Evanson: Blazers are hot, but can it last? Who cares?
How excited are you about your 4-0 Portland Trail Blazers?
Well, my guess is pretty excited, after-all it's been quite some time since they gave you anything to be excited about. But while plenty of people will roll their eyes, chuckle or scoff at your exhilaration in the wake of their—very—early success, don't let the reality of the 78 games remaining rain on the parade that's been the first four.
You've been through a lot, Blazer fans. Draft-day busts; catastrophic injuries; near misses; and last season, a series of bad beats in the wake of a midseason trade that resulted in the departure of a fan favorite. But despite the lack of any real preseason expectations, early returns suggest hope for what many thought was a hopeless team and season.
Through a week of action, Rip City's finest squeaked-out an opening night win at Sacramento, won an overtime thriller over Phoenix, notched a come-from-behind win over LeBron's Lakers, and Monday night ran roughshod over the two-time NBA MVP's Denver Nuggets. And all of that comes in the wake of endless preseason commentary that spoke more to impending doom than the eyebrow-raising results we've seen to this point.
Damian Lillard is back. Contrary to the opening night concerns of The Ringer's Bill Simmons, who via Twitter asserted Dame could be washed, the nine-year veteran is averaging 33.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Simmons has since recanted his rather premature and knee-jerk reaction, but the comment and the well-known TV personality's subsequent walk of shame is proof that Lillard is not only back from last season's injury, but also again making fools of people both on and off the court.
Anfernee Simons—while struggling with his shot over the first three games—found his form in triumphant fashion against Denver, scoring 22 third quarter points and making seven three-pointers en route to 29 total points.
Jerami Grant appears to be a nice fit.
Rookie and first round pick Shaedon Sharpe has popped in limited time.
We haven't even seen free agent defensive standout Gary Payton II yet, and second year head coach Chauncy Billups seems to be projecting his hard-nosed mentality on a team that prior to his arrival had a built a reputation of playing soft—at least defensively.
These are all reasons to be at least a bit excited, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Yes, it's only four games. And yes again, everyone—including Portland—is still working their way into what is a long, long, long NBA season, so it's hard to draw any real conclusions from such a small sample size. But what little we've seen is far from what we saw over the team's five preseason games just two weeks ago.
You remember that, right? The exhibition slate that saw just a win over a second rate Israeli club team, along with four defeats to "real" professionals by an average margin of 22 points.
Things were going less-than-swimmingly then, and by comparison are otherworldly now—which is fun. So, enjoy it.
The Blazers host Miami tonight and you can bet that the Moda Center will be poppin'. The music will be loud, the crowd even louder, and the team? Well, they'll be left to let their play do the talkin' for them. And to this point that's spoken volumes as well—four games or not.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.