As I watched the Trail Blazers muddle through their loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Rose Garden last week, it occurred to me that it is going to be very difficult to make this thing work.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim is a talented player. So is Theo Ratliff. So is Zach Randolph. So is Darius Miles. But how well can they all fit into a playing rotation? There are too many power forwards on this team and not enough shooting guards. Where are the outside shooters? Where are the small forwards? This is like a defective puzzle, with some pieces missing and others duplicated.
Please, let's be serious here. Coach Maurice Cheeks certainly doesn't have the experience or expertise to find the right combination. I don't think many coaches would be able to do it. But I also don't think any of these players should be given up on just yet. This is a very promising group of forwards.
I believe it's time for the Blazer front office to strike quickly and make one more big move.
Let's get Jim O'Brien in here to coach this team. No, not now. Yesterday. The former coach of the Boston Celtics isn't going to be around for long. By next season, or whenever this franchise realizes that Cheeks isn't the right guy to coach a team without Rasheed Wallace, O'Brien will not be available. He's too talented to be unemployed more than a few months.
O'Brien is one of those rare guys, such as Jeff Van Gundy, who didn't play in the NBA but still commands respect from today's players. You get that by not only working hard, but convincing your players you're doing everything in your power to maximize their ability to look good individually while winning games as a team.
This is a coach who made the Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce combination work in Boston. A coach who took a team that had little other talent all the way to the 2002 Eastern Conference finals and 2003 semifinals.
And there is a Portland connection, because this man also just happens to be Jack Ramsay's son-in-law.
On top of that, he'd likely bring his No. 1 assistant in Boston, Dick Harter, with him. Harter formerly coached at Oregon and served under P.J. -Carlesimo in Portland. But he needs no introduction here or anywhere else in the NBA. He can flat-out coach defense. You bring in Harter, I don't care who is wearing those uniforms, he makes them a better defensive team.
So you end up with an aggressive, hardworking coach who can relate to his players and get them to work as hard as he does. You get an assistant coach who has installed defensive systems all over the league that got almost immediate results.
Then you let them have a crack at this roster as it sits right now. No changes until they get a chance to make an assessment. If O'Brien tells you it can't work, you make a deal of some sort. But I'd like to see what a real coach can do with this group of players. That way you don't turn loose a player who is going to blossom into a star.
The result, I think, is a young and aggressive team that Blazer fans could get behind. A team with a bright future that will nurture and grow together.
Cheeks still probably wants to coach the Philadelphia 76ers, anyway. Let him. They just fired Randy Ayers. Wish Cheeks well. But go after Jim O'Brien right this minute.