The NBA preseason is coming to a close and most fans are gearing up for the exciting tip of the 2013-14 regular season. I have predicted that the Portland Trail Blazers are going to have a breakout year. I was hoping to do some research on the preseason stats of this Trail Blazers team but it does not look as if that is going to happen. The only stat I can find is the overall preseason record for the Trail Blazers. At this point they are 4-2 with a final preseason game against the Golden State Warriors on October 24th. After six preseason games there is not a single website on the Internet that has team or player stats. Am I missing something?
The Internet Era
Prior to my research of NBA preseason stats I was a firm believer that almost anything could be found on the Internet. I am quite efficient with Google and search, in general. This makes me believe that either preseason stats are not recorded or no one cares about the NBA preseason schedule. It is hard to fathom the latter. With millions of diehard fans looking to consume as much content as possible how on Earth could no one care about these games?
Social media is chock full of people blasting out short bits of information about sporting events. Unfortunately, no one has full game stats. They might mention that Damian Lillard has 16 points at the end of the third quarter but that is doing me no good. Either I have lost my ability to find data online or there are no stats for this particular team. I will admit that the Trail Blazers aren’t the favorite to win the West heading into the regular season but they do have the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year. From the few articles I could find about the NBA Preseason it looks as if he is lighting it up.
Damian Lillard 2013 NBA Preseason
One of the few articles I could find related to the Trail Blazers this preseason explained that Lillard had a tremendous game against the Sacramento Kings. Lillard had 16 or his 28 points in the third quarter and he lead his team to a 109-105 victory. The Kings are not expected to be a contender this year but the Trail Blazers scoring 109 points in a preseason game puts a smile on the face of many fans in Portland. The game against the Kings brings up some interesting points.
Lillard is the point guard of the Portland Trail Blazers but he is going to be asked to do much more during the 2013-14 NBA season. Unlike Chris Paul and other distributing point guards, Lillard is going to be asked to put up 30 points a game in some games during the season. Whether or not he can do this consistently has yet to be seen. When teams focus on Lillard he is going to have to adjust his game to score while also being willing to distribute to JJ Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Injuries
Something I am greatly concerned about is LaMarcus Aldridge and his injuries. Big men have struggled to stay healthy in the NBA. This is especially true in Portland. In previous articles I have mentioned that a big man is no longer a necessity in the NBA. A point guard and scorer is much more important with the new NBA hand checking rules. If teams have a player that can beat a defender off the dribble it makes the offense much more efficient. I think it is safe to say that NBA centers and power forwards are not beating anyone off the dribble.
LaMarcus Aldridge sat out the game against the Sacramento Kings to rest his sore right knee. This could be an ongoing theme for him in 2013-14. Big men are known for having knee problems over the course of their career. Luckily, Aldridge is a very young player but that does not mean he will avoid situations that could cause further injuries. Bumping into knees of other players is very common in the NBA. When athletes are leaning up against other 6’10″, 275 pound men there is going to be some type of contact with the lower body. Some of the best big men in history had terrible knee problems throughout their entire careers.
Something the Trail Blazers might do is rest Aldridge every few games or so. We are no longer living in an era in which NBA players can compete in all 82 games of the season. Even the most durable players need a night off every so often. When I was growing up Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on the court every single night. This just does not happen these days. I can remember Jordan playing when he had the flu. One of the most epic performances by Jordan was in the NBA Playoffs when he had the flu and could barely walk. He was known for playing out of this world when he was sick.
Today’s NBA players are not going to play through pain or sickness. In all reality, this is probably a good idea as health is a much bigger concern today than it was 15 years ago. Players are doing their best to keep their body healthy. The NBA season is very long and enduring. Playing through an injury might cause further problems down the road. If LaMarcus Aldridge feels as if his knees are not in the best of condition there is nothing wrong with sitting out a game or two. Losing two or three games is not going to end the season for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Home Court Advantage
If the Portland Trail Blazers truly want to make a run at the playoffs in the 2013-14 season they will need to defend their home court. If they make the Moda Center, formerly the Rose Garden, a tough place to play for opponents it will go a very long way towards producing a playoff product. Fans love to attend games in which the team is not only competing but winning. If attendance numbers start to increase it will make the atmosphere even more difficult for the opposition.
During the amazing runs by the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s they almost never lost at home. At the time the United Center was rocking every single home game. When Michael Jordan was announced as part of the starting lineup the crowd went crazy. When I was a child, the Bulls were one of the first teams to actually turn off the lights for the introductions. This was a huge event and everyone got to the game early so they could see the light show and the introductions. Songs ended up becoming very popular just because they were part of introductions.
The technology era has changed the way many fans consume professional sports. It is no longer the case that fans need to attend the game to watch their favorite players. In the 1990s my parents had to purchase a special satellite package in order to see most of the Bulls games. Even though we paid the extra money there were still times when the games were not on TV. Today, it is a given that every game will be available for fans willing to pay money. If they cannot watch it on their TV they can watch it online or listen to the game on SiriusXM satellite radio. This has made it difficult for some small market teams to get fans in the seats at a sporting event.
There is one cure for getting fans in the seats – winning. If the Portland Trail Blazers can put a winning product on the court there is no argument to be made they will sell more tickets. A team in playoff contention is much more fun to watch than a team that is floundering near the bottom of the division or conference. This is why the Portland Trail Blazers have gotten younger in the past few years. A young team that is playoff bound will bring tens of thousands of people to the arena. Unfortunately, if this young team shows too much immaturity and they give away games you can be rest assured fans are not going to fill the seats during the 2013-14 season.
Something that diehard NBA fans like to track is away attendance. I hate to keep going back to the mid 1990s Bulls but they were the template on how to run an organization. When the Bulls went to another arena they almost always sold the game out because people wanted to watch Michael Jordan and company. No matter how bad the opponent the Bulls would bring the fans into the stadium. This is something the Trail Blazers need to work on but having Damian Lillard at full tilt might be just what the doctor ordered. If he goes off for 40 points a few games this season it will put fans in the seats.