Posted: Friday August 11, 2006 11:46AM; Updated: Friday August 11, 2006 2:34PM
Though his efforts may not be reflected by the standings, Nate McMillan has impressed fans with his attempt to change the culture around the Blazers.
Henry Abbott runs what is probably the best NBA blog on the 'net, a site called TrueHoop, which is well worth the visit. A working journalist, Abbott has written for Inside Stuff and Hoop magazines while running his site since May 2005. And, despite his better instincts, he remains a Portland Trail Blazers fan, so we've asked him to break down his favorite team for SI.com.
SI.com: Let's start at the top. Blazers owner Paul Allen spent the better part of this year sending out feelers for a potential sale of the team, only to bail on the idea of dumping the Trail Blazers last week. The man has unlimited resources, enjoys the pro game and has proven that he wants to spend whatever it takes to win -- so why are most Blazers fans begging for a new owner?
Henry Abbott: Because his minions make veiled threats about moving or shutting down the team, because the Blazers were one of the most successful franchises in sports before he came along, because there has been way too much drama and because there's just the tiniest percent chance that he's gone absolutely loco. What diabolical scheme comes next after the insane jealousy of audio taping every interview every journalist does with a team official? One idea out there is that he'll trade the Blazers for the Hornets. You'd say it's ludicrous, but everything that happens at the top these days is ludicrous.
But if he decides he wants to keep the Blazers because he enjoys owning the team, he likes their direction and he doesn't care about losing money (none of which is at all clear now, by the way), I think most Blazers fans would be thrilled. Dwight Jaynes of the Portland Tribune wrote a great column about that a while ago. I found it convincing.
SI.com: What did Nate McMillan show you in his first year coaching the Trail Blazers?
Abbott: Too early to tell. He was brought in to work hand in hand with the front office to make this team completely unlike it was, and that takes time. I could probably list some flaws, sure, but not every young coach gets to start their career like Avery Johnson. I hope McMillan's around for a long time, because he's about changing the culture. He's about integrity, cohesion and going hard every day. He's the kind of guy who could probably get you and me to work harder at our jobs day in and day out.
No, he didn't maximize the talents of guys such as Sebastian Telfair and Darius Miles, but this isn't a situation for goading and tinkering. It's drill sergeant-time. Not everyone will like that. McMillan identified some warriors (he loves Jarrett Jack), and I salute the organization for skewing the rebuild in McMillan's image. If you're not going to build the team the way he wants it, you might as well not have him at all, 'cause it's about culture now.