I’ve had enough. Please, Basketball Gods - no more. First you came for Jusuf Nurkic and I cried. Then you came for Zach Collins and I yelled. Now you’ve claimed Rodney Hood as your latest victim and you’ve done it, you’ve broken me.
It’s not a secret that all season I’ve looked more towards next year than the current campaign. Now, more than ever though I’m looking towards the Blazers lining up just right for next year. This isn’t about surrendering a season, it’s about tactically retreating. Retreating so that they can regroup, smarter, stronger and more reinforced than they were heading into this season.
If the Blazers are going to pull back, Damian Lillard has to be on board. Dwight Jaynes of NBCSNW got this from Lillard last night:
We kind of just play well in stretches. We don’t have the luxury of playing well in stretches. We’re a team, if the ball is not going in, we’ve got to be getting to the 50-50 balls. We can’t keep letting teams get second and third opportunities.
”We foul every 30 seconds. We are doing a lot of things as team to put ourselves at a disadvantage. We’re just making the game harder than it has to be in a lot of situations. We’re not doing it on purpose. We’re competing hard. We’re trying hard.
“But when it comes to urgency, focus and energy we’re a team that has to have that every minute of every game if we want to have a chance. When it’s up and down, your season is up and down – and that’s what we’re up against.”
Reading between the lines, this could be the first sign of Lillard seeing the forest for the trees. There’s s bit of realization there that without perfection or near to it, they may not be in games no matter who they’re playing. That would be a pretty seismic shift for a man who truly believes to his core that he can will anything to come true.
Retreating allows you to treat your wounded and heal- get ready for the next fight. That’s what needs to happen. Jusuf Nurkic needs to not only heal and get in basketball shape, but trust his body. Make sure all the imbalances are gone so that he can become the most effective version of himself. Zach Collins needs to get his shoulder right entirely before coming back to reduce the likelihood of re-injuring it. Rodney Hood just needs time and a place to get his mind right as he deals with one of the most devastating injuries in sports.
If the Blazers retreat, young players like Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and Skal Labissiere have the opportunity to move from the roles of squire to those of a knight. Instead of learning to sharpen their skills occasionally, they put them to the test nightly. The gains there over the course of 50 games could certainly come in handy a year later when the rewards are likely much sweeter.
Retreat and let Neil Olshey move the expiring contracts for players of consequence - make the moves that aren’t there to carry a broken season but instead to lead a real playoff run. Make the moves without fear of what the impact is to THIS season. Be bold but not brash. Evaluate weaknesses, address them and reinforce strengths. Target the names that matter, not the ones we know.
What would a military driven comparison be without a reference to Sun Tzu, who had this to say about uncertain terrain (read: shaky ground):
“In a position of this sort, even though the enemy should offer us an attractive bait,
it will be advisable not to stir forth, but rather to retreat, thus enticing the enemy in his turn; then, when part of his army has come out, we may deliver our attack with advantage.”
Yes, tactical retreat is a euphemism for tanking. Why? Because I’m tired of hearing this team shouldn’t tank this season. Instead, retreat.