Time to Roll
If you can't be good, then be interesting.
I'm not here to imply that they won't be both. But, while I may not sure about the first, at least right now, I am certain about the second. Using perspective as my guide, and with the memory of last spring fresh in my mind, interesting is a definite step up. After all, the journey back up the hill is a heck of a lot more fun and entertaining than the ride down.
Considering all that happened last season, some of it out of the team's control, the fact that we're sitting where we are, watching a team get excited at the prospect of building and truly believing it's going to win more games than it's going to lose, it's quite an accomplishment. Yep, it's going to be a process, but it certainly feels like a pretty attractive train is about the leave the station. Although the duration of this latest journey is going to remain a mystery, at least for a while, the shared believe in how to ultimately reach the desired destination isn't.
That's called a direction. That sounds very fundamental, but a lot of teams don't have one.
No matter what your early impressions of Neil Olshey are, I can tell you that he's not going to be one to just sit with the bat on his shoulder. That's not why he's here, and that's not the way he operates or thinks. He's not going to hit everything out of the park, but he's going to take some healthy rips, and that's why there is this feeling of anticipation.
I don't think I'm the only one feeling that. Owner Paul Allen was bouncing around the team's practice facility on the first day of training camp, and has bought into this process that Olshey is selling. The value of that can't be overstated.
As we talked about over the summer, one of the early steps of this process was the draft. Yes, it's early, but it continues to look like it was a solid success. It's at least a good example of direction. They identified their targets early, and got them. This is still very much LaMarcus Aldridge's team, and should be, but Damian Lillard has the look of a guy who could be a game changer. That's not to heap even more expectations on his untested NBA shoulders, but it's tough to watch him in action, even during training camp, and not get excited.
Lillard walks in and gets the keys to the franchise. No huge shock there. And, I don't think anyone is debating the fact that Portland has an impressive first unit. There are question marks, but I'd take this year's prospective starting lineup over last year's in a heartbeat. It's after that where things get tougher to read.
I'll admit that I didn't know much about Terry Stotts when the summer began. But, he has certainly looked like he's the right guy for this job. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle basically called him an offensive mastermind, and Stotts has surrounded himself with an impressive supporting cast. Up to this point, this has been the most organized, most efficient fall I've seen in years. That's not taking anything away from what's gone on in the past, but this is now a different era, with different demands and the need for a different direction.
We all think we know what to expect, as far as a style for this Blazer team. We've been told they'll look to run more (I know, that's what everyone says during camp), and that Stotts will rely more on outside shooting by basically giving his bombers a permanent green light. But, I'm very curious about this team's defensive style. If the first day of camp was any indication, they'll bank on a hustling, trapping defense, and we'll probably see a lot more zone than we have in the past.
So, along with being interesting, it should be fun. There will be some long nights, and tough stretches, of course. And, I don't say that as a blanket warning. This team is playing in the west after all, and I can't seem to find many teams that don't think they got better over the summer.
The best part of camp getting underway is tossing all of this stuff around, while the team's record is still 0-0, and getting caught up in the what-ifs. We won't have long to do that, because camp is short in the NBA and we're going to get the answers to a lot of these questions very soon.
More blogs to come in the next few days, but here's a little quick fire to answer a lot of the questions you've been asking. Yes, Batum has looked as sharp as you've heard here in the early stages of camp. No, LaMarcus has showed no signs of having lingering effects following hip surgery. No, I didn't think Wesley Matthews could dunk like this (backing his claim that he's finally fully healthy for the first time since college). Yes, Nolan Smith looks like a new man. Joel Freeland has been a very pleasant surprise to the coaches (they didn't know what to expect). Yes, I think Freeland could be the opening night starter at center. Yes, I think Adam Morrison has a solid chance to make this roster. Ronnie Price will be in the rotation, Jared Jefferies could get more minutes than he expected (and will be the best interview on the team), and you might see this Portland team play zone defense for an entire preseason game, just to give it a solid test drive.
I'd love your thoughts.