When Brandon Roy returned from injury in late December, one got the sense that Nate McMillan didn't know what to do. Though the minute limit offered a self-imposed structure of what to expect from Brandon Roy, still it was apparent that McMillan had reached no new conclusions about what kind of player Brandon Roy had become.
He played Roy late in games and continued to call iso plays for him. He'd sub Roy in and let him drift into near starters minutes, as if he were praying that it would only take time for Roy to resume his Hall of Fame career. Outside of a few games (the March 15 Mavericks game being the most notable), it was a failure. Roy's limitations became more obvious to fans and to opponents. Surprisingly, McMillan seemed to adjust within the last month, using Roy as a part of a second unit—rolling him in and out with Rudy. McMillan lowered his minutes. I was relieved.
If we're to honor the universal sports platitude that our team can't control what the referees do, only what the players do, then perhaps it's time for the Blazers players to acknowledge that if they want to win they'll have to do so in spite of that their coach does, too. Nate McMillan is as solely responsible for this loss as any one person can be in a team sport.
Inexplicably, McMillan kept Wes Matthews out for the entirety of the first half after he was called for his second foul. In his place, Roy played 26 minutes, a significantly higher number than he's averaged since McMillan appeared to figure out his new role on the team. In the second half, after Matthews caused a steal and decisively scored on Jason Terry, McMillan dropped him for Roy. The Blazers run wilted, the offense immediately slowed, and watching Roy on defense immediately revealed how the Mavericks would choose to score. I counted three obvious and costly defensive lapses (is that the right word when the player is incapable of playing defense?) within four possessions.
A last cause for concern: did anyone notice the offensive possession around five minutes left in the last quarter when Brandon Roy listlessly stood at the top of the key and tucked his hands inside his jersey near his armpits? It was the most uncomfortable gesture I've ever seen on a professional basketball court.