Posts Tagged ‘John Canzano’

Sellout Streak In Jeopardy?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ask anyone that’s covered NBA games for a living to name the three best home court atmospheres and the Rose Garden in Portland is sure to make their short list.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the regular season or a playoff game. Folks in Portland love their Trail Blazers (and sports teams in general). So you can imagine the immediate reaction I had when I saw this ditty from the Oregonian‘s John Canzano questioning whether or not the Trail Blazers’ 166-game sellout streak might be in jeopardy when they return from their current six-game road trip for back-to-back games against the Kings (Jan. 23) and Hang Time Grizzlies (Jan. 24):

… insiders at One Center Court tell me that there’s some minor angst internally about the streak surviving those back-to-back games against chronic lower-tier opponents.

“You have no idea how difficult it is to pull off a sellout,” one high-ranking Blazers official told me. “It’s a siege to pull off a single sellout.”

Team president Larry Miller said he’s looked at those two games and feels, “we have a pretty good shot at a sellout, but it’s not easy.” And the Blazers are hoping a productive road trip and some smart marketing will move Blazers fans to buy tickets and keep the streak alive.

“You definitely have to look at certain games and try to figure out how to position them and market them,” Miller said. “But I think the community feels connected to the players and views the arena as the place to be on a game night.”

As much as I’d hate to see the streak come to an end, the realities of what’s going on around the country right now economically are staring us all in the face. Sitting in Philips Arena Monday afternoon — on a holiday — and seeing thousands of empty seats brings home the bottom-line impact this recession is having on the game.

Miller is right, it’s not easy … even in a hoops hotbed like Portland (or anywhere else right now).

But if I had to break the piggy bank here at the hideout and put some money on any one fan base rising up and making sure their sellout streak continues, I’m going with the folks in Rip City!

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The Gym Is Open: The NBA Unleashed

 

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The doors are open. The players are back in gyms around the NBA. And so too are the rumors that make this time of year unlike any other on the calendar, even if it is a few months late.

Outside of the trade deadline, there is no better time to soak in the sort of drama we’re experiencing in these days leading up to the union being reformed, the new collective bargaining agreement being finalized and the start of training camp and free agency. All we need is a big top and a ringmaster to conduct the ceremony of this player or that player being sent here or there. This is the circus that is the NBA unleashed from its 149-day lockout.

Today’s version offers more theories on some of the players mentioned in this space yesterday and some interesting, high-profile additions to the list. The fun never stops …

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CHANDLER HEADED ELSEWHERE?

Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end. “I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.” Chandler’s doubts about the Mavericks’ willingness to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal are bound to be welcome news for the teams already courting him in these early stages of free agency. Chandler and Denver center Nene rank as the two most coveted unrestricted free agents in the 2011 class, but the overwhelming sentiment in many front offices has been that Chandler’s return to Dallas was essentially a lock after the 7-footer’s role in helping the Mavericks win their first championship. Chandler, though, insisted Wednesday that such assumptions are a misnomer and admitted for the first time that he’s disappointed by the club’s decision not to offer him a contract extension after he was widely credited — most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki – for changing the team’s defensive culture after three first-round exits in the previous four years.

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TEAMS IN HOT PURSUIT OF NENE

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals. Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer. The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround point guard Deron Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.

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METTA WORLD PEACE AN AMNESTY CANDIDATE?

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Achieving world peace comes with a hefty price tag. The Lakers might feel the same way about another form of World Peace, this one the goofy 6-foot-7 Lakers forward who flexes his biceps, makes the Staples Center crowd gasp every time he shoots and goes by the first name Metta. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers might waive the player formerly known as Ron Artest via the league’s amnesty clause. Such a move could move somewhat risky considering that Artest’s defense remains strong and waiving World Peace would make it necessary for the Lakers acquire a defensive stalwart to replace him. But the thought process makes sense for basketball and monetary reasons. World Peace averaged a career-low 8.5 points last season and appears, at 32, to be on the decline in maintaining the lateral movement and quickness that have made him a top defender. By shedding World Peace’s three-year, $21.5-million contract, Bresnahan estimated that the Lakers could save as much as $27 millon in salary and taxes in 2013-14 under the new rules, should the Lakers remain between $10 million and $15 million over the tax threshold. That would prove more beneficial than even cutting forward Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million).  That’s why it’s important World Peace understands and embraces the need to temper his antics, ranging from his Twitter rants to his on-court goofiness and his name himself.

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Much Ado About The Amnesty Rule …

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Rarely have so few words received so much scrutiny.

But if we didn’t know any better, the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new labor proposal (and that’s all it remains at this point, until the untangling process is complete) would appear to be the most important piece of the pending collective bargaining agreement.

It seems strange that something that will be utilized by such a small number of teams would be the focus of everyone’s attention. Yet when you realize the names that could potentially be impacted by the rule — Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas and several others — the intense examination of how the rule works makes much more sense.

Folks in Portland have already singled out Roy as one of the certain casualties of the amnesty rule, with John Canzano of the Oregonian providing the background for how and why it will go down:

The whisper at One Center Court is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen won’t bother to take one last look at Brandon Roy before he goes amnesty clause on the guy who won all those games for him.

Here’s hoping Allen does. And that the longest look is into Roy’s eyes.

“Brandon’s out,” a league executive told me Monday. “Don’t know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it’s way, way done. Paul and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one.”

While the amnesty provision seems like the hot topic of the day, there are other items in the tentative labor agreement, outlined in a letter from Billy Hunter to the players, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com‘s Sam Amick, that require more attention.

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Still No Word On GO … Until Now!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – His name rarely comes up around the hideout anymore, which seems strange since he was all we talked day after day this time a few years ago.

But the clock is ticking on Greg Oden and the Portland Trail Blazers. They have to extend a qualifying offer to the oft-injured big man sometime before midnight Thursday, a formality already handled by plenty of other teams for their soon-to-be free agents (as seen here on NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker).

If it wasn’t for an early morning reminder from “The Godfather,” Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com, we’d have forgotten about Oden completely, what with all the other labor drama going on right now.

While every indication is that the qualifying offer will be extended, The Godfather has some keen observations on the topic:

It’s interesting how long it’s taken, though. Most teams have taken care of this type of paper work by now, made their decisions and pretty much gone down to the business of figuratively nailing the plywood on all the windows in preparation for the upcoming lockout hurricane.

Portland has no choice but to bring Oden back. The team has spurned opportunities to acquire other centers, or even draft one. They’re stuck with a teetering Marcus Camby in the middle and not much else up front on the bench.

Funny thing, though. As dependent as the Trail Blazers are going to be on Oden next season for any real improvement, a long lockout may be just what the doctor ordered. All indications are that Oden won’t be fully recovered and ready to play until January. That may be right about the time the NBA players come to their senses and accept the whipping they’re going to take at the bargaining table.

A 50-game season would be the perfect prescription for Oden. The last time the league went to one of those abbreviated seasons, of course, it had to jam three-games-in-three-nights situations into the schedule and Oden would probably have to sit out the middle of those games, but no matter.

All that is predicated on the idea that the Trail Blazers will take a chance on Oden, something that is still being discussed in Portland, per our main man John Canzano of The Oregonian and “The Bald-Faced Truth.”

UPDATED 8:09 p.m. ET:

BLAZERS EXTEND QUALIFYING OFFER TO ODEN

The Portland Trail Blazers have extended a qualifying offer to center Greg Oden, it was announced today by the team. Portland has also extended a qualifying offer to guard Patrick Mills and exercised its third-year options on forward Luke Babbitt and guard Elliot Williams.

Both Oden and Mills become restricted free agents, ensuring that the Trail Blazers will have right of first refusal should another team try to sign them. The moves give Portland the right to match any contract offer they receive in the offseason.

“We’ve stood behind Greg Oden every day since he became a Trail Blazer and that continues with today’s announcement,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “Despite the setbacks he’s experienced, he continues to be resilient in working tirelessly on his rehabilitation. We’re all very encouraged with not only his progress, but with his commitment and determination to return to the basketball court.”

Another Strange Twist In Portland

OKLAHOMA CITY – The news of Rich Cho‘s firing as general manager in Portland after barely a year (10 months to be exact) on the job stunned as many people here as it did back in Portland and around the league in general. Cho, a former assistant general manager to Thunder GM Sam Presti, worked for this organization for years and was beloved by all who crossed his path.

So what in the world could have gone wrong in such a short period of time that it ends with Cho, a rising star and easily one of the most likeable men in the basketball business, being relieved of his duties?

As TNT’s David Aldridge made clear, this was much more about bad chemistry than it was about Cho’s performance or the performance of his staff or the team.

After yet another failed chemistry experiment with a general manager, however, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this has nothing to do with the men chosen for the job and everything to do with the folks doing the choosing.

John Canzano of the Oregonian details it impeccably and also has a stern warning for job seekers thinking about the Blazers as a potential destination:

Don’t be awkward. And also, hope the awkward owner likes you.

Also, keep your head down, and smile, and shake hands. Sell your home and move your family to Portland, as Cho did a few months ago. Print up business cards and hand them out. Mostly, though, yuk it up with the big brains at Vulcan Inc., best you can. (Read: Nod a lot when they talk to you.)
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Will Roy Be A Factor?

DALLAS – Brandon Roy has gone from the All-Star anchor of a playoff team in Portland to the X-factor, off the bench, for that same team.

Roy is also in the middle of a simmering controversy between Trail Blazers fans, some who want him out of the way and others who have a hard time seeing the one-time face of the franchise cast aside while his career is in the midst of being ravaged by knee injuries.

As Oregonian columnist John Canzano points out, Roy, who gets much more respect from opposing coaches, players and fans than he does from the folks back in Portland, doesn’t deserve their scorn:

“If Roy died right now the Blazers would be better off. I’m starting to think that’s what it might take to get him out of here.” – Mike, Salem

Before practice, I asked Roy if he hears the criticism from Blazers fans, who email me and flood online comment boards. Nevermind the scoreless first half by two starters in Game 1. Nevermind the free-throw disparity. Nevermind that Portland held Dallas without a field goal for 11 beautiful minutes with the three-time All-Star on the court in the second half.

The loss is Roy’s fault, right?

“I heard a guy at the Rose Garden the other night, yelling that I needed to get off the floor,” Roy said. “I heard it. It hurt. I noticed it, not going to lie. I’m struggling to fit in. But it bothers me more than anyone when I feel like I’m out of rhythm.

“I’m doing my best.”
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Oden’s Future in Portland …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We hardly talk about him anymore around here.

When you suffered through as much pain and as many injuries as Greg Oden has in his NBA career, it’s easy to disappear into the hoops ether this time of year.

People are focused on the playoffs and other things, not the guys on the injured list that won’t see the floor anytime soon. So we need to thank The Oregonian‘s John Canzano for reminding us that the Trail Blazers still have a huge decision to make regarding Oden’s future with the franchise:

Consider that the Blazers did not extend Oden’s contract. He became the first No. 1 overall NBA pick since Kwame Brown to not receive that extension. As a result, the Blazers have the period from the day after the last game of this year’s NBA Finals to June 30 to make a one-year qualifying offer of $8.8 million to Oden.

If the Blazers make this offer, Oden becomes a restricted free agent this summer. He may field offers from other NBA teams, but the Blazers would have the right to match any offer and keep him.

If the Blazers don’t make a qualifying offer before June 30, Oden would simply become an unrestricted free agent. He’s free to leave. And that’s that.
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Oden’s Next Step

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Greg Oden‘s season is over in Portland.

It might be time for the whole experiment to come to an end.

The news came late Wednesday night via Twitter first (where else would it come from these days?). Another microfracture surgery scheduled for Friday morning, it ought to be the 13th for Trail Blazers fans, Oden and the organization that cheered his arrival four years ago like the championship banner was strictly a matter of when and not if.

We’re talking about a 22-year-old behemoth with three season-ending knee surgeries in four years people — THREE in FOUR YEARS. Let that marinate for a second and then realize what a devastating blow this has to be to all involved.

The recovery time for microfracture surgery is anywhere from six to 12 months. That means Oden’s next step might not come until January of 2012 or later. He’s done in Portland. And I know the organization will stick by him through his rehabilitation, as they should. But beyond that, they owe him nothing.

They’ve paid him close to $20 million for a grand total of 82 games of actual work. The rest of the time he’s spent in the training and operating room. That’s just the facts.

If you invest $20 million in a project in the business world and it goes awry, you don’t keep pouring money into the project. You cut your losses and move on to the next venture.

Oden will get another shot at this. If Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown and Darko Milicic all got second, third and even fourth chances, Oden will play basketball for someone in the NBA if he wants to. That much is up to him.

But the Trail Blazers have to move on. Trying to patch up the gentle giant and march him out there in those Rip City colors one more time is a scene we have no interest in viewing.

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Last Rites

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We were hoping we’d have to wait another 11 games or so do this, but it’s become painfully clear that it’s time to put an end to the playoff dreams of a few teams, including (dabbing napkin to BluBlockers) Hang Time’s Grizzlies.

Our boys are not alone. The Bulls and Rockets are in need of last rites as well.

It’s a sad day here at the hideout, where the Prime Minister was the first to notice that the end, however painful it might be, was already here for these teams.

At least our Grizzlies are still fighting until the very end. The Rockets are, too.

We can’t say the same about the Bulls, who flashed a little playoff potential earlier in the season before injuries (and a head-scratching trade — John Salmons anyone?) led to their current slide. They’ve lost 11 of their last 13 games, with those two wins coming over the Rockets and the mighty 76ers, another team that could have set out on summer break a month or so ago.

The Bulls saved Vinny Del Negro‘s job with a run that began the day after Christmas and ended late last month. The Bulls were 18-11 in January and February. And that’s usually a good indication that a team is surging at just the right time. But starting with a Feb. 27 road loss in Indiana, the Bulls went on a 10-game slide that cost them any chance of keeping the pace for a playoff spot.

In defense of our Grizzlies, and you had to know this was coming, they are simply the victims of having to play in a power conference. They’re 18-9 against the Eastern Conference. If they just swapped conferences with the Bulls, they’d be battling the Bucks and Heat for the fifth spot in the playoff race.

Still, it’s time for us to end the playoff campaign honorably. There’s no need dragging our guys through the drama over the next couple weeks without any realistic chance that they’ll be rewarded for an admirable season.

We will rest this summer, see what the summer (the draft and free agency) brings us and then be back next year ready to fight for the right to party into the postseason.

But make no mistake, Hang Time’s Grizzlies will rise again!

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REMEMBER THE WARRIORS?

There’s only an outside shot they’d meet in the postseason, but the Mavericks should be worried about their inability to do anything with the Trail Blazers this season.

They struggled during the regular season like this a couple years back with a Warriors team that ended up dumping them in the playoffs.

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News talks about the team that currently holds the power over the Mavericks:

“Maybe it’s true that everybody has their personal kryptonite.

For the Mavericks, it’s got to be the Portland Trail Blazers.

Heading toward the playoffs, the Mavericks should avoid the Blazers at all costs in the first round. Portland made it 3-0 against the Mavericks this season with a 101-89 victory early this morning at the Rose Garden. The Blazers remain the only team in the NBA the Mavericks have yet to beat this season.

But as for a team having another team’s number, coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t buying it.

“They’re no bargain,’’ he said. “But we’re no bargain. You want to play us?’’

At the moment, the Mavericks’ fear-factor is somewhat diminished. They now have lost four of their last six games since the 13-game winning streak that seems like eons ago.

Some disturbing numbers Thursday were their zero — yes, zero — fast-break points and the fact that they only got to the free-throw line nine times.

And allowing 50-percent shooting was a bit problematic, too.

“They played a really good game,’’ said Shawn Marion. “It was a playoff game out there. There was a little testosterone going on.’’

The Mavericks simply came up short in this one.

“Look, we had zero fast break points and that to me means you just got to get more stops and give yourself more chances to got out and run,’’ Carlisle said. “They beat us 16-0 and that’s hard to overcome.”

We’re not suggesting that we could be in store for another such series this postseason (for starters, we don’t believe the Blazers possess that same sort of schizophrenic brilliance that Warriors team did). And Carlisel clearly isn’t buying it.

But it’s worth paying attention to if you are the Mavericks.

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DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY FOR HORFORD

We’re not sure Al Horford meant for this to come out the way it did (English is his second language), but we’d like to commend the Hawks’ All-Star center for saying it.

When Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked him why the Hawks can’t seem to hold on to late-game leads  Horford pointed the finger in the right direction.

“That really falls on the guys that are running our team,” he said. “The guards have the ball in their hands. They control the game, and that’s something they have to kind of realize.”

There’s no telling if this comment will make it back to the people it needs to, the guys Horford identified. But it would be nice if it did, for the Hawks’ sake. Maybe then they’d stop blowing those late leads.

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THE WHAT IF GAME WITH BEASLEY

Michael Beasley‘s a lot of things, but shy about expressing his true feelings is not one of them.

He says what is on his mind whenever he is approached. And that’s a great thing for us and probably a horrible thing for the Miami Heat’s PR machine.

My main man Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald dishes up some timely scoop from Beasley:

“There are times when Michael Beasley  wonders how things might have turned out had he switched places with Derrick Rose in the 2008 draft.

The Bulls selected Rose No. 1 overall, and Beasley was drafted second by Miami.

Since then, Rose has become a cornerstone of the franchise and an All-Star. Beasley has become a starter, but the only constants with him have been inconsistencies in his performance and fluctuating playing time.

Conventional wisdom would suggest Rose has delivered as an impact player while Beasley is still developing.

“I think, ‘what if’ on a lot of things. I’m a ‘what-if’ thinker,” Beasley said before Thursday’s game against the Bulls. “I think things would have been different [for me] here. They don’t have Dwyane Wade. No disrespect to D-Wade or anything. But it’s a fact. A lot of things would happen different.”

Beasley insists he isn’t envious of Rose’s status in Chicago. But Beasley believes his development in Miami has been slower because he is on a veteran team, which requires more patience.

“I feel like I haven’t shown nothing yet,” Beasley said. “I’m kind of disgusted with the way I’ve played these two years. I averaged 14 points last year, 15 this year. Those are disgusting numbers — based on my expectations. I just don’t like them.”

Beasley said he is still a bit surprised he wasn’t the No. 1 pick, based on the workout he had in Chicago and his talks with the Bulls front office.

But he knows there is no looking back. Instead, Beasley searches for the impact he had in college, when he averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds his lone and All-American season at Kansas State.

“I haven’t played in two years, freely,” Beasley said. “I don’t know who Mike Beasley, the NBA player, is. I look back to K-State. But we haven’t seen him in two years. I’m waiting on him to call. I guess it isn’t my time yet. Hopefully, I’ll find him.”

Keep it real Michael Beasley, keep it real!

ANOTHER SMITH DELIVERS THE GOODS
Just so we are clear, the Smith name is safe in the NAB so long as guys like my cousin Craig (of the LA Smiths and Clippers) is getting the job done:
Get ‘em big fella!
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CANZANO STAYS AFTER BLAZERS

HT favorite John Canzano of the Oregonian continues to poke holes in the Blazers’ off-court operation and what he sees as their dysfunction, despite statements to the contrary.
We’re not picking sides here. You can do that for yourself.
“The statement was released a couple of hours before tip on Thursday. It consisted of three paragraphs. And the only thing anyone can reasonably gather after reading it is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen must have realized that he’d better issue the statement lest he be forced into an uncomfortable position of having to support his general manager.

A few hours later, Allen would be courtside at the Rose Garden Arena, wearing a suit and tie while watching the team he’s owned for 21 seasons. His general manager, Kevin Pritchard, would be on the road, scouting prospects, preparing for the NBA Draft and running off résumés.

Without those flimsy three paragraphs Allen would have to answer questions. He’d have to give Pritchard a guaranteed future or acknowledge what we all already know — that the Blazers general manager is a dead-man walking.

“Painful to see a friend in that spot,” one Blazers front-office executive said. A second offered that Pritchard should stop moping, channel the theories of “The Secret” and start projecting confidence, “You know, I believe what you put out comes back around to you.” And before Allen arrived at the arena a Blazers spokesperson was dispatched to inform reporters that the Blazers owner would have no further statement.

That’s all he has to say on the matter.

Given that he could have ended the speculation on Thursday, I’m not sure we need to hear anything more from Allen. But I asked him at the end of the first half, as he headed into the room he uses as an office, if he’d mind going stronger with the comments on Pritchard.

The Blazers owner waved me off and shook his head. I asked him if there was anything more he wanted to say to Blazers fans. He hurried off, waving his hands and shaking his head. He finally nudged one of his private security guards and pointed at me before disappearing into a room with a small group that included Vulcan executive Bert Kolde, who was puffing his chest out at me.

After the door closed, a second security guard turned to me and said, “Keep writing what you write.”