Defense Still an Issue for Trail Blazers
Well we’re four games into the NBA season and the Blazers stand at a very respectable 2-2. Following a demoralizing performance in the season opener at Phoenix, the Blazers bounced back with impressive victories over the Denver Nuggets (In Denver no less, a place they never win) and the defending Western-Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs. They followed up those wins with a loss against the much-improved Houston Rockets on Tuesday night.
Before the season began; the coaches, players and management were all preaching defense as the area they were most focused on improving from a year ago. Through four games however, there hasn’t been much progress made on that end of the floor.
The team has given up an average of 52 points in the paint through four games and that is good for second worst in the entire league. With the exception of the Denver game, Portland is giving up 51 percent shooting in the other three games and that’s primarily due to the poor interior defense. The fact that they’re 2-1 in those games speaks to how well the offense has performed so far this season.
But if the Trail Blazers want to win games, they can’t trade baskets. Eventually they’ll have to consistently make stops. The alarming thing to think about is that the majority of points they are giving up have been in the half-court. Other than the Phoenix game, Portland has done a pretty good job against fast-break points so the biggest weakness has been defending the paint in a set defense.
To be fair, they have had to deal with a number of talented guards including the suddenly dynamic duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Ty Lawson, Tony Parker, James Harden and Jeremy Lin in their four games. So is the early-season struggles in the paint due to poor play or because of great opposition? It’s too early to tell, but at least so far, defense continues to be the biggest crux of this team.
Nicolas Batum Records Triple-Double in Strange Way
NBA players would be lying if they said they don’t pay attention to their stats. Basketball, like baseball, is a stats-driven league and players are always aware of scoring milestones, double-doubles and FG percentages.
Another statistical feat is the triple-double where a player records at least 10 in three different categories. It’s a sign that a player excelled in multiple areas of a particular game. Blazers’ forward Nicolas Batum achieved the triple-double twice last season and in the waning moments of the team’s game against San Antonio, he was two points shy of recording another one.
But with the team up seven with only a few seconds left, it wasn’t necessary, or honorable, to score another basket. It’s one of those unwritten rules that a player doesn’t try to pad his stats when the game is basically over.
And yet when Damian Lillard received the inbound pass, he tossed the ball to Batum who dribbled past half-court and harmlessly threw up a long 3-point shot that went in. As soon as it happened, Batum looked like a dejected child after being told there was no Santa Claus. Tim Duncan had his hands in the air with a face that read, “what are you doing?”
Batum knew what he had done was wrong and after the game he said as much. To their credit, the Spurs didn’t seem too upset about it.
“Why would I be mad at that?” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s a good kid. I don’t care.”
It was certainly an awkward and bizarre end to the Blazers’ win and what Batum did was probably wrong, but he was at least contrite about it. We’ve seen much more selfish stat-whores in the past (see Ricky Davis and Andray Blatche). But at the end of the day it’s still a triple-double whether Batum wants it or not.
Mo Williams Mistaken for Children’s Author
JJ Abrams is one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood right now. Having directed the two most recent Star Trek films and now in charge of Star Wars returning to the big screen, it’s safe to say he’s one of the most influential names in the entertainment business.
Eager to work with as many creative people as possible, Abrams recently attempted to contact children’s author Mo Willems to not only compliment him on his work after Abrams’ son had made him aware of the author, but to also create a business relationship that might lead to a collaboration at some point down the road.
After getting on the phone with the person he thought was Willems, Abrams was understandably confused following the conversation.
“He was quiet on the phone, almost monosyllabic, disinterested. Frankly it was a bit of an odd reaction. It wasn’t until the next day that I discovered that I had, in error, called Mo Williams of the Portland Trail Blazers.”
Why didn’t Williams simply tell Abrams that he didn’t write any children’s books during their conversation? Because Williams coincidentally has had aspirations about writing children’s books himself and they had communicated before the phone conversation via email about the subject.
It wasn’t until the story was published that Williams found out he was talking with a major Hollywood director. Now Williams feels like he has an “in” in the business if he wants to try acting some day.
“I think I’m going to reach out to him. JJ Abrams, let’s get together man. Let’s communicate, have a lunch, have a dinner, whatever. Maybe I could become a movie star.”
Mo Williams: basketball player, future children’s author and movie star? One thing at a time Mo.