Over the last two weeks of sub-par play from the Portland Trail Blazers, the mood has certainly changed not only among the fanbase but from within the Blazers organization. Head coach Terry Stotts’ post-game press conferences have begun to have a certain “prickly” tone if you will.
While Stotts certainly has miles to go before reaching Gregg Popovich-ian levels, Stotts has most certainly been more blunt than usual when answering questions. His opening comments following the loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday serve as a stark contrast to the usually jovial, albeit sarcastic, Stotts post-game presser.
We didn’t play hard enough in the first half to win a game. We didn’t play with enough passion, enough heart. Obviously, Dallas played well, but to give up 62 in the first half against the lowest scoring team in the league is unacceptable. We just didn’t do it. I’m not going to take any consolation or anything else about how we played the second half. It was nice that we came back, but the first half was unacceptable.
Normally, Stotts can take the good with the bad and find a kernel of goodness to build on for the next game. Here, it’s starting to become evident that even coach Stotts doesn’t fully comprehend what’s going on with this team.
Q: ”How can you explain an effort like that?”
I can’t. I can’t explain effort like that.
Building on that, there was apparently a breakdown on the last play that saw Damian Lillard force up a last second shot against Wesley Matthews.
Q: “Terry, what was supposed to happen on the last inbound play when you had the ball?”
There was supposed to be a ball screen for Dame [Lillard]. It was slow coming. Those two or three seconds made the difference. Wes [Matthews] did a good job guarding him, got into him, Dame wasn’t able to create any separation, but there was supposed to be a ball screen on Dame.
Essentially, Stotts has criticized and questioned the effort of his team. At the same time, he’s refusing to take the little things from the contests, at least publicly, that he normally builds upon.
This change seems to be growing from an earlier loss against the Denver Nuggets, and really broke through after the blowout defeat to the Golden State Warriors. Following the 45-point loss to the Warriors, Stotts admitted that he didn’t quite know how to evaluate his impressions of the team.
“I don’t know if I can assess my level of concern.”
Q: “This doesn’t cause you any worry with where you’re at?”
I’m always concerned. You can’t get too high or too low. You’ve got to be ready for the next game, but I’m always concerned about our team.
It seems as if Stotts, like the rest of us, isn’t exactly sure what to make of this current situation. These same players performed admirably, exceptionally even, last year as they closed the season in fantastic fashion. Yet, for what appears to be no logical reason, they have regressed to a level so drastically different from last year that it’s hard to really pinpoint a particular or singular cause.
It’s clearly not something that’s easily diagnosed, and it appears that Stotts is changing how he communicates with the team and the public as a way to perhaps effect change on the levels he can control.