You’d have to think that by now, Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has a different perspective on preseason games than most coaches in the league.
While everyone else is thinking, “What do we have to get right?” it’s quite possible that McMillan is wondering, “What is going to go wrong?”
After all, the Blazers have hardly been impervious to injury woes crippling them before the season actually begins. As he responded when asked what he liked about Friday’s Fan Fest intra-squad scrimmage: “That no ice bags hit the floor.”
All that said, the preseason is finally upon us, with the Blazers hosting the Jazz at the Rose Garden on Monday.
LaMarcus Aldridge will not be in Portland’s lineup as he continues to recover from a heart procedure, but the rest of this somewhat new-look roster will get its first chance to see how it gels together against another team.
The expected starting lineup for the Blazers is Raymond Felton at point guard, Wesley Matthews at shooting guard, Nicolas Batum at small forward, Gerald Wallace at power forward and Marcus Camby at center.
Camby sat out the night of Fan Fest due to a sore back, but practiced in full on Saturday, Portland’s last major workout.
Meanwhile, fans will get to see newly acquired shooting guard Jamal Crawford in a Blazers uniform for the first time, as the 31-year-old is expected to be the centerpiece of the second unit’s offense.
Last year, Matthews received a booming ovation when he subbed in during Portland’s first preseason game at the Rose Garden, the guard saying later, “I didn’t know whether to inbound the ball or give a wave.”
It would not be surprising for Crawford to get a similar reception.
Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has not revealed his starting lineup, although point guard Devin Harris and forward Al Jefferson will most likely get the nod. Forward Paul Millsap is questionable due to right quadriceps tendinitis.
However, at this point, the opponent is not of great concern to the Blazers, who still have a bevy of wrinkles to iron out.
McMillan said Saturday that the younger players were playing “cool basketball,” which essentially means looking for the first opportunity to hike up a shot instead of playing within the flow of the offense.
And it wasn’t pretty. As rookie point guard Nolan Smith said, “We saw what we looked like on film. We need to get better.”
But tonight will also serve as an extended workout.
McMillan said Friday that, in an 82-game season, players typically use the month of November to play themselves into shape — and this is with a regulation-length training camp.
Given how everything has been condensed this year, expect that wrinkle-ironing to be coupled with some huffing and puffing.