Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Pritchard’

The Future Is Always Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You could feel the vibe from 3,000 miles away.

That energy was real.

The Portland Trail Blazers were on the verge of something special with one of the league’s best young executives, Kevin Pritchard, best young coaches, Nate McMillan, two new young stars, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, already in the fold, and the new No. 1 pick, Greg Oden, smiling on the stage in front of a sea of thousands and the “Welcome To Rip City” banner hanging behind him.

Nearly five years later, Aldridge is the only one left amid the rubble that was the Trail Blazers’ championship blueprint. Pritchard was the first to go, fired on draft night two years ago. Injuries forced Roy into retirement in December, McMillan was fired Thursday and Oden’s injury-plagued career with the Trail Blazers (82 games is all they have to show for his actual game time in uniform) came to an end later that evening when he was waived.

This isn’t yet another savage poke at an already wounded rabid and wickedly loyal fan base in Portland. On the contrary, they have been the one constant and positive force surrounding this cautionary tale. Their plight is a reminder for any fan base, and the franchise they love, out there dreaming about what could be. The future is always now in the NBA, right now, in fact!

And if you operate with any other theories in mind, you do so at your own risk.

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Can you spot the Karma in Carmelo?

The new word today, boys and girls, is “karma.” I suspect even LeBron James, who wasn’t sure about “contraction,” has an idea what this means.

Now that karma is bold-faced and suddenly prominent in the basketball lingo, can we see some examples of such? Well, here’s a start:

Karma: Kevin Garnett (allegedly) calls Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient and then suffers an injury, misses a few weeks with a strained right calf.

Karma: Elton Brand reneges on a verbal pledge to re-sign with the Clippers (or so thought Mike Dunleavy), joins the Sixers, still looking to be who he once was. Meanwhile, back in L.A., heeerrreee’s Blake Griffin!

Karma: Michael Jordan criticizes Jerry Krause all those years for being a lousy general manager; Bobcats are floundering under Jordan’s rule.

Karma: Joe Dumars thinks Darko Milicic will turn out better than Carmelo Anthony; now trying to make a deal with Carmelo as the main figure.

Karma: Suns figure they’d be better off without Bryan Colangelo first and then Steve Kerr. Hmmmmm.

Karma: Ditto Trail Blazers and Kevin Pritchard.

Your turn, readers. Give us your examples of karma in the NBA.

Rip City Mystery II?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Rudy Fernandez kicked this thing off with his public grumblings about wanting to return to Europe.

Then came  Greg Oden‘s All-Star vow.

And now, Brandon Roy wants the ball “a lot more,” per my main man Jason Quick of the Oregonian:

Roy’s comments came in response to questions about the Blazers’ struggling offense during the preseason, where the Blazers are 1-3. He said several factors have led to the slow start: [Nate] McMillan has used several different lineups; no player-specific plays had been put into the gameplan until Sunday; and it’s only preseason.

“We haven’t really put in the offense we’re used to working with,” Roy said. “The first three games, we didn’t even have an offensive play. We’re not really the type of team that plays loose. I don’t play loose. I kind of need some plays, some organization there. That’s some of the reason why I think we’re not panicking, because we’re not really running plays yet.”

Wednesday was the second day of practices when the staff implemented plays designed to get a specific player a shot. Roy said he doesn’t expect the team to return to its Roy-dominated offense in the preseason.

“We’re talking about it, we’re working through it, but we’re not really committed to it now in the preseason,” Roy said.

Who’s messing with the water in Portland?

Every time we turn around there seems to be something strange creeping out of a team that we already have under surveillance for suspicious activities (Kevin Pritchard‘s strange departure still doesn’t jive).

One thing is clear, the vibe surrounding this team around the league has changed drastically in the past two years. This isn’t the same deep team that was overflowing with young talent and poised for what seemed to be a long stay among the league’s elite with Roy as the bell cow.

This was the team, not Oklahoma City, some people pegged as the potential heir to the Lakers’ throne in the Western Conference. They had all the ingredients — a good coach, talent up and down the roster and good chemistry. Now, no one seems quite sure what to make of what’s happening.

We got smoked for questioning the Blazers this summer, but our concerns were legitimate (we addressed them in the Rip City Mystery I).

They seem more and more legit with every day that passes.

Click here to check out NBA.com’s Trail Blazers season preview and previews of all 30 teams.

The Cho Crush!

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As much as we’ve loved being the unofficial site of the Sam Presti fan club the past couple of years, it is time to move on.

Presti’s already a proven commodity in the world of basketball. The underground buzz has subsided. He is, we’re ashamed to say, part of the basketball establishment these days.

We will remain in Presti’s corner so long as he continues to build the way he has in Oklahoma City, and few upstarts have justified the hype the way he has, but we’ve got a new general manager we’re backing here at the hideout.

Maybe it’s the unique background or the unorthodox methods (how many GMs do you know that conduct live chats with the fans before they decorate their office? Exactly). Cho’s a tennis buff, too, so we also have that in common. There’s just something we like about new Portland general manager Rich Cho.

Granted, we haven’t strayed far from the camp here, since Cho worked under Presti the past few years, helping revive a franchise with revolutionary movement on draft night and in trades.

Cho has plenty of work to do, as my man Jason Quick of the Oregonian makes clear:

There are several questions and issues facing him right from the start of his tenure. On his first official day on the job in Portland, the agent for Rudy Fernandez informed him the disgruntled guard would like to be traded. At the same time, he was engaged in trade discussions involving other players.

Along the way, he must also decide whether Greg Oden is promising, or too prone to injury? Is LaMarcus Aldridge soft, or a superstar in waiting? Is Andre Miller more valuable for his expiring contract or for his veteran savvy? And just how valuable is Nicolas Batum – is he off-limits in trade talks or is he available in order to lure a premier player?

All of these questions and issues form a daunting task for a first-time general manager. After all, the words “patience” and “potential” have overstayed their welcome in Blazers’ vernacular, and therefore change is expected.

Cho understands this, but offers little insight, saying only he will make a move if it’s in the best interests of the team, and that he will not make a trade just to make a trade.

However, he did offer this:

“I’m not just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring,” Cho said.

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But he also has plenty to work with, including a deep and talented roster (when healthy, one of the deepest and most talented in the league), a fantastic head coach in Nate McMillan and what we believe to be the savviest and most passionate fan base in all of basketball, at any level ((even when they are smashing us to pieces for not holding their team in higher regard).

We were particularly harsh on the Blazers on draft night when word spread that Cho’s predecessor (and another HT fave), Kevin Pritchard, was being dumped. Had we known Cho would end up being his replacement, we’d have taken the news a little better.

Bottom line, we can’t wait to see what Cho has in store for the Blazers.

And whatever goes on in Rip City in the future, we know the guy at the controls is chasing championships and not just playing it safe!

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Strange Days

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Make sure you mark down this day, because it’s not often we agree with Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn here at the hideout.

But after a peculiar draft night where there seemed to be twice as many head-scratching trades and maneuvers as there were actual draft picks, Kahn was on the money when he described this time before the free agent frenzy of 2010.

“I’ve never seen the league like this,” he said. “The league is a weird place right now, as you saw all week. I’ve never seen so many teams literally pitching players off the side, doing everything to clear room. There’s a frenzy.”

These are strange days indeed when the general manager of one of the league’s worst teams not only admits all that and more (check the video, it was like we had Kahn in a confessional).

Apparently, the teams with cap space (Miami, Chicago, New York and New Jersey headline the list) aren’t the only ones willing sacrifice warm bodies currently on the roster for the promise of what could be. And last we checked, there are only five truly elite free agents to be had this summer — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

There are other names you will hear tossed around but those five are the only ones with the right package of skills, talent, youth, versatility and All-Star credentials that allow a team to claim some sort of victory during this frenzy, provided you can pry them away from their current teams.

Some people would argue (with cause) that there are really just two game-changing free agents out there this summer, James and Wade, and that the rest are just furniture pieces to be positioned around them. So if you’re clearing bodies but there are only a couple of “somebodys” available and you don’t get them …

That’s why the big night John Wall, Evan Turner and the rest of the draft class of 2010 thought was theirs and theirs alone, turned out to be a night completely overshadowed by other events:

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Nothing shocked us more than Portland dumping their general manager Kevin Pritchard the way they did, which is why the Trail Blazers have won HT’s Biggest Losers Award.

Jason Quick of the Oregonian broke the story and later broke it down like this:

Pritchard stayed on long enough to conduct his fourth draft for the Blazers, which included a trade, one of his signature tactics during his three-plus years of running the basketball operations of the Blazers.

His dismissal ended what had become Portland’s most talked about, yet confusing soap opera, as nobody — including Pritchard — could put their finger on why Allen had become so disenchanted with the executive he once said had “the golden gut” for player moves.

Allen left the team’s draft headquarters without speaking with the media, and shortly after Pritchard left, too. Eventually, team president Larry Miller returned to provide hollow answers.

“I’m not going to get into details,” Miller said of the dismissal. “May best man win”

Forty of the Blazers top executives met on June 14 at Alloro Vineyards and Winery in Sherwood. Miller, the president, opened the dinner with some remarks, and soon the room was abuzz with chatter.

Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was his go-for-it, gambler approach, but Pritchard spontaneously tapped his glass and rose to address his co-workers.

He said he knew there was speculation about his job being in jeopardy, but he said he remained committed to making the organization better, and that he would fight to keep his job. “May the best man win,” Pritchard told his peers.

Pritchard received a rousing, standing ovation.

It moved him to tears.

Ten days later, Thursday’s firing appeared to come down to a personality conflict, a strife that became apparent to Pritchard late in the season when he was told he was no longer welcome to sit next to Allen during games at the Rose Garden. Pritchard at times wondered if Allen had become jealous of his popularity and the credit he received, even though Pritchard insisted he never wanted the attention.

Miller made a point in his address to the media to emphasize that Pritchard was “a part of” the team’s rise, adding “it wasn’t just Kevin.”

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Did we mention these are strange days?

Strange days indeed.

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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.”