Friday, July 08, 2005

More McMillan Thoughts & A Blazer Trade Rumor

Two items for today's column.

1. Additional Thoughts on Nate McMillan

Yesterday I wrote that I was hoping for a little more out of Portland's coaching hire. After chewing on it for a day, I've come to the same conclusion that it appears most of you have: it wasn't my top chocie, but let's give the guy a chance.

My personal feelings were that I was hoping they'd hire Marc Iavaroni ... but he would have been, admittedly, a bit of a wild card. McMillan is a safe hire -- you know what you're getting with Nate, a very tough coach who won't put up with any BS and will help out the point guard. I lived in Seattle for nearly three years while Nate was the coach, and while they didn't have a lot of talent on the team, I wasn't ever too impressed with his X's and O's ... but was always impressed with his management style and the way he handled the players as he seemed to be a very good mentor for him.

Here's a quote from Steve Kelly, who's a columnist for the Seattle Times:

"Nate is very good with players, but he's not going to put up with crap in Portland. He's as far from Mo Cheeks as you can get. Darius Miles wouldn't have had an 'N' out of his mouth before Nate would have had a fist down his throat. He's tough, tough, tough, and that's just what that team needs."

Can't argue with that.

What this hiring comes down to is that I'm willing to give McMillan a chance. He really only had one successful year in five seasons in Seattle, but he also didn't have much talent to work with. There's rumblings that his top assistant, Dwayne Casey (now the head coach of the Timberwolves) was the main defensive specialist. Nonetheless, McMillan has done a nice job with Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis -- so hopefully that can translate over to Sebastian Telfair, Martell Webster, and Travis Outlaw. Zach Randolph and Joel Pryzbilla are more talented than any low-post players McMillan worked with Seattle. If he can get these guys to run plays on offense and play some serious defense, we'll all have to take our hats off. At the very least, McMillan will have the respect of the players much more so than Cheeks did.

I've received a few emails asking if McMillan was Seattle's coach when Ruben Patterson was a Sonic -- and the answer is "no". So there aren't any loyalties there, for what that's worth. I sent an email to Ian Furness, one of 1080 am's afternoon-drive radio hosts, asking what he thought the sentiment seemed to be in Portland of the hire. His response:
There were a handfulof calls from people who didn't want Mr. Sonic here, but most were very excited. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) Nate was offered an average of 5 million a year over 4 years bySeattle. 2) The Blazers offered him an average of 5.5 million over 5 years, witha 6th year a team option. Outside of the extra year, when you add in state income tax and the inconvenience of commuting, I think you can argue it wasn't about the money.
Very interesting point. Let's hope Nate does a great job and we all have man-crushes on him in six months.

2. Portland Trade Rumors

Chad Ford is saying (any time you see those four words, you should know by now to take the subsequent sentences with several grans of salt) that the Timberwolves are interested in two Portland players -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Darius Miles. The thought here is that Portland would be receiving Wally Szerbiak in return, either straight up for D-Miles (and some additional cap fodder) or in a sign-and-trade for Shareef.

I have mixed feelings on these two deals. Acquiring Wally would be nice, and it would take some pressure off of our young 2-guards, but he's got a monstrous contract that pays out $46 million over the next four years. That's scary, and I don't think Portland wants Martell Webster coming off the bench for that long. Doing a sign-and-trade for Shareef doesn't help Portland's logjam at small forward, and you're adding another wing player who needs 30 minutes per game. So there are "issues" with each deal. Face-value, I like the idea of acquiring one of the league's better 2-guards ... I just don't like his contract. What's the point of acquiring Szerbiak at this juncture? You've already got your 2-guard of the future, why pick up another with a big, long-term contract? The team would be much better in the short term but it may not be the best idea for the long-term.

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