After two disastrous exhibition games in Denver, when the Trail Blazers tried unsuccessfully to incorporate some new defensive schemes into their attack, what’s next?
In its four exhibition games, Portland allowed opponents to shoot 44.8 percent from the field and outscore it by 57 points from the three-point line, while getting outrebounded by a total of 30.
So was this too many changes too soon? Was it just not well assimilated by the players? Is it beyond the ability of these players to accomplish? Or maybe they just need to give it time to catch on?
Or will some of this just be cast aside as unworkable and tossed in the garbage?
“I don't think it only is a question of abandoning it,” Coach Terry Stotts said Sunday following practice. “I think being aggressive on pick-and-rolls and dribble handoffs and being able to rotate on the back side, I think that's important to have.
“So I don't think that we will abandon it, but I think we also have to incorporate some things that we've done in the past as well.”
This may sound harsh, but that last statement is a little bit of a red flag.
I’m not sure anything the Trail Blazers have done in the past is worth an encore. This team was 27th in defensive rating last season -- behind several teams that were actually tanking. And when you are tanking, you might still play hard on offense to get your points, but the last thing you want to do is play defense.
The Trail Blazers have defended in mostly the same way the entire time Stotts has been the team’s head coach. There have not been many changes, even though the league has evolved a lot over the last eight seasons -- with teams now seeking to shoot dozens of three-point field goals in each game.
Stotts pinpointed his team’s defensive problems this pre-season as, “Some of it is tactical, some of it is communication. Some of it was that, you know, teams making good plays against us, so we're just very inconsistent with things that we're trying to get done.”
Portland shapes up as a terrific offensive team, expected to be in the top five in that department. All that needs to be accomplished is to bring the defense up to league average and the Trail Blazers will be fine.
In other words, get the defense a little past the point of a lottery team.
And with the additions added in the off-season, that should not be too much to ask.
But there are no more chances for experimenting or tinkering outside of practice. The season starts Wednesday night in Moda Center.