Who's driving this bus?
It's a rhetorical question because we all know that Paul Allen & the Vulcan's control everything surrounding the Blazers. The question that needs to be answered is "How do we avoid the cliff that we are currently headed for?"
We don't have a GM. We have a puppet. And Cho is not allowed to think independent from his puppet master. Much like the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones we are lucky to have the deep wallet of Paul Allen, but the downside is that he wants to run his sports franchise himself rather than rely on a more knowledgeable resource...an expert of the profession.
If you look at the most successful sports franchises the one thing almost all of the owners of those franchises have in common is that they are smart enough to relinquish some of their control to smarter people. Ego is the biggest downfall for unsuccessful owners.
Were we better off with Kevin Pritchard? Any good moves KP made during his time as Blazers GM were obliterated by his final swan song of giving Brandon Roy a max deal without any insurance or contingencies despite the known major knee issues. That is unforgiveable. Combined with passing on Kevin Durant, KP's lasting legacy will deservedly go down in the Hall of Shame for GM's right alongside Isaiah Thomas & Matt Millen.
Should the blame for the Roy deal fall on Pritchard alone? Of course not. Regardless of what you hear about how Paul Allen had reservations about giving Roy the 5th year he still signed off on the contract! He certainly shares some of the blame.
However, I do put most of the blame on Pritchard. As GM, the owner was paying him big money to make the tough basketball related decisions. And Pritchard was too cowardly to do the right thing and buckled under the public relations scrutiny from fans that were left in the dark about Roy's knee issues and confused about why it was taking so long for their star player to get his max deal. Pritchard cared more about his public image than making the necessary smart and savvy business decision to protect his team from the disaster we currently find ourselves in.
So, were we better off with Pritchard? As much as I hate the current GM situation I would have to answer that with a resounding NO! Based solely on the Roy contract alone I don't think it's overstating it to say that Pritchard was a spineless, gutless, useless excuse for a GM. No single move in the history of the franchise will have more negative repercussions than the horribly reckless contract that Brandon Roy was allowed to sign.
Rich Cho seems pretty useless as well. But it's not his fault that we are stuck with an untradeable and unplayable Brandon Roy for the next 5 years.
So, what is the best course of action? How do we avoid the cliff?
I've heard countless number of ideas and strategies and scenarios from Blazer fans about what needs to be done. And many of the ideas sound like possible solutions to me and some of them may very well happen. But we can't fix all our problems at once.
In my opinion nothing we could possibly do will be effective if we don't do this one thing first. We have to start with the first step. It's extrememly easy to see, but painful to execute because of how much he has meant to the franchise. But it needs to happen and it needs to happen IMMEDIATELY!!
Step 1: Remove Brandon Roy from the equation
What do I mean by that? Obviously trading him is not an option. But continuing to put Roy in the starting lineup is self-destructive. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity! He needs to be removed.
And I'm actually not talking about simply bringing him off the bench. We need to temporarily remove him completely from the equation. Why? Simple. In order to properly evaluate what we have.
Understand this. Our entire style of play and complimentary pieces, our coach, the role players...everything that is currently in place with this team was built upon the notion of Brandon Roy as a superstar and the focal point of our team. And even though it seems like a ridiculous notion now, it could have worked. If Oden had not been a bust and Roy could have had 3 or 4 more seasons before his knees gave out the potential championship formula, including Nate as our coach, COULD HAVE WORKED!! If Roy was still in his prime and Oden was a dominant center I don't think it's crazy talk to say that Nate's style of play along with a few key complimentary pieces could have brought another championship to Portland.
But all of that is completely irrelevant now.
I don't disagree with many of the other ideas out there. I think Nate should probably be fired. I think we should probably trade our expiring contract players in order to start the rebuilding process. I think we should focus on obtaining a franchise point guard because this is becoming an increasingly PG-driven league. But if we do any of that right now it would be foolish because we would be making decisions without the benefit of information.
Before doing ANYTHING we need to see what we have. And we can't do that with Roy on the court. It's just not possible. He skews everything! We don't know what we have in Batum right now. We don't know how effective some of our bench players could be. We don't know how effective we could be at a more up tempo style. We can't even say for certain what style of play we should be using. We don't know what our identity should be. We don't know if Nate is even capable of changing or adapting his style to better suit the current mix of players. We don't know any of that. And we CAN'T know any of that as long as Brandon Roy is allowed to continue negating any possible positive traction. We are treading water right now. We are trapped between two eras. We are being held captive by a refusal to accept the necessity of establishing a new identity.
We traded Jerryd Bayless in the offseason and I said at the time that we were making a big mistake. Most Blazer fans were indifferent to the move but that's because they didn't understand that we were never given the opportunity to see what we had in Bayless. Same with Martell Webster. Remember what I said earlier about how the championship formula that was constructed a few years ago could have worked if Oden & Roy lived up to all their potential? Well that process never even had the opportunity to begin. We were never able to take flight with that plan. It was always halted on the runway.
So, for the last 3 years we have been playing a style that didn't suit the make-up of our team. We were able to win some games simply due to the collection of talent that we had. But I think we could have been much better off in the long run if we weren't playing as if we had a healthy and dominant Oden in the middle. So, it is simply not possible to properly evaluate any of our role players that we have had in the past 3 years because the style that we played did not match the reality of our situation.
Bayless is showing what he is capable of in Toronto right now. Look for Martell to do the same in Minnesota. They are going to thrive. And they could have thrived in Portland. We traded them before we knew what we had. And I'm afraid we are going to do the same thing with Nic Batum.
Maybe Batum won't ever live up to his potential. But maybe he will be a star. How would we ever know if we continue to limit his minutes and force him to show what he can do in an offense that relies heavily on Brandon Roy isolations without any ball movement or creativity. It's like telling a painter to show his painting prowess without the benefit of paint! Batum isn't given the ball or allowed to move around in an offense that encourages or rewards movement. And the flashes of potential that we see from Batum are the rare moments when Roy is off the court and Andre Miller is allowed to run the show. Those are the times when we can start to see what Batum can bring to the table.
So, what do we do with Roy? Personally I think the best move for the team, Roy's career, and his own personal health, would be to sit him down for the rest of the year. Put him on IR. Encourage him to seek some of the advanced tissue treatment being done overseas. There are experimental tissue regeneration surgeries being done in Europe right now using tissue from cadavers. It's worth a shot. And if Roy refuses that's up to him. It's his body. But that doesn't mean we have to play him. It's addition by subtraction by simply removing Roy from the equation.
After Roy is no longer influencing the product on the court then we can properly evaluate what we have and decide the best course of action. Then we can feel confident about replacing Nate with a coach better suited to fit whatever style of play that best suits our players. Then we can feel confident about trading veterans in order to rebuild for the future. And we will know what type of players to obtain. Then we will actually have a direction instead of the aimless floundering currently taking place.
We need to choose the direction for this franchise. Right now there is only chaos and confusion. Right now any chance of progess is being stymied and brought to a screeching halt every minute Brandon Roy is allowed to play.
Easy to see. Painful to execute. But sometimes the right thing to do is also the most difficult and painful.