Summer League Blazers Buzz

Some quick tidbits from Las Vegas with more to come after today's slate and tonight's Blazers game.  

  • Blazers President Larry Miller spent yesterday in lengthy NBA Board of Governors meetings and wasn't seen by anyone attending Summer League, as had been expected.  His GM hiring process continues today with Rich Cho, according to John Hollinger.  [Update (1:12PM): Yesterday, 95.5FM reported that Cho would be interviewed and the station is reporting that the interview is taking place right now.] 
  • In Miller's absence, in a stark contract you couldn't script any better, former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard made the rounds of media row, doling out handshakes and asking for assessments of Portland's rookies. There's been some talk that Pritchard will catch on with an NBA broadcast partner if he does follow through on his plan to take a year off.  "You'll see me around," Pritchard said, as coy as always. The world needs more KP, not less, so that's good. The Pritchard to the Knicks rumor was discounted by a number of media folks yesterday. 
  • Portland's Former vice president of basketball operations and current ESPN capologist Tom Penn was also in the building.  It really is a bizarre scene, given that Public Enemy #1 for Portland's management hierarchy, Warren LeGarie, runs the Summer League and is a constant center of everyone's attention. Not to mention, the league is enjoying explosive popularity this year, with the gym sold out both Sunday and Monday night to catch the John Wall show.  Given the animosity towards LeGarie felt by many within the organization, I imagine this is a little bit like attending an amazing barbecue at your ex-wife's new husband's mansion. 
  • Head of NBA Scouting Mike Born spent nearly the entire afternoon and evening on the telephone while watching the action in Cox Pavilion. For awhile he was sitting side-by-side with Kiki Vandeweghe, whose name came up with regard to Portland's GM position, although the talk around his candidacy has cooled to the point where it's virtually non-existent. 
  • Head of College Scouting Chad Buchanan wasn't in Cox Pavilion today that I saw.  The Blazers coaching staff -- including Kaleb Canales and Bill Bayno -- did watch Washington play the Clippers last night.  The Blazers play LA on Thursday.  
  • Regarding Portland's GM job, most of the national media I talked to were really pessimistic about the job's attractiveness, saying it would take a big time offer to land a name candidate.  We've definitely heard that before but I think the narrative against the job has shifted a little bit.  Although there are still questions about how the Pritchard drama unfolded and the egos involved, most seem to have moved past that. The questions are crystallizing around the organization's commitment to its management structure, which appears to require that big basketball operations decisions are communicated to Owner Paul Allen through Miller. 
  • That type of structure and oversight isn't unprecedented around the league.  But Miller set himself up for all sorts of second-guessing with the timing and size of his offer to Wesley Matthews; he played the team's biggest free agency chip prior to putting a new executive in place, just weeks after saying adamantly to anyone that would listen that he has no desire to be the head of Portland's basketball operations. And he did it in a questionable manner.  (Various media members trashed the offer as "exorbitant" and "regrettable."  The consensus was running about 4-1 against Utah matching Matthews before the Jazz made their play for Al Jefferson.  After that news broke last night, it went even higher than that, quickly.) 
  • The current situation for Miller probably looks worse than it is. The timing appears to be motivated in part by a rash of free agent signings of backcourt players that Portland had targeted.  Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Raymond Felton and Kyle Korver all were on Portland's free agent target list, and all signed elsewhere over the weekend.  Later, Luke Ridnour, who Nate McMillan has long admired, was taken off the board thanks to another insane offer from David Kahn.  Plus, Raja Bell, who Portland also had interest in, seems headed to a sure-fire title contender.  The outsized offer to Matthews wasn't just a product of an inflated market but also a big, quick run on Portland's supply.
  • Basketball Prospectus's Kevin Pelton's SCHOENE projection system is really down on Matthews. "Matthews does remind me of a caution I once offered about Damien Wilkins in Seattle," Pelton notes. "When an undrafted free agent plays well as a rookie, it's often less a sign that he's truly a great player and more a reminder that talent is out there to find. I can see Utah or some other team giving Matthews too long a contract and regretting it after finding out he's not substantially better than replacement level.
  • There are some interesting numbers to look at in this comparative analysis of Matthews, Martell Webster and Rudy Fernandez by Nathan Begley at Portland Roundball Society.  Utah's incredible offensive system, Matthews shifting roles throughout the year and small sample size make numerical comparisons difficult. 
  • The gym was buzzing pretty hard yesterday with talk that Bernie Bickerstaff and Bob Ociepka, two long-time NBA assistants who have been linked previously with Portland, will be joining McMillan' s coaching staff.  This line from Ociepka's wikipedia is interesting: "He, along with Bickerstaff and Harris, were hired to establish a veteran presence on the coaching staff and help rookie head coach Vinny Del Negro."  Who else just pictured someone in a dark suit in the 206 googling "veteran presence + coaching staff" and then trying to purchase the first names that came up?
  • Dean Demopolous got a job.  Didn't see or hear anything about Joe Prunty yesterday. [Update (3:18PM): Prunty was taking in the action from a courtside seat this afternoon and is a part of Cleveland's Summer League staff.] 
  • Juwan Howard: bienvenidos a Miami.  He was assumed gone.
  • If you're sick of the off-court buzz, full game coverage starts tonight. Can't wait.
  • Hornets guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton will not play against the Blazers due to minor injuries.  Monty Williams doesn't sound super thrilled about that.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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