Transcript: Blazers President Larry Miller, Acting GM Chad Buchanan Talk Trades, Coaching Change

Blazers president Larry Miller and Acting GM Chad Buchanan address the media at a Thursday evening press conference.

Here's a full transcript from a press conference held at the Portland Trail Blazers' Rose Quarter offices on Thursday evening, following an active trade deadline that saw starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby traded and coach Nate McMillan fired, replaced by interim coach Kaleb Canales. Blazers president Larry Miller and Acting GM Chad Buchanan took questions for about 23 minutes and then did smaller group interviews afterwards. Sorry for the delay on this transcript, I hit a wall hard on Friday.

My CBSSports.com press conference column on the moves is here, in case you missed it. The column includes some additional quotes from post-conference one-on-one exchanges. I'll get those transcribed at some point here soon.

Click through for the whole transcript. It's super duper long but well worth the read.

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

Opening comments

Larry Miller: "This was a really eventful, active and difficult day for us today. But I think what we accomplished today as well, is a defining moment of a new direction for this team and this organization. I think that the moves that we made with trades that we did, the other moves that we made today, really set us up for this summer, with the Draft and free agency to really be able to move in the direction that we want to move in, to make this team better.

"The situation with Nate today was one that was really challenging for me. Nate is a friend. I respect him a lot. But it was one that after some discussions with Chad and with Paul I felt was unavoidable for us. We were at a point where this was a decision that we had to make.

"I talked with [owner] Paul [Allen], talked with Chad. It was really Chad and I, working together and recommending to Paul, pretty much all of the decisions that were made today. They were decisions that we discussed, we talked about, recommended to Paul, and he agreed to. The decision to land on Kaleb as the interim coach for the remainder of this season because of the rspect and the relationships that Kaleb has with our players. We think that he has great connections with our players. He has great enthusiasm for the game. We just thought to give someone like Kaleb an opportunity to finish out the season for us, it was the right move.

"Also, I think Chad and his team have done a phenomenal job of getting us to where we are today. It's been written by some that because we don't have a 'general manager' in place that that's caused some problems for us, but I think it's just the opposite. If you look at what we did today, there wasn't any sitting on our hands today. There wasn't any 'We don't know what to do' or 'We're afraid to make decisions.' We made decision today. For anyone that is writing or saying that because we don't have a 'general manager' in place, that that's holding us up in some way, I would just say to them and to our fans, look at the decisions that we've made today. There were tough decisions, there were not things that were easy. But to me the fact that we made the decisions that we did, the fact that we took the approach, and set ourselves up for not only finishing out the remainder of this season but even more importantly getting our team ready to be in place for next season, to build a team, to put a team out on the court that we think will be competitive and continue to build towards that championship goal that we've had from the beginning.

"Again, I just want to say that I think Chad and his team have done a great job in putting us and positioning us where we want to be and where we are going moving into the future again. The remainder of this season, but even more importantly, going into next season."

Chad Buchanan: "I just want to reiterate a couple of things Larry mentioned. It was a very hard day. I think as we evaluated our team over the recent weeks, we've been very displeased with the performance on the court. This is not Trail Blazer basketball. It was very disappointing and that's where we got to the decision today.

"With that being said, we made some moves today to set our course moving forward. We've acquired draft picks, we've created more cap space for this coming summer and to add to some of our core players that we have on this team already.

To piggy back on Kaleb, he's a bright, young coach. He has a tremendous connection with every single one of our players. He's worked his way up through the organization. He has a great basketball mind. He's excited for the opportunity and I think he's going to provide some excitement for this team, and hopefully re-energize and re-charge this team through the final 22 games."

Who informed Nate McMillan that he was fired? How did he take the news?

Larry Miller: "I talked to Nate. I called Nate today, had the conversation with him. I've talked to Nate multiple times over the last week or so. I was the one who called Nate today and informed him of our decision. Nate was professional as he always is. He appreciated and thanked not only myself but I know he's also talked to Mr. Allen and thanked him for the opportunity. Nate was gracious and professional as he always is. He understood why we were making the decision we were making."

Why isn't Chad Buchanan the GM now?

Larry Miller: "We're going to continue to focus on what we're going to do the remainder of the season. Trying to do what we need to do in terms of the remaining 22 games, getting through this season, positioning ourselves for what we're going to do going forward. At the end of the season we're going to make a decision like we've always said."

What were conversations like with Nate McMillan leading up to the decision to fire him in recent weeks?

Larry Miller: "Nate was not happy with where things were. I think he understood that the team was not putting out the kind of effort that he wanted to see, that any of us wanted to see. He acknowledged that. Nate wasn't happy. I won't say he was surprised by this. He understood and understands that there were issues... he understood the fact that we had to make the move we did."

Why fire Nate McMillan if a lot of the players won't be back next year?

Larry Miller: "We don't know that a lot of guys won't be here next year. We're not going to say we have a brand new team next year, that's not the case. The rationale was that the guys were not putting out the effort that we needed and wanted, and that Nate wanted to see. That led us to the decision that we made."

What were Nate's emotions when you first called him?

Larry Miller: "I think there was, I wouldn't necessarily say surprised because there have been conversations over the week, but I think, probably, taken aback, I would say. We had a really positive discussion following that."

Thrilled with draft pick acquired in Gerald Wallace trade?

Chad Buchanan: "You're obviously giving out a very talented player in Gerald, who has meant a lot to us over the last year since we acquired him last year. It is a very attractive draft pick, it's a very strong draft class coming out. Granted there's no guarantee you get it this year. Moving forward it remains an attractive draft pick. That's attractive not only to us but other teams around the league as well. It gives us a chance to add a very high quality player at this point, whether it's this coming summer or moving forward. We're very excited about that acquisition. It's going to hopefully add a nice piece to our team at some point."

What are pick protections?

Chad Buchanan: "It will be top 3 protected this year [2012], top 2 next year [2013], top 1 the following year [2014] and then unprotected moving forward [2015]."

Timing of decision to fire Nate McMillan

Larry Miller: "We've been talking about this for awhile. We talked about it earlier today, we talked about it last night, it just felt like the timing of -- if we're going to make this kind of move, let's just do it now and move on. These are always difficult decisions to make. But I think one of the things I've learned over the years is that by dragging them on, it doesn't get easier. It just gets harder actually. The timing we just felt was right to set this new direction for the team all at the same time today."

Why was Jamal Crawford not traded and why did he sit out of Wednesday night's game?

Larry Miller: "From what I understand he sat out last night's game because he had some tendonitis in his knee. As far as why he wasn't traded, I'll let Chad..."

Chad Buchanan: "I'm being straightforward with that. We were involved in discussions with the trade of Jamal. Jamal is perfectly aware of that. At the end of the day, it takes multiple teams to agree to a deal. At the end of the day, there was not a deal there to be made. We're very happy to have Jamal on the team and we expect him to be out there playing during the final 22 games for us."

Did you try to trade Raymond Felton?

Chad Buchanan: "Today is about trying to improve our team. Any deal that's out there to improve our team, we're going to listen to it. There were opportunities but none of them were the right opportunities to do what was best for our team long-term. Raymond is the same way, we expect Raymond to finish out the season, the last 22 games, hope that he can bounce back. I know he's been a little frustrated with his play. We hope for him to bounce back and play well down the stretch for us."

Will Paul Allen hold a press conference?

Larry Miller: "I don't know that there's a plan right now but I can say that he has been involved in all of the discussions that we've had. He approved the recommendations that we made to him about the changes that were made. He's been as frustrated as the rest of us have been about where this team is and has been and has been playing. He's just as frustrated as the rest of us. I can't say that definitely there's a plan for him to speak to the media at any point. But his frustration has been there. He's been 100 percent supportive of the decisions that we've made today."

Is he committed to owning this team?

Larry Miller: "If he wasn't committed to this team, we wouldn't be doing the things we are doing. He absolutely is still committed to this team, he's still the owner of this team, he's still as involved as he's ever been in this team. Chad talks and emails with him a couple hundred times a day. I talk to him and email with him on a consistent and regular basis. He is very, very involved in this team, as involved as he's ever been."

But these moves look like a team that is positioning a team for sale

Larry Miller: "I can say that the reason these decisions have been made have had nothing to do with positioning the team for sale. These are decisions that Chad and I, if the team is sold, we don't benefit from that, these are decisions that Chad, his team, myself, we've sat down and talked about and taken to him. He's OK'd those decisions. As far as these decisions having anything to do with positioning this team for sale, absolutely not.

Would you even know if the Blazers were for sale?

Larry Miller: "I think I would. I would hope that I would know. I would hope that if that were the case I would be aware of that and be involved in that. I can tell you right now that I have no knowledge of that. It's not like these decisions are coming from Seattle. These are decisions that we came to and took to Seattle and said, 'Hey, this is what we think we need to do to make this team better.'"

Why emphasize that over and over?

Larry Miller: "Because I want to make it clear that we're not being directed to position the team for sale or anything like that. These are decisions to make this team better. To try to win a championship. The guys on the ground here are the ones who, for the most part, making the decisions and taking them to Paul. He has the final say. He approves the decisions or doesn't approve the decision. It's those of us on the ground, here in Portland, who are making the recommendations to him on what happens with this team. As far as I know, there is no positioning this team for sale.

Did road trip influence you guys making these moves?

Larry Miller: "A lot of the things we've been talking about, the road trip, the way the team has played on the road trip definitely had some impact on the decisions that we made today. These are decisions that we've been talking about for awhile. I think the direction of the team has absolutely been positioning ourselves to be able to play in free agency and in the draft for the coming summer. I think Chad and the team did a phenomenal job of putting us in that position. These are things we have been talking about and thinking about and the road trip, the way the team has played on the road trip has had some impact."

Will you ask Kaleb Canales to play the younger players more minutes?

Larry Miller: "I typically don't get involved with the coach and what the coach decides and how the coach wants ot play. And I won't this time around. I'll let Kaleb make that decision. I know Kaleb, he's going to go out and try to win games. He's going to go out and try to get the team as enthusiastic and fired up as possible. I'm certain that's what he's going to do. If it looks to him like playing young guys is going to help us win, then that's what we're going to do."

You're still trying to make the playoffs?

Larry Miller: "We're definitely not throwing the towel in on the season."

[Ed. This transcript briefly omitted the word "not" from this answer in one of the funniest (and unintentional) Freudian slips in site history.]

Is the rest of the coaching staff the same?

Larry Miller: "Yes."

Did you seek input from players in the decision to fire Nate McMillan?

Larry Miller: "I won't say that players approached us but we have talked to players and gotten some of their reads and their feelings about what was going on as well."

Is this an end of an era with firing Nate McMillan and releasing Greg Oden?

Larry Miller: "Someone asked me, 'When you came here five years ago and the team was being built around Greg, LaMarcus, Brandon and Nate, did you envision today, where we would be sitting here without 3 of those 4?' The answer is 'No, I wouldn't have envisioned that.' I do think that today we're recognizing that. We're setting a new direction that I think is going to continue our path towards winning and competing for a championship."

What flexibility will you have in the summer?

Chad Buchanan: "Depending on where our draft picks end up will impact the amount of cap room that we have. If we end up with a very high draft pick with the Gerald Wallace trade, depending on where ours ends up, that will impact it but it could be anywhere from $15 to $20 million in cap room potentially. This is a very strong free agent group. We've recognized that. We've tried to look years ahead to this free agent group in planning for our roster, a very strong group at our positions of need. That's why we feel good about heading into this summer with that amount of room."

Discuss players who were waived, who you might buy out and any chance for Patty Mills to come back?

Chad Buchanan: "The waiving of Chris Johnson and Greg Oden was necessary to be at our 15 [roster spots] because of the trades we made today. As far as a buy out, we'll have negotiations with Shawne Williams and his agent. Where that goes, we'll see. Right now, we're at 15 players, until we're in any other position I wouldn't really want to comment on adding another player."

[Update: the Blazers renounced their rights to Patty Mills.]

Chad, you had an emotional connection with Greg Oden. Can you talk about the decision to release him?

Chad Buchanan: "That's kind of closing the chapter on Greg Oden. Waiving him today. Larry and I were talking, he kind of touched on it. Because Brandon Roy and Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, we built this team around those three. We've lost Brandon to retirement, we've lost Greg to injury and we have nothing to show for it. We don't have an asset in return, we don't have a draft pick, we don't have a player. That's hard to come back from.

"We feel like we've set a course, obviously LaMarcus Aldridge is an All-Star player in our league. We've got a lot of room to spend this summer. We've got some very attractive draft picks. We feel good about the direction we're setting ourselves with. Obviously we gave up two talented players today and waived Greg as well. It's tough from that standpoint but as you look long-term where we are headed, brighter days are ahead for us."

Did Mr. Allen realize that you can't lose Brandon and Greg, you've got to tear it down?

Chad Buchanan: "We recommended to Paul that we have to make drastic changes to this team. With where our roster is at. We are a very competitive team the last few years. Like I've mentioned before, we weren't happy with where our team was at. It was time to set a new course for things. That's why we made the moves today that we did. Paul was very supportive of that when we recommended it to him. That's what we have to move forward with."

When will you pursue a new head coach and will that come before a GM is hired?

Larry Miller: "Right now, we're going to finish out the season and focus on that. We'll start looking for a head coach and a GM to fill both of those roles when we get to the end of the season. That's when we'll start the search for filling the coach's role and filling the permanent GM role."

Does Kaleb Canales have a chance to be the full-time coach?

Larry Miller: "Logically, we would fill the GM role first and then have the GM help to determine who the coach is going to be. In reality, if there a coach out there that we're competing with other teams for, and we think he's the right coach, we would make that decision. Logically, and the way we would do it systematically, is fill the GM role first and then the coaching role. But it doesn't always work out."

Does hiring a certain coach help you sign free agents?

Chad Buchanan: "There can be. If there's a history between a player and a coach, that can always help. At the end of the day, players are looking for a good situation from a basketball standpoint and a financial standpoint. I think we're going to be able to offer both. If we look for certain positions to fill, I think we're going to be able to offer pretty nice position for a couple different spots on our roster."

What would you say to fans wh othink this looks like a mess or a disaster?

Larry Miller: "I would say to anyone who is writing that or anyone is thinking that, it's just the opposite to me. We could have sat and done nothing and said, 'We don't have a GM so we really should just sit back and do nothing.' I think these moves actually... I'm hoping that fans will understand that these are moves we made to help make this team and organization better.

"If anyone feels like we were moving in the right direction after last night's game, I think... people after seeing what this team has done over the last couple of weeks, people should feel good about the fact that we are willing to make some tough decisions and changes to get better. I would hope our fans would understand that and, to me, we still have the best fans in the NBA. I hope that they understand the fact that these were moves that were made to make this team better. To try to get us back on track in terms of a winning franchise here. And that they would continue to support us."

Will you have a GM and coach in place by the Draft given the lottery picks you expect to have?

Larry Miller: "I don't want to set a timeline. We're going to get through the season and then we will move forward. To me, with what Chad and his team have done, I think we're in good shape. I don't think we're hurting by not having a general manager. I just don't think that because we don't have a 'general manager' in place that we've missed anything that we should have done. As a matter of fact, we've reacted to some situations in a really good way.

"If you go back to the day that Brandon retired, we found out about Greg and we found out about LaMarcus on that same day, a week later, we were in a much better situation. Again, where we've been over the last couple of weeks has not been something that we've been happy with. The fact that we've made the kind of changes, made the tough decisions that we've made today, says that we're OK. Yeah, after the seaon we're going to find a GM, we're going to put somebody in place in that role. But I don't think that we've missed anything because we don't have someone in that role."

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

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