Greg Oden & Andre Miller: Black or White?

(First off, the idea for this post was ‘inspired’ by fellow FanSided bloggers Pippen Ain’t Easy, Howard The Dunk and We’re Bucked. And I meant to use ‘inspired’ like Puff Daddy did in the late 90’s. Also, no the title was not inspired by me watching Michael Jackson break windows and scream. It’s a head nod to the Black and White units the Blazers use.)

Here’s a topic/question that hasn’t been brought up for a little bit: are Andre Miller & Greg Oden really going to come off the bench? If  you’re scratching your head on that, let’s go on an Ahmad Rashad inspired rewind (yes Inside Stuff reference). Let’s go back to nearly three weeks ago to when Ben from Blazer’s Edge relayed to el mundo how B-Roy relayed to him, how Coach Nate relayed to him that both Oden and Miller would come off the bench. Blazer Nation erupted like my brain one time when I lost my remote +control and the TV was stuck on High School Musical. There were unbelievably mind-numbing criticisms and valid ones. I can understand not wanting to see your team pay Andre Miller all sorts of Arab Money only to see him come off the bench. I can understand wanting Greg Oden to become everything we’ve dreamed of. All I ask is let’s pump those brakes and think about this for a second. First off, let’s work under the assumption that Nate’s going to keep the starting lineup until someone proves otherwise. If Miller and Oden are to start…guess what? It’s on them to beat out Blake and Big Joel. And knowing those two, they won’t go down without a fight. No seriously they’ll probably pull a Nate Marquardt before they give up their starting spot.  Secondly, if they come off the bench look at what Portland has at it’s disposal:

Black Unit: Blake, Roy, Batum, Aldridge, Pryzbilla

White Unit: Miller, Rudy, Webster, Outlaw, Oden

Would that be so bad people? If you ask me, those are two very sick, ill, disgusting 5-man teams right there. We’re talking lineups that would make Jay-Z say ‘ewwwww’. Ok, maybe not but you see where I’m going. I personally have no qualms with that starting lineup being trotted out to begin the season. In my mind, that’s the unit that got us where we needed to be last year. I’m all for continuity, and one of the advantages of being a team that brings a lot of players back is just that. There’s a certain familiarity with that starting five. I’m not saying it’s the best five guys we can put on the floor, I’m just saying that they have already gelled. You want your starters to have chemistry and you want roles to be clearly defined from day one. Even if he may have been blowing smoke in everyones faces, I’m glad that Nate at least publicly has squashed any sort of ‘starting controversies’ for now. THERE ARE NO SCHISMS IN PORTLAND. Seriously, why break that kind of chemistry up unnecessarily? Especially when nothing has been proven yet. Now once I see how Miller and Oden look on the court with Roy and LMA, and its just ridiculous, I’ll more than likely be the first to champion a change. I will say this: there’s no need to rush it though. I like Blake and Batum as guys who can spread the floor for Roy and LMA. I like how this lineup lets our big guns get going early without being passive. I like it.

One of my main issues with starting Miller and Oden instead of Big Joel and Blake is the same problem I’ve had with Travis Outlaw starting. How on earth do you get everyone going? In this league there’s a certain type of rhythm players need to get into. Roy and LaMarcus are going to get in a rhythm early. They are getting there reps in, we all know this. And frankly they are supposed to. Those are the #1 and #2 guys. You add Oden and Miller out there and more than likely someone is going to become a forgotten man. And I’d put my money on that forgotten man being the guy in his second year over the guy whose found ways to put up 9+ shots a game for the past 10 years. How does Greg Oden not become passive in that lineup? I think that’ s a valid question. I’m not ok with it, I’m hoping he gets over all of that and just becomes an all out beast and snatches the starting spot. But, until he proves that to me, I think he’s a better fit with the second unit. Again, I say that as of August 31st. Remember people, you don’t HAVE to throw your five best guys on the court to start the game. We learned that with Outlaw last year. And go ahead and look at the Lakers and the Spurs. Now on the other side, you stick those two in the second unit and you’ve got a lot of firepower for a ‘bench’ team. And that word is something that was missing from the second unit in the playoffs. Putting Miller with the second unit now gives them another scorer, but also someone who can create for himself and others. Teams will have to guard Andre Miller, something they didn’t have to do much of when a certain Mr. Rodriguez was around last year. That’s one hell of an upgrade if you ask me. In that hypothetical second unit, Oden is THE post man. He’ll have a much better chance of going to work. And isn’t that what we want right now?

Staggering it out like that could cause a world of hurt for opposing teams because…when are they going to get a break? I’m not saying Blake and Big Joel couldn’t play off the bench, or that Oden couldn’t start or we’d be done if they were in the second unit. As of right now, I just like the idea of them starting the game off. In my mind, Big Joel becomes much easier to guard  when you’re having to deal with Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw instead of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus with Joel in that second unit, it puts a little too much offensive responsibility on the plate of Martell/Rudy than I’m comfortable with in August. Not saying they can’t ball or anything, but until they prove they can handle it I’m going to feel iffy. And right now, I definitely feel iffy. You throw Blake in that second unit and who is the creator? You’ve got guys who can shoot, but whose creating the plays for everyone? Whose driving to the basket and getting to the line? Whose getting easy buckets for everyone? Out of Blake/Rudy/Martell/Travis, who has proven they can get their shot going AND get others going? We know Travis can get his shot off whenever, but I like Miller’s playmaking ability in that second unit over Blake’s. I like that Miller can get to the line, especially with that unit. I’m sorry but Martell and Rudy have to prove their ability to consistently slash before I give them a stamp of approval.

I’m all for keeping things the same until it’s proven not to work. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I still like that first unit a lot because of how well everyone compliments each other. And at the very least, you have to like the prospects of a super-duper bench at our disposal. If you look at the top teams in the conference, they have second units who can come in and go to work. I want that in Portland and I really feel like being able to bring two players of that caliber off the bench would be vicious. This however brings up another question, one that I’ll be answering sooner than later. Who finishes the game? A ton of possibilities there…but that’s a different post for a different day. I’m expecting some hell for this post, but I’m ready for any sort of discussion. You might think I’m crazier than Chris Brown pulling the “I don’t remember” card about beating up Rihanna. I’m ready. Bring it on.

(Sidenote, why hasn’t Chris Brown pulled the R. Kelly Playbook for handling legal situations. All you do is make like 4-5 hit records back to back and everyone will forget. Silly guy.)

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Tags: Andre Miller Brandon Roy Greg Oden LaMarcus Aldridge Martell Webster Nate McMillan Portland Trail Blazers Rudy Fernandez Travis Outlaw

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