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Blazersedge Mailbag: Friday, June 17th

Time to catch up on a few questions from the e-mail inbox.  If you want to ask something send a note to  Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line to make sorting easier.  Please be patient also.  I'm going back quite a few weeks here and working my way forward.

What will happen to the rehabbing players if there is a lockout?    

Because most of the news about players rehabbing or even just working out comes in the context of team-monitored sessions at the practice facility people tend to link personal player development and the franchise.  For most of the off-season there's little link.  The vast majority of players train on their own.  Some use personal workouts, some gather with other players, some have connections through their own agencies.  A team cannot require a player to work out or rehab on their off-time nor can a team require said player to utilize the franchise staff while doing so.  The connection is purely voluntary until the season starts.

In the absence of a new season the players still bear responsibility for their own fitness and recovery and will continue to do what they have done.  I'm not sure about the technicalities of working voluntarily with team staff in a lockout situation but it's likely that player and franchise could come to a mutually acceptable agreement even if that involved a third-party trainer.  In all likelihood it wouldn't be a huge issue even if a team trainer showed up to observe a Williams workout.  Everybody knows this lockout will end.  Sanctioned practices aren't going to be allowed but checking up on a guy recovering towards an eventual post-lockout comeback?  It's hard to imagine anyone making a deal about that from either end.  Perhaps he wouldn't be able to use the team's facilities.  Certainly the team wouldn't be able to require anything from him.  But that's about it I'm guessing.  If anyone knows more let us know in the comment section.

Paul Allen is oft credited as an NBA owner that is "willing to spend" to make his team better.  I am curious, when was the last time Paul Allen actually lived up to his reputation and paid the luxury tax?  It seems to me that in order to have a title of "willing to spend," one would have to prove that they are spending more than their competitors.  Or maybe more telling, where do the Blazers rank in the past 10 years in total salary relative to other NBA teams?  Maybe it can be shown that Paul Allen is "willing to spend".  I am just tired of Allen being lableled by local media as "willing to spend" when it seems like every year the Blazers are making moves to stay under the salary cap.  I know it makes sense to remain under the cap to avoid the luxury tax, so let's just call him an NBA owner like all of the other owners who act and spend similarly.     

The past season the Blazers had the 5th highest payroll in the league at $75.7 million and change, trailing Boston, Dallas, Orlando, and the Lakers.  This may not be an elite team but they've begun to spend like one again and will have to continue to do so as cheap rookie contracts rotate into sophomore deals. 

When you talk about willingness to spend you have to consider a few factors.  Until last year most of Portland's prime players were on rookie-scale deals, costing pennies on the dollar compared to their production and potential.  Given that was the case and given that the roster, on paper at least, was stacked, why would the Blazers go out and sign more expensive players to gum up the rotation and take away playing time from these young potential stars?  Who would you get to fill that bill?  Would grabbing a Rashard Lewis or Vince Carter have pushed this team over the top?  In the absence of injuries they would have been superfluous.  With the team's injuries their presence wouldn't have made enough of a difference.  Just spending money doesn't mean you're spending it smartly.

You also have to consider that most of these years featured at least one Blazer making huge bucks while not even suiting up, a la Darius Miles or Raef LaFrentz.  The issue wasn't just going over the luxury tax threshold, it was going over it for nothing.  Had the Blazers been able to clear those salaries they might have been willing to fill those slots with other players.  As it was they were going to end up paying double for every acquisition because of these contractual millstones.  Their maneuvers to get under the tax line weren't miserly, they were self-preservation.  And even so they managed to field promising, talented teams.

If you look at the more recent additions to this team you're going to see veteran players with big salaries.  Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, and Gerald Wallace all fit into this category.  Combined they'll pull down nearly $28 million in the coming season.  That's spending.

Part of the "willingness to spend" label may also be an acknowledgement that the Blazers have been in the red consistently and yet have still shelled out for trades and talent, not mention buying the occasional draft pick.

The big test, though, will come in the near future with Greg Oden and Nicolas Batum.  The Blazers are already paying through the nose for this roster.  It's going to get even more expensive.  How far will the cost tolerance go, particularly if the income side of the ledger doesn't rise significantly?  Paul Allen and the Blazers may have to make some painful choices about beloved players and/or forgo adding veterans of the Miller/Camby variety who could push the squad to the next level.  

Even worse, you're going to see a major shift if and when Paul Allen's family takes control of his inheritance.  They're going to view the team as a business investment rather than a passion.  Under those terms the cuts may become draconian.  The city might have to worry once again about losing the franchise.  If that day ever comes people will look at the Paul Allen era in retrospect and consider it a time of flowing milk and honey.

Long story long, Allen has probably done fine by the fans in the spending department.

Click through for discussion of Brandon Roy, lockout leisure activities,  Blazers three years from now, draft activity, and more.

Should the Blazers wait and keep Brandon Roy if he can get his menisci back after a couple of years?    

I'm not sure they have a choice, as nobody else [sane] is going to take him with his current contract, production, and health.  If they knew for sure that he'd recover by 2013 they'd happily keep him.

Even not knowing that you have to look at this on a risk/reward level.  What are the risks of keeping Roy?  You pay an enormous salary and you might not ever have a fully productive player again.   What are the rewards of keeping Roy?  You could have an all-NBA, transformational guy on your roster just waiting to come back.  What are the risks and rewards of trading him?  Reward:  you lose the salary.  Risk:  He may excel again for someone else.  Even more importantly, though, in order to dump his salary you'd have to gut your team of young talent and picks as enticement for somebody to take him.  

The risk/reward ratio for keeping Brandon isn't pretty.  The risk/reward ratio for trading him is even worse, probably entailing a roster Armageddon just to get it done.  Is the reward of losing that salary worth the near-certainty of having to dismantle your team?  Not if there's any chance Roy can be productive.  So the Blazers will probably end up keeping him.

A full (salary cap and luxury tax) amnesty clause could tip the scales, allowing the Blazers to simply consider the risks and rewards of keeping him.  In that case they may well decide a 20% chance of him recovering to a star level isn't worth the 100% certainty of paying that max contract. 

During a lockout are all clauses of a contract cancelled, so can players now ski, ride motorcycles, etc.?  

Good question.  I'm sure legal experts will have a better answer than I.  Maybe they can chime in.  

During a lockout contracts aren't voided as much as suspended.  This changes the current relationship between team and player--the claims they have upon each other immediately--but not the overall framework of the obligation.  If Player X wanted to go play for a European team during the NBA regular season his franchise would have legal recourse to prevent him from doing so.  Not so during a lockout when the franchise isn't operating on the court and the player isn't getting paid.  However as soon as the lockout is done the contract returns with full force.  Player X would still be a part of his regular team with all rights and obligations pertaining to the relationship.  He couldn't return from Europe and declare himself a member of another NBA team, for instance.  Thus the contract wasn't voided, it just wasn't in effect as far as services rendered and payment for the space of the lockout.

How this would pertain to prohibited activities would depend on the wording of the contract, I'd guess.  Technically your question is phrased inaccurately in that no contract can prevent a player from doing anything.  The team couldn't send representatives to physically pluck LaMarcus Aldridge off of skis and pin him down until he agreed not to hit the slopes.  All the contract offers is a penalty:  "If you sustain an injury while engaging in these activities our obligation to you is void" (or whatever the wording is).  The weight of that penalty is supposed to be enough to convince the player that such activities aren't worth engaging in.

If the lockout were considered an extended off-season a player could still be penalized for getting hurt while engaging in that kind of activity, much as he'd be penalized for riding a motorcycle in the summer months even though the season wasn't going.  A guy who destroys his knee skiing in July is still screwed even though the league wasn't in session.  It might be more dubious in the case of a lockout but my guess is that the courts would interpret a reasonable expectation from the player and team both that the contract would return to force at some point and thus a reasonable expectation that the player refrain from making himself damaged goods through these proscribed ways.  In other words the team couldn't say boo to the guy during the lockout itself but as soon as the contract returned and he wheeled himself in sporting a full body cast because of a motorcycle canyon-jumping accident the team would have a valid complaint about damaged goods. 

For this reason I would assume that anybody opting to play in overseas leagues during the lockout would also be taking out a personal insurance policy covering the rest of his NBA contract.  I also assume players are refraining from risky activities.

How many players would you stake your life on being a part of this team three years from now?

Just Rudy Fernandez.

Dang!  I just got killed.

Seriously, are you offering me a full amnesty clause?  If not I'll say Roy and Aldridge for sure and probably Oden and Matthews.  If so I'll say Aldridge and Matthews and probably Oden.  That's it at this point.  Everybody else is fuzzy in position, contract, or talent.

Why don't the Blazers have a new general manager yet?

Uh...because they don't need one?  At this point it's kind of like asking why the Dalai Lhama doesn't have a new set of penny loafers.  They're not that critical to his wardrobe.

Do the Blazers stay put in the draft or move up?

Right now my money is on stay put or move modestly.  The draft doesn't offer the right kind of reward at the superstar numbers but the teams looking to swap those picks will probably want to charge as if it did.  If you might get a decent substitute player anywhere from the #5 pick to the #30, what's wrong with picking #21 or close?  The value in this draft lies just about where the Blazers are sitting.

Do you think the Blazers get enough credit for being the team that played the eventual world champions the toughest in the playoffs?

I dislike any kind of credit that requires you to lose in order to get it.  It's like putting a pretty picture on the front of your 67% APR credit card.

Moreover, it's a terribly ambiguous measure.  What about teams like the Grizzlies who never got to play the Mavericks?  Would they have fared better than Portland?  Are we really sure the Blazers played Dallas better than Miami did?  If Oklahoma City had caught the Mavs in the first round instead of the Conference Finals would the story have been different?

In the end you're comparing people who lost to people who lost.  The only comparison that matters is to the team that wins.  The Mavericks did.  The Blazers didn't.  End of story.  You can praise the battle and point out the talent and a couple games' worth of success--taking the series on its own terms--but that's about it.  There's no bigger picture to be drawn other than the Blazers couldn't do what they wanted to and thus need to improve.

Did you catch the latest Pirates movie?

 I'm behind on those, having only seen the first one and part of the second.  I finally did see the second and third Matrix movies.  I don't understand why people thought they were so bad.  I didn't find them much worse than the first one, other than being slightly more action-oriented and slightly less cerebral.  But the brainpower in the first movie was all wrapped up in the concept anyway and that concept continued through the second and third, so what's the beef?

Send those questions to  Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line so I can sort easily.

--Dave (