However, despite the failure to top the San Antonio Spurs, a task that is of course very difficult for any team around the league, the Blazers’ course during the 2013-2014 campaign is anything but bad. In fact, even if Rip City exits the playoffs in the second round, the entire city should feel proud about this team. After everything the Blazers have gone through and after all those top-player severe injuries, Portland has found a way to turn things around.
In addition, the future looks really bright for this team, given that it has now found the Big Three around which it can build. Damian Lillard showcased his leadership skills not just during the playoffs but even throughout the regular season. The versatile point guard has already reached a superstar level and he is just 23 years old. He and LaMarcus Aldridge are under contract for the next season, with the Blazers holding a team option, which will most probably exercise for the season after and also a qualifying offer for the 2015 – 2016 season. Nicolas Batum is also under contract till the end of the 2015 – 2016 season but what is even more important is the fact that something seems to be changing in Rip City.
The Blazers are finally starting to find their way to success and whilst they still haven’t formed an elite team, they are certainly on the right track. Portland has found its new franchise face, in Damian Lillard and also a truly capable star veteran, in LaMarcus Aldridge, who might just be the perfect fit alongside Lillard. Nicolas Batum is the third wheel of the Blazers’ engine and several analysts compare them to the San Antonio Spurs, stating that the Blazers are a younger version of San Antonio. I couldn’t agree more with this statement and I would go a step further, stating that Damian Lillard will soon have the same essence to Rip City like Kobe Bryant has to the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, he is that good.
So, summing up, there is absolutely no reason for Blazers fans to feel disappointed with their favorite team this year. The Blazers did what they had to do. They went as far as they could. Now, the fun part begins, as the team will try to further improve during the postseason. We should all expect the Blazers to stay in the forefront of the NBA for the next seasons.
The 6’3” Weber State product has exploded offensively. After putting up two consecutive 36-point performances against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, he went on to score 29 against the New Orleans Pelicans. He also shot over 47 percent from the floor in those three games. In overall, Lillard is averaging 21.3 points per contest this season to go along with 5.8 assists and 3.7 boards. His shooting from the floor has reached the 41.0 percent mark on average and 42.6 percent from three-point range.Despite the big numbers, Damian Lillard’s importance to Portland goes beyond that. He is a general when on the floor, he draws much defensive attention and that’s where the entire offense starts for Portland. Lillard has built a great chemistry with LaMarcus Aldridge, especially on the offensive end. He plays with him the pick and roll and due to Aldridge’s finishing skills and versatility, this duo is really hard to stop. Lillard started showing some real clutch and leadership skills. Several times this season he has hit game-winning shots.
Taking a look at Lillard’s attributes, we first see that very explosive. In fact, he ranks at the top spots of the most explosive guards in the league, together with Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker and Chris Paul. His first step is super quick first step but he also has great body control when in the air. Additionally, he is an excellent ball handler and has developed his moves this season. His shot has also improved in comparison to the previous season. He has good court-vision although it could be further developed. What Lillard needs to work on now is improving his distributing role in the Portland Trail Blazers team. So can he be considered a star?
The answer is no. Because in order to rank amongst the elite point guards of the league, like CP3, Westbrook or Tony Parker Lillard will need to retain this exceptional performance. Consistency is what differentiates stars from the rest of the players who simply are on hot streaks. However, Lillard seems like he has the potential to do so.
In general, it’s fair to say that Damian Lillard is an emerging star. Really, he can reach the star and the superstar level but he is just not there yet. Nonetheless, the future is ahead and he will just have to continue and deliver.By:Chris Michaels
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The NBA regular season starts on October 29th, 2013 and millions of diehard fans are looking forward to this season. The biggest game of opening night is the Chicago Bulls traveling to South Beach to take on the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat. Most experts and fans feel as if both of these teams are going to be very good. Per the usual, teams like the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder are going to make a run at the playoffs but some will want to know what team or teams are going to surprise in the 2013-14 season.
Portland Trail Blazers
In the last few years the Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to put together a good team. Last year they had the rookie of the year, Damian Lillard and this year they are hoping to put some pieces around this amazing point guard. The major concern for the Trail Blazers is their youth. Young NBA teams can take some time to develop as they have not played a large number of games together. Once these young athletes get to know each other’s style of play the sky could be the limit for Portland. There is only one player on the team that is over the age of 30 and the season is grueling.
As I mentioned in a previous article on Barry’s Tickets, a young NBA team has a distinct advantage in the second half of the season. The question is, can the Blazers win enough games in the first half of the season so that the second half actually means something? If the Trail Blazers can get to the All Star game in contention for the playoffs they should be able to make a decent run in the second half of the season. Having fresh legs will make a world of difference this season.
The NBA has become a point guard dominated league. In the 70s, 80s and and 90s NBA teams wanted a center that could dominate the paint. Shaq was a force as he helped the Lakers win multiple titles. Many experts feel as if Kobe has never been the same player without Shaq in the middle. When Kobe has a great season it is often when there is a presence at the center position for the Los Angeles Lakers. That said, many teams have accepted that a point guard is now much more important than a center. The big men get hurt easier and they don’t have the ball in their hands nearly as much as they used to. I am truly shocked that more NBA teams do not draft a prolific point guard with their top pick. One team that went out and got a point guard in the 2013 NBA Draft is the Utah Jazz.
Trey Burke was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was traded to Utah. In my opinion, this was a great move for the Utah Jazz as a point guard can completely change a team; much quicker than a center or a big man. After watching Trey Burke play for the Michigan Wolverines last year I can say that he will make a huge difference for a team in the NBA. He lead his Michigan team to the Final Four and he has a floor presence unlike most athletes his age. I do not feel as if Trey Burke will be a high scorer in the NBA but he will be able to get his team in the correct offense. I think Trey Burke will be a similar player to Chris Paul. There is no way that we can predict he will be as good as Chris Paul but even if he is half as good he will drastically improve the Utah Jazz.
New Orleans Pelicans
Most people know of this team as the New Orleans Hornets but they have changed their name to the Pelicans for this season. That might be a little bit of foreshadowing for the season that is coming. If you look at the roster it is littered with college basketball stars. Names like Austin Rivers, Jeff Withey, Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday immediately catch the eye of anyone that enjoys the college game. As we all know, you cannot put an NBA team together with just college basketball superstars. While many college players will go on to have great NBA careers there are some college stars that simply do not fit the mold of an average NBA player. Height, weight, wingspan and overall athletic ability are often much more important than college stats.
If the Pelicans can find a true point guard to run the show this could be one of the most improved teams in the NBA. The Pelicans were downright bad in the last two years as they won 21 and 27 games respectively. With this being the case it is not going to take that much to improve. After shipping Chris Paul to the west coast this team has struggled to find its identity. As mentioned with the previous two teams, a point guard is now very important in the NBA. In fact, I would say that a point guard is more important than a center or a power forward. When I was growing up the power forward and shooting guard positions were essential as these were the positions in which most points were generated. Points come from everywhere on the court in the current state of the NBA. With the hand checking rule changing the way defense is played it is no longer difficult for teams to score 100 points.
A point guard is needed to distribute the ball and get the offense going. With the Pelicans being a young team one would think they are going to try to get up and down the court. This makes it even more important to have a solid point guard that does not turn the ball over. Finding that great point guard can be difficult which is why some teams cannot seem to turn the corner and make the playoffs. Some in New Orleans have wondered if it is going to end up being the curse of Chris Paul. There is little argument to be made that Chris Paul gave New Orleans their best years of basketball. They have yet to come close to that quality of basketball since they let him go to the Los Angeles Clippers. Speaking of the Clippers.
Los Angeles Clippers
It is hard to say that the Clippers are going to be a surprise team as they are already one of the best teams in the west. I think this is the season they can make some huge strides towards getting to the NBA Finals. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have played with each other for a few seasons they should be able to get off to a quick start. If the Clippers can get off to a start that is above .600 in the first 25 or 30 games they have a chance to win the Western Conference.
Most experts are predicting the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the west but there is an opening for the Clippers. What is quite unique about 2013 is the fact that coming into the season it is accepted that the Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles. It has been a very long time since this was even considered by the fans and the experts. Anyone that has watched NBA basketball for the last four decades knows that Los Angeles is dominated by the Lakers. If Kobe Bryant is not 100% healthy this year the Lakes are going to struggle just to make the playoffs. There are even rumors that they might go out and get Carmelo Anthony. If this happens we know there is truly trouble in paradise.
What to Expect in 2013-14
This is going to be a very exciting year for professional basketball. LeBron James and the Miami Heat are getting older so they are vulnerable. Dwayne Wade has had all kinds of injury problems. It would not be surprising to see him sit out several games this year just because of health issues. If the Heat run into any injury problems that leaves the door open for some younger teams to grab the best record in the NBA. I think it is safe to say that the 1990s Bulls team has nothing to worry about when it comes to the all time best record of 72-10. The only way a team will come close to that type of record is a team that has enough young players to make it through the entire season without injuries.
I don’t think we will see the Heat make it to the All Star break without injuries. Keep an eye on some of the younger teams as they may surprise you in the upcoming season. As mentioned in this article, point guards are going to rule the league this year so take noticed of the teams that have a true leader at the point guard position.
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.