Portland Trail Blazers v Charlotte Bobcats

The Trail Blazers have plans to start over


It was inevitable, really. The promise held in the 2008 and 2009 seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers have vanished in a blur of surgical knives, press releases featuring the words “out for the season” and a crowd of players in tailored suits on the bench.  Joel Przybilla was the lucky one. He only hurt his knee twice.  Brandon Roy. Greg Oden. Greg Oden. Greg Oden. The fact is that the team assembled to challenge the West has become mortal. They’re still fighting, and Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge are great players. Andre Miller’s a good player, Nicolas Batum is a very good player, and the youngsters have some potential. But the building blocks aren’t there. And Portland’s GM, Rich Cho, is being honest about it.

From The Oregonian:

The days of proclaiming this franchise “one or two pieces away” have faded.  In its place is this matter-of-fact assessment from Cho:

“This team is an average to a little-above average team, and our record reflects that,” Cho said. “And theres not going to be any quick fix to make it into a championship team. This is going to be a process.”

Cho waited until the Blazers had played about half of their games before deciding what his long term plan is for the franchise. He said that plan may become clear to fans after the trade deadline, but added that “winning is still important.”

“But I think you have to think short term and long term,” Cho said. “We are not going to sacrifice a long-term goal for a short-term benefit.”

via Trail Blazers: Big changes on the way, GM Rich Cho says | OregonLive.com.

The Oregonian goes on to report that Cho plans on pursuing drat picks, seeking to replicate the Thunder formula. Ironic, as it was the Blazers’ passing of Kevin Durant that… you know what? I’m going to leave that one alone.  Following the Thunder is a good path, at least it seems so at this point, and probably the best pursuit for the Blazers.

But if the Blazers are really going to look at following the Thunder, they should also pay attention to what GM Sam Presti didn’t do. He didn’t start adding veterans. The Blazers, thinking they were set, started plugging in veterans like Marcus Camby and Andre Miller. Veterans are great additions to teams ready to contend for a title. They are anchors around teams trying to find a path towards a successful future, even as their play are some of the bright spots. You simply can’t build around them.

Cho expects to start making moves as the trade deadline nears, and he’s going to have assets capable of moving. He says that Nicolas Batum is part of the future in Portland, but don’t be surprised if instead he uses Batum’s overall value to try and snag something significant. After all, you have to give up valuable assets if you want to get them.

Until then, we’ll watch the Blazers, defiantly plugging in more wins than losses, struggling through injury after injury, and think of what could have been. The fall from grace in the NBA comes just that quickly.


Report: Rockets will try to sign Alessandro Gentile next summer

Alessandro Gentile, Paulius Jankunas
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The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.

So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.

If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.

Report: Hawks co-owner made more money by exposing Danny Ferry’s Luol Deng comments

Michael Gearon, Bruce Levenson
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A terribly kept secret: Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. wanted to get rid of general manager Danny Ferry.

Many believe that’s why Gearon made such a big deal about Ferry’s pejorative “African” comment about Luol Deng – that Gearon was more concerned about ousting Ferry than showing real concern over racism.

Gearon had another, no less sinister, reason to raise concern over Ferry’s remarks.

Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

While Gearon felt that Ferry, as he wrote in the June 2014 email to Levenson, “put the entire franchise in jeopardy,” Gearon also figured to benefit financially from a Sterling-esque fallout.

In the spring of 2014, Gearon was in the process of selling more of his interest in the team to Levenson and the partners he had sold to in September. The agreed-upon price for roughly a third of Gearon’s remaining shares valued the Hawks at approximately $450 million, according to reports from sources.

“We accept your offer to buy the remaining 31 million,” Gearon wrote in an email to Levenson on April 17, 2014. “Let me know next steps so we can keep this simple as you suggested without a bunch of lawyers and bankers.”

Approximately five weeks later — just a little more than a week before the fateful conference call — Steve Ballmer agreed to pay $2 billion for the Clippers, a record-smashing price that completely changed the assessed value of NBA franchises. Gearon firmly maintains he was acting out of the sincerity of his convictions to safeguard the franchise from the Sterling stench, but such a spectacle also allowed him to wiggle out of selling his shares at far below market value.

Gearon and his legal team later challenged the notion that the sell-down was bound by any sort of contractual obligation and that any papers were signed. Once the organization became involved in the investigation, the sale of the shares was postponed.

Arnovitz and Windhorst did an incredible amount of reporting here. I suggest you read the full piece, which includes much more background on the Gearon-Ferry rift.

Considering the Hawks sold for $850 million, Gearon definitely made more money than if he’d sold his shares at a $450 million valuation.

Did that motivate him? Probably, though it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Most likely, his actions were derived from at least three desires – making more money, ousting Ferry and combating racism. Parsing how much each contributed is much more difficult.

What Ferry said was racist, whether or not he was looking at more racism on the sheet of paper in front of him. His comments deserved punishment.

But if Gearon didn’t have incentive to use them for his own benefit, would we even know about them? How many other teams, with more functional front offices, would have kept similar remarks under wraps or just ignored them?