TUALATIN, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers haven't been at home, in their own expansive Oregon practice facility, since January 28.
A six-game road trip preceded the NBA's annual All-Star break. So as soon as the team returned from its mini-mid-season vacation, Coach Terry Stotts called for a 5 p.m. practice on Monday.
"I tried to relax," the coach said of the All-Star break, "but there were certainly thoughts in my head." Thoughts of a five-game losing skid, and playing five of the next six games at home.
"I think we all know how important tomorrow night is," LaMarcus Aldridge said of Tuesday's game against the Phoenix Suns. "I think we all know how important this stretch is."
Aldridge joined Blazers teammate Damian Lillard for the All-Star weekend, and the two saw very little of their beds during the break.
"My body is fine," said Lillard, "I just need to go to bed! It's meetings, and appearances, and interviews the whole time. So I never really got a break from it."
Aldridge tried to prepare him for that. "You literally don't ever stop moving around until you leave," the now-two-time All-Star added.
Lillard was busy playing in Friday's BBVA Rising Stars Challenge game, and then added to his Houston haul by winning Saturday's Skills Competition. "It was an honor to be a part of it," he said. "Winning it was big."
Now winning a bunch of these home game would be even bigger.
"We lost our edge a little bit," Stotts said of his team during the five-game slide. "We need to get back to doing what we do, and that's compete."
Lillard thinks the time away will do the team some good. "I don't even feel like we're on a losing streak," he said, "since we got away for a while."
From All-Star break to reality break; they need to end the streak Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns, or their playoffs dreams could flicker even before March blows into town.
What to look for:
- Wesley Matthews did not practice, as he is still nursing a sore ankle after rolling it last Wednesday in New Orleans. He will be a game time decision.
- The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, and J.J. Hickson continues to be the one player rumored in almost every trade scenario. He is very popular among the leagues contending teams, but he also has a no trade clause in his contract. Will that prevent General Manager Neil Olshey from trying to move him? Stay tuned...