At 13-16, clinging to the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff seed, the Portland Trail Blazers are this season’s biggest disappointment thus far.
And Damian Lillard, naturally, isn’t happy.
As he told ESPN.com’s Chris Haynes following the Blazers’ 135-90 loss to the Golden State Warriors:
Damian Lillard didn’t mince words in criticizing his team, telling ESPN the Blazers’ performance was “ridiculous” and that the team’s recent slide “is on us,” not the coaches.
“Man, it’s OK to turn the ball over, it’s OK to make mistakes, but we have to play with some damn heart and compete out there,” he said of his teammates.
It’s never good to hear a star player call out his squad’s execution and will, especially when said squad has the NBA’s third-highest payroll, behind only the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers.
No one expected the Blazers to be juggernauts, even after spending a ton of money over the offseason. Those investments were mostly about talent retention and rolling the dice on Evan Turner. The latter move has failed miserably; Turner has the second-worst plus-minus in the league, trailing only Brandon Knight.
Portland currently has the Association’s worst defense, and its net rating is comparable to that of a team on course for between 29 and 32 victories. That’s not good. And there’s no clear in-house solution to the Blazers’ problems. They need more dynamic frontcourt players if they’re going to survive the unimpressive defense offered by a backcourt of C.J. McCollum and Lillard, and Turner’s spot on the roster seems beyond salvation.
There is talent in Portland, make no mistake about that. But it’s not all complementary talent. So while there still exists the possibility this group turns it around to a certain degree, expect the Blazers to make some substantial tweaks via trade ahead of February’s deadline.