15 October 2009
Somewhere Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson and A.C. Green stand proud as they did back on May 2, 1995.
They beat Portland in the last game at Memorial Coliseum in the Playoffs. On Wednesday night, it was back to the future with Phoenix victorious, 110-104. Don't let that final fool you either. Phoenix owned the second half.
Some things never change.
The Suns got the best of the new version of the Blazers with the same old results in their old digs. It’s as if Kevin Duckworth got overmatched by Wayman Tisdale in hoops heaven. Or call it for what it really was: Steve Nash drunk off the fountain of youth and Leandro Barbosa claiming an early slot for 6th Man of the Year. Whle he was busy killing it, Portland were a bunch of deadmen walking. Between the constant turnovers and suspect defense – a presumed staunch defense preached all week at practice - they forgot the most crucial part: application.
In this preseason, Portland is learning exactly what this league is about. It’s not about the trip to the playoffs last season. Instead, maintaining a certain level of success in this league must be earned and re-earned on a nightly basis.
That’s hard to do when Travis Outlaw hasn’t returned from the offseason.
That’s hard to do when Brandon Roy isn’t playing aggressive like Brandon Roy is accustomed.
That’s hard to do when you turn the ball over 15 times.
That’s hard to do when the masses rave about depth, yet your bench gets outscored 48 to 16.
That’s hard to do when you are pressing and it’s only the preseason.
And let’s not even get into the lack of touches or playing time for Greg Oden when Phoenix instituted a Mike D’Antoni-esque smaller running five. At some point you don’t match them. You make them match you.
Here's another thing about this loss (and the one prior to the Los Angeles Clippers). It places the other lingering debates right back under the microscope. Should Nate McMillan reconsider his starting five stance?
It's hard to argue against Martell Webster and Andre Miller not alongside Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge right now, especially Miller. Might as well throw Oden in that discussion too. Something tells me Nate isn't about to waver.
Come Thursday morning, you’re bound to hear the following line constantly repeated: it’s only the preseason. But before too much longer – 13 days and four more preseason games remaining for Portland – that dog won’t hunt. Even Roy said yesterday that he’s approaching these games like it is the regular season. Really?
No, it’s not time for the Blazer faithful to panic. But it is time to look at this preseason realistically.
While a “turn back the clock” game helps remind everyone about the beginning of Rip City and was a memorable night all around, it’s right about time Portland starts concentrating on the present.
Because looking back at these last two games sure doesn’t do anyone any good.
Shameless Plug: Better late than never.....this story was slated to run yesterday but got heldover for today at SLAM online - "Rip City Rewind". It's a quick look from Jerome Kersey and Robert Pack who talk about their run for a title back in '92 and a brotherly bond formed on the way their.
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