The Portland Trailblazers have opened camp, and are getting set for their first preseason game of the season Monday night at the Moda Center when the LA Clippers come to town. After spending a few days at the practice facility this week, I came away impressed with how much the players are talking about the defense. Head Coach, Terry Stotts is implementing a new defensive system this year to compliment his new roster which features the arrival of center, Robin Lopez and power forward, Thomas Robinson.
In Stotts new system, the big-men will not be extended in the pick and roll defense. So far the reviews are positive. Meyers Leonard, Robin Lopez, and LaMarcus Aldridge have all praised the new-look and the effort that guys are putting into defense in practice. There is another key-element in what the Blazers hope will be an improved defense called rest. Last season, the Blazers had one of the worst benches in the history of the NBA. As a result, the starters had to play extended minutes which caused fatigue as the season progressed. Damian Lillard played more minutes than anyone in the NBA. The load caused fatigue to set-in, and guys didn’t have the enough energy to play defense for 48-minutes.
With the additions of Dorell Wright, Mo Williams, Thomas Robinson, CJ McCollum, and Robin Lopez, coach Stotts has more players to use off the bench. The starters will get more rest which will allow them to spend more energy on the defensive end of the floor. Lopez says defense is a team-concept and I agree. If the Blazers can stay healthy and develop chemistry, we should see them getting more stops this year. Offense won’t be a problem for this team. The Blazers have a variety of guys who can score. How well they adapt to Stotts new system and defend, will determine how many wins this team will grab. Monday night will be our first look at how much progress they have been making in camp.