Heard It Through the Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 1, 2010 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

If Andre Miller has been haunting your dreams over the last few days, you might just want to skip on down to the second set of bullets.

  • Kelly Dwyer took a moment to reflect on Andre Miller’s monster night: “It was quite the show. Jason Kidd, Jose Juan Barea and Jason Terry just could not cut off Miller from penetrating into the lane for a series of stretched-out lay-ups. Absolutely could not stop the guy. Shawn Marion, a fantastic defender even in his advancing years, defended Miller ably but still failed to keep him from tossing in shots. Miller just drove, drove and drove toward those 52…And, for someone who essentially had the ball in his hands in every Portland possession, Miller’s two turnovers in 42 minutes of play might be more impressive than the 52 he gave Kidd, et al. “Might be.” Those 52 points, as a guard who has bounced around, working for a new team that has involved him in trade discussions for the last month and a half, for a player who will turn 34 in two months, against a team that prides itself on its sound defense? This was a bit of a jaw-dropper.”
  • In the least surprising bit of news all season, Rick Carlisle was none too impressed with the Mavs’ defense against Portland (via Eddie Sefko): “We’ve gotten very soft defensively as a team…We were a tough-minded team the first quarter of the year, and that’s gone by the wayside...It’s an attitude adjustment that we’re going to have to make to get it back.”
  • Andre Miller had averaged 5.0 points on 4 of 25 shooting in his previous three games.
  • After the game, Miller was completely unphased by his own feat. Whether that’s measured as complacency or serenity is almost purely based on circumstance. Take it away, Ziller: “Jason Quick of The Oregonian heard from Miller’s teammates just how little the fitty-plus performance changed Dre’s M.O. Martell Webster said Miller walked into the locker room after the finish as if nothing had ever happened. LaMarcus Aldridge said Miller was stoked for the win — which came almost entirely because of Miller — but had no time to celebrate the personal achievement. And this is Miller, basically. When things weren’t going well between Dre and coach Nate McMillan earlier this season, Miller’s quiet confidence was seen as disruptive aloofness, as if the reserved and perturbed Miller upset the team’s once marvelous chemistry. Now? It’s egoless contentment, and no doubt Miller would be fine with 10 FGAs in the next game. Amazing how circumstances change perception.”
  • Dave from Blazers Edge qualifies Miller’s night with a bit of perspective: “Had this been Jerryd Bayless people would have been screaming to the highest heavens that he is the next Superstar of the League and Portland should start him now and always and so on and so forth.  Miller had 52 points in this game and he’s none of those things (except the starter part), never has been, and never will be.  In fact he had 7 and 2 points in the two prior games.  Good players can have fantastic games.  You ride them and celebrate them but in the end you judge a guy on what he does night in and night out and not what he did in one or two games.”
  • There’s reason enough to question the “hot hand” theory, but Shawn Marion is completely subscribed to the idea; by the time the Mavs made the defensive switch to put Marion on Miller, it may have been too late.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

No Game Is an Island: On Their Own

Posted by Rob Mahoney on December 22, 2009 under Previews | Be the First to Comment

For a team with a bright future, things in Portland are certainly dim. Greg Oden’s injury puts a damper on what could have been a successful season, and the point guard situation is far from resolved. They have an All-Star shooting guard and bright, young talent at virtually every position, yet the chemistry and rotation have become unexpected problems. The worst of it is this: regardless of what has worked for other teams in the past, there is no blueprint for team-building. There is no generic solution for the Blazers’ uniquely talented players, and though it sure beats being a lottery team, being rich with talent often presents its own new problems.

The Portland Trailblazers are an interesting case study on multiple levels, but particularly because their fortunes have been all over the place. Brandon Roy is clearly the star of the show, and rightfully so. He’s an incredibly talented offensive player who can produce without stymieing the greater team-wide vision. In fact, with a player of Roy’s particular talents and tendencies, you could go as far as to say that he excels within a team framework. There are certain NBA players who were born to win one-on-one tournaments. And for what it’s worth, Roy probably wouldn’t do too badly. That said, the true beauty of his game comes in how he controls the flow of the offense and manages space. He works the pick-and-roll beautifully, he draws extra defenders and finds the open man, and above all, Roy isn’t just capable of making the pass, but completely willing to. He’s humble. He’s a consummate professional. He’s hungry. And despite everything that has gone right for the Blazers in amassing their stable of young talent, it’s possible that they still haven’t figured out what kind of players are best-suited to flank Roy (and LaMarcus Aldridge, and whoever else is deemed part of the core).

It’s not as simple as taking a franchise model and plugging in Roy. His style is very much his own, and despite the temptation to assume that he would work the same in any number of systems with a precedent of talented shooting guards, that’s not the way it works. Just because the Bulls of the 90s, the Lakers of the early 2000s, and the current incarnation all run some version of the triangle offense, the personnel put their mark on the system. In those cases, you can hold the coach and the system constant, but that doesn’t make Luc Longley and Shaquille O’Neal one in the same. Players will always shape a system to make it unique, and great players typically have a more profound influence than is easily recognizable. As much as Roy is to be part of McMillan’s system, the system and the rotation must adjust to the specificities of Roy’s game.

Read my piece on Brandon Roy and the Blazers in its entirety at Hardwood Paroxysm.