I know things don’t look spectacular right now. The Portland Trail Blazers are doing alright, but with consecutive losses to the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, the NBA playoffs appear more daunting than ever. Yes, barring a titanic collapse the Trail Blazers will have a post-season, and no, I don’t think a collapse of that magnitude is in the cards. However; it is concerning that other playoff teams are now giving them what for during the regular season.
While Portland’s outlook is not exactly bleak, it could be better. And guess what? It will be. Do not forget about the British bulldog Joel Freeland. The 42-21 Trail Blazers are 6-6 since Freeland went down with an MCL sprain on February 11th. By himself, he’s far from Portland’s linchpin, but he is their best defender off the bench by a wide margin. Though his recovery time will stretch the limits of his initial 4-8 week timetable, Freeland is highly probable to return before the end of the regular season.
That looks spectacular. Anybody else eager for a capable inside presence to block penetration, affect shots, keep Robin Lopez fresh, and absorb a personal foul here and there? If nothing else, Freeland is glue, and Portland needs him to keep from falling to pieces in close games. His availability in the playoffs could be the difference between a first round exit and a second round berth (or beyond).
Now, I’m not going to sit here on my thronecouch in my castleapartment and claim that Freeland is Alpha and the Omega of Portland basketball. The Trail Blazers turnover problems will not magically disappear, nor will the entirety of their defensive woes. But after two heartbreaking losses, it’s nice to remember that the Trail Blazers should be in better form when it counts. Come April, they’ll have their best bench big back to play medic in the low post—right where they need the most help.