Blazers Finally Paid Back With Health


VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points) leads the Blazers as they top the Celtics

HANG TIME WEST – It’s only fair, right?

This is the start of the payback for Greg Oden and his knees, for Brandon Roy and his knees, for years of potential that never was reached — and never will be. This is for 2012-13 and a lot of pieces chipping off in small bits that turned a promising first half into the team-record 13-game losing streak at the end, enough to fool some people into believing the Trail Blazers were not ready to ascend the next step to the playoffs this season. This is a long time coming.

Thirty-seven games into the season, the Blazers have used one opening lineup. In a season when many prominent players have been hurt and some opponents deeply wounded by injuries, Portland, of all teams, is the one living under the right star. Rookie C.J. McCollum missed the first 34 with a fractured left foot and was held out of another on a coach’s decision, but otherwise, the projected rotation has mostly remained intact and the starters have been in cement.

Damian Lillard at point guard.

Wesley Matthews at shooting guard.

Nicolas Batum at small forward.

LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward.

Robin Lopez at center.

Done.

All 28 wins, each step up the ladder to a tie for the second-best record in the Western Conference and tie for third best in the league, every redemptive moment after years of missing the playoffs and the fates conspiring against the Trail Blazers with health woes that changed the direction of a franchise.

“That’s a huge turnaround,” Batum said. “The last couple years, a lot has changed. We got a new coaching staff, got a new GM, got new players, got a lot of new things. This is a new era. The old injury era, I think, is over. I hope it’s over. It’s different now.”

Knock on wood. Literally.

“We talk about it,” Batum, a Blazer since 2008-09, said of the new good fortune. “We (have) had no injury yet” – he reaches out with his left hand and taps a wooden wall of the adjacent locker – “so that’s good. That’s good. We need everybody on the court.”

Even the top reserve, guard Mo Williams, has missed only one game. The reserve big man averaging the most minutes, Joel Freeland, has missed one. Now, the return of McCollum adds to the stability.

“Health is a big thing in the NBA, no matter who it is,” coach Terry Stotts said. “A lot of people point to the fact that we’ve played our starting lineup every game and that they’re averaging 30-something minutes a piece as a negative, and I view it as a positive because they take good care of themselves. It’s been very important for our consistency, our rotation. It’s been a big part of why we are where we are.

“We can sit over a beer and talk about the minutes. But if you look at each one of our starters’ minutes unto itself, I’d argue that none of them are playing an exorbitant amount of minutes. Wesley Matthews, who’s one of the top five shooting guards in the league, is averaging 34 minutes. I don’t think that’s exorbitant. L.A.’s averaging less minutes this year than he has in three or four previous seasons. Nic Batum’s down three minutes from last year. Damian’s down to 36. You look on how they compare to other players around the league at their position, I don’t think any of them are playing a lot of minutes. The fact is, we’ve been fortunate enough that they’ve all been healthy enough to play the minutes that they’re playing.”

It’s only fair, right?

18 Comments

  1. DownUnder says:

    Robin Lopez for Most improved Player. He’s rebounding like a boss these days and doing just what Portland signed him for, give defensive intensity and pull down boards. Go The Blazers

  2. PhillyPhil says:

    As a long-time Blazer maniac, I see similarities with the Championship team in the 70′s. The common theme is team balance and chemistry. Just as Luke anchored the middle with Walton – so too Lopez frees up Aldridge to play his full game.

    But the heart and soul of today’s Blazers is Lillard. The cold blooded game winner sets the table for the whole feeling of this team.

    it is a joy to watch and be proud of these players who exude confidence each time they take the floor. Once Neal gets creative with back-up center look out!

    PhillyPhil

  3. Kaspar Versluis says:

    It could be luck, but it’s at least notable that the year they have less injuries coincides with the year that they hired a new medical staff.

  4. Celtics Fan says:

    offensively they’re relentless but Damian Lillard still needs to be more of a facilitator on their offense. Defensively, they’re not consistent enough.

  5. Jim says:

    Ya hear people like Charles Barkley say the Blazers are a jump shooting team, and they live and die by the jump shot. Portland doesn’t score enough points in the paint. They don’t play good defense. Think about players who score a lot in the paint. Think about the guards. Chris Paul, Russel Westbrook, Derek Rose, Darren Williams and some others who get injured a lot. Players don’t get hurt much taking jump shots. Even less for three pointers. Starters who play 30 minutes plus, don’t get overly exhausted when they only play tough defense in the second half. Especially the fourth quarter. The Blazers win most of their games, and don’t expel excessive energy, plus they have as yet, no major injuries. (Knock on wood. Knock on wood) Hope the rest of the NBA doesn’t figure this out.

  6. rich says:

    I said it before , I’ll say it again – Blazers won’t be able to sustain their success. They’ll be best at 7th overall after the season, and then they won’t even advance to the 2nd rnd of playoffs.

    • B-Baller says:

      What a hater, Must be a Laker fan. This article is a feel good article, not trying to make the Team look good, but to point out that Portland has had TERRIBLE luck with injuries for the last decade and is finally showing some success now that we don’t have a long list of injured starters.

      • rich says:

        Not a hater, nor a Laker fan, my argument with this team has always been that they don’t really have the depth to contend. They may have one of the most dynamic starters and they’ve been successful so far but who do they have after the first 5 ?… I wish them best but it will be really hard for those 5 players to sustain their energy (and health) all the way to the post-season.

    • Ernesto says:

      Wow Rich…don’t you know the lottery numbers for next week?

    • @xianvalencia says:

      Hey! Tweet me. I’ll bombard you with Rip City news when they finish at least top 4.

      • rich says:

        No thanks, I would hate to bombard you with ‘I told you so… ‘ tweets when Blazers goes down. I’m not the kind of guy who kicks an opponent when they’re already down.

  7. Paul says:

    I always thought the Blazers had a good management with an outrageously bad luck. . . it’s nice to know their sacrifices are beginning to pay dividends. . .

  8. Bballfan says:

    Don’t jinx it!

  9. okc2014 says:

    I agree with all comments. Isn’t it more interesting with Portland up at the top? Makes for more interesting basketball. I also agree that they need to start resting their starters. OKC got screwed last season by depending too much on their starters.

  10. Alex says:

    Aldridge, Lillard stay healthy and make the playoffs that much more interesting. OKC get Westbrook back at full capacity, Houston play defense, Clippers stop leaning on Chris Paul, Golden State play more consistent on both ends, San Antonio keep doing your thing and we’ll have a great Western showdown. The potential is all there for each team, they just need to embrace it.

  11. krespino says:

    The fact that they have attained this level and consistency is a great success. After this point it’s more important to maintain health and avoid injuries; they do not have to go after winning as many games as possible. Jjust relax a bit, even reduce playing time of the starters, focus on rotation, get more minutes from the bench players. Just as San Antonio Spurs seems to be doing. The Blazers should reach the playoffs fully healthy so that they can achieve the best they hope to achieve, and they deserve.

    • fan says:

      The difference is the Spurs are proven playoff contenders. Blazer’s need to go full board all the way through and prove they belong