Now that the tentative NBA labor deal has had a few days to sink in, the peanut gallery has had ample time to render verdicts on the long lockout's winners and losers. The results are in, and they aren't particularly favorable for the Portland Trail Blazers, who still do not have a General Manager and must make major decisions with regard to guard Brandon Roy and center Greg Oden.
Henry Abbott of TrueHoop.com writes...
LOSERS: The Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers carry high salaries with a mediocre team, and we know for certain the GM has not spent the summer executing a new master plan. We know this because there is no GM. But common sense would suggest this team has to win a lot or change a lot, and one of its favorite tools of the past -- outspending rivals -- has grown trickier.
(Link via rip_city_swagger in the FanShots.)
Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes...
LOSERS -- Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers face the tough Brandon Roy question, in terms of amnesty. Roy, his gimpy knees and his fat contract would make him an obvious choice to shed via this provision -- if he weren't such a popular player and face of the franchise still capable of stellar moments on the court.
Aschburner also compared Blazers owner Paul Allen to bombastic players lawyer Jeffrey Kessler in that Allen "seemed to be the guy on the players' side most likely to torpedo a season... from the owners' side."
Dwight Jaynes writes on CSNNW.com...
I've been hearing for a month now that the Blazers will probably not hire a GM for the upcoming season. Apparently the team is content with interim Chad Buchanan and president Larry Miller running things -- with puppetmaster Bert Kolde behind the scenes making sure owner Paul Allen gets what he wants.
Why? Well, you might consider that apparently the Blazers are still paying a hefty salary to Tom Penn NOT to be the team's assistant GM. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $600,000, I hear.
So, let's see how well the team can function without a GM, then. Can't wait to see how THAT works out.
John Canzano of The Oregonian writes...
Even if the Blazers cut Roy with the new Amnesty Clause, they will not have room under the salary cap. There isn't another player to be picked up. This isn't a roster move to be made. It amounts to nothing more than a money move designed to keep Allen from paying more luxury tax than he'd like
Allen spent this lockout posturing like an owner who is questioning his financial commitment to the basketball hobby. Feels like he wants out. Allen's been a taxpayer in this league. The biggest glutton at a table of gluttons. And now, he's turned spendthrift?
When it comes to Allen, I've given up trying to read him rationally. He feels like a guy guessing, or turning into Howard Hughes. It just makes no sense.
Matt Calkins of The Columbian writes...
With its current lineup, a first-round exit may still be the expectation for Portland, but with perennial powers such as the Lakers and Spurs aging, hosting a first-round series is not completely out of the question. Time to learn each other's on-court tendencies would have benefited this team greatly. Unfortunately for the Blazers, that luxury doesn't exist.
Brother Wendell Maxey notes on Twitter...
Blazers can have all the time they want finding a GM replacement, but still need to fill coaching gap left by Bill Bayno. not an easy task.
Todd Dybas of CSNNW.com writes...
Injury history suggests Roy and Oden can't be relied on. Common sense suggests not having a general manager is a bad idea.
Without Oden, there is no suitable backup for the fragile Marcus Camby. Without Roy's craftsmanship, the bench immediately thins. Without leadership, there is ruin.
Blended together, the winter may not be nuclear powered since there will actually be a season. But next summer may be post-apocalyptic in Portland if Roy and Oden can't perform.
Dave wrote recently...
Anyone hoping for a nice schedule for the Blazers should probably not hold their breath. Geographical corner teams always get screwed. Expect huge doses of back-to-backs and the Blazers getting sent to all kinds of odd places to fill in corners that everybody else's schedule left behind.
Anyone hoping for the Blazers to make an extended run with this roster should also not hold their breath. There's the whole Roy-No Roy question, of course, but bobbing in these waves it feels like the Aldridge-Wallace-Batum-Felton-Oden combination is too expensive and not well-enough matched. The big questions surrounding the Blazers over the next year may not be who comes but who needs to go.
Over at CBSSports.com, I named Blazers center Greg Oden as a lockout loser...
The Portland Trail Blazers center has not appeared in an NBA game since Dec. 2009 and is now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery. Even so, The Oregonian reports that Oden still doesn't have a firm timetable on an expected return to the court and hasn't yet been cleared for basketball activities. Oden is a restricted free agent and now must enter contract negotiations without the ability to prove he can play again. Contract aside, a lost season would have helped delay the return of the enormous pressure he faces as a former No. 1 overall pick; now, Oden will likely come back to Portland, where expectations are still gigantic, after hiding out for most of the lockout, only to face another round of jokes and barbs about his health.
Oden would have been one of the few clear winners had the entire 2011-2012 season been lost, as he would have had 22 months to rehabilitate from his most recent microfracture surgery under the radar before needing to report in September 2012. If there's a silver lining for Oden, it's that he gets his free agency now, in a relatively weak class, rather than getting squished together in a stacked 2011/2012 hybrid class next summer if the full season was lost.
On the flipside, Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com points out that the development of forward Nicolas Batum is a positive...
"I can definitely play the shooting guard position on a permanent basis," Batum told CSNNW.com. "I've learned a lot from Brandon (Roy) and if he did play his last game as a Blazer, he has taught me so much on how to play the position that I'm ready to take on that role if Coach Nate sees it fit."
Batum says that his French coach has worked tirelessly with him on coming off screens, pick-and-roll situations, and improving his ball handling skills so that he'll be capable of playing both guard spots once he returns to the league.
"Everything that I've been working on will translate over to the NBA," Batum said. "It's basketball. I wanted to make sure that when I came back to Portland, I would return a better all-around player than when I left. I think I did that."
Last week, Jason Concepcion at SBNation.com somewhat sarcastically named Allen a lockout winner.
Vote in the poll and explain your position in the comments.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter