Well here we are nearly one fourth of the way into 2018-19 season. The Blazers are 13-10 and just got shellacked by the Spurs. What started out as a delightfully entertaining and well played beginning, has turned back into the now predictable Blazers pattern that has become repeated for so many seasons. The SSS has set in once again. I’ll come back to that! At one point they were 13-8 and on course to win over 50 games. Old man numbers was the only sports prognosticator in the nation again this year to pick them winning up to 52 games. Looked like they were on the way. And, they still could do that or better.
Old man numbers posted his predictions and numerically guided comments for this season back in August before the team had even practiced, had any notion of the roster or even gotten to know each other. It is worth reading. The mantra was get out of the rigid adherence to the 9 man rotation, and play your talent. Let the new guys participate, and gain valuable experience along side the regulars. And, play the rookies.
Lo and behold, what happened? They did that and were on top of the western conference! All of a sudden SSS (Stotts Sphincter Syndrome) set in once again. They started to get caught up with worrying about defending their prominence and began to play not to lose, rather than to win. The game became serious and flawed where they were once having fun and playing it well. The roster shrank and play became tight like the sphincter. It was back to depending upon the starters and small rotation to play long tiring minutes and valiantly lose. With time you have a drained core and loss of imagination and variety of the game. And, of course, an emotionally and energetically drained nucleus at the end of the season.
With all fairness to Terry Stotts, this syndrome did not start with him, and is not limited to his team. You see it in all sports at some time or another. Sure it makes common sense when pressured to play your best players and fight hard. Kudos to the Blazers players for doing this and showing grit. AND, when they held to this pattern you will find far more losses (many very close and draining) taking their toll upon the collective team psyche and energy pool. It has been a Blazers pattern for years, and preceded terry Stotts reign. Their have been references to Paul Allen’s tight control having had an influence. However, he is gone now and let’s see what develops.
One wonders what would have happened had they stayed with the full team effort? They could not have done much worse, and would have a lot more experienced players for the play offs, along with a more refreshed starting core. I think of the wise words of Tom Selleck (Mr. Baseball), “It’s just a game! Turn em lose and let them have fun”! They were doing that in the beginning and winning! Sometimes the numbers do not lie! It just might have been helpful to the team and organization if they had considered old man numbers insight before the season. Maybe it is not too late?