Posts Tagged ‘The Oregonian’

Trail Blazers’ Stumbles Continue





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s a dangerous thing, trying to read body language and later someone’s Tweets or trying decipher what’s really being said by a player or coach after a tough loss, or string of losses.

But there is no mistaking the sense of desperation coming from the Portland Trail Blazers right now, losers of four of their last five games and stumbling their way to the All-Star break with the injuries and frustration mounting. The questions about coach Nate McMillan‘s grip on the situation started a while ago, long before last night’s deflating performance.

Now All-Star power forward and franchise anchor LaMarcus Aldridge goes down with a severe left ankle injury in the home loss to Washington (… yes, home loss to the Washington Wizards) and the Blazers look like they might be in some serious trouble. Marcus Camby (above), Gerald Wallace, Jamal Crawford, Nicolas Batum and Raymond Felton have all expressed their frustrations and concerns with the current state of affairs, in one way or another.

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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 Curious (Amnesty) Case Of B. Roy

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — In a league filled egos and attitudes, Portland’s Brandon Roy always seemed to fight against stereotype.

In the times we’ve crossed paths, Roy has always struck me as one of the more grounded players in the league, a guy very much in tune with fragile nature of things in the high-stakes world of professional sports. Perhaps his injury history, dating back to before he came into the league, influenced him. You never know.

Now Roy stands at a career crossroads in Portland, caught in the middle of a dilemma caused by all the splendid things he’s done in a Trail Blazers uniform and the things his fragile knees have done to him while wearing that same uniform.

The Trail Blazers have to decide if Roy stays on the roster as a shell of the All-Star, face-of-the-franchise talent he once was or if they use the league’s new amnesty clause to cut ties with their former leader who is owed $63 million on his current contract.

Trail Blazers president Larry Miller offered a chilling but telling assessment of where things stand, when he told The Oregonian‘s Jason Quick:

“If Brandon were to accept mentally that ‘I’m not that guy anymore, but I will do whatever I can to help the team,’ it would make it easier to keep him around,” Miller said. “We know every-so-often he is going to give us that game, and be the Brandon Roy of old, but mentally accepting where his game is, that’s the bigger challenge for him. I don’t know if he is there, or if he can get there.”

Having been in the Rose Garden crowd during Roy’s magical Game 4 performance against Dallas in that first round playoff series last April, it’s hard for me to sit here and suggest that he could dial up enough of those performances, on knees that have no cartilage, to justify the Trail Blazers keeping him in the fold.

The flip side, however, includes the Trail Blazers cutting ties with Roy and him landing with another team and excelling in exactly the same role he would have been used in had they kept him. That’s a proposition that would only serve to rile up the restless fringe of the always-fervent Blazer fan base even more.

That said, waving Roy would provide a huge financial relief for the franchise. They’d get under the luxury tax threshold and become players in the free-agent market, provided they waive him early enough. (But this theory also requires the fans trusting that the franchise, sans a GM to replace the fired Rich Cho, would make the right moves to rebuild the core of the roster. And it’s safe to say the trust factor is shaky right now in Portland.)

To their credit, Roy’s camp isn’t making this about anything other than what’s best for all involved. All they’re asking for is an immediate decision, per Quick:

“I get it. Brandon gets it,” said Greg Lawrence, Roy’s agent. “It’s not complicated. They are going to make a decision that is best for them. If they want him to be there, he will show up and work hard like he always has and do whatever it takes to help the team win. If they don’t want Brandon to be there, he will move on. He just wants to know.”

Don’t we all!

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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.”

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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