the season goes on, we're gonna keep getting better and better as more and more games get under our belts.”