Of Schuler, Paxson says, "A lot of mistakes Mike makes are because of overkill—too many team meetings, scouting reports, practices [for example, the Blazers worked out on Thanksgiving Day], that kind of thing. That can work against a player like Clyde, who's very instinctive in what he does on the court."
However the blame eventually is apportioned between Drexler and Schuler, their disagreements are distractions Portland can ill afford, because, its talent notwithstanding, it has some obvious weaknesses, notably foul-prone big men who aren't shot blockers and inconsistent outside shooting, especially when Vandeweghe is on the bench—or the injured list. Moreover, although the Blazers can run—"I think they're the best transition team in the league, including the Lakers," says Sacramento coach Jerry Reynolds—their execution of a half-court offense ranges from adequate to atrocious. "The right hand doesn't know what the left is doing half the time," says one Portland player who requested anonymity.
Against Sacramento on Friday, Drexler and center Kevin Duckworth repeatedly posted up on the same side of the floor. Or Drexler and Vandeweghe played their Such Good Friends offense, passing mainly to each other. Against the SuperSonics the next night, the 24-second clock expired while Porter dribbled around, having forgotten that the clock is not reset after a blocked shot.
The team's inability to run an effective half-court attack has been particularly costly in the playoffs. In May, when the action invariably gets slower and more cautious, call Portland the Fail Blazers. Portland has lost in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs for three straight years and hasn't won a postseason series of any significance since 1976-77, when the Blazers won their only NBA championship, with Bill Walton at center. "They need some kind of breakthrough to really get over the hump," says Laker coach Pat Riley. "Until they get it, there's really a squeeze on them."
Well, it's only January, but the squeeze is on Portland right now, and it's coming from within. The Trail Blazers need to do something about it quick.