Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen joined Mike Barrett for a Blazers.com interview earlier this week to discuss preparing for the 2012 NBA Draft, new GM Neil Olshey, the state of the franchise and more. Here's a link to the video.
Here's a transcript of some of the highlights.
Why is the Draft so exciting?
You usually have zeroed in on a few players at your picks. You want them to be there. And occasionally there's a Golden Slipper, a guy who slips down that you don't expect that you really are excited about. That can add some extra excitement to your pick. It's just a very exciting day all around.
New GM Neil Olshey
I had quite a few conversations with Neil. I met him in person in London and then we had some conversations on the phone and I did some video conferences with him too. I'm somebody who asks a lot of questions, I went through a lot of questions, the more that I asked, it was the quickness of the responses and the similarity in terms of ways he thought about issues that I did was really striking.
Draft is only one part of strategy
We've got holes to fill in our roster. We're looking at that very carefully. We're going to have a substantial amount of cap room to sign free agents. It's part of a process you go through, Draft picks help inform what you do with your cap room.
Sustainable success being better than quick fixes
That's how I always want to think about it too. Especially if you have a group of players who are growing together as a team moving forward, trying to put those teams in place, you have some younger players on your roster, it's the right way to think about it.
Viewing pre-Draft workouts in person
I've been doing this for over 20 something years now, but in a workout you can get a better sense of a player's raw athleticism, the way they shoot the ball, how committed they are to defending and rebounding. We changed up some of the drills this year to emphasize the competitiveness aspect, so you get a sense for that too. It's all good information for the analytical process.
Why eat dinner with prospects?
Just trying to figure out what kind of person the player is. How does he communicate? Does he pattern his game after certain pros? Where does he think he can improve? Just to get to know them, basically.
Process of evaluating talent is difficult
There's definitely a science to the statistics. Our guys were telling me earlier today that they construct these models to predict future success, and then go back to run them against previous drafts, in terms of predicting future performance. Part of it is an art -- the scouts live and breath this stuff, they watch so many college games, have had a chance to interact with them one-on-one, they talk to assitant coaches and all this. It's all grist for the mill for coming up with the best pick.
Thinking back to one year ago
I think last season was one of the most difficult ever. Probably the most difficult I've had as an owner. We were so snake-bitten by injuries, Brandon's decision that he was going to hang it up, Greg's ongoing knee issues. That part of it took the wind out of your sails. You try to do some things -- signing Jamal, bringing in Craig Smith and Kurt to try to bolster the team. And we did OK for awhile and then things went south, we had to make the coaching change with Nate and look ahead. It was a very tough year. I think we were back on our heels a little bit. We had to bear down, we need a new plan going forward, get after it. Neil was a key hire to make that happen and I'm optimistic going into the future.
Exciting time going forward?
Everybody remembers that we went through a similar process when we drafted LaMarcus and Brandon Roy. Usually it takes multiple years, and you can see other teams out there, you might hold up Charlotte as an example, of a team that is basically trying to stockpile as many draft picks to be at the top of the Lottery and try to gradually rebuild with those different pieces and go very, very young. We're in a different situation with L.A. and Wesley and Nic and we're trying to add to that core and find some young players who are going to develop along with them.
Which philanthropic gifts are you most proud of?
I think what we're doing in brain research is a very important field. I made a substantial commitment there, probably going to commit more in the future. My family was affected in that way by the death of my mother from Alzheimer's. Those are tough things that many families go through. If there's anything that this research or other research does that I can support to bring forward treatments, that's very important.
Must be rewarding
It's very rewarding but the brain is the most complex organ in a human being. It's so incredibly minutely designed to do what it does. It's not like a computer, each part of it is different than every other part. Trying to understand that amazing complexity and treatments. It's all super challenging and exciting intellectually.
Why were you so interested in deep sea diving?
A lot of the things I get excited about are things I was exposed to when I was young. I used to watch the Jacque Cousteau films and TV shows. I'm a big fan of SCUBA diving and did a lot of SCUBA dives around the world. I just love underwater exploration. And space. Under the ocean and out of the atmosphere.
How does the thrill compare to when you were programming Microsoft code?
When you're the person writing the code in the piece of computer software and you're hand-crafting it, to take up the smallest amount of memory possible and run the fastest it can, like Bill Gates and I did back in the day, 1975, that was just personal craftsmanship. Now I'm at the level where I'm bringing science together to do research, work on the Stratolaunch plane.
Favorite place to travel
It depends on what you're doing. I love London, the south of France, I love Africa, unfortunately because of my mom's passing I missed the chance to see a new baby elephant in Botswana. I wanted to see a new baby elephant, Morona (spelling?), I did not see that elephant yet, I'm probably going to go back before the season starts and hopefully see her. I love travel, the South Pacific, Hawaii, SCUBA diving and all those are things I do. I'm so fortunate to be able to travel and SCUBA dive.
I've also been working on a new album, which I guess I can talk about. There's a movie called Magic Mike and one of my songs is playing in the background, I'm on the sountrack.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter