Blazers Coach McMillan believes Red Bull did not give his team wings

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The Blazers continue to give it the ol’ college try despite losing half their team to injury (including their coach splitting an ACL- seriously, what did Portland do to the Fates?). Granted, sometimes the ol’ college try is interpreted literally, clanging mid-range jumpers and lacking a consistent defensive force inside, but you know what we mean. Last night they continued that effort, staying in a close game with the Thunder all the way until the final quarter, at which point Jeff Harden and Kevin Durant took over, the Blazers had no one to score with, and the hometown crowd fell into a disappointed lull. Long before then, though, Blazers coach Nate McMillan considered his squad to be starting in an energy deficit. And in the midst of a frustrated press conference following a frustrating loss in a frustrating season, McMillan finally turned on an ally, everyone’s ally, the energy drink Red Bull. From Oregon Live’s transcript of McMIllan’s postgame comments:

“I thought before the game we looked like we were a little flat. I saw a lot of cans of Red Bull up to guys mouths and (it) looked like we crashed. Seriously. We were flat from the start. I was hoping that the (new starting) unit that I put out there would give us some spark (but) we got off to a slow start. So we weren’t sharp at all.”

Taken in context, McMillan was just spouting off randomly to show how meaningless trying to identify the culprit is. The All-Star break could not come at a better time for the Blazers.

That said, Coach McMillan has no right to attack the tasty beverage that is Red Bull. Sure, you can go that route, laud the upside of Monster and 5-Hour Energy, but eventually, you have to dance with the one that brung you. And for all its inconsistencies, Red Bull has been there for the Blazers before Greg Oden, and it will be there after. Lashing out shows a lack of leadership, and advertising slogans. It gives you wings, coach. Duh.

In all seriousness, McMillan struggled early in the season integrating Andre Miller, dealing with Greg Oden’s growing pains, finding enough touches, and then injury after injury hit, and McMillan actually improved. His best work has been with a ragtag group of leftovers, and for that he deserves to be commended. It’s a shame that talent is such a determining factor in this league, because two of its better coaches, McMIllan and Houston’s Rick Adelman, face a daunting future simply because the succubus of injury have swept into their villages and plucked away their players to Suitland.

Either way, I’d expect a healthier pre-game assortment for the Blazers next game. Perhaps some V-8, or some mango juice.

Geeking out on NBA prospects: R.J. Barrett almost dunks from free throw line, Zion Williamson does

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Duke is stacked this coming season. STACKED. They should have three lottery picks in next year’s draft. (Does that mean they are the team to beat in the NCAA? That’s not the way basketball works. But that’s another discussion.)

Duke is in Toronto for a series of preseason exhibition games, and at the end of the workout likely No. 1 pick next June, R.J. Barrett tried to show off by almost dunking from the free throw line.

Then freak of nature Zion Williamson showed him how it’s done.

That’s worth more looks.

Damn Zion is a freak of nature. Can we just put him in the next dunk contest now?

Nancy Lieberman says more women need to follow coaching footsteps in NBA

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Whenever we discuss women assistant coaches in the NBA, the topic is usually Becky Hammon getting job interviews or being moved to the front row of seats in San Antonio. Occasionally it’s a discussion of Nancy Lieberman’s job in Sacramento — or the fact she is now a head coach in Ice Cube’s Big3 — or Jenny Boucek in Dallas.

However, when Lieberman discussed women coaches on the CBS Sports Network, she was asking a bigger question:

Who steps up next?

She has discussed the NBA version of the “Rooney Rule” before. Currently, it’s not anywhere near becoming a reality, whatever you think of the idea.

However, there needs to be real opportunities for women to get a foot in the NBA door, and more of them. Including at the entry level. There are qualified women out there, but it can be tough to crack the “old boy’s network” of the NBA coaching carousel — head coach and assistant. It exists in part because head coaches (and GMs) usually hire people they trust and worked with before, and right now those are men. Give women a chance at those entry-level positions and the dynamic starts to change.

Lieberman has been a groundbreaker her entire career. She and others are doing in the NBA again, but she’s right, the big win is changing the dynamic for the next generation. And the one after that.

In no-brainer move, Nets reportedly guarantee Spencer Dinwiddie’s $1.65 million contract

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Spencer Dinwiddie has worked hard at his game — I remember seeing him struggle some at his first Summer League and someone I trust telling me “watch this guy, he’s got the drive, he will make it” — and he is now a solid rotation NBA point guard that Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson can trust. He averaged 12.6 points per game last season with an above-average PER of 15.9.

He’s also on a steal of a current contract, so it makes sense the Nets are picking that up (it technically didn’t have to be guaranteed until Halloween). Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had the report.

https://mobile.twitter.com/wojespn/status/1029496077320257536

Next summer, Dinwiddie is a free agent. While he’s not going to break the bank, he’s a young, solid backup point guard that a lot of teams could use and he’s going to get a nice pay raise.

Carmelo Anthony on his role with Rockets: “Let’s just let it play out”

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From the moment it became clear Carmelo Anthony was going to join the Rockets — which was a long time before he actually signed the contract on Monday — the questions started:

Would he accept a reduced role with the Rockets? Maybe come off the bench? Be Olympic ‘Melo and blend in with the team?

Coach Mike D’Antoni said he spoke with Anthony and said the player is open to coming off the bench, but he’s not sure what ‘Melo’s role will be. When ambushed by TMZ trying to walk to his car, Anthony said basically the same thing.

“Let’s just let it play out, though. I don’t even know what’s going on. I just signed, let it start first.”

Anthony coming off the bench, being the fulcrum of the offense when James Harden and Chris Paul are on the bench makes some sense (CP3 and Harden are better and more efficient shot creators than Anthony at this point). It’s a chance for Anthony to get his touches and help the other two rest. However, the idea of Anthony starting the first and third quarters and getting heavy touches then but sitting more later is not out of the question.

At the end of close games, D’Antoni is more likely to lean on James Ennis — a long, switchable defender who can shoot threes in the Trevor Ariza mold — than Anthony. It will be just a better fit. Will Anthony roll with that? Will it cause problems in the locker room?

Let’s just let it play out.