McMillan Hopes Wesley Matthews Can Save Blazers

| by Dwight Jaynes

This was not entirely unexpected. Blazer coach Nate McMillan somehow feels he’s “limited” in the things he can do to shake up the team. In other words, Nic Batum — you’re the scapegoat because he can’t bench Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge or Andre Miller or Marcus Camby.

“When you’re dropping games like we are, you just need to shake up some things and we’re limited in how many positions we can shake up,” McMillan said Monday evening after Blazers’ practice at Villanova University. “We just need to take a look at something different.”

Sometimes rather than a lineup change, it’s better to change tempo, style of play or even call a few different plays. I do not believe it’s great for Batum’s growth as a player to be benched and be made the scapegoat for what’s gone on this season. What we’re seeing with him is simply what we’ve seen with just about every player who has played the small forward position in McMillan’s offense — inconsistent touches, playing almost entirely without the ball, getting passes with the shot clock draining toward :00,  a limited role, mostly spot-up, catch-and-shoot, three-point shooting from the corner.

And guess what — being used that way leads to inconsistent play in young players. It is a very difficult role handled better by veteran players. The best use of Batum would be as a point forward, but it would require patience because you’re going to have to live with some mistakes. There’s no way McMillan is going to do that.

I do not think, by the way, that Matthews is the long-term answer at small forward. I believe he’s too small to consistently defend that spot. He’s a two-guard. Period. This feels like a knee-jerk reaction that is a short-term answer to a long-term problem.

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