31 December 2009
When Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw strolled through the tunnel at the Rose Garden right after Portland’s ninth win of the month, they looked a little lost.
They were missing one of their fallen comrades in Patty Mills, who is busy representing the Blazers in Boise with the Idaho Stampede.
But now, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge and his sprained ankle, the dressed-down Four Horsemen ride again.
While walking boots are apparently all the rage in Rip City, no team in the league is probably happier to leave behind 2009 than the Portland Trail Blazers. Or are they? The injuries have reached beyond ridiculous, but the mounting “W’s” in the win column has proven Portland is a team oozing with resiliency.
Oh, by the way - these guys are tied for first with Denver in the Northwest Division. Just a minor detail.
“People thought we didn’t have a shot. But you can’t get too high, and you can’t get too low when you win or lose games. It’s still early in the season with a lot of basketball to play,” said Nate McMillan, as he busted out the age old cliché’.
“Injuries are part of the game and so are adjustments. That’s what we are doing. Guys that have gotten the opportunity – (Jerryd) Bayless, Jeff (Pendergraph), (Juwan) Howard – they’ve all tried to take advantage of that. We’re going to need them to play and the guys that are in the rotation, to raise their level of play.”
It’s not comical by any means, but before tipping off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, McMillan sat in his office and talked about Aldridge’s transition to becoming Portland’s man to defend the middle with both Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla out for the season. McMillan said the Blazers needed Aldridge’s scoring. They needed his defense.
They needed him to become a presence.
"Between Jeff and Howard, LaMarcus is still the most athletic guy," McMillan added.
Portland didn’t, oddly enough, need another guy on the bench sporting a blazer and jeans.
Then again, they really don't have a choice now do they?