What happened to them?
Friday night, Kaleb Canales took a gutted Blazers roster with a (6-16) road record and two-game losing streak into the United Center to play a Chicago Bulls team with the best record in the NBA. And the Blazers beat the Bulls 100-89.
Well done Coach K.
The fact that Canales was even able to motivate his team to play against such a great opponent given the shakeups that occurred the day before is quite an accomplishment. But to win that game, against that team, under those circumstances? That was incredible.
It is true that Chicago was without its best player in Derrick Rose, but the reigning league MVP was also absent during Chicago's win versus Miami just one game prior. Chicago is one of the deepest and most talented teams in the NBA. With or without Rose, a win versus Chicago on the road is a huge feat.
And let's be clear, this wasn't an example of Chicago overlooking Portland. Chicago was shooting close to 70 percent at the end of the first quarter, 55 percent at the half, and was leading heading into the final 12 minutes.
Portland fought hard, didn't give up, and it took a game from Chicago that it had no business winning.
Are the Blazers better off with Kaleb Canales than they were with Nate McMillan coaching?
Friday night's performance was the first time the Blazers have played that freely and with that much pride since their (7-2) start to the season.
It's clear from the performance that Canales will bring a fresh perspective to the Blazers, and it's probably just what they needed.
Canales used the entire lineup—even the young guys—as part of the rotation in Chicago. And it seemed to benefit the entire team.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum were their usual productive selves. But Ray Felton and Nolan Smith looked like a legitimate one-two option at the point, and Wesley Matthews looked like the great shooter he was the previous two years.
Everyone looked better.
It's pretty unlikely that such performances will now become the norm considering two-fifths of the starting lineup has been moved. But it sure seems like players enjoyed playing for Coach Canales.
For the first time in a long time, the Blazers looked like a team that wanted to play—not a team that had to play.
That's all you coach.
Now if we could just find you a suit that actually fits...