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Sunday, December 30, 2007

No Holds Barred Practice Sparked Blazers' Winning Streak

Many people have tried to figure out how the Portland Trail Blazers suddenly became so good. Jason Quick of The Oregonian offers a good answer:

The history books will show that the Trail Blazers' winning streak started on Dec. 3, when Travis Outlaw made a last-second shot at Memphis.

But to the Blazers players and coaches, the roots of the streak really started two days earlier, at a community center in San Antonio, where an edgy and downtrodden Blazers team practiced.

It was where Martell Webster and Joel Przybilla fought. Where Steve Blake kicked and then threw a chair. Where Brandon Roy exchanged sharp words with teammates. And where Channing Frye spoke up and made a promise.

Quick explains that Coach Nate McMillan put in two special practice rules that day: (1) no defensive switching on pick and rolls, forcing defenders to fight aggressively through picks; (2) ballhandlers were only allowed one dribble, thereby encouraging more player and ball movement on offense. McMillan knew exactly what he was doing when he made these changes: "The practice was basically set up for a fight to happen. We were talking about pressuring. We were talking about being physical. We were talking about grabbing. And...we got into a fight, a couple tempers flared and a couple of other things happened."

After the Portland players showed such intensity battling against each other, McMillan pointedly implored them to play that way against the rest of the league--and, since that day, they have.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:11 AM

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