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Posts Tagged ‘Nate McMillan’

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….

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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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Jazz Trail Blazers BasketballMartell Webster will be back before too long, and with him returns a number of questions. But one trumps the rest:

Who gets the minutes at small forward?

I got into this a little bit today at HOOPSWORLD touching on the changes Portland will go through once Martell is ready to play – which doesn’t seem too far away from the sound of it. Basically there are four factors involving how the Blazers will adjust to Webster’s return….

The Nicolas Batum Factor: This kid can play and we’ve all seen how his game has changed from summer league to now during the regular season. I’ll be the first to admit, Batum didn’t show me much in Las Vegas. But these last sixteen games (and counting), Batum is easily the “feel good story” of the Blazers season thus far and I am constantly in awe at what he can do on both ends of the floor. I’ll spare you the highlight reel discussion about his ability to get into the paint, play defense, run the floor, shoot the three and simply scrap for a loose ball. It doesn’t matter how Nate McMillan does it. He just has to find time for this kid to play. Will that mean continuing to start?  

The Channing Frye Factor: No one is going to confuse Channing with having a power game in the paint. Even at 6-11, that’s not his style. Never has been. Hitting a fifteen foot jumper each time out is. He plays the pick-and-pop perfectly and it’s no wonder assistant coach Monty Williams told me Frye is one of the best shooting big men in the game today. Channing’s extending that range to include the deep three and it came to life against Miami on Wednesday (2-3). Yes, Frye’s rebounding and pure aggressiveness needs to improve, but it’s hard to complain when he’s hitting that outside shot. He’ll simply have to learn to produce the same (or more) with less time.

The Travis Outlaw Factor: Outlaw isn’t a starter and that’s not a bad thing. He is at home in the second unit, and while the small forward spot has his name written all over it, watching him play the four should be an adventure. That appears McMillan’s plan. Listed at 6-9 and a generous 207 lbs., Travis isn’t going to muscle anyone around and his defense is suspect. But with his length and energy, he’ll give guys fits. We saw it last year in some cases – against Denver’s Kenyon Martin comes to mind – and we will see how revisiting Travis at power forward works out. The minutes will be there.

The Nate McMillan Factor: Nate’s going to play the match-up game in juggling Webster, Batum, Outlaw and Frye. Without naming names, he’s already said as much. He’s done that so far this year with rotating Batum and Outlaw out for each other – although Travis has received more run than Nicolas. Just like anything else this season though – adjusting to life without Martell and even Greg Oden for six games for example – McMillan’s planning to work with what he has. Right now, he has a whole lot of guys he could plug in at various spots at any given time and that will only increase once Webster gets back. Not a bad problem for any coach to have.

pic via: daylife

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Trail Blazers Timberwolves BasketballNate McMillan is having a hard time breathing these days.

Nate’s caught that nasty winter bug that’s been going around (I can relate) and was popping throat lozenges like a madman before the game. I’m not sure if he’s breathing any easier after watching the Sacramento Kings – the injury riddled and five-whole-wins Sacramento Kings – come into Portland’s house and basically push them around.

On a night when the Chicago Bulls used a last second shot from Larry Hughes to beat Utah – at Utah – the Blazers could have been the second upset of the night.

They dodged a Sac-town bullet.

Greg Oden didn’t dazzle, even though Brandon Roy certainly did. Yet if McMillan was handing out game balls afterwards, the one and only should have gone to Joel Przybilla. Peep the statline: 10 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks in roughly 28 minutes. Oden may have got the start, but Przybilla finished and he finished strong.

As one faithful reader commented to me last week, “it’s like having a set-up man and closer in baseball.”

We know who was who versus the Kings.

It’s hard to argue with McMillan’s decision to start Oden. As he said before Portland hosted Sacramento, “he wasn’t going to come off the bench the whole season.” Maybe so. But on Monday night at the Rose Garden, Przybilla gave McMillan every reason to keep Greg on the bench and his playing time to a minimum.

That’s just Joel being Joel.

Guess you could say he was a breath of fresh air.

pic via: daylife.

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reggie_main_topI highly doubt Reggie Theus is on Facebook. But if he were, it’s likely his status update would read: Reggie Theus is feeling the pressure….

As the Sacramento Kings prepare to take on Portland Monday night at the Rose Garden, it’s hard not to think about Theus being on the hot seat. In only his second season in Sacramento, Theus has been the topic of conversation about his pending future with the Kings. Most recently co-owner Joe Maloof took to the air-waves openly questioning the poor start to the season. The Sacramento Bee’s own Sam Amick then followed-up with General Manager Geoff Petrie who confessed “it’s just way too early to make a fair assessment of what we have here.”

So when is the right time then? At what point in the season do the Kings assess Theus’ job, knowing his departure could be the result?

Regardless of the time, two seasons – or one season and 15 games – is far too soon to expect greatness from a head coach, particularly for a team hobbled by injuries (Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Mikki Moore) and relying on a couple vets and some novices. Theus earned 38 wins last season – his first with the Kings. Now at 5-10, Sacramento may have a tough time improving or drawing close to that number. But does that mean Theus should go?

Gregg Popovich only won 17 games his first year in San Antonio. We all know what he’s been able to do capturing four rings since.

Mike D’Antoni only mustered 21 wins taking over the Phoenix Suns in 2003-04. We all know he made the Suns go in 7 seconds or less for five years.

Heck, even Nate McMillan won 21 games his first season in Portland. Last year the Blazers ended the season at .500, and this year they have a chance to win nearly 50 games and perhaps make the postseason. Could you imagine if McMillan had been let go two years in?

These things take time. Ask P.J. Carlesimo about that. Rebuilding can’t be rushed. In Theus’ case, two seasons may not be enough to put a franchise like Sacramento back on the track to success. Then again, it appears ownership and upper management are at odds on his evaluation as Theus’ hot-seat heats up. 

Reggie’s in a tough spot.

pic via: nbapa.com

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Trail Blazers Heat BasketballNate McMillan likes his veterans. Kevin Pritchard likes his veterans. Steve Blake is likeable. So is Joel Pryzbilla. But does that mean Portland wouldn’t love benefiting from another veteran on the roster?

The thought crossed my mind while I was writing a “Free Agents For Hire” piece for HOOPSWORLD that is running today. And while the list of free agents – veterans of course – may not exactly fit Portland’s culture (although guys like Antonio McDyess, Lindsey Hunter and P.J. Brown are as solid as they come), I can’t help but think about a phrase McMillan tended to repeat at the end of last season.

He said then the Blazers could use more experience. At least that was his stance heading into the offseason.

All Portland did during the summer was get younger.

I’m not saying James Jones (now with Miami and on the shelf with a jacked-up wrist) was the end-all-be-all. He had to go to turn the job over to guys like Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw. But you have to agree Jones had a knack for corner three-pointers, providing on-court leadership in limited time and being light-hearted in the locker room.

Jones is just an example. He’s what you’d want in a veteran.

The trouble is where do you put another player? Minor details. Let’s answer the first question before we move on to the nitty-gritty….does Portland need another veteran?

 pic via: oregonlive

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