Blazers Need Rich Cho to Make a Major Move

| by Dwight Jaynes

I have no idea what Rich Cho can do now to make the Trail Blazers better. Maybe nothing. But it seems to me that something has to change around that team.

And I say that knowing Cho’s hands are tied in many ways. Can he trade Greg Oden? Nope, probably not. Brandon Roy? Doubt it. Andre Miller? Well, he has an expiring contract — but you better get a pretty good point guard in return because there’s nobody else here who could start at that position. Marcus Camby? Again, yeah — you could deal him but then who is going to play center? Joel Przybilla? Sure, but he’s got an expiring contract, too.

Fire the coach?

Well, yes, there is that. Sometimes coaches get fired simply because you can’t fire the players. Or trade them. And I have to tell you, I certainly don’t like what I see of this team this season. Something’s missing. The Blazers aren’t playing consistently hard. And not playing smart, either.

I’ve grown tired of the growing gulf between the perceptions of Nate McMillan and the reality. I read someplace the other day that he was a “tough-minded defensive coach.” In fact, I’ve heard that for years. And I’ve yet to see it.

I do not think he’s anywhere near the toughest coach in the league. I don’t think he’s particularly demanding of his players and I don’t see him bringing the hammer down on them — particularly on Roy and Aldridge. And I’m sick of the perception that he’s some sort of defensive guru.

It’s just not the case. Portland has never played great defense since he’s arrived. Oh, you could look at one stat — points allowed — and say they have. But Portland’s points allowed are almost totally the result of the pace at which they play. Their offense milks the shot clock and seldom runs. It’s painful to watch, for sure — but if it were effective, I could understand it.

And it was effective for a while. But right now, it’s costing a team in serious need of cheap baskets a chance at a few of them. Portland is a jump-shooting team seemingly incapable of getting inside consistently. And the Blazers don’t go to the basket much, either. The result is Portland doesn’t get to the foul line often, doesn’t get many points in the paint and doesn’t get many fast-break baskets — which is a real poor way to try to win a lot of games.

On offense, they’re afflicted with the same disease that’s crippling teams all over the NBA — the concept that isolations and two-man games are the way to properly play. But given the fact that with Roy now not the player he once was, they have nobody who can beat his man one-on-one and not a player on their team other than Przybilla who is willing to set a meaningful pick.

In that case, wouldn’t you try something else on offense?

McMillan, after almost every loss, bemoans his team’s lack of consistent shooting. “We’ve got to knock down those shots,” he says. But the problem is twofold — first, you’re not getting good shots. Second, you don’t have good outside shooters taking a lot of those shots.

That’s a problem. But it’s probably better than hearing him ask for more “scrappiness” from his players — which has also gotten old.

I’m also worried about the development of young players here, Nic Batum, specifically. Right now, he’s being jerked on and off the court and not getting consistent playing time. And granted, he’s not playing well. But this isn’t high school basketball — where your every minute on the court earns you your next minute.

If Batum is a cornerstone of this franchise moving forward, then he has to get consistent playing time, whether he plays well or not. He has to know that the coach has confidence in him or his own confidence will get shaken by the occasional poor performance that we know young players always have. And make no mistake, he’s still very young.

I think, though, we’re seeing his confidence shaken by being removed too quickly after mistakes. He didn’t even start the second half against New Jersey. You shouldn’t do that with players you expect to become big-time players — and within the league, there is that perception that Batum has huge potential.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent. What I’m saying is pretty clear — this team appears headed down the road to a very trying season. I’m not sure if anything can be done to change that. Perhaps the injuries to the bigs have finally cut this team’s heart out.

But if you’re the general manager, you have to try to do something to turn this around. Right now, I cannot imagine the Trail Blazers making the playoffs. They’re just not playing well enough in a conference full of talented teams. And the tough thing for Cho is that he just doesn’t have many options.

But at some point, he’s got to do something, doesn’t he? You can say it’s still early in the season but you cannot give away too many games now or you’re buried. Right?

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