What have we learned so far?
Before we begin, let’s make one thing clear: Preseason basketball doesn’t matter. The Portland Trail Blazers could go 0-7 and it wouldn’t have any impact on their chances of making the playoffs during the 2013-14 season.
That said, basketball has to start mattering at some point, and fans in Rip City have noticed a few things early that are both concerning and promising during exhibition play.
The Blazers haven’t been the sharpest team thus far during the 2013 preseason. During their first two games, they’ve average 19 turnovers per contest, which would have put them in last place by a long shot during the 2012-13 campaign.
Aside from the numbers, this team is making bad passes and giving its opponents too many opportunities. A loss to the Los Angeles Clippers is understandable; a loss to the Phoenix Suns is concerning.
Fans know that what happens in preseason stays in preseason, but sloppy play is a trend that will be worrisome the closer we get to the regular season.
Injuries, Injuries, Injuries
When it comes to NBA veterans, there’s a sneaky trick that they like to play during preseason and training camp. When a vet has a nagging injury before the real play begins, it’s likely because he wants extra rest before the regular season.
In the case of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, the team is hopeful that they can be 100 percent—or close to it—by the time the season kicks off. The problem is that time off the floor means less time that the core can jell with the newcomers.
And speaking of newcomers, CJ McCollum is out for the foreseeable future with a broken bone in his foot. This team has high hopes entering the new year, but it’s going to be important that it is at full strength sooner rather than later.
For those believing CJ McCollum’s broken foot is a season-ending injury, I asked: “Absolutely not. The plan is to get back soon as possible”
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) October 7, 2013
We all know that the Blazers improved the bench during the offseason. GM Neil Olshey utilized the team’s cap space by adding to the depth, and as a result, the starting lineup finally received the help it needed.
As it turned out, injuries and subpar play have adjusted fans’ hopes before the regular season has even begun.
Victor Claver struggled to take advantage of Batum’s absence. Joel Freeland has still looked spotty, and Thomas Robinson showed a little too much aggression when he was ejected for throwing an elbow against the Suns.
The good news is that despite the struggles, the bench has already been better than last year’s. When the team is healthy, this squad will have a group of reserves that can step in and be reliable on a nightly basis.
Thomas Robinson is a Hustler
Okay, getting ejected for throwing an elbow is bad. The Blazers have done everything in their power to escape the infamous Jail Blazer days, and as a result, they’ve avoided anybody willing to hurt even a fly.
But while you don’t want to see your players getting tossed, you need someone with an attitude, and Robinson has shown he can be just that.
So far, the newest power forward on the roster has dominated the glass. He’s even put up a solid effort defensively, which is exactly what this team needs in the low post.
Robinson is a young player ready to break out of his shell, and as long as he can keep his cool in the regular season, he’ll be an integral part of the team’s rotation.
There’s Plenty of Ball to Play
Dear, Blazers fans,
Portland is 0-2. Despite Damian Lillard scoring 19 points in Game 2, nobody has stood out as a consistent source of offense. Sloppy play has caused fans to cringe inside the newly named Moda Center.
And yet, there’s no need to panic.
The Blazers must improve before the regular season, but don’t worry—there’s plenty of time to improve. Portland still has potential, and two games into the preseason, it can only go up from here.