A scout who had followed Portland told me last week that their “body language is awful, defeated.”
It certainly looked that way Sunday, when the Trail Blazers got their doors blown off by the Nuggets, 124-95. Denver led by double digits almost the entire game, and afterward a frustrated Portland coach Chauncey Billups called out his team’s effort (via Jason Quick of The Athletic):
“I don’t think we came to compete in this game,” Billups said, pointing in particular to the first quarter, when the Blazers fell behind 18-4 and 30-13.
To be fair, the Trail Blazers were without Lillard on Sunday due to abdominal tendinopathy. This is concerning because it’s the same injury that slowed Lillard in the Olympics, and if he never fully healed it would explain his rough start to the season (38% shooting overall, 28.6% from 3). Although the Trail Blazers have put no timeline on his return, Lillard may need a little time off to get right.
For Billups, that still doesn’t excuse the effort on Sunday, and he suggested it may be time to shake up the lineup and rotations.
“It’s coming. That point is coming soon,” Billups said. “If we continue to play like that … because if you think about it, you keep playing that way, at some point I have to look at it and say something isn’t quite working. And then maybe think about shifting some things around.”
The challenges are what shakeups? Starting Larry Nance Jr. at the four and bringing Robert Covington off the bench is an option (something Quick suggested). Is more minutes for Cody Zeller over the up-and-down Jusuf Nurkic a step forward?
This Blazers team lost to that Nuggets team last postseason, and the Nuggets were without Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. then, too. Despite what Neil Olshey thinks, the problems in Portland start with the roster. It’s not good enough.
It feels like changes are coming to the Trail Blazers, and it may go much deeper than who starts at the four.
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Billups rips Blazers after loss, “I don’t think we came to compete in this game” originally appeared on NBCSports.com