The Portland Trail Blazers are off to a 3-11 start in their 2023-24 regular season campaign. The record is ugly and, as you can imagine, it’s frustrating some of the Blazers faithful. In what ways is that legitimate and in what ways suspect? That’s part of what we’ll unravel in today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.
Dear Blazer Dave:
Is Coach Billups’ team comfortable with losing by 25+ on a nightly basis? Could this permanently stunt the development of the team’s young players? Yes, the team is overmatched, has injuries while finally embarking on a rebuild... But they’re still a freaking NBA team! The way things look, the Blazers and RipCity Remix should swap coaches based on the lead coach’s apparent philosophy.
Of all the critiques of how the Blazers are playing, this is the one I’d strongly disagree with. Portland’s had a couple blowout losses, but they’ve made runs to get games into single digits in the second half. The Oklahoma City Thunder game earlier this week was an aberration, but I thought Portland defended with more effort and alacrity than the Suns did last night. They were just overmatched. In isolated cases, I’ve seen Portland give up...certain players, certain stretches. But overall, they’re playing harder, with less reason to do so, than we’ve seen in either of the past two seasons.
Step back a minute and ask yourself this. If, at the beginning of the season, you forecast the Blazers playing large doses of Skylar Mays and Toumari Camara, what would you have predicted for them? I’m not knocking either player. I love the way both of them play. But seriously, a team STARTING Mays and Camara at their stages of development and individual talent level...how many games would you expect them to be in, given a random, blind draw? Not many, I’ll wager.
That’s exactly where the Blazers have been the past two weeks. No wins, and some blowout losses? That’s hardly surprising.
If I worry about anything, I worry about how other teams have taken Shaedon Sharpe out of the equation recently. His confidence and development both matter. But I don’t see the team quitting around him. If anything, the surrounding players have been stepping up more.
We’ll have to see. A long season can wear on a team. After the 40th loss of the year, the attitude may change. But nobody—coach or fan—can expect wins in this situation. Playing hard isn’t sufficient, but it’s a decent first step. I can’t knock the Blazers for that.
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