The Portland Trail Blazers have started off what should have been a promising 2010 season with a 2-3 record, including two home loses at the Rose Garden.
Last season, the team only lost seven home games at the Rose Garden. What gives?
First off, there is no reason to panic yet. The team has made some roster changes that will take some time to get used to. Many teams that win championships end up losing a few embarrassing home games in the season.
Problem is, the Portland Trail Blazers have a rough schedule to end the season and a fairly promising schedule to start. These early season games are wins we need, otherwise they have the potential to come back and haunt us in the future.
Thus, three early loses—including two at home—are a subject worthy of concern and discussion.
Portland's coaching staff is going to have to make some tough decisions.
Here are five I think will help.
1. Start Joel Pryzbilla over Greg Oden
This is tough because I believe Greg Oden's game will improve with more time on the court, but his energy in the second unit last season made us a far more powerful team. Truth is, he is only starting because of his "celebrity status" in the 2007 NBA draft. Somebody in the marketing department wants him in that court, and it is not paying off.
Greg is in foul trouble every game. He is the first player on either team to get a foul. He gets two quick fouls almost instantly and has to sit on the bench.
Being a natural-born shot-blocker, Oden is programmed to go after the shot. Oden needs to be reprogrammed to give up two points as opposed to drawing fouls.
Are all of these fouls good calls? No.
Greg Oden gets some of the worst calls I have ever seen ... and that certainly leaves me to ponder the validity or the reasoning behind them.
(Does the NBA not want Oden to be successful in Portland? Remember, a lot of people were angry he got drafted to the Pacific Northwest.)
However, that does not account for how many times he loses control of the ball, or how many times his shot gets blocked, or how many times he simply doesn't look like he is ready to start in the NBA.
Even if he came in off the bench, he could still get more minutes than Pryzbilla. But right now, he needs to sit still, observe, and work on his game more before becoming a starter.
Because it's hurting us, and people need to realize that.
2. Give Jerryd Bayless Minutes
The dilemma at point guard with bringing in All-Star Andre Miller when you already have an established working (and highly successful) unit with Steve Blake is clearly a problem.
Sadly, the guys are not working well yet.
Head coach Nate McMillan keeps substituting Miller and Blake in and out when they're not working instead of going to Jerryd Bayless.
Last season, the kid was a fast-running, high-jumping, hardcore-dunking spark plug. This season, Miller and Blake look like a couple of old women who are mad at one another over a game of BINGO.
Give Bayless' young energy and talent a chance.
3. Hold Head Coach Nate McMillan Accountable
If the Blazers are losing games, then it falls on our head coach.
His rotations thus far are bogus. His ability to help Brandon Roy and Andre Miller work together have been thus far unsuccessful.
It seems whenever a player gets on a roll he subs them out.
A perfect example of McMillan's coaching errors occurred last night when he chose to go small in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks.
Nate McMillan sat both centers during the pivotal moments of the fourth quarter when Atlanta outrebounded us and slaughtered us with points in the paint.
The simple presence of one of our powerful centers would have prevented that. Was it a game plan that went wrong?
If so, bad game plan. Bad coaching. Period.
4. Make LeMarcus Aldridge Attack The Paint For Points
This one really is not that tough.
No team in the NBA will be successful without someone who can consistently score close to the basket. Right now, the Trail Blazers are relying on jump shots but not getting any easy points in the paint. It's killing us.
I like Aldridge's jump shot, but Portland has plenty of players who can shoot—including Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, and Rudy Fernandez.
What we need is a guy bulldozing in the pavement like a rampaging dump truck. Lamarcus is the perfect candidate.
5. Blazers Need To Stop Pretending To Be The Big Boys And Act Their Age
Let me explain what I mean.
The young Blazers are exhibiting behavior consistent with young men who want to act like the big boys on the block.
The Blazers aren't putting their heart into these early games, because their whole attitude is, "We're a big-time NBA team now and it's all about the playoffs..."
What they're doing is not showing up 100 percent because they're confident they have enough talent to win enough games to make the playoffs.
That is where their heart lies.
Perhaps they're right.
Problem is, other NBA teams are taking regular season games against Portland seriously. Very seriously.
Winning in the Rose Garden is now a big deal. Silencing our Pacific Northwest sellout crowd is a fun assignment. Defeating the young team that Sports Illustrated ranked third in the Western Conference is an important regular season game.
The Trail Blazers need to realize their role is still the young upstart team that wants to win every game at all costs.We're the guys who sell out our arena when other team's arenas are less than half full.
Our games are not just regular season games, they are sold-out rock concerts. We're the teenagers that can whip the grown men on the playground.
Accept that role and have fun.
For remember the fate of the 2003 Los Angeles Lakers? They were so confident they would win their fourth NBA title, they did not take early regular season games seriously. That led to them barely winning a game to start the season, which in turn led to their downfall in the playoffs.
They simply did not prepare their team psychologically or physically throughout the season to attain the result they were more than capable of achieving.
In conclusion, there are other factors affecting this Blazers team.
Martel Webster's defense cannot replace that of Nicolas Batum.
Brandon Roy did not play much basketball during the summer. It shows.
We did not make it to the Western Conference Finals, which has clearly lit up the Denver Nuggets.
The good news is this:
Portland needs to realize that no matter what their obstacles are now...the reason they were ranked third in the Western Conference is because their accumulation of talent has the potential to learn to work through any adversity and become highly successful.
And basketball is all about watching the team you root for battle adversity. We could go on a ten-game winning streak (or more) at any moment.
And I think we will.