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Leading off this week is David Aldridge, who tracked down Tom Penn at this year's pre-draft combine in Chicago...

Nice to see Tom Penn in Chicago. The Blazers' former assistant GM, fired for still-inexplicable reasons in March, was at the pre-Draft camp, did some work with us on NBA-TV and is trying to figure out whether to stay in the game or do something outside of basketball for a while. Either way, someone will treat him better than Portland did.

Ouch.  This is the rash firing chicken coming home to roost.  A former employee is dispensing draft advice (undoubtedly colored by his experiences in your front office) on national television and a prominent, well-respected writer is taking shots at your treatment of that former employee.  And it's happening In front of the entire league which is assembled in one place before the most important roster-building time of the year.  Brilliant. 

On the bright side for Blazers fans, SeanyC found the video of Tom Penn being interviewed by NBATV.  Penn, now free to more openly discuss his thoughts, does a nice job summarizing his approach the draft: He's looking for "talent with upside."  Watching that video is sort of like rifling through Kevin Pritchard's mental file cabinets.  Good times.

Penn specifically praises Damion James, Patrick Patterson, Luke Babbitt and Gordon Hayward.  All four of these names are currently projected going to Portland at #22 in one of the major mock drafts we've been following. Coincidence?  

On that note, our Mock Draft Table has been updated with each player's rankings from John Hollinger's Draft Rater and is current through today.

Alright, let's get to it. Here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge recently...

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Draft Strategy | Rondo Talk | Combine Interviews | Juwan Howard

Blazers.com Podcast (with StoryTeller) | Double Dontonio Wingcast

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Click through to read two big name writers who (kind of) throw Portland's name into the LeBron James sweepstakes, more talk of the Blazers trading up, details of Greg Oden's "alternative" rehabilitation plan, the latest on Monty Williams, and everything you need to know from last week's Chicago pre-draft combine.

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

Chris Broussard from ESPN writes...

In the unlikely event the Cavs open themselves up to a sign-and-trade, then Dallas, Houston and perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers could enter the discussion. But the Cavs know there would be no way to bring back equal value in a sign-and-trade, and they'd kill their future cap flexibility in the process.

Ian Thomsen writes...

A league insider mentioned the possibility of James' moving to Portland because owner Paul Allen will spend to win a championship. I don't see that happening ... but if it did happen, it would be by sign-and-trade. Let's say James really wanted to join Portland or Dallas. He could threaten to sign with Chicago to coerce Cleveland's participation in a sign-and-trade to send him to the West; If the Cavs think they have no hope of retaining him, then wouldn't they prefer to see him leave their conference?

There are all kinds of reasons for him to sign or not sign with any team. Chicago is a promising destination given its base of talent and the size of its market -- and we don't yet know the identity of its coach, which could make a huge difference in James' ultimate decision.

RipCityRoyCity also found Thomsen discussing the same topic on the Dan Patrick Show.

Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review Journal writes...

At Rehab (Hard Rock Hotel) on Sunday: MTV's newest reality stars, The Dudesons of "The Dudesons in America," rapper Crunchy Black, the Three 6 Mafia band and Greg Oden of the Portland Trail Blazers.    

Dwight Jaynes reacts...

I mean, he couldn't travel with the Trail Blazers to Phoenix in the playoffs. And he can't sit on the bench with the guys at home games - just too uncomfortable, you know. But he has no trouble getting to Vegas to hang with his rapper pals at a pool party in the Hard Rock Hotel...

Yeah, well at least he's in good company. And ironic name for that club, huh? "Rehab." I guess the kid is working hard on getting back - "Rehabbing" at all hours of the day and night, probably.

Man, if this team isn't worried about this guy it better be.

Here's a picture posted in the FanShots by draker of Oden looking as enthusiastic as ever.

John Reid of the New Orleans Times Picayune writes that Monty Williams shares pole position for the Hornets head coaching job...

After the Hornets identified nine candidates and interviewed eight for their coaching vacancy, two assistants have emerged.

Boston's Tom Thibodeau and Portland's Monty Williams are the two front-runners to become the team's next head coach, according to a league source.

At The Hive profiles Monty Williams (with some thoughts from yours truly) and concludes...

Ultimately, questions about Monty Williams as a teacher of offense and defense can never be answered in black and white. Evaluation of Williams as a strategist simply won't produce the lucid answers provided by the study of an established coach like Tom Thibodeau. But that's included in the package, that's part of the deal. What makes the hire of a fresh, new coach so special- Riley in the late 70's, Jackson in the late 80's, Popovich in the late 90's- is precisely that uncertainty. 

Monty Williams will take his player skills, his x's and o's, and his endorsements to an enormously expectant and apprehensive city, this summer or next. The case for New Orleans being that city is quite clear. 

Andrew R. Tonry of Portland Roundball Society offers up the "You Be The GM" piece on LaMarcus Aldridge...

Yet during the playoffs, especially before the momentarily triumphant return of Brandon Roy, many called on Aldridge win games by himself. Earn that big contract, they sniped. And while I admit Aldridge wasn't playing to the top of his potential, it was only his second playoff series. Plus he's not making franchise player money this year or next. In 2010/11, Aldridge will reportedly bank $10.7 million. Again, a handy list of players due to make around the same (although many will make substantially more):

Zach Randolph, Caron Butler, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier, Eddy Curry, Antawn Jamison, Nene, Mehmet Okur, Josh Howard Kevin Martin and Boris Diaw (that's just from perusing about HALF the NBA's teams, plus I left out the grossest of the overpaying contracts). Want to trade for any of them? I'd rather kiss Canzano.

So let's just lay off LaMarcus for awhile. 

Draft / Combine

Draft Express has posted this year's measurements.

Seth Johnston from BustaBucket reacts...

The jumpings/running/lifting results have yet to hit the interwebs, but we do have heights, wingspans, and body fat percentages. Consensus number one pick John Wall became even more consensus-er now that we know he has better size and length than Derrick Rose. Seriously, a 6'9.25" wingspan? For some perspective on what that means, imagine that classic bully move where the bully extends their arm and holds the other person by the head, while the person getting bullied swings their fists angrily but can only reach far enough to hit air. John Wall is the bully. Jerryd Bayless is the person swinging at air.

In other news, DeMarcus Cousins is fat. Remember how people were concerned about Kevin Love's fatness? Love's body fat percentage was 3.5% lower than Cousins. Is it even more scary that Cousins claims to be in the best shape of his life? Well, Hollinger's NBA predictor thingamajig likes Cousins a lot. Chris Kaman was the only other similarly fat lottery pick and he's managed to keep it together somewhat. What we do know is that Cousins is this draft's most likely player to have a weight clause in his contract someday.

Bethlehem Shoals on the draft process...

But for the NBA to reach great heights, the lousy must flourish. There simply must be a redistribution of wealth. Taking it a step further, good teams should even be forced to take on some bad players. Let see how divine Phil Jackson really is (that, my friends, would be Communistic). Or, we could force theses teams to make tough picks and earn some respect. The talent upgrade, far from a given, would be the devil's bargain they enter into.

Plain and simple, the NBA draft is a minefield. Throwing someone out there year after year, especially without the luxury of picking top three, is going to make for some high-profile mess-ups. 

Very often, it's impossible to tell whether it's the GM, player, or coach who is at fault. But the GM bears the brunt; he's the face of the front office, and is the guy who has to drag himself back into the war room a a year later with blood on his hands. Someone like Elgin Baylor built up a reputation as failure, a loser, based on the Clippers picks. The Kevin Pritchard Effect cuts both ways -- a guy like former Bucks GM Larry Harris picked Andrew Bogut (took a while, could have had Chris Paul or Deron Williams) and Yi Jianlian (could have at least gone with Joakim Noah) in an attempt to rebuild, and was out before the 2008 draft.     

Casey Holdahl checks in with Blazers Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan regarding the pre-draft process on TrailBlazers.com...

"We've done enough (interviews) to know when a kid has really been prepped by their agents on how to handle interviews and when a kid is really genuine," Buchanan said. "On a rare instance your gut feeling after sitting down with a kid may go against what you've been told by people. That's when you have to keep in mind what are intentions and biases of the people you talk to may have about a kid. Maybe there's a reason they say something negative about a player because maybe that player's parents had been a distraction to that coach or something along those lines, so they have a little engrained bias against the kid.

"You've just got to consider all the factors that go into a person's stance on another person. Then ultimately you take all of that information and you sit down with the kid for an hour or two and you're going to walk away with a good idea of who that person is."    

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News writes...

Portland is looking to move from No. 22 into the top of the draft, possibly targeting Minnesota's No. 4 pick.

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Gate writes...

Both Houston and Portland have voiced interest in moving into the top four. If either can't get that high and thinks the player it covets could fall to No. 6, the Warriors could find a trade partner.

Coup posted an updated mock draft explanation... 

No. 22: Portland Trail Blazers - Dominique Jones, PG/SG, South Florida
Jones is apparently rising on draft boards, and while he may come off as a bit of a Jerryd Bayless clone with a defensive attitude, teams are falling for Jones' ability to create his own scoring opportunities, including at the free-throw line. Wait, you're thinking, Portland has Bayless, why do they want to start a clone war? Well, if you believe Bayless could be the starting point guard in the two years, and simultaneously have little faith in Martell Webster and Rudy Fernandez being able to shoulder a significant offensive load off the bench, Portland might eventually have a need for a capable playmaker in the second unit. For that role, Jones could represent the best value. Bradley of Texas is also a consideration here, as is Seraphin.    

Quick Hits

Drop any links I missed in the comments. And, please frequent the FanShots.

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