We actually shot an episode of the VideoCast today (example here) but as some of you know I've been pretty sick since last week. I feel marginally better and, hopped up on feel-better pills, I was actually able to pull off a decent 14 minutes information-wise. Sadly, I look like a pale zombie with sunken eyes. And upon review even I couldn't stand listening to my voice half-plugged up from sinus congestion and at a lower volume than usual because I can't hear that much outside my own head right now. So...the "video" portion seemed like a bad idea this week. But the information was still good, so I thought I'd type out my two-minutes-or-less answers to your Mailbag questions. Here you go.
Why are the Blazers still playing [Raymond] Felton and [Jamal] Crawford? The season's done. They could see what guys like Jonny Flynn and Nolan Smith can bring. I can't believe they're still wasting their time with these two.
Matt from L.O.
You have to understand that the Blazers lost 2/5 of their starting lineup on trade deadline day without a single proven commodity coming back in return. That seriously thinned out the roster. Now you're suggesting they bench a third starter plus their sixth man. That would leave them with 3 players out of 11 remaining--Aldridge, Batum, and Matthews--who had played more than 30 minutes per game this year. 3 others--Przybilla, Thomas, and Hickson, big men all--average between 15 and 20, though Hickson should barely count. The other 5 guys on the roster, including every guard and small forward outside of Batum and Matthews, haven't even averaged 10 minutes per game. That's not going to fly. We're not only talking players who haven't played together, we're talking players who haven't played, period.
If you think Felton and Crawford would happily come in to fill 10 of those minutes in their new, end-of-bench roles, think again. They'd view the demotion as an insult and a direct blow to their future chances of a contract. They'd fume and fester, destroying the locker room even further.
Most of all, what do you say to Aldridge, Matthews, and Batum? They're expected to go out there and bust their butts every night. They're expected to put bodies on the line, effort and heart into the game. They're expected to fight for the win. Now you're taking away two of their better chances to achieve that goal. It's like telling a NASCAR driver to win the race then deliberately giving him a slower car. What's he going to say? At best he'll think you're nuts as he tries to fulfill the directive you just sabotaged. At worst his morale will plummet and he'll quit trying. The Blazers don't need any more of THAT.
Like it or not, Felton and Crawford are still the best options for the time being. With 2-3 games left in the season the perspective might change.
Click Through for questions about re-signing Batum, trading Aldridge, Mike D'Antoni, and more!
The Blazers are going to have to make a huge decision this summer. How high would you go to sign Nicolas Batum? Where's the limit where you just let him go to another team? Can the Blazers really do that even if the price is high? They have to keep him, right?
Batum has had amazing moments this season, blessing the Blazers and putting him in high demand. He's clearly among the top two players for this team and when he's on he may be the best, period. The problem is, he's hardly ever that "on" and often he looks "off". He delivers but the meat of his story still involves tantalizing, not realizing.
How much are you willing to pay to be tantalized by an incredibly talented 23-year-old?
For me, anything under $9 million per year you match without thinking, unless there's some other secret bona-fide-star master plan that I don't know about requiring cap space. Single-digit prices are reasonable for a guy who can deliver what Batum does with the right to prospect for more for the next few years of his career.
When you start getting into double digits, though, you're talking star money. If you're paid like a star you need to be a star. Not maybe, not someday...you need to be a star now. Batum might become one but Batum also has to be shown how to become one. That personality trait doesn't often change and it doesn't often lead to the kind of stardom that takes a team to new heights. Real stars burn for it, work for it, then take it. There are few things worse than having to remind your star that he is a star and needs to shoulder that responsibility. (See also: Rasheed Wallace.) Even when he remembers, opponents clocking him hard will usually take it away, sending him back into so-so land.
If you're under $9 million per year you don't have the same expectations or cap burden hanging on you. You can be a good starter without being a star. If somebody offers Batum $11 million...$12 million...ouch. I think the Blazers have to consider letting him walk for that.
The big one: Would you trade LaMarcus Aldridge ever?
--Bill in Gresham
Yes, I would. We've talked about the reasons before without actually heading into trade talk. The Blazers have suffered from a chronic case of Bad Timing ever since the Raef LaFrentz Expiring Contract deal never materialized. Before that point they were right on schedule, in control. Ever since they've been a year or two off on everything. If only Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace had been here earlier they might have beaten Houston in the playoffs. If Roy had stayed healthy a little longer they could have beaten Phoenix. Now here they are again embarking on a multi-year rebuild just as their brightest star hits his prime. That's bad timing.
We've also talked about the expense of the Aldridge contract. He's not overpaid. That's just a lot of money for a marginal increase if the team's not really going anywhere.
If the Blazers had a chance to get draft talent they thought could grow into Aldridge-like status, or even close, they should consider making a deal to make that happen. A new guy would cost $4 million year to Aldridge's $15 million. What could you do with that other $11 mil to build the roster?
Here's the Golden Goose situation: You look for a team at the lower reaches of the lottery to get lucky with the ping-pong balls. Could be this year, could be next year...whenever. That kind of team might value one of the best power forwards in the game to take them to the next level over a talented draft pick they need to grow. It won't quite work because of contract timing, but let's just pretend the Milwaukee Bucks got the 2nd pick in the draft this summer. You ring them up and talk about Aldridge joining Monta Ellis and about whether that would be enough to convince Brandon Jennings to stay with them. That'd be a potent team. Ask them to send Ersan Ilyasova, Beno Udrih, and their pick. They'd have to think about it. You'd get a good forward, a short-term point guard, and an extremely high lottery pick which you could grow while paying cheaply, starting a new Big Three. You'd probably make the lottery again next year but after that, watch out. Milwaukee makes the playoffs easily and threatens to advance. Everybody wins.
The question is, would the Blazers have the desire and fortitude to pull this kind of deal? My guess is they wouldn't even think of trading LaMarcus until after next season. But you know, the possibility is still open then...
What do you think about the Blazers getting Mike D'Antoni to coach here? Any chance he'd go for it?
I'm not sure the Blazers should go for it!
Mike D'Antoni coaches a particular system. Most coaches rely on some kind of system but his is pretty well defined and he's sticking to it. You have to remember that you're guaranteed to get the weaknesses of any system. If they could be avoided, they already would have been. But you're not guaranteed to get a system's strengths. That depends on your level of talent and the right skills to fulfill it.
Mike D'Antoni's system has traditionally been weak in areas of defense and rebounding. That's the price you pay for getting up more shots and generating amazing offense. You rely on the overwhelming strength of the offense to compensate for the shortcomings.
When D'Antoni was in Phoenix with players like Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, his offense was incredible. #1 in field goal percentage, #1 in three-point percentage, #1 in fast break points, #1 in scoring...in most years it wasn't even close. They were awesome. Still, even at his height he never got his team past the conference finals, losing both times he got there.
Now take a look at Portland's current roster and the roster they're likely to have over the next couple years. The chances of them ending up first in the league in shooting of any stripe, scoring, fast break points, or any significant offensive category is about the same as the chances of finding a Voodoo Doughnut in your Weight Watcher's plan. That means at best you're going to get half of D'Antoni's system, with most of the good you see being tempered by the weaknesses. That's not a recipe for success.
Now that you've had some time to think was firing Nate McMillan a good move or a bad move?
It was a perfectly acceptable move. The team was spiraling out of control, losing by high double-digits to opponents they could have beaten in their sleep. Nate looked helpless. He had lost his voice with these guys. Coaches get fired for that kind of thing. It wasn't a bad move.
On the other hand, it didn't change that much either. The team is 3-3 since he left, better than the 20-23 record he compiled this year but still not great shakes. It's not like they've transformed into a playoff squad. They were mediocre and mercurial then, they're mediocre and mercurial now. They had flaws in their style and decision making then, they have slightly different flaws now. It wasn't really a good move.
In some ways it would be better for the Blazers to have an awful move to make, as that would imply the chance of a really good move to make. The problem is, they can't really do either. They're just mired in the muck of mediocrity. Fire Nate/Keep Nate, Play Player X/Play Player Y, this scheme/that scheme...what's going to truly lift them above the current level? I don't see any really important decisions as long as the current framework remains. The only significant moves will happen after they make the decision to radically change the team. That decision is coming in one way or another, this summer or next. Until then there's no answer to your question or any like it other than, "Eh...it was a move."
We actually taped one more question but I think I can only convey the proper tone on camera, so we'll leave it until next week when we're back to the illness-free, actual VideoCast.
You can keep questions coming to the e-mail address below.