I admit I was taken aback by the outpouring of shock and vitriol after that brutal loss last night in Los Angeles — 121-96 at the hands of the Lakers. People were really surprised and steamed.
I mean, really? You were surprised? I’m not trying to be a smart guy here, but what did you expect? The Lakers are at the top of their game right now. We’ve talked about that. They’re the best team in the league, playing at home, rested and motivated. The Blazers, on the other hand, are without their interior strength, not playing well and really, through the early season, apparently not very motivated.
This is why I’ve been talking about not getting carried away with a team’s record but looking at the way it is playing. Portland is just sort of floating around right now and has been throughout the season. It isn’t a pretty sight.
Yeah, the Blazers are good enough to beat half the league in this sleep-walk state. But when the really good teams show up, it’s a tough go — especially without Joel Przybilla and/or Greg Oden. Look, the season is still all about Oden. If he shows up healthy at some point, you can take Portland seriously. If not, well, they’re not even in the conversation in the Western Conference. But that doesn’t mean we can’t expect the current team to play hard and smart.
Brandon Roy is in a fog. I can’t tell if he’s hurt, unmotivated, upset, pouting or just overmatched. I asked him on Rip City Live last week if he is healthy and he said he is. But he’s definitely not beating people off the dribble — which was a big part of his game.
Trying to figure out a player’s mindset is always the hardest thing about him to discern. But the one thing that’s certain about Brandon Roy is that he’s not the same player he’s been, for whatever reason. He’s shooting 39.8 percent from the field and not making plays. He’s not even part of the offense for long stretches.
I’ve thought this since the season started and it’s about time someone said it — is this team trying to get its coach fired? Should the coach be fired? Sunday night against the Lakers in the Staples Center, Portland looked rudderless and unmotivated — and that speaks directly to the coach. Is there something wrong between Roy and his coach? Are the players listening to the coaching staff? Has McMillan just stayed too long? Does this team need another voice?
After that game Sunday, those are legitimate questions that can and should be asked. And unless things pick up soon, Nate McMillan — in the final season of his contract — is going to become the centerpiece of any discussions about what’s wrong with the Trail Blazers.