I hate Travis Diener. Alright, I don’t really hate Travis Diener. However, I do hate what he represents.
The photoshop above illustrates exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers are doing to Patty Mills by signing Diener as their 15th man. They’re saying, “we don’t trust you.”
Nate McMillan is a tough love coach — one of those who considers himself of the old-school of thought. He likes tough play. He demands that you play grinding defence. He wants players to earn their stripes before giving them a shot. (At least, that is what I thought until he started a rookie in Nicolas Batum last season.) So it is no great surprise to see Mills sitting on the bench game after game, awaiting his turn.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect Mills to be a rotation player this season, with the logjam that already exists on the Blazers roster. I do, however, expect him to get a run when the opportunity allows it. We have seen numerous examples where the Blazers were up by large margins, or depleted by injuries and yet McMillan would hold the young Aussie point guard at the end of the bench. Sitting.
These were the perfect opportunities to let Mills show what type of a lightning rod he can be. But not only that, they were the situations where he could have learnt the offense through practical experience, allowing him to ready himself come playoff time should the injury-bug continue to bite this franchise.
Instead, the Blazers braintrust set their energies to finding another point guard to round out their roster. Not only is Diener an inexperienced commodity by NBA point guard standards, but he has never shown himself to be all that promising. It’s not like bringing him in is a likely long-term move to secure a player with outstanding potential, nor is it a situation of bringing in a heady veteran a decade of experience.
Mills’ experience in Blazers colours this far have consisted of garbage-garbage-garbage time. He normally is thrown into the fray when the game is not only decided, but where it has been decided for some considerable time. You know what that type of garbage time is like — it’s like a D-League match, but without the chance to actually affect the game result. Players are fast-breaking, they’re of sub-standard quality. Consequently, Mills does not get a chance to play alongside the Blazers stars and gain any type of chemistry with them in preparation for when he is acutally required to contribute to the team.
I’m not an NBA coach, however I can see some benefit to giving Mills a five minute run towards the end of the second or third quarter in the right situations. Where the opponent dictates a matchup that could be exploited by Mills’ speed, as opposed to Andre Miller’s size and strength, it could be advantageous to let Mills run. All the while, he’d be giving you a chance to monitor his progress.
Meanwhile, it would seem that Diener will be the Blazers’ choice to step in as the replacement killer, should something happen to Miller or Jerryd Bayless — a player that is unfamiliar with the Blazers system. What does he bring to the team? An outside shooting touch and a conservative mindset. Mills has the outside stroke — anyone who watched him at St Marys or with the Idaho Stampede knows that. Perhaps this all comes back to McMillan’s penchant for grind-it-out play, with Diener being a more trusted type of point guard.
Despite all of this, I understand that my rant is pointless — the move has been made. I also know that I come across as biased, being a huge fan of Mills. Regardless, this was one monologue I had to get off my chest.
Free Patty Mills!