Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nate McMillan Inner Monologue—This Off-Season Feels Different*

*In no way is this actually real news.

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

I miss basketball.  I want to coach.  Wish the owners and players felt more like me.  One year contract.  Earn your keep.  Play ball.  That’s all it should be.  The CBA should read: Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Ball.

There isn’t even USA ball this summer.  Why couldn’t the World Championships or Olympics have been this year?  Those guys can play.  And I can help them.  I don’t need a break.  I need players to mold.  Players to preach Defense to.  DE-FEEENSE!

At least kids still like to play ball in the summer.  I can teach them at camp.  “Play controlled.  Play methodical.  Play with your brain, not your cajones,” I tell them.  They listen, because I’m Coach Nate.  Coach Monty agrees.  Look at how he coached the Hornets.  Like me.

 I bet my wife will let me coach at home.  I am a master of the DVR, just ask her.  Or maybe Jamelle can use some help at Drake.  God I’m proud of him.  He really is better than Klay.  As I say, “Those who can play better than everyone else teach.”  That’s my boy.

They better figure this thing out soon.  Not for revenue.  Not for viewership.  For basketball.  The best DARN basketball in the world.  Where I coach.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Blazers Trifecta—Who Should it Be?

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

When the Blazers drafted Greg Oden with the first overall pick in 2007, he was supposed to be the third and final piece in a trio the Blazers would build a championship around, joining second year players LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy.  Unfortunately, much has changed since that glorious day in June ’07.  Oden has only played in 82 games in four seasons.  Roy has gone from a perennial All-Star to man without menisci or a clear future.  And Aldridge has emerged as one of the most dominant power forwards in the NBA.  These changes leave us with an important question: Are Oden, Aldridge, and Roy the Blazers’ Big Three of the future?

From an optimist’s perspective, the original Big Three are still the future of the Blazers, with a small shift in focus from Roy to Aldridge.  Oden will return this season fully recovered from his second microfracture surgery to become the dominant center we drafted.  Roy will learn how to play Robin to Aldridge’s Batman by being more of a distributor and sharpshooter to free up the inside.  Most importantly, Aldridge will become un-guardable by developing an ambidextrous post game to compliment his silky outside touch while becoming a force on the defensive end.  Yet the number of Blazers fans who harbor this believe is likely very low at this point.

If you are not one of these optimists, what combination of three players would you build the team around?  Two criteria factor into deciding a Big Three: players who play three different positions and players who complement each other’s skillset.

Below are a few options:

Option 1:  Aldridge, Wallace, and Matthews. 
This trio is exciting with their penchant for streaking down the court, powering to the basket, and their ability to knock down a consistent jumper. 

Option 2:  Aldridge, Batum, Felton.
This trio can help spread the floor, push the pace, and potentially be deadline through the air, throwing down oop after oop.

Option 3:  Aldridge, Roy, and Wallace.
This trio can play a mix of styles, slowing it down to play an inside out, slashing offense, and it can effectively use screens to create amazing half court ball movement that works through Aldridge down low and off of Roy isolation.

Option 4:  Aldridge, Roy, Batum.
This trio is similar to Option 4 with the potential for a more spread out half court set if Batum can become the deadly 3 point shooter the Blazers hope he will become.

Option 5:  Aldridge, Oden, and Wallace.
This trio can be the most dominant threesome on both sides of the floor, clogging the middle on defense and leading the league in points in the paint and offensive rebounds on offense.

Option 6: Aldridge, Oden, and Felton.
This trip can create a powerful pick and roll offense with Felton’s ability to work off the pick while also providing stout defense.

Who do you think the trio should be?  Do you agree with any of the above options or would you build the team around a different set of three players?  Share your thoughts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remember Me: I'm Ennis Whatley?

By Joshua Sidis

This week’s throwback Blazer is Ennis Whatley.  I promise you that it is merely coincidental that for back-to-back weeks we have chosen the Portland player with the most ridiculous name.  But, I assure you this is it.  This is all the Blazers have.  We will have to wait 20 years until we can write Tanguy Ngombo’s “Remember Me.”  

Ennis (whose name rhymes with a body part, a male specific body part) was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the number 13 pick in the 1983 draft.  Would you believe me if I told you the next pick, number 14, was Clyde Drexler?  In the NBA draft that’s like a Tom Brady pick.   

Whatley bounced around the league for ten seasons playing for 9 teams including two stints with the Blazers.  His first stint was in 1992, the year the Blazers played the Bulls (his biological birth team) in the Finals.  Ennis played deep on the bench in ’92 only getting into 23 games and averaging three points when he did play.  In 1997 he signed a 10-day contract with Portland playing in 3 games before he took off to Lithuania to finish out his career.

Whatley is now an ordained minister and motivational speaker. Before we conclude, can we please rehash the fact that Clyde Drexler was taken 14th overall?!?!  Seriously. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Should the Blazers Carry Four Point Guards?

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

Armon Johnson and Patty Mills both plan on being back in Portland next year.  So do new acquisitions Raymond Felton and Nolan Smith.  This raises two important questions.  First, should the Blazers keep all four point guards on their 15 man roster?  Second, is it worth keeping all four point guards if they will likely only suit up 3 on any given night?

The practical way for the Blazers to resolve their point guard logjam is to determine which of the four players is least likely to contribute to the everyday rotation next year and moving forward.  Then, they should cut that player and use the roster spot for a veteran big man.  Unfortunately, with the lockout likely to reduce the season and eliminate the pre-season (where most evaluation takes place), the Blazers will need to gamble on the correct resolution.  Assuming Raymond Felton can be our anchor for 30-35 minutes a game, realistically the Blazers need one solid backup to play 20 minutes a game.  Assuming one backup PG breaks the rotation, like Mills did most of last season, carrying a third point guard is good insurance, but retaining a fourth guard is superfluous. 

Since the Blazers are extremely high on Smith, their first round pick, odds are Johnson and Mills will need to battle for the final spot on the roster.*  Both players have upside, passion, and an amazing attitude.  Both players are ideal teammates and enviable community leaders.  Nonetheless, the Blazers need to decide.  All four Blazers PGs are too talented to be retained if they don’t suit up with the active roster; it’s not fair to them as ballplayers or people.  It will be sad to lose any of these players, but the Blazers need to choose.

Who do you think the Blazers should keep?  Share your thoughts.

*Point of clarification: Johnson would need to be traded if the Blazers were to cut ties with him as he has a year remaining on his contract, whereas Mills is a free agent on a qualifying offer.

Monday, July 25, 2011

NBPA Can Learn from the NFLPA

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

On a day when the NFL players and owners agreed to a new CBA, the NBA should take notice.  The NFL avoided missing any part of the season, save the Hall of Fame game.  DeMaurice Smith had the best interest of his players in mind (taking out insurance to help cover their salaries if games were lost) and used that to his advantage in negotiations.  The NFL players and owners committed to a new 10 year contract.  Both sides came out with a majority of what they wanted.  And the image all will remember about the NFL’s new CBA, Jeff Saturday of the Colts embracing Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The NFL has become the most popular sport in the United States, mainly because they have not missed any games because of a strike or lockout in the last two decades like every other major sport.  This past season was a monumental one for the NBA, where interest in the league increased dramatically.  All of that positive momentum will be lost with any work stoppage.  Fans will get frustrated and turn to football or hockey.

Like the NFL, the NBA players and owners need to find a way to make a deal before any games are lost.  Currently, the two sides are so far apart that most prognosticators believe the season won’t begin until December or January.  Coming to a compromise is not impossible, it is just hard.  For the sake of the league, each side needs to spend every necessary hour it takes to get a deal done.  That’s what Robert Kraft did in his wife’s last weeks.  He showed class and character by working with the players to find a middle ground while also caring before his beloved partner.  If he can show that courage, the NBPL and NBA owners can make that effort as well.

Here’s our message to the NBA:  Find a compromise; we want the NBA back!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Dailogue about "BRoy Disappoints"

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

Today, I engaged in a wonderful dialogue on our Blazers Bloggers Network blog with "Hg" about my perspective on Brandon Roy's decision to not play in the H206 charity basketball game yesterday (link here).  Below is the transcript of our discussion.  Feel free to weigh in.

Other then the event showcasing BRoy, the rest of your analysis is somewhat of a pessimistic speculation of BRoy.

First you or anybody else can't say what is the healing time for a injury and also remember that the surgery did not fix anything, just cleaned the wound and hopefully bought him some time. Plus he is using a experimental injections of PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma), which if works, needs time to work. Just because he took part in the charity, didn't mean he had any intention of playing, I would question the people that put on the event and the advertisement first.

Second, his decision not to play because of the Dr. warning is very wise IMO. If you only have 10 games left in your body and every game you play in the NBA gives you a few million dollars and a charity game gives you nothing, would you be willing to sacrifice one of those 10 games left for charity. You might say yes, but I would doubt you, because you could pay an equal amount to charity from the salary made from the extra game and you would be doing more to honor your contract, plus giving the experimental drug a chance to work. Therefore, I would say his emotional state is just fine, except for the mental and physical pain of being permanently injured.

Although we all are disappointed in not seeing BRoy play yesterday, doesn't mean that BRoy himself is a disappointment, we were disappointed because of our greed not in the concern about BRoy's health. For that I say shame on us all.

by Hg on 7/24/2011 10:00 AM 

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. My assessment of Roy's decision to play might be a bit pessimistic, but that does not mean I am not optimistic about his potential to reinvent his game and become a positive contributor for the Blazers for years to come. Roy's knees are not going to get better, which is a sad fact. However, that does not mean he will not learn to play with what he has left in his knees.

His doctor's orders not to play makes sense. The Blazers have invested millions in him (as you suggest) and they want to preserve their investment. I guess I was just hopeful that Roy would be willing to at least put a few minutes on the court for the city that has given so much to him.

In terms of his emotional state, overtly it seems fine (as seen through his interviews with Ben Golliver and Jason Quick). Yet, I think we will learn a lot about where Roy is at mentally once camp and the season begin. I have been a cheerleader for Roy since the day we drafted him; but, I was pretty disappointed in how he handles himself in the beginning of the first round with his comments, despite his miracle game that followed the comments.

As a man, I have great respect for Brandon Roy in how we has renewed Blazermania, led an organization, and been a model community member, citizen, and family man. He was the perfect selection to turn our organization around and I would never say otherwise. I just hope his desire to be the player he once was will get in the way of his ability to be successful for years to come in a different way.

Thanks again for your comments!
by Jonathan on 7/24/2011 10:13 AM

Saturday, July 23, 2011

H206 Charity Game—BRoy Disappoints

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

A couple days ago, we posted (link here) about how much we hoped to learn about Brandon Roy’s physical and mental state by his performance in the H206 charity basketball game in Seattle’s Key Arena.  This statement by the Washington Post (link here) says it all:

“About the only disappointment on this afternoon for the 5,000 or so that showed up was the decision by Roy and Rodney Stuckey to sit out the event. Roy, who was used in the promotion of the event, said he was concerned about his surgically repaired knees and that his final doctor’s recommendation before the lockout was that he avoid playing in these type of events.”

Roy’s decision to not play in this event tells us two things.  First, even with three months of rest, Roy’s doctors still don’t feel he is healthy enough to play in a relaxed, pick-up style game with friends.  If there is concern over his knees now, what kind of shape will they be in when he has to play three nights a week?  In other words, his physical status is questionable at best.  

Second, he could have challenged his doctors to play a more reserved role in the game to give the Seattle fans a small show (which is why many attended).  Instead, he made an appearance and watched from the sidelines.  My guess is Roy didn’t want to participate unless he could be the All-Star player his fans were used to.  In other words, his mental status is questionable at best.

There is a chance his doctors actually told him not to play in any pick-up games and instead focus on training and practicing in a structured setting.  If that is the case, which I hope it is, Roy is just trying to be a practical professional who wants to avoid frivolous injuries.  Just ask Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers about injuries caused by events in which he should not have been playing.  Yet, I have a sickening feeling that this was more about Roy and less about his doctors.

Let’s hope BRoy has a changed mentality by the time the season comes, be it October or January.  We need him, a transformed him, to be a great team.

Friday, July 22, 2011

David Kahn’s Confused Identity

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

As Blazer’s Edge recently reported (link here), Minnesota GM David Kahn, a native Portlander and former attendee of B’Nai Brith Camp in Neotsu, OR, will interview Rick Adelman for the Wolves’ vacant head coaching position.  Kahn, who retains a residence in SW Portland, appears to struggle with separation anxiety from Portland (which likely started after his departure from The Oregonian in the late 1980s) by seeking any possible head coach candidate with Blazers ties.

Adelman will be the third candidate to interview with a Blazers connection, following PG extraordinaire and current Blazers analyst Terry Porter and current Blazers Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff, who interviews today.   Word is Kahn was indoctrinated at a young age to believe the Portland Trail Blazers are the solution to every problem.  He was told, if you have an unsolvable situation, turn to the Blazers, be it on television, through their kickass sports writers (which he was), or more powerful than anything, to absorb the heart, magic, and passion that goes along with meeting or working with a real life actual Blazers player or coach.  To Kahn, the Blazers brought, and he hopes will continue to bring, inner warmth and light into his life.

In an effort to cover up his true hiring intentions, Kahn is placating owner Glen Taylor and Wolves fans by interviewing Mike Woodson (who will end up a Piston) and Nellie, who could help the team score a lot of points while retaining its spot as a bottom feeder of the Western Conference.

Adelman is too good to take the job at Minnesota, but the power of Love might be enough to attract him, which is exactly Kahn’s plan.  In Kahn’s eyes, a player and coach Portland connection can bring a championship to the Twin Cities.