Notebook: Blazers coach McMillan says his team needs ‘bodies’
PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan acknowledged that his team needs “bodies,” but said any immediate decisions are out of his hands.
“What are you going to do?” said McMillan, before the start of the Blazers’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night at the Rose Garden.
McMillan said he has spoken with general manager Kevin Pritchard about the holes Portland is staring at on its current roster. The team is playing without four players, including injured forwards Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw, both of whom are expected to be out of action at least through February.
However, McMillan stated that Portland has made a commitment to the 15 players on the team’s roster, and picking up a new addition who can immediately contribute is complicated by financial complications, among other issues.
“You’re talking about eating money and a whole lot of other stuff,” McMillan said.
Staying in place
McMillan said he has no plans to insert guard Rudy Fernandez in the starting lineup.
Fernandez scored 19 points in two of Portland’s last three contest. He is averaging 8.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season.
McMillan said he thinks Fernandez is too valuable to the team’s second unit, whose production has been hurt by the injury to Outlaw.
“He just brings a spark,” McMillan said. “Which is what we need. We need it with both groups. But I think if we put everything in that first unit — we’ve got a lot of it in there now — we don’t have anything with that second group.”
McMillan said he plans to use a new rule with center Greg Oden.
Previously, Oden was limited to two fouls before halftime, and one per quarter for the first half. Once Oden picked up his allotted amount of fouls, he was sent to the bench, no matter how well or poorly he was playing.
However, now that the Blazers are dealing with a lack of healthy bodies and offensive production has been an issue as of late, McMillan said he is considering changing his Oden rule.
Now, Oden will likely receive three fouls in the first half. In addition, McMillan said he plans to attempt to allow Oden to play through foul trouble and learn on the job.
Oden acknowledged during a Saturday morning shootaround that his previous two foul-limit at times limited his ability to contribute.
“It’s kind of tough when I am getting it going; I feel like I can still be out there and contributing,” Oden said.
Blazers rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph said he could be cleared to play by Dec. 25.
Pendergraph, who underwent surgery Sept. 9 to repair a left hip impingement, would take the court about a month ahead of schedule if he is able to play by that date.
Pendergraph approached full speed while running baseline drills following Saturday’s shootaround.
“It’s nice, man,” Pendergraph said. “I miss it. I miss it a lot. It feels good to actually finally be on the court and not spectating.”
Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless said that balancing his limited minutes and lack of playing time is “not easy.”
Bayless had played just 61 minutes this season through 14 games, heading into Saturday’s contest against the Timberwolves. He has been held to 11 minutes in the Blazers’ last three games.
“I think I did well when I was in the rotation; I think I definitely helped this team,” Bayless said Saturday morning. “Being in and out is not easy. But I guess when it comes to being a pro, you’ve just got to be ready.”
Bayless said the NBA is all about situations, and described his current one as “tough.”
“Coach kind of has his rotation, and I’m in and out of it,” Bayless said. “I know what I can do. And just getting an opportunity — if I get the opportunity — I know I can help this team.”
Bayless is averaging 5.6 points, 1.1 assists and 8.7 minutes per game this season.