Portland Trail Blazers Nate McMillan’s popularity wilts in the rain

Once Considered a Savior, Blazers Coach Nate McMillian is Unfairly Criticized for Blazers Play

In the Rose City, the love affair with Coach Nate McMillan has started to wilt as the petals of support have fallen with the sudden torrential downpour of ugly losses at the Rose Garden and away from it.

“Fire Nate” has become a trendy phrase to use in the coffee shops, sports bars and everywhere else that the team is passionately discussed.

Before the Portland TrailBlazers brass echoes it, the rest of the garden needs to be addressed before Nate gets pruned.

1). No General Manager

Rip City’ is run worse than a Division I basketball team. At least those teams have definitive recruiting coordinators. Portland is the ONLY NBA team in the league without a general manager. In a town where Pritch-slapping was the most common form of violence a couple years ago, fans can barely name who the “acting GM” is.

His name is Chad Buchanan, and until he officially gets the job, the Blazers don’t have one. How can anyone ask a McMillian to carryout a vision when nobody above him has the slightest idea what direction they are headed?

2). No Point Guard

Nate McMillian was a former point guard, so he’s the first one to know what every Blazers fan in the Rose City already knows: Raymond Felton couldn’t start at Kentucky based on how he has played.

Portland’s revolving door at point guard the past five years has been well documented: Steve Blake, Andre Miller, now Felton.

You could make the argument that the Blazers haven’t had a good one since Damon Stoudamire.

Even then, TrailBlazers fans weren’t on the best terms with Mighty Mouse setting the table, but most would agree he would be a huge upgrade compared to what they have now.

3). No Brandon Roy

This is not an excuse for McMillian but rather a legitimate reason for his inability to win with his roster. He lost Brandon Roy, the third best shooting guard in the NBA behind Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Nate McMillan

PDX Blazers Head Coach Nate McMillan - (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Say what you want about how Roy’s tendency to stagnate ball movement, when the game was on the line Roy was one of the best in the NBA in bailing his team out.

There has been talk this season about how the Blazers have been unable to close games out compared to past seasons.

Whether it was a 30-footer over Houston at the buzzer in 2008 on TNT or a 18-point fourth quarter against Dallas last year in the playoffs, Brandon Roy bailed the Blazers out time and again.

There’s a short list of teams that have a player capable of doing that for his team, and with Roy’s retirement Rip City is now off that list.

4). Lack of Talent

Portland fans are hopeless romantics when it comes to their Blazers. and the innocence is cute in a way. Rarely will you see a trade of a non-double digit scorer like Rudy Fernandez lead to a day of mourning the next for a city.

Blazers fans refuse to acknowledge what the rest of the NBA knows: The Blazers are not as talented as Blazermaniacs think they are, and their record reflects exactly what they are: an average team.

Simply looking at the starters, I can give you three to four alternatives for each position (in no particular order) that are better than their red and black counterparts, assuming that each player is healthy:

  • PG: Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, Chauncey Billups
  • SG: Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, Manu Ginobili
  • SF: Kevin Durant, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Gay
  • PF: LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star, no need to go down this road.
  • C: Drew Bynum, DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka

5). Who Else?

The backup quarterback is arguably the fan’s most favorite player in sports. The favorite coach? The one that currently coaching your team. In Business 101 you learn that if you are going to replace somebody, you better be able to replace him with a better candidate.

Who would do better than McMillian at the helm of the Portland Trail Blazers that currently does not have a similar job in the NBA? Phil Jackson is a front-runner who would not consider coming to Portland. Jeff Van Gundy? His last coaching stop would have been a disaster if management didn’t can him.

Kurt Rambis lost with the same roster in Minnesota minus Rubio. Rudy Tomjanovich won in Houston back when Chuck was chasing women like Jenny Craig, but his last stint in Lakerland was forgetful.

Coach K, Jim Boeheim, John Calipari, and Billy Donovan already make millions coaching in a college atmosphere with NBA-caliber players.

As everyone gazes at the Garden, Blazermaniacs will hope that the team and the relationship with McMillian will bloom again in the spring.

If the team struggles, will the Blazers brass that landscapes the Rose Garden at One Center Court realize that the ivy is somewhere else?

It all depends on how much wind and rain the boos continue to create for this wilting relationship.

One of our other Blazers bloggers Rick Stella asks the question this week does Nate need to leave? Does a trade need to be made? (see his article from last Monday)


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About Blair Thomas

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