… not a lot. And what we’ve learned isn’t good.
The obvious big storyline from camp has been how long it’s going to take the team’s injured centers, Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden, to get back from their knee injuries. And even though Przybilla says he’s ahead of schedule there is still a lot of doubt about when he’ll actually be back.
Oden, on the other hand, doesn’t seem close and his patellar tendinitis is still causing problems that include swelling after stiff workouts. At some point, he may have to learn to deal with some swelling after games, as some players do and adjust his minutes and games played accordingly.
But the underlying story nobody has addressed yet is what this team — new front office and assistant coaches in place — is getting out of camp in terms of necessary changes being made that will support improvement on the court this season.
So far, I’m just not seeing it. The emphasis, it is being said, has mostly been on defense. Well, so far the results have not been spectacular. Now there’s one thing you must realize about exhibition games: yes, the outcome of them doesn’t mean anything. Wins in those games mean nothing.
But how you play in these games means a lot. They’re an indication of where your team is. And what I saw Monday night in Memorial Coliseum against Utah wasn’t good. And hey, I realize Utah has owned the Blazers for years, but I didn’t see much defensive improvement by Portland. No matter who Jerry Sloan threw out there on the floor, the Jazz finished up shooting .507 from the floor and .545 from distance. And they killed Portland on the boards.
The Blazers, meanwhile, continue to go through the motions of a motionless offense paying no more than passing attention to setting good screens or rolling off them. Nic Batum, a budding star if you listen to a lot of people, is being turned into another Martell Webster, if you ask me. He’s mostly getting stuck with corner jump shots from a stationary position. Nothing is being run through him and he remains a periphery element rather than a key building block of the offense.
Really, I’m not yet seeing much improvement over what we saw last season in what really matters — the team’s style of play. I’m hoping people understand that merely getting players healthy isn’t really going to be enough to get this team deep into the playoffs. Basic improvements in the way this team plays must be made on both ends of the court.
That means more accountability on defense and improved movement of players and the ball on offense. Look, the exhibition season isn’t over and there’s plenty of time left for change. All I’m saying is that so far it’s been pretty lackluster. But hey, there is plenty of time left. As always, I’m Portland’s most open-minded man.