Following a morning full of rumored trades and free agent signings, Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan warned against the risks associated with rushing a roster move or moves prior to the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season.
"Everything is just compressed here," McMillan said, following training camp practice on Wednesday. "A lot of teams are trying to make a lot of things happen. I think it can make some mistakes here if you're not careful. As far as being out here in this free agency market, all the conversations about trade talk and some of the things that are going on. You have to be careful about how you do business. For me and the players, stay focused on what we can control, which is out on the floor."
"I just think that everybody is rushing to do things," McMillan elaborated, using failed 3-team trade talks between the New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets as a cautionary tale. "They're trying to get things done in a matter of a few days. You've got to have a plan and execute that plan. You look at that situation in New Orleans and the [Los Angeles] Lakers and the [Los Angeles] Clippers and all of a sudden [Lakers forward] Lamar Odom is involved in a deal -- and then he's not -- and the organization is kind of forced to do something. That [Hornets] deal wasn't completed. So you just have to know and prepare all season long for this time of the year and you have to execute your game plan."
Odom reportedly refused to participate in training camp and requested that the Lakers trade him after the Hornets trade talks fell apart twice. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak didn't hesitate to oblige, dumping Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a trade exception and a heavily-protected draft pick. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have since questioned the move and lamented Odom's departure.
With Blazers trade talk finally ramping up in recent days, for the first time this offseason, McMillan said Portland's plan is stilll focused on free agency first, as Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan has maintained for a number of days. The team will not close any doors when it comes to trades, however.
"We're on that same path of free agency is where we are looking at," McMillan said. "He's not going to just look at free agency and not the trade. You have to see, there are many ways you can improve your team. Chad is going to look at that for this team."
Buchanan reportedly has at least one, if not two, roster additions in mind. McMillan downplayed the importance of those potential moves on the team's current preparation process with just one week until the opening of preseason.
"It's a possibility we might be able to pick up another player in free agency," McMillan said. "Really, the focus is on the guys we have here... If we add a player, good, if not, the focus is on the guys we have here."
During a press conference last week, McMillan, Buchanan and Blazers president Larry Miller barely made mention of forward Gerald Wallace, arguably Portland's second best player, while taking extensively about the future of forward Nicolas Batum and the importance of signing him to a contract extension. McMillan then said on Saturday that the team had to consider the possibility of "rebuilding." Wallace, who is on the books for more than $9 million and has a player option for next season, found himself in a rumored deal that would have sent Orlando Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard to the New Jersey Nets. Portland reportedly would have received a number of draft picks from New Jersey in exchange for sending Wallace to Orlando.
McMillan suggested that the brass' lack of comments regarding Wallace last week was not a purposeful omission.
"He's an important part of this team. I think we were probably responding to the questions last week, of Nic being extended. Gerald is under contract for the next couple of years and I think Nic, there was questions about extending him and expectations, so you're responding to the questions. If we're not talking about a guy, or we are talking about a guy, I don't think that carries weight one way or the other. Gerald, we felt good about getting him last year and I'm excited to see him with me for a full year."
McMillan said that he did directly acknowledge the rumors with his team on Wednesday and informed them that ongoing trade discussions are a part of life in the NBA.
"I talked to our guys about that today," McMillan said. "There's a report about our guys being in trades. You can't control that. Everybody is talked about. Going from player to coach, you realize that those people who think they are untouchable and no one ever calls on them, that's not true. Normally all players are pretty much talked about, as far as teams calling and asking about your players, and all teams listen... The rumors, or all of that, if they have a question or concern my door is always open. They can talk to myself or Chad. We'll let them know what's going on."