Prior to last night’s game against the Wizards, Portland Trailblazers guard Wesley Matthews declared it a must-win situation. When coach Nate McMillan got wind of this during his pre-game press conference, he bluntly refuted that premise.
“I think all games are a must win, so what happens if we don’t?”
Three and a half hours after he made that statement, McMillan got his answer when his team lost to the Wizards, 83-79. They scored 10 points in the third quarter, 23 in the fourth and they shot 33% for the entire game. The Blazers looked lost on offense, lethargic on defense, and they allowed a struggling Wizards team to overcome a 12-point Portland lead and steal the game.
In the post-game press conference, McMillan’s words and body language reminded me of former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips. When it became painfully obvious that the Cowboys were no longer responding to his coaching prowess, Phillips would show up to press conferences and say that the he did not know what to do with his team, and he was as baffled as anyone else as to what the solution was. After awhile, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had no choice to fire him.
Now I’m not at all implying that McMillan should or will be fired, but I am saying that I would not at all be surprised if that very thing were announced on Monday morning. However, you don’t have to just sit here and take my word(s) for it. Look for yourself:
Right after McMillan’s postgame press conference, I made my way over to Brandon Roy’s locker room to get the player’s perspective on what had just happened. The picture he painted with his words was just as bleak:
Finally, before I left the locker room, I had a chance to briefly interview Blazers guard Patrick Mills. I wanted to ask him about what McMillan said about the team not listening, but I also wanted to get his impressions on his matchup with John Wall. Luke Russert (son of Tim Russert, and currently on NBC and XM Radio) boldly tweeted about the speed of Mills after he breezed past Wall on a fast break. I wanted to ask Mills if he agreed with this assessment.
Rashad Mobley: I know you may not exactly want to discuss this in a losing effort, but what were you impressions of the young rookie John Wall? There was a tweet by NBC’s Luke Russert that implied you were faster than he was, would you agree with that?
Patrick Mills: Well I wouldn’t say that, he’s pretty quick out there and he’s definitely athletic, that’s his greatest strength. He wants to get out in the open floor and make big plays and for him to continue to be good, that’s what he’s going to have to do. And he’s not just fast in terms of foot speed, he’s quick from side to side, and he reminds me of a quicker Derrick Rose if you can believe that.
Mobley: Coach McMillan said that it seems like you and your teammates are not listening to the message he’s trying to get across. Since you’re a point guard, and it’s you and Andre Miller’s job to run the team, what is your reaction when you hear something like that?
Mills: You gotta really lock down and focus and really focus on the message he’s trying to get to the guards, and as a point guard I have to do a better job of making sure everyone on the floor understands that message. I have to take that upon myself and be accountable and do an even better job next game.
Mobley: But you all have lost six games in a row now, why haven’t you done that already, and if you have, why don’t you think it has worked?
Mills: You know there are a number of things that are wrong, it’s not just one, and it’s not just me or Andre. For us as professional basketball players, we have to step up and be accountable for ourselves on the floor and work out the things that are wrong, and we will do that soon hopefully. It’s a young season, we can still definitely fix it.