Tag:Trail Blazers
Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 6:33 pm
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Magic not ready to trade Howard

Despite strong overtures from the New Jersey Nets, the Orlando Magic informed teams Wednesday they are not ready to seriously engage in trade discussions for All-Star center Dwight Howard, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nets were "pushing hard" over the past 48 hours and accelerated the talks to the point where teams were being recruited to serve as a third or fourth team to provide Orlando with the kind of assets it would find acceptable if there was no other option but to trade Howard. However, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday, "The Magic are in no rush to do anything." The team's top priority remains to find a way to keep Howard in Orlando.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. But the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would have looped in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have taken back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

But a league source told CBSSports.com Wednesday that the scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces was not enough to persuade the Magic to move forward with the deal.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

An executive within the league who is familiar with Orlando's situation said the expectation remains that the Magic will once again revisit trade scenarios for Howard, but not until after All-Star weekend -- which is being held in Orlando Feb. 24-26. The trade deadline during this shortened 66-game season will be March 15.

The Magic are determined to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Among the factors fueling the Nets' heightened pursuit of Howard was the re-emergence of the Lakers in the Chris Paul trade discussions Tuesday, which led rival executives to believe that the Lakers were more focused on landing Paul than Howard. But the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both superstars, and people with direct knowledge of Howard's strategy have had the Lakers at the top of his wish list since at least February 2010. The Nets, who are moving to a new arena in Brookyn in 2012, became more attractive when the team acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams this past February.

Another factor that ramped up the Nets-Magic talks was free-agent big man Nene's decision to stay in Denver with a five-year, $67 million contract. Nene was atop the Nets' free-agent wish list, but their primary objective since acquiring Williams has been to land Howard -- either in a trade or as a free agent next summer.

The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, have continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space in an effort that is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Williams, who went to high school in the Dallas area, if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets after he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent on July 1.

Last week, the Magic gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. But sources said the team has no intention of limiting its options to those teams if and when it decides that there's no other choice but to trade Howard. As long as the team can endure the media circus, the Magic can afford to wait for a better deal -- with the hope, sources said, that adding another piece to the team in the meantime and starting the season on a winning note between the Christmas opener and the All-Star break would help persuade Howard to stay.

In fact, although Howard complained last week about the lack of input he'd been given in personnel decisions, the facts do not agree. While Howard disagreed with the decision to waive Gilbert Arenas with the amnesty provision, Arenas wouldn't have been in Orlando to begin with if not for Howard, who is close to him. The move didn't work out, and the organization had no choice but to take advantage of the amnesty clause, which allows it to wipe Arenas' massive contract off the cap and tax and use the flexibility gained to improve the team.

A league source said Howard also requested that Smith acquire Glen "Big Baby" Davis from the Celtics, which he did in recent days in a trade for Brandon Bass.

"He's been as involved as any superstar on any team," the league source said.

The Magic also have to address changes in the front office, with former team president Alex Martins suddenly taking over as CEO for Bob Vander Weide. How the new hierarchy is handled could have an impact on the timing and terms of any Howard trade, sources said. But while the Magic can afford to be patient, perhaps all the way to the March 15 trade deadline, the team can't play chicken with Howard for too long. Under provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Magic would not be able to hold out for the worst-case scenario of a sign-and-trade because such a maneuver no longer provides a free agent with maximum length and dollars when he leaves his team.

If Orlando waited Howard out through the season and called his bluff that he wouldn't choose, say, a four-year, $76 million free-agent deal with the Nets over the five-year, $100 million the Magic could offer, they would have no sign-and-trade recourse if that's what Howard decided to do. The stakes also are exceedingly high for the Nets, who would face losing Williams under similar circumstances.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 11:59 am
 

CP3 developments push Nets' pursuit of Howard

So now we know why the Magic never filed those tampering charges against the Nets.

For one thing, the latest developments in the Chris Paul saga point to New Jersey (i.e. Brooklyn) moving into prime position to land All-Star center Dwight Howard in a trade -- if Orlando decides to go that route.

Or so the Nets hope.

The Lakers re-entered the Paul trade talks Tuesday night, and would need a third team to funnel the young prospects to New Orleans along with Pau Gasol in return for the gifted point guard. Clippers brass were unfazed by these developments, sources told CBSSports.com, having expected that the Lakers would re-enter the talks at some point -- either for real or for leverage purposes.

UPDATE: The re-emergence of the Lakers, who had a three-team trade for Paul also involving Houston fall through when league executives deemed it too expensive and not yielding enough young talent for New Orleans, combined with other factors Tuesday to signal that the Nets' pursuit of Howard was about to reach a new level of urgency. One of those factors was free-agent big man Nene, one of the Nets' top free-agent targets, agreeing to a five-year, $67 million deal to stay in Denver.

If the Lakers sent Gasol to New Orleans for Paul, they presumably could not find enough talent elsewhere to include in a separate deal for Howard as well -- although the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both Paul and Howard. The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space Tuesday, an effort sources say is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Texan Deron Williams if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2012.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. The Nets are "pushing hard," a source said, but the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would loop in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have to take back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

UPDATE: A league source told CBSSports.com that the Magic are "not in a rush to do anything," and that the team's first priority is to keep Howard. The scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces is not enough to persuade the organization to move forward with the deal quickly, the person said.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

The organization is determined, however, to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Though it isn't certain yet whether the Magic are ready to go through with a deal parting with Howard, Orlando seems to be seeking some elements of the kind of package New Jersey worked for months to assemble for Denver last season in its pursuit of Carmelo Anthony: a combination of established players, prospects and draft picks. Given Howard's stature and the stakes for both teams, this package will have to be substantially more valuable -- and thus, more difficult to assemble.

Which brings us back to those tampering charges that never materialized.

The Magic last week were weighing the possibility of filing a tampering charge against the Nets over a reported meeting in Miami involving Howard and Nets officials. The alleged meeting occurred before Smith gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. A league source told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the potential tampering charges are "on the back burner" while the team weighs its options. Knowing that the Nets may turn out to be the best trade partner, the Magic were reluctant to burn that bridge before the negotiations even got off the ground, sources said.

A lot is in flux in the Magic front office, with team president Alex Martins taking over as CEO for the departed Bob Vander Weide, and now the brass are trying to evaluate what is the best option for dealing with the Howard situation, sources said. 

"There's going to be a little bit of a bidding process if anybody wants him," an executive within the league said Tuesday.

The Nets' pursuit of Howard is tied to their acquisition of Williams from the Jazz last season, and now is inexorably linked to the Paul talks, which are perhaps the most complicated trade negotiation in NBA history. League executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson, acting on behalf of the 29 owners who have custody of the franchise, are running the talks for the Hornets. After being declared dead Monday, negotiations between the Clippers and league office reignited later that evening and continued Tuesday -- with the Clippers waiting for the price for Paul to come down since they were the only team bidding for him. 

The Clippers' successful waiver claim of veteran point guard Chauncey Billups undoubtedly helped that effort, as Clippers GM Neil Olshey was then free to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal. But Olshey was still unwilling to part with both sharpshooter Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick, and that was primarily the reason no conclusion was reached Tuesday, sources said. 

The best the Nets can offer for Howard is Lopez, a less accomplished but more durableversion of the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, plus multiple first-round picks and a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries. But the Nets have been exploring ways to bring in a third or even fourth team that could convey more assets to Orlando, and New Jersey GM Billy King has signaled to associates that such a maneuver won't be a problem. King has proved to be one of the most adept executives in the league at assembling complicated, multi-team deals.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:35 pm
 

Tellem's cousin recused from NLRB case

NEW YORK -- Elbert Tellem, the assistant director of the National Labor Relations Board's regional office that handled the players' union's charge against the NBA, has recused himself from the case because he is the cousin of powerful agent Arn Tellem.

Sports Business Journal first reported the news Monday, and a person familiar with the decision told CBSSports.com it happened several weeks ago.

The move by Tellem to remove himself from any decision-making role in the union's unfair labor practices charge likely will have no impact on the outcome. The case, which has been sent to the NLRB's general counsel in Washington, D.C., with a sealed recommendation from the regional office in New York, was handled by acting regional director Karen Fernbach.

The National Basketball Players Association, which continued bargaining talks with league negotiators Monday in a last-ditch effort to prevent the cancellation of regular season games, hopes to compel the NLRB to issue a complaint against the league for failing to bargain in good faith. If the union is successful, the end result could be an injunction by a federal judge lifting the lockout.

Neither side knows what the regional office recommended, and the general counsel could take days, weeks or months to review the case and either follow or reject the regional office's recommendation. A person familiar with the NLRB's procedures told CBSSports.com Monday it is the agency's hope that the two sides settle their labor dispute among themselves.

The conflict of interest for Elbert Tellem stemmed from his family relation to Arn Tellem, the powerful agent from Wasserman Media Group who represents such NBA stars as Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Joe Johnson, Russell Westbrook and Tyreke Evans. Tellem has been among a handful of powerful agents who have consistently disagreed with the union's bargaining and legal strategies while pushing behind the scenes for the players to decertify union membership as a tactic to force the owners to bargain more seriously.
Posted on: July 8, 2011 3:47 pm
 

Pritchard hired by Pacers, but still available


In a savvy move to bolster their basketball operations staff, the Pacers have reached a deal with former Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard to be their director of player personnel, sources familiar with the hire confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Pritchard, fired hours before the 2010 draft, will report to general manager David Morway, sources said, under a unique at-will arrangement that both sides can end at any time. Pritchard will be paid about $200,000 annually under the deal.

Pritchard will begin evaluating the roster and preparing for potential trades and the pursuit of free agents in advance of the eventual end of the lockout. With team president Larry Bird undecided about his long-term future, Pritchard's role could expand. But he also would be available to be considered for more permanent and higher-profile GM jobs as they become available.

One team thought to be a sensible landing spot for Pritchard was the Knicks, who elevated Glen Grunwald to the interim general manager position after team president Donnie Walsh stepped down last month. The arrangement comes with the understanding that Grunwald's contract will be extended for the 2011-12 season -- whenever that may be. Members of the coaching staff and some key members of the front office, such as vice president of basketball operations Jamie Mathews, director of pro scouting John Gabriel, director of pro player personnel Mark Warkentien, and regional scout Mark Hughes, also are expected to be retained for next season.

Coach Mike D'Antoni is entering the final year of his contract, and no indications have been given as to whether Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan intends to offer him an extension.

Grunwald, 53, is a respected, behind-the-scenes executive who received a strong recommendation from Walsh. If the Knicks ultimately look outside the organization to bolster the front office, among those they are expected to consider are former Hornets GM Jeff Bower and Pritchard.

Pritchard, who was briefly a teammate of Bird's with the Celtics in the early '90s, goes home to the Pacers -- up the road from his Bloomington, Ind., birthplace -- at an exciting time for the organization. Indiana acquired guard George Hill from the Spurs on draft night, and the Pacers have a talented, young roster built around Danny Granger, Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert with only $37 million in committed salary for next season. 

It was never clear why Pritchard, the driving force behind the Blazers' current run of success, was fired in the first place. His replacement, former Thunder executive Rich Cho, also has since been fired and landed on his feet with the Bobcats
Posted on: June 20, 2011 10:55 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 11:07 pm
 

NBA draft buzz: Kyrie No. 1

Three days before the NBA draft, here’s a smattering of news, info, and informed opinion culled from conversations with team executives, agents, and others in the know:

• Sources would be stunned if the Cavaliers did anything but use the No. 1 pick to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s the perfect package of talent and presence to shoulder the burden of carrying the franchise to new heights after the departure of LeBron James. The Cavs, however, are more than open to trading the No. 4 pick.

• The Timberwolves are comfortable with the outstanding consolation prize that comes with the No. 2 pick, and will get one of the only impact players in the draft in Derrick Williams. Plus, they won’t have to deal with the burden of having to choose between Irving and Williams. The Cavs, after all, could be wrong. The Wolves can’t. The only way Minnesota trades the pick is if someone “blows them away,” according to a source, and that would have to be a trade involving a superstar-caliber player.

• The Jazz and Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight are a sensible match with the third pick, as Utah looks to replace the gaping hole left by the trade of Deron Williams to the Nets. Some execs have gotten indications that Utah also is considering Enes Kanter.

• The Raptors, who agreed in principle Monday with defensive-minded coach Dwane Casey to replace Jay Triano, are sending out signals that they’re all about Bismack Biyombo with the fifth pick, but rival executives are skeptical. One such exec is banking on Toronto taking 6-11 forward Jan Vesely, regarded as the best international prospect in the draft.

• If Toronto passes on Biyombo, some execs believe he could slide as far as 14-18, and the Knicks, with the 17th pick, are known to be high on him. But the apple of the Knicks’ eye is BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette, and New York officials are trying to compute how far they’d have to trade up for him and what it would cost. The Knicks also like Michigan point guard Darius Morris, and one exec said the word Monday had New York looking into trade-up options for Georgia Tech shooting guard Iman Shumpert.

• One rival executive is “almost positive” the Wizards will take Kanter with the sixth pick, or look to trade down. Washington would grab Biyombo with the 18th pick if he’s still available, and otherwise would be comfortable with Kenneth Faried.

Kings officials are split between Fredette (beloved by ownership) and Alec Burks (favored by the basketball staff).

• The Pistons have a key workout scheduled for Tuesday, hosting Biyombo, Marcus Morris, Tristan Thompson, and Kawhi Leonard. Word among rival execs is that Detroit will take one of those players or Kemba Walker with the eighth pick.

• The Bobcats are said to be all over Chris Singleton with the ninth pick, but would take Marcus Morris if they’re stuck. Nicola Vucevic would be Charlotte’s choice with the 19th pick if he’s still there.

• It’s sort of the opposite situation with the Bucks, who are looking to trade the 10th pick but would take Burks if they can’t.

• The Warriors are enamored of Washington State shooting guard Klay Thompson, which would seem to cast doubt on GM Larry Riley’s denials of exploring trade scenarios for Monta Ellis. Singleton and Biyombo also are on Golden State’s list with the 11th pick.

• Singleton would be the pick for Utah at No. 12 if he’s still there, sources say.

• The Suns appear to be focused on Thompson or Walker with the 13th pick. But this is the area to start thinking about Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, whose touchy buyout situation is the only thing knocking him out of being a top-five pick.

• The Pacers appear to be comfortable with either Thompson or Fredette with the 15th pick, but if neither is there, they’d take Markieff Morris, sources say.

• Jordan Hamilton appears headed to Philly with the 16th pick, and sources said Monday the Timberwolves have offered point guard Jonny Flynn in a package deal for swingman Andre Iguodala. Philadelphia officials, however, have let it be known that they are not interested in a salary-dump deal for Iguodala and want an impact veteran in return.

• Faried also is on the Trail Blazers’ wish list at No. 21, but the Blazers also are said to be high on Marshon Brooks.
Posted on: June 9, 2011 4:16 pm
Edited on: June 9, 2011 8:15 pm
 

Source: Monta trade talks 'pretty hot'

DALLAS – The Warriors and representatives for Monta Ellis are working cooperatively to see if a trade to a contending team can be arranged, a deal that would likely happen around the NBA draft later this month, a person with knowledge of the discussions told CBSSports.com.

“It’s pretty hot,” the person familiar with the talks said.

UPDATE: The Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Hawks, are among the teams that made exploratory calls after word leaked that the Warriors and 76ers were discussing an Ellis-for-Andre Iguodala swap, league sources said Thursday. Ellis-for-Iguodala is a “50-50” proposition at the moment, a person with knowledge of those talks said. A third person with knowledge of the Warriors' strategy described trading Ellis as a secondary priority to the draft.

Ellis would be interested in a trade to the Bulls, who have previously expressed interest in him. But a person with direct knowledge of Chicago's offseason discussions refuted the notion that the Bulls have had recent contact with Golden State about the electrifying guard.

The Sixers have fielded several calls about Iguodala, but executives who’ve spoken with them detect reluctance in the Philadelphia front office to trade Iguodala in a salary dump. The Sixers want a player of value in return, sources said.

Ellis, a prolific scorer who may not fit long term in an undersized backcourt with Stephen Curry under defensive-minded coach Mark Jackson, would be a good fit for a playoff-contending team seeking an additional perimeter scorer and penetrator to take some of the load off its primary scorer.

Ellis, 25, has two more years at $11 million each with an early-termination option for 2013-14, also at $11 million. In 80 games for Golden State last season, he averaged 24.1 points and a career-high 5.6 assists.
Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:35 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Walsh's departure means dark days back for Knicks

Donnie Walsh came to New York determined to restore honor to the Knicks and steer them off a decade-long path of destruction toward one with the promise of success.

He will not get to finish the job. The theater of the absurd that is Madison Square Garden swallowed up one of the gentlemen of the sport Friday, sent one of the most respected basketball men in history fleeing for the exits.

The news Friday that Walsh will step down from his post as team president when his contract expires June 30 is a devastating blow to the franchise that he nearly singlehandedly resurrected. Gone is the man who cleared nearly $30 million in cap space, built a foundation around two superstar players, invited legends from the past back under the spotlight of the Garden, and gave Knicks fans hope that the days of dysfunction were over.

The story behind Walsh’s quiet negotiations for a new contract in recent months made Friday’s news all the more disturbing. Walsh, 70, was not seeking multiple years or millions at this stage of his basketball life. He was seeking autonomy over basketball decisions – the same autonomy that Garden chairman James Dolan publicly promised he would have when he was introduced in the spring of 2008 as the man who would save the Knicks from themselves.

"The more we talked about it, the more I realized I didn't want a multi-year deal," Walsh said. "I can understand why he'd want that. I just realized I probably wasn't the guy to go forward with."

As recently as midweek, sources said Walsh's situation was either going to result in a two-year extension -- possibly with a team option for a third year -- or Walsh moving back to Indiana, though not necessarily retiring. Dolan’s statement Friday described Walsh’s decision to leave as mutual, while Walsh said he had lost the "energy" required to do the job.

Walsh will stay on as a consultant and head up the search for his replacement, which immediately could focus on the two best candidates not tied to teams: former Trail Blazers executive Kevin Pritchard and former Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Former Cavs GM and current Spurs executive Danny Ferry also is expected to be considered, and a name to watch is Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone, whose strong international presence and close relationships with the stars of Team USA could be appealing to Dolan. Ronzone also has a working relationship with Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni through USA Basketball. D'Antoni has one year left on his contract.

Former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien, whose consulting contract with the Knicks expires June 30, has to be considered a viable candidate.

Besides who will replace Walsh, the key issue hovering over this stunning development is what assurances he was seeking that he didn’t receive. Money was "never a big issue" for Walsh in the months-long discussions about his future, said a person familiar with the negotiations. In fact, despite widespread reports that Dolan insisted on a 40 percent pay cut for Walsh, the person familiar with the matter said it was Walsh who volunteered to take a substantial pay cut next season in anticipation of a lockout. His concern, the person said, was making sure the rest of the front-office staff -- whose contracts also expire June 30 -- would be taken care of during the work stoppage. Glen Grunwald, the senior vice president of basketball operations, will stay with the team as interim GM during the search for Walsh's replacement.

Throughout Walsh’s discussions with Dolan about his future, it was clear from multiple sources with knowledge of the talks that Walsh would not stay with the Knicks if A) he would not have final say over basketball decisions, or B) there was a chance he could be overruled by the Garden’s many agenda-driven outside influences. The most sinister of those was former team president Isiah Thomas, who remains in close communication with Dolan and in the MSG chairman’s circle of trust – despite running the franchise into the ground and turning the Knicks into a league-wide embarrassment.

“They were a joke for six years,” a rival team executive said Friday. “What Donnie has done for that organization, you’ve got to be kidding me. Come on. The whole world has paid attention to basketball in New York because of the guy – in a positive way.”

Thomas, whose attempted hiring as a consultant by Dolan last summer was nixed by league rules forbidding an NCAA coach to serve in such a role, is not coming back to run the Knicks, sources maintain. But he continues to have Dolan's ear, not to mention the desire to return to the Garden. And while Walsh dismissed the notion that Thomas had anything to do with his decision to leave, the idea of Thomas back-channeling decisions with Dolan would not be palatable to any executive of Walsh's experience and track record.

"The whole thing was going to come down to whether he was going to have autonomy," said a person with knowledge of the discussions. "That’s what this was about."

Walsh's replacement faces the challenging task of adding pieces to complement Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the two stars Walsh landed with the cap space he spent 2 1-2 years demolishing. But Stoudemire and Anthony will combine to make $36.7 million next season; add Chauncey Billups' $14.2 million, and that figure rises to $50.9 million for three players. That's more than Miami's Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to make next season, leaving the Knicks the ability to add only minimum-salaried players or those who'd except the mid-level exception -- if there is such a thing in the new collective bargaining agreement. And with the haul of assets Walsh had to give up to land Anthony, the Knicks have few short-term assets to offer in trades aimed at filling their needs for a defensive-minded big man, elite shooting guard, and eventual replacement at point guard for Billups.

That predicament, viewed through the prism of Walsh's departure, only fuels speculation that Dolan hijacked the Anthony trade talks and ordered Walsh to make a trade he didn't want to make -- not at that price, anyway. Walsh again deflected that notion Friday, but a person with knowledge of the trade talks between New York and Denver said Dolan played a prominent role in the deal.

"Donnie had a good hold of it, but I think Dolan had the intentions," the person said. "Dolan wanted Melo at all costs. It was 100 percent Dolan who was the one with an all-costs Melo type thing. And Donnie was saying, 'This would be a good trade, but let’s do it the right way."

He did everything the right way in three years rebuilding the Knicks, a job that now goes to someone else to finish.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 5:57 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:57 am
 

Buffoonery at its best in Portland

The way things are going in the circus that is the NBA these days, with the tents and elephants and freak show setting up shop in Portland once again, there’s never been a better time to resurrect this memorable quote from Tayshaun Prince.

You know what they call this? They call this buffoonery.

Except this goes way beyond comedy – beyond even the wackiness Prince experienced in Detroit this season. The firing of Rich Cho as the Trail Blazers’ general manager Monday, and the search for the team’s third GM in less than a year, means the Blazers are no longer simply a joke. They are a league-wide embarrassment, a proverbial Petri dish for the experimental breeding of ego, incompetence, and the kind of empty-suit entitlement that rears its ugly head when rich guys think money and malice trump class.

On July 19, 2010, when Portland hired Cho to replace Kevin Pritchard – who was fired, for reasons that remain a mystery, hours before the previous month’s draft – team president Larry Miller issued the following statement: “Rich is the perfect fit for our organization.”

Whoops!

On Monday, a month before the next draft, the Trail Blazers announced they’ve “parted ways” with Cho. The first line of Miller’s statement explaining that bombshell went like this: “The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn't right.”

Can I get a whoops, whoops?

Of course it wasn’t right, because Cho was an independent thinker who wanted what any GM in the NBA should have as long as his business card bears that title: autonomy. The Blazers do not believe in autonomy, unless your name is Paul Allen or you are employed by Allen’s Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. The “Vulcanites,” as NBA front office insiders call them, ran Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn out of Portland and now someone has run out their replacement. Cho probably doesn’t feel this way now, but he’s better off. Or at least that’s what his colleagues in the GM profession hope.

“Rich is such a nice guy, such a good, gentle guy, and this could destroy him,” one of Cho’s colleagues said Monday. “He may never get another job as a GM because people will say, ‘How weird is it that you got fired after only 10 months on the job?’ But they don’t care about that stuff. They don’t care how they treat people.”

The person in the GM’s seat – now, it’s Chad Buchanan, who will hold the interim title until, or rather if, Portland is able to persuade some other poor soul to take the job – is never the one calling the shots there. Ultimately, that is Allen, who gets his advice from two key Vulcanites who’ve lurked behind the scenes in the organization for years: Steve “Hat Man” Gordon and Bert Kolde, a longtime friend of Allen’s who is listed in the team’s front office directory as director of the board.

“He’s the de facto GM,” said a person familiar with the Blazers’ hierarchy. “He’s the guy always trying to make calls and make decisions.”

Echoing the tasteless, underhanded way the Blazers fired Penn and Pritchard, NBA front office sources told CBSSports.com Monday that word began circulating at the scouting combine last week in Chicago that Portland already was looking for Cho’s replacement. Good luck to Allen, Miller, Hat Man, Kolde, the dancing bears and clowns on a unicycle in their quest to find a better person for the job than the three aforementioned executives, who were all capable – not to mention deserving of the freedom to make their own basketball decisions.

Was the mild-mannered Cho, after working under Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, prepared for this kind of hot seat? Was he as capable and accomplished as his predecessor, Pritchard? Of course not; but that’s the organization’s fault for firing Pritchard in the first place. And it was their responsibility to hire the right person, and to give that person a chance to grow into the job. The Vulcanites didn’t like Pritchard’s talkative, cocksure ways, so they hired the quietest person in any room; they overcompensated. Next, they should sew themselves a puppet and put it on the payroll, or go to the pet store and buy a parakeet. Hat Man will have him chirping, “Yes, sir, Mr. Allen,” in no time.

What the Blazers want above all else is a weak-minded yes man – not the kind of team-first, independent thinker that Cho proved himself to be when a report surfaced in the Oregonian last week that he wanted to suspend star Brandon Roy over his complaints about playing time after Game 2 of the first-round series against Dallas. This is the kind of authority a GM has to have if he’s going to shape the organization according to his vision. It is the kind of moment when, if an executive is undercut by ownership, it becomes apparent to everyone how much juice he has.

None.

All NBA executives face pressure from above. It’s part of the job. It’s the first thing they think of when they wake up and the last thought that crawls through their weary brains when they go to sleep: How do I keep my owner happy? Owners from coast to coast meddle in coach hirings and firings, weigh in on personnel decisions they know nothing about, and generally exert the influence that goes along with the flourish with which they sign the checks.

But Portland? This is ownership run wild. This is an organization that deserves to have no one – and I mean no one – even agree to interview for the job that was unfathomably vacated for the second time in less than a year.

At least the Blazers didn’t wait until draft night to drop the hammer on Cho, who made no discernable mistakes since taking over for Pritchard – and, hell, didn’t even have time to make any. Unless you consider getting Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats and losing a first-round playoff series to the Mavericks – still in the running for the NBA title – with his star player hobbling around on one leg a mistake.

And so the Blazers are right back where they were less than a year ago, when they fired Pritchard for no good reason and were firm in their belief that money and the allure of working for an owner with limitless pockets would trump any concerns candidates might have about working in the theater of the absurd.

Here’s hoping that this buffoonery hurts the Blazers more than Cho. Here’s hoping that their hunt for the next victim turns up much the same as the cache of credibility they have left.

Empty.
 
 
 
 
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