Jaynes Weighs In

Dwight Jaynes, long-time sports columnist, former Blazer beat-writer, and editor of The Portland Tribune was kind enough to sit down with us and talk Blazers.

Blazersedge:  You have been around as long as anyone in the Portland sports media scene.  You saw the early successes of the organization, the glories of the Drexler years, the Rasheed era, and all that's followed.  Where do you think the current incarnation of the Blazers will end up compared to those previous teams?  Will they become championship-quality?  What will it take for them to fulfill their potential?

I think they have sensational potential. When you take a player with the potential impact of Greg Oden and add him to what they already have, you see championships. But of course it's not always a straight line from here to there. Things happen:  injuries, problems, chemistry issues - all of them can slow things down or dead-end them.

But really, no team since the Walton era has had this kind of promise - not even the early `90s teams, which frankly, sort of snuck up on us.

Blazersedge:  How do you rate the team's chances to make the playoffs this year?

For them to make the playoffs a couple of other teams are going to have to seriously crash and burn.  It could happen but I doubt it.  I believe many of the team's problems are still problems.  They're going through a stretch where they can do no wrong--and it's a little scary how well things have broken for them--but the schedule gets tougher in January and February.   We'll see what happens.  They still have point guard problems, they still have rebounding problems, they still don't seem to know how to fast break... but they're winning.

Blazersedge:  You've written a column or two on Coach Nate McMillan.  What do you think is going right there and what needs improvement?

In the long run, I think there has to be more of a synchronization between the front office and the coaching staff.  To me, there is a long-term issue on the way Kevin Pritchard wants his team to play as opposed to the way Nate McMillan wants to coach.

I think Pritchard is committed to a running game. I remain unconvinced that McMillan will ever seriously commit to it. And he probably shouldn't because he seems to want to have more on-court control that what that style would offer him.

I think McMillan has an extremely tough job here because they have too many young players to develop at one time. They'd be better off to clear things out a little and trade some of them for a veteran or two because even though many of these kids have great promise, they're just not going to get enough playing time to develop.

Blazersedge:  So which ones go?

Then you get back to that relationship between coach and front office. One of the toughest things to do in this league is to deal young players before you have a great handle on how good they'll be. You don't want to let go of a player to solve a short-term roster problem when it will cause long-term damage. People remember Jermaine O'Neal. That wasn't the worst case. Not even close. Think Moses Malone. Even Drazen Petrovic.  Those were moves that made sense at the time based on the team's roster and needs .. but long term, those were disastrous.

There is behind the scenes talk of the merits of making a move now or before the trading deadline... of pushing some of the young players off on another team in exchange for a veteran. Obviously, they'd like a proven point guard and/or another big man.

It had been thought that kind of major decision wouldn't be made this season.. but there is a temptation, if the team keeps playing well, to sort of go for it right now - with the thinking that even a first-round playoff loss would mean so much to the young players... and oh, yes - the fan base, too. Don't forget, this is a business and selling tickets is a big, big deal.

Blazersedge:  You've mentioned fan favorite Sergio Rodriguez a few times in your column.  What do you see in him that you like?  What does his future hold?

Sergio has a unique talent. He's the one point guard they have who is able to get the ball consistently to people in the spots on the floor where they like to get it. And he's the only one they have who thrives in an open-court, up-tempo game. If you really think the NBA is headed toward that style of play, you have to think he's your future point guard.

However, I don't think Nate McMillan believes the game is headed in that direction. And he may be right.

But if you go with Sergio, you have to hand him the ball and take the restraints off... you have to let him make his mistakes and do his thing. I see no sign here they're willing to do that. In that case, they'd probably be better off to send him down the road and let him blossom somewhere else.

I think he's really good. He doesn't get to play enough, though, to find any rhythm or really get comfortable so judging him is getting increasingly difficult. I will say this, though:  when I talk to people from other NBA teams, Sergio is the only point guard that the Blazers have they'd be interested in. They might be able to find someone to take Jack, but it will be difficult. He's really not an accomplished point guard - much more of a scorer than playmaker. I've heard more than one scout describe him as too selfish to ever be an effective point guard. But Nate seems to love him... to the point where a lot of times late in the game he's on the floor instead of Blake - even on nights when Blake is really sticking the jump shot.

Blazersedge:  The relationship between the organization and the media has been strained in the last few years, notably through the Whitsitt and Patterson regimes.  Has the team turned the corner in these matters?  If so what, specifically, has improved?

EVERYTHING has improved! They have an approachable front office and coaching staff, plus the players are good people. They've hired the best PR director in the league... there is no comparison now on that side of the operation. Much credit to the organization for understanding the situation.

Blazersedge:  You've had the chance to observe Blazer fans as much as anybody has.  Are they coming back to the team now?  What will it take to re-ignite the love affair between the team and the community?

They're coming back, but people have to understand it's a new era now. Tickets to anything are a tougher sell. It's so much more competitive in the entertainment business with cable, satellite, video games, iPods, movies, DVDs...  I've had friends who run NBA teams tell me that the day of the week when you play home games is more significant than who you play. They're telling me it's hard to drag people out of the house on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. Teams telecast so many home games that it makes it much tougher to get people to actually attend games. I mean, seriously - they're competing with themselves.  You come home at 6 from work, your wife is tired, the kids are screaming for dinner - and you're going to throw everyone in the car and plunk down big bucks for a Blazer game rather than just crawl over to the sofa and turn on the TV and watch it for free?

I think the days when there are waiting lists for season tickets are over. It's a real tough sell. I'm not sure in that regard things will ever be the same as they once were.

But at the same time, we're in Portland with only one big-league team and things are going to get very exciting if the team can reach its potential. Everyone loves a winner. The future is bright... almost blinding sometimes.

Many thanks to Dwight for taking the time to talk with us.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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