On the Blake vs Miller debate. A prevailing sentiment is that Nate is withholding the obvious for perverse reasons. Hey, what if he's just as frustrated as us? What if he too, has a vision for a promised land, but is finding it hard to get us there? Or maybe he's just more practical and knows where he wants to go, and is being deliberate in getting us there.
- PRE-SEASON STARTS: Lousy pre-season. Brandon is coasting. LMA distracted by contract issues. Batum and Rudy are resting. Cant seriously practice with the RAMBO unit. Young team thinks we can could flip a switch and be back to "a 54 win team".
- PRE-SEASON MIDDLE: Play RAMBO starting unit. Its a disaster. The high expectations dont automatically fall in place. Second unit is totally stuck. What a mess. How to straighten out a mess? Go back to what you know works. Joel and Greg were pretty much interchangeable, so its not a big switch to start Greg. At least get the team back to last seasons model.
- SEASON START: Aaaaand Batum goes down. Fine, lets put Martell in. But Martell is real rusty. Our defense has gaping holes. Our bigs (all three Greg, Joel, and LMA) are getting in foul trouble.
- GAME 6: Lets try three guard. Phew. Little better. Might not be ideal, but let out a deep breadth, its working for now. Lets get back to business of the promised land.
- GAME 11: Aaaaaand Travis goes down. Now our tried and true "starting line-up for the fourth quarter" is disrupted. GoshDangIt! That was one staple we could rely on. How are we supposed to develop any continuity? Lets stick with three guard. We're starting well, building strong leads with our first unit, but our second unit is stagnant, we're having fourth quarter issues, and an undermanned GSW team tears us apart. Coises, foiled again. [Nate's hair isn't even long enough to pull out in handfuls.]
- GAME 15: Put Martell back in as starting SF, he's shaken off some rust. We still need lot of three guard because we dont have a backup SF. Travis used to be our backup PF and we would play small ball. Juwan cab be a replacement for some matchups, but he is too slow for faster teams. Can the rookie Dante step up? Hey, look Dante's worked for a couple of games. Will he still have it, once opposing teams have scouted out his primary moves? [Nate's fingers probably hurt from keeping them crossed aaaallll the time]. And look we actually get to squeeze in some time for Roy and Andre to play together, even if its only with Roy as SF.
When do we get to do what we really want to do?
Designs look great on paper. But players are not plug-and-play parts. They are not automatons that are casually switched around and everything falls in place. Change takes time.
Early last year, it was a similar story. Nate's plays were predictable. The fanbase was imploring Nate to grow some imagination. It was about this time last year, that I made the appeal to BlazersEdge to give Nate time, that he was a young coach and learning in a lot of ways; that the team was young and they too were learning sets for the first time, given that they did not have the luxury of having learnt them with other teams; that there is very little time in between games to groove new plays.
When the season ended last year, we were top in offensive efficiency, we were blowing out top teams. We might still have been predictable, but it was winning predictability. Even the Lakers could not overcome the predictability. Very few had realistically put us down for 54 wins. Give Nate credit for having a vision of what he wanted to accomplish and making it happen. [It might not be our vision, we were last in fast breaks, etc etc, but it was a winning vision].
Still last year, we did not matchup well against some teams -- GSW, PHI, DAL, HOU. And we got caught like deer in the headlights in our first playoff experience. We needed to improve to advance to the next level. Our mantra was defense. Dont look now, but aren't we Top in Defensive Efficiency, Top in Opp FG%, Top in Def Rebounding. True the competition hasn't been the best. But, once again give Nate credit for having a vision and driving to it. You can bet that Nate knows that last years team was good, but not good enough.
Nate has a vision for the promised land, and it is not the same starting five as last year. But it will take many small steps to get to the desired end result. Change takes time. Give Nate time. And while Nate is young as a coach, and does not have a resume ala Phil, Pop, or even Adelman. Give Nate credit for what he has accomplished. And give Nate time to show you what he will do for you next.