Tag:Nate McMillan
Posted on: December 5, 2010 4:56 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:16 pm

Blazers 'not responding' to coach Nate McMillan

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. 
Posted on: December 3, 2010 12:16 pm

Is Nate McMillan on the hot seat?

Posted by Royce Young

The Blazers are just 8-10 and have lost five straight. Not players that is. Games.

And because of that, the finger is starting to get pointed. Portland has maybe the best basketball fans in the league, but with that comes a rabid sense of entitlement. Losing can't happen. And when it does, people have to be held accountable. That's the way it works in the biggest basketball markets.

Surely though Nate McMillan wouldn't be the one that would have the finger pointed at. Right? RIGHT!? But John Canzano of The Oregonian worries that the dreaded Vulcans in Seattle might make that call.
"At 8-10, we've arrived at the point of the season in which the Vulcans will surely start rolling their eyes and declaring that the issue here must be coaching. Remember, this is a bunch that dispatched a security team once to search computer hard drives at the team practice facility because it feared a leak. So McMillan should prepare himself, if he hasn't already.


They get some right. They get some wrong. But there's not a plan in sight, ever. The hiring of McMillan was a nice get five years ago, and his firing now would be a disaster."
(The Vulcans are Portland's upper management. Blazers owner Paul Allen has a company called Vulcan Inc. and people in Portland refer bosses as "Vulcans.")

Canzano is absolutely right. Canning McMillan would be a huge, huge mistake. Scott Brooks was awarded Coach of the Year and was very deserving for taking a 23-win Thunder team to 50, but if I were voting, McMillan was my pick. Really, I didn't see another option. Based around what he went through last season but still fielded the seventh seeded playoff team in the West is miraculous.

It's still early too in this season. The Blazers aren't mathmatically eliminated from anything yet. Sure, Brandon Roy is going to play the rest of the year with Christmas wrapping paper for knee tendons and Greg Oden is gone, but Joel Przybilla is coming back soon, plus players like Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum have shown promise. There's no reason they can't weather another storm and stay competitive. Jumping the gun on McMillan now would be quite the knee-jerk reaction.

But then again, the Vulcans were the ones that pushed for first assistant general manager Tom Penn to be fired and then general manager Kevin Pritchard to be let go. Both seemed random and unprovoked at the time. So nobody is probably safe.

McMillan can coach. And he can handle and manage adversity. So obviously, he's the right man for the Blazers.
Posted on: November 18, 2010 3:23 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:54 pm

Greg Oden microfracture: the day after

Portland Trail Blazers head coach and all star guard Brandon Roy discuss the team's future after yesterday's announcement that center Greg Odenoden-gregwould undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee, ending his 2010-2011 NBA season before it began. Posted by Ben Golliver

Portland, Oregon, is known for two things these days: vicious rainstorms and season-ending injuries. Both struck Wednesday night, when perhaps the ugliest weather of 2010 preceded the worst possible news for Portland Trail Blazers fans: center Greg Oden's 2010-2011 NBA season was done before it started, due to a microfracture surgery on his left knee that will be performed on Friday.  The season has started for the Blazers as a slow ramp up mentally. With Oden and fellow center Joel Przybilla working their way back from knee surgeries last year, and all star guard Brandon Roy limited by a bothersome left knee as well, Portland's mantra has been mostly about biding its time until later in the season and making a serious playoff push once everyone was back healthy. The Oden news, of course, changes all of that, and biding time has given way to battening down the hatches, for Oden, for the team, for the coaching staff and for the organization. Portland coach Nate McMillan tells CBSSports.com that his mesage to Oden this year was the same as it was last year. "Mentally, you know it’s a challenge for him to continue to stay positive and to try to work himself back. He’s still a young man that has a future in basketball. It’s devastating to go through this, four out of the last five years, some type of injury. But you have to rebuild, 'man up,' as we say, and continue to work to get yourself on the floor."  In the meantime, McMillan said he fully expects critics and pundits to write off his team, much like they did last year when Portland dealt with numerous injuries. "Of course people are going to write us off, we’ve lost these guys, both Brandon and Greg -- Greg for the season, Brandon is out for a few games. People going to write you off. For us it’s a mental challenge to stay focused, stay tight, because I believe we can win some games if we go out and we’re together." The problem for McMillan -- who thrives as an underdog, has proven he can manage effectively through and seemed almost giddy Thursday at the notion that people would underestimate his team again -- is that he doesn't know who he will turn to for help shouldering the mental burden. Asked twice for names of players he expected to step up and guide the team mentally, McMillan admitted it was too early to tell. "We just found out about this last night, and we’ll see. That [mental leadership] is what I’m looking for. You’re going to have to have some guys to step up, both some of your veterans as well as your young guys, and be productive in a situation like this. We’ll see. That’s where we are at right now." Part of McMillan's hesitancy seems to stem from Roy's uncertain health. Roy has always been a quiet leader, but his steady production has pulled Portland through in the past. Roy suffered a knee injury in a Nov. 13 game against the New Orleans Hornets, and isn't expected back on the court until Nov. 26. It's difficult to be an emotional leader while wearing street clothes, as Roy was at Portland's shootaround Thursday. Roy struck an optimistic tone when talking with reports, though, saying Oden's injury isn't crippling for the franchise's goals of competing for an NBA title. "I don’t think it’s lost. I don’t think it’s lost. It’s adversity and something that we have to deal with. We wish it wasn’t like this, but it is."  He repeated McMillan's us-against-the-world take, saying the team's resolve remains strong despite external voices predicting failure. "The team seems good. People outside the team are a little concerned, but these guys dealt with a lot of it last year. We’re so focused, we play so many games, it’s hard to sit back and think about the outside things that we’ve had to deal with. The guys are focused and I’m just trying to do my best to keep those guys positive." Perhaps the best news for Blazers fans: Roy also sounded more upbeat when talking about the health of his own knee and the mood of the team. "It’s something that a number of doctors have told me that I can play with and still play at a high level ... My spirits have been picked up a lot. It’s just something I’ve got to deal with. I’m a lot more confident dealing with it now than I was a week ago. That’s expected. Anytime you get injured you’re always a little concerned. I’m feeling better about it and just trying to get back on the court." Roy told CBSSports.com that he had spoken with Oden briefly on Wednesday. "His spirits were down. As expected. He’ll bounce back from it. Not in a day or two, but in time, he’ll bounce back. Just for him as a person, I told him to forget basketball. We care about you as a friend and somebody that I’ve been close to for the last few years. He’ll be alright. Words aren’t going to cheer him up today, but in time it will make him feel better." Asked about Oden's future in a Trail Blazers uniform, McMillan chose his words carefully. "We expect him to recover from the surgery and I’m sure we’ll look at the situation and make the best decision for the organization. Greg is still a Blazer, when he comes out of rehab we’re going to try to and get him ready to play basketball ... I don’t have a crystal ball but we do expect him to recover from this surgery. They’re not telling us this is career-ending, we are hearing that he can come back from this and possibly be just as strong." The question, though, is when will that return take place, and can the Blazers wait?  The Portland rain let up on Thursday morning and the mood in the practice facility was sunnier than expected. The team has been without Oden so often and for such long stretches, the morning after devastating news felt like the cruelest thing of all: business as usual.
Posted on: November 18, 2010 1:35 am

Video: Highlights from the Greg Oden presser

Posted by Royce Young

General manager Rich Cho, coach Nate McMillan and head athletic trainer Jay Jensen addressed the media regarding the decision for Greg Oden to undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee. Jensen gets visibly emotional when discussing the process of telling Oden and Cho talks a little about Oden's future with the Blazers as a restricted free agent.

Posted on: October 31, 2010 10:51 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:20 pm

Former all star Maurice Lucas passes away at 58

Maurice Lucas, power forward for the 1977 NBA champion Portland Trail Blazers, passed away at age 58 on Sunday. Posted by Ben Golliver maurice-lucas Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports on Twitter that former Portland Trail Blazer power forward Maurice Lucas passed away on Sunday. Lucas, a four-time NBA and one-time ABA all star in a career that spanned 14 years and eight teams, had battled cancer for a number of years. Lucas will be remembered, particularly in Portland, as one of the league's great enforcers. In a small town that often feels picked on by the country's larger cities, Lucas reached heroic heights, as he never shied away from contact or conflict.  Lucas famously got into it with Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins during Game 2 of the 1977 NBA Finals, and many believe the incident turned the series in Portland's favor. The Blazers went on to defeat the Sixers 4-2, winning what is still the only championship in franchise history.  Here's video of the fight, courtesy of patvilhauer on YouTube . For this combination of fearlessness and ultimate success, Lucas will stand as one of Portland's most beloved professional athletes for decades to come. Former Blazers center and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, Lucas's teammate on the 1977 title team, recently called Lucas "the greatest Portland Trail Blazer of all time ." Walton also named his son, Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton, in honor of Lucas. Lucas began his career in the ABA, but was drafted by Portland when the league folded. After a four-year stint in Portland, Lucas went on to play for the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle SuperSonics. He then closed his career in Portland in 1988, and shifted into an assistant coaching role the following season. More recently, Lucas served as an assistant coach under Blazers head coach Nate McMillan, starting in 2005. He primarily focused on developing Portland's big men both physically and mentally, calling on his playing experience to tutor players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Cancer forced him from the bench multiple times, and Lucas was unable to return for the 2010-2011 season. His No. 20 jersey has been retired by the Blazers and it hangs in the Rose Garden rafters.  Maurice Lucas was 58 years old.
Posted on: October 27, 2010 12:36 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:08 pm

At The Buzzer: Portland 106, Phoenix 92

Blazers beat Portland behind new acquistions, Suns struggle without Amar'e.
Posted by Ben Golliver

Thanks to a rash of injuries for Portland and a rash of poor roster construction for Phoenix, Tuesday night's match-up between the two teams was a perimeter-dominated affair by necessity, with Brandon Roy and Jason Richardson traded baskets and a group of Portland guards trying to offset a hot shooting night for Steve Nash.

Portland came strong out of the gates, thanks to an extended season-opening player introduction that had the Rose Garden crowd hyped, but a red hot shooting third quarter (14-18 from the field, 4-4 from deep) for the Suns had Phoenix up six, 81-75, after three.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan experimented with a number of unorthodox lineup combinations, including a four guard lineup that featured rookie point guard Armon Johnson, Wesley Matthews, Brandon Roy and Rudy Fernandez, in an attempt to keep pace with Phoenix. Johnson, a physical lefty point guard, was a much-needed spark plug, as he attacked the basket and played physical defense in an unexpectedly long fourth-quarter run.

It was a sloppy night for both teams, with Nash committing nine turnovers by himself, but the Blazers pulled away late, corralling a number of offensive rebounds to extend possessions and building a double-digit lead with three fourth-quarter three-pointers from Nicolas Batum.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 10:18 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:55 pm

Stephen Curry: running point, raising hopes

Golden State point guard Stephen Curry is growing up fast, focused on making the Warriors a playoff contender. Posted by Ben Golliver

“You make me feel old.” 

That was the reception from a middle-aged woman for Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, as he emerged from the Rose Garden’s visiting locker room on Saturday night after nearly going quadruple double -- 17 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds and 8 turnovers -- on the Portland Trail Blazers in a meaningless preseason game.

The 22-year old Curry hears that a lot when he travels the league, in part because of his baby face, in part because of his slight frame, in part because so many people remember him tagging along his father Dell, a long-time NBA veteran. But as Curry begins his sophomore trip through the league, after contending for Rookie of the Year honors last season and winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship this summer, he’s hearing a lot of others thing too. Like, “One of the best shooters in the league.” Like, “All star potential."

That’s the story for Curry and his new-look Warriors this season: emerging. “He surprised everybody last year because we thought maybe he wasn’t ready for the NBA,” Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said. “He seems more mature. He has learned the NBA game.”

Curry says he’s ready to take on the full time playmaking point guard duties that new head coach Keith Smart has laid out for him. “Down the stretch of last season with so many injuries I think my role would be to distribute the ball, and 1A was to score. This year I think it’s more managing the game, we have such a powerful lineup this year I’ll be able to pick and choose when I want to attack, when I want to get people the ball.”

With the offseason additions of power forward David Lee, forward Dorell Wright and big man Lou Amundson, there’s a steadiness in the Bay that wasn’t there last year. “We had so many guys rotating in and out with injuries,” Curry lamented on Saturday. “Coming from the D-League, guys who are going to be here for two weeks until somebody gets healthy. Playing with unorthodox lineups on the floor, it’s kind of tough to be consistent throughout the course of a season so hopefully that doesn’t have to happen this year. Right now we have more of what I’d call a traditional lineup, our big guys are healthy, we can go out there and know the rotation that coach is going to put in, know what to expect night in and night out, not have to adjust on the fly as much as we did last year.”

The bread and butter of Curry’s game remains his gorgeous shooting stroke, which he works at harder than just about any one in the league. Two and a half hours before Saturday’s preseason game, Curry went through his “plan” with Stephen Silas. The plan consists of getting up “about 200” shots prior to a game, although Curry says he takes even more some nights to get his rhythm. This isn’t a standstill three-point contest. Curry works on catching the ball in awkward locations, creating a clean look off the dribble while moving in all four different directions, stopping and popping, floating through the lane, you name it.

All the work has paid off. “He’s always been a pretty good shooter with range,” says Blazers coach Nate McMillan, who coached Curry during the World Championships as an assistant for Team USA.” Now he’s proven he can shoot the NBA three. He’s definitely one of the top shooters in the league.” Batum agrees. “He is a top two or three [shooter] in the NBA for sure. When he has the ball he’s very dangerous. You have to remember where he is. If you lose him, bam.”

Bam, indeed. While the Blazers threw three different guards at Curry and occasionally extended their ball pressure full-court to make his life even more difficult, Curry found his shots again and again on Saturday night. Pull up three in transition, stopping on a dime. Cross-over dribble for a step back mid-range jumper. Darting off of a high screen, squaring his shoulders and letting fly.

“He has no conscience,” former NBA player and three-point ace Hersey Hawkins, who has known Curry since he was a child, laughed last week. “I think every guy that’s been labeled a great shooter shoots the ball with confidence, regardless of makes or misses, they’re constantly looking for their shots. He moves well without the ball, that’s a plus for being a good shooter. He knows how to free himself up to get his shot off. And then he has a variety of shots. He can put it down, shoot the floaters, shoot runners, of course we know he can shoot the three. When guys like that get on a roll, they’re just unstoppable.”

Curry isn’t yet an unstoppable force, but he’s getting there. The game plan to defend him involves denying him clean looks and forcing him to make plays under pressure. Curry’s 11 assists on Saturday speak to his developing vision, but his 8 turnovers make it clear there’s still work to be done. “It’s still a little bit of an adjustment,” Smart said after the game, pointing to the team’s addition of true low post players as a contributing factor. “We won’t have as much space on the floor that we’ve had in the past. There’s nothing major that’s going on right now. He’s going to figure it out.”

A number of Curry’s zip passes hit unprepared teammates in the hands. “We shared that in our shootaround this morning. You guys need to make sure when you’re cutting to the basket, be ready to receive the ball,” Smart said. “Don’t just run through the lane. He’s putting the ball on the money in some places but they’re dropping too many of his passes. But those things are correctable. They can correct the pass, they can correct the catch and we can move forward.”

Curry smiled when asked about the turnovers. “I won’t have that many every night.”   He says he’s still adjusting to his new teammates, and vice versa, and feels like he’s being given as much time and space as he needs to develop into the point guard role. “They want me to be aggressive, make plays, but you can’t be careless with it,” Curry says. “You can’t take that freedom and running around the floor. I think they trust me to be smart with the ball, be aggressive, make the right play. Nights like tonight where I’m making a lot of dumb plays, it shows the trust they have in me to make the right ones by keeping me out there and letting me work through it.”

That work, on his jumper, on his maturity, on his playmaking, is turning heads. Asked if Curry will make an all star game in the near future, Hawkins didn’t hesitate. “Oh, yeah, definitely. I think he’s that good.” McMillan agreed. “He enjoys the game, he works at it. Just a talented player. If he continues to have that success and his team wins, you certainly have to consider that.”

Team success is on Curry’s mind too. “We have a lot of pieces we need to make that push, be in the mix with those eight or nine teams in the West competing for those playoff spots.” Whether it’s this year or next, Golden State is playoff bound in the near future.  Young Curry will see to that, as he makes us all feel old in the process.

Posted on: September 30, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2010 1:45 pm

McMillan going without extension

Blazers coach flying without extension net this season.
Posted by Matt Moore

Almost everyone wants job security. You want to be know where you'll be next year, two years from now, four years from now. It's best for you and for your family. But apparently Nate McMillan is totally okay with being out on the ledge without a vine. The Portland Tribune had a discussion with McMillan about his contract expiring after this year and found something surprising. McMillan is totally fine with it. The Blazers exercised their option for this season on McMillan last year. But McMillan himself is the one who decided to go ahead and let his contract expire at the end of this season.

Get this. He says the team should be able to judge his performance after this season and decide if they want him to continue coaching in Portland.
“I believe the organization should be in a position to look at where this team is going and make that decision. Me not talking about an extension, please don’t read into it that it’s a sign I don’t want to be here. I do.”
Does. Not. Compute.

So McMillan wants to stay in Portland, but wants to give the Blazers the year to evaluate his job and see if they want to retain him. That's nuts.
“My agent (Lonnie Cooper) asks the same thing,” McMillan says, grinning slightly. “He says, ‘You talk crazy.'"
While it's certainly a noble enterprise McMillan has taken on, you also have to wonder if the removal of former general manager Kevin Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn have anything to do with McMillan's approach. There's a lot of instability in an organization that looked rock solid just a few years ago, and it's not hard to imagine McMillan wanting to prove to owner Paul Allen and Vulcan that he's worth the money, without question.

McMillan is definitely focused on this season, and as good as he was last year, navigating injury and chemistry concerns, it's possible he could outdo himself with a fully healthy roster (fingers crossed!). That would settle him in Portland for the long-run. On the other hand, he's leaving himself open to the possibility if things do fall apart that the Blazers have an easy out to ditch him. Gotta love NBA coaching gigs.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com