Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts trivializes the chatter about the Blazers being a potential Cinderella team.
In the 2011 NBA playoffs, the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies became the Cinderella team—a team that achieves more than expected— when they defeated the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs 4-2 to advance to the second round. Only five teams in NBA history have accomplished that feat.
This season’s Memphis Grizzlies are currently the eighth seed in the western conference. Heading into the NBA restart, one big topic has been whether they will maintain their playoff position or another team like the Portland Trail Blazers will claim it.
Some basketball analysts such as ESPN’s Amin Elhassan and Stephen A. Smith said the Blazers have a better chance of making the playoffs than the Grizzlies and playing against the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley even said the Blazers would beat the Lakers.
For Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, sports pundits hyping his team is irrelevant.
“I think we’re capable of making the playoffs. We all believe that,” Stotts said to NBA media earlier this week. “But we also know we have to play well to do it. We’re a confident group. It’s not about who’s picking us.”
For some sports analysts, the return of big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins have revitalized the Blazers, who went 29-37 before the NBA hiatus. Earlier this week, NBA legend Isiah Thomas picked the Blazers to get the eighth seed because they have their full roster. Thomas said they were the “most dangerous and challenging team” for the last playoff spot.
Boston Celtics great Paul Pierce said the Blazers have “no chance” of making the playoffs. Pierce added that the 3 1/2 games needed to catch the Grizzlies is too challenging for the Blazers.
The Blazer’s first game of the NBA restart is against the Grizzlies. A win would bring them within 2/12 games of Memphis.
In a press conference earlier this week, Blazers star Damian Lillard said winning the first game against the Grizzlies is “super important” because the team needs to start the season improving not declining. He said the Blazers must be “on the rise” because after their first game they are playing against some of the best teams in the east and the west.
All eight of the Blazers games in the remaining regular season are against teams that are currently in playoff positions.
The tough schedule has not affected the team’s determination. Stotts said overall they feel positive about their potential.
“Our confidence hasn’t wavered. It really doesn’t matter what people say about us,” Stotts said. “Internally, we feel good about what we’re capable of doing.”