The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the most disappointing teams this NBA season, and it is evident that a complete shake-up of the roster could be coming soon. After last night's overtime loss to the Suns on TNT, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal offered their critical opinion on the state of the Blazers and what they need to do.
The Blazers hosted the second-best team in the league last night, with the Phoenix Suns coming into town. A challenging task, but considering Devin Booker was out along Portland having Dame back in front of their crowd, this was a very winnable game.
The Blazers were also not in full strength, with C.J. McCollum out, but that didn't stop them from putting up a fight. Portland actually showed some life and battled down to the wire. Unfortunately for them, a clutch mid-range jumper by Chris Paul would send the game into overtime, where Phoenix prevailed and took the 111-107 victory.
The veteran CP3 led the way with a great all-around game (24p,14a,8r), but he also got great help from his young big-man Deandre Ayton (28p,13r). On the other hand, Lillard led the way(31p,10a) with some significant help from Norman Powell(23p,6r) and Jusuf Nurkić(17p,13r,5a), but it wasn't enough to get the win. Suns are one game back from #1 seed with a 22-5 record, while the Blazers continue to stumble down the standings, sitting at #11 in the West, with an 11-17 record.
It's safe to say everyone expected a lot more from the Blazers coming into this season, as that has raised a lot of talk about their team and the future. Post-game, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley gave the Blazers a reality check and offered advice on how to move forward:
"They need to break the team up and start over. They can get some good pieces. They can get some draft pieces. They should have broken Lillard and McCollum up three years ago. They lost in the first round three years in a row. You lose in the first round, you ain't no good...It's time to start over."
Charles Barkley, ">NBA on TNT
"To Chuck's point. If you make it to the Conference Finals, and then you lose the first round, you're no good. It's time to break this team up...What they have been doing hasn't worked. Dame is getting older, CJ is getting older. It's time to either get rid of one of them or get rid of both of them.
Shaquille O'Neal, ">NBA on TNT
Charles and Shaq rarely agree on topics, but this is one of the rare instances in which they share the same opinion. For years Charles has been one of the biggest believers in the Blazers, often predicting they could sneakily go all the way. But even Barkley has lost faith in Portland and this group, as both Hall-of-Famers agree that blowing it up is necessary.
What's next for the Blazers?
Mediocrity is the best way to describe the Portland Trail Blazers of the past 5-10 years. Always a playoff team that has potential, but never a serious contender. We all believed Dame, along with CJ and Nurkić, could take this team all the way, but it is apparent they have hit their ceiling.
Firing long-time head coach Terry Stotts and replacing him with rookie coach Chauncey Billups hasn't resulted in a revamp of style, as you can definitely argue the Blazers even took a step back. With your core players in your 30's, you don't have time to reconstruct around them again, and this year's trade deadline could be the complete reshaping of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Dame and CJ maybe be offensive juggernauts, but their defense has been horrendous, and the main reason the Blazers struggled to leap forward. The supporting cast year in and year out has failed to step up and contribute. For years guys like Nurkić, Covington, Powell, Aminu, Harkless, Turner, Collins, Hood, Trent Jr., and more were all given a chance to complete the star duo, but none of the combinations can work.
Now it's time to rebuild. Cash in all those veterans for picks and young players, turning a new page. Although they would surely like to keep Dame, I'm pretty sure he is not down for a rebuild. This is Dame's last train to win a ring, and Portland will not be the place to do it, no matter how loyal he is. One thing is sure. We sure have tons of teams and players ready to shake it up. Get ready for some Woj and Shams bombs.