More Mailbag questions in the heat of the playoff race!
How do you feel about the Jack Ramsey tributes? I lived in Portland all through that era and I loved the guy. I'm glad to see him honored and he was the best. Do you think even his memory had an effect on the team now? They sure played with guts.
Jack Ramsay was the best. He deserves every stitch of tribute that he gets. You'll not find that blend of intelligence, knowledge, communication, and integrity (plus just decent human kindness) many places. He was a special, special man. The Blazers should be keeping his memory and the spirit he brought to the franchise alive well beyond this season. We all should be grateful for what he helped create.
As far as his passing spurring the current team...I suppose it could happen but I get itchy for a couple reasons.
1. The team was playing well and playing together before Coach Ramsay passed. I don't know that you'd even want to tease out a direct correlation between any results, or even improvement, surrounding those events. It doesn't seem quite right to try and quantify such a thing. Nor does it seem right to throw the narrative on top of the game willy-nilly. Some things transcend the usual sports analysis and this is one of them.
2. While I understand what people mean when they say, "Let's win it for Jack!" I find myself wanting to draw a hard line there. Jack Ramsay meant a TON to this franchise. He also meant a ton to many people as a broadcaster, a family member, a friend, and an educator. I'm not sure winning a game summarizes all of that or even begins to touch it.
More to the point, Ramsay was let go by the Blazers 28 years ago...a professional decision made by a professional front office about a professional coach. While Portland was his most successful coaching stop, much of his life and much of his national reputation came after he and the Blazers parted ways. I'm sure he kept a soft spot in his heart for Portland but I'm not sure the Blazers making the Finals this year would have changed his life one bit more--or made him really that much happier--than the Clippers doing it. He had so many other things going on. You could equally say, "Let's have a great broadcast for Jack!" or "Let's do some great analysis for Jack!" or "Let's open up a basketball camp in Jack's name!" or "Let's make a donation to help fight the disease that his wife suffered with!" All of those would probably be truer tributes than the 2013-14 Trail Blazers winning a game.
I guess what I'm getting at is, "Let's win it for Jack!" feels like what we want, remembering a Ramsay from three decades ago rather than honoring who Ramsay actually became...of which Portland's success was but a part. Renaming the street near the arena...that's awesome. The uniform patches are great too. But I find myself wanting to divorce the Blazers actually winning and losing from the effectiveness and attention we give to Ramsay's memory. Whether they win or lose a game, a series, whatever, shouldn't affect how we perceive him or honor his legacy. He's more than just the guy who brought us a lot of wins. If his gifts to the game of basketball were studied by Portland opponents too and that allowed them to win, those gifts are no less important. Remembering Jack Ramsay the human being (with things that were important to him) not just Jack Ramsay the guy we liked because he was on our side (with things that are important to us) is my preference.
It seemed to me that there were easy buckets to be had when the Blazers drove to the basket. It seems thats why Dallas with Harris and Ellis did so well against them. This makes me worried since our team is not built to get to the basket outside of Lillard. I was wondering your thoughts on this?
The one guy I could stand to see a little more lane aggression from is Aldridge. He didn't seem to test Splitter's speed or willpower much on Tuesday night. Mostly he shot over him. Splitter did get a hand on a ball or two but LaMarcus can't be dissuaded and can't settle. He either needs to try and spin around Tiago or go old-school and back him down farther to get better position from which to take the shot.
The other thing to realize is that the Blazers didn't space the floor well in Game 1, making lane penetration harder. If LaMarcus did look over his shoulder he probably ascertained pretty quickly that getting by Splitter would just leave him in the arms of two new defenders. More motion on Portland's part will help free the lane.
We've got to give credit to the Spurs in this one, but was it just me or did it seem that the effort from the Blazers wasn't there in the first half?
I'm not sure the Blazers got outworked as much as they got out-thought. The futility that engendered came across as a lack of energy, but I don't think the Blazers dogged it. Say rather than most of that energy got wasted.
If I provided you a giant, inflatable beach ball and a wheelbarrow full of bricks and instructed you to pile every brick on top of the beach ball (without deflating it first), you could work really hard at that task and still not make anything more than temporary progress. Eventually your frustration would translate into perfunctory performance, but that doesn't mean you failed to give it your all.
Similarly the Blazers found Spurs defenders waiting for them whenever the ball arrived in their hands and San Antonio screens waiting every time they chased their man on the other end. The Spurs had Portland's number and they weren't letting go until they had factored out any chance of a Blazer victory.
What adjustments do you see that the Blazers can make for Game 2?
1. Still go through your stars but run a better overall offense through them.
2. Switch everyone but Lopez on the defensive end unless you can find a better way to deal with screens. Use your ability to guard Parker with any of three players by actually keeping a player on him no matter who that player may be on a given possession.
3. Try to get Lopez off of Duncan and onto their other big as much as possible.
4. Gang-tackle the boards on both ends. Rely on your guards to get back in transition.
5. Forget everything that happened on the offensive end in Game 1 and have confidence in your ability to score.
The great San Antonio Spurs of the past two decades are made up of Popovich's system and then his set of players. In your opinion is the system more valuable or the way they choose their players?
It boggles my mind that the Spurs are using players that couldn't fit on other teams and making it work flawlessly. Looking it at the other way, could these current Spurs players (i.e. Mills, Belini, Diaw) go onto other teams and survive? What are the Spurs seeing in these players that other teams are not? Thanks!
The players and the system go together. It's important to remember that the foundation of that system are the Big 3: Duncan, Parker, Ginobili. Those three players are talented, carry plenty of different skills in their pocket, and are reliable. Without them the system is just a nice theory. But with them in the fold you don't have to address 800 different issues with the remaining 4-5 players at the top of your rotation. Instead you look for guys who can do 2-3 things really well.
Marco Belinelli didn't work out in a couple places because they needed defense from him and couldn't live with him just shooting the three. San Antonio narrowed it down. "Here's how we defend. These guys are going to back you up. You just need to do 1-2-3. We also need you to fire when open to keep the floor spread. Take obvious paths to the rim or good shots off of screens but don't feel pressure to create on your own. The team offense is plenty good to buoy you." To this Belinelli can say, "Fantastico!"
If he didn't have Tim and Tony covering for him, if the Spurs needed 16 per night out of him instead of 11, Marco would be the same mixed blessing in San Antonio that he was at his other stops.
If you can swing it, the San Antonio way is pretty good. Need less, but expect what you do need more often. It wouldn't work for guys who aren't disciplined or want to be more than they're capable of being, but it's a darn good system for making the most out of players with targeted skills who want to make a place and win in this league.
I'm having trouble mustering the appropriate amount of hate for the Spurs like I had for the Rockets. What do you suggest?
It's a common problem. The Spurs are hard to hate. That victory over the Rockets was so sweet it's tempting to hang a whole season on it. That'll be fine after the season is actually over, but for now the Blazers are in a battle to get to the Western Conference Finals against a team they could possibly beat. They played 88 games to get that chance. They put in countless hours of work, rebounded from disappointment time and again, and had to ride a roller-coaster finish in the last round like nothing we've ever seen.
Are you going to give that up? Because that's what you're doing if you stand there admiring the Spurs instead of knocking their blocks off. Don't hate them as much as Houston? Fine. They're more likable. They're still standing in your way, reaching for something you both want and only one of you can have. They do not care about your hard work. They do not care about your disappointments and struggles, They sure as heck don't care about your miracle three over the Rockets. They are cold. The only thing they care about is getting rid of you so they can get on with their real business.
The Blazers and their fans don't have to hate the Spurs. That kind of motivation never lasts and seldom counts for much. But they better not like the Spurs, at least not for the duration of this series. The Spurs do not like them.
You can look at a shark and say, "Damn, that's a big shark!" You can say, "Wow...I can't believe I'm in the same water with that size of a beast." But when that shark's little pea brain translates you as shark food, you sure as heck better get out your stun stick and start ramming it up his snout. "I totally admire you, massive sea creature, but if one of us is going down today it's not going to be me." Right now the Blazers are so much shark food for the Spurs. That shark announced its intentions by taking off a leg on Tuesday night. The Blazers better find some fight in them before they lose another one.
If the thought of being swallowed whole doesn't motivate the Portland universe to get some backbone, I don't know what will. At this point you only have two options: fight back as hard as you can or just lay yourself out and say, "Here, Sharkie, Sharkie, Sharkie!" Until this fight is finished, middle ground is illusion the Blazers can't afford. It'll just result in them getting eaten slower.