Nate 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.
Larry Sanders is talking about getting back into the NBA. He walked away in 2015 to say he needed to deal with anxiety and depression, to find a balance in his life. Recently he told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders this:
“But I feel like I’m in a much better place right now and I’m equipped to be able to put myself in that situation again.”
But where? A lot of teams could use an athletic big who averaged 1.4 blocks per game over the five years he was in the NBA, although with the conservative nature of NBA front offices they will not want to take much risk (Golden State reportedly thought about it and decided not to offer him a contract).
Sanders decided to ask Twitter where he should go, putting Twitter’s poll feature to good use.
The question becomes, where is there mutual interest from any of these teams?
If Sanders and his agent can win a team over in an interview, the contract will be small and the number of guaranteed years is not exceeding one (if even that). From the perspective of an NBA team, Sanders has to prove himself again.
But never underestimate how many chances big men get in this league.
(Hat tip Eye on Basketball)
Anderson Varejao was spending the past couple days helping his nation prepare to host the 2016 Olympics in less than two weeks, including carrying the Olympic flame.
But now he is on his way back to the United States to have his chronically bad back examined. Again. From Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.
The Warriors re-signed Varejao on a one-year, veteran minimum contract where he will make $980,431. He is expected to back up Zaza Pachulia at the five spot, although his run would have been limited (which is good, he’s not terribly effective anymore).
A variety of injuries — back, Achilles, wrist — have meant the most games Varejao has played in a season since the 2010-11 season is 65. Last season that number was 53, the final 22 of it with the Warriors.
If Varejao can’t go or is limited, the Warriors may look around at other options. But the pickings are slim at this point.
Hopefully, this does not develop into something chronic.
After a promising rookie season and an impressive Summer League in Orlando where he averaged 18.8 points per game, Thunder second year player Cameron Payne had surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot, the team announced Monday. Here it is from the Thunder’s press release.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Cameron Payne underwent a successful procedure today to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti.
The team is optimistic he will be ready to go by the start of the season (there is usually a 6-8 week timetable), but Payne and the Thunder need to be patient here. The fifth metatarsal is the bone that runs from the base of the little toe up to the ankle on the foot. While surgery can repair it, healing can be slow because that is not an area of the foot with great natural blood flow. The Thunder were down this road before with Kevin Durant, he came back eight weeks after the surgery but ended up needing a couple more to get everything fixed and missed 55 games because of it.
Payne played well as a rookie and is expected to see a healthy bump in playing time next season as a scoring guard off the bench behind Russell Westbrook. He just needs to get right first.
Coaches who win rings often get a pay bump. Guys who break a 52-year championship drought deserve one.
That includes guys who only coached half a season — especially ones working on the same contract they had before taking the big job.
Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers just agreed to a healthy contract extension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
That seems fair.
What Lue got that his predecessor David Blatt never could was real buy-in from LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers. Blatt came off as wanting to be the smartest guy in the room at all times — and don’t you dare discount his experiences coaching in Europe — while Lue was more humble and more direct. He didn’t get to put in everything he wanted, and the team didn’t play faster for him (statistically) as he wanted, but there was better chemistry.
This isn’t rocket science for Cleveland — if you have a coach that your franchise player backs, and said coach has proven he can win, you keep him.