Step away from the Trail Blazers, people. It’s about to blow.

15 Comments

On another website, in the fourth week of the season, I had the Trail Blazers as the fifth best team in the league in an edition of the power rankings. They looked  awesome. I use that word a lot, but in the Blazers’ case, it was true. They played some of the best ball by any team this season in those early weeks. Gerald Wallace was doing everything, LaMarcus Aldridge was still LMA, Jamal Crawford was fitting in, the defense was superb, they were getting out and running.

That’s all over.

The smoke is coming from Camp Rose Garden and emergency services are on the way. It’s bad. Really bad.

After the Timberwolves, a fine team but by no means a dominant squad, walked into Portland and demolished the Blazers, scoring 122 points in their building, the Oregonian reports that the whole locker room nearly detonated.

Said one veteran: “You could spend a day in this locker room and you’d figure it out. Some guys really care. Others just want the season to be over.”

Who wants to win? Who wants to stay? Let’s make it simple: Can we please see a show of hands?

There are some hardworking players who still want to win. And there are loyal fans who want to see victories because they pay premium prices for tickets. And all of this is being undermined by a snickering, pouting, hollowed-out corner of the locker room that wants nothing more than to play out the final 29 games of this shortened season, collect a paycheck, and then, go on a vacation.

Joel Przybilla was ticked after the game, and bee-lined to the locker room from the bench like a guy thinking, “I came back … FOR THIS?!?” Gerald Wallace was so angry that he slammed over a large recycling bin in the arena tunnel, out of sight of fans, spilling paper and plastics that had to be picked up by some poor guest services guy in a red vest. Jamal Crawford sat by his locker, with a blank expression, and said, “It gets old.”

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

But the most concerning part was this quote from head coach Nate MacMillan, a tough coach who played many years in this league and knows as much about this game as anyone. He’s commanded a responsive, deep, strong locker room for years. Now, on why he doesn’t get a hold on things:

“If I lose it, I lose the whole thing,” McMillan said.

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

The coach can’t correct things because if he does, he’s afraid things will spiral out of control. That’s one of the worst signs you can find for a team. It’s one thing fro some of the players to have problems, another for the coach to be unable to rein it in lest the whole thing spiral out of control. He’s basically powerless in that situation. McMillan is likely fired. The Blazers, who looked so good just a few weeks ago, look so lost, and the organization seems to be on the verge of major roster and organizational change.

Such a good start that’s gone so terribly, terribly wrong.

The scavengers are going to come calling. Wesley Matthews. Jamal Crawford. Raymond Felton, to a degree. Gerald Wallace. The whole roster outside of LaMarcus Aldridge and, inexplicably, Nicolas Batum (who is a great player but could probably return a yield greater than his actual value at this point due to trade value perception) is essentially going to be up for grabs for the right deal. Chad Buchanan wasn’t really hired, he was placed in the position, the Blazers’ third GM in as many years. He’ll have to see if he can improve the team, stabilize things, or detonate the whole operation if so ordered.

Hang on, Blazers fans. It may get worse before it gets better.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

Getty Images
1 Comment

The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

Associated Press
6 Comments

Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.

Veteran NBA official Monty McCutchen to be head of referee development, training

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After 25 seasons running up and down the NBA hardwood and refereeing more than 1,400 games, NBA official Monty McCutchen got a promotion.

He officiated his last game Thursday night in Minnesota and will move to a desk at the league office where his new title is Vice President, Head of Referee Development and Training.

“Monty has earned the respect of players, coaches and his peers during an exemplary career as an NBA official,” said Senior Vice President, Head of Referee Operations Michelle D. Johnson (who started on the job in October).  “He understands as well as anyone what it takes to be an outstanding referee and how the league can best support its officials.  With his wealth of insight and experience, Monty is uniquely suited for a leadership role in our officiating program.”

“I’m excited for the opportunity to channel my passion for the officiating profession in a new way,” McCutchen said.  “While I’ll miss officiating games, I’m grateful to continue working with our incredibly talented referee staff as part of an organization so dedicated to excellence and innovation.”

Despite what some fans like to blast on Twitter (especially during the playoffs), NBA officials are the best trained and flat-out best basketball referees in the world (if you don’t think so, watch the college/scab referees from the last lockout of the refs, it was painful). Could they improve? Sure. Hopefully, McCutchen can help do that in his new position.