Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nate Guys

Largely unspoken in this whole Joel-resigning deal is the vote of confidence he showed not just in his teammates or his organization, but his coach. Again, not to use Joel as the pinnacle of everything NBA, but it shows that some players do like to play for a guy who demands they be accountable and play better than they otherwise would.

You can't have a discussion about the current roster, which free agents we should acquire, or what trades we should make nowadays without the phrase "Nate guys" coming up somewhere in the process. Some people revere the phrase, others seem wary of it. The way I understand it, I don't think there's a choice. If "Nate guy" means someone who plays defense, rebounds, and gives energy on the court in addition to whatever scoring they provide, then "Nate guy" is pretty much synonymous with "winner", anything else the reverse.

Run down the list of NBA champions in the last three decades and you'll see what I mean:

Miami: Shaq and Wade
San Antonio: Tim Duncan and friends
Detroit: Ben and Rasheed Wallace (and Tayshaun Prince and so on)
Los Angeles: Shaq and Kobe
Chicago: Jordan and Pippen
Houston: Hakeem
Detroit: Isiah, Dumars, Rodman, et al.
Los Angeles: Kareem, Worthy (maybe Magic is your best argument against but even he played strong in many areas and he was unique anyway)
Boston: Bird, McHale, Johnson, Ainge, Parish, Walton
Philadelphia: Moses Malone, Cheeks (Dr. J might have been slipping a little on defense by then)
Seattle: Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma
Washington: Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Mith Kupchak
Portland: Walton, Lucas, etc.

All of these guys were well-rounded and gave effort and led their teammates to do the same. None of these teams got by on "talent". The closest bet would be the overwhelming natural ability of the Showtime Lakers, but Pat Riley used to work them two hours a day in practice and they never complained. Some of the best defensive guys and rebounders of all time are either on that list or were the teammates of people who are. That often gets overlooked in the admiration of stats and rings.

Are there non-Nate-guys in the league? Sure. Can you get them? Sure. Does the move look good on paper? Sure. Will you win? Nope. Because somebody else has just as much talent and just as much scoring but works harder and plays better than you do.

I suspect part of what influenced Joel to re-sign was that he knew Nate was going to stick to his guns and demand high-level play from the team. He wanted to be a part of that, and other good players will too. Some won't, but then I'm not sure we'd want them anyway.

I can't remember if I've said it before here (and I'm too lazy to pore through 200-odd pages of archives to check) but I've said it in private a few times. If I were the owner one of the first things I'd do is sit down with Nate and offer to play Rooney Family to his Bill Cowher. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody learns over time, but when you know you have a solid guy you need to keep him. The public was calling for Cowher's head a few times over the years, but the Steelers defied convention by sticking with him for the long haul. The results were players who knew what was expected when they came to Pittsburgh, a team synonymous with that hard-nosed style of play, and an eventual Superbowl Championship. Joel re-signing heralds that the first part may be coming true (in a small way so far, sure, but we'll take what we can get). Hopefully the second and third will someday follow.

--Dave (


Blogger ignacio said...

hopefully nate is the reason why paul allen took some interest in the draft.

back to seattle when they won their championship: john johnson was an awfully good passer for a small forward.

but then, i liked lonnie shelton and downtown freddy brown too. not to mention the real spark of that team, gus wiliams.

some of these players were only really good for two or three years, but during those 2-3 years they were great.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I loved Downtown Freddie Brown! As a kid I thought that was the coolest name ever. I tried and tried to get something cool to rhyme with my last name but nothing did. Sad...

Good call on Shelton and Williams.


10:38 AM  
Anonymous fatty said...

ignacio can you please tell me
about our 2 scouts brittany spears
and bradgelina, from what people
are telling me these 2 scouts
really did their homework on
aldridge*roy plus the celtic
trade so she must be 1 hell of
scout and she deserves a big raise
so does bradgelina raises to both
people they're the best in the
business !!!!
as far as nate guys go get rid
of miles,fatbo,dixon and bring
in good role players and you'll
have nate guys, guys who give
their all on both sides of the
court, believe or not gang we
need a raja bell-b.bowen type
guy at the 3, play martell*roy
in the backcourt on certain
situations do you guys agree
about my assesment on a real
defensive stopper not patterson
b.s. and remember 5/22/07
the day of redemption !!!!!!!!

11:17 AM  
Blogger ignacio said...

the start of last season i think we were 5-7 and had played detroit very tough before darius miles hurt his knee -- we got slaughtered once or twice but basically we played everyone tough. "nate ball" means you don't look like fools and you make the most of what you have.

it's being optimistic, sure, but why not at this point think we can play like that again.

(fatty needs to get vanity fair which has britney spears in her birthday suit on the cover pregnant i don't know who's actually the dad. there, he suckered me in. just once.)

11:43 AM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

I have a problem with this whole “Nate guy” thing. In fact, I think it’s the weak link in Nate’s armor. Nate wants a certain type of player- actually a clone type. They have to give 110% every practice, and be animals on the court. He has zero tolerance for anything less. Clyde Drexler never would have gotten off the bench for Nate. And this makes me think of Darius Miles. TO BE SURE, I AM NOT A DARIUS SUPPORTER, but I think his introvert personality and how he glides when he plays grates on Nate. Nate needs to understand that not all players are alike. Players are humans and individuals. While player A needs a kick in the fanny to bring out the best, player B may respond best to a word of encouragement and player C some extra work by an assistant coach. I wonder if Nate gets it. He seems to demand they players fall in line to the personality he wants rather than spending the time to properly “coach” them. I had a hard-nosed HS basketball coach who would grab my hair and scream at me. It worked. But he tried that with a different player and it produced very negative results- so he didn’t do it again. I don’t see that from Nate and I’d like to.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

Yah...the approach can be nuanced for sure. I don't think "Nate Guy" means "guy who gets yelled at". It means a guy who is motivated and willing to be taught and/or pushed. The method of that teaching and pushing is something Nate needs to adjust from player to player. Some might take a swift kick, others an arm around the shoulder. I would guess that Darius won't be pushed no matter what method you use, but I could be wrong about that.


12:05 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Dave, I like to think (that means I'm probably wrong) that Darius can still be a very productive member of this team. However, both he & Nate will have to agree to meet somewhere in the middle. I think Darius will, but Nate won't. Or at least, that's the sense I get.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I admire that, BP, if nothing else because 99.9% of Blazer fans would probably phrase it the other way around. And I'm not dogging you by saying that, I really am interested in your take (because it's different) and appreciative that you are willing to say it. Curious...what do you see in this situation between the two? What leads you to believe that Darius is still salvageable and Nate is too inflexible?


12:49 PM  
Anonymous fatty said...

i meant to say this in this post
not the rooks post my bad i can't
belive, pricthard and patterson
are letting this good looking
scout pose naked and pregnant
for vanity fair, look maybe
she needs the money or the
prestige, but i'm shocked with
all the bad press we've been
recieving the past decade this
would'nt be tolerated, maybe
they should sit her down and
give her a choice either don't
pose or fire her on the spot
i'm beginning to see why
morrison was so eager of coming
here also raef*dickau, more
teams should hire great looking
scouts, she did a great job
for convincing pricthard to
make the roy*aldridge deals
and for that we should be
grateful but to pose nude i'm
sorry it's another blackeye
for a once proud organization
nate,p.allen, somebody either
tell her to act decent in public
or fire her tomorrow, what would
the children*wifes and girlfriends
feel about this fire her today !!!

1:05 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:05 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Thanks, Dave. Here’s my defense of Darius. Darius is a true introvert. He responds best to positive stimuli. Nate is predominately a person who provides negative stimuli. Also, with regard to last season Darius was injured the entire season. He even had knee surgery. This caused Darius, a player who relies on his explosiveness to be effective, to lose his most important asset. Nate never gave an inch. People I have spoken to who attended the practices stated Nate continuously dogged him out by demanding he either go have the surgery or not play at all. Darius stated he preferred to “work thru it” by practicing at ¾ speed and thereby be more ready to play in games and then consider surgery after the season- this was unacceptable to Nate and he let Darius know it right between the eyes. I also note that Darius is the type of player that needs some definition in his life. He needs to start (as he was/is our best SF) and know he will play a certain amount of minutes. Last year he was bounced all over the place. He also needs to play on a team dedicated to winning. Last year, the team was dedicated to evaluating players and winning was an after thought only. I think all this greatly confused and demoralized Darius. Now, if this season we dedicate to winning and if we definite starters with a set rotation (understanding that things can change as merited by practice, injuries…) Darius will respond very well. Also, Nate has to learn that it helps to try and understand where a player is “at” as opposed to “my way or get the hell out” approach he favors. To me, that’s part of the job of coaching in this day & age.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Interesting take. I'm not sure I'm 100% on board with the characterization, but I will sure be watching more intently because of what you've said. If Darius is back this will surely be one of the more interesting subplots of the season.


1:26 PM  
Anonymous brian said...

BP I think you need to seriously open your eyes, my friend. Darius is a lost cause whether he's got a tough coach like Nate or a softy like Cheeks. He's been in the league for 4-5 yrs, on 3 different teams (soon to be 4), with 4 or 5 different coaches and nobody has been able to get him to respond to even close to his "potential". He's been on teams dedicated to winning, been given a starters role (notice I didn't say earned), but he just doesn't have the drive to make it big time in the league.
Did it ever occur to you that perhaps Nate was able to spot this early on and was so hard on Darius in order to set the tone for OTHER PLAYERS that this kind of attitude was not acceptable?
Plus, it's not only Nate that's bagging on Darius. It's widely speculated that Miles was one of the players Joel was referring to about not wanting to play with. Dude, face it, the guy is fool's gold.
You're right about not all players responding to the same kind of motivation. That's why I applaud the Blazers for seemingly doing everything they can to get rid of the non-Nate guys and bring in guys who want to work hard. Coaches need players that respond to their style of coaching, otherwise you have a situation like NY or Det. Give me 2 yrs. of Nate and 10 of "his guys" and I'll give you a play off caliber team that over achieves beyond it's "talent" level.

8:06 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

Brian- To a certain extent, I agree with most of what you say. Also, I’m not a major Darius fan. I was offering up my defense for him, but if I had a choice I’d rather see him moved on. However, I noticed a bit of a change in Darius as last year began. A good change. Then he got injured and that was that. I still have a bit of an open mind about him and have no problems giving him one more shot.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't worried about travis outlaw right now going into his fourth year. If the blazers have patience, wait until the end of his fifth year to start worrying. My hypothesis is if you give him co-captain status, he will step up to the next level. I think that what he need to improve dramatically although his demeanor tell a different story.

8:39 PM  

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