That said, I think McMillan has done an admirable job in Portland. Last year was essentially a throwaway season in terms of wins and losses; Nate's primary goals revolved around other things. I seem to get the sense lately that Blazer fans are quite happy with Nate as coach and with the job he's doing.
Assuming for a moment that Portland's worst-in-the-NBA-record is out the window. What were we hoping to accomplish last season? Here's a quick list off the top of my head, followed by a quick evaluation of how Nate did, in the four non-wins-and-losses aspects of the team.
- Change the culture of the team away from individual performances and towards team accomplishments.
Tough to say whether or not Nate accomplished this goal. I suppose you could say that he did; but we've heard from a few of the players that this was not always the case (Joel Pryzbilla and Martell Webster have both expressed frustration about this very topic). Granted, this is the NBA we're talking about, and it's definitely a me-first league. He's got the ball started in this direction, which is good enough for now. Grade: B.
- Establish an attitude that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.
This can be looked at two ways: 1. How many incidents has the team had, and 2. How were those incidents dealt with? I'd give him a B+ for #1 and a C- for #2. Overall, Portland's season was relatively incident-free, but for the few incidents that did pop up I wouldn't exactly say that McMillan dealt with them with an iron fist. I do think it's been an improvement, but I do not think that a culture that the team will absolutely not accept bad behavior has been established. Grade: C.
- Get the team to increase it's defensive effort.
This may not be reflected in the statistics, as Portland's points allowed per posession were near the bottom of the league, but when you look at the team's roster I do think that Nate got throgh to some of these guys. Even if last year's defense was porous at best, it seems to be clear that if you can't play D, you can't play for Nate. This could be part of the problem as to why we weren't able to learn more about the younger players. Grade: B+.
- Find out what we have with our young players.
Honestly, this was my only "true" complaint with Nate this season. Do you feel like you really know any more about Travis Outlaw than you did last October? What about Sebastian Telfair? Viktor Khryapa? Sergei Monia, prior to his trade? In my eyes, one of Nate's biggest goals this past season was to find out exactly what we had in some of these young guys, and I do not think he accomplished this. Martell Webster is the only one of the group whom I think I have a "feel" for what he could be as a player, but the others he missed on. Grade: D.
Overall, Nate has done a decent job, but it's a slow process. There's a tremendous amount of cultural and on-court change that needs to happen with this team. I'd like to have seen more progress, but it appears that things may be headed in the right direction.