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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Blazers' Undesirable Positions

The Portland Trail Blazers had so much promise coming into the shortened 2011-2012 NBA season but then everything broke down. It started with Brandon Roy's retirement, followed by inconsistent play, followed by a Nate McMillan firing and team overhaul, followed by more inconsistent play and finally, a LaMarcus Aldridge hip surgery and a missed NBA Playoff. Now the team has new pieces and open Head Coach and General Manager positions; Positions which outside coaches and GMs don't want.

Portland is a great place to play and to coach. However, the circumstances for the head coach and General Manager position are the reasons why many high-profile candidates aren't jumping at the opportunity.

A Stressful Head Coaching Situation

When you look at the Blazers players, there are some quality players. All-star LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be back, Nicolas Batum 23-year old will be back (assuming the Blazers re-sign him) and a plethora of young talent (Thabeet, Flynn, Smith, Babbitt, and Williams). The situation seems perfect right? Wrong.

There is a lot of potential on this team but something is not right with it. This team lacks a "standout" guard. It has dominating forwards in Batum and Aldridge but not a guard that controls the defense's attention when he holds the ball. This team does not have a guard that can create plays for others or create his own shot. The new coach coming in will have to teach one player on the team how to become a legitimate point guard. The guy closest to becoming a point guard on the Blazers' roster is Johny Flynn.

Also, there is a mental issue with the players on this team. This previous year they were reeling because Brandon Roy made a shocking retirement announcement. The team was left without its Number 1 player and it showed. They were inconsistent and looked somewhat uninspired during certain parts of the season. Take the game against the New York Knicks as an example. At this point, the Knicks just had Mike D'Antoni resign and the team was in a flux of chaos. So that's a team the Blazers can beat when the situation is like that, right? Wrong. The Blazers got whipped 121-79 and shot a measly 37% from the field. This proved to be Nate McMillan's last game as head coach but more importantly, it showed the Blazers have even deeper issues.

The new coach needs to come in with new energy and inspire these guys to work hard every day. That's where the problem lies. A lot of coaches don't want to come into a situation where they have to inspire players to work hard.  Coaches prefer to have players that have a drive to become better every day. They don't want to spend time trying to motivate them to work hard.

The new coach also needs to instill confidence in this team. They had many mental lapses at the end of games. It shows with their inability to finish games. They had a 4-17 record in games decided by 5 points or less. This is a trait seen in teams that can't close games which describes this Blazers group. How can you be a playoff contender if you can't win the close games? 

There are a lot of things to fix on this team and many coaches unfamiliar the Blazers aren't jumping at the opportunity to coach this team. The new coach has to change the culture, motivate the players to work hard every day, and give them confidence with a winning attitude. And this team will never be successful until these things are changed and that is going to take at least two years of time.

Problematic General Manager Circumstances

When a candidate is looking at the Blazer's General Manager, one needs to realize that they are not going to be acting as a General Manager. That person will be more of a General "Advisor." 

Some of you might be thinking: "Advisor? Advisor to whom?" The answer is the new general manager will be an advisor to Paul Allen. No, I am not kidding.

I don't know if people know this but Paul Allen likes to be involved with the Blazers, especially in the personnel department. He likes to pick his own players when it is his General Manager's job to pick players. Now what Allen is doing right now isn't that uncommon, look at what Mark Cuban is doing with the Dallas Mavericks. However, Cuban listens to his General Manager (Donnie Nelson) and has listened to the same man for 10 years. Meanwhile, Allen doesn't seem to listen to his General Manager because he fires them.

The fact that Allen fires General Managers in 1-3 years leads me to believe these managers aren't doing what he wants. Paul Allen is a control freak, which is why I don't think many GMs outside of Portland want the job. Allen's word is the final word and if his GMs don't follow then he'll fire them. He should really consider listening to GMs based on how poorly the Blazers were last year and the track record of the two recent GMs he fired: Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho.

Pritchard was the reason why Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge ever became Blazers. He is the reason why the Blazers now possess a potential star in Nicolas Batum. The Blazers made the playoffs three consecutive years in a row with two 50-win seasons. Allen fired him for undisclosed reasons. However, "undisclosed" usually means that there were issues between the two. I suspect that Pritchard didn't like moves that Allen proposed and it infuriated Allen.

Cho stepped in as Pritchard's replacement. He was the GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder (or Seattle Supersonics). Yes, that Oklahoma City. He brought in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka together. With what OKC is doing right now, you would expect Cho to have the job for a long time. Wrong. He was fired after one year. How do you fire a guy with that track record? Probable reason: Cho didn't like what Allen wanted to do with the player personnel and Allen fired him rather than listen to the guy that put together an NBA championship-caliber team.

The Blazer's General Manager job is comparable to walking on thin ice. If you don't follow what Paul Allen wants to do, you're going to fall into frozen water (in other words, get fired). Your job is never safe when Allen is in charge. This is why the job has been open for the entire 2011-2012 season. The organization would say that they weren't looking for a general manager. That's a ridiculous statement to make and a lie. The probable truth is that no high-profile General Manager wanted to take the Blazers' job.

To the rumored candidates: current Indiana Pacers GM David Morway,  former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower, current L.A. Lakers GM Mike Kupchak and many anonymous others, good luck. You will need it because this position and situation is far from perfect.

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