Watching the new edition of your 2004 Trail Blazers muddle around trying to capture a playoff berth is painful.

The players are playing hard. They're good guys. They really should be a better team than they are. And with the Denver Nuggets hitting the skids, there is still time for this mission to be accomplished.

Problem is, the players aren't getting enough help from their coach. Poor Maurice Cheeks has no clue how to put this all together. And with Jim O'Brien and Doc Rivers available, I am powerless to explain why he's still being given a chance.

OK, I know some believe it's impossible for Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Zach Randolph to function together on the floor. Conventional wisdom is that their games are too similar, that this town isn't big enough for both of them.

I'm not ready to say that. I have seen too many coaches figure out ways to take advantage of players with similar skills. But Cheeks is so frightened he'll make his players angry that he never tries anything.

My goodness, you're struggling during a playoff race, change the lineup! Try something. It took a suspension to Randolph to finally get Abdur-Rahim into the starting lineup Sunday night. But the former All-Star is so messed up from Cheeks' plan of bringing him off the bench that he wasn't much help.

Why on earth is Abdur-Rahim not starting? Easy Ñ it was the coach's path of least resistance. He knew the other guys would pout or complain, but Abdur-Rahim wouldn't.

With the departure of Arvydas Sabonis, Bonzi Wells and Rasheed Wallace, the offensive core of the team that Mike Dunleavy built is officially gone. Only Damon Stoudamire remains.

The last vestige of organization is gone, too.

Cheeks must put the new pieces together, and he's not getting it done. No surprise there. The man's been mostly a baby sitter since he arrived. Inside the NBA, they call them 'fake coaches.'

It's a shame, too, because this team deserves better. So do the remaining hard-core fans still buying tickets.

As I watched Wallace and Wells prance out of the Rose Garden with wins last week, it occurred to me that both men could go on to very productive careers away from Portland.

What happened here was they were allowed to do as they pleased. Throw them in an environment where discipline is a necessity and it's possible that they could behave themselves. That was not expected of them here.

The attitude problems were there under Dunleavy's watch too, but not with his blessing. He wanted to suspend Wallace a couple of times, but Bob Whitsitt wouldn't allow it. Dunleavy's hands were tied.

Then Cheeks came in, with a mission to be everyone's buddy, and the lack of discipline grew worse.

This is a nice group of Blazers just begging to be coached. Begging for a little help. That's what coaches are supposed to do Ñ help the players get the best out of what they have.

That's simply not happening here.

Contact Dwight Jaynes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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