These have become unsettling times for Blazer fans. Unfortunately it seems we have a plurality of messages surrounding The Blazers. Right now at the eye of this summer storm we have Kevin Pritchard.
My last fanpost was entitled "Dazed and Confused" and I'll admit that perhaps this is just more of an extension of the same feeling. It seems so extreme and unpredictable what is happening around the franchise recently. For the first time in a long time, I have to say I have no idea what is really going on within the franchise. Most disturbing is the disconnect or conflicting messages that seem to be surfacing between Pritchard and individual players.
We, The fans, were told of Jerryd Bayless working out with Oden. Now Bayless denies it. We are told by Pritchard to relax about negotiations with Brandon and LMA that they are preceding amicably, and that their retention is a priority. We then hear quotes from Brandon himself that sound far less confident about a deal being done and far more negative about the handling. I'll admit that in the case of contract negotiations it might be a case of posturing on both sides, but it still is disturbing to basicly be told like a crowd around some yellow tape, move along, no problem here, nothing to see...by Pritchard, only to hear from Brandon that there might indeed be a problem and things aren't progressing as smoothly or adeptly as we are being told by Pritchard. Also, Kevin Pritchard when asked about the developments or lack of developments of this summer and the recent Turkoglu situation and seeming failure to obtain any free agent, Kevin professes that he's "enjoyed" this summer? Professes that we are not in a panic, that a plan is still in place. Then we see articles that define say other GM's and Executives as thinking Pritchard was aggitated and paniced in the wake of Turkoglu's betrayal.
One vital thing that has been re-built the past few years and I give Kudos to Pritchard for this, is a trust between the fanbase and the franchise. However I think we are in great danger of that eroding again. You'd have to go back to the Patterson/Nash era to find a time when I thought the messages being told by The Blazers were so conflicted in light of other sources. I realize that it is Pritchards job to reflect the franchise in the best possible light, but when we are told one thing, only to hear from people or players directly involved that it isn't happening or never happened that leaves fans only to wonder what is really going on. In the case of Bayless working out with Oden, if Bayless denies it, you have to wonder why we were being told something that never happened? Plus did anyone in The Blazers organization think it wouldn't be discovered as untrue? It bothers me that Bayless say's he hasn't worked out with Oden, it bothers me just as much that The Franchise would think it wise or that we have a need to advance this message if not true. How can I now trust anything I hear about Oden and his off-season?
This summer has unexpectedly become the clear end of the golden age for Kevin Pritchard. His mortality as a GM has become evident. Normally I'd say this is okay and probably good for Fans and ultimately Pritchard himself as he was riding an unrealistic high since becoming GM. Almost like a needed market adjustment. But we have a duality of message about Pritchard himself.
We've all read and heard the articles and comments that Pritchard is perceived by many GM's around the league as arrogant and over confident. The inflated ego accusation. As a fan living in Portland, I've never really seen it. I have defended Pritchard on these points. In local interviews in my opinion Pritchard has always come off as actually striving for humility. Pritchard never fails to share credit, often praising scouting and his staff. Never have I heard Pritchard take credit for himself alone, or use the word "I" extensively in regards to perceived success. Still rumors that he is generally disliked across the league by other basketball GM's and Executives persist. I never wanted to believe this, nor have I in the past accepted it as a problem. But in light of the difficulties Kevin has seemed to suffer this summer in executing a trade or making a deal you have to at least start to wonder if to an extent it isn't backlash. You'd hope grown men weren't so petty. But these GM's do have egos and it's not beyond the realm of belief that some childish attitudes, hurt feelings and the like, aren't hampering Pritchards ability as a GM.
I would describe this summer so far as shocking. We've gone through "bad times" as Blazer fans before. But the recent turmoil is different just because I never saw it coming. I can't even get a line on what direction I think we are heading in, because I can't trust the messages being sent from anyone. Seems to me, either this evaporates as the unfortunate mechanizations of a free agency period and an over active media, or this get's worse. Inwhich case we find the era of Kevin Pritchard in great danger of ending in a Hindenburg like flame out.
Am I being alarmist? Trust me, I hope so. I hope the season starts with an ownership, management and team all basicly on the same page. I hope that what we are told by The Blazers is happening once again becomes what we see IS happening. A lesson The Blazers should of learned by now, is be upfront with the fans, don't tell us what you think we want to hear, if it isn't happening. If you've got a problem, tell us you've got a problem. If Bayless isn't working out with Oden, don't tell us he is. If you are holding on contract negotiations with Brandon and LMA, tell us you are holding off, or have hit a snag. If this summer has been a nightmare of failed negotiations and lost free agency opportunities.....go ahead...tell me it's been a difficult summer...don't tell me you think we've had a great summer because I don't see it.
Basketball is entertainement, sport and business and I sympathize with those charged with trying to balance all the aspects of those fundamentals. It isn't easy. For the fan's it can be lifeblood vital entertainment to an extreme. For coaching and players it's the competitive sport, where winning and losing are tied to everything from contract size and length to quality of life. Business? Well that would be the direct affect on Paul Allen and his wishes as to how the franchise operates. How much control is left to Basketball people and how much to Vulcan business operators. For me, I can sympathize with the complexity. It's not a one person job, it's not an easy thing to do, but for the Blazers this has been a very, very disturbing summer, not so much coming from the tangible things that have happened such as the Hedo Turkoglu situation but more from the spiraling reaction to the event.
I'm nervous. I'm calling for honesty, so I'll start. I don't like what I'm seeing and hearing out of The Blazers. I think a lot is in jeopardy. I think it's all salvageable but The Blazers need to remember what they have done wrong in the past and what they have done right recently and unfortunately I don't see that happening right now.