Practice Report: Blazers prepare to kick off season with “different feeling”
“Overall, it’s a different feeling than last year,” said LaMarcus Aldridge when talking about his feeling coming into this season.
Last year before the season began, the Trail Blazers were a team without a real direction and lacking a tangible goal. They sought to compete every night and nothing more. This year has been different as they have made their playoff aspirations quite clear. They’re trying to win with defense and Aldridge says that they are more locked in as a group.
Aldridge said it’s a similar feeling to the older Blazers teams he played with, ones that focused more on defending, ones that won on the road and ones that made the postseason.
“I think it’s different coaches so it’s different styles. But I think definitely the mindset that we have this year is closer to those years when we came here and guys were focused. Guys played defense and we won preseason games and actually got better in the preseason.”
Aldridge avoided answers bringing up last years performance or what last year’s team did differently, but he said that from his own perspective, this October has been his best preseason he’s had as a pro.
“I’ve definitely been more locked in. This has been my best preseason for us as far as talking, being defensively active. I feel like I ‘ve been a lot more vocal this preseason on defense.”
Aldridge has been encouraged by the team’s growth from game one to game seven of the preseason and it feels like, unlike last season, the Trail Blazers know who they are, no matter who they are going to play.
The Suns will likely use former Blazer Channing Frye in order to stretch out Portland’s defense with his three-point shooting as a seven-footer. While the Blazers are aware of what to expect from the Suns offensively, Stotts is going to stick with who he’s got.
“We’ll see how the game goes but LaMarcus and Robin will be out there a lot and we will manage the game accordingly,” Stotts said. “I think it’s important to stay with who we are.”
Although many say that the Suns, especially with their recent trade of their starting center Marcin Gortat, are “tanking” the season in order to get a good draft pick, Stotts and Aldridge both say they will not take them lightly.
“I’ve been in the league long enough that any team is capable of winning every night,” Stotts said. “When you get a team like Phoenix on opening night they are going to be jacked up and any team is capable of winning in this league.”
Aldridge interestingly pointed out that the players on the Suns, most of whom are on rookie deals are playing to prove they belong.
“You can’t count them out,” Aldridge said. “They are a young, athletic, hungry team. A lot of guys that don’t have contracts and guys on their rookie deals. All those guys want to prove that they should be here.”
Last season, the Blazers struggled against teams that they should have beaten and rose to the occasion, playing hard against teams that were much better than them.
Aldridge is just happy that this year’s regular season has finally arrived.
“This was the longest preseason of my life. I felt like it took forever so I’m definitely looking forward to tomorrow night,” he said.
Portland’s first game is tomorrow night at 7PM in Phoenix against the Suns. It will be televised on KGW and can be heard on 620 AM.