Chemistry key to Blazers’ success on and off the court
By Brian Wheeler Posted in: NateMcMillan, richcho
I must admit something. Though I was a B+ student in both high school and college, I never did well in the sciences. You know…biology and chemistry. In biology, I never felt right about dissecting those poor, helpless frogs just to learn some more about anatomy. And in chemistry, as much as I enjoyed mixing things up to create some kind of a potion, I could never master all those formulas or that periodic table.
When it comes to sports, however, I’ve always appreciated the value of good chemistry. Oh, sure, over the years you can point to some championship teams that didn’t have great chemistry. But usually the ultimate goal of winning is made easier if a team and an organization have good chemistry.
Often one of the elements leading to good chemistry for a team is continuity. I think we’ve seen that with this season’s Blazers. Many of the key figures have been around here for a while. Start with the obvious one, owner Paul Allen. Leadership and commitment from the top makes winning easier for any organization. On a day to day basis, there’s the continued stability presented by President Larry Miller. Head Coach Nate McMillan has been guiding the team’s fortunes on the court for six seasons now, and everyone’s happy that he agreed to an extension to continue in his role for at least the next two seasons. And many of the players have been around for a while as well, from LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy to veterans who have come to love playing in Portland like Andre Miller and Marcus Camby.
This is not to say that in the course of maintaining team chemistry that sometimes a key change in personnel is required. The hope of course is that the new guy fits in with the chemistry that’s already been developed. That’s why the Blazers took special care in the off-season to make sure they made the right choice for a new General Manager. And even though they considered other options, the guy who stood taller than the other candidates and eventually got the job was Rich Cho.
Ironically, Rich and Nate go back to earlier days in their careers with the Sonics. Nate was still a Head Coach, but Rich was not yet a General Manager. Still, the two formed a mutual respect for one another; something that I’m sure has served them well now that they’ve been reunited with the Blazers. Since he arrived, Rich has seamlessly fit into the Blazers’ organization. He’s brought some fresh ideas in his first role as a team’s G.M., but has also found that some things were being done very well before he got to town, and there was no need to tweak what was already working.
Like any smart new boss, Rich just didn’t come in and immediately start making sweeping changes just to show everyone that he meant business. Instead, he observed and got to know the people in his new surroundings. He did make his first trade in training camp, sending Jerryd Bayless to New Orleans. It wasn’t a blockbuster by any means, but he was able to get his feet wet and get his first deal out of the way.
Meanwhile, Nate was going about business as usual, trying to get as much out of the current players as he could. Injuries didn’t help the cause, but through it all, he persevered and now has his team playing its’ best basketball of the season.
As the trade deadline approached, nobody knew for sure what the Blazers might or might not do, at least for those on the outside looking in. On the inside, Rich and Nate were part of a key inner circle evaluating what deals might be available for theBlazers to consider. With some teams, it’s not easy to get a consensus on the merit of potential deals when a Head Coach and a General Manager are involved. By nature, the Head Coach is most concerned with winning today. The G.M. doesn’t ignore that goal, but also has to be cognizant of how to ensure winning tomorrow as well. By all indications, Rich and Nate were on the same page with the trade deadline looming. That kind of chemistry allowed there to be no wavering when the Blazers found the deal they liked for Gerald Wallace.
So the two old friends from their Seattle days are together again. And as Nate helps build team chemistry on the court even further, the Blazers are optimistic about the upcoming playoffs. And with Rich securing a still in his prime former All-Star in his first significant trade as a G.M., it’s clear that the right guys are in place.
Rich and Nate…Nate and Rich. Whatever order you put them in doesn’t matter. They’re in it together. Even a bad former chemistry student like me can see those two have what it takes to ensure the Blazers’ success both on and off the court for a long time to come. Now if only one of them could help me understand those darn periodic tables!