Something Isn't Right with the Trail Blazers

| by Dwight Jaynes

Dave over at Blazers Edge sees something wrong with the Trail Blazers, too.

Yesterday, we talked a lot about style of play, etc., and Dave concentrates more on team chemistry issues — can Player A fit with Player B and is this team properly balanced? And he makes great points in that regard.

I would make the case, too, that the coaching staff has not shown a great degree of flexibility in making use of and/or blending unique talents. I would also say what this team does has largely been the same at both ends of the floor throughout Nate McMillan’s tenure here. I believe systems should change based on talent on hand.

Over and over when I write about issues like this, people make several points: the most frequently mentioned one is that the team has won 50 games consistently so what’s the problem? As if that justifies whatever is done through the season. But it doesn’t — even last season when all the injuries came. You measure performance based on a curve, not a yardstick. You measure it based on expectation of performance based on your talent.

Thing is, even after the injuries last season, Portland had enough remaining talent that it didn’t significantly overachieve. This is a point a lot of the national pundits miss when taking a cursory look at the Blazers’ play last year. I went back and took a look at odds and point spreads game-by-game last season and Portland was favored to win 48 games and won 50… so there was just a plus-two edge in what they were expected to win even after the injuries. That’s not exactly a tremendous example of overachieving.

And people always interpret my rantings about style of play and coaching as demanding the coach be fired. Trust me, when I want to say that, I’ll say it. I’ve said it before many times about coaches. But in this case, because of McMillan’s touch with players, his great character and the fact that he’s seemingly so entrenched with the owner, I’ve not said it. I’ve continued to believe that with time, with additional help from assistants, we would see change. I still hold out that hope.

McMillan is a good man. He works his tail off and he’s not a BAD coach. We’ve seen bad coaches up close. Maurice Cheeks was overmatched from the day he arrived and I said it from almost Day One. He should have been fired after his first season and I wrote that. I continue to hold out hope that McMillan will be able to institute the appropriate changes in the way this team plays at both ends of the court.

But my point remains, what this team is doing now on offense and defense will not prove effective enough to mean significant improvement in this team’s playoff progression.

I also think there is a challenge ahead for this new front office. It’s never been more apparent than it is this exhibition season that change is needed on this roster. The point guard still does not fit. Andre Miller is talented, but he doesn’t fit. He’s the square peg trying to jam into a round hole. I believe the team has convinced itself that he just doesn’t work with Brandon Roy. Certainly, there’s a chance Brandon Roy has convinced himself of this. Plus, Miller is not young enough to be a part of this team’s long-term future.

Portland has been trying for quite a while now to find the right point guard and I think patience is wearing thin on the part of fans, media and perhaps even the coaching staff and players themselves. When Rich Cho arrived for this job, on his very first day he admitted that the Blazers were still one or two trades away from where they need to be.

Well, when will those trades happen? Man, anticipation without a payoff, quite frankly, is a bitch.

We’re still waiting, though. And not just on a deal. Man, we’re waiting for Greg Oden, too. He’s a giant question mark hovering over this franchise, a major difference-maker right here within our grasp but unavailable. Fans, media — and I think even players — are waiting. For the change that either Oden or a major trade would bring.

And when change is anticipated and doesn’t happen, a major letdown usually occurs. I believe we may already be into that letdown.

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