FULL TRANSCRIPT: BLAZERS OWNER PAUL ALLEN GIVES RARE INTERVIEW TO PORTLAND MEDIA

Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen addressed a small group of media members in one of the Rose Garden's auxiliary locker rooms prior to the team's preseason opener against the Utah Jazz on Monday night.

Allen spoke for 35 minutes and requested, through a team employee, that no video or photographs be taken during the interview. Allen discussed his decisions to fire former GMs Rich Cho and Kevin Pritchard, whether he would consider selling the Blazers, his current health and his thoughts on Acting GM Chad Buchanan and coach Nate McMillan. He also discussed the NBA's new Collective Bargaining Agreement at length and responded to criticism levied at him by National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and NBPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler.

Click through for the full transcript. It has now been fully updated. This is a must-read.

Here's my column on the conversation.

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

Questions are bolded and paraphrased; Allen's answers are word-for-word and in blockquote.

Opening Remarks

"We haven't talked in a long time and a lot of things have happened so I thought I would give you guys a chance to ask questions and get my perspective on things."

How are you feeling about the team?

"You know I think we've got a lot of talent. Adding Jamal [Crawford] helps. Raymond [Felton] is a different style of point guard than we've had. We've got [Craig] Smith and Kurt Thomas to give us some toughness. We'v got returning players and then some x-factors like Elliot Williams and it's going to be interesting to see what Nolan [Smith] does as a back-up point guard. I'm always excited for the season to start."

Will you sell the team?

"I have no plans to sell the team."

Your health

"Good. Good. I have periodic check-ups coming up in January but so far everything has been clean. Obviously I've gone through a lot of stuff these last few years. Coming down to the games helped me get through that process. The heart operations, the chemo, all those things. I feel in some ways closer to the team because of some of those periods than probably previously."

Does the new CBA help you as a small market owner?

"It certainly did. That was obviously a protracted process that took a lot longer than some people thought it would and at some point people were thinking the season was definitely in doubt. It seems strange to be starting to play basketball in mid-December. They usually have preseason games in October so this is a couple months later than usual.

"But, anyway, to answer your point I became very involved in the process, you may have read that I joined a lot of discussions on the Collective Bargaining committee. At the invitation of the committee. Because I had made some presentations to all the owners at an owners meeting showing the different rates of profitability and especially stressing the fact that the smaller markets needed to do much better. They welcomed that and as a result I got a very close-up perspective on those negotiations which were hours and hours and hours of conference calls and players. And finally concluding, the result was the small markets are financially in a much better place.

"I can't tell you that everything couldn't have been more optimal but all of these labor negotiations are a compromise where you hope they would be able to come out and where they did come out. Sorry, do you have a follow-up?"

It was designed to prevent superstar movement but the Chris Paul trade just happened

"I think that star players that are at the end of their contracts have a ton of leverage as to where they are going to end up. They have to decide whether they want to extend their contracts after that. They have enormous leverage in terms of where they end up and what the teams are going to give up to get them. Basically I think what you're saying is [there are] situations where... unless the star player has bought into ending up [there] and probably gets a sense of what his eventual…

"There's a lot of discussion in terms of provisions of extending players on their rookie deals that end up being star players, there are some provisions in the CBA about that, that are the result of wanting to lock up, if you're not in one of these big markets, to have the chance to lock up players for longer periods of time. It was definitely something in the collective thinking to try to address some of those issues. But we have free agency and obviously it's very important to players to want to go where they can win and some of them like to be in these larger markets and in the spotlight in different ways.

"So, yeah, definitely there are parts of this CBA like the progressive luxury tax that are explicitly in place to try to discourage the teams with the bigger financial resources from really high luxury tax spending levels. So that's also a new element and a difference between the MMLE (mini mid-level exception) and the full mid level exception that you get if you're under the luxury tax. That's something we used to sign Jamal. All those things come into play. And the amnesty was put in to take care of situations like obviously we had with Brandon [Roy]. We had a huge contract for someone who is leaving basketball. Otherwise we would be in tough straits because of that. All of those factors come into play and you try to end up in a better place than where you started, which I think we did. But I think probably there will be more things addressed."

Rich Cho Firing

"I think whether it's Rich or Kevin, which was a really unusual situation, you end up going through these transitions. But I sit with the general manager down on the court and I talk through every game with them and you get a sense for his thinking and his evaluation of players. How he thinks about our team, how he thinks about our coaching. When I think about a general manager, there's a lot of things that come into play. There's what I call the 'Golden Gut' which is how good you are at evaluating talent and obviously we've added the importance of evaluating character and it becomes more important to evaluate medical conditions and all these things. There's that set of components.

"Then there's how well does he relate to the coaches and the players and gain their respect and engage with them, all of those things. There's the chemistry of working with me because I like to be very involved. Everyone knows I like to ask a lot of questions. I'm sure people have burned your ears off hearing how many times I like to ask questions. That's what I do. I like to ask a lot of questions, challenge assumptions and see if we can't come out in a better place. All those factors come into play for a general manager and you can have a good interview with somebody and be optimistic but then when it comes to getting into the season, sitting next to them, talking about the players, where you are going, potential trades, sometimes you realize it's not a good fit.

"That's basically what happened with Rich. He's a great person and I wish him well. But it wasn't a good fit. Once you realize [it's not] a good fit, it doesn't make sense to keep someone even though they are a good person and all of those things if you don't think the working relationship and what they are doing as your general manager is as good as it could be. So we had to make that change. I decided to make that change before the draft because of what had happened with the previous general manager where draft day was so -- how to put it? -- puzzling and unusual."

Evaluate Chad Buchanan's performance

"I think Chad has done a good job. We decided somewhere in the process that we really wanted to look at somebody with a lot of experience and fresh blood outside the organization so we haven't changed our mind about that. I have been impressed with what Chad has done but I still have that opinion.

"We're so focused on getting a great general manager at this point it's really puzzling to me when I read or hear that people think that I want to be the general manager. No! No! I just want to ask the questions and I want a great general manager. So we're going through that process. As of yet, we've been so diligent and thorough in our process that no one has made it to me. I have yet to interview a candidate that everybody -- that there was a consensus that everybody was excited about. I'm very much looking forward to talking to a few candidates and that may happen as the season evolves or more likely after the season is over as people change jobs or their contracts."

People think [adviser] Bert [Kolde] wants to be the GM

"No, Bert doesn't want to be the GM. Being a GM is a full time job. You're talking to teams, you're down here with the coaching staff. I mean it's a full-time job. Don't get me wrong, Bert has always been super enthusiastic about the Blazers but neither of us has ambitions to spend our time being a full-time GM. That's not… you want somebody who's got that depth of basketball experience, that's lived, eaten, breathed basketball for most of their lives. I would love to have already hired a great GM for this season and now we have to move forward."

Why was 2010 NBA Draft night puzzling?

"We set up our strategy for the draft. We went through if this person is there at this pick, we do this. We had a whole decision tree set up on the white board. If we do the Martell [Webster] trade, didn't do the Martell trade and different things. It happened and then I went out to get a breath of fresh air and Kevin tracked me down and basically said, 'Well, You've already decided to let me go.' And I said, 'Nooo, I haven't?' And he said, 'No, but you really should. Can I just meet with [Blazers president] Larry {Miller] the next day and we'll part ways?' And I was like, 'OK… really?' [Pritchard responded] 'Yes, yes I want to meet with Larry'… He kept coming back to it.

"If someone wants to be let go, after a few times, and he said, 'What were your concerns about me?' And I told him. I'm not going to get into them now. And finally I said, Fine, we'll do it.' And then of course it came out during the draft which was very distracting. Didn't affect actually what we did but it wasn't the most smooth draft day we've ever had here."

Could there have been a way to keep Pritchard?

"I had some real concerns and we would have had to have a deep discussion where he would have said he would have had to change some things. A real heart-to-heart but it was clear that he had decided to go a different direction."

Pritchard ended the relationship?

"He asked to be let go. Multiple times. I heard that you guys had that story."

Multiple times that day or did he ask previously too?

"In that meeting. He just kept coming back to it. 'Let's just part ways.'"

Next GM will be somebody outside Blazers with experience?

"Yes, and all the other things I laid out."

Won't be Buchanan?

"That's my current expectation, yes. Since I haven't interviewed anybody yet, that's my hope and expectation yet but things evolve over time."

Will you spend into luxury tax?

"I'm trying to do better. No, look. I mean the quandary that you get into in a small market is you've definitely started to see this happen. You have a choice between being competitive and maybe overspending or not trying to be competitive and trying to break even. That became very dramatic and I won't mention teams by name but you've started to see some teams that basically say, 'We're not going to be competitive because it costs too much money and we lose too much money.' Or, they'll decide to be competitive. Even the mid-market teams like Dallas, they won the NBA championship but they paid the luxury tax and lost a lot of money. In the process they win a championship. It was clear that not only did you have to stop the fact that most small-market teams in general and collectively [are] losing a lot of money but you had to try to level the playing field and there were many, many attempts in the CBA process to try to accomplish those things."

Evaluate Nate McMillan

"Given the amount of adversity that we've had, given the number of injuries and I think he's done a great job. Now imagine if we'd had Greg and Brandon and everybody else healthy for all of these last few years I think we would have.. the expectations would have been higher but given where we were I think he's done a great job. Obviously the team that beat us last year won the championship so is there room for improvement in any area? I think every year Nate tries to improve. Run more this year. Play faster. You look for continuous improvements as a goal."

Expectations for this team

"This is such a crazy year. With the shortened season, a compressed season and you've got new players on the team who you expect to contribute significantly. Some of the injuries have obviously, we're in a more definite place with the implications of those injuries, so it's going to be real interesting. People will talk about handicapping to say the usual suspects will be at the top of conference but a bunch of us right below that… are we just barely a playoff team? Are we potentially going to get out of the first round? Do more damage?

"That's what makes sports exciting. You have to see how it plays out. At this point I think everybody is optimistic but nobody knows for sure. Injuries can play, I should knock on wood, I don't know how many times here, knock on wood, injuries can play such a factor too. I just was, on the Thursday before last, I heard from Chad and he said, 'I have three pieces of news for you and none of them are good.' There's Brandon, Greg [Oden] and LaMarcus [Aldridge] at the same time. That's a just a shock to your system. I won't make too many predictions tonight but I'm optimistic."

Part of you want to cut ties with Greg Oden?

"Everybody roots for Greg. As you guys know, you know Greg, he's a great guy, he's tried to rehab. He's just had these repeated issues with his knees and we've tried to help him with all of those things. I hope he can play for us and make a contribution. It's very hard to know because these issues keep cropping up. We're trying to help him rehab and we're trying to be optimistic. We'll see how that turns out. But it's a challenge."

You've spent millions on the Blazers

"Hundreds of millions. Let's be clear, hundreds of millions."

OK, so what are you getting out of this?

"I think as an owner you really want to do the team right, the fans right, the community right. Build a winning organization. It does come back to the desire to win and be able to enjoy with the fans and the community success that you have. So I've invested a lot but the crazy luxury tax days and all those things are gone. Those are gone. With the carefully newly crafted luxury tax hopefully they're gone for everybody and everybody is on a much more level playing field. I'm not saying other leagues like the NFL are -- you see the benefits of having [a system where] any team can win on any day, there's a lot of benefits to that. My investments have been for the cause of winning."

You plan to spend between luxury tax and salary cap?

"Yeah. I mean, there's no enjoyment to losing money. I don't know anybody who thinks there is. The way that I think about it is… as you get older in life, you start thinking about 'I could be losing money doing this. I could be spending money on brain research or charity or things like that.' It's also a measure of the health of your organization. We are viewed as being… If I go back to David Stern, we get a lot of compliments about the fact that the fans here are so supportive and that we fill up our arena and the community embraces the team and all of those things. There's other municipalities where that's not the case. That's a great measure of the health of your franchise.

"At the other hand, you have to look at profit/loss too. It's one thing to say 'I'm going for it. It's a near championship year, I'll sign a couple of free agents and spend a lot more than usual.' But to do that on a regular basis doesn't make sense. We had a chance here with Brandon and L.A. and Greg and other players to really have a great, very strong core of players but our spending, and it is, high. We're still going to be paying on Brandon's contract for a few years.

"Fortunately, because of the amnesty provision, we're not penalized in terms of what we can do to bring other players in to replace, in some way, you're never going to replace a Brandon Roy, he's such a special player and such a great person, you're never going to replace that with any one player. Now, only because of the amnesty, we don't have that overhang for years and years in the future."

Can you give a long-term commitment to owning franchise

"There's so many things that go with it. Me, my health is a factor, other things are factors. I think at some point if I felt things were getting stale or if we were going to be a lottery team forever, we went through a rebuilding process. Some of those years are tough, when you're winning 20-some games or whatever, those are tough years. If I felt like we were going right back into that, that would be a challenge.

"I'm just trying to tell you how I think about it but I can't give you a definitive answer because I think every owner at some point thinks, 'OK, what's the future going to be?' You're starting to see some of the San Antonios and the Lakers who are getting towards the end of their championship windows and they're going to have to rebuild. Other people may decide… every year there's teams that have new ownership. We've got some new ownership in the league this last year."

You're not going to rebuild?

"I think when you sign a Jamal Crawford and L.A. is a great player and hopefully an All-Star this year and we've got other good players, obviously, around him. You've got the potential to be very, very competitive. There's obviously a tipping point where you say, 'Oh, I don't have one All-Star or near All-Star caliber player to build around.' And then you say it's time to reduce salary and go back, go young and go through the rebuilding process. Obviously with the moves we've made that's not in the cards for this year."

Brandon Roy

"We had so many, all of us had so many… he's such a special player and special person, we had so many amazing… in some of those games he'd hit a 3-pointer in the last .01 seconds, or whatever, to win the game. So many amazing moments and just the way he played. That deliberate but 'you're not going to be able to stop me' style. Just a fantastic basketball player. Not just a scorer but a passer, a rebounder, a heady player. They don't come along… Players like that don't come along very often. I would always chat with Brandon in the locker room.

"To get that news when we thought he was going to be in training camp the next day, that was a body blow. Along with the other two. As an owner you just have to work through those things and Brandon's moved on now. I had a good conversation with him and I wish him the best. But he gave us an amazing five seasons, the last season he was really dealing with the injuries.

"When you have injuries that are that significant it does take a toll on you as a player. You're an All-Star, you want to play like an All-Star and yet the injuries are holding you back. You're a different player than you were at your peak. I think that's tough for any player that's so young compared to somebody on the downside tail of their career."

Roy wants to come to empty Rose Garden and shoot. That OK by you?

"Oh sure. Oh gosh, sure. I would just imagine. I was there for some of those games. It's different if you're the person that was there. Have so many memories. It's funny you talk to players, they'll remember certain [plays]. We all probably remember those unbelievable 3-pointers."

Most memorable Roy moment?

"Who were we playing when he hit a 3-pointer and get fouled right in the last? … That quarter against Dallas. I think we're all going to remember that as the last… it was the full Brandon at his peak, unbelievable ability. But now we move on. Now we look at some of these young guys tonight and see what they can start to do and watch them grow. I'm someone who has always enjoyed watching young players progress. Brandon was someone that came in right away and you could tell he was going to be great."

You got criticism from Billy Hunter and Jeffrey Kessler

"Really?" (Laughs)

Did they portray your actions in that meeting accurately?

"It was an unusual thing. There I am trying to say, 'Look, we as small markets need to think collectively in certain ways and hold the line on certain things.' They ask me to attend one of these face-to-face meetings with players and I said, 'OK'. I go in there and one of the other owners says, 'We've got some real hard-liners in this group like Mr. Allen at the end of the table.' And I'm like, 'OK, here I am. I'm [just] taking notes.' So all the players looked at me like, 'Oh, you're the hard-liner?'

"But when we are meeting as a committee, people with the small markets, medium and big market teams and we had very good discussions about the different points and worked through things. I wouldn't characterize it as polarized as all that but you always have that tension in any CBA negotiations where the other side wants there to be… Me and Michael [Jordan] I guess took the lightning rod as being the hard-liners. In truth, I did believe we should hold the line on some things more than some other owner did but there were a lot of us that felt the same way."

NHL to Portland in the Rose Garden?

"We'd have to study it. Years ago, two sports are plenty for me. I've never been an NHL fan, I've said that before. We studied it years ago and it was a significant money loser but that was some years ago and they have a new CBA now so maybe it could be profitable here. I'd hate to think someone would bring in a team for a few years and lose a lot of money or something like that.

"The question you asked, is there enough support to support another major league franchise in this city? Those are higher ticket prices than the Winterhawks. I don't know the answer. It's been years since we studied it."

Thoughts on Portland Timbers

"The teams I follow are obviously the Seahawks and the Blazers. I think it's great… I always think it's great to have competition in the Northwest. I thought it was great to play the Sonics… I don't think I enjoyed many games more than if we could blow out the Sonics in Seattle. All my Microsoft buddies or whatever would be sitting there courtside and we're winning. Regional rivalries like that are great. I wish them well."

Seahawks on a good run

"Amazing. Amazing. I'll put in a good word for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. They've done a heck of a job. In the NFL you don't have guaranteed contracts and you've got such a deep draft that you can really rebuild something in a few years and it's just great to see that happen. Bring in some free agents. It's a different landscape than you have with the NBA where it's so driven by the top. Can be driven by the top players. Whether you have some of those on your roster or you draft right. The NFL you can miss on the draft but you can still recover. Those guys have done a fantastic job and everybody has really enjoyed the resurgence. Now we've got to win these next few games and we can get some help and hopefully we'll be in the playoffs again."

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

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