The Psychology of Nate McMillan

I just got done listening to Casey and JQ talk during their chat. (I feel privileged, btw, to be out here in the wasteland of masochistic Cubs-fans and get good Blazer press... thanks to those guys and this blog and everyone else who make that work.)

If you have the stamina to make it to the very end, you hear JQ say this (paraphrasing): "Nate McMillan has taken a lot of heat over the years for his playing decisions [in reference to doling out minutes]. I think he's going to be under intense scrutiny this year... people are going to want to see more Rudy, they're going to want to see more Bayless. He's going to be under enormous scrutiny like never before. And let me tell you something about Nate: he can get very, very, very, very, very defensive when questioned about his decisions."

I, of course, have been one of those people wondering about the minutes in 05/06 (not so much last year) for Surge and at various points for Joel. I've sure we've all seen some of that defensiveness coming from Nate.

Since that time, I've come to the (to me, bad--but to all of you, very, very good) realization that Nate made better choices than me. In short: he was mostly right and me not. But that apology was on another post.

What I wanted to comment about this year was this notion of JQ's: I think he's right. I think Nate is going to be under the most intense and extreme kinds of psychological pressures this year. Consider:

  1. Every time we (and here, I mean Bedgers and the greater Portalnd area together) chant in idolatrous adulation: "In KP we trust"... what are we saying? What is Nate HEARING?" I suggest he's hearing: hey, KP put this team together, PA bankrolled it, the community went crazy over it with parades and blogs and ticket sales... are YOU--Nate--going to be the one to blow it?
  2. Nate's the annointed point guard man. We've had nothing but point guard problems. He's the annointed defensive-minded coach. This team has been getting routinely beaten on perimeter defense and losing rebounding margins. I'm not hear to rehash the reasons for all this (see the last 5,387 blog fanposts) but rather suggest what Nate is HEARING: this team is failing in precisely those areas that Nate is supposed to be an expert in.
  3. We have all this talent. Everyone says so. EVERYONE... including that caffeinated bag of musty air Stephen A. We got rookie of the year! We got Oden! We got Euro MVP! We got LMA! What is Nate hearing: he's hearing every one of those pundits that used to criticize Phil Jackson when they said ANYone could've coached Pippen and Jordan to the finals.

The Bedgers are a community that watches things like coaches comments and interviews very closely. We should watch Nate very closely. He's going to be subjected to inhuman pressure from second-guessing precisely because this team is set up so very well. It's going to be even worse because the first part of the season is going to be so brutal. So we should watch Nate: watch for the defensivenes, the sleeplessness, the guarded statements... anything that looks like he's closing down. It will ultimately have an effect because I think it'll take some kind of superhuman to make it through. For all the Joel agitators and Surge ManCrushers out there last year... it's going to many, many times worse this year.

I'm not sure anyone can get through this unscathed. What will Nate be at the end of the season? Particularly if the Blazers don't finish well? I have a feeling most blogs will be calling for his head saying precisely these things: Anyone ELSE could've won with this talent... ANY moron would've known to start Rudy...

And there's Nate himself and the need to learn. There's a fascinating poem entitled "Paracelsus" by Robert Browning (yeah, I went to English Grad school for a while... go ahead and call me a nerd and get on with your own sad, illiterate life if you think that ain't cool). The poem has these people who have been at work sculpting on an island (as I recall) and they think there stuff is really, really hot (I would say "superlative" but I think "hot" translates better for you ADD Generation Y Paris Hilton followers). Then they come to see true art... and they realize that their stuff is, in actually, second rate. But they refuse to leave their island or do anything about it. Instead they say,

"We did not have the heart to mar our work."

That's the essence of learning. Will Nate--being pushed to the full brink of defensiveness from second-gussing from the Mass Couch Potato Public--have "the heart" to see better ways should they exist in first place.

I almost call this the "no-win-scenario" (with nods to The Wrath of Kahn, which should verify my nerd card for anyone keeping track at home).

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