Posts Tagged ‘Nate McMillan’


I should be 10 dollars richer by now. “5 bucks the Blazers drop this one,” my text flashed to two other Portland media row writers about three minutes into the Blazers versus the Philadelphia 76ers game.

No takers.

We all agreed Portland had plenty of chances to win though. Even after the overtime results, no one could have predicted that kind of ending.

Chances are if you missed the game, then you have plenty in common with Steve Javie’s officiating crew.

But before I get into it here, just know this young Blazers team has to expect anything and everything on their way to the playoffs – even poor officiating.

It may be about as close to the “Montreal Screwjob” as you’re going to get – a bevy of close calls and near falls until the shaft in a matter of seconds. That’s one train of thought. Still, I’m not willing to bet – despite my earlier $5 gamble – that Portland can put this loss entirely on Javie, Leon Wood and Mark Lindsay.

You can easily go there. You can blame the refs. Plenty of blogs and chatrooms full of Blazers die hards on Tuesday morning will. Or you can assume these kinds of growing pains to casually occur over the next couple of months, perhaps not to this extent. If the Blazers are making postseason plans – and I believe we can all agree they are – then shoddy officiating is going to happen as often as a team going 10-34 from behind the three-point line.

Nate McMillan put it perfectly.

“Either they missed some calls or they are getting ready for playoff basketball.”

McMillan’s beginning of the quote is accurate enough. But if officials are really beginning to get into the postseason mood here in late March, Portland should too.


The Latest: In the comings days I’ll be plugging this post from Monday every now and again. It’s a chance to gather some reader feedback for the upcoming re-launch of Beyond The Beat. Details inside….

piv via: daylife

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Spring training got under way this week, and that can only mean one thing: the return of Ken Griffey, Jr. to the Seattle Mariners. And while Nate McMillan is busy preparing the Portland Trail Blazers for a postseason push, “Mr. Sonic” knows all about “The Kid”.

“I’m happy to see him go back to Seattle,” McMillan said of Griffey.

Junior was an instant fan favorite from his days as a 19-year-old rookie until his departure from Seattle after the 1999 season – leaving the then Sonics guard to keep tabs on Griffey and the Mariners.

“He was huge – him and (Jay) Buhner – we all came around that time, but my son (Jamelle) was a huge fan of his and he had the opportunity to go in the locker room and meet those guys. Griffey was the man – a great player. Things changed for the Mariners when he left. But they had some great runs with him and Randy (Johnson) and guys that were there in the early 90’s.”

But despite not making it to a playoff game in ’95 when the Mariners upset the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, McMillan said he “became a huge Mariners fan”, something many will likely do with Griffey back in town after a ten year absence.

“Hopefully he has something left,” added McMillan, knowing the city of Seattle would benefit from a Mariners resurgence.

“He’s just been quiet since he left Seattle and hasn’t had that – he’s been injured since he’s been gone and I know he went back home – but hopefully he has something left to bring back. When he left, I think a lot of people wondered when he retired, would they retire his jersey as a Mariner.

“Now he gets to come back. I think that is good.”

pic via: full count pitch

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Gone Mental….


The NBA All-Star weekend is nearly upon us, but I’m getting the feeling the Portland Trail Blazers – with still two more games before the break against Oklahoma City and Golden State – have taken their leave a bit early.

Mentally, they are already on vacation.

If Sunday’s near loss to the New York Knicks said anything, it said that. In fact, that truth was spoken last Friday night in Oklahoma City. Loud and clear.

This is in no way taking away from the shocking comeback win and late game heroics of Brandon Roy. Amazing wears number seven. This much we know. Guess Jared Jeffries ignored the scouting report about Roy’s trademark sweet lefthand scoop to the hoop– even if Jeffries did get caught on a switch.

But as I got into after the game during a postgame HOOPSWORLD blog entry, the Blazers nearly gave that one away….a few times.

I know Nate McMillan said afterwards he’ll take the win. But there is no way he takes blowing a 17 point lead, turning the ball over 14 times and letting the Knicks basically run amuck in the second half.

You can’t take that, not when the real season starts after the All-Star break.

Portland can’t afford the same costly mental lapses during the second half of the season.

pic via: o-live

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basnowI’m not sure when it hit me. Could have been when I was digging around the snow drift to my car. Or maybe as I was chaining up, eager to break the family bout of cabin fever with a trip to Target. Then I got the text message– that’s when I knew.

The show must go on.

“The Trail Blazers have boarded a bus enroute to Eugene where they will fly out later this afternoon for their Monday night game at Denver.”

It’s come to this.

Just what Nate McMillan and his team need: more snow, complete with elevation. But after a nice full week – and even fuller weekend of the fluffy stuff  in Portland – it was time to get back to work. I’m sure the last thing McMillan and especially Brandon Roy wanted to do was move on from his 52-point performance against the Phoenix Suns and the “M-V-P” chants echoing from last Thursday at the Rose Garden.

There are no rain outs – or snow outs in this case – in the NBA. The show must go on. That goes for Portland, who has to play Denver on Monday before traveling back to Portland to play the Nuggets on Tuesday, and that goes for me too.

I’ve got my own agenda to keep.

Family is coming to town for the holiday, where a gripping adventure to Central Oregon waits. But not before my wife and I head to the hospital in the morning to see if we’re having a little boy or little girl come May. Either way I’ll be teaching the pick-and-roll at some point in the next 10 years….


Shameless plug: What is a guy to do when he’s surrounded by ten inches of snow outside and a continuous loop of “Finding Nemo” inside?

After a few emails on Friday and Saturday from a person close to the Indiana Pacers, it became clear Jamaal Tinsley is in for a long season. It’s a topic I launched into – “Will Tinsley Play Again?” at HOOPSWORLD – knowing there’s a chance Tinsley will be back on the court, just not any time soon.

In staying with the “point guard” theme….the Phoenix Suns are holding a workout Monday to fill a roster spot to find a suitable back-up point guard (“New Point Guard For Suns?”), with six free agents vying for the job. A quick teaser…..two former Blazers round out the participants.

pic via: hidden-london

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brownIt was a shady situation. After a year selling used cars in my early twenties, my sales numbers slipped. And in the car biz you are only as good as your last deal. So I was “let go”; fired; given my walking papers. But in the NBA it’s different. Guys get “waived” all the time for countless reasons.

I dove into some of those reasons –without getting too soaked in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) – today over at HOOPSWORLD with “The Way Of The Waive”.

It’s a tricky business pro basketball. That’s true if you are covering it, and even more so if you are actually participating in the business. And let’s not forget it is a business at the end of the day.

Let’s look at this in a Portland Trail Blazers light….total hypothetical situation here.  

Say Shavlik Randolph is waived at some point this season. Sorry Shavlik. You were the first guy that came to mind. For Kevin Pritchard or Nate McMillan to have that talk with Randolph is probably about us fun as going to the dentist. But for Shavlik, it’s almost like getting your wisdom teeth yanked out without any Novocain.

Chances are you’d feel bad for Shavlik. No one wants to see a guy get waived; to see a guy lose his job. That’s one side of the story though. The other has to do with bringing in a guy that essentially helped usher out the 15th man but will actually help your club immediately.

Does it cushion the blow any if Portland were to bring in an available free agent like Robert Horry or P.J. Brown – you know a veteran who can add some swagger or muscle – to help round out the roster?

That’s one of those tricky parts about the NBA.

Just thinking out loud here….

pic via: wordpress blog

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howardGreg Oden as Dwight Howard: Nate McMillan went there before.Will he go there again?

After spending the past three summers with Howard on Team USA, McMillan knows Dwight’s game intimately. But can Oden transform himself into that kind of player?

Last year when Orlando rolled into town, McMillan said he (and the organization) envisioned Oden being Dwight Howard-like once healthy and back on the court. The size. The body. It was easy at that time to see the comparison. But now I’m not so sure McMillan ventures that theory. Maybe he does.

I’m sure at least one writer will go there with the Magic rolling into the Rose Garden on Tuesday night.

So is it farfetched?

Let’s forget how Dwight can run the floor, while Oden is pulling the plow right now. He’s kind of a plodder. I’m starting to think that’s just Oden’s style. You know, kind of like how Sam Perkins – “Big Smooth” himself who played for the Mavericks, Lakers, Sonics and Pacers – always looked like he was half-asleep.

Instead, let’s take a look at Howard’s numbers from his first year in the league to see if Oden can get there…..

In 2004-05, Howard started all 82 games for Orlando. He finished the season averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 32.6 minutes per game. Howard also finished third in Rookie of the Year balloting behind Charlotte’s Omeka Okafor and Chicago’s Ben Gordon.

So far this season, Oden has appeared in 16 games and is averaging 7.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and roughly 22 minutes per game. Where is he among the leagues top rookies? First? Second? Is he even the best rookie on the Blazers, let alone the league?

For a rookie season comparison, the numbers between Dwight and Greg aren’t that drastically different. Now whether Oden can follow in Howard’s impressive footsteps and accomplish similar feats that Dwight has achieved in his brief career remains to be seen.

pic via: orthopreneur

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nateThe Seattle SuperSonics versus the Chicago Bulls, 1996 NBA Finals. Those VCR tapes of the games I recorded were played out. My poor Quasar begged for mercy. Must have watched them weekly during the following offseason, with a gimpy Nate McMillan giving Seattle an emotional lift in Game 4 with a Sonics win.

All these years later – and now having covered Nate the past two seasons here in Portland – it’s still amazing the kind of defensive commitment he embodied throughout his entire career. We spoke about it briefly as I picked McMillan’s brain about Portland’s own defensive make-up this season.

You can head over to HOOPSWORLD for that full story – “New ‘Mindset’ In Portland” – which is running now.

Anytime the Denver Nuggets come to town, it’s worth grabbing a minute or two with George Karl – who coached Nate in those days – for a good McMillan story alone. Heck, even guys who played sparingly with McMillan still rave about what he was able to do on the floor.

Take Jerry “Ice” Reynolds for example. Talk about a blast from the past. “Ice” spent eight seasons in the NBA as a 6-8 swingman and still remembers fondly his lone season in Seattle (1988-89) playing alongside a then 24-year-old McMillan.

“He was always into the game both mentally and physically,” Reynolds, who now coaches the Jersey Express in the ABA, told me recently.

“I can remember Nate not being a great shooter, but never hesitating to shoot a big shot down the stretch of a game. He was as confident in himself as any player I’ve played with or against.”

What Reynolds said holds a lot of weight. It says a lot about how the Blazers are ran today under McMillan.

You always hear from coaches – Larry Brown loves to use the phrase – about players who “play the right way.” Nate fit the bill as a player. Even as a coach McMillan employs that tagline every now and again as he wants his guys to “play the right way.” I’m thinking if McMillan could have, he would have suited-up in Toronto on Sunday against the Raptors. He was that into the game. It’s only fitting then for the sum of this season – with Portland sitting right behind the Los Angeles Lakers atop the West – that Nate McMillan has “coached the right way.”

Man, I wish I had those VCR tapes now.

pic via: seattletimes.com

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Bulls Trail Blazers BasketballChange is a good thing. And on Sunday afternoon in Toronto the Portland Trail Blazers will begin to dabble in some minor alterations. Not only is Martell Webster suiting-up for the first time this season, but his return to action also creates a ripple effect throughout the rest of the roster.

I addressed this recently at HOOPSWORLD but failed to include someone in the “Webster returns” equation: Ike Diogu.

Diogu has barely sniffed the floor this season. Actually, I think you and I have played more minutes than Ike so far this year. Yet with Webster getting reacclimated with minutes here and there– briefly now and logically a lot later – perhaps this is the time for a change in whom – along with Travis Outlaw – helps back up LaMarcus Aldridge. Maybe it’s time to get Diogu in the fold before long?

Think about it.

Portland has missed a rugged bruising forward since the days of Brian Grant. Channing Frye isn’t going to provide that presence anytime soon, and since it appears he’ll have his minutes cut the most with Webster back, why not see what Diogu can give you with more than mop-up minutes?

I can hear Nate McMillan now: it depends on the match-up. Well, why not create a mismatch? Let the other coach adjust. At 6-9 and 250 pounds, all Ike would be expected to do is rebound and bang – you know, add a little toughness down low; an attribute many surely agree would be a welcomed change and shouldn’t be only expected of Joel Przybilla.

Change is a good thing.

Update: Apparently Nate has other plans….Diogu was placed on the inactive list to make room for Martell.

pic via: nbanoise

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odenWhile Nate McMillan was busy giving referee Joe DeRosa the business, his young Blazers were two minutes away from another growth spurt.

On a night that saw Brandon Roy’s late game heroics continue, Greg Oden flash promise and Portland take care of the Washington Wizards on the end of a back-to-back, it’s clear the second youngest team in the league is coming of age during this East coast swing that has seen the Blazers win three in a row and six-straight games.

Roy has the uncanny ability to will his team to victory, proof positive by a 22 point outing. But Oden showed and proved; he finally gave McMillan a reason to keep him in the game late in the fourth quarter, where usually he’s been relegated to the bench down the stretch. That’s been Joel Przybilla’s job. Well, on Wednesday night in Washington, Oden received a little on the job training. He showed he belonged.

Each game out Greg will grow. Some nights slow (New York). Some nights fast (Washington).

It’s almost as if he shed his security blanket at one point in the game.

When Przybilla went down and out (briefly) with a sprained left ankle, Oden had no choice but to earn his keep. Maybe somewhere in the back of Greg’s mind he finds comfort knowing Joel is all-everything defensively in the middle for Portland. Then again, maybe he saw an opportunity present itself and decided to take full advantage. A double-double later (13 points and 10 rebounds), Oden basically gave everyone the “Gas Face” – 3rd Base style.

Kick ‘em in the grill Greg….


Quick plug for a HOOPSWORLD feature on Jerryd Bayless, from Alex Raskin – who along with Tommy Beer – covers the New York Knicks and grabbed time with the Blazers rookie while in New York. It hasn’t been an ideal situation for Bayless but he’s making the best of it….

pic via: o-live

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muss21Two years is a long time to be out of work. That’s one of the first things that crossed my mind as I pitched a story to my editor recently about Eric Musselman, the former head coach of the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

The story was quickly approved. The interview was pretty interesting on many levels. And the feature on Musselman is running today over at HOOPSWORLD. It provides a quick glimpse of a coach itching to get back on the sidelines after a 24 month (and counting) hiatus and what unemployment entails in such a career field.

The truth is I hope “Muss” finds what he is looking for – in coaching and in life. The best awaits in both I’m sure.

You can follow his story here….complete with the latest from the world of coaching.

Of course it’s only fitting we talked some Blazers, particularly with the legacy his late dad Bill Musselman left in Portland as a member of Mike Dunleavy’s coaching staff in 2000.

It was Bill’s last stop on a truly amazing coaching journey that spanned 37 years.

While Eric couldn’t remember his career-record against Portland, he was quick to call Nate McMillan one of the “most underrated coaches in the NBA.” When asked how he would coach against Portland, Musselman talked about trying to contain Brandon Roy – a scheme Musselman said was easier said than done. There are 29 head coaches in the NBA that surely agree with him.

We talked about Greg Oden some, but Musselman came correct. Said he hadn’t seen enough of him to really say much. Said he did know it would take time to get his conditioning and learn the pace of the NBA though. Adjusting to the game mentally and the heavy expectations, is something Musselman believes will “take the most patience.”

What impressed Musselman more than McMillan, Roy, and G.O. was the overall character and direction of the team. And now with Portland at 12-6, it’s hard to argue with the man.

pic via: AP



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