Probably the smallest media crowd I've seen so far this year for a Trail Blazers shootaround. Just me, Jason Swygard from 1080 The Fan and a cameraman from KGW. those who didn't attend didn't miss much, as the players beat feet as soon as the huddle broke. I'd want to go home and take a five or six hour nap too is I had just got in from Salt Lake City.
Nate McMillan was kind enough to hang out and answer some questions, which I've posted below.
McMillan's general thoughts on the loss to the Jazz
“We are doing some things better, but we’ve got to do things better and be more consistent with it. Last night we had pretty much three pretty good quarters and the fourth quarter we were right there and they outworked us for a few loose balls down the stretch.
"Offensively we turned the ball over: five turnovers in that fourth quarter. And that’s the difference in the ballgame. If we take care of the ball, execute our offense, defensively we don’t put them on the free-throw line, we win that ballgame. So yeah, we are doing some things better but it’s got to be a 48 minute game.”
Were you satisfied with Batum’s performance in the starting lineup?
“I thought he did some good things. It’s a matter of him getting out there and playing some. They double-teamed off him a few times and we didn’t take advantage of that. Our spacing; he has to learn to play with the guys out there and they have to learn to play with him. We need to take advantage of when teams are trying to double-team and take the ball out of Brandon’s and LaMarcus’ hands. We’ve got to punish them for that.”
As far as Brandon getting off to slow starts, is there something you’re seeing as you’re reviewing film, something you think you can change to trigger it?
“I think the thing we’ve got to do is set screens. We’ve got to give up our bodies. Right now, we’re not giving up our bodies out on that floor. This is a very physical game. The NBA is a physical game, a physical sport, and we’ve got to give up our bodies. We’ve got to set screens. We’ve got to use those screens. When teams are bodying us as far as trying to slow down our cut, we’ve got to run through that contact. We’ve got to box out. It’s a very physical game, and you’ve got to give up you body in this game and right now we’re not giving up our bodies enough.”
Is there a sense of urgency for this team to get it going, especially with a big roadtrip hanging over their head?
“Every game we’re trying to come out and be better. Last night we were right there. We had that game, I thought. Down the stretch we didn’t make the plays, we didn’t make the breaks for ourselves. We’ve got Houston sitting right here waiting and we’ve got to play better basketball.”
Do you think the team has played a whole game yet?
“I thought San Antonio was the closest, of course, and that was the one win that we have. Playing a 48 minute game is what we’re trying to get across to our guys, that being aggressive, the hustle plays, the energy for 48 minutes is something we’re going to have to learn to do in order to have a chance to win the game.”
Do you change up the rotation at all on the second night of a back-to-back?
“No, we stay the same way.”
On the difficult schedule
“It is a tough schedule. It’s a challenging schedule for us and we haven’t had a lot of success. The thing is to keep working at it. We see some areas that we’ve got to improve to have a chance to beat these types of teams that we’re playing. It’s not going to change. As we get into the season and you meet these teams in the West, 48 minute game, winning the hustle game, being sharp on your execution, limiting your mistakes, all of that will be the same regardless of who you play in the NBA.”
“It’s a good team. They’ve added Artest to their roster, which gives them another player that will really be an impact on both ends of the floor. He can score offensively in the post, on the perimeter. And defensively he’s one of the top defenders in the league. He has made them a stronger team.”
Of course you’ve got McGrady and Yao. They have a deep team. They have a solid first unit as well as a second unit. For us it really doesn’t make a difference. The energy, the hustle, the scrappiness is going to be needed tonight and it’s going to be needed by both units and everybody for 48 minutes.
Is there anything you’ll do, either go more trap or press, to try and get your team to get in that hustle mode?
“We’ve done that. The thing is: Do it. Do it.”
Who gets the matchup with Artest and how do you try and slow him down?
“We’re going to matchup. They’re probably going to put Artest on Brandon so Brandon will stay there and Nic will probably see some time on McGrady. But I could see Brandon on McGrady and Nic on Artest. Travis will get his opportunity on both guys. So will Rudy. So we will matchup how they matchup against us.”
The Rockets have a lot of speed at the point with Alston and Brooks. How do you go about negating that speed?
“We got to play. You guys have basically mentioned every player on the team that we got to be concerned about. It’s not one guy; it’s everybody. This is a good team and the teams that we’ve faced are good teams. It’s not one guy that’s going to stop or get it done; it’s got to be a team effort.”