Yes, I know. Overall, this season was a step forward for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard arrived and was better than expected. The starting lineup was, too. Terry Stotts proved to be a promising young NBA coach. And many more good things. But before this team limps out of the season with a 13-game losing streak I'd like to make a small request:
Would it be possible tonight, in the final game of the season, to show just a little bit more effort and focus on defense? Yes, this team is playing rookies. I know that. But being a first-year player is no excuse for not participating at the defensive end. In last night's game at Los Angeles against the Clippers, I lost track of how many times Portland players stood next to Clippers and did not contest shots. Or did not go hard for an available rebound. The Trail Blazer players were eating leather all night as the Clips dunked and posed. And it didn't seem to bother the Blazers in the slightest.
But it was a joke and all of the NBA was laughing. Charles Barkley on TNT clowned on them, saying that the Portland players already had their bags packed for vacation. And it did look as if the entire bunch had checked out. Certainly some of them already have -- as veteran starters began their off-season vacations early by sitting these final games out. And yes, I'm tired of hearing -- not just here but all over the NBA -- about players who are not playing now but "if it was a playoff game, they'd be able to play." Yeah, well -- in this case you don't have any playoff games to worry about and you've got about five months to rest up after the game. Why not suck it up and play?
Honestly, I'm not sure if the Portland players even realize how bad they've been looking. And it's looking real bad when players don't give full effort. Don't get me wrong, I don't think anybody has very high expectations for this team when it uses rookies extensively. It is what it is. But that's no excuse for not putting forth full effort -- especially if you're a young player looking for a long-term job in the NBA.
I'm sure to these players it feels as if the games don't mean anything. But they do mean something. Players are being judged every minute they're on the court -- by their own team and others. And the games certainly have meaning to the people who have paid good money to watch them, too.
And for that reason alone, it would be a nice this final night of the season, to see just a little more pride and effort out of the Portland Trail Blazers. Would that be too much to ask?