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December 06, 2001

Shame on these Fail-Blazers
By Dan Patrick

Maybe it's me. But Mike Dunleavy seems like he's coaching as though he got fired last week. The substitute teacher, who looks like the regular teacher, has taken over the class, with Mr. Dunleavy scrawled across the chalkboard. His vacant, ghost-like demeanor at least suggests to me someone who wouldn't mind getting the ax. One thing is clear. He had more fun watching his son's team last month than he is having coaching his own team this month.

It is hard to blame Dunleavy if he is in fact eyeing the exit. Thursday night's Lakers-Blazers game was sad to see. A nationally broadcast visit with the NBA's most dysfunctional team. And I definitely mean the Blazers. The Lakers, even with all of their Phil-Shaq-Kobe squabbling, are practically the Brady Bunch compared to the Trailblazers, who remind me more of the Manson family than anyone else.

Blazers Bench
The Blazers have had little reason to celebrate.

You get the feeling that Kobe watches and listens to the whole Blazer mess and wants to walk up to Phil Jackson, hug him and give him a great big "I love you, man!"

All that talent going to waste is depressing to see and a first-round playoff exit is assuredly a waste for that roster. And, of course, Dunleavy will take the fall. Then again, that team set basketball back last night. It ended late for people in the East, but whoever saw it got a real ugly game. Five technicals, two guys get tossed. They lose. And, of course, the Blazers pointed fingers outward, not inward.

They go home now but does it matter? This is a team that was only one poorly played fourth quarter away from going to the NBA Finals last year. Now, they are one game away from a first-round exit. Saving face for them will be pushing this to a Game 4. Pathetic.

I think you have to take a wrecking ball to this team. And somebody needs to sit down with Rasheed Wallace and tell him, "Even as good as you are, nobody cares. You're hurting us." Maybe a hockey analyst could explain the plus/minus rating system to him. Wallace would rate a zero because whatever he gives you he eventually takes away.

Rod Strickland was the wrong guy to pick up. Arvydas Sabonis is on his last legs. Shawn Kemp is in rehab. Scottie Pippen is a shell of his former self. The team, and apparently the whole organization, is rudderless and trying to exist in this atmosphere of total anarchy. And we had "Blazermania" not that long ago with a lot of these same guys. The loss of Bonzi Wells hurt them but even that can't explain the mess of last night.

The guys I feel sorry for are Steve Smith and Detlef Schrempf. There aren't two nicer and classier guys in the league. They were brought in to provide a little veteran savvy and leadership, but Moses and George Patton couldn't lead this bunch. Not with the erratic and selfish Wallace and the eternally sullen Pippen on the scene. When your two best players are only concerned with themselves, the team concept is just hollow coach-speak that has no chance of making it to the court.

Game 3 could end in hand-to-hand combat. I wonder if the prospect of forcing another game or two even matters to these guys. That delicate, overused word applies here: chemistry. These guys have none. And this was the year they were going to go get it. They brought in Kemp, Dale Davis and the others so they could handle Shaq in the middle with fouls to give away. This was the series they aimed for. And they'll probably be swept right out of it.

So if Mr. Dunleavy looks a bit relieved on Sunday, please excuse him. Like that substitute teacher who gets stuck with a lousy class, he's just looking forward to his next assignment.

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