>>As a former teacher (mini-prof?) I like the triangle. I see this triangle spinning - with none of those three as the absolute apex. You've analyzed three current/recent Blazers and I'd like to read your opinion of more. I'm also curious as to what former Blazers you think were strong in all three (when they were with us, not after they bloomed elsewhere) And a question: can effort be taught once a player reaches the NBA? If so, who among current players had their effort questioned in college play but proved those reports false? Who gets the credit - the coach - the player - or the synergy?<<
--I like the idea of no apex to the triangle. Though you almost have to go with talent on top because it's easily observable/measurable, so often things in the other two categories play critical roles in pivotal moments. In certain situations you might want a Khryapa out there over a Miles. Dallas has as many obviously talented guys as anybody, but how often do you see them (or any team) just throw five stars on the court, especially in game-deciding moments?
--My opinion of most of the current players is that they need more time in the oven before we'll know. Of the guys we do know about, I'd say Zach was solid in the talent department but he never was a hustle, "give it all" guy even during his 20-10, Most Improved Player season. People differ on the character side, so I think it's fair to say there are questions. Even so, he clearly doesn't prosper in all points of the triangle, so he's not a guy I think can ever lead us to a deep run, even though he's a good (probably not great) NBA player. Joel and Theo are both solid on the character/hustle marks, but their talent, though great, is so specific that they don't qualify as well-rounded. Again, good players, not great. If we're going to develop any truly great players from the current crop, it'll have to be either Martell, Jack, or Bassy (roughly in that order). All have shown promise, but it will depend on how much they want to be great and how hard they work at it.
--As far as past Blazers who have been all-around great, I think Bill Walton and Buck Williams (remembering that his main talents were defense and rebounding) stand as the most shining examples, with Clyde right in there too. Those three would obviously rate very high in all three categories. After them you have a few players that were extremely high in one or two and still good in the remainder, like Maurice Lucas, Jim Paxson, and Terry Porter. Danny Ainge and Scottie Pippen would also count, though they were more rented players.
--Can effort be taught? I'd say yes, certainly, just like any other skill. I think every player needs to up his effort just to go from the lower levels to the pros, so you could say everybody learns at least a little. But many fail (or underachieve) because they can't sustain the professional level of effort. The problem is not that guys can't learn, rather that relatively few see the need or know how to gain the discipline if they do see it. It's easy to see how to improve your jumper. It's harder to train yourself where to be on the court, how and when to exert energy, and to have that indomitable will that the ball and the court are yours, period. I think character is equally teachable, but also lacks willing disciples sometimes. If we're lucky we reach the point where we realize that our job and lives are about more than us and the money we make...they're about being part of something that affects the world in a positive way. That's part of growing up. I think between the shoe contracts, the hangers-on, and the folks whispering in their ear from the time they're in 5th grade, a lot of these guys don't get the chance to do that growing up.
As to who gets the credit when these things do happen, I have a hard time imagining there's a coach in the world who's not trying to teach his or her young players to play hard and sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. We've heard several examples of that from Nate himself. So coaches do get some credit. But they're saying those things to twelve guys and sometimes only two get it, so when I see players who do those things, I tend to really admire them. Say what you want about Tim Duncan, but that guy is good and a winner. I hated Jordan because we lost to him, but he's also the exemplar extraordinaire for excelling at all points of this triangle. I am ready to throw buckets of praise at Martell and Jarrett too, if given the chance. Between the huge, guaranteed contracts and the star system that's been in force for the last two decades, the league just isn't set up to train winners. Anybody who can overcome that environment and make these gains deserves some admiration in my book.
There's something to the synergy argument as well. The amount of player movement around the league is making it increasingly obvious that good teams have a chance to shape contributing players out of disappointing ones, or at least to compensate for their inadequacies. Bad teams, however, tend to diminish whoever joins them. Again, I see this as a leadership issue...on the court especially but also on the bench and in the front office.
Thanks for the great questions and comments Jorga!