Since taking over the operation of the Indiana Pacers, from Donnie Walsh [Mar-24-2008, on a full-time basis, Larry Legend has had to endure a great many insults from NBA observers - experts and non-experts alike - who have asserted that ... although he was an all-time great NBA player ... he was somehow in over his head, as a GM, and incapable of constructing a top flight franchise, based on the quality of his work in that capacity to that point in time.
Anyone who tries to tell you THAT today, you should simply laugh at.
3 seasons ago the Pacers added Roy Hibbert [C, 1st Rd Draft Pick] to their roster.
2 seasons ago the Pacers added Tyler Hansbrough [PF, 1st Rd Draft Pick], AJ Price [PG, 2nd Rd Draft Pick] and Dahntay Jones [OG/SF, veteran FA] to their roster.
Last season the Pacers added Paul George [SF/OG, 1st Rd Draft Pick], Lance Stephenson [PG/OG, 2nd Rd Draft Pick] and Darren Collison [PG, 1st Rd Draft Pick/2009, from New Orleans] and James Posey [SF/PF, veteran FA] to their roster … and made the playoffs for the first time in 4 years.
This off-season the Pacers have added George Hill [PG/OG] to their roster, affirmed Larry Bird as the head of their overall operation, affirmed last season’s interim head coach, Frank Vogel, as their permanent bench boss, in addition to naming Brian Shaw his lead assistant … and now, it seems, have also hired Kevin Pritchard, as their erstwhile GM-in-waiting.
As has been mentioned in this space on different occasions over the course of the last 24 months, or so …
The Indiana Pacers are in the midst of performing a successful franchise re-build in a first-class way.
When a NBA team makes the decision to place their trust in someone with the track-record of Larry Bird … and, then, has the wherewithal to stick with him, come h*ll or high water … it will eventually be rewarded in a substantive way.
Kudos to, both, Herb Simon [Pacers owner] and Larry Legend!
Watch and listen to the remarks of Greg Anthony [former NBA player and current Yahoo! Sports, NBA Analyst], as he discusses with Marc Spears [Yahoo! Sports, Basketball Writer] and Charissa Thompson [Yahoo! Sports, Studio Host] what happened in Portland, and the perceived need to have only 1 autonimous voice, going forward, at the head of the Blazers’ basketball operations:
Watch and listen to the news conference which was held by Larry Miller [CEO] yesterday afternoon, a mere 11 months after Kevin Pritchard [former GM] was fired by the Blazers:
Does it sound to you like there is only going to be 1 autonimous voice, going forward, at the head of the Blazers’ basketball operations?
Watch and listen to the following video clip:
[which explains, in no uncertain terms, what can happen when there is a definite ...
Second. Portland made a second blunder this season, when they traded Joel Przybilla [C] + Dante Cunningham [PF] + Sean Marks [PC-C] + 2 conditional future 1st Round Draft Picks to Charlotte for Gerald Wallace [SF-PF].
Third. The Blazers now look as though they are in total disarray:
… that the 30 gentlemen who, at present, hold the General Manager’s positions, in the NBA, for the 30 best basketball teams in the world are, in fact, the 30 men with ”the best” grasp of what it actually takes to succeed in this league, as a player, then, this specific video clip is posted here expressly for your benefit.
DeJuan Blair [PF, 6-7, 265] was selected in the 37th [overall] position of the 2009 NBA Draft [i.e. No. 7, in the 2nd Round], by R.C. Buford, GM of the San Antonio Spurs … with the 1st of the team’s 2 available picks … which means that all 29 other general managers in the league each had the chance to take him – as an under-sized PF without anterior cruciate ligaments in either knee - and, instead, simply chose to pass him by.
When the Spurs are once again playing in the NBA’s post-season tounament this spring, fans of other teams across the league who repeat, ad naseum, the phrase,
“In ______________[substitute whatever GM's name you may want that's not R.C. Buford], we trust,”
would do well to keep this simple fact in-mind.
The best GM in the NBA currently resides in San Antonio, Texas … and, it’s by a wide margin.
Prior to the start of NBA training camps this fall, if someone had told you that the Portland Trail Blazers would suffer the following list of injuries to key personnel:
Nicloas Batum, SF – Out for seaon, shoulder surgery
Travis Outlaw, PF – Out for season, foot surgery
Rudy Fernandez – Out indefinitely, back surgery
Greg Oden, C - Out for season, knee surgery
Nate McMillan, HC – Out indefinitely, achilles surgery
Joel Przybilla, C - Out for season, knee surgery
all before December 24, 2009 … and, yet,
their Won-Loss Record would still be 18-12/.600 [2nd, Northwest Division; 6th [tied], Western Conference],
it will simply be astounding, if the Blazers are able to compete effectively in their match-up this evening with the San Antonio Spurs, and then for the remainder of this season.
Whatever “deal with the devil” Paul Allen [owner] and Kevin Pritchard [GM] may have made, in regard to the ridiculous level of NBA talent which Portland has been able to assemble on its roster over the last few seasons, surely, cannot possibly be worth the degree of adversity their franchise is having to endure this season … could it?
If the Blazers can somehow make it through this season without falling aparat, completely … it says here that the old adage which goes like this:
“That which doesn’t kill you only serves to make you stronger.” - Anonymous
will never have been more accurate/true for any other franchise in the storied history of the NBA.
There’s a world-class champion incubating in the Pacific Northwest … if it can just manage to successfully navigate these incredibly turbulent waters this season.
This evening’s game between Toronto [11-16/.407, 2nd Atlantic] and Orlando [18-6/.750, 1st Southeast] marks the first occasion for the “Turkish Michael Jordan” to make a return visit to his old haunt in the Magic Kingdom.
As the former “go-to, clutch time” performer for last season’s squad in Orlando, which played its way to the NBA Finals …
What did it really say about Hedo Turkoglu [at 30 years of age] that he was actually willing to forego the opportunity to win a NBA championship with the Magic this season, in order to sign a $50.0 M contract to play the next 5 seasons for the Toronto Raptors?
Perhaps, that he really does care more about being content and comfortable in his own personal life than he cares about doing what’s necessary to win a NBA championship.
Doing what’s necessary to win a NBA championship?
* Getting back in defensive transition to prevent easy opposition baskets.
* Defending one’s individual check with consistent tenacity.
* Defending, in a half-court team context, with thorough responsibility.
* Rebounding with an absolute commitment to recover the ball.
* Discriminating readily between an open and a contested shot attempt.
* Physically standing up for a fallen/vulnerable teammate, when need be.
* A willingness to play within an assigned role for the good of the team.
* A willingness to sacrifice oneself [i.e. the physical body, as well as, personal wants and desires] for the benefit of the team.
In their 16 losses this year, Bryan Colangelo’s Raptors have succumbed by margins of:
@ San Antonio
Legend: Red Text – Away Game.
Considering that the acquisition of Hedo Turkoglu/SF:
in his alleged conversations with Kevin Pritchard [GM, Portland Trail Blazers], in the aftermath of Mr. Turkoglu’s decision to sign on with the Raptors, and that Hedo Turkoglu’s priorities might actually include winning a NBA title.
In response to a most interesting article by David Berri …
The Impact of Losing Greg Oden The primary purpose of this post was to highlight how good Oden had played this season (to see how good, please read the post). Certainly it’s possible that the Blazers could overcome this loss. But it seems fairly likely that Portland’s season is not going to go quite as well as I thought earlier this year.
1. The Blazers were NEVER going to be the best team in the West this season.
2. The Blazers’ overall development arc, as “one of the best teams in the West”, will involve a wider sweep than just 2 or 3 seasons.
3. The problems with this year’s Blazers [at least, so far] this season were not rooted in the play of Greg Oden but in the following list of developments from the last 6 months:
i. Unnecessarily soliciting the services of Hedo Turkoglu [SF/Orlando who eventually signed with Toronto as an UFA], which upset/disrupted the flow they had been developing with Travis Outlaw [PF-SF] and Rudy Fernandez [SF-OG-PG];
ii. Unnecessarily signing a superfluous, ball-dominating PG, like Andre Miller [as an UFA/Philadelphia];
iii. The protracted contract extension negotiations with Brandon Roy [OG-PG-SF] and LaMarcus Aldridge [PF-C]; and,
iv. Re-integrating Martell Webster [OG-SF], a top 8 player, returning from an injury-lost season, into their everyday rotation.
v. The injury sufferred by Nicolas Batum [SF-OG], a long and athletic player who can Defend and Rebound at his specific positions;
vi. The injury sufferred by Travis Outlaw [PF-SF], an under-sized but very versatile and effective player who can: A. take/make big [jump] shots [catch & shoots, plus pull-ups] in the 4th quarter; B. Defend, at the #3/SF or #4/PF with good length and athleticism; and, C. Rebound, at the #/SF or #4/PF position with good length and athleticism.
vii. The long term effects of the “health scare” which their owner, Paul Allen, had last season, that artificially “pushed forward” the team’s perceived “development arc” this past summer in a way which their team was unprepared to cope with at this time … i.e. trying to “win now [!]” instead of gradually continuing their “incremental build-up” over an extended number of years [5-7?].
If Kevin Pritchard truly understands what’s been happening with his squad this season, from a team-building standpoint, then, what he’ll do now is:
I. Not try to “replace” Oden from outside his current group of players;
II. Continue to repair their internal relationships with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez;
III. Move Andre Miller for another better-fitting asset, asap;
IV. Allow his group of Core Players to continue to grow together organically … while integrating this off-season’s main additions from the 2009 NBA Draft, i.e. Dante Cunningham [PF-SF], Patrick Mills [PG] and Jeff Pendergraph [PF].
If Kevin Pritchard does things things and then simply waits on the eventual return of Greg Oden … what he’ll have on his hands, 2 seasons from now, is a fully grown team that is ready, willing and able to challenge the Lakers, as the No. 1 outfit in the West, just as Kobe Bryant’s “development arc” is finally beginning to flow downwards its end-point.
On the other hand …
If Kevin Pritchard does not understand these things about the state of his own team, then, what he’ll do instead is “continue to try and rush” the Blazers through this key stage of their “upward arc” … which involves “learning how to lose before learning how to win”, just like Jordan’ Bulls and Zeke’s Pistons and Hakeem’s Rockets and Robinson’s [and Duncan’s] Spurs and Shaq/Kobe’s Lakers each went through before emerging as multiple-time league champions … then what he’ll do is make the WRONG MOVE at the WRONG TIME and end up blowing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which has come his way in Portland, i.e. to construct one of the NBA’s all-time great franchises with the likes of [youngsters] Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless, Dante Cunningham, Patrick Mills, Jeff Prendergraph and [a healthy] GREG ODEN, plus [oldsters] Joel Przybilla [C], Steve Blake [PG] and Juwan Howard [PF].
The ball is in Kevin Pritchard’s court.
For the Blazers’ sake, it’s important that he doesn’t drop it.
PS. FWIW … Please know that ”curses” do not exist in pro sports. Poor decision-making skills – e.g. bringing injured players back too soon, acquiring ill-fitting players, trying to speed up the development process, etc. - on the other hand, can be found in abundance.
“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
- Lao Tzu
Portland 122, Chicago 98: Everything falls into place for Blazers For a night, at least, order was restored within the Trail Blazers. Brandon Roy was back at shooting guard and controlling the pace and precision of the offense. Andre Miller, steadfastly saying he is accepting the reins of the second unit, played perhaps as hard and determined as he has all season. And the inside combination of Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant like never before.
The Blazers didn’t just beat Chicago on Monday, they overpowered them — dunking over, cutting through and stepping all over the Bulls during a 122-98 victory in front of 20,383 at the Rose Garden, its 79th consecutive sellout.
“A number of things are just starting to come together,” said Roy, who had 18 points and seven assists despite sitting the final eight minutes. “I think guys are back in their natural positions and we sensed that we have to get this going, too.”
Oden tied his career high with 24 points to go along with 12 rebounds, and Aldridge recorded his fifth double double of the season, finishing with 24 points and 13 rebounds. While the Blazers’ big men helped create a 50-32 advantage in points in the paint, the perimeter duo of Roy and Miller (16 points, five assists) not only flourished in separate units, they also thrived when they played together.
Building a championship calibre organization in the NBA is about making small steps forward each and every day … not swinging for the fences.
On Tuesday, Oden was the difference for the Blazers as they jumpstarted a five-game trip with a 93-79 rout of Memphis that ran the Blazers winning streak to three.
After playing only four minutes in the first half after two quick fouls, Oden was powerful on offense and intimidating on defense, helping the Blazers break away from a 45-45 halftime tie. Oden had 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the second half, and keyed the Blazers’ decisive 14-1 run in the third quarter.
“I was 0-fer in the first half,” Oden said, referring to his statistical line. “I wanted to get something going. And by running and giving energy, I thought it could definitely open things up.”
The emergence of Oden is getting the Blazers close to completing the diamond that coach Nate McMillan likes to make with his hands when talking about this team. McMillan puts his forefingers and thumbs together to symbolize the connection between
Prior to this season, that diamond has never been complete because Oden has been learning the ropes. But now, the team and Oden are getting the picture.
“The biggest thing about tonight is seeing how Greg is a huge part of what we do,” Roy said. “If we can keep him on the floor it makes us a much better team. It opens everything for all of us. So in a lot of ways, it starts with him.”
It’s only a matter of time, when you have a stud … with the skill-set, personal qualities and physical attributes of Greg Oden … at the very heart of your team, at the Center position.
Although their individual games are different, Dante Cunningham [2008 No. 33, overall, Draft Pick, PF, 230] does share a number of similar traits with a certain “sleeper pick” from last summer’s NBA Draft, i.e. Luc Richard Mbah A Moute [2008 No. 37, overall, Draft Pick, PF, 230].
Trail Blazers Sign Dante Cunningham “We are really excited about the versatility and determination Dante brings to our team,” said Pritchard. “Dante had a great summer league and we believe he has the potential to become a very good player in this league.”
Selected by the Trail Blazers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Cunningham led Portland’s 2009 NBA Summer League entry with 18.3 points to go with a team second-best 5.8 rebounds and 1.50 steals in four games (all starts).
Do not expect Cunningham to be a major influence on this year’s Blazers’ team, given the overall depth of talent on their roster, but keep your eye fixed on his development, as a rookie with considerable upside, whenever he does get a chance to see some live action coming off the bench for Portland.
A solid rebounder and interior defender already … similar to the under-sized LRMAM … Cunningham is also a capable interior scorer, with an emerging mid-range game and a very good work ethic, who should be able to expand his offensive repertoire over the next few seasons, become a solid NBA player, and make a great many NBA GM’s regret passing on him in this year’s Draft.