Posts Tagged ‘Nate McMillan’

USA Basketball: Back On Top … Next Up?





LONDON – USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo doesn’t play the “what if” game. He refuses to even entertain it, whether it’s in regards to the program he runs, the games the teams play or the future of the game of basketball around the globe.

He is simply not interested in delving into the hypothetical world of what would, could or should have been. And when you are the architect and steward of an operation that has won 50 straight games on the world stage, it’s probably wise to deal strictly in the here and now.

So you’ll have to excuse Colangelo for not being as nervous as some were in the final minutes of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team’s gold medal triumph over Spain Sunday at North Greenwich Arena, the 107-100 final score was the closest in an Olympic final in 40 years.

“What if Marc Gasol hadn’t gotten into foul trouble?” someone asked from deep in the back of a scrum. (more…)

Blazers’ Search Down To Two

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – It’s been 140 days since Nate McMillan was fired as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Blazers still don’t have a full-time replacement.

But they’re close. Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that the Blazers’ list of candidates is down to two

The Trail Blazers’ head coach next season will either be Terry Stotts or Kaleb Canales, The Oregonian has learned, after general manager Neil Olshey on Wednesday informed Steve Clifford and Elston Turner that they are no longer finalists.

Stotts, 54, is the former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, where he compiled a combined 115-168 record. He has never had a winning season, but did advance the Bucks to the 2006 NBA playoffs, where they lost in the first round. He has been the top assistant in Dallas since 2008, and head coach Rick Carlisle credited Stotts’ offensive innovation in helping the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title.

Canales, 34, is the former video intern hired by the Blazers in 2004 whose ascension has included stops as video coordinator, assistant coach and interim head coach for last season’s final 23 games after Nate McMillan was fired. He went 8-15 with the Blazers and was overwhelmingly supported by the players after the season to be the next head coach. When Olshey was hired in June, he also gave a strong endorsement, saying Canales had “set the bar high” for other candidates to clear.

The Blazers improved offensively under Canales last season, but they really regressed on the other end of the floor… (more…)

Batum Eager To Play For Wolves



He was about 3,800 miles away, but Nicolas Batum’s voice was loud and clear. He wants to play with the Minnesota Timberwolves next season.

Batum, the Blazers’ restricted free agent, made his preference clear Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview from Madrid, where he was with the French National team as it prepared for a friendly match later Tuesday against Spain, one of the top challengers to the defending U.S. men’s Olympic gold medal team at the upcoming Summer Games in London. While Portland has said it will match any offer sheet for Batum, he hopes they will let him go to play for the Wolves, who have a commitment for a four-year deal worth $45 million on the table when the July Moratorium ends Wednesday.

“I’m a restricted free agent,” Batum said. “I know the situation. Anywhere I sign, the Blazers are going to match. But my first choice was, and is, Minnesota. That’s where I want to play and that’s where I want to put my family. I’ve got nothing against the fans (in Portland) and nothing against the city. But this is a basketball decision and basketball wise, I want to be there. Last year, they impressed everybody, and that’s what I respect. To have a great young point guard like (Ricky) Rubio, and a great coach like (Rick) Adelman, I really liked that project. And I think they think I’m the missing piece at small forward. That’s what they told me.”

Batum met last week with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, team president David Kahn and Adelman, and was impressed by the direction in which the franchise is going. But the 23-year-old Batum has been a priority to retain by the Blazers through several different basketball administrations, intrigued by his ability to score either as a driver or shooter. Portland acquired Batum in a Draft night deal in 2008 from the Rockets. Last season he averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Blazers, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 17.32 ranked eighth among small forwards in the league, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala.

A source said that Batum did not want to sign an offer sheet because he was worried the Blazers would match. And, indeed, according to the Oregonian newspaper, that’s exactly what the team’s new general manager, Neil Olshey, told Batum and his representatives in a meeting last week. However, the Timberwolves have enough space to sign him outright to a sheet. They can clear $10.8 million of additional room buying out center Brad Miller (who has already announced his retirement) and guard Martell Webster, and also could create additional room by using the amnesty clause on center Darko Milicic, who is under contract next season at $5.22 million and has two years and $10.8 million left on his contract.

Batum grew frustrated by the slower pace that former Blazers coach Nate McMillan favored, and thinks he has a chance to play at a more up-tempo style in Minnesota.

“When I talked with Adelman last week, I felt like he wants me, will play me the way I ask to play,” Batum said. “Last year was tough for all of us and I think I need a new start. I think I need something else. Again, it’s nothing against the city or the fans (in Portland).”

Batum said that he thinks Portland and Minnesota will ultimately work something out.

“I know that they’re working on a sign and trade, and I’m very hopeful that both of them understand my situation, do the best both for me and for them,” he said.

Olshey, Batum said, told him last week that he could be a big part of Portland’s team going forward.

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Wittman to return, Flip pleased




BOSTON – No one is happier that Randy Wittman apparently will continue as head coach of the Washington Wizards than the man whose firing opened the job for him.

Flip Saunders, who was fired in January with a 2-15 record, said that Wizards management did more than just promote his top assistant coach, who is expected to have his interim tag removed with a new contract in the next week or so. The brass also  addressed some of the team’s issues once Wittman was in place, not that those were secrets prior to Saunders’ dismissal.

“Where I feel good is, there were a lot of things that I thought had to be done with that team when I was there,” said Saunders, who has been working as a consultant for Boston’s Doc Rivers during the playoffs. “When Randy first took over, they didn’t have great success until they did what they needed to do with some of the guys and changed the roster. And they got better.”

For example, a young but immature nucleus of JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche was broken up for Wittman – the first two traded, the third shut down when he ballooned out of shape – even though Saunders said he raised that red flag last season. Washington also acquired center Nene from Denver, who only played 11 games with his new team but gave it an inside presence and a veteran who could command attention off the court. Adding solid role players James Singleton and Cartier Martin helped too, Saunders said.

“I knew what needed to be done,” said Saunders, who went 51-130 in Washington after leading Detroit and Minnesota to 11 playoff appearances in 13 seasons. “Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to see it through. But Randy’s my guy. And the staff there are guys basically that I hired. So I feel good about that too.”

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Blazers’ Aldridge Done For The Season





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Add LaMarcus Aldridge to the list of names that did not finish the season on the active list for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The All-Star forward will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right hip and will miss the remainder of the season, the team announced via Twitter this afternoon. They also released a statement as well, detailing the latest blow for a franchise that has been dealing with injury issues for years:

“In his most recent MRI, and following further evaluation, it’s been determined that LaMarcus has a slight labral tear and will require arthroscopic surgery,” said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. “LaMarcus’ priority is that he’s 100-percent healthy going into training camp this fall and we all feel this is the best course. He’s had an All-Star year and his long-term health is the most important thing to consider.”

Dr. Marc Phillipon will perform the surgery at a date to be determined.

A first-time NBA All-Star this year, Aldridge averaged a team-high 21.7 points to go with 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.93 steals, 0.82 blocks and 36.3 minutes in 55 games (all starts). He shot 51.2 percent from the field and 81.4 percent from the foul line, both career highs.

Aldridge currently ranks eighth among league leaders in scoring, 14th in field goal shooting and 25th in rebounding. He is the only NBA player averaging at least 21 points and eight rebounds while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.

He joins the list of casualties this season that includes Brandon Roy (retired), Greg Oden (injured and later waived), Gerald Wallace (traded), Marcus Camby (traded) and Nate McMillan (fired), among others.

Recovery time for the procedure is expected to be two to four months, effectively ending the chances of Aldridge competing for a spot on the Olympic team for the London games this summer.

The Future Is Always Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You could feel the vibe from 3,000 miles away.

That energy was real.

The Portland Trail Blazers were on the verge of something special with one of the league’s best young executives, Kevin Pritchard, best young coaches, Nate McMillan, two new young stars, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, already in the fold, and the new No. 1 pick, Greg Oden, smiling on the stage in front of a sea of thousands and the “Welcome To Rip City” banner hanging behind him.

Nearly five years later, Aldridge is the only one left amid the rubble that was the Trail Blazers’ championship blueprint. Pritchard was the first to go, fired on draft night two years ago. Injuries forced Roy into retirement in December, McMillan was fired Thursday and Oden’s injury-plagued career with the Trail Blazers (82 games is all they have to show for his actual game time in uniform) came to an end later that evening when he was waived.

This isn’t yet another savage poke at an already wounded rabid and wickedly loyal fan base in Portland. On the contrary, they have been the one constant and positive force surrounding this cautionary tale. Their plight is a reminder for any fan base, and the franchise they love, out there dreaming about what could be. The future is always now in the NBA, right now, in fact!

And if you operate with any other theories in mind, you do so at your own risk.

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Portland’s Canales still works harder





CHICAGO – A glut of media types, team staffers and security personnel were huddled under a TV mounted in a United Center hallway, catching the final seconds of the Norfolk State-Missouri NCAA tournament game Friday evening. There was a Portland Trail Blazers backdrop draped on one wall, it was about time for their head coach to do his media chores and that’s when someone realized: Maybe he was standing amongst them already. Who’d know?

Within moments, Kaleb Canales hurriedly walked over and took his position before the cameras and reporters. In his polo shirt, baggy shorts and sneakers, he looked like a ball boy trying to pull an April Fool’s stunt, but no, this was the right guy. He had been out on the court, putting Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge through their pregame workouts. Same as always.

What, change things up just because Canales was going to be working his first game as an NBA head coach?

Wouldn’t be right. Wouldn’t be Canales. “They’re giving me a hard time about it,” he said. “But anytime I can get out on the court and try to improve our team, improve our guys, it’s a great time.”

It is a dizzy, improbable, staggering time for Canales, who joined the club in 2004 as a video intern and was named Thursday to replace fired Nate McMillan, his friend and one of his mentors. In between Canales worked as the Blazers’ video coordinator, adding “assistant coach” to his duties prior to the 2008-09 season. At 34, he is the youngest of the 30 men working the sidelines in the NBA. And as far as actually coaching a game, well, he did go 4-1 with Portland’s 2010 entry in the Las Vegas summer league.

He a 5-foot-11 former forward for his Laredo (Tx.) high school team. He easily could pass for a twentysomething. And he has been flipped the keys of a franchise that – however sideways it has gone in recent days – boasts an All-Star (Aldridge), four players who have been in the league longer than he has and one (Kurt Thomas) who is five years older. The men on his staff – Bernie Bickerstaff, Bob Ociepka, Buck Williams – have smarts and credentials beyond his own.

But Canales, tabbed for this role by Portland’s acting GM Chad Buchanan, apparently prepared for this overnight opportunity the way he prepares for everything basketball-related: Tirelessly.

“You have so many ideas and thoughts running through your head,” he said of the night before his debut Friday against the Chicago Bulls. ” ‘I want to do this and that, and this and that.’ I put my head down at 1 a.m., turned and looked over my left shoulder and it was 4 a.m. So I haven’t really slept too much.”

What else is new? Canales is known as the guy who slept at the Blazers’ practice facility, the gym rat who was available at any hour to shag balls for a player hoping to hoist a few hundred practice shots or work on some other facet of the game. He spent two years as an assistant at his high school and one on the staff at the University of Texas-Arlington where he got his bachelor’s degree.

Mostly, he went sponge, soaking up as much basketball know-how as he could at each level. He still was doing it as he fielded phone calls and texts from well-wishers Thursday-into-Friday, and he isn’t likely to stop learning now.

“Nobody’s going to outwork him. Period,” Portland guard Jamal Crawford said. “I’ll go shoot at the gym at 9, 10 at night and he’s still there. He’s going to be prepared. He knows every set, he knows every player in the league. ‘Cause he’s a hoop-aholic, so even if it has nothing to do with the team, in his time off, I’m sure he’s watching basketball.”

Canales spoke with McMillan about the awkwardness of this opportunity. He met with the Blazers players and, though so many already are thinking about next season, hammered home the usual tonight-is-the-most-important-game message. He acknowledged other pluggers who have come before him – coaches such as Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Indiana’s Frank Vogel, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra. And now he’ll lean on everything he knows about the team, the game and the league, from deep inside, starting Friday and for 22 games after that.

“Having built sweat equity with our guys over the past eight years,” Canales said, “I feel I have a good grasp of our guys, of our team’s personality, DNA.”

Canales seems to have this opportunity, for as long as it lasts, wired into his.

Teardown & Teardrops In Portland





Greg Oden, they hardly knew ye. No longer a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, the hobbled center and ill-fated No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft was released by the team Thursday and goes off to seek cures – surgical, emotional, inspirational – for what ails him, with the best-case scenario of a Roy Hobbs-like return to the NBA someday. Hopefully, it should be added, before Oden grows as old as he always has looked.

The Oden era ended for Portland soon after the NBA’s trade deadline passed, but then, so did the Gerald Wallace era, the Marcus Camby era and most of all the Nate McMillan era. The Trail Blazers folded Thursday and immediately stepped to the front of the humiliation line, ready for their tarring, their feathering and their smearing on a clown grease paint as they got about getting a whole lot worse before they can get much better.

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Reports: Blazers Fire McMillan

NBA.com Staff Reports

After 7 1/2 seasons on the job in Portland, Nate McMillan is out as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple reports. Yahoo! SportsAdrian Wojnarowski first reported the move, which was confirmed by Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. McMillan compiled a 266-269 record and made the playoffs three straight seasons, all of which ended in first-round losses for the Blazers.

The Trail Blazers, who started 7-2, are 20-23 and coming off an embarrassing 121-79 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday. The front office shook up the roster earlier Thursday before the league’s trade deadline, trading center Marcus Camby and forward Gerald Wallace.

Portland had been sacked in recent years by the injury bug, most notably to former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden and then last season with former All-Star guard Brandon Roy. Although Roy did return for the playoffs and had a monster performance in Game 4 against Dallas last season, his troublesome knees forced him into retirement and Portland used the NBA’s salary amnesty provision on his contract before the season.

Wojnarowski reports that Portland assistant Kaleb Canales would take over the coaching duties on an interim basis.

Trade Chatter: Orlando’s ‘Dwight Howard Watch’ Continues





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The countdown clock is ticking … and on the Orlando Sentinel‘s Dwight Howard Watch page, it’s literally ticking … down to next Thursday’s trade deadline with no guarantees as to what’s going to happen to the Magic’s superstar center and the city and franchise that don’t want to lose him.

A week away from what could be doomsday for Magic fans if Howard is dealt and no one is quite sure what’s going to change in Orlando.

There is a strong belief that the Magic will call Howard’s trade request bluff and keep him on the roster with no chance of getting anything for him if he leaves via free agency this summer, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein makes clear here:

I’m sure some of the “Magic resolve” chatter that’s been gaining traction in recent days about how increasingly determined they are to keep him beyond the deadline is at least partly designed as a means of trying to improve the offers that come in before the deadline. Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it’s better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there’s so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.

The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando’s bravery has staying power … or whether the claim that it’ll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.

It’s strange, with all of the wild and crazy rumors that were flying around a week ago this time you’d expect we’d have more of the same. But instead, rumors are being shot down with increasing frequency.

Take a spin around the league and see all of the guys who were supposed to be on the block who are no longer considered to be in that mix, and that includes the likes of Rajon Rondo, Pau Gasol and a few of our other trade rumor faves:

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