Pathfinding with a Trailblazer Blogger

The Portland Trailblazers find their way into New Orleans tomorrow, right now the only team in the league able to claim they've beaten the Hornets twice.  They are a young, rising team like ours, so I figured I'd bombard Dave at Blazer's Edge with a few questions about his team.

Hornets247: Nate McMillan never seems to get enough credit to me – never being mentioned as one of the top coaches in the league, despite having gotten what turned out to be a bad Seattle team to play way over its head before coming to Portland.  In a lot of ways I draw parallels between him and Byron Scott.  Both are no-nonsense coaches with very definite ideas of how players should act on and off the floor, and both have left a definite stamp on their team.  Hornets fans run hot and cold about Byron due to some of his comments about New Orleans, his substitution patterns, and his playcalling at times.  So let’s hear it.  What weaknesses does McMillan have that we could hope to exploit?

Blazer's Edge: When you look at the age/experience of this team compared to its record, poise, and all of the different ways it’s found to win games in the last few months you’d have a hard time finding much fault in Nate’s approach.  His great strength is his single-minded focus which can also be a weakness when a little flexibility is called for, I suppose.  But really it’s perfect for this young team full of smart guys with fantastic attitudes who soak up things like a sponge.  Blazer fans also cite Nate’s 'substitution patterns' whenever we lose but I’ve come to regard that as fan-speak for 'we need someone to blame and we like the players too much to blame them'.  If a coach doesn’t make regular substitutions he’s considered too random and accused of not defining roles for his players.  If he does make regular substitutions he’s considered too rigid and accused of not riding the hot hands enough.  The only remedy is the one Bill Belichick has discovered:  win every game.  Then nobody outcoaches you from the stands.

The Blazers, on the other hand, have a few weaknesses.  They don’t rebound as well as they should.  They forget to drive the lane at times.  They have trouble defending the lane when Joel Przybilla is out.  If you can get them to give you easy buckets you will have a decent chance of winning.

Hornets247:  The last two games in the Rose Garden between the Hornets and Trailblazers have been painful.  For the Hornets.  There seems to be some serious dislike between Przybilla and Chandler, and even the level-headed Peterson lost his cool in the second game.  Is this typical?  Is there some secret compound pumped into the visitor's locker room at the Rose Garden? Do the Blazers make everyone crazy with their aggressive defense, or is my team just particularly susceptible?

Blazer's Edge: The Hornets appear to have a chip on their shoulder.  The only other team comparable would be the Warriors.  Stephen Jackson melts down in Portland biannually.  New Orleans has had the misfortune of playing Portland right after the Blazers have played physical teams…in particular the Nuggets.  The book on the Blazers early in the season was if you pushed them around they would fold.  Denver has tried to take full advantage every time we’ve played.  It has nearly come to blows a couple of times.  The first game of the year it worked but after that Portland started fighting back.  The December 16th game got pretty chippy.  Guess who we played on the 17th?  Tyson Chandler and company are catching us when we’re riled up and not taking any guff.  I’m actually pretty proud of the team for standing up for itself.  These guys really are young and almost to a man they are as nice as the day is long.  But as the immortal Kenny Rogers told us long ago, sometimes you’ve gotta fight to be a man.  It’s a lesson the Blazers have picked up.

Hornets247: Paul or Roy.  Make the call.

Blazer's Edge: Geez, you ask hard questions!  This is like choosing between Jessica Alba and Jessica Simpson.  Come on, honey, can’t we just have a three-way?  It’ll be fun…

Both players are well-suited for the teams they’re on.  I love Paul’s scoring and dishing ability plus the fact that he can force the tempo either by running or picking pockets.  He really disrupts the game.  Roy is more of a halfcourt guy a silent assassin.  He changes direction more effortlessly than anyone I’ve seen and can score no matter who is across from him (or how many of them there are).  He also sees the floor and teammates well.  He doesn’t disrupt the game as much as lift himself and his teammates above it into their own level of play.  His poise has won more games for us this year than his scoring.   New Orleans does better with Paul’s firepower and star power than they would if you stirred Brandon into the mix.  Brandon is the perfect guy for a young team full of potential scorers.  Both will be amazing guards for years to come.

Hornets247: Your team has stockpiled a ton of talent and is deep as can be.  You also have a ton of talent(is it 3 picks in europe?) in the pipeline and draft picks galore coming up.  To make room for future talent you'll have to trade/cut/let walk some of your young talent.  Pick three of your 25 and under players to let walk.(I said 25 because Miles is 26, and that's too easy.  Oh, and by the way, Miles is only 26?  It seems like he's been in the league forever!)

Blazer's Edge: We have Englishman Joel Freeland, Spaniard Rudy Fernandez, and Finnish sensation Petteri Koponen stashed in Europe.  Of the three Fernandez seems most likely to make the swiftest transition and impact but I never like to judge players until I’ve seen them in the NBA for at least a season.

Our players under 25:  Greg Oden (19),  Josh McRoberts (20), Sergio Rodriguez (21), Martell Webster (21), Lamarcus Aldridge (22), Taurean Green (22), Travis Outlaw (23), Brandon Roy (23), Channing Frye (24), Jarrett Jack (24), plus Freeland, Fernandez, Koponen, and next year’s picks. 

We don’t have a single regular rotation player over 28 years old.

I assume just not taking some of the Euros would be cheating.  So let’s guess second-round picks Green and McRoberts will be short-timers.  Of the remainder I’d say Jack and Frye would be the most likely to go.

Thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer our questions.  Check out The Blazer's Edge for five  questions we answered for him, including our take on the Hornets chances at a title this season and beyond, Peja, Chris Paul's game, and if Paul is headed to Portland.

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