Wednesday, May 31, 2006

State of the Blazers...part 3

So this is just a quick post to say that I'm pretty excited that the Blazers fired GM John Nash. I would love to see them get rid of team president Steve Patterson. It's hard to fix management issues that have been plaguing the team since Bob Whitsitt was hired in 1994.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

State of the Blazers...part 2

(I began part 1 by mentioning Derek Anderson, so I'll begin part 2 with some other historical tidbits)

Some news about former Blazer coaches: Rick Adelman just got fired, again, and Mike Dunleavy recently botched another playoff series. In addition, a former player from Adelman's days in Portland, Mario Elie, and Adelman's replacement in Portland, P.J. Carlesimo, are on the short list of likely replacements for him in Sacramento.

And Blazer related Sports Guy stuff: why does he have to keep reminding me of that dreadful game seven against the Lakers in 2000? That was the day I graduated from high school. It was terrible. Jerk.

Once again Oregonlive, the Oregonian's online newspaper, has been running a survivor style competition to see who the fans think should remain from the team last year. I don't mind this except for what it does to the mentality of the fans. Certainly part of the reason that the Blazers haven't been doing as well in the past few seasons is the personnel on the team. But the problems that have led to the demise of one of the great NBA franchises are located mainly in the management camp. In the heyday of the Portland Trail Blazers there was a core of players that could be counted on. From 1989 until 1995 the foursome of Clyde Drexler, Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey, and Terry Porter were constant. At the end of that span they traded Drexler away, and neither Kersey nor Porter were starting, but they were still a part of the team. As those players were getting older other players stepped in and provided continuity. Cliff Robinson was a holdover from the glory days of the early '90s, and then Arvydas Sabonis finally arrived, followed the next year by Rasheed Wallace, the year after that by Brian Grant and Damon Stoudamire. That was the 1997-98 season. Because of the slow personnel turnover--instead of bringing players in for one year stints--the Blazers were able to overcome a declining public image and off-court antics to continue as a perennial playoff performer. The downfall of the Blazers really was game seven of the Western Conference Finals in 2000.

After that game management decided that they needed to make some big changes. And maybe they did. But what happened was to start shifting the focus from being a good team to bringing in the right players. Even though there had been some complaining, most of the Blazers accepted their roles on a team that was loaded with talent. People like Brian Grant and Rasheed Wallace actually cared about the community. When management decided it needed to make big changes, instead of expecting more from the players they had already invested in, that's when things really started sliding.

I know, the NBA isn't a league that allows for keeping teams together for long periods of time. But it is possible to keep a core of players together. This idea that getting rid of problem players and bringing in fresh blood will solve things is outrageous. Most of the teams that have done well, even in the NBA, have had a core of players that have some longevity. I think it's time for another table. I'll examine the NBA champions from the last 20 years, and look at how long the core players had been together.

YearNBA ChampionsCore playersYears together
1985-86CelticsBird, McHale, Parish5
1986-87LakersAbdul-Jabbar, Johnson, Worthy, Cooper, Rambis4
1987-88LakersSame (and some others)5
1988-89PistonsThomas, Laimbeer, Dumars3
1989-90PistonsSame and Rodman3
1990-91BullsJordan, Pippen, Grant, Paxson3
1991-92BullsSame and Cartwright3
1992-93BullsSame and Armstrong3
1993-94RocketsOlajuwon, Thorpe, Maxwell, Smith3
1994-95RocketsSame, minus Thorpe4
1995-96BullsPippen, Kukoc, Kerr, Longley2
1996-97BullsSame, Jordan and Harper2
1997-98BullsSame and Rodman2
1998-99SpursRobinson, Elliot, Johnson3
1999-2000LakersO'Neal, Bryant, Fisher, Horry3
2000-2001LakersSame and Fox3
2002-2003SpursDuncan, Robinson, Rose, Kerr4
2003-2004PistonsBillups, Hamilton, Wallace, Prince1
2004-2005SpursDuncan, Parker, Bowen3

The table shows that, with the exception of the 2003-04 Pistons, the NBA champion team had a core group of players who had been together for at least two years before winning a championship. Even the Bulls had a core of players not including Jordan that had been together during his absence. You'll notice too that only one of the teams lost someone from the core that I mentioned if they won back-to-back titles. In addition to these things, what most analysts thought was so incredible about that 2003-04 Pistons team was how well they played together as a team. It seemed as though they had been together for more than just one full season before their championship run. Also of interest is how many teams had one or two players that were added to their core before the championship run started, so that if I were only looking for teams that had been together for two years, instead of trying to find longevity of the core, I could have listed a lot more names for several of those teams.

This brings me back to my question: can a team in the NBA keep a core of players together in the current situation? I believe they can. What does that mean for Portland? It means that management needs to stop blaming the players for everything and start taking some responsibility for the mismanagement that's gone on in the last six years. It means that the Blazers need to let Telfair, Miles, and Randolph know that they are the core of the team and they will be playing together for more than just the next season. It means that they need to resign Przybilla to be a guy that pulls the other core players along. It means that McMillan needs to have the confidence of management so he can mold these core players into a team. It means that management needs to put more confidence in the players instead of just threatening to get rid of them if something goes wrong. I might include a few other players in that core group: Outlaw, Khryapa, Webster, and Przybilla, but that means that these guys need to continue to develop as players and teammates--and in Przybilla's case resign with the team.

After seeing my Seahawks have a fantastic year in the NFL I came to the conclusion that continuity was more important in pro sports than many people acknowledge. Upon doing the research into the last 20 years of NBA champions I believe that even more strongly. Hopefully it works, and hopefully the Blazers follow the plan.

(A huge source for this post was This site has all sorts of goodies on it, and is up there with some of my other favorite NBA sites:

Friday, May 19, 2006

State of the Blazers...part 1

In honor of my days playing NBA Live at the Kay house, the first thing I need to say is that the Blazers are paying Derek Anderson $9.7 million next year to play for the Heat. So that's good news.

Other salary type news: only two guys come off the books this season. Voshon Lenard is one of them, and I don't think we should resign him. The other is Joel Pryzbilla. I really don't know what we should do about him, since he played really well for the team this season, but he doesn't like the attitude of a lot of guys and is going to probably go for more money than he's worth.

Some more important salary info: the top three paid players for the Blazers have dealt with injuries the last two seasons, which has really hindered their contributions to the team. Zach Randolph was healthier this season, but I am a bit worried that the injury could hamper him in the future. More on Randolph when I actually talk about which players they should keep. Ratliff is overpaid. The Blazers knew they were taking a risk when they traded for him, that he had a history of injuries. The first season he was in Portland he stayed healthy and was fantastic. But since then things have gone the same way for him that they had been going since he came out of Wyoming. So if someone would be willing to take that big contract, I think we should dump him. The third player--besides Derek Anderson, bravo management--earning top dollar for the Blazers is Darius Miles. I'm still torn about Miles, because I like his game a lot. I think he could be an incredible player, and that he brings a ton on each end of the court. But I'm beginning to wonder if the problems he had with Cheeks are going to keep coming back. More on him later, too.

So which Blazers are not being overpaid? Sebastian Telfair, who is only making $1.79 million next year. Victor Khryapa, a very good SF from Russia, who is making $1.14 million next year. Juan Dixon, who I would think is overpaid at $2.7 million next year except that he was one of the few bright spots on offense this season for Portland. Travis Outlaw, who is a phenomenal athlete and a pretty good basketball player, who made 900K last year and will make $1.53 million next year. Here is my statisticall backup to these statements, thanks to

The fair salary, which is based on the Roland rating--something I don't yet understand--and what the player brings to the team on and off the court, is as follows for each of the players I just said wasn't overpaid.

Telfair: $1.93 million
Khryapa: $1.26 million
Dixon: $3.09 million
Outlaw: $430 thousand

So I was wrong about Outlaw, but right about the other three, for the sake of comparison, here are the actual salaries and the fair salaries for the rest of the team:

PlayerFair Salary(in millions)Actual Salary(in millions)

More to come later, it looks like I was wrong on a few other players...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

From Phoenix, with hate

Okay, the hate isn't for you--and by you, I mean anyone who for unimaginable reasons still checks my blog, there's nothing but love for you--it's for Phoenix. I have less than three weeks left here and I'm quite ready to get out. Not that I haven't had a good time. And not that I haven't gotten some work. Those were my two reasons for coming back down for this month-plus, and both have been accomplished. But I am very excited to get back to the pacific northwest. Nearly everything for Oregon is lined up, I just need to send a few things back to them and then make sure I get housing. I'm pretty excited about that too, I think. By Jonathan Lewis' request I plan on writing a state of the Blazers blog in the near future. I may do the same for the Seahawks, and even a mid-season state of the Braves. In fact, I could just turn this into a sports blog. I might write more.