Could Portland's Nate McMillan really be on the hot seat? Yes, yes he can.

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nmcmillan.jpgNate McMillan has been at the helm of a basketball renaissance in Portland. This was a team that won 21 games his first year with a roster led by Zach Randolph and Darius Miles — a roster that needed an overhaul. That overhaul came and so did the wins (and a better reputation).

Two years ago they won 54 games and were seen as the upstart team that would threaten the Lakers soon. Last season they won 50 games and made the playoffs despite a swarm of injuries.

Yet while most of the nation thinks McMillan can do no wrong, there are plenty of Blazers fans that want him gone. His teams play at a dreadfully slow pace (slowest in the NBA last year at 90 possessions a game) that may not best utilize their talents, and there was questionable handling of Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez.

This goes beyond the usual “fire the coach” crap that takes place on message boards in every city (there are Lakers fans who consistently complain about how poorly Phil Jackson coaches). There are serious and legitimate concerns about his ability to take the team to the next level, and he will have to address them come playoff time or he may well be gone. Dave at Blazers Edge explains.

(In recent interviews he did) I was fairly bold in speculating that if Portland fails to make the second round of the playoffs this year Coach McMillan’s job will be in jeopardy and my hunch is that he’ll be let go.  Part of that is reasonable.  This roster isn’t going to be overhauled in the near future.  These specific players need to win.  Failure isn’t an option. How many years can they play together and not advance in the playoffs before they begin to doubt?  Part of it is environmental.  When doubts start to arise in this league the first, and easiest, turn-around is to get a new coach.  Sometimes the fresh voice helps.  Often it only confirms the futility of the situation.  Either way, it’s going to be tried.  Plus you have to figure that Nate is not Rich Cho’s hire any more than he was Kevin Pritchard’s.  Few coaches survive one regime change in management.  Unless things go well, how do you survive two?

There are a lot of people predicting a breakout year for the Trail Blazers, that they may be the second best team in the West. A spot that looked like was theirs two years ago but injuries robbed them of last season. If they do not look like a team ready to take on that mantle, to look again like a team that is on its way to greatness, McMillan may well be gone.

Gallinari, Faried lead Nuggets to 121-113 win over Magic

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Danilo Gallinari scored 21 points, Kenneth Faried had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, and the Denver Nuggets defeated the Orlando Magic 121-113 on Saturday night.

Jusuf Nurkic added 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost their previous two games. Will Barton scored 16.

Faried was 9 of 10 from the field and Denver shot 57 percent in sending the Magic to their third straight loss.

The Nuggets outscored short-handed Orlando 64-34 in the paint. Magic center Nikola Vucevic did not suit up because of an injury.

Evan Fournier led Orlando with 24 points. Serge Ibaka had 22 points and four blocked shots.

After trailing by four in the fourth quarter, the Nuggets bounced back with big baskets from Nikola Jokic and Faried. Denver, which led by as many as 11 in the third, went ahead 109-106 on a 3-pointer by Gallinari with 4 minutes left and never trailed again.

Sparked by Ibaka’s block on Nurkic and 3-pointer at the other end midway through the third quarter, the Magic fought back from an 11-point deficit to take a 95-92 lead going into the fourth.

Taking advantage of numerous defensive breakdowns by Orlando, the Nuggets took a double-digit lead during the second quarter before settling for a 65-58 lead at halftime. Gallinari had 12 points while Faried and rookie Juancho Hernangomez both scored 12 off the bench for Denver.

The Nuggets, who led by 11 in the second period, shot 55 percent from the field and nearly 56 percent from 3-point range in the first two quarters. Coming off a loss to Charlotte on Friday night and playing their fourth game in five nights, the Magic seemed a step slow as Denver was allowed to drive the lane at ease in the first half.

Led by big men Jokic and Nurkic, the Nuggets scored 36 points in the paint compared to just 20 for Orlando and won the rebounding battle 25-16 in the first 24 minutes.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Hernangomez shot 4 of 5 on 3-pointers in the second quarter. … Denver’s bench outscored the Magic’s reserves 34-16 in the first half.

Magic: Vucevic (sore shoulder) and fellow center Bismack Biyombo (sore back) were game-time decisions after coming out of Friday night’s loss at Charlotte banged up. Biyombo started and had 12 points in 34 minutes. … The Magic recalled rookie center Stephen Zimmerman from the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Their six-game road swing ends Monday in Dallas. The Mavericks have won five of the last six regular-season matchups.

Magic: Orlando visits Atlanta on Tuesday night. The Magic have lost 17 of their last 22 games against the Hawks.

Pistons send Stanley Johnson, 2 others to D-League

Stanley Johnson
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons assigned forwards Stanley Johnson and Henry Ellenson and guard Michael Gbinije to the team’s D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids.

The moves came before Grand Rapids hosted Delaware on Saturday night. The Pistons were off Saturday. Detroit hosts the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Johnson, a first-round draft pick in 2015, has averaged only 3.3 points in 21 games this season after showing potential as a rookie. Ellenson, who was drafted in the first round this year, has appeared in only six games this season.

Check out Tim Duncan’s giant new back tattoo

tim duncan back tattoo
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San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan is apparently enjoying his retirement. He’s cutting loose, one could say.

And what’s the first thing you do when you try to cut loose? That’s right, get a tattoo that spans from traps to sciatica.

In a post shared by Elite Custom Tattoo in Arizona, it appears that Duncan got a full-length back tattoo on one side of his back.

The tattoo is elaborate, with a yin-yang symbol and a lot of mechanical underpinnings meant to look like Duncan is more machine than man.

I wonder where he got that idea?

#tattooing the #legend #wip #mechanicaltattoo #yingyang #turbo #gears

A photo posted by Christopher Escobedo (@elitecustomtattoo) on

Joel Embiid shows off custom “Trust the Process” shoes on Snapchat

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts to the call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers won 102-101. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has a certain sense of humor, one that has embraced former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie’s motto of “Trust the Process” as a kind of personal mantra and brand.

Embiid has apparently taken it a step further, showing off custom sneakers on Snapchat of his “Trust the Process” shoes.

You read that right.

The inside tongue of a pair of kicks Embiid was rocking on Saturday read in all lowercase letters the phrase we now associate with the Cameroonian center.

Embiid famously dubbed himself “The Process” and even filed for a trademark on the language in order to sell merchandise no doubt to be with us shortly.

Keep it coming, Joel. Absolutely each and every one of these are great.