The Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz will open the 2020-21 NBA Season on Wednesday night in the Moda Center. Before we see Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and company take on the Jazz, Dia Miller and Dave Deckard answer a simple question: What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming season?
Read their discussion, then share your own responses in the comment section!
Dia: I don’t know about you, Dave, but this season feels extra exciting for some reason. I’m looking forward to a lot of things, but I think the number one thing would have to be watching a team that is a legitimate contender this year. Let’s just start big here! I know I say that they are going to win every year in one way or another, but this year I’m not the only one saying it. The Blazers made moves this off season and I think this is going to be a fun year to watch as they fight it out for a championship. We have talked so many times about how Dame is in his prime and if we are going to go for it, now is the time. I think we are seeing those kinds of moves!
Dave: I will enjoy it for a slightly bent, maybe even perverse, offshoot of that. The way the team is structured, they have to win this year. There’s no second chance, and perhaps no more chances with the franchise for some of the people involved. The Blazers have been on a long, luxurious growth curve since 2015. It comes to a head this season. It’s win or change.
I don’t want to see anybody leave. I want to see them win! But I also think a certain amount of “Succeed or Else” will be healthy for this team. The West is deep this year, but everything after the first seed is negotiable. If the Blazers are capable, if they want it, go out and get it! If not, let’s admit it and evolve. Either way, it’s time for Portland’s culture to orient more towards success than storytelling.
Dia: I agree with that, and if I agree with that you KNOW it’s time for something to happen, because I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love this team and I’m attached. I got a Trail Blazers hat for Christmas this year from my parents (we do Christmas early every year) and it says “1x NBA Champions”. My mom thought it was hilarious and I realized just how much I hate that we aren’t winning. I mean, on some level I already knew that, but I just really want to win. I still don't want James Harden though.
You know what else I’m looking forward to? I’m looking forward to Gary Trent Jr. He was insane in the bubble last year and I just wanted more. I’ve been anxiously waiting to see if he would continue that streak going into this season. He’s someone I just really enjoy watching. Also, Derrick Jones Jr. That man can FLY. I can’t wait to see him dunking all over the place—that’s going to be fun. Are there players you are looking forward to seeing this year?
Dave: Two, but you’ve seen them before. I want to see how CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic adjust to the new roster. Damian Lillard is peerless and above rattling. He’s a mountain sticking out of the ocean. The altitude is the same no matter the water’s depth. But McCollum and Nurkic are still ships floating on that ocean, albeit huge ones. They’re used to touches, to a certain style of play which involves everybody besides Lillard being an emergency outlet. The front office has surrounded them with higher-caliber players. Those players need to be fed and integrated. McCollum and Nurkic will be key to that process.
I can see a scenario in which CJ and Nurk fit seamlessly with the new players, threat lines emanating out like octopus arms. Heads are up and passing is sharp, McCollum can now score from any range, or he can feed shooters for the corner three or cutters for the dunk. His offensive ability would put the entire court in peril. Same with Nurkic, though from the inside out. Nurk could also screen from different positions. In the best of all worlds, the new players become force multipliers for established stars.
I could see another scenario where McCollum and Nurkic retreat into their own spaces and touches, leaving impoverished players below them in the pecking order. I can see slow, half-hearted picks on one end of the floor, relational abandonment on the other end. Either player could rightly claim to be doing their jobs by producing nice stats and looking to more accomplished defensive players to step up to help. That won’t be enough.
Nurkic and McCollum stand at the fulcrum point of that discussion. It’ll be fascinating to see how they pivot.
What else do you like about the upcoming year?
Dia: Well one of those scenarios makes me very excited for the upcoming season. The other one, not so much. I’m anxious to see how that plays out and hopeful it will be like your first description. I want to add to that that I am really excited for Harry Giles as well. I think he’s got some untapped potential and he’s obviously well loved. That combination is a great fit for Portland and something I’m really looking forward to watching.
I’m going to stray slightly from the pattern we are currently in with this and say that I am excited about Bruce Ely’s photographs. Is that allowed? Bruce Ely doesn’t get talked about enough, and that man has a gift for telling stories with images. I’ll be honest and say that this is one of the things I look forward to the most about the season. We all watch the games play out on TV and hear what the announcers have to say. We get to hear interviews with the players afterwards, but there’s something about his photos that create this whole storyline that I often feel like is brand new. I missed that when they were in the bubble, and I’ve really been looking forward to his perspective again.
Dave: Bruce is a treasure. Keeping with the theme of non-players...Terry Stotts! This will be his most complete roster since 2014. It’s sink or swim time. Now that he has tools to work with, I’m interested to see what he and the assistant coaches can build. Maybe his fresh appearance will last beyond the first two weeks of the season this year! Poor Terry. He always looks so young and invigorated as the season starts, but by the end it looks like vampire bats have been sucking at his spirit for seven months and all he has left is frustration with the refs and the need for a nap.
Dia: I’m such a fan of Stotts. I really hope this year goes well, because as we have discussed, it seems to be a make it or break it kind of year, and I really want him to make it.
I could go on for pages and pages about what I’m looking forward to this year, but the bottom line is, I really just want to win. I want to have a winning season. Can I say I’m looking forward to that? Just speak it into existence?
Dave: In a 72-game season, that amounts to...37 wins?If the Blazers can’t win 37, that answers all of our questions right there. So yes, I think you’re allowed to speak it into existence, because we’re having this conversation, therefore it must be important.
Now that Dia and I have put ourselves at the center of the universe, determining the fate of the (now guaranteed-to-win) Blazers via our little column here, how about you? What things are you most looking forward to in 2020-21? Share in the comment section below. Only one day left until the opening game, so get ‘em in quick!