Bad news. The season is still over. *Musters fake optimism* Now the offseason begins! Hey now, there's still a ton to talk about. Draft talk, off-season evaluation time, playoff chatter, roster management questions, the list goes on and on.
To kick the week off, here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge this weekend...
While you wait to hear what Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan tell reporters this afternoon, click through for stories about Blazers personnel potentially on the move, arguments for and against the roster being ready to compete as is next season, stories and notes from Friday's exit interviews, some year-end reflections, a great early mock draft and a ton more.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports with multiple offseason Blazer happenings...
The Hornets plan to interview a mixture of current assistants and former head coaches, with sources telling CBSSports.com that at least eight names are on New Orleans' list so far. Assistants Tom Thibodeau (Celtics), Dwane Casey (Mavericks), Monty Williams (Trail Blazers), Tyrone Corbin (Jazz), and Steve Clifford (Magic) are expected to interview for the Hornets job, along with former head coaches Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank and broadcaster Mark Jackson. Johnson, Jackson and Thibodeau also are expected to interview with the Sixers.
Several front office situations also are in flux, including Portland, where GM Kevin Pritchard is waiting to learn if he will meet the same fate as close friend and former top assistant Tom Penn, who was fired in March. In Denver, GM Mark Warkentien's contract is set to expire after he did not receive an extension to accompany coach George Karl's. Sources familiar with the Denver situation said Warkentien's status is expected to be resolved within a week after the Nuggets' playoff elimination. Team executive Rex Chapman is expected to be let go, sources said.
John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune is hearing the same thing...
New Orleans will likely contact the Portland Trail Blazers later this week to ask for permission to interview assistant Monty Williams.
Marc Stein with the same...
The Hornets have had preliminary contact with Johnson, TNT analyst Doug Collins and ESPN analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson to gauge their interest, and also are expected to consider Portland assistant Monty Williams.
Dwight Jaynes (with a nice new site re-design) on Kevin Pritchard...
And thus Pritchard could be masterminding the Blazers' draft-day activities - and remember, with this franchise, that day has often been the biggest day for trades of the season - while already knowing where he would land next season. Can you imagine the conflict of interest scenarios wrapped up in such a situation?
As far as I'm concerned, if you don't want him around any more, why would you let him handle the draft? And at the same time, if he knows he doesn't want to be back here next season, why wouldn't he resign? (Uh, well, because the team probably owes him for another season or two and if he gets fired, he'd be entitled to that money).
A big reason for asking these questions is that there is a lot of noise out there right now about Pritchard. I've heard his name connected to two or three teams already, including a couple that don't even have a vacancy yet in their front office. I've also heard he's pretty certain he won't be back and has plans to reunite his entire front office team from Portland in some other locale.
Wendell Maxey writes that Patty Mills does not have a guaranteed contract for next year and is unsure of his future...
"I have no idea. It was tough for me to get in to the position I was this year. So next year, to be honest I have no idea. I can't really control that at the moment. We're talking about that with my agent. That will be done before I go back to Australia obviously. For me to get something organized before I start with the National Team, you don't want that lingering in the back of your head over the summer while you're playing for your National Team."
Joe Freeman with his story from exit interviews...
It may have been a turbulent season, littered with injuries, illnesses and obstacles. It may have ended much sooner than originally hoped, with a Game 6 loss to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. But, according to the players, the franchise also took a gigantic leap forward in its quest to win an NBA Championship.
"I see a lot of great things," starting small forward Nicolas Batum said about the future. "We can win the title next year."
There were some muffled laughs when Batum said this but he was completely serious.
Brian T. Smith with some exit interview notes...
Roy plans to rest as much as possible this summer. He feels that by having knee surgery before the end of the regular season and then taking the court during the playoffs, he is ahead of schedule for his rehabilitation. ... Howard said he plans to record his 17th season in the league next year. Howard greatly enjoyed his time playing with the Blazers, and added that he would like to remain in Portland next season if possible. He will become a free agent July 1. "I wish I could have come here early on in my career. Because this is a special place to play," Howard said.
Mike Barrett on the end of the year...
Now it's that awkward feeling. It's over. And, none of us, especially those very close to the team, know what to do next. I had a bag packed, ready to head to Phoenix on Friday to get ready for a game 7. The only people that are going to be happy in the morning are my kids, who are too young to get most of this. They just know they won't have to say goodbye again, as Dad hits the road.
For the rest of us, we can being this period of looking back, and looking forward. Who have we seen the last of on this Blazers roster? Who will be back? And, what will the expectations be going into next season.
We've got a lot of time to think about that, unfortunately.
Dwight Jaynes has year-end thoughts...
Unless this team changes its offensive system (or actually finds an offensive "system") this is what's going to happen in the postseason. The whole scheme is dependent upon those two guys carrying the team with a series of one-on-one moves out of isolation. Works in the regular season when teams have no prep time and cannot adequately prepare in the avalanche of an 82-game season. But in the post-season with time to prepare? It's a suicidal offensive scheme. Portland made the Suns' defensive scheme look like the legendary Pistons' Bad Boys defense.
- One thing I heard afterward from several people - "Well, the Suns were just the better team." Yes, I'm afraid that's correct, as long as Nate McMillan is coaching this team. All the injuries have bought McMillan another season - one more year to show what he's doing isn't going to work in the playoffs over the long term. I'm astounded at how people don't look at how many open shots Blazer opponents get out of their offensive systems and how many contested shots Portland ends up having to shoot because its players cannot create their own shots against double and triple-teams.
- Yeah, the off-season will once again be filled with the Blazers searching for "another guy who can create his own shot."
Scott Schroeder with the first version of his NBA Mock Draft. These will be must-reads as we get closer to draft day. In this mock he has Quincy Pondexter and Robin Benzing.
It would make sense for the Blazers to trade down a bit to get a true power forward, but if that doesn't happen I think it makes sense to go with an athlete with toughness, energy and a willing defender off the bench. I don't know if it helps or hurts that he played at Washington, but the Blazers should at least be familiar with him.
Kevin Pelton looks at the Suns / Spurs with a glance back at Blazers / Suns...
The happiest Phoenix player about this matchup has to be Amar'e Stoudemire. After seeing extra defensive attention from the Trail Blazers, who sought to take his scoring off the pick-and-roll away, Stoudemire can expect a different defensive philosophy from San Antonio. Dating back to the 2005 Western Conference Finals, Popovich has generally believed in conceding paint scores to Stoudemire in favor of taking away the Suns' shooters. Indeed, Stoudemire averaged 32.7 points in three regular-season matchups, his best average against any opponent.
Was Phoenix's improvement on defense during the series with Portland legitimate, or simply a function of Brandon Roy's injury? I tend to suspect more the former than the latter, but whether that is the case will go a long way toward determining the outcome of this series.
Brian T. Smith on Martell Webster...
But unlike several of his sometimes too-proud teammates, Webster never spoke out. He never publicly questioned the righteous ways of coach Nate McMillan. And like the resilient Blazers, who could have easily called it a day and cashed in numerous times this season, Webster never caved.
The 23-year-old Seattle native said his character would not allow it. Then he said the same of his team.
"If we do that, then we're doing what everybody expects of us," Webster said. "And we don't listen to anything they say. We know what they're saying, but we don't listen to it."
John Canzano: nothing holding Blazers back?
But there isn't really anything holding the organization back from a playoff-series victory next season, is there? Like the fans who were seemingly stuck post-game, waiting, for the basketball organization, there's always another escape route available and it doesn't have to involve wholesale changes and heads rolling.
There are no ropes in front of the Blazers today, holding them back.
Sandy Dover at Slam disagrees...
The Portland Trail Blazers, as constructed, aren't a roster made to truly win. Sure, they'll win enough to make the Playoffs and possibly go into the second round, but they aren't made for championship contention, even with all the healthy guys. The kiddies (many of which are my age, in their early-to-mid-20s) are very nice. They play well and they're tough and competitive, but they're somewhat tame and pedestrian.
Andrew Bynum has a slight tear of his knee cartilege which sounds similar to the injury that limited Brandon Roy during this year's playoffs and required surgery. According to Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times they are different injuries...
It's a different injury from the one that recently sidelined Brandon Roy for less than two weeks after the Portland guard underwent surgery.
"Roy had to have it; that's why he did it," Bynum said. "I don't think I have to have it at this point. Right now it's something I think I can get through unless the pain gets worse."
"It's a little sore every time, every step," Bynum said. "I don't think I can hurt it more - at least I hope not - but anything's possible. Nothing too severe can happen."
Coup from Rip City Project has a nice year-end evaluation of Greg Oden...
While he needs to work on the speed of his closeouts, he was always closing out because forwards never drove on him - and for his part Oden always ran at shooters with an arm raised. In the 608 defensive possessions he was involved in, opponents only scored at least a point on 40 percent of possessions. There's a reason the Blazers were fourth in defensive efficiency through the first month of the season and dropped to 17th two months later.
The area he needs to improve in most defensively hasn't changed since last season: fouling. The six personal fouls per 36 minutes needs to drop by about two, and for that Oden should watch film of a mid-decade Kevin Garnett for lessons on how to provide quick help rotations without picking up fouls.
Coup says the Blazers were right in line with expectations...
Because a good part of being a fan is about managing expectations. Fans of the Thunder and Bucks had great seasons not only because they had fun, exciting teams to watch but because those squads exceeded expectations left and right. Fans of the Celtics had miserable years because that team all but left the title hopes dying in a sewer drain. And though expectations are often an unfair product of the media and skewed national perception, they're a major factor, and the Blazers stayed right in line with what the fans wanted and believed in.
Seth Johnston of BustaBucket wants in on the riots if KP is fired.
If KP gets fired will there be an opportunity to take to the streets? Portlanders do like them some protesting. If it goes down I'd like to make a request to the mob leader: can it wait until mid-August? Thats the next time I'll be in town. I'd really like to participate. I have this brick thats been burning a hole in my pocket.
Runyon over on Trail Post investigates the best ways to spend the offseason...
Proposition 4: Start an Internet Meme. Internet memes are a great source of humor and joy, something severely lacking since the Blazers' premature exit. This could give you great pleasure, and ease the suffering of fellow fans. Well, to start one, you first need a blog. Tumblr has the hipster cred, but Blogger's easier to use. Up to you. Next, you need to create a meme. For example, some funny recent ones are mashups of disparate ideas, such as Hipster Puppies or Michael Buble Being Stalked by a Velociraptor. Animals are always a fine choice. Here's an idea I came up with just writing this. It's called Nate McMillan Is the Life of the Party. I'm sure you can do better than that.
- Video from a Fox 12 Sports story on Jeff Pendergraph dancing before games.
- NBA Playbook has a great picture by picture breakdown of the back-to-back J. Rich baskets that broke the Blazers' back.
- Nicolas Batum wasn't the only Blazer with an awesome t-shirt on Friday. Portland Roundball Society got a good picture that shows Martell Webster's inspired Obama/basketball shirt.
- Fast-forward to the 3 minute mark of this video from The Columbian for Webster's plans for his wedding night haircut: "I'm thinking about cutting it, shaping it up, having a fade, but keep two afro balls right here. Then I'm gonna perm them so they come down power bang style."
- A TMZ-ish video from OregonLive of Greg Oden dealing with super annoying autograph seekers. Between that and the media I'd probably be wearing a hooded sweatshirt too. Still, tough to watch. Also: pointless.
- Mike Rice's #1 Hater.
- Draft Express reports John Wall has hired an agent.
- Brian Schmitz: 3 members of the Orlando media voted for Dwight Howard over LeBron James as MVP. No one else in the country did.
- Not basketball-related at all but this piece on the history of the NYPD bomb squad was interesting.
Drop anything I missed in the comments. And, please, frequent the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter