Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you. — Douglas Adams
I came across the above quote this very evening while watching the Blazers play a hapless 24 minutes of basketball, then scramble like hell to make up for it in a middling to decent 24 minutes of basketball, and then finally succumb to the lowly Phoenix Suns (they of the worst record in the Western Conference) in their first home game since the first week in February.
I happened upon it because I was thinking about how we as fans and consumers of Blazer basketball perceive this iteration of this team and this season, and how it pertains to what could be called objective reality. I was also thinking, how is our “objective reality” different than the “objective reality” of the players and coaches who actually do the playing and the coaching? Also, what do those differences, be they stark or not, say about perception as a whole.
Here is the conclusion that I drew: Since reality is basically subjective, subject to the various whims and inclinations of the people who experience said reality, we get to decide for ourselves what 2012-13 means and how it should be perceived in what is the entire spectrum of the Portland Trail Blazers. And the best part is, we get to be right.
If your perception is that Portland is a piece or two away from being a contender, and that the reality of this season is that it’s not over, well, then you’re right. Tuesday, the Blazers played without Wesley Matthews. Because Matthews was not in the lineup, Nolan Smith played crunch time minutes. Because Nolan Smith played crunch time minutes, a crucial free throw was missed and a crucial late game possession ended with a heaved three from the corner that clanked off the rim and bounced off the top of the backboard. If Matthews is in there taking those shots, they go down. If they go down, Portland wins. If they win, they’re right back on track. Congratulations, your perception of reality is correct.
If your perception is that the Blazers are a mid-level lottery team that is overachieving, and that the reality of the stretch run is that it will likely be spent regressing, again you’re right. Most projections had this team winning in the neighborhood of 30 games, 35 to 40 at the absolute top. Fifty-four games in, Portland has 25 wins, and that’s even after a six-game slide (their second six-game skid and their fourth losing streak of four or more games of the season). To reach the low end of the win projection, the Blazers only have to win five more times over the course of the next 28 games. Because experts didn’t come up with 30 to 35 games buy pulling numbers our of thin air (like I did), math states that winning more games than the Blazers should have early will be corrected for by Portland losing more games than they should late. The good thing about math is that it’s never wrong. The Blazers are regressing. Congratulations, your perception of reality is correct.
If your perception of reality is that Portland is a doormat that got lucky a couple of times, and that reality of 2012-13 is that the Blazers are a glorified lottery team full of long-term projects and rejected trash, once again you’re right. Does this one need to be spelled out? Portland lost to the Phoenix Suns. The Blazers gave up 12 straight points to start the game, not scoring a basket for FOUR WHOLE MINUTES. Meyers Leonard played 5:31 (all in the first half), scored two points from the line, had two personal fouls, and ZERO rebounds. The Blazers were counting on Sasha Pavlovic to create offense late in the second half. Post game a well respected veteran television journalist was making a case for Luke Babbitt being in the game in the closing minutes and not Nolan Smith, and he wasn’t wrong. This is a bad team finally playing like the bad team they are. They’re only not in the lottery conversation because of luck. They only haven’t traded LaMarcus Aldridge for picks because another season with Damian Lillard might raise his trade value enough that Portland could work a deal to get a shot at Andrew Wiggins (this guy not this guy). Congratulations, your perception of reality is correct.
So that’s where we find ourselves one game after the All-Star Break. We get to decide how we want the rest of this season to go, and based on that decision, and the relative amount of self delusion we’re all willing to put up with, we get to be right.
As far as the Blazers, Terry Stotts refuses to say the season is slipping away even as Damian Lillard says the window might be closing (you get to decide if those two things are the same or not), Lillard basically refuses to talk about this season as existing as one small part of the whole of his career (I tried to get him to talk about that, like I’ve tried to get him to talk about it before, and maybe one day I’ll write about what I have and haven’t gotten him to say about it), and winning basketball games, especially against bad teams, is still the order of the day.
Say what you will, but sometimes ignoring reality, especially when it hits you in the face over and over, is the best way to go. After all, every team is contractually obligated to play all 82 games. If you’ve got to show up, you should at least make it look like you have something to play for.
Portland travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers on Friday.
That’s it for me, my advice to you is read Douglas Adams and then spend the next few hours arguing with people on twitter.