Batum: Bounce Back, Why Not Against Miami?
I think it's a little bit crazy to come unglued over what happened to the Trail Blazers last night in Orlando.
Look, the games are mounting up. The days prior to the all-star break are fraught with fatigue, injuries and frustration for many teams. But especially a team like this one where so much has been expected -- and supplied -- by the team's starting five. These guys look pretty worn out to me and where that always shows initially is on defense.
Rotations a step too late? Offensive rebounders not getting blocked out? Perimeter defense a tad slow? That's tired players. And I must say, this group is probably entitled to be a little tired. And how long is it right to expect this bunch to outperform just about every prediction that was made for it prior to the season? Nobody expected playoffs. I'm guessing not many people expected this team to be within a game of the .500 mark this late in the season.
But it turned out that the starting five -- which is dinged up and playing hurt in some cases -- was better than projected. Nic Batum has made great improvement this season and Damian Lillard is way better than anybody had a right to expect from a rookie out of Weber State. LaMarcus Aldridge has continued to get better as a rebounder and Wesley Matthews continues to outhustle just about everyone on the floor. JJ Hickson plays hard and shows that while not a center, he can impersonate one on many nights.
But let's not be deceived by this team's success so far. There are holes here and we've known that. There needs to better backups at almost every position and Hickson is simply not a center. More frequently as the season wears on, teams are taking it right to Hickson on the inside and he's powerless to do much about it. Lillard, a marvelous rookie, still hasn't learned the niceties of keeping other point guards in front of him and Batum is working so hard on offense to supply all he brings, there isn't as much left on the defensive end as there used to be.
But I don't think that's anything to fret about. Any of that. The fact is, the building blocks for the future are here and better than we thought they were. I'm not sure there's any reason for panic or depression. What's missing from this roster can't be supplied immediately. Patience is required and especially at times like this, when it appears the team has taken a step backward.
This is a good group and Terry Stotts has milked just about all he can get from it so far. It would be unfair, in fact, to ask for much more.