The Portland Trailblazers have had a rough season. Expected to take the next step into championship contender status, they’ve instead suffered injuries to several key players and have had to deal with chemistry issues surrounding new acquisition Andre Miller.
There haven’t been too many moments where Blazers fans have been given the same type of hope they received last year, when their upstart team won 54 games. Last night, though, Jerryd Bayless provided that hope.
SB Nation’s Blazers blog, Blazers Edge, was on media row and described the scene.
It felt like this might change everything. This young, brash, determined, explosive point guard might just make every bad thing that’s happened over the last six months go away. The injuries. The chemistry issues. Inconsistency from key contributors. A less-efficient-than-necessary Brandon Roy struggling at times to carry the burden of an entire team. Jerryd Bayless promised hope and he delivered it, propelling his Blazers to a nationally-televised 105-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns in Portland Thursday night.
The magnitude of Bayless’s raw skills and his in-the-moment hot-shooting brought the entire Rose Garden crowd — including Blazers management — to its feet during a dramatic come-from-behind fourth quarter run. The seats remained empty as Bayless poured in bucket after bucket on his way to a career-high 29 points, with 16 coming in a fourth quarter that saw the Blazers erase a double-digit Suns lead. He sank free throws down the stretch (9 of 12 overall), added 4 assists and just 2 turnovers in 29 minutes.
During the game Bayless was flexing, talking junk to Suns coach Alvin Gentry, letting people know. After the game, after everyone already knew, after Steve Nash’s potential game-tying three missed its mark, Bayless smiled through an I-told-you-so happiness bubble. He chuckled at the space Jared Dudley had given him that allowed back-to-back three pointers in front of the Suns bench and he caught himself before he said something that he might later regret.
What if performances like these become more common for Bayless? How does that affect team chemistry? Blazers Edge speculates:
It’s not just the fans and Bayless himself who now feel the brunt of this potential change. It’s Brandon Roy (27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists), who Bayless said had talked to him about developing into a Mo Williams-type secondary scoring threat. It’s Coach Nate McMillan, who couldn’t stop praising Bayless after the game in one breath and then moments later seemed shocked at the idea Bayless might move up in the rotation. It’s Steve Blake (12 points, 2 assists) who has rediscovered his shooting stroke — in part thanks to passes from Bayless — who is now dealing with a reality that Bayless knows well: every missed shot, every turnover could bring the hook.
But, more than anyone else, it’s Andre Miller, who just watched a younger, hungrier, more-physically-gifted player do everything that Miller himself was brought to Portland to do: complement Brandon Roy, relieve Brandon Roy, protect the basketball, get to the foul line, increase the tempo, move the ball. Many fans noticed Miller rushing off the court after the game. He was frantically looking for his playing time.
Good problems to have, sure, but it’s still interesting that a player like Bayless emerging potentially creates negative repercussions.