The Blazers, under new coach Chauncey Billups, haven’t played well outside of a few stretches here and there. The combined score of 466-371 during their four defeats certainly hasn’t painted a pretty picture of where the team sits with the regular season set to begin Wednesday at home against Sacramento.
But McCollum pointed out that there have been many variables in play. Variables that made knowing how the team would react during the past few weeks difficult.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” McCollum said. “I’ve played with the same coach for so long. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Chauncey. But I think that we’ve been paying attention to detail, we’ve been focused but understanding that we have to adjust, learn some new things for certain guys and then, obviously, with the players that we brought in through free agency, they have to get acclimated to what we’re doing, too.”
Yes, it’s true that the Blazers have added a few new faces to the rotation and the new coaching staff is installing new systems on offense and defense. And yes, the lineup has also been inconsistent because of injuries and some sitting out for rest. Damian Lillard sat out of two games. But does all of that explain the four lopsided scorers? Maybe nobody will truly know until the real games begin. But one thing appears to be certain: The team isn’t panicking. The Blazers also believe they have made progress.
Following a 119-74 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday, Billups expressed disappointment in the team’s effort and execution. But on Friday, he said he felt that the effort was much better, especially in the first half. Consequently, the Blazers trailed just 55-51 at halftime.
“I thought they tried to play the right way,” he said.
But there were other times on Friday, and during much of the preseason, that left Billups realizing that it’s simply going to take more time to get to where the team needs to be on both offense and defense.
“There were some times where I thought we did a really good job of kicking it ahead, advancing the ball, playing with really good pace,” Billups said. “And there were sometimes when we maybe were tired and caved in and didn’t do it.
“Defensively, I thought we had times where we have some really amazing possessions. We did a good job of stopping their first action and then had two or three multiple efforts and did a good job there. And sometimes they scored those buckets, sometimes they don’t. But if it’s a great defensive possession, you take those small victories. So, I thought we had a lot of those moments and then we had a lot of moments where our defense kind of crumbled.”
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The third quarter certainly saw a lot of crumbling. The Warriors won the quarter 43-26 and led 98-77 at the end of the quarter.
But is any of this cause for panic? The Los Angeles Lakers, considered one of the favorites to win the Western Conference, went 0-6 in preseason. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, went 1-4. So, maybe the record means nothing. But the lack of consistent, high-quality play is certainly a concern, Billups said. But not completely unexpected.
McCollum said it takes time to adjust, learn and then apply new schemes in games. Billups said he expects the team to grow within the offense and defense and be fine.
“As far as our offense and defense, things like that, those things will come,” Billups said. “I’m not really concerned with that. We have some really good players that can make up for some of those things at times as you’re trying to get there.”
“I’m more concerned with the things you can’t control,” Billups added.
Those things are player availability. There have been some injuries that have hurt lineup continuity. That factor, combined with the struggles on the court, means Billups probably won’t install much more of the offense or defense until the team catches up to where he feels they should be.
“You can’t continue to add things until we can start getting some continuity with what we have,” Billups said.
Anyone looking for a silver lining of hope beyond the scoreboard could look at the lineups and one key statistic involving this team.
Lillard has played in only about 48 of the possible 192 minutes played by the Blazers over four preseason games. Also, the Blazers rank last in three-point percentage at 26% this preseason. They went 10 of 40 on Friday.
“I don’t attribute it to much,” McCollum said about the poor shooting. “Training camp legs?”
Maybe. But this was one of the top three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season and Lillard is one of the best scorers in the league. If the team’s shooting from last season continues this season, that alone would help make up for a lot of problems that have hindered the team during the preseason. That would provide time for the Blazers to continue working on the details of their offense and defense, which will be the case for many teams, McCollum said.
“There’s no way everybody’s just going to be completely ready,” McCollum said. “But it’s trying to be good at the things you’re good at and kind of work on some of the things you’re not so good at.”
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/mlb/trail-blazers-shake-off-poor-preseason-with-regular-season-starting-wednesday/ar-AAPD46w1242