Tag:Nate McMillan
Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:27 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 3:38 am
 

Chad Buchanan takes acting GM reins for Blazers

Posted by Ben Golliver. chad-buchanan

PORTLAND, Ore. --  So, who’s next?

The Portland Trail Blazers have fired three talented executives in a little more than a year, canning assistant GM Tom Penn, former GM Kevin Pritchard and Pritchard’s replacement, Rich Cho.

Despite that carnage, the basketball operations staff still has plenty of pieces thanks to a unique group dynamic that features two assistant GMs – Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry, hired by Cho -- and two directors of scouting – Chad Buchanan and Mike Born, installed into their positions by Pritchard. Blazers coach Nate McMillan and president Larry Miller also contribute to basketball decisions, as does owner Paul Allen, who has rightfully earned a reputation for meddling.

With all of those cooks in the kitchen, determining a chain of command can be tricky, if not fruitless. However, the Blazers did announce one official organizational move other than Cho’s firing on Monday by designating Buchanan as Acting GM in Cho’s absence.

“I’ve never really set a GM position or anything like that as a goal,” the typically aww-shucks Buchanan told CBSSports.com on Monday night from Minnesota, where he’s scouting in advance of the NBA Draft. "Whatever is on my plate, I’ll put my full effort into it. I didn’t set out to want to become a GM when I was hired by the Blazers. I just wanted to win a championship. That has not changed.”

Despite all the drama and internal political nightmares, Buchanan, 38, is as fresh-faced as he was seven years ago when he first joined the Blazers. After playing two sports at Simpson College, in Iowa, he began working his way up through the scouting and coaching ranks, including stops in the ABA and at Drake University.

The task facing Buchanan is a large one. McMillan has made it known he expects roster changes, particularly in the backcourt. The team has already committed major money to forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guard Brandon Roy, but Roy is dealing with ongoing knee issues. The Blazers also face a decision on oft-injured center Greg Oden, who is a franchise player this summer.

Buchanan said he wasn’t sure how many moves it would take to get Portland into a position to contend for a title after three straight first round playoff exits. “You have to have some cornerstones that we’re building around.  We feel like LaMarcus is definitely that and we’re still evaluating who might be another pillar for us. As far as how many moves away are we, that’s a really tough question to answer. Our team has needs. Whether we can address that with one move or three moves, it’s hard to give you an exact number of how you fix what your roster needs.”

While Blazers president Larry Miller said that Cho struggled developing “chemistry” with owner Paul Allen, raising questions about Cho’s communication style, Buchanan said he appreciated the style Cho brought to the organization. “He allowed you to do your job. He listens. He’s a great listener. He stays out of your way. He wants to hear your opinions as a scout, that’s all you can ask for.”

Miller said the team has no timetable on hiring a full-time replacement for Cho but admitted that the organization could enter training camp without hiring someone. He was vague, however, on whether Buchanan would be considered as a full-time candidate. "Once we determine what the criteria are and what the qualifications are that we are looking for. If any of those guys meet the criteria or those qualifications then they will be considered for sure."

While the organization's criteria are unclear, Buchanan's skillset is fairly obvious. He's a basketball talent evaluator, a skilled communicator and an endlessly loyal employee. The next co-worker to speak ill of Buchanan publicly will be the first. 

He's perhaps best known in Portland for his in-depth scouting report breakdowns and encyclopedic knowledge of players’ strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. For years, he's been tasked with briefing the media on the players that the Blazers bring to Portland for pre-draft group workouts, and he seems to relish the opportunity to share his year's worth of work.

Asked to break down his own strengths and weaknesses as a potential GM, Buchanan didn’t hesitate.

“My strengths are my overall work ethic and love for the game. I strongly believe in valuing everyone around you. That includes players, coaches, staff. I think everybody has to feel invested and part of what the ultimate goal is.”

Clearly, though, Buchanan is facing a major adjustment period from scout to GM, which he openly acknowledges. “I think I have a strong sense of emotional connection to people, which can also be a weakness for me. I find that trading players can be hard for me because you get attached to players and families. You see them from a human side. Sometimes maybe that’s not a good thing from an executive standpoint, that you have a human connection to people that you’re eventually going to have to make tough decisions on.”

Buchanan also noted that, unlike Penn and Cho, he is not a salary cap wizard. “I’ve never really focused a ton on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The rules of the salary cap. I have a general understanding of a lot of issues but not the deep layers of it. It’s not something that I’m totally or completely familiar with.”

As Cho was the team’s point man on salary cap and CBA issues, his departure leaves a fairly large hole heading into draft season and free agency. It's unclear how that situation will be resolved in the short-term.

The constant turnover in Portland’s management ranks is enough to turn even the most optimistic fans cynical, but Buchanan did his best to stick to what has got him this far. “I go to bed every night dreaming about what it would be like to win a championship,” Buchanan said. “For this city and for our owner and for our players and coaches. It’s something that drives me every day.”

Still, his first take upon hearing about his short-term (for now) promotion was empathy for his predecessor. “The first emotion is that you feel for Rich,” Buchanan said. “A good person who lost his job today. Has a great family. At the end of the day, we’ve got to regroup, collect ourselves, and find a way to get ourselves moving forward.”

Or, as Jay-Z might say: On to the next one.

Posted on: March 31, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:54 am
 

Lakers wary of Grizzlies, Blazers in playoffs

An informal poll of the Lakers shows they're concerned about the Grizzlies and Blazers. As much as they're going to be concerned about anyone. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Asking NBA players who they want to see in the first round is pointless. Why would you possibly say you want to see one team, giving them material to mount an incomparable emotional challenge based off the oldest of athlete emotions: pride? Why would you possibly indicate that you don't want to see a team in the first round, giving them a mental edge when they recognize that you're "afraid" of them? There's nothing to be won or negotiated with that question. It's better to deflect or give the standard array of non-answers everyone gives. 

But the Lakers, when presented with the opportunity to give an informal poll, their answers unattributed to their name? They bit. 

From the Los Angeles Times
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Lakers executive Magic Johnson spoke pretty frankly before the Lakers' 102-84 victory Sunday over New Orleans about which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.

"They don't like us and we don't like them," Johnson said Sunday, walking in a corridor underneath Staples Center. "That would be a very physical and tough series, even though we would win and we're better overall. But they really know how to play us; they're well-coached and they're tenacious."
via Lakers informal poll reveals their belief Portland and Memphis would give them biggest challenge in first round | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times.

It's surprising that the Lakers chose to answer the question. It's more surprising that they were honest. It's even more surprising that they were correct. 

The Lakers are rarely if ever beasts in the first round. It takes them a few games to hit the playoff gear. But they're still good enough to overcome obstacles. Still, if you're going to upset L.A., it's going to have to be in that first round. From then on out, they're in that mode they have that that, you know, wins championships. And the only thing they hate more than getting their playoff effort in gear is having to do so against a scrappy, high-effort team, like the Blazers or Grizzlies. 

The Blazers, despite a much longer rivalry and a superior record, actually suffers more in the matchup. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge's superb and All-Star-worthy season, it's Zach Randolph's gritty, ugly, "how did he do that" work down low that is particularly effective against L.A.'s enormous size and length advantage. Marc Gasol is outplayed by his brother in the stats department because Pau Gasol is very good. But it's Marc's bulk and toughness that gives the Lakers issues, along with his ability to pass from the post and high pinch post. Mike Conley slices and dices Derek Fisher, one of the few guards in the league who can't torch Conley on perimeter drives. And the Grizzlies have enough wings to throw at Kobe Bryant to at least have a puncher's chance at slowing him down.

The Blazers on the other hand have Camby and Aldridge, but struggle defensively against the Lakers in matchups, as has been evident this year. But there's no matchup that accounts for the Blazers' ability to rise to the occasion, which they've illustrated time and time again during Nate McMillan's tenure. Either team is simply going to be a major headache that could turn into a legitimate challenge for the Lakers if a few things go their opponents' way. 

But then, the Lakers also know that if they play their best, execute, and focus, they're going to roll. That's what good teams do in the first round, it's really what great teams do in the first round, and it's definitely what championships do in the first round. This doesn't mean that the Lakers are afraid of the Blazers or Grizzlies, just that they recognize the dangers those teams represent. 

Which of course means that the Lakers are not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets. Who they could very well see in the first round. Chances are the Hornets use that as some motivation should the two meet in the first round. 

This is why you don't answer the question.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:43 pm
 

Nuggets sign coach George Karl to extension

The Denver Nuggets have signed head coach George Karl to a contract extension. Posted by Ben Golliver. george-karl

We're seeing an interesting pattern developing in the Northwest Division: over the last week, three teams in flux have moved to stabilize their future by locking up their head coach to a long-term contract extension.

First, on March 2, the Utah Jazz extended coach Tyrone Corbin's deal in the wake of Jerry Sloan's resignation and the trade of franchise point guard Deron Williams. Then, earlier Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers extended coach Nate McMillan's contract following another season squandered due to a string of injuries, including to potential franchise players Brandon Roy and Greg Oden.

Tuesday afternoon, the Denver Nuggets joined the list, extending the contract of head coach George Karl just weeks after the team traded franchise forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.

ESPN.com reports that "George Karl and the Denver Nuggets have agreed to terms on a new contract extension, according to league sources. Exact terms of the deal are not known, but one source said the multiyear extension is worth at least three years." 

CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that it is a three year deal with team options for a fourth, fifth and potentially sixth year.
The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security. 
"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."
The deal obviously gives Karl a significant measure of job security and personal stability, and it comes less than a year after Karl missed Denver's playoff run last season while battling cancer. Given the Nuggets' success and Karl's ability to overcome a life-changing health ordeal and a franchise-altering player depature make this is about as fairy tale an ending as an NBA coaching extension can get.

Basketball-wise, Karl's situation is very similar to McMillan's, as both work for first-year GMs, both boast consistent, winning track records and both are now at the helm for franchises that enter next season with new self-perceptions now that their star players have either been traded (Carmelo Anthony) or limited significantly by injury (Brandon Roy). Both relish the underdog role and have been recognized for their ability to coach overachieving teams through adversity. As it happens, McMillan played for Karl in Seattle and there's a certain poetic justice that their contract extensions are announced on the same day. 

Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri drew praise for the package of players he finally received after months of trade rumors involving Anthony, and he certainly deserves praise here. An extension for Karl was expected after weeks of hints about a forthcoming agreement, but locking up a top-tier coach should never be taken for granted and the added measure of flexibility with the extra team options is just the icing on the cake. Without Anthony, Ujiri needed something to sell to his current players and free agent targets and, if only temporarily, Karl has now become the face of the organization. Masai was brought on board to help Denver navigate towards its post-Carmelo future; with Anthony traded and Karl locked up, Masai's first two missions are accomplished. Now, he can really get to work on the future.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 5:50 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:54 pm
 

Trade Deadline: Bobcats trade Wallace to Blazers

The Charlotte Bobcats have traded forward Gerald Wallace to the Portland Trail Blazers. Posted by Ben Golliver and Royce Young.
gerald-wallace-blazers

Portland Trail Blazers receive Gerald Wallace from the Charlotte Bobcats

by Ben Golliver

Years of rumored interest culminated on Thursday when the Portland Trail Blazers acquired Charlotte Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace for reserve center Joel Przybilla, reserve forward Dante Cunningham, reserve center Sean Marks and two first round picks.

Wallace, famously nicknamed “Crash”, is a prototype for the type of basketball Blazers coach Nate McMillan likes to play: hard-nosed, aggressive, versatile, two-way and old school. He will find himself in like company alongside Blazers guard Wesley Matthews and forward Nicolas Batum, who both share his enthusiam for defense and high-intensity play.

This trade does not push the Blazers over the top into the realm of championship contention, but the fact that it didn’t require Portland to give up any of its major assets makes it a trade more than worth doing. None of the pieces sacrificed were critical or irreplaceable, and allowing Przybilla’s contract to expire this summer wouldn’t have helped the Blazers financially, as they are almost certainly committed to being over the cap for the foreseeable future thanks to long-term contracts already given to Aldridge and Roy, as well as big money that will need to be committed to center Greg Oden. As for the picks, the Blazers can always purchase draft picks in the future as they often have in the past. This trade comes down to cashing in multiple smaller assets into one big chip, a move the Blazers have been hesitant to make in previous years, much to their fans’ collective disappointment.

Pulling the trigger on this trade simply boiled down to whether Wallace was worth adding to the roster at his salary price of $10.5 million. Given his all-NBA defensive pedigree and the fact that two major division rivals – the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets – lost their franchise players this week, that question feels like a no-brainer. The Blazers get better, without a doubt, while the competition got worse. Portland is now poised to compete for the Northwest Division title and has improved its chances of winning a playoff series, something that would mean a lot to Allen and his management team given how injuries to Roy and Oden seemingly derailed the team’s carefully-constructed championship blueprints. 

The trade leaves Portland thin in the frontcourt, but the Blazers have found success playing small ball lineups because of a string of injuries this season, and Wallace should fit nicely into that plan. When the Blazers move LaMarcus Aldridge to center, McMillan will be able to use Matthews, Batum and Wallace nearly interchangeably on the perimeter.  The rotation could get tight, though, when guard Brandon Roy continues to make his comeback from knee surgery but the Blazers could opt for a big lineup with Roy playing the point guard spot on offense and defending off the ball on defense.

A few questions remain: Are there enough minutes for both Batum and Wallace, how will Portland address the age of key players like Andre Miller and Marcus Camby and where will Portland turn to address its lack of frontcourt depth? But this trade made the Blazers better this season and it didn’t meaningfully compromise their future flexibility. That adds up to a strong start for first year GM Rich Cho.

Charlotte Bobcats receive Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and two first round picks from the Portland Trail Blazers

By Royce Young

It had been something on the table this entire season. It was whispered by many, but it didn't appear that the Bobcats were going to get serious about truly blowing up the roster and starting anew. 

Wednesday, there was a lot of chatter that Charlotte was in active talks with Portland about sending former All-Star Gerald Wallace to the Blazers. And after a good amount of back and forth with one report saying Michael Jordan was getting cold feet, it finally happened. 

Wallace is headed to Portland for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and two first-round picks. The Bobcats decided to set fire to the roster and it was about time. 

The price of this trade is the two first rounders, but also Przybilla, whose contract is up after this season. Charlotte is now setting itself up to actually rebuild, instead of just treading water. 

They are still in the Eastern playoff hunt and they'll likely slip from there, but it's worth it. That just means they get another lottery pick this season. At some point, hanging on to mediocrity just isn't worth it. If you're actually going to contend and make a dent in the tough top tier of the East, you've got to do better than what Charlotte was putting out. 

Yes, losing Wallace hurts. He was under contract through next season and had a player option in 2013. He was making almost $10 million which isn't a ton, but it was painfully clear that he wasn't the type of player that really was going to be a true building block. He's a great player, a great rebounder and a good scorer. But the Bobcats need to find a new identity and the best way to do that is by creating financial flexibility and stockpiling picks. 

In this NBA atmosphere, you're either trying to contend now or build for later. The Bobcats had caught themselves in a Bermuda Triangle in between of being good enough to win sometimes, but never with a vision to actually be a true contender. The step to blow up and is rebuild isn't easy and that's why Jordan probably hesitated, but this was the right move. 

 

Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Should the Blazers blow it up?

rich-cho-ball CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that the Portland Trail Blazers could be in for an active trade deadline. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

On Wednesday, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger noted a few factors that could make the Portland Trail Blazers an important player during the 2011 trade deadline season. First, the Blazers are just over the luxury tax line and presumably looking to get under it if possible. Second, the Blazers possess a number of expiring contracts that would serve as good bargaining chips. 
Execs are monitoring the intentions of Houston, Portland and Utah -- all tax-paying teams that will be deciding whether to go deeper into the tax or pull back from it.
One exec said he believes Portland GM Rich Cho is "poised for a pretty significant 24th." Given the grim prognosis for star guard Brandon Roy and the uncertainty about what cap space will be worth under the new labor rules, Cho is seriously considering cashing in on the expiring contract of Joel Przybilla and the essentially expiring deal of Andre Miller, whose 2011-12 salary is fully non-guaranteed. Marcus Camby, who has a year left at $12.9 million, could be enticing to one of the few deep-pocketed contenders not shy about taking on future money with CBA changes looming. The Mavericks, for example, will "listen to anything," according to a source.
Cho, Portland's first-year GM, doesn't have much of a track record to date, but he previously worked under Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti, who is known for his patience, discretion and how much he values salary cap flexibility. Cho appears to be cut from the same cloth. He's developed a reputation for his analytical approach to evaluating players and has made one significant move this season, dumping reserve guard Jerryd Bayless for a conditional first round draft pick in order to shed salary and increase his flexibility.

Here are the question that Cho has been grappling with all season: Are the Blazers, who have been bounced in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs each of the past two seasons, coming or going? And if they are going, is it time to blow things up and get younger?

I won't bore you with all the surgical details, but the Blazers have a number of factors clouding their ability to properly gauge their future lot. Two are much bigger than the others.

First, and most importantly, All-Star guard Brandon Roy has yet to return from dual knee surgeries and all indications are that he will be limited to some degree by his knees going forward. The Blazers are in the first year of a 5-year, $80+ million fully-guaranteed contract with Roy. He's as untradeable as a player can be.

Second, the Blazers must make a decision regarding chronically injured center Greg Oden this summer. Most likely, that decision will involve extending him a $8 million + qualifying offer which he will likely reject so that he can weigh multi-year offers. While his market value is unclear given that he is currently rehabilitating from his second microfracture knee surgery, the Blazers have indicated they are prepared to do what it takes to keep him. Between Oden and Roy, then, the Blazers have tied up a significant portion of their salary cap.

Making things even more complicated: the remaining Blazers have managed to climb all the way up to the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture and seem a solid bet to make the playoffs as is. Getting to the post-season matters to every NBA team, but it especially matters to the Blazers. Playoff gate revenue would surely be valued but, perhaps more importantly, this is a franchise that wants to take a place on the national stage whenever it can. Located in a small-market and geographically isolated from much of the basketball viewing public, the playoffs are a matter of pride and a chance for the team to shine when it so often feels overlooked. (Look no further than the LaMarcus Aldridge All-Star snub reaction to get a sense for this sentiment.) On top of that, Blazers owner Paul Allen is competitive and looking for a return on his investment of significant resources into this group of players.

Missing the playoffs, then, would be a blow to the pride, but also a blow to the credibility of the management staff. Despite all of the injuries, the resources and talent is still there, and that's without mentioning the team's solid head coach, Nate McMillan, who's making a case for Coach of the Year consideration. There are still expectations, even if the roof has caved in and eliminated the "contender" hopes for the time being. 

Any potential trade deadline move for Portland has to be assessed from the perspective of whether it will meaningfully impact Portland's ability to make the post-season. If a potential deal carries that risk, then it better have a sweetheart reward. If a deal can be engineered that helps the finances or the team's future without compromising this year's run, then that's got to be on the table.

Assessing Portland's roster through this lens divvies the players into some fairly clear groups. Players like Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are obvious building blocks going forward. Roy and Oden are virtually impossible to move. The obvious candidates for a potential trade are point guard Andre Miller, along with centers Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. 

While there are financial arguments for moving any of them, Miller, Camby and Przybilla are of varied on-court importance.

Much has been made of Aldridge's breakout season - he's been floated as a Most Improved Player candidate and has twice won Western Conference Player of the Week honors - but none of that happens without his improved relationship with Miller, who hits him not only with lob after lob but also runs an effective late-game pick-and-roll as well. Miller probably trusted in Aldridge more than Aldridge did to start the season, and it's no coincidence that his voice was the loudest to complain when Aldridge was left off the All-Star team. The relationship that never developed between Miller and Roy - the relationship former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard had hoped would make the Blazers a contender - now exists between Miller and Aldridge. 

Without question, Aldridge's now dependable production would be diminished this year if Miller is moved. The Blazers also have no other legit options capable of handling full-time point guard duties. Portland would be left, for the fourth time this season, to craft a new identity for themselves heading into the playoff stretch run. It wouldn't be impossible, but it wouldn't be particularly pleasant. It also wouldn't be all that intelligent, as the Blazers can cut and run out of Miller's contract if they find a better option this summer or he can be moved to a team next year as an expiring contract. Given his on-court value and future financial flexibility it makes far more sense to hold on to Miller than to move him, and I haven't even mentioned that his age and lack of playoff success render his external value questionable.

One of the most intriguing, under-reported wrinkles of Portland's season is that the Blazers are 10-4 since Camby underwent arthroscropic knee surgery. The Blazers have made due by using Aldridge as a center and playing more small-ball. It's certainly possible, perhaps not probable, that the Blazers could move Camby and still remain in the top eight, assuming Aldridge remains as healthy and productive as he has been since December.

The problem, of course, is the team's longer-term uncertainty at the center position. With Oden's future up in the air and Przybilla not at 100% since returning from two knee surgeries last season, Camby figures to be a fairly valuable component of a 2011-2012 Blazers team. Without him, the Blazers would be forced to either re-cast their new franchise player, Aldridge, as a center, draft a big man and be prepared to give him real minutes right off the bat, or find a random big off the scrap heap. None of those options would seem to be nearly as appetizing as making due with Camby for now and moving him during the draft or next season as an expiring contract should the center position crystallize a bit. While playoff teams looking for an extra big have expressed interest in Camby's services during a playoff run, the Blazers are interested in him for the same reason, and also because they don't have another reliable center penciled into the roster next season. He's a key locker room presence, too.

Przybilla, though, is a different story. His contract is expiring and he's not currently a critical component of the rotation, although he's filled in nicely during Camby's absence. When Camby returns, however, Przybilla reverts back to his status as a small-minute insurance piece and would likely be used sparingly in the playoffs with McMillan preferring to ride his starters. Longer-term, Przybilla's future in Portland is unclear as well, even though he's a local icon. He's simply not productive enough at this point to warrant a real financial commitment from the Blazers, given their other commitments discussed above. He is a living seven-foot tall human that can rebound so he will draw interest from around the league this summer, and he's also mentioned the possibility of retirement. Were the Blazers able to move Przybilla and receive limited contracts in return, utilizing a team's trade exception or open cap space, it's possible they could get under the luxury tax line without truly jeopardizing their rotation or playoff chances.  

Another player that was mentioned last summer but hasn't found his name in many rumors over the last month or two is guard Rudy Fernandez. Given Matthews' dependability and the potential return of Roy, Fernandez would become the most expendable member of the team's current rotation, although his ability to handle the ball helps his ability to get on the court should his minutes get squeezed. The formerly disgruntled Fernandez claims he is now happy in Portland and he's still on his rookie contract, so trading his $1.2 million salary alone wouldn't be enough to get the Blazers under the luxury tax line. Previously, Fernandez's asking price was said to be a late-first round pick. At this point, however, his internal value to the Blazers is likely higher than that given the questions surrounding Roy's availability. If you move Fernandez, a team that already struggles to score consistently and space the floor will be stretched even thinner. You would also be sacrificing a known, young, cheap rotation piece heading into a summer when you're likely to rebuild and get younger. 

Putting this all together, we shouldn't be surprised that things are busy for the Blazers in the run-up to the deadline. They've got loads of questions and an uncertain future, plus a bunch of potential trade chips and prospects on rookie deals. But the potential costs of a midseason overhaul seem to outweigh the benefits, and minimal activity at the deadline wouldn't preclude the team's ability to make the same moves this summer or during next season.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 2:03 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 2:09 am
 

Game Changer: Pacers choke against Heat

The Miami Heat get an easy one thanks to a late-game meltdown by the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James gets way up, Blake Griffin throws down the Alley Oop and Chauncey Billups looks cold. Plus, plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: PACERS CHOKE AGAINST HEAT

The Indiana Pacers and their new teenage-looking coach Frank Vogel are hard to root against, as the sacking of Jim O'Brien immediately produced a four-game winning streak for a team that had only won four games in the month prior to his dismissal. 

The winning came to an end -- and Vogel's undefeated head coaching record was finally tarnished -- on Tuesday night as the Pacers lost to the mighty Miami Heat on the road, 117-112. 
  The ending to this one was not only bizarre, it was fairly rare. Allow me set the scene.

With 8.9 seconds left, the Pacers have the ball on a side inbounds play in the frontcourt, trailing by three points, 115-112. The Pacers stacked four players in the middle of the court with guard Dahntay Jones inbounding the ball. Even without strong initial pressure on the ball, Jones couldn't find anyone, and he watched as Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. fired across the top of the key, as point guard Darren Collison shot into the near corner and as forward Danny Granger came directly to the ball. The only non-shooter on the court for Indiana, big man Jeff Foster, just stood stunned in the paint watching this car wreck unfold. 

With all three possible options exhausted, Jones finally threw a bounce pass in to Granger, only to have the referee blow his whistle, signalling for a five second violation.

Man alive. How often do you see a five second violation on a potential game-winning, last second play? Not often. 

Credit goes to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had a small-ball defensive lineup in with guards Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and a trio of forwards: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller to defend against the obvious three-point attempt. Chalmers didn't initially pressure the ball that hard, but as the clock started ticking he does move up, obscuring Jones' vision. Miller and James simply did their jobs, shadowing their men and not getting hung up on screens. Dwyane Wade probably had the largest role in causing the violation, sticking to Granger like glue, forcing Jones' delay and indecision because he was worried about a Wade steal from behind.

But we shouldn't go overboard in praising Miami. This wasn't a difficult to time catch-and-shoot situation. This was a standard late-game entry pass that the Pacers simply couldn't execute. Get. The. Ball. In. Bounds. They couldn't do it.

Miami cashed in on the mistake as the Pacers were forced to foul immediately and that was the ball game. Take a look at the play. Admire the meltdown.


GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

LeBron James:  41 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists on 15-of-23 shooting in 42 minutes in a Miami Heat home win over the Indiana Pacers.

Dwight Howard:  22 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, +30 (!) on 7-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes in an Orlando Magic home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Zach Randolph:   31 points, 13 rebounds, four assists on 11-of-19 shooting in 47 minutes in a Memphis Grizzlies road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

DON'T MISS:

SNAPSHOT:

Blake Griffin might put more people on posters, but nobody dunks in more photographic fashion than LeBron James. Watch out, below. My goodness. Two of his 41 points. 

lebron-dunk

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

This is just a Blake Griffin dunk every single day, you know how I do it. Here Griffin catches the alley oop lob pass and dunks over Orlando Magic forward Ryan Anderson, much like he dunked over Kyle Korver recently. Griffin struggled on the night, scoring just 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action in a 101-85 loss to Orlando.



WHIMSY:

Per Denver Nuggets team policy, Chauncey Billups does not charge baggage handling fees. Boy, he looks cold.
chauncey-billups-snow

FINAL THOUGHT:

I, for one, am glad that Kevin Durant made the three-point contest even if he is the only one of the contestants to shoot below league-average from deep.  Given his competitive desire, overall talent level and ability to rise to the occasion, Durant not only makes a great candidate, he serves as an excellent foil for the field. He gets to take on a Larry Bird role here, the intimidating all-NBA gunner who the specialists can try to take down. I love it. What better script is there for a three-point contest?
Posted on: February 8, 2011 11:46 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 12:04 am
 

McMillan pumps brakes on Brandon Roy's return

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan says he "doesn't foresee" guard Brandon Roy playing this weekend. Posted by Ben Golliver. nate-brandon

On Monday, we noted that Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy told The Oregonian that he planned to return to the court this weekend. Roy, of course, is a little more than three weeks removed from dual arthroscopic knee surgeries.

A few hours after Roy made his declaration, Blazers coach Nate McMillan was noncommittal regarding Roy's timeline, saying post-game: "I'll see if these guys show up for practice and we'll go from there. As far as them playing this weekend, that hasn't been decided by us."

On Tuesday, McMillan went further than that, telling Blazers broadcasters Mike Barrett and Mike Rice that he "doesn't foresee" Roy playing this weekend. "We have to [take a cautious approach] ... Brandon has been cleared to practice, he has been doing some running on his own, shooting when the team has been out of town. He has been cleared to practice, there is no set date or game for him to return."

McMillan said Roy would start practicing with his teammates this week. "The plan right now is to limit his time in practice, slowly work him back. he's been off for two months. He will be allowed to go live in practice for about 30 minutes. After a day or so that will increase a bit and we'll see how he feels."

McMillan then stated twice that he didn't see Roy's comeback taking place this weekend, when the Blazers travel to Toronto to face the Raptors on Feb. 11 and to Detroit to face the Pistons on Feb. 13. "I don't foresee Brandon playing this weekend. We need to get him some time on the practice court and see how he responds to that," McMillan said.

Asked if he might be swayed by a strong performance during practice this week, McMillan just laughed and repeated, "I don't foresee him playing this weekend."
Posted on: January 19, 2011 12:20 am
Edited on: January 19, 2011 12:22 am
 

Marcus Camby to have knee surgery

Marcus Camby to have surgery on left knee to repair torn mensicus. No timeline set for return.
Posted by Matt Moore

It would be funny, if it weren't so sad. 

The Blazers have another player undergoing surgery. Yes, knee surgery. No, it is not Greg Oden, he just had it. No, it is not Brandon Roy. That was last week. No, it is not Joel Przybilla, thankfully. That was last year. Twice. 

No, this time it's Marcus Camby who the Oregonian reports will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Blazers soon confirmed the report. A timetable for Camby's return has not been released yet. 

Should the surgery be to remove the meniscus, Camby could be out much longer, but there has been no indication that the surgery is for removal and not repair. Camby's known as a pretty tough customer so a return ahead of schedule isn't out of the question, but Camby's also made noise for several years about heading towards retirement. You have to wonder if he's getting worn out of these kinds of things. An average return for a meniscus repair is 4-6 weeks. 

In the meantime, the Blazers will suffer through their fifth player undergoing knee surgery this season. Five. Oden, Roy, rookie Elliot Williams, Jeff Pendergraph, and now Camby. This is the third center this season, fourth to miss some time this season due to knee surgery (Przybilla missing significant time in the beginning). This has moved beyond ridiculous. It's into patently absurd. It's ludicrous. There's a book somewhere in spending some time with Phoenix's training staff, and then spending some time with the Blazers' training staff. Oden having a bad string of luck is one thing, as is Roy's condition which was pre-existing to when he was drafted. But five players in the span of a season undergoing knee surgery? Is the ground made of adamantium there?  Is the water poisoned with anti-knee fungus? Is it just the freaking rain? 

Somewhere along the way, the pattern becomes such that you have to be concerned about it long-term. In the meantime, Nate McMillan will have to somehow find a way to rally the troops in the face of even more adversity. This for a team that two seasons ago looked set to become a title contender. 

Like I said, it'd be funny if it weren't so sad. 
 
 
 
 
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