Today we’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday by running down the Top 5 stories in the Portland Trail Blazers season so far. You may think that a .500-esque record wouldn’t leave many distinct points to talk about. You’d be wrong. Check throughout the day as we unveil (and invite you to examine) the trends typifying Portland’s year to this point.
We begin with the #5 story of the season: Coaching. Frankly, most people expected this to be #1, or at least close. Replacing long-term head coach Terry Stotts with Chauncey Billups was one of Portland’s big off-season moves.
So far the results have been middling. Portland’s 10-9 record is the biggest testimony, but their Jekyll and Hyde performances at home and on the road—sometimes game to game, other times quarter to quarter—also bear witness. The Blazers don’t seem to approach any two contests the same way, not just in planning and execution, but intensity. They tend to live at the mercy of opponents rather than taking over games themselves.
Opposing commentators sometimes credit Coach Billups with pretty-looking plays. The prettiest of them resemble the sets that the Blazers ran in previous years...still their most natural look. Portland’s surges tend to come when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum take over the ball. So do their greatest struggles. Either way, the look is more old than new.
Billups deserves credit for developing Portland’s second unit into a cohesive, often-energetic force. You can see the kind of basketball he’s trying to preach through Portland’s younger players and newer players. First-unit veterans appear to be adopting it more slowly and intermittently.
Billups’ coaching may yet gain traction. He and the team need more time together. But if the Blazers thought they were getting an instant fix with the coaching change, that hasn’t happened. The team isn’t performing much differently this year than they did in most of Stotts’ seasons. History shows that’s not quite good enough.
Stay tuned for the four remaining stories. Share your thoughts on Portland’s coaching so far and/or guess the remaining topics in the comment section!