It's been real quiet recently. How quiet? HoopsHype posted more than 80 stories/rumors on Monday and not a single one involved the Blazers. Brutal. It's enough to make someone believe a Chris Paul trade scenario, isn't it?
On the bright side, Las Vegas Summer League coverage begins with tomorrow's first practice and will continue throughout the week. The Blazers play their first game Sunday. Meanwhile, the Orlando Summer League is going full tilt (games on NBA TV or online) this week. Yesterday's breakout performance came courtesy of Indiana's Lance Stephenson, who was drawing comparisons to Tyreke Evans for his domineering style on the ball and ability to break down a defense. Check out Stephenson's video highlights here and a preview of today's games here.
Here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge recently...
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter
Patty Mills is the only Blazer making news on the court right now. Ron Reed of the Herald Sun writes that Mills is playing well in Australia's run-up to the World Championships...
Patrick Mills has struggled in big-time American basketball but there aren't many more electrifying sights when the Australian Boomers take the floor.
The 21-year-old point guard's class was on display again at The Cage last night when, despite some wayward shooting, he contributed 11 points and a team-high five assists in 28 minutes as the Boomers outlasted a fast-finishing second-string Argentina 85-71 in game two of their three-match series.
Mills wasn't dominant but he was very important, as he had been in Perth on Friday night when his 13 points and a generally influential display led the Australians - kicking off their build-up for August's world championships in Turkey - to a 39-point blitz.
Speaking of the Worlds, Rob Mahoney asks on Hardwood Paroxysm: Will Team USA trot LaMarcus Aldridge out as its center?
Another option is to play a power forward at center, which could actually work out just fine. Mike Krzyzewski showed a willingness to go small in various situations in 2008, whether that meant playing a Chris Paul-Deron Williams backcourt, starting Carmelo Anthony at power forward, or playing Michael Redd, Tayshaun Prince, and Carlos Boozer as the 3-4-5 off the bench. Theoretically, Team USA could get away with playing a power forward as the team's full-time center, provided they could contribute to USA's game plan on both ends. It sounds good, but another trip to the well comes up with an equally dry result. The following are the power forwards listed on Team USA's roster: Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, and Kevin Love. Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer, and Lee are all free agents, so we can add Aldridge and Love to our candidates for USA's starting center. Lovely.
Of the bunch, Lopez is likely the most effective defender, but Aldridge could be better suited to defend international 5s. Either way, Coach K will simply have to make do. The 2010 dropouts are causing crunches at every position, and while the players in reserve are still quite talented, they're flawed enough to make the World Championships awfully interesting.
The Blazers took a fall in this year's ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Fan Standings, dropping from 25th to 38th place.
After seeing it plummet into the "Jail Blazer" abyss, Portland's management now has a team on the cusp of joining the NBA's elite. So why the 13-spot tumble in our Standings? Let's start with Ownership. Fans must have had a pretty good sense that the front office wasn't stable last March following the ouster of VP of basketball operations Tom Penn. Rumors of ongoing discord between owner Paul Allen and GM Kevin Pritchard continued until Pritchard's departure in late June.
There's also the matter of the league's sixth-most-expensive ticket; the Blazers hiked prices 3 percent while other clubs slashed thei rs. And some Blazers fans can't even watch the games at home because they're not available on satellite TV, so if you don't have cable you're out of luck. Plus, there's the matter of a certain seven-footer in constant need of bubble wrapping.
Jason Quick writes that the Blazers are taking their time with this whole free agency thing...
The Blazers appear to be targeting free agent guards, having contacted the representatives of Roger Mason,Wesley Matthews and Jordan Farmar, but one agent said the team appears "discombobulated" without recently fired general manager Kevin Pritchard.
Another agent said the Blazers are "moving slowly" with free agents and appear to be more interested in moving players out in trades, perhaps a sign that the team is maneuvering to make a bigger deal.
Buchanan on Saturday said it would be a "longshot" for the Blazers to make an offer to a player by Thursday.
Mike Barrett of Blazers.com writes that that is a good thing...
Were we already headed for a wacky time, or did these two early signings set this market? Because the last time I checked, we were talking about the fact that things were getting ridiculous, and that the contracts were already too big. Joe Johnson then got $119 million from Atlanta, and Rudy Gay got $82 million from Memphis. I love Channing Frye, but $30 million? Amir Johnson gets $34 million to stay with Toronto?
Do you still think the Blazers overpaid LaMarcus Aldridge last summer? How in the world would he not have been a max guy in this market? That signing looks better with each passing day this summer.
The scary part of all of this is that's it's only getting worse. The guys who jumped early, and agreed to those contracts above, thought they were hitting this market at exactly the right time. That may be true. But, it's only raised the value of the free agents who remain. Guys like Mike Miller are seeing their worth increase as the teams with money to spend scramble to avoid coming up empty. Demand is clearly outweighing supply.
SJ from Rip City Project also likes the slow-going approach...
Obviously when you're a team with out a General Manager, things have to be taken a big slower. Not to mention, this is a Blazer team with great depth. They are not at the point where they have to pull the trigger on a move without completely thinking it out. If they make a move in free agency it really has to be the right one. It's also a wise move to take your time because you have to be cautious with how you use the Mid-Level Exception and who you use it on. For every time it's used wisely on a Ron Artest or a Trevor Ariza, it's wasted on a Jason Kapono or Antonio Daniels.
Dwight Jaynes isn't totally on board...
I mean, Larry Miller is a leader who knows his way around the NBA. And he's well-known around the league as a good man. Michael Born and Chad Buchanan are solid guys who have been working the phones for a few years.
So really, Portland should still be able to function.
But I guess what bothered me a little the last few days is the assertion that Miller was in San Diego seeing relatives over the weekend and that nothing would get done on the search for a new general manager until today. You know, the office was "closed."
The Blazers aren't alone in waiting. The Houston Rockets and GM Daryl Morey find themselves in a similar position writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle...
For the Rockets so far, the waiting remains the hardest part.
Morey said shortly after the season that he believes teams make mistakes when they overreact in free agency, taking away the chance to make trades later. If he doesn't get the move he wants, he'd have to decide the next option is better than the one that could come later.
Nathan Begley of Portland Roundball Society compiles some of the available free agents and how they might fit in Portland...
Ronnie Brewer - Again, not the shooter that Portland is likely targeting, but a good defender and hard-nosed player who can slash to the rim. (Note: His nose is actually made of cartilage.)
Wes Matthews - 6'5" combo guard who can shoot the rock and play defense. Portland is targeting him, or they're just messing with Utah again. Either way, Blazers should sign him to a max contract bigger than Joe Johnson's deal.
Anthony Morrow - One hell of a shooter. However, playing in Don Nelson's system can obfuscate whether he is capable of providing anything else. Bonus: Knows where Nelson hides the booze.
Brewer is a name I've had a couple of people ask about, probably because the Blazers have expressed interest in both Wesley Matthews and Roger Mason. In a great look at available free agents, Kevin Pelton writes...
The Memphis Grizzlies declined to tender Ronnie Brewer a qualifying offer, making him unrestricted. Usually that only happens in the case of players too poor to be worth the QO, but in this case the Grizzlies were simply being conservative knowing that they were prepared to tender a significant offer to Gay. So Brewer is there for the taking, though shooting guards like Brewer who are poor outside shooters have tended to peak surprisingly early.
Even with the open mindedness that allows him to find a teammate or get his, and even with criticisms that he, at times, should grab more of the late game onus, BRoy is still an assassin. He has a late game license to kill that makes James Bond's instinct seem infantile.
Since leaving the Washington Huskies after four years and entering the League in '06, Brandon has made 37 plays in the final 35 seconds that either won a game or sent one into overtime. If you wanna break it down, that's a little more than one out of every eight regular season games he's played in. That just ain't right.
Henry Abbott thinks Tony Parker is available...
There are signs from all over that Parker really is in the mix for New York, and the main thing the Spurs would get in such a trade is a trade exception.
Before you laugh, consider that in this summer of free agency, there are lots of high-value young players floating around (Wesley Matthews has been mentioned) who will be fairly cheap and would help the Spurs stay vibrant as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili age. Efficient, energetic and cheap role players are the lifeblood of the Spurs' organization. But if they are going to sign Tiago Splitter with their midlevel exception, the Spurs won't be able to get any of those guys without some cap creativity.
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that the Celtics may be interested in Rudy Fernandez...
League sources said yesterday that the Celts have expressed trade interest in guards Leandro Barbosa of Phoenix and Rudy Fernandez of Portland.
But Fernandez may be even more intriguing. He's a 6-foot-6 shooter ill-suited to the Trail Blazers' halfcourt approach. The 25-year-old Spaniard also spoke of being homesick last season when he averaged 8.1 points and 2.0 assists in 23.2 minutes.
And now for a couple of looks back.
Coup of Rip City Project with introspective memories of Martell Webster, AAU player...
But something about Webster, perhaps the proximity to which that game was to home, perhaps because on that day in particular, he was the complete opposite of me, because when the Blazers passed on Chris Paul to trade down and take Webster, I wasn't irked one bit. I had just graduated High School, and I had always been sold on Martell. He was my guy, and in some ways the guy I would attempt to live vicariously through for a season, before I ever bothered to look up the formula behind a PER.
That's what made it so difficult to see Webster fail. To see that shot I remembered to be so perfect bounce every which way off the rim, and then to see Webster's confidence drop after every miss, as he hid more and more in the corner, waiting for passes he probably didn't always want.
Maybe that's why I connected with him. The player who was once so perfect was flawed, and yet he was humble and well spoken enough to admit those failings in interviews. On my own, inferior level, I understood what it was like to hide from the ball when playing with the big boys and how harmful it could be when sent to the bench after a youth of 35-minute, long-leash games.
kajuayn has a lighter look at Armon Johnson, AAU Player, in the FanPosts...
Our coach decided to start Armon, despite some protest from our longer tenured players. Tip goes, and Armon just takes over. No one could see him. Too fast, too strong, to quick, too poised. He was just getting layups. So then, he starts pulling from halfway between the three point line and half court, CASHING. He hit like 4 in a row. Obviously, we blew this team out. Everyone concluded that Armon was Raw...RAW.
Paul Forrester wrote this brief Blazers wish list...
The first order of business may be hiring a new GM, as Kevin Pritchard is popular with the fans but apparently on the outs with owner Paul Allen. Where a front-office change would leave Portland is anyone's guess. Might Greg Oden land on the trading block, especially with Marcus Camby signed to a two-year contract extension? Might last year's big free-agent addition, Andre Miller, be sent packing for someone more in tune with Brandon Roy and coach Nate McMillan? At the least, Portland needs another perimeter scoring threat to relieve pressure from Roy.
New York Post: Kevin Pritchard will not be headed to New Jersey...
Three other names linked to the job have been discounted by various team sources - former Suns owner and Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo, ex-Charlotte Executive VP Bernie Bickerstaff and fired Portland GM Kevin Pritchard.
I didn't get to a Full Court Press last week but I did pull together a bunch of links. Rather than let them go to waste, here they are. It's a lot of draft talk, thoughts on KP's firing, etc.
Greg Jayne on the KP firing...
Think about it. You are a corporation that relies upon public perception, and you want to fire a popular employee who is in the public eye. What are your options?
Well, you could fire him immediately, allowing the fallout to blow over. Or you could leave him dangling, leading to all manner of speculation and conjecture and ensuring that he will be ineffective in his job.
You could leave him in charge until one of the most important days of the year for your company, and then, on that very day, allow word to leak out that he has been fired.
And all the while, you can refuse to offer any explanation to the public, effectively destroying that goodwill you so desperately rely upon.
Jeez, they couldn't have bungled this worse if they had hired Isaiah Rider as a spokesman.
Dwight Jaynes says a power play cost Kevin Pritchard his job.
Pretty amazing how this team puked on itself right there in front of everyone. I'm not sure why Paul Allen has never appeared to listen to any advice regarding PR. He always seem to maximize damage for decisions he makes. This was incredible - firing Kevin Pritchard on draft night. I cannot believe it went down that way.
That said, the notion that KP was fired for "no apparent reason" is ridiculous. There were reasons and they'll come out. And they certainly don't have anything to do with Paul Allen being jealous about how much publicity KP has been getting. Allen doesn't WANT publicity. Doesn't care about it. Now would he be concerned about someone getting credit for doing something he didn't actually do? Yes, and I think rightfully so - if that happened.
The story floating around that Pritchard tried an "end run" around Larry Miller as a franchise takeover - probably masterminded by Tom Penn, who would have become the GM underneath Pritchard as the president - has been confirmed by several Blazer insiders. You fire people for that kind of stuff.
John Canzano thinks ego and credit were behind Portland's decision to fire KP.
The punctuation in president Larry Miller's post-draft news conference hit like a sledgehammer Thursday. Said Miller: "Kevin was a part of the team that brought some great players to this organization and really turned this organization around. Again, Kevin was a part of it; there was a team of people that did this, it wasn't just Kevin."
Pritchard was offered up as the organization's Golden Boy. He was trumpeted during the past three years as the man with the culture-first mantra. But in the end, human nature rules. Even with a fair bit of success in a position that demands it, if you're not sufficiently managing up and patting the backs of those around you, you might as well pack it up.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets GM, tweets...
KP will be missed
Mike Barrett on Kevin Pritchard's departure...
Getting the news that general manager Kevin Pritchard and the Trail Blazers were ending their relationship was heartbreaking to many fans. Everyone understands that- especially those who worked closely with Kevin, and witnessed so many good things happen under his leadership. But, I can only say in the end that I trust the people who have said that there are reasons this happened. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened. I think it's okay to not understand it, especially at this time, but to accept it. You may not be so diplomatic in your assessment, and I get that.
To Kevin's credit, it was business as usual in the war room at the Blazers' practice facility during the draft. In the post-draft press conference Chad Buchanan and Mike Born repeated time and time again that Kevin approached this draft with the same passion he approached past drafts. The end goal was to make the team better, and everyone was on board with that.
SJ from Rip City Project on Kevin Pritchard...
There is so much to this story we can never understand. First off, Kevin Pritchard did not get fired an hour before the Draft. All reports state that Allen had let him know that today would be his last day of work. Enough of that. Secondly, KP knew it was his last day and all signs point to the leak coming from him or somewhere near him. The timing of the leak is what made me lose respect for him. I understood why he might do it. The anger, the frustration after a reported argument with Allen over his future over dinner. I understand after he was humilated publicly. But after the leak, for the first time, I could see Paul Allen's perspective. If character issues were the reason you got fired, leaking your firing an hour before the draft isn't the smartest thing.
My big problem with this whole situation is how high of a pedestal Blazer fans put KP on. Not to say the credit he earned was not deserved....it was just a bit excessive. If you want to be furious over KP getting fired for all the right reasons than do it. But ask yourself a question? KP is excellent in the draft as proven tonight...but that's only one part of the process of being a GM. Is he a great trader? Not really, we've had about 100 rumors in the KP Era and they all came up dust. Can he woo free agents? Turkoglu left us at the altar (which would have turned out to be an awful move) and Andre Miller was essentially option #3. He was the "OMG we have cap space and have to use it" option. It worked out, but was it because of the talent involved or KP's vision?
Seth Johnston of BustaBucket.com on Kevin Pritchard...
Now, in a post where I should be coming up with some parting thoughts on Martell Webster, discussing the potential of Luke Babbitt, and making jokes about Ryan Gomes (in that order), I am instead trying to figure out how firing Kevin Pritchard is supposed to help this franchise. I can't. At the moment it seems team ownership really is as petty and meddlesome as they've been made out to be. That news of Pritchard's firing hit the internet on draft day adds to the evidence of how inept this team's ownership is at public relations, as if any more proof was needed.
At best, this very poorly handled situation was just an ugly mistake. At worst, dysfunction is back to calling the shots in Portland.
Henry Abbott writes that Paul Allen is the 8th most attractive owner to free agents...
8. Paul Allen -- Portland Trail Blazers
Allen has long carried the "richest owner in sports" title, which carries no small amount of cachet with players. He has also done some of the most lavish spending of any owner in sports history. In recent years, however, Allen is on the cusp of developing a reputation as a meddler, especially after bailing on Kevin Pritchard in bizarre fashion.
Jason Quick on the next GM...
"For us going forward, we really need someone with experience in executing trades or signing free agents," Miller said. "The draft is fun, and we have good solid talent now, but I think the next step is getting the right free agent or making the right trade."
Adrian Wojnarowski writes that no one will want the Blazers GM job...
Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Sports tweeted on Thursday evening that the job may not be all that desirable after the falling out between Allen and Pritchard.
"Allen will discover Blazers GM job isn't nearly as attractive as he believes it is," he tweeted. "Especially now, no elite GM wants to touch it."
Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News writes...
Reports that circulated Friday about the Trail Blazers' vacant general manager's job included Spurs general manager R.C. Buford among possible replacements for Kevin Pritchard, fired by Blazers' owner Paul Allen on Thursday.
Buford, whose official title is president of sports franchises for Spurs Sports and Entertainment, on Friday said he had not interviewed for the Portland job and had no plans to do so.
"It looks like you're stuck with me until (Spurs chairman) Peter (Holt) gets tired of me," Buford said.
Chad Ford gave the Blazers a B for their draft...
I love Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, as do most Blazers fans, in part because he's given us a number of exciting draft moments over the past few years. But nothing tops what happened on Thursday, when Blazers owner Paul Allen fired Pritchard immediately before the draft, and yet, in a bizarre twist, Pritchard asked if he could still conduct the draft and the Blazers said OK.
Even on his way out the door, Pritchard was his characteristically aggressive self. He sent Martell Webster to Minnesota for the draft rights of No. 16 pick Luke Babbitt and Wolves forward Ryan Gomes. Not only did the move save the Blazers money, it also gave them Babbitt, a player Pritchard had coveted for months.
With their other first-round pick, Pritchard made a more debatable decision. Williams is an excellent talent, but there are conflicting reports about his health. If he has to miss significant time in his rookie year, his selection here looks like too much of a gamble.
Johnson is a solid second-round pick in Pritchard's never-ending quest to find Portland its point guard of the future.
It seems strange to say farewell to Pritchard, but I have a feeling we'll be seeing him in a different draft war room by this time next year.
Joe Freeman on Luke Babbitt...
The Blazers appear most excited about Babbitt, the No. 16 pick whom they acquired along with Gomes in a trade with Minnesota for Martell Webster. Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' director of college scouting, said Babbitt was the best shooter available in the draft and will be able to provide instant offense off the bench - similar to the way Travis Outlaw used to for coach Nate McMillan.
Coup from Rip City Project on Luke Babbitt...
While he isn't a fantastic athlete and will have trouble guarding faster players, Babbitt is very skilled with the ball in his hands. He can play the high post and out on the wing, can hit a variety of different jumpers and can put the ball on the floor. He isn't a playmaker, though, so don't expect to mold him into a point forward or anything. Considering Babbitt isn't great at playing off-ball, running off screens and such - the Blazers have Rudy for that still - he's effectively the offensive player that Webster wasn't.
He could struggle in the pros to get his shot off, but he's not going to be asked to create as much of his own offense as he was at Nevada, which should allow him to pick his spots with greater effectiveness. Of course, the same could also have once been said about Josh McRoberts, who himself was considered a first rounder for a time before falling to the second round.
Sources close to (Rudy Fernandez) have confirmed there's interest from Olympiacos, Regal Barça, Real Madrid and Unicaja, among others.
Brian T. Smith on Elliot Williams...
Williams suffered a knee injury in May during a pre-draft workout with San Antonio, which caused his stock to slide. During the interim, Williams declined media requests, creating an aura of mystery about his NBA prospects.
"He took a little time away from workouts to get himself healthy again," Buchanan said.
Portland's interest remained high, though. The Blazers then ran Williams through a workout in Los Angeles two weeks before the draft. Impressed by the ex-Tigers' innate athleticism - highlighted by an outstanding leaping ability - Portland decided to pull the trigger.
Adrian Wojnarowski on Elliot Williams and Rudy Fernandez...
In Thursday night's draft, the Blazers selected Elliot Williams with their No. 22 pick.
Which led Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo! Sports to tweet: "Now, Fernandez is very expendable."
Casey Holdahl with Nicolas Batum on Martell Webster...
"I just wish the best for Martell," said Batum. "That's a great player, a great guy. I think (the trade) was the best for him and his family."
Not that he wasn't flattered by the confidence Portland's coaches and front office staff have in his ability to assume the role of the team's long searched for solution at small forward, but the desire for pre-determined playing time has always been far down the list of issues he concerns himself with.
"We talk about (increased playing time) with Coach Nate," said Batum. "He want to put me more on the court, to be more involved in the game, but I just try to do my best. I want to win a title as soon as possible with this team. I only want to win. If I can play 30, 35 minute or 15, 10 minutes, I don't care. Just give 100 percent every time on the court."
Martell Webster on Minnesota to the Associated Press...
"It's a crazy feeling. It's kind of surreal," Webster said during his introductory news conference Monday. "New place. New setting. New culture. I'm excited."
"Not a fresh start, just a chance, to tell you the truth," Webster said about his new team. "Not to say I didn't have one in Portland, but now I get more of one. The opportunity is a little bit bigger. For me, personally, something bigger means a lot more."
Mike Barrett on the financial benefits of waiving Ryan Gomes...
By the way, I want to correct something that's floating around that's incorrect. The Blazers didn't receive a $4.8 million trade exception with Gomes, and waiving him won't change that. A small trade exception (less than 500k) came with him, but that's it.
The Gomes issue is this. The last three seasons of Gomes' contract are "partically guaranteed." That means only $2.75 million of a possible $14 million is guaranteed if the team waives him before Wednesday. If they don't waive him, all three years remaining become full. If he's waived, the guranteed money (spread out over the three years) does count toward team salary (by designated season), but does not count as a roster player moving forward.
Bottom line. If the Blazers waive Gomes, the team saves around $8 million, because of what was owed to Martell Webster. Waiving him wouldn't give the team any cap room, because other salaries already exceed the cap. But, this would take the team below the luxury tax threshold. The Blazers do have the mid-level (right around $5.75 million), the bi-annual ($2.08 million) going into free agency.
- Portland Roundball Society writer puts out an entertaining mea culpa after mistakenly interviewing someone that wasn't Danny Ferry.
- Paul Allen bought a $25 million house in Malibu.
- Someone is going to pay with blood for leaking Mikhail Prokhorov's free agency notes to Chris Broussard.
- John Wall's draft night by Sally Jenkins.
- Adrian Wojnarowski hints that LeBron James is staying put.
- Chris Duhon to the Magic for 4 years and 15 million. Roughly Steve Blake money. Like or dislike?
Drop anything I missed in the comments. And, please, frequent the FanShots.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter