What a difference a road trip makes.
On their way out of town over two weeks ago, the Blazers were a team struggling to compete for a playoff spot, spiralling downwards and looking for solid footing.
On their less than triumphant return, the team has officially hit the reset button—swapping out Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby for future cap space and draft picks, waiving Greg Oden, and firing coach Nate McMillan. It wasn’t quite a white flag, but…oh, who am I kidding? It was a white flag. The team is still going to compete, and probably win their fair share of games from here on out, but the Roy-Aldridge-Oden trifecta is dead. The title championship dreams, Kevin Pritchard’s plans, the future goals—all of it was officially buried last Thursday.
The new chapter starts now.
So of course tonight would be Brandon Roy’s first time back to the Rose Garden post-retirement, sporting a huge smile and giving nods to all his old teammates. If ever a t-shirt looked completely out of place—move over, tuxedo shirt at a funeral—it was on Roy on the jumbotron. That he had a media credential dangling from his wrist just made the image that much more bizarre.
Roy’s presence was a painful reminder that he is definitely not walking through that door, and this team is nowhere near their former levels of potential. This is a team in rebuild and/or tank mode, and played like it tonight. Thoroughly out-worked, out-hustled, out-everythinged—it was pretty clear which team was fighting for a playoff spot and which team was fighting for a better draft position.
Whatever good will was earned during that Chicago win, whatever fun the Portland players said they were having, what supposed good the changes brought, it was all gone tonight. Erased.
This was a frustrated team, one that at the first sign of adversity just rolled over. This was a team that sounded just like they did prior to the road trip—tired, lost, and spewing the same “we have to get better” mantras—only now it felt like strict recycling, going through the motions because that is what is expected. Nobody seemed like they actually, you know, wanted to get better.
Yes, defense is key. Especially when giving up 115 points and letting your opponent shoot 57% from the field and 52% from deep. But when the only thing anyone is saying is wrong is that the defense needs to tighten up? It rings hollow. I’d try to pull a quote here, but nothing even stood out enough to even mention.
It’s almost pointless to critique the play tonight, though. Nothing constructive can be gleaned from tank mode, other than impressive play by the bench guys or rookies. And tonight, both the bench and the rookies were both completely forgettable and completely unwatchable.
Tonight was, in all actuality, the best case scenario. At the beginning of the night, Portland had a better record than Milwaukee. After, the Bucks now hold the better record, giving Portland that much more of a shot of landing a higher draft pick. The higher the draft pick, the brighter the future.
It was a blowout loss. And these are going to be the norm going forward.