Blazers take another hit as McMillan goes down
TUALATIN, Ore. — In some ways, it was the most disconcerting sight thus far of the Portland Trail Blazers’ season. And a perfect symbol for where the team is at right now.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan sat propped up on a trainer’s table inside the team’s practice facility. His right ankle was tightly wrapped and iced. And in between fits of coughing, McMillan answered questions about his ailing team.
But the first query was about McMillan’s own health. And while his initial response blended old-school bravado with humor, the prognosis that followed was disheartening.
“Everything was going good,” McMillan said Friday. “I had a couple steals. Took a few charges. And then felt like somebody just kicked me.”
What actually happened was that McMillan ruptured his right Achilles tendon while practicing Friday with his team. He will undergo surgery Dec. 7 to address the injury.
McMillan will coach the Blazers’ game scheduled for 7 tonight against the Houston Rockets at the Rose Garden. But he will miss Portland’s (12-8) upcoming four-game road trip, which includes a Dec. 11 contest against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Lead assistant coach Dean Demopoulos will serve as the team’s head coach in McMillan’s absence.
“I didn’t see when he exactly tweaked his ankle,” Blazers center Greg Oden said. “I saw him limping off the floor.”
McMillan stated that he teamed up with assistant coach Monty Williams on Friday to give Portland enough bodies to run 5-on-5 drills. The team had been limited to 4-on-4 sessions in recent practices, due to several players being out with injuries.
“We needed to get some work,” McMillan said.
At first, everything ran smoothly. McMillan and Williams often take active roles during practices, and the duo combined to record 21 years in the NBA as players.
“They were definitely trying to show these guys,” Oden said. “It was a good thing.”
Then McMillan felt his ankle pop. Now, the Blazers will be without their head coach for a pivotal road trip. And Portland’s injury woes keep mounting.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge sat out his second consecutive practice, due to a right knee bone contusion. McMillan said that Aldridge will be a game-time decision against the Rockets, while the team listed the forward as questionable.
Oden (ankle sprain) participated Friday in post-practice shooting drills, but he only watched the main session.
McMillan said Oden will also be a game-time decision, but the Blazers center stated that he expects to play.
“I think somebody just ran over my leg in the last game,” Oden said. “It’s all right. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Just taking today off to make sure that I’m ready for the game tomorrow.”
Rookie forward Dante Cunningham is listed as probable for Saturday’s game. Meanwhile, the Blazers are already without four other injured players — Nicolas Batum, Travis Outlaw, Jeff Pendergraph, Patty Mills. Thus, McMillan said aggressive play and execution are the primary weapons Portland has at its disposal at it attempts to end a rough three-game losing streak.
Pointing out areas of necessary improvement, McMillan referenced the Blazers’ recent tendency to go under screens, rather than fight through them. In addition, Portland has provided opposing shooters with easy, open looks, and then not backed into and boxed out the opposition when a shot falls short.
“I feel like everything we’re doing, we’re tiptoeing to our spots and not going as hard as we need to — game speed,” McMillan said. “We’re taking shortcuts. And there are no shortcuts.”
McMillan and Blazers point guard Andre Miller addressed Friday a report by Yahoo! Sports that Portland was attempting to trade the 11-year veteran.
Miller was the team’s main offseason acquisition. However, he has either shared a starting role with Steve Blake or served as a back up since the season began.
Miller said he has not even begun to touch the surface of what he can do in helping the Blazers. And he has stated several times in the past week that he is trying his best he to fit in with his new team and accept his uncustomary role.
But he added: “If they was to trade me, they probably didn’t really want me. That’s how I see it. I understand it’s a business. But you’ve got to give things a chance to develop.”
McMillan said that Miller is with the team, and dismissed trade talks as rumors.
“Right now, we’re going through a time where we’re missing a lot of guys and things are not going well,” McMillan said. “And when things do not go well, people start talking.
“When things are not right, or you’re not winning or you’re not playing well, then things are going to be said. And a lot of those things you can’t control.”
Check the Blazers Banter blog at columbian.com/blazerbanter for practice notes, news, interviews, photos and videos.
Rockets vs. Blazers, 7 p.m. at the Rose Garden
TV: Comcast Sports Network (cable channel 37)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Steve Blake 6-3 7.7
G Brandon Roy 6-6 20.0
F Martell Webster 6-7 8.5
F Dante Cunningham 6-8 3.4
C Greg Oden 7-0 11.7
Coach: Nate McMillan (5th season, 160-188)
Player to watch: Roy — He tends to step up against the Rockets, and is coming off a 9-for-25 shooting performance during a 107-100 defeat Tuesday to the Miami Heat.
Key reserves: Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla, Juwan Howard, Jerryd Bayless
G Aaron Brooks 6-0 17.1
G Trevor Ariza 6-8 18.1
F Shane Battier 6-8 8.6
F Luis Scola 6-9 13.9
C Chuck Hayes 6-6 5.5
Coach: Rick Adelman (3rd season, 119-64)
Player to watch: Brooks — The former University of Oregon standout is having a career year and is the Rockets’ sparkplug.
Key reserves: Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry, Chase Budinger, David Andersen