The Portland Trail Blazers made two roster moves on Monday, releasing second-year guard Armon Johnson and signing veteran center Joel Przybilla to a one-year deal. The release of Johnson allowed injured center Greg Oden to remain on the roster, which now stands at 15 players.
Przybilla comes in on the veteran's minimum for the rest of the season. Johnson will receive the $762,195 he is owed this season. That figure via StoryTellersContracts.com. If a team picks him up off of waivers they will be responsible for the remainder of the amount owed to him from here going forward.
Oden remains on Portland's books for an assumed $1.5 million. His contract can still be traded prior to the March 15 deadline but, as a 1-year Bird player, he has to approve of any trade. Releasing Johnson also does not prevent the Blazers from releasing Oden at a later date if a roster spot is needed.
Why release Johnson instead of Oden? Here are some reasons and factors that may have influenced the decision.
- If a team claims Johnson and takes on his salary, waiving him becomes a significantly cheaper move.
- Blazers coach Nate McMillan has made it clear that he does not see Johnson as a point guard and there are simply no minutes available at the two guard position.
- Johnson's effectiveness deteriorated drastically as soon as NBA scouts realized he was left-handed.
- Oden's contract is larger and could potentially be more useful in facilitating trade deadline deals if salary matching is required.
- The Blazers have taken great care to protect Oden over the years and it will be a big, emotional move once he's no longer on Portland's roster. With a cheap alternative that wasn't going to impact the rotation, there was apparently no rush to move on.
- A strong argument can be made that the public relations backlash that would be caused by waiving Oden right now simply wasn't worth it.
- Oden has an influential agent, ranked in the NBA's top-10 by HoopsHype.com in terms of client salaries.
Here's a round-up of the media coverage of the two moves from a press conference held at the Practice Facility on Monday morning.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian with the quotes...
"The biggest thing with me, whatever happens, (if I) play or not play, I want to be a voice to this team," Przybilla said Monday afternoon at the Blazers' practice facility. "Help this team get to the playoffs and try to make a run deep into the playoffs."
So why did he chose to sign with Blazers over Miami and Chicago, which are closer to contending for an NBA Championship?
"It's just home for me and my family," Przybilla said. "Sometimes you make decisions with your head and sometimes with your heart. And for me I looked at my heart and what was best for me and my family. I knew deep down they wanted to come back here."
Matt Calkins of The Columbian with a nice article...
"Sometimes you make decisions with your head, and sometimes you make decisions with your heart," said Przybilla, who signed with the Blazers after passing his physical Sunday. "This is me. Portland is me. What this city represents, it's what I'm all about."
"Some friends I've been working out with tell me I look back to my old self," said Przybilla, whose ruptured right patellar tendon limited him to 36 games last year and 30 the previous season. "I don't want to be what I was last year, playing on one knee and not playing to my capability."
Calkins also wants to know why Johnson apparently only has 9.5 fingers.
Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com writes that it's best to keep expectations low...
Joel is a good guy and has been a solid player for the Trail Blazers. I would believe he'd be a good influence in the locker room, too. But the big question is, what can we expect from him on the court?
Well, I would guess probably not a lot. Przybilla rushed quickly back from the patellar tendon surgeries last season and was obviously not his old self. I'm not sure if more rest has made that knee better or if the condition is not going to improve.
Sean Meagher of OregonLive.com with video...
"What this city represents, what the organization represents is what I am all about," said Przybilla.
Mike Barrett of Blazers Broadcasting goes one-on-one with Joel Przybilla.
Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk.com writes...
Considering Johnson's minimal salary and relentless on-ball defense, one would think he would be able to latch on somewhere as a waiver candidate. Yet that reported lack of interest casts Johnson's immediate NBA future very much into doubt; the league still has little patience for nominal point guards with minimal offensive skills, and Johnson's inability to either score or create plays with any consistency could push him out of the league entirely for the time being.
The Associated Press provides this reminder...
There had been speculation that the Blazers would release injured center Greg Oden, the former No. 1 draft pick who is out for the season after his third microfracture knee surgery. By holding on to Oden, Portland retains his Bird Rights.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com considers Johnson's release a "devastating" loss...
It's devastating being that Johnson is the last of the Trail Blazers who is enthusiastic and encouraging on the bench. No matter if he's in street clothes or suited up, his mouth is constantly moving.
When it's time for timeouts, he's the first one greeting his teammates with positive affirmations. Not because he's putting on a front, that's just him.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter