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Old 04-16-2001, 12:13 PM   #1
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"This isn't something really new to us. It's been the last two years, the same thing. Teams like (the Rockets), when we play their game, they beat us." Mike Dunleavy commented on the recent losses by the Blazers, which include two games to Minnesota with Kevin Garnett playing injured, Denver without Nick Van Exel or Antonio McDyss, and the most recent of the baffling losses as the Blazers head into the playoffs slipping faster than Yahoo stock price, Houston sans Hakeem Olajuwan and Maurice Taylor. Any corporation which desired to remain viable would not continue to keep a CEO which proved ineffective in implementing a plan to strongly position the company. At some point Trader Bob Whitsitt and owner Paul Allen must decide if the problem rests with the players assembled or if they have hired the wrong coach, since the players on the team represent waning assets. Sadly the players assembled already represent the greatest talent of players over 30 years of age on any team, with talents slowly failing each year similarly to a slow leak in a car tire. Soon the team will be flat, and no where near the destination. Portland must be fearful of emulating the Utah Jazz model of having older players that will guarantee a playoff spot, but also no real chance of winning a championship.

If Dunleavy were the CEO of a company and continued to complain about a known problem which had not been corrected for two years and which had a major adverse impact upon the company, he would be replaced for incompetence. Now Blazer management must decide if the team commits the same errors in losing games they should win over the past two years, does the blame rest upon the coach or the players? The coach recognizes the persistent pattern of the team playing into the strengths of the opponent and not the strengths of the team, and yet the coach after two years remains neutered to fixing the problems. Instead the Blazers who have the most dominant front court of Scottie Pippen, Sabonis/Dale Davis, and Rasheed Wallace, continually fail to take advantage these players mismatches against opponents.

At what point does the coach carry the blame for a team that has dominant players but fail to win because the team does not exploit the opponents weaknesses but instead continually fails to institute the game plan? The Blazers would not be facing the prospect of being a sixth or seventh seed if they had played discipline games recently against several teams with losing records or not in the playoffs. Instead of having the near impossible task of winning each series on the road, the Blazers should be challenging for home court throughout the playoffs if they had won the games against clearly inferior teams. Instead of fans and pundits discussing whether the Blazers will win a championship, we have been left bewildered and confused by the losses to inferior teams and if the Blazers have a chance to win the first round and not if they can win it all.

The Blazers possibly sacrificed their future this year with the trades of Brian Grant and Germaine O'Neal for more players over thirty with experience and a win it all this year mentality. The Blazers have only three players under 30, and one, Bonzi Wells, suffered a season ending knee injury. The Blazers have decided to believe that youth does not win championships but veterans wins championships with the oldest team in the league, dethroning Utah as the dinosaurs of the league. Does the coach deserve another year to attempt to mesh together and install the winning formula, which the team consistently has not carried out for the past two years?

The tire continues to deflate on this team and the bus appear to be lost on its way to its destination. But the driver of the bus knows what the road and how to reach the destination, so far he can not control the bus and maneuver it to the destination. And with the aging team having rid themselves of two young stars for two players over 30, combined with many other over 30 year old players, the possibility the players can continue to play at the level that will win the championship diminishes each year. If the coach can not implement the plan that will transform the players into the system that will work, how long does management continue to wait until the team no longer has the gas to win the championship before they replace the man responsible for the team not following the winning game plan?

This already might be the last year for this group to actually contend for the championship and with the avalanche of losses to teams they should have padded their stats and the win column, they now face the daunting task of aging another year and missing their opportunity to win the championship. Given the richest payroll in the NBA, excellent personnel, deep at each position, and a starting lineup that rerpesents the best front court in the league, the time has arrived for the coach to show his mettle in molding this team. If the Blazers fail to advance deep into the playoffs while playing the type of strategy the coach preaches, the coach must be replaced.

Two years of similar miscues that should easily be corrected should not be rewarded with a third year chance to correct mistakes and further run this team into the ground. The team clearly needs a coach with more discipline that will be able not only create a game plan, but have the players actually play the game plan. Companies routinely replace the CEO if he fails to implement changes that move the company in the right direction, and the time has come for the Blazers to change the coach for similar reasons, or see the value of the Blazers diminish.

Louis Sears
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