The Coach and the Star

I have a love/hate, conflict-filled relationship with my Blazers fandom and Brandon Roy. This conflict crystallized in me during the OK City game. I had watched Armon Johnson and, to a lesser extent, Miller run the ball down the court to great success (not to mention watching Chicago do the same thing to PDX the prior game to great success).

Then I saw Roy jogging the ball up the court. He jogged so slow that Grandpa Miller passed him at midcourt, took the ball on a handoff/pass, and beat Roy to the 3pt line. It was a clear act of impatience, just like my wife grabbing the vaccuum cleaner away from our 9yr old just to get the job done. Anyone else remember that moment?

I've been thinking a long time on how to express this discontent and reconcile it. Ditto my personal reluctance to offer full support to McMillan despite all kinds of objective evidence that he's great coach.

I think I have the answer finally and it is this: McMillan specifically and the Blazers Mgmt in general are too defential to Brandon Roy.

Thinking back, improvement in Roy's game has always came at the inspiration of Roy himself. "I need to play better defense" he will say; or from last year "Getting to watch Andre from the sidelines I can now see some of the things he's trying to do" or this summer "I need to be more of a vocal leader." [All paraphrased]

Contrast this with what I believe is/was: Phil Jackson's relationship with Kobe; Phil's relationship with Jordan; Riley's relationship with Magic; Sloan's relationship with Stockton and Malone; George Carl's relationship with Carmello (remember when Carmello got benched?); Pop's relationship with Duncan... and the list goes on. I think the crucial, magical ingredient in any star's blossoming is the ability of a coach to sit the star's butt down and say: "Roy, you will RUN down the court or I will bench you; you will move without the ball or I will bench you..." or whatever the case may be.

This is a tough dynamic because Roy is the darling of Portland and the best player they've had in a long time. He is the fanchise. But he can't be left to his own devices; he must be managed.

If there is one single argument to replacing McMillan I think it is this: I don't believe Roy has the respect/fear/awe necessary to defer to McMillan and actually be coached. I imagine that this is the problem with Garnett, perhaps with lingering issues with Anthony, perhaps even with LeBron, and other stars: they don't fail to have talent or work ethic, rather they fail to be managable in the sense of becoming part of the team.

They refuse to submit themselves to a system believing that they can transcend a system.

Roy's game is in a rut. He has achieved a comfort level... and why shouldn't he? ROY followed by 3 all-star appearances, and a max contract is a signed, sealed, and delivered inarguable case that his way has been best. But I don't believe HIS way is THE way.

For all the complaints about Nate's system and the lingering, lurking issues with Roy's "selfishness" or "lack of team play" or "isolation-heavy" mindset, it really comes down to a lack of coachability/managability.

Can anyone tell me sincerely that McMillan has the authority to discipline Roy in any meaningful way? And isn't that a problem? Absent that, I don't see Roy getting out of his rut.

Now cue the Roy string of 33 games of 20pts or more to prove me dead wrong. I'll be happy with that too.

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