Aldridge's return won't solve all of Trail Blazer problems
March 26, 2014, 8:15 am
LA: I can't run, but I wanted to play, eying Atlanta return
Picking apart that embarrassing 95-85 Portland loss at Orlando Tuesday night:
- Man, I am getting so tired of all this team's problems being pigeon-holed as "We just didn't make shots." The fact is, while this team had an early season honeymoon as the best three-point shooting team in the NBA, it hasn't been anywhere near that status for weeks now. In fact, over the last 35 games only six teams in the league have a worse three-point percentage than the Trail Blazers. And by the way, over those last 35 games, only two teams in the league are attempting more three-point shots than Portland. That, folks, is a case of trying to cover lack of quality with quantity. And it's plainly not working. Those shots they are not making? Why not try to get some better ones?
- I have no quarrel with the style of play Portland has used this season. Three-point goals are the wave of the future. My question is whether these shooters are good enough to pull it off. That simply must be a valid question as you watch the way the shooting has tailed off through the season.
- Yes, I'm also hearing that the return of LaMarcus Aldridge is going to change things. You know, it's said he's going to draw double-teams that will open up the three-point shooters. Well, maybe. The problem is, people seem to have already forgotten that over a good portion of the second half of the season, Aldridge has not drawn a lot of double teams. You don't need to double a player who is going to shoot a 22-foot, fallaway jumper. Aldridge's field-goal percentage has dropped steadily after the season's first 40 games. In his last 15 games he's shot 41.9 percent from the floor.
- There is a certain listlessness around this team that we didn't see earlier in the season. The long season has a way of breaking you down and I think it's robbing Portland of the energy it needs to shake out of its funk. The veteran teams pace themselves through the year -- Portland has not. The Blazers were putting long minutes on the starting lineup right from the first week of the season. And to be fair, the lack of consistent bench play made that so tempting.
- Damian Lillard is wearing down, even though I'm sure he'd be the last to admit it. During 14 games in March he's shooting just 39 percent overall and a shocking 28.4 percent on three-point field goals. Incidentally, he is also performing much better when he has at least one day's rest between games. In the second of back-to-back games this season, he's making just one-third of his threes and just 39 percent of his total field goals.
- I am still not willing to give up on a team that is a whole lot better than it has recently played. This is not a bad team -- it's a pretty good team playing way off its game. That can be fixed. Problem is, there isn't likely enough time to patch this up and with the playoff situation still up in the air, there is really no chance to rest key players. I don't expect them to miss the playoffs, though, and have learned over the many seasons I've watched the NBA that the playoffs often have little connection to what has happened even at the end of the regular season.
- That means, fans, there is no point in jumping off the bandwagon this close to the end of the ride.