Interviews: Demopoulos, Williams, Born, Popovich, Saunders on big three
Transcripts of recent interviews with the Portland Trail Blazers’ Dean Demopoulos, Monty Williams and Michael Born, as well as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and Washington coach Flip Saunders concerning the Blazers’ big three and issues affecting Portland’s attempt to win an NBA championship.
On the necessity of a big three:
Every once in a while, when you have the best. For instance, (Chicago Bulls’ Scottie) Pippen and (Michael) Jordan. But (Dennis) Rodman was the best in the league at what he did. Now, was he considered a great, great player? Maybe not. But at what he did? Yes. So, he was the best blend player, rebounder, playing with them. So, you can overcome. We used to call it the quotient of three years ago, when we were (at Temple) with coach (John) Chaney. Three great (players) — you need three prongs on your attack. And that’s why I’d like to include Andre (Miller) there. Historically, that’s the way it shakes out most of the time.
I can even go back. You had (Los Angeles Lakers’) Kareem (Abdul-Jabaar) and Magic (Johnson), but you had James Worthy — all three are in the Hall of Fame. You go back to the old (Boston) Celtics. You had (Bill) Russell, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy. Then you had the best sixth man. He might not have been the starter early, but (John) Havlicek — he was the best sixth man. So, there’s your quotient of three.
The quotient of three is hard to get around when you’re talking about championship basketball, at any level.
On Portland’s big three:
I think we have three. I think if you see the breakdown of our scoring, it’s reflective of that. … And that’s about the way it should be. And Andre, of course, is a point guard. And you’ve got to understand that people are double-teaming — those three require more than their player. Whether it’s one and a half, whether it’s two and a half, whether it’s three and a half, depending on the scheme.
On the big three’s evolution:
We’re all real comfortable with this ballclub. We like it. Everybody seems to feel that we can accomplish things, and it seems like everybody’s working for the same point in time.
On the idea of a big three:
They had a bunch of guys who were — Chauncey (Billups) was the (NBA) Finals MVP, but Chauney wasn’t looked at is a one on that team. He and (Richard Hamilton) and Tayshaun (Prince), and Ben (Wallace) was the anchor on that defense. So, I think it can be done. But the probability goes through the roof when you have three standout guys. The issue comes in: Can you find the other pieces that fit with those three, and will buy into their roles? Everybody can’t do that. Remember back in the day when Dallas had Jason Kidd, (Jamal) Mashburn and Jimmy Jackson? They couldn’t play together. So, you can have three, but you better have chemistry. I think you can get away with two at times. Because I don’t think San Antonio necessarily had three. I think they had three, and two and three switched spots. But Tim (Duncan) was such a monster one, that he could compensate for two, three, four and five. So, you could argue that the Lakers back in the day, they had three for sure, and they had a 3a with Byron Scott, (Micheal) Cooper, Jamaal Wilkes, (Bob) McAdoo. … Lamar Odom on any given night is a three. On that team, he’s a two some nights, because he does more than just score.
On Portland’s big three:
But I think for us, Greg is our three for sure. But I think we’re going to have to do it three by committee. I think in the playoffs, teams will try to take Dre out, so Rudy might be the three, or Nic might be the three. And that’s why Travis (Outlaw) was so important to us. Marcus (Camby) can be the three, defensively. Because he shuts it down; he gets us extra possessions.
On what makes the difference:
Chemistry’s a monster. Utah’s had — they’ve got four All-Stars on that team; nobody ever talks about that. They’ve got four. (Andrei) Kirilekno is an All-Star; (Mehmet) Okur; (Carlos) Boozer; and Deron Williams. They’ve got four, and it just shows that if you don’t have chemistry or you’re not rolling as a team, it doesn’t matter. And they potentially could be the deepest team in the league. But depth is only as good as the bench.
We were going toward that 1 and 2a and 2a.1. Because Greg and LaMarcus could easily fit into that category. And that would’ve opened it up for Travis to be three. Andre would’ve been a three. It would’ve made us so much more dangerous. Now, Camby is a four, a three or a four in a different way. And we’ve just had to figure out a way to use him that way.
I think that’s why one of the reasons you saw Richard Jefferson struggle at first. And now you see him playing well now, because Tony (Parker’s) been out. So, now he’s a three. And when Tony’s in there, he’s a four. He’s never been that. Now Tony’s going to come back, and now’s he’s, like — chemistry is a monster. And if you don’t know your role — that’s why Pop’s one of the best. He knows how to move the chess pieces and get guys in their spot, and you have to accept it.
On Portland’s big three and who that is:
If you look at history, especially history, most teams have three. Even if all three guys aren’t All-Stars, you can look at San Antonio, you can look at the Lakers. Whether that third guy is Andre, whether it’s Greg, I think you can even have a team that has some flexibility with who the third guy is. You can say Brandon is one and LaMarcus is two; I think we have a third guy in there. But it doesn’t have to be set. You may have some nights where Brandon may not be the (No. 1) guy. Generically, you’re looking at it and saying Brandon is going to be the one guy. But maybe LaMarcus is the one some nights; maybe it’s Andre. But I think the fact that you can say we feel like we have three guys, who is that third guy? So, it’s sort of like I agree with both Nate and Dean. Because Andre has proven that if you look at Andre in (Philadelphia), Andre is a one or a two in Philly.
Andre has proven that he is a very intelligent player. … When he came in, he was just trying to figure out how he fit in. So, I think that just shows his basketball I.Q. and intelligence. For not just wanting to fit in in like the the schemes of things, but also fit in and make sure that Brandon feels comfortable and LaMarcus. … Four weeks, six weeks into the season, he was still just trying to figure everything out. And I think that just speaks to his basketball I.Q., and I think it speaks of him being a good teammate. He’s been around. He’s seen it all. He wasn’t going to be rushed into something that maybe everyone else thought was going to happen sooner. He just knew it was going to take time.
I definitely think we have a third piece in both (Miller) and Greg. … I think (Nicolas Batum) has proven that he’s got a chance to be in — can he be a three piece? I don’t know. Martell (Webster) obviously had a good stretch there when he was starting this year. Absolutely. I definitely believe in sort of three-piece theory. Going into this year, I would say we felt like we had two of them, and we felt like probably Greg and had a chance, and maybe Andre had a chance to be that guy. And I think with Greg being hurt, it’s allowed Andre to step in. I think if you asked most people — the fans — they would say, ‘Those are the three.’ But I definitely believe in it, and hopefully next year we’ll have four pieces.
On having a big three being necessary to winning a championship:
It’s not the same for every team. You can look at a team, and it depends (whether) you’re talking about franchise players or starting players, top-five players in the draft. It’s different for everybody. With us, Manu (Ginobili) was drafted in the 50s, and Tony (Parker) was 28 or 29. We didn’t know they were going to be — by themselves, they’re not franchise players, probably. But how many franchise players are there? You can start to count them on one hand. Who? Shaq(uille O’Neal) and throw Kobe (Bryant), (Tim) Duncan and (Kevin) Garnett, LeBron (James) someday, probably, or we all think that. Dwayne Wade. Name another now. It’s hard to name somebody and you say, ‘Yep, that franchise can be built around that guy.’ Well, you need one of those, I think, to win a championship. I think you’ve got to have one of those guys. But then, your talent level has to be such that you can match the talent level of the other three or four or five best teams in the league. You don’t necessarily need to have a third person who’s a superstar. If you look at the (Los Angeles) Lakers, (Pau) Gasol and Kobe are two of the best inside-outside guys on the planet, and you wouldn’t say there’s another person on their team in that category. (Derek) Fisher fits and (Lamar) Odom fits and (Luke) Walton fits and so on and so forth. And that’s the way it’s been with us. And I think the teams that end up with championships are the teams that fit the other players around them the best and make it work that way. I think that’s probably the most important thing.
On Roy and Aldridge:
Brandon Roy has shown the ability to be a closer. I think anytime you have a team and you want to go to an elite level, you have to have a guy that you can feel you can put the ball in his hands, and that what he can do is, he can make huge plays off that.
I think Aldridge, he’s a player that’s kind of more — he’s an inside, complimentary-type player to Roy that basically, you put the ball on the post, and he has the ability to go out and shoot the ball on the perimeter. I compare him a lot to Rasheed Wallace in Rasheed’s younger years with some of the things that he can do.
Like anything in any league, especially in the West, you’ve got to find a way to make sure you can find a way to stay healthy. But you can’t find two better guys to put your future in, as far as right now.