Blazer television broadcast duo Mike Barrett and Mike Rice sat down with us during their long day off in Miami to answer a few questions. Among them are many you asked. You submitted well over 50 questions and paring them down was difficult. Basically I chose questions that would be of broad interest that Mike and Mike could answer. A lot of folks asked about cutting certain players, for instance. Since that is management's decision, since management sometimes reads this blog, and since Mike and Mike spend multiple hours in the relatively small space of an airplane with the very players they'd be suggesting we cut, I didn't figure it would be fair (or productive) to ask them such things. Nobody likes angry phone calls from the front office and fat lips delivered on the way to the restroom. That doesn't mean we gave them softball questions, though, as you will see.
Since we've talked with Mike Barrett a couple of times before he decided to let Coach Rice have the floor for much of the interview.
Blazersedge: We've seen a couple of effective offensive schemes from the Blazers: the Roy-oriented high screen/drive/dish sets and the Martell-oriented curl screen and pop sets. But we've seldom seen them at the same time. Are those offenses mutually exclusive? If so what can we do to take better advantage of Martell's gifts in the normal offense?
Blazersedge: Many folks have suggested that one of the obstacles facing Sergio in his growth with this team is that both he and Brandon are most effective when they control the ball. (That doesn't mean either is selfish, rather than both like to initiate plays.) Do you see this as a concern? Can they co-exist and be effective?
Blazersedge: The tempo of the half-court offense seems quicker this year than in years past and the ball movement is certainly better but the Blazers have yet to show a true running game. They almost never fast break. Do they need more easy buckets in order to flourish? If so, how do we get them?
Blazersedge: A lot of NBA teams throw in occasional zone defenses but for the Blazers it seems like their bread and butter. What makes the Blazer zone more effective than other teams'?
Blazersedge: Blazer fans seem to miss a lot of what Jarrett Jack does. What makes him valuable on the court? We can see his ability to drive, pick up the foul, and finish but what else does he bring that's distinctive?
Blazersedge: At certain points during the year we've heard that the Blazers have a logjam of talent and need to pare down, especially considering the guys we have stashed overseas. Other times we've heard that we need to add a free agent or two. In two years will the rotation looked thinned out, thickened up, or both? What positions will see the most change?
Blazersedge: Andrew Bynum is getting a ton of ink as one of the next big centers. How will he and Oden compare? What does each do well and which will end up better?
Blazersedge: How do you see Rudy Fernandez fitting in with this team? How long will it take him to become a key contributor?
Blazersedge: Do you ever get a chance to be "Coach Rice" with the players and do they listen?
Blazersedge: Which Blazers on the current team do you think might make good coaches someday?
Blazersedge: Did either of you do anything superstitious during the winning streak?
Mike Barrett: My answer is kind of the same, in that I didn't even want to think about the streak, because it was so shocking. As people have pointed out to me, most of the time on the air I'm holding on to a pen in my left hand. I didn't even realize it until someone said it last year. Just a security blanket I guess. The only thing I keep consistent, when we're winning, is I use the same pen. I had this very girly pink pen during the streak, and kept it until we lost. I still have it, but it's now at the back of the rotation. Strangely enough, and totally by accident, is the fact that Kevin Pritchard was wearing a pink tie during every game on the streak. I broke out the pink pen again for the Boston game, but obviously it's now down in the batting order again.
Blazersedge: One of our readers noticed that not only does Mike Barrett seem taller when he stands, his stool and/or chair appears taller than the Mike Rice's. Is this true? If so is it a question of leg room or does Barrett really have to have the upper hand at all times?
Mike Barrett: Rice can say this isn't a big deal, but his wife always tells him that he looks short, compared to me, on the broadcasts. When the wife talks, you listen. We are really about the same height. I'm mostly body, and he's all legs. Rice has even taken to sitting on a cushion at home games when we're at the table, so he'll look taller than me. When he walks off before games, I'll hide the cushion, and that gets him all out of whack.
Even though I wanted this interview to be all Rice (I typed for him), I just want to add a couple of things. Many fans don't know how successful he was as a college coach, and a college player. Back east, they know, and he's very well respected. The question about whether or not he coaches members of this Blazers team was interesting, and I loved his response. He keeps his distance. But, I will say the Blazer coaches, especially Nate, respect Mike's opinion a great deal. Rice was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1962, if you didn't know. On these road trips back east, members of the media, and old coaches, always approach him and want to talk basketball. In New Jersey the other night, Nets coach Lawrence Frank made a point to stop by to chat with him. This isn't unusual. He's best known back here for playing for, and later coaching, Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He took them to the NCAA Tournament. His son, Mike Rice, Jr., is the head coach at Robert Morris. He is one of the top college recruiters in the east, and helped put together the team at Pitt when he was the lead assistant there last year. He's going to continue moving up the ranks, and will have a major program someday soon. I always tell Junior to come out west, and perhaps shoot for a Pac-10 program, like Oregon State perhaps. He's a hot, young coaching prospect with a ton of potential.
As for my partner, he's the best. We spend a ton of time together on the road, and I can't imagine having a better relationship with a broadcast partner. My dad was a long-time coach, so I've spent most of my life around coaches. In my opinion, he's the best analyst in the game, and is certainly entertaining.
Thanks again to Messieurs Barrett and Rice for taking the time to talk with us. I'm sure you'll agree that we'd have to look far and wide to find two broadcasters as knowledgeable, accessible, and accommodating. Thanks to all of you, also, for being the type of readers people want to talk to. The Mikes do read your responses. Your positive, intelligent comments have made it possible for interviews like this to happen.
And on that last point...if your question didn't get answered, do not fear. I have been informed that both Mikes enjoy this process enough to make it a semi-regular deal. We're not going to impose on their time too much but on long road trips we'll get the chance to run some things by them again.
Don't forget to check out Mike Barrett's blog on a daily basis. It's in the links in the right sidebar as well.