Meet John Townsend

Odds are you have never heard of John Townsend. In fact, it is possible you should not have. But he could very well have a major impact on how the Blazers season turns out this year.

He represents another step in the development of the NBA. It isn't that the NBA doesn't have enough my count, the Blazers have at least 6 already; Head Coach Nate McMillan, Lead Assistant Coach Dean Demopoulos, Assistant coaches Bill Bayno, Maurice Lucas, & Monty Williams, Strength and Conditioning Coach Bob Medina, and that does not even count the video coordinator(s), scouts, and so forth...or Special Assistant to Coach Bob other words, they already have more coaches than people they can play on the court at any given time. In fact, they could have an individual coach directing each player on the court and have one left over to yell at the refs or trip the opponents or something.

But the Blazers are now the 6th team to add a shooting coach and he comes in the person of "shooting guru" Townsend. This follows the lines of where you have the manager, the pitching coach, the bullpen coach, a hitting coach, a first base coach, a third base coach and who knows how many others. I have to admit I get confused as to why the pitching coach could not be the bullpen coach...what if they have different philosophies? And if they don't...isn't that duplication?

Or check out the NFL where you have the Head Coach, Offensive Coach, Quarterbacks Coach, line coach, receivers coach, running backs coach, special teams coach, defensive coach, defensive line coach, linebackers coach, defensive backfield coach, and who knows how many more...

In other words, these days you have a coach for EVERYTHING. It does make a certain amount of sense. After all, with the video technology available, a good hitting coach can turn a hitters career around, correct a pitcher's lost mechanics and extend his career, etc. Why would the same not be true for basketball?

So the Blazers went out, identified a need, and got their man.

Last year the Blazer field goal percentage was a shaky 45% , a number hardly likely to be improved with the loss of high percentage shooting Zach Randolph, who was third on the team at just .467%. The only players who shot better were Pryzbilla, Magloire, and Aldridge. On top of that, the Blazers are an extremely young team with most of their players under 25 and with less than 5 years of service. That is a recipe for a decline in shooting percentage.

In comes Townsend. It is yet to be seen if his work with the players will lead to improvement right away, but it is certainly a positive step. If he can add just a couple percentage points to the shooting percentage, the result may not be evident in any particular is hard to say something like, "Against Seattle Webster was 12 for 18, but without the coaching he would have only been 11 for 18"...the extra points and the benefits of those extra possessions will translate into a win here and there and will give the players increased confidence.

Of course, part of that may come from who is taking the shots. None of the three guys who had higher percentages than Randolph were taking a significant number of shots last year. Expect more of the same from Pryzbilla...his shots come mostly on offensive rebounds and broken plays where he shoots from close-in. He gets a high number of put backs and dunks which he will always shoot a high percentage on, but not have many shots. Magloire is in New Jersey. That leaves Aldridge who will be a focal point for the offense. If he continues to shoot better than 50% as he did last year but ups his attempts per game to 15 - 20 shots per game he will be a shoe-in for Most Improved Player...and the Blazers could surprise everyone with a huge jump in wins. Is this a long shot? Of course. But it is a possibility, too.

Just one more little thing to keep alert for as the season gets closer to opening and one more reason for optimism.

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