When the schedule was released this off-season, I broke the season into 13 phases.
Phase 1: Coming out Swinging (Oct 30-Nov 14): 8 games (SA, Hou, Sac, Det, Pho, @Pho, @Den, @Sac).
With the Suns continually in the news for negative stories(Beasley' pot/Gortat' foot/etc), the Blazers need to start the season winning in Phoenix. The Blazers should win 1 of the 2 home games vs the Spurs and Rockets. My expectation is that they'll dominate the Kings twice in their home-road b2b. While the Blazers have a tough first 4 games, all potentially losable(we should remember that the 2006-07 Mavericks who went 67-15 were 0-4), I see us at 2-2. Finally, while the Pistons have remade their team, and should be an exciting team, I can't imagine them coming into Portland and winning. We never win @Denver and Phoenix never wins here.
A game ahead of pace. Boom.
Honestly, I'm quite stoked with the way the Blazers have opened this season.
The defending Western Conference champions only loss.
The Blazers didn't disappoint, dominating the Kings twice in the home-road back to back. Pho and @Den I reversed, thus still pegging them at 2-2. As expected, the remade Pistons team could not take a win from the Rose City.
While I know that the Blazers are going to need to tighten up defensively, I'm hopeful in the way Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland have stepped up to the plate.
We're going to need them to continue developing into our defensive backbone.
I'm going to be asking for another 1000 words, so feel free.
Blazers are a game ahead of pace.
Blazers ahead of pace at several positions.
Having a game in hand is always nice, especially when those unexpected troubles arise.
Middle America may inflict more damage than we had previously predicted.
So, looking at the Blazers after the first phase.
As expected, the team is loaded at guard positions, having a trio of combo guards (2013 unanimous rookie of the year, 2009 Eastern Conference All-star, and (soon to be added) #10 overall pick this year) and Wes Matthews(3 and D superstar).
I'm not worried at all about integrating CJ McCollum into the rotation.
I know I shouldn't do this here, but over the off-season I texted this to my buddy about a dozen times: "What if McCollum is more talented than Lillard?"
They are roughly the same player, same build, same college past; I mean they even broke their feet in college at the same time.
Clearly CJ isn't going to get the same opportunity from the start, but seriously, can you imagine the 2014-15 season if it becomes clear to the coaching staff that CJ McCollum has more talent than Damian Lillard?
Is it likely? I don't know; but I know it's a non-zero probability. The best part is knowing that they're already friends, and will be challenging each other in practice on a daily basis.
We've got some studly 3 point shooting, having added a secondary trio of bombers(Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, and CJ McCollum) to last year' Three Blazer' Bombers.
LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the top 2 to 4 power forwards in the league, giving us 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals/blocks, 2 turnovers, and 2 fouls, on 10 of 20 shooting in 37 minutes.
Aldridge drops that stat line on a nightly basis, in every game for the past 3+ seasons. Well, every game, except tonight.
He's a machine. He was just rebooting tonight.
Opposite on the consistency spectrum, we have the production of our talented small forward. Batum is still just a kid, at 24 years old, so I guess we can still give him the benefit of the doubt, with regards to his consistency.
I can see the future, and he will become a beast (I can see it, I tell you): Batum becomes consistent on both sides of the ball, and watch out.
However, in the meantime, when dealing with Batum, tyedyesteve said it best: "Batum is like pizza. When he's good, he's really good. When he's bad, he's still pretty good."
Thomas Robinson. Just Thomas Robinson.
Lastly, we've got our bigs: dreaming of defensive developments. We desire defensive presence. Defensive pressure.
Lopez and Freeland have accepted the role, and thus are playing.
The bigs haven't been spectacular, but on occasion. They've been serviceable.
The Blazers can be championship contenders if and only if they become an above average defense.
If the Blazers can put out a mid-tier defense, anchored with bigs that challenge every shot, we will become untouchable.
Our deficiency is clear. The focus is on solving it.
Anyways, back to the current challenge.
The next phase consists of 5 games over the next 9 days. Here's what I wrote this off-season.
Phase 2: Surviving the Initial Eastern Attack (Nov 15-Nov 22): 5 games (Chi, @Bos, @Tor, @Bkn, @Milw).
The only game that should be a loss in @Brooklyn. Going 2-2 in the other 4 games shouldn't be much trouble. Milwaukee wants to lose. Boston and Toronto shouldn't pose too much of a threat, so splitting those 2 seems reasonable. I also don't think we lose at home vs the Bulls, but I didn't want to go all Mike Rice in my predictions.
I'm going to stick with that prediction.
While the Celtics have won 4 straight after losing 4 straight, I still think the Blazers can and should win at least one of at Toronto and Boston. Did you see Rudy Gay and DeRozan go 17 of 62 on Monday? Volume shooters on massive contracts. Moneyball.
Will Derrick Rose still be finding his game?
Will Deron Williams and the Brooklyn Nets still be trying to find their rhythm? They're just 2-5, and lost by 21 in Sacramento tonight.
While I would like to predict 3-2 or even 4-1 over the next 5 games, I (still) "don't want to go all Mike Rice in these predictions."
Good news. Phase 2 is done by the time the Timbers finally play their playoff second leg.
I predicted the Blazers would finish the season with 48 wins and a first round 4-2 playoff exit, and I'm sticking with it.
The Blazers are a game ahead of my 48 game win season pace prediction.
This cannot last, but they've bought themselves a month.
As I pointed out in one of my posts this off-season, the Blazers roster is pretty well set for the next 2 seasons.
The only players without guaranteed contracts next year are Mo Williams(player option), Will Barton(team option), and Earl Watson. The only additions available are a full mid-level exception(4yr/$22M) this coming off-season, and veteran minimum deals.
We've traded away both our first and second round picks in this upcoming draft.
This team will get to grow together over the next 20 months, with very little movement (planned).
PG: Damian Lillard(23), Mo Williams(30)(Player Option of $2.77M),
SG: Wes Matthews(27), CJ McCollum(22), Allen Crabbe(21)
SF: Nic Batum(24), Dorrell Wright(27), Will Barton(22)(Team Option of $915k)
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge(28), Thomas Robinson(22), Victor Claver(25)
C: Robin Lopez(25), Joel Freeland(26), Meyers Leonard(21)
This past off-season, Olshey produced some magic, essentially trading:
JJ Hickson for Robin Lopez
Eric Maynor for Mo Williams
Luke Babbitt for Dorell Wright
Nolan Smith for CJ McCollum
Jared Jeffries for Thomas Robinson
Sasha Pavlovic/Elliot Williams for Allen Crabbe
Ronnie Price for Earl Watson
for 5 second rounders and ~$1M.
The time has come for the basketball side of the operation to find their magic.
The time has come for the coaching staff and the players to find their magic.
They have 20 months to figure out how to generate this magic.
There will be ups and there will be downs; but in the end, that magic must materialize.
For the next 20 months, there is but one goal.
The goal is simple: a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2014-15.
2013 Performance Review Pre-work
Re: Pete Carroll vs Terry Stotts
Terry Stotts has not had a winning season as head coach. In his 2 years in Atlanta and his 2 years in Milwaukee, never a single winning record.
That won't cut it this year. We have to win 42 games.
What will it take to transform Terry into the fourth head in the NBA Coaching's Past Three Decades Mount Rushmore?
"Now this is the Law of the Jungle—as old and as true as the sky;
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack."