Zach Harper of CBSsports has a story about the recent Portland struggles and the Trail blazers search for depth without Wesley Matthews.
At this point in their existence, the Portland Trail Blazers aren't going to stop and feel sorry for themselves regarding a key injury. For nearly four decades, they've seen key players drop to bad injuries and the team has been sent scrambling to try to adjust on the fly to another construction of the roster shattered.
Harper writes of Portland's injury history starting with Bill Walton and going forward to this season and LaMarcus Aldridge's injury and his decision to keep playing through it and ending with Wesley Matthews' ruptured Achilles' tendon.
They've played seven games since the injury and with a 3-4 record, they're still trying to figure out how to keep things moving without the incredible two-way play of Matthews.
Harper discusses the Blazer Brain Trust's timely addition of Arron Afflalo at the trade deadline and how he was finally to give the bench the depth it needed to compete for the NBA Title. We know how that turned out: Afflalo is now a starter. It is also becoming clear that the transition will not be straightforward. Stotts likes what he's seeing from Afflalo so far, especially his defense, but it takes a team to defend.
Defensively, Afflalo has been one of the better defensive shooting guards during his time in the NBA but there's a difference between being a good individual defender and fitting into a team's concept mid-season. In the seven games without Wes, the Blazers have been a disaster defensively, either due to Matthews being out or just a down time for their season. With Afflalo on the court, the Blazers are giving up nearly 12 points per 100 possessions than when he's on the bench. But integrating him is a process that is getting easier to execute.
Harper points out that LaMarcus Aldridge has a history of taking on a bigger load due to teammate injuries and he seems to be doing it again this season. Stotts has been effusive in his praise for what his power forward has done since his thumb injury in late January. Aldridge has taken his game up another notch since the Matthews injury. It's clear Terry Stotts has a ton of confidence in his star.
"Obviously, I wasn't here when Brandon Roy was here but I do know LaMarcus seizes the moment," Stotts said about his All-Star big man. "During the course of a game or during the course of a season, last year with 10 games to go, we were kind of teetering with whether we'd make the playoffs or not. Then we won nine out of 10. He was injured and missed I don't know how many games but then he came back and carried us the last 10 games. I think he has that in him and senses that during the course of a game or during the course of the season."
Harper believes there is still enough time for the Portland Trail Blazers to find their depth and he thinks their acquisition of a good replacement player before a devastating injury occurred may help them persevere through this latest setback.