Blog Entry

Blazers 'not responding' to coach Nate McMillan

Posted on: December 5, 2010 4:56 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:16 pm
Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan admits his team is "not responding" to him during its current six-game losing streak. Posted by Ben Golliver nate-mcmillan The Portland Trail Blazers enter Sunday night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers riding a six-game losing streak, their longest such streak since 2005-2006, when the team won just 21 games. Following the sixth straight defeat, a road loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday night, Blazers coach Nate McMillan admitted to The Oregonian that he is having trouble reaching his team.
"Evidently, they're not responding to me, because all these games look similar," McMillan said. "So I asked them: 'Is it clear what we're asking you to do?'"
His words were met with blank states and silence. "They didn't say anything," McMillan said. "The thing is, they didn't have to say anything. I think the games show that. We're not getting it done." 
Dwight Jaynes, a Portland-based television and radio host, blogged that the comments, plus the team's lack of effort, signal that McMillan's time in Portland may be running out.
And while I watched the Trail Blazers’ pathetic effort Friday night in Washington against the Wizards, it crossed my mind what I’ve written here previously — are the Blazer players trying to get their coach fired? It sure looks like it. 
Sometimes, players just tire of hearing the same messages from their coach. At some unconscious (usually) level, they work toward an outcome that they’d like to see — the departure of their coach. It certainly looks as if the Blazers, on some level, have chosen this course. 
There's no question the Blazers are playing lackluster, defeated basketball, losing game after game with second-half collapses, playing without inspiration and purpose. Any time that happens, the coach finds himself on the hot seat. It's worth noting that Portland's losing streak coincides almost exactly with the team's announcement that center Greg Oden would miss the entire 2010-2011 season with microfracture surgery. The Blazers are 1-6 since the Nov. 17 press conference announcing the decision to undergo surgery. Prior to the news, the team was 7-5.  If there was a concerning element to training camp this year, in hindsight, it was an overall attitude that can best be summarized as, "We just need to hang on until Oden gets back." Rather than truly confronting life without Oden, players, coaches, management, media and fans alike used his absence and expected return as a mental crutch. That was reflected in indifferent play during the preseason, a failure to consider the ramifications of playing LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby heavy, heavy minutes, the salary dump of rotation spark plug Jerryd Bayless and the team's decision to make due with fourth-rate backup centers after second-year big man Jeff Pendergraph went down with injury.  Whereas last year's Blazers rallied together in Oden's absence, greeting Camby's arrival via trade with huge enthusiasm that propelled the team into the playoffs down the stretch, this year's team has received the news of his absence with hopelessness and a wary eye towards the rest of a lengthy schedule. All star guard Brandon Roy's balky knee and inefficient play only reinforces that glass-is-half-empty mentality, because the guy who could always be counted on to bail the team out simply cannot produce as he was once capable. Which brings us back to the question of McMillan and his future. One factor lost in this discussion so far has been McMillan's long-term motivation to stay in Portland. His greatest skills as a coach, so far, have been motivating his players and designing an offensive system that takes advantage of his star player's abilities. With an older, already-paid roster and a not-what-he-used-to-be Roy, McMillan's skills are much less useful and effective in Portland than they used to be. Surely, he knows that better than anyone, and you have to wonder whether that will impact his desire to stay in Portland should he survive the season without being fired. He's coveted around the league for his ties to Team USA and his ability to relate to star players and bench guys alike. There might not be jobs that pay him more than Blazers owner Paul Allen does, but there will almost assuredly be better fits for his talents. The problem for Portland is that there is no readily available, quality alternative to McMillan in the short term. McMillan's best assistant coach last season, Monty Williams, left to serve as the head coach of the New Orleans Hornets. His most promising assistant this year, Kaleb Canales, is still too young to take the reins as a head coach. The thought of bland NBA lifers like Bernie Bickerstaff and Bob Ociepka taking over on an interim basis is so depressing that we'll just pretend it's not even being considered. And there is no obvious candidate on the basketball operations staff to step in down the stretch like former general manager Kevin Pritchard did.  Somewhat sadly, the most qualified replacement candidate currently affiliated with the organization is Terry Porter, who is currently serving as the team's sideline reporter (yes, seriously). History has proven that, apples to apples, McMillan, despite his flaws as an in-game tactician, mediocre defensive results and griding pace, is a superior coach to Porter.  The worst thing the Blazers could do in this situation is make an emotional decision regarding their coaching spot in response to the losing. Reality is setting in and expectations are being lowered by the fanbase, which is completely aware of what is happening. A coaching change without a roster change is not likely to inspire any hope for the fans, except for a contingent that has wanted McMillan gone all along because his style is boring. It might provide a momentary bump for the players, but they'll still be looking around the locker room at the same group of teammates that have no answers themselves. In other words, a new voice could help, but it's not going to save this Oden-less season, not even close. Whether McMillan stays or goes, then, simply isn't that important of a question right now, given all of the surrounding circumstances. Therefore, he should be allowed to stick around, as long as he is able to keep the Blazers from embarrassing themselves.   Once the season is completed, though, all bets are off, for both sides. 

Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: December 6, 2010 2:48 am

Blazers 'not responding' to coach Nate McMillan

Good article and great reply.  As A Spurs fan for 20 years BatumFTW I understand your interest in using sports to give you that uplifted feeling, that sense of joy and escape.  The ownership group has done an excellent job of turning this team from the "jailblazers" into a respectable group of guys. It seemed as if this team had turned the corner over the las few years with seemingly young athletic guards and big men.  The Oden injury killed the spirit of this team and the community must be left to wonder what could have been if Durant was playing for the Blazers or if Oden would have remained healthy. Sorry i don't think Mike Bud will be leaving the Spurs as he is a "POP" clone and is the man in waiting in San Antonio. We have a good group of young players as well as out second unit is made up of first and second year players, ready to take over for the "big three".  I wish your team the best and here is hoping they rebound, but I am not sure firing Macmillan is the answer.  The problem is his comments have shined a big light on his locker room and on HIMSELF!

Since: Oct 4, 2010
Posted on: December 5, 2010 5:54 pm

Blazers 'not responding' to coach Nate McMillan

Good article Ben!!

How old is Kaleb? Why does he have to be dismissed as interim coach just because of his age?????Seriously. Is there a law about how old head INTERIM coaches must be?He would be better than Terry Porter. 
Do you think there is any way that guy Mike Budenholzer POSSIBLY be tempted to coach here? Man that would be great. 
The Blazers need to make some sort of trade.Seems like they are pretty hosed right about now.
Maybe they can talk Brandon into MF surgery. Then make sure the rest of the team gets to work together and LEARN. Get Babbitt out there and make sure Batum and Matthews, Rudy...all the rest of the guys who have games that can develop..get the opportunity to do this.
I have season tickets and they cost me quite a bit of my annual salary. I bought them as I wanted to get involved with a part of life that can be uplifting. Have pretty much had it with world, business news. I've finally learned what men find so interesting about watching sports. It can truly take my mind off of anything else. While watching the Blazers that is all I am thinking about. It's almost like meditating.
So...have to say this season is kind of becoming like the world/business news...depressing!!! Mostly because I don't see any way OUT.The Blazers are straddled with Brandon's contract for one thing. And for some reason, they seem to HAVE to play the way they have been playing when Brandon was playing without painful knees. It's like they continue to be in denial. 
So maybe it wouldn't be all bad to let McMillan move on. He doesn't seem to be able to change the game plan....let Brandon come off of the bench...let the HEALTHY players learn to play together....
Also it would be great if the Blazers could somehow get some players like Iguadala and even Gilbert Arenas. Have heard Gilbert can be quite the comedian in the locker room for one thing...not something that would be all bad for them at this point. And about Juwann Howard? Wouldn't it be nice to get him back in Portland? As a player/coach. That would be great.
I think that if Nate stays there is just as much reason to believe the Blazers will be embarrassed this year. Especially if he continues to play as if NOTHING HAS CHANGED, when clearly something HAS.  

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