I don’t have kids, but I did spend now owe $70,000 to college and grad school so that I can teach them, which also means I can talk about them with some sense of authority. So, in an effort to remain rational over the Portland Trail Blazers being put in timeout by the Los Angeles Lakers, I will simply think about it in terms of a child growing up.
From the tip Portland was out hustled, pushed around and overall outplayed by a smarter veteran team in the Lakers who seem to really be understanding how important Steve Nash is to the entire aim of what they want to accomplish. Nash set the tempo early by pushing the ball, cutting to the lane, and hitting open teammates in stride. In fact, because Nash had set such an immaculate tempo, I stopped taking notes after the first quarter when it became clearer than me shirtless on a beach the stats and narrative weren’t going to change as the game progressed: Portland shot jumpers, the Lakers got to the paint. Portland walked the ball up, while the Lakers ran with purpose and intent of executing a scheme. In short, the Lakers were the grown up and Portland was the child.
This is technically fine because Portland is playing a little over their head right now anyway. Before Friday night’s jostling, had the playoffs started Portland would have been the 8th seed in the Western Conference, while the Lakers would be out. Which is quite the jump from where people thought either team would be at this point in the season.
However, like children, who often progress in giant leaps but then remain stagnant for a while, Portland proved stagnant Friday night; it’s during those stagnant times, when other children are performing feats you know your child is capable of, that you need to remain calm and patient. Don’t compare their kid to yours, your parenting to theirs. Instead focus on the good your kid is performing. Remember they are proving to be much brighter and capable than you’d expected—don’t focus on the fact they were closing out in a way that allowed easy access to the paint where the Lakers feasted the entire night. Don’t focus on how, even though Portland had fewer turnovers, the Lakers had more points off turnovers. And definitely don’t focus on Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard only making nine field goals between the two of them, and one three-pointer.
That type of comparison between children at different ability levels can drive you nuts and ends with you trying to force multiplication tables on your four-year-old.
Portland actually kept pace with the Lakers shot-wise. Portland shot 87 times, while LA shot 86. Not to mention the Blazers, normally a 33% three-point shooting team, shot 3-19 against the Lakers from three. That, and Portland gave the Lakers twelve more free throw attempts, resulting in five extra points. The Lakers won because they played better, but Portland is also capable of playing better, too.
This game was a learning curve for the youngens. It’s why you don’t track a seven-year-old and place them in TAG if they show promise or hold them back if they seem confused. It takes time with children to really figure out what they’re capable of, and it’ll take time with this team as well.
On a night where the Lakers retired Jamaal Wilkes’s jersey to their hallowed rafters, it made sense that Portland came out looking like a team that’s only won one championship in their franchise’s history, while Los Angeles coasted to victory. That being said, Los Angeles also showed why they started the night behind Portland in the standings: they took advantage of an undersized team with young, inexperienced players by doing nothing entirely special. LA’s problems are still apparent and will get them in time.
Portland, on the other hand, has another opportunity to hopefully prove they are continuing to grow when they get ready for Philadelphia next. Juices boxes up!
There will be days when you want boast, pull their picture out of your wallet and brag about how far they can walk all on their own. Then there will be days you’re embarrassed they’re still wearing a diaper. But when they crap their pants, like Portland did, you’ll be happy the cleanup is manageable.