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Thursday Practice Report: Tom Penn Firing Reaction

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Health Updates

After two days off this week, the Blazers went through a long, rigorous practice that included extended full court 5 on 5 action.  Nate McMillan reports that, aside from a few colds or allergies, the team is in good condition physically and expects everyone to play tomorrow night.  Brandon Roy also stated that he is getting over a slight cold.

Reaction to the Tom Penn Firing

Obviously the big story today was the team's reaction to Vice President of Basketball Operations Tom Penn's firing.  I was taken by how emotionless both Brandon Roy and Nate McMillan were in describing their reactions to Penn's firing.  Both had positive things to say about Penn, the man and the executive, but neither portrayed any real emotion when discussing the firing.  I've transcribed their full comments on the firing.  First, Brandon Roy.

Feelings on what's going on in the front office

Nah, I haven't spoke to anybody. I probably know probably less than you guys do. A friend called me and asked about it. I didn't know much about it. I worked with Tom, he's a good guy, we'll miss him but you know that seems to be this business, guys come and go.

Can that be distracting?

Nah, not at all. I'm not easily distracted. I'm trying to fight to get into this playoff race. I think guys know how important things are. Again, guys get injured you've got to play through it, guys get traded you've got to play through it, it's unfortunate what happened with him.  But we've got to play through it. We're trying to get as high as we can in this race, we've got teams on our heels. So we don't have time to really sit back. Maybe after the season we can sit back and say 'wow, that was a crazy year' but right now we need to keep pushing forward. 

Have you talked to Kevin Pritchard?

No, I haven't. I seen him yesterday when I came into the weight room. It was just kind of like, 'hi' and he was kind of busy and I was getting ready to lift weights so we didn't speak about anything.

What was your initial reaction to the news?

I was just like 'wow' I wonder what happened. Usually a guy gets fired, maybe something happened. But it was kind of just something that got brought to my attention, nobody really knows. I don't want to play detective, I'll let you guys do that. Maybe you tell me what happened one day.

Was Tom involved in your contract extension negotiations last summer?

I wouldn't really know. Because my agent did most of the negotiating. I wouldn't know. You've got to ask KP that. I didn't really speak with KP or anybody, it was kind of more my agent and them. I don't know who was involved.

And here is a transcript of Nate McMillan's comments on Penn's firing.  

Your reaction

I don't know the details on that. That was a business decision and I do know Tom, I have a great deal of respect for him, as a person and as a professional. He supported me throughout his time here. That was a business decision that I can't go into details about.

Did the timing surprise you?

Somewhat surprised about that. Anytime a situation like that occurs with someone that you know and you respect that hurts. Again, it was a business decision and for me my focus has to be on this team. 

Unsettled feeling?

I don't think so, no, we're fine. Again, that was a decision that was made by our business people. For me, my focus is that has been done. I'm not going to try to explain it. Get my focus on this team and finishing the rest of the season.

Will this be a distraction?

Our focus is on Washington and that's where it should be tomorrow night. We've had these days off and we need to finish strong, try and get ourselves into the playoffs. See if we can improve from last season once we get there.

You said he was supportive. What did you mean by that?

Well he's supportive. He did what that position is supposed to do. He would give calls on days where we had some losing, we lost a few games, he'd be supportive. He was always there to be supportive and I've got a great deal of respect for him.

Blazers Act Quickly, Hire New Assistant GM

In a development nearly as stunning as their firing of Vice President of Basketball Operations Tom Penn, Vulcan Inc. announced early Wednesday morning that the Portland Trail Blazers have filled their Assistant General Manager position by hiring ESPN's Trade Machine.  "This is a critical position in our management team and we knew we had to act quickly," said Vulcan Communications Director Lew T. Wharf.  "We were looking for someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of every team's salary cap situation and the ability to evaluate our various options clinically.  We are confident Mr. Machine brings those skills to the table and we feel he will be a great asset to Kevin Pritchard's management team."

The move quickly shores up the major hole left by Penn's firing.  The remaining members of the management team -- Pritchard, Mike Born and Chad Buchanan -- are viewed around the league primarily as "Basketball People," rather than number-crunchers or salary gap gurus.  Troubling for Blazers fans, though, is the fact that Mr. Machine has no prior experience working with any NBA organization or even any other professional sports organization.  

Although sources close to Mr. Machine describe him as "young" and "a tireless worker prone to all-nighters," it's unclear how he will make the transition from free internet-based application to full time NBA executive. "Sure, I'm a little nervous," Mr. Machine told me at this morning's practice as he slowly settled into his new office at the team's Tualatin Practice Facility. "Wouldn't you be? That's only natural when you're taking a position with new responsibilities and working on a tight timeline."  Asked how his first day on the job went, Mr. Machine replied, "I did my best to approve all of Kevin Pritchard's ideas, but it's not easy."  After a pause and a wistful smile, he added, "I like Portland, the people here are very nice, they plug me in gently."

Critics of the acquisition are already blasting Vulcan, Inc., painting the hiring as the cheap-and-easy approach.  "I respect Machine's abilities and knowledge but let's face it, this [hiring] was about dollars and cents," one source with knowledge of the negotiations said. "Vulcan owes Penn a bunch of money and now they went looking for a dollar store replacement. [Machine] is willing to work cheap,  for next to nothing really.  He said during his interview that he would accept replacement batteries in lieu of an annual bonus. You know that was music to Vulcan's ears." 

Per team policy, details of Machine's contract were not disclosed. 

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter