This whole Blake vs Roy vs Miller vs Nate thing...
... is getting a bit annoying, and a bit difficult to figure out.
What we know is:
* B-Roy had a decent playoff series against Houston, and some tough D. Much of the rest of the team stank. Blazers flaws as a jumpshooting team were exposed. Many thought that the lack of a creative backcourt player besides Roy, one who the opposing D had to respect, was The Issue.
* Roy signed a big max contract; few dispute that he earned it.
* After a few false starts, KP signed a prize free agent, one Andre Miller--a guy who is generally favorably regarded in the NBA, and whose prior team (the Sixers) was one of the few to record a sweep against the Blazers last year.
* This signing came after Nate and Andre fell in love over Italian food, discussing hoops tactics. :)
* Despite the initial love affair, the team struggled in pre-season... and despite the fact that the incumbent PG has not played well for much of the year, Steve Blake continues to start and Miller comes off the bench. The explanation from the coach is unit chemistry--Blake plays better with Roy.
* Aforementioned Miller plays well with the interior guys, and with the second unit players, many of whom are good spot-up shooters (or were, until Trout and Batum got hurt).
* Despite Blake struggling, he continues to start.
* Roy has struggled a bit himself--his shot is off, his ballhandling is problematic, and the layups he used to make over the D are getting blocked more.
* A few other distractions--"anthem-gate"--have occurred. Normally something that would be ignored, but there seems to be an issue.
* Nobody has come out and pointed any specific fingers at anybody. Yet a lot of people assume that there is rotten locker room chemistry.
Obviously, something is missing here. The most popular explanation, among a certain segemnt of the fanbase seems to be blaming Brandon. He's selfish, a ballhog. He's got his big contract and now no longer gives a rip. He doesn't like the newcomer, and the reason Miller isn't starting despite outplaying Blake on most nights, is because of Roy's interference--Roy wants to play with Blake so that's who starts. Roy and McMillan have thrown Andre Miller, as Dwight Jaynes put it, under the bus.
But something about that just doesn't make sense.
What if the problem--is Miller?
I'm not saying it is, or it isn't. I don't know. But it seems like the relationship between Nate and Andre went south. Nate did himself no favors when he teed off on a spiel about how his feelings were hurt as a player when he got benched for Gary Payton. But even Nate was smart enough to realize that he got benched for a guy who will be in Springfield in a few years, and as coach you shouldn't let that sort of thing bother you. Blake's a big boy, whose been there before--he can take it.
But what if it's something else? The dude has been traded for Darius Miles, and later for Allen Iverson. You think that he would be an ideal guy to pair with Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby--but Denver didn't get too far with him, and took a flyer on Iverson. (Ironically, the backup who made Miller expendable was Steve Blake...) Miller thrived for a while in Philly, where he and the other Andre made a fearsome backcourt tandem, but Philly didn't seem to be in a big hurry to re-sign him, and he never seemed to work well with Elton Brand.
And now he's--allegedly--having issues with Brandon Roy, who has long been regarded as an excellent teammate on a team which has enjoyed excellent chemistry.
Here's an alternate theory--one which I can't prove, but which isn't any less plausible than the "Roy is now Iverson" theories that are abounding:
What if Miller... is an assist hog? An assist hog, of course, is a guy who focuses on collecting assists like traditional ballhogs focus on scoring. High assist numbers don't imply an assist hog (Steve Nash is not one, nor is CP3, nor is Chauncey or Jameer or Calderon or Parker or any of the other all-star caliber PGs in the league). Assist hogs are guys who love to throw highlight-film lobs to cutters, to dish-and-kick to open shooters, who love to set up teammates to score--provided they get an assist.
What do assist hogs NOT like?
Dominant wing scorers who break down the defense on their own.
Post up players who dribble and/or pivot a few times before launching a shot.
What if the issue with Brandon and Andre is that Andre, for whatever reason, thinks that passing the ball to the wings and running the offense through them, is the Wrong Way to Play? What if the issue isn't Brandon being hoggy, but Andre?
There are quite a few fans who seem to have taken the position that basketball teams where someone other than the PG dominates the ball, are living in a state of mortal sin--which seems to be why much of the blowback from the team's lackluster play seems to be falling on the established All-Star, not the new guy who is now on his fifth NBA team. But the Miller-as-assist-hog-theory would explain a few other things:
* Why Cleveland, and especially Denver, were happy to get rid of him, despite having a roster compliment (in Denver) that just SCREAMED for an established and talented PG.
* Why the relationship with Nate has soured. If there's one thing that Nate cannot stand, it's an assist hog--he's already run two of them (Mr. Telfair and Senor Rodriguez) out of town. Miller is far better then either of those two hotdogs, but what if the same principle is at work--Miller would rather be cute and creative, then just get the damn ball to the guy(s) who can score on anyone.
* Miller has had over his career, a bit of a reputation as a locker room disruptor. He ain't no Z-bo or Stephon Marbury, of course--but not all locker-room cancers are ballhogs. Who here remembers one Jeff McInnis?
I want to repeat, before I head off to bed, that I'm not sure I buy this theory myself. I'd like to prefer that what's going on is simply the team has yet to mesh--both Brandon and Miller avoided off-season hoops while contracts were being negotiated, and the late signing of both deals (and a few key injuries) have prevented the team from gelling. I hope that's the case.
But seeing as I still have a gigantic man-crush on B-Roy, and Miller has had these issues follow him before, and the Blazers have had great chemistry ever since Zach left town--it seems that a theory other than the whole "Roy's turned into Steve Francis" BS that seems to have infected this place, needs to be articulated.
The flames may now commence. :)