Notebook: McMillan says Fernandez is not the problem

PORTLAND — Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan continued to stand up for guard Rudy Fernandez.

McMillan defended Fernandez on Wednesday, refusing to put any serious blame on his shoulders.

Thursday evening, McMillan did the same.

To McMillan, Portland’s offensive woes in a losing effort during Game 2 against the Phoenix Suns were not centered upon Fernandez’s 0-for-2 shooting performance from the field. And while Fernandez entered Game 3 shooting just 2 for 9 during the series and 1 of 7 behind the 3-point line, McMillan said the Blazers had much more pressing, deeper issues to address.

Blaming Fernandez — or pulling him from the starting lineup — would be easy. But it would not fix Portland’s woes.

Moreover, McMillan is not just being loyal to Fernandez. Portland’s roster is stretched thin because of a injury to All-Star guard Brandon Roy. Thus, Fernandez would be on the court either way. And the Spanish native would be trading minutes with reserves Martell Webster and Jerryd Bayless, no matter who was starting.

“It’s not on Rudy,” said McMillan, prior to the start of Game 3 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series on Thursday against Phoenix at the Rose Garden.

“It’s a combination of us working together,” McMillan said. “Setting screens and freeing each other up. But at the same time, those guys getting themselves free.”

Big decision

Blazers forward Nicolas Batum acknowledged he a major decision to make concerning whether he played in Game 3.

Batum sprained his right shoulder during Game 2 against the Suns, and was listed as questionable prior to the start of Thursday’s contest.

Batum went back and forth during a Thursday morning shootaround about whether he would be healthy enough to take the court, even joking that he would eventually decide to play because the media was pressuring him to do so.

“I know I can play with (the pain), but it will be tough,” Batum said.

A little more than an hour before tipoff for Game 3, McMillan said Batum had been given the OK to take the court, after the French native gave “two thumbs up.”

McMillan stated that Batum would not be placed under a time restriction. And while the Blazers were expecting a full array of Batum’s offensive and defensive weapons, the team would also monitor his movement and progress as the game unfolded.

“In situations like this, when (he) makes that decision to play, I’m hoping (he is) thinking both ends,” McMillan said. “We can’t play one end of the floor. Once you’re out there, you’ve got to be out there.”

Double trouble

Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge entered the playoffs by stating that he was ready for any type of defense an opponent might throw his way.

Aldridge felt like he had seen every possible matchup this season. And after struggling to deal with double teams last season during a first-round loss to Houston, Aldridge said he was prepared for
the heavy load.

But Portland’s star forward acknowledged that a defensive look Phoenix showed him during Game 2 managed to catch him off guard.

“It’s tough when you have teams keying in on you like that,” Aldridge said. “We watched film, and one time, there were literally, like, three people coming at me.”

Asked Thursday about Phoenix’s tendency to double up on Aldridge, McMillan said Portland’s No. 1 scoring option with Roy out of the lineup still must find a way to put the ball in the basket.

Moreover, the Suns are not running any defensive schemes that the Blazers have not already seen this season.

“You’ve got to be patient and let your offense space,” McMillan said. “If they come, you move the ball. It’s simple basketball. But we’ve got to get to our spots, and we’ve got to make our reads, if they do commit two.”

What problem?

Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy made negative comments Wednesday about the way the NBA schedules its playoff games.

Van Gundy’s primary complaints: Too many off days between games, and too much time spent on the seven-game first-round series, which can stretch out to two weeks.

Asked Thursday how he felt about the NBA’s playoff schedule, McMillan said it was not a concern.

McMillan would rather be playing in the playoffs than not — he pointed out that he remembered being at home and watching the postseason just two years ago.

“I’m glad we can talk about it,” McMillan said smiling.

Moreover, any complaints about the lapse between games and the overall time devoted to the playoffs would fall on deaf ears, he said.

“What can you do? What can you say?,” McMillan said. “That’s the schedule. You play it. There’s nothing none of us are going to do about that, so there’s no need to talk about it.”

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