Come on, now. Let's not forget exactly who we're talking about, OK?
These are the Portland Trail Blazers. They're just three games under .500 at the All-Star break. And you're going to panic? You're going to complain. I can't believe what I'm hearing from some Trail Blazer fans, who want to toss this season aside as a complete failure already. I mean, really?
If you've watched the six games that make up this 1-5 road trip, you should know what happened to Portland. But if you can't figure it out, let Jared Jeffries, by way of Chris Haynes, explain it to you:
“It's just exhaustion,” Jared Jeffries said. “It's hard. We got guys logging a lot of minutes. We're trying to incorporate our younger players, trying to get them consistent minutes. So, it's a difficult dynamic that we had tonight.”
Exactly. The Trail Blazers have been running right on the edge of their limits the entire first half. Coach Terry Stotts has been milking every last bit of talent and effort from this bunch but please remember, this has been pretty much a five-man operation all year. There's been sporadic help from the bench but on the whole, it's one of the worst benches in recent NBA history. It's hard to send five men out to play against eight or nine every night. And when injuries -- even minor ones -- start to mount up, things get really dicey.
Wesley Matthews went down a minute and a half into Wednesday night's game. LaMarcus Aldridge -- who has, for the most part, been heroic in the first half of the season, has been fighting aches and pains for weeks. Nic Batum is trying to play through a painful wrist injury on his shooting hand. When you get close to the All-Star break, when players can see that short vacation headed their way, it gets even tougher.
That Blazer team against New Orleans was exhausted. Worn out. And I hope the All-Star break provides enough rest for it to recover. Certainly Damian Lillard and Aldridge, headed for the game in Houston, won't have much chance to rest. It's a taxing weekend, with all the media, sponsor and on-court responsibilities. We may not see this team at its very best very often for the rest of this season.
I think what we've seen so far, though, has been pleasantly surprising and promising. I mean, seriously -- did you expect this team to be just three games under .500 at the break? There will be a day when the roster is deeper and there are solid, proven NBA players coming off the bench. And when that day comes, you can get all lathered up over losses to teams you think should be beaten. But for now, I think what we're seeing isn't at all surprising or worrisome, given the circumstances.
Don't lose sight of reality. And that reality is that you couldn't have expected much more from this group than what you've gotten so far.