For the first few weeks of the season the Trail Blazers started out with a roar and were the most surprising and exciting team in the NBA. Billups had 10,11 and sometimes more players skittering around like happy little water bugs shooting, passing, and rebounding with precision and joyful passion. Then injuries, setbacks and a couple of bumps in the road and they seemed to suddenly be struck with the Terry Stotts syndrome. Coach Billups went to a 6 and 7 man rotation and regulars were playing 30 to 35 minutes per game night after night at a pace no one can maintain for the ridiculously long 82 game NBA season, let alone 20 or 30 games in a row. The play hard, fast and all out at both ends strategy sounds good, but may just prove to be unsustainable without some refinements and adjustments.
In the beginning Billups was playing 10 or 11, sometimes, more, players in the game and everyone was contributing is some way. The numbers say it is how the Blazers are going to succeed. I implored rigid 8 man rotation Stotts to open up and play the talent. When they did the Blazers flourished in his day. The Blazers for decades, and particularly under Stotts, have a curious pattern of getting out ahead and then blowing the lead only to work hard to catch up. But more often than not they don’t and end up weary and worn into the play offs. Or they get far behind and work their butts off catching up, only to come finish just short and over time weary and worn. Using more players and some form of platooning would be a boon to this organization That is, some form of a genuine first and second unit.
It has been suggested here earlier something like Dame, Shaedon Sharpe, Hart ,Grant and Eubanks start. Then second unit Anfernee Simons, Gary Payton Jr., Walker, (Winslow or Wattford) and Nurk with combinations thereof as needed. Most likely will never happen. It would make them competitive at every level and save the wear and tear that has plagued them for years.
Numbers suggest that time spent playing and nurturing Jabari Walker would have been more productive than investing so much in the talented, but brittle and, more often than not. injured Nassir Little. This observer believes that having done so would have added at least 3 to 4 more wins to the ledger. Looking at the numerology the numbers suggest that as January rolls around Shaedon Sharpe will begin to flourish more, and by six weeks into the new year he will be a solid contributor in the rotation (and back in discussion for rookie of the year).
The team speaks of trust and letting everyone contribute. The past 15 games or so do not seem to reflect that to the untrained observer and Blazer fans. Granted the loss of Damian Lillard for so many games has upset potential player combinations and scheduling of rotations, but there is still enough talent to compete well when he or another starter is out. The team longs for Gary Payton Jr. to be ready, but let us hope his arrival does not discourage giving the young players a needed chance to show they are ready to be a greater part of a winning contender.