Well, let’s make one thing clear right now -- this is going to be a no-excuse season for the Trail Blazers. So let's not start making alibis now.
These are only exhibition games, right? Yes, but while the outcome doesn’t matter in the least, the way a team plays does matter. And the Trail Blazers stunk up the joint for the second game in a row in Denver, losing this time 129-96.
And, of course, Damian Lillard "took the night off" in the words of Coach Terry Stotts, but it shouldn't make 33 points difference.
The Trail Blazers have the deepest and most talented roster they’ve had in the Terry Stotts era. They have a nice mix of veterans and youngsters and the core has a lot of playoff experience.
They talk about things like getting to the Finals and winning a championship.
So don’t try to talk about how little time this team has had to prepare for the season. I do not believe the Trail Blazers have had a lot less time to get ready than any other team in the league. And certainly the top of their rotation consists of NBA veterans who know how to play.
And let’s not get too involved with talk about Denver being a bad matchup because of its passing ability and opportunistic defense. If Portland is going to go anywhere in the postseason, the Nuggets are one of those teams the Trail Blazers are going to have to beat.
And yes, the Blazers are trying to make some big changes at the defensive end. But even though this team has a long way to go from being one of the worst defensive teams in the league to just being average, it shouldn’t be as difficult as they have made it look.
My goodness, the transition and interior defense has looked just as it did last season -- which is to say, terrible.
The offense hasn’t been right, either. Too many possessions with not enough ball movement or player movement. Too much one-pass-and-shoot.
But more than that, other than the first half of the first exhibition game, the other seven halves of basketball have been lackluster and seemingly without energy.
I just don’t see how a team can expect to play without passion and purpose during the exhibition season and then flip a switch when the regular season starts and suddenly find those qualities.
This looked like a dispirited bunch -- and the season hasn’t even started. Just as in the Wednesday game, they fell behind in the first quarter and never found a way to make any sort of run to get back in the game. That’s just not the way it usually works in the NBA.
Stotts, after two casual Jusuf Nurkic turnovers, actually got in his center’s face and appeared to be letting him have it. And THAT happens during a Trail Blazer game about once every four or five seasons.
The coach didn’t reveal the nature of the conversation and the player was not made available.
Stotts admitted, “I can’t say that we’ve necessarily looked good at either end of the court. That’s why we’ve lost two games by 30.”
They haven’t seemed anything close to “good” in their last three exhibition games and the season is coming up on them quickly.
Utah comes to town Wednesday night and the Trail Blazers did not look, at least in this game, the least bit ready for another challenge from a solid, veteran team.
And when this season gets underway for real, there won’t be any excuses.
Beginning Wednesday, it’s put-up-or-shut-up time.