2012 Portland Trail Blazers: Progressing Toward a New Identity
It's a new season in Portland, and it's going to be a season filled with Chalupas because the Trail Blazers are going to score, a lot.
The Portland Trail Blazers you watch this year are a different team. They are no longer the 2008 Blazers, waiting for Brandon Roy to set up an isolation play ending in driving layup at the rim. They also no longer rely on a crafty Andre Miller to find an open player with four seconds left on the shot clock. This is a new team in 2012.
Sure, there are some old pieces on this team from the past few years, such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum and Marcus Camby, but the philosophy is new. This team doesn't sit in the half court racing the shot clock for an open look. They look to push and score quickly.
With this new style the fans are seeing a team that turns the ball over a lot. Nobody likes to see 20-plus turnovers, but right now you are seeing growing pains. Miller protected the ball and took few risks, while Raymond Felton looks toward high risk, reaping high rewards. So far that hasn't worked out to its full capability, yet.
Going into last night's game, the Blazers scored the most of any team in the league, and for a team that used to work at a slow pace, it's exciting to watch the new philosophy work. Sure they had an off night, shooting just above 42 percent, but that is going to happen when you shoot over 80 times a game on a regular basis. And if it weren't for a good fourth quarter they might have shot below 40 percent for the game.
Running and gunning is new for Portland, and in time this team will adapt. They will shoot as much as any team in the league and shots will fall. So far they just can't seem to tip any of their offensive rebounds in, but eventually those will have to start falling. Felton will calm down and some of those turnovers will turn into assists. Risks will be rewarded soon enough.
For a team still scoring enough points good enough for fifth in the league after an ugly looking loss to the Clippers, they still boast a defense ranked 12th in the league. I find that amazing, being the more they score, the more the opposing team gets chances. That is what sets this team apart from the Golden State Warriors of the league: they play defense and they play it well.
When the Blazers can finally get a handle on this new style, I can see a team capable of a top-10 defense with top-10 scoring. They need to stay healthy, which could be tough with so much running, but with just a little luck (which the Blazers rightly deserve) they might just do that. The Trail Blazers need to stick to the new path and not revert back to last year's style. If they do this, I believe they will start commanding respect across the NBA.
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