Misfortune in Portland
Nate McMillan is playing the hand he’s been dealt.
PORTLAND – The Pacific Northwest is known for its abundance of trees, rain, and outdoor activities. On the other hand, Nate McMillan is a familiar face around these necks of the woods too, but for how long remains the question.
Few coaches in NBA history have ever gone through a career so confined due to team injuries such as McMillan. He’s well respected throughout the league with a host of accomplishments such as winning the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski. However, McMillan’s legacy in the coaching profession still remains an unknown. One could only wonder how much success McMillan would have garnered if he had all of his weapons at his disposal.
“With the injuries that we’ve had over the last three years, no, I have not had the opportunity to fully see what this team is capable of doing,” McMillan told SLAM. “Last year I felt like we had a strong team. My plan was to have Steve Blake and Greg Oden as my starting point guard and center with Andre Miller and Marcus Camby coming off the bench. That would have been a strong rotation, but we never saw that team play.”
Questions have arisen about McMillan’s future in Portland as he is in the last year of his contract. First year GM, Rich Cho, would like to take the wait-and-see process in his dealings with McMillan.
“In the summer, Nate and I mutually agreed that we would talk after the season and that’s what we’re going to do,” Cho told SLAM. “Anytime you have injuries, it makes it that much harder, but other teams have injuries too. It’s an opportunity for guys to step up.”
Not only has McMillan restored the Portland Trail Blazers back to being a winning franchise, he’s also primarily responsible for bringing a level of respectability back to Portland as the “Jail Blazers” days are long gone.
“I’ve been here for six years. I think ownership and everyone knows who I am and what I’m about,” McMillan said. “My contract will take care of itself.”
McMillan, once again, has managed to keep the Blazers afloat despite losing franchise players in Brandon Roy and Oden. He has now handed LaMarcus Aldridge the key to the offense as Aldridge has thrived in his new role and is a serious All-Star candidate. Modifying and improvising is part of a coaches occupation. However, McMillan usually finds himself doing it more often than other NBA coaches.
“I’m being evaluated and assessed,” said McMillan. “But I’m also evaluating and assessing to see what moves the organization is making to improve this team. I want the Blazers to want me, but I have to evaluate them at the end of the year also.”
Complaining and making excuses is not a part of McMillan’s character as he focuses on how to improve this team with what he has available. McMillan has done a remarkable job in keeping the Blazers relevant when key players have gone down. Hopefully, management will feel the same way and reward him with an extension.
“At the end of the day, they have to figure out who’s the best candidate for the job,” McMillan said. “My track record should speak for itself.”