Notebook: McMillan looking for sharpness; Webster on the edge
PORTLAND — Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he is looking for sharpness and execution from his team as the regular season winds down and the playoffs approach.
To McMillan, all of the things Portland has worked on and emphasized since training camp began in October should now be streamlined. And McMillan plans to use the Blazers’ final 12 games of the season to examine what is working and what still needs to be refined.
“You want to tighten up,” said McMillan, prior to Friday’s contest against Washington at the Rose Garden. “You want to be sharper, and you should be sharper at this time of the year.”
Specific areas McMillan will watch are his team’s pick-and-roll, transition and weak-side defense, as well as rebounding and how efficiently the Blazers run their offensive sets.
“That percentage of executing that, you want that to be better,” McMillan said.
Eight is enough
The Blazers are whittling their 15-man roster down to an eight-player rotation for the stretch run, McMillan said.
Starters Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby will see the most playing time, while reserves Rudy Fernandez, Jerryd Bayless and Juwan Howard will likely receive the most action off the bench.
Left out: Martell Webster, Travis Diener, and rookies Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph and Patty Mills.
“Right now, that is the way I’ve gone,” McMillan said. “And the matchups and the teams have kind of determined that.”
Webster and Cunningham will still take the court in spurts, but Webster’s already hard-to-find minutes could be cut if Batum continues to excel.
McMillan still views Webster as a threat, though, and does not immediately plan to pull him off the court for good.
But since Roy has sometimes been playing small forward of late, and Batum and Fernandez are often on the court at the same time, there is little to no room left for Webster.
The fifth-year forward started 49 games this season for the Blazers before Batum took over the starting small forward role.
“We’ll see,” McMillan said. “(Webster) is there. His ability to shoot the ball and do some things — defend. I think it just depends on the game.”
Four long days separated Portland’s matchup against the Wizards and the Blazers’ last game, a home victory over Toronto on Sunday.
McMillan said his team did not show any letdown during practice this week. And the extra rest was welcomed by a Portland squad that has spent the majority of the season dealing with an uncanny array of major injuries.
“I can’t recall a time during the season where we’ve had four days in between a game, other than the All-Star break,” McMillan said. “I think we’re fine. Guys have got bumps and bruises like everybody else. But we’re ready to go.”
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