Pritchard talks Paul Allen, choosing Oden over Durant


Kevin Pritchard was the hottest general manager in the league, the guy who changed the culture in Portland from the “Jail Blazers” to a young team on the rise.

Then he got fired. Abruptly. Reportedly because owner Paul Allen and his tight circle didn’t like Prichard and the credit he was getting for turning around the team. (So, Portland hired Rich Cho, who made some smart moves but lasted one year and got fired again by Allen, leaving a lot of people around the league wondering what is going on up in the Northwest.)

Prichard went on The Game sports talk radio in Portland recently and talked about a lot of things (via Sports Radio Interviews). Including what it was like to work with Paul Allen (one of the co-founders of Microsoft).

“He’s very complete in that he wants you to do the work and get to a certain place and then he’s going to challenge it…. He provided a lot of value with that and I learned a lot. He’s very demanding. Every single day, in the seven and a half years I was there, I’m not sure there were many days that we didn’t communicate at least by e-mail or by phone, but he’s very interested and I welcomed that. We had developed a great relationship the first four or five years I was there and we had an ability to talk pretty quickly and get down to the main issues, but he’s demanding and he’s tough.”

Pritchard was known as a very good drafter (he maneuvered to get Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge in the same draft). He also selected Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, and he talked about that choice.

The overwhelming thing that we got from everybody we talked to was (Oden) doesn’t care if he scores or does anything, but he’s about winning. We had been really trying to change our culture for guys who really put the team first, not care about stats, and really be about winning. We thought he was the pick at the time. We did the same thing with Durant. They said he’s gonna be the best scorer in the league, he’s going to be an amazing player, and he’s gonna win. We just felt like Greg was going to be that guy that just doesn’t lose basketball games. Right before he got hurt we were talking as a management group and we were like man doesn’t it feel like this is becoming a little bit like Greg’s team because in the locker room after a loss he would get really, really upset and he demands out of his teammates probably more than any other player I’ve been around other than Larry Bird. When he lost, he let his teammates knows what they have to do the next game.

Oden’s body betrayed him, and the question is should Pritchard and the Blazers said they saw it coming. But you year a lot of revisionist history from team executives now about how they would have taken Durant — that’s crap. Almost to a man front offices at the time said they would have taken Oden.

Hawks’ Thabo Sefolosha on not guilty verdict: “Justice was served”

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Friday morning, a New York jury found Atlanta Hawks guard Thabo Sefolosha not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. The charges stemmed from the night in the final weeks of last season when Sefolosha and then teammate Pero Antic went to a New York club after arriving in town, and while there Pacers’ player Chris Copeland was stabbed outside the club. In his clash with police, Sefolosha suffered a broken leg that required surgery and kept him out of the playoffs.

The New York prosecutor tried to make this go away with a plea deal of just day of community service and six months probation. But Sefolosha had the means and mind to fight the charges, got his day in court and won. This is what he said in a statement after the verdict, released by the Atlanta Hawks.

“This morning’s verdict ended a long and emotional period for me.  Justice was served and for that I am eternally grateful to the judge and jury for their quick and deliberate decision….

“It’s troubling to me that with so much evidence in my support that this case would even be brought to trial and that I had to defend myself so hard to get justice. It pains me to think about all of the innocent people who aren’t fortunate enough to have the resources, visibility and access to quality legal counsel that I have had.

“It was important to me as a man, a father to two young girls and as a role model, to stand up for what I believe in and have my name cleared of any wrongdoing.  Today’s verdict will not make up for the pain and trauma my family and I have suffered over the past six months or bring back the opportunity to have played in the Eastern Conference Finals and have a shot at an NBA title, but it does bring me some peace and closes a painful chapter in my life.

“Now I look forward to returning to the team and focusing solely on my rehabilitation for the upcoming season so that I can get back to playing the game I cherish so much.”

While Sefolosha says he is focusing “solely” on his rehab, the win in the criminal case would bode well for a potential civil case if he wanted to sue regarding his treatment and the broken leg.

Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer — who testified at the trial and was amused by parts of it — released this statement:

“Thabo is a man of great character and we are proud that he took a principled approach to proving his innocence. We are extremely happy for him and his family, and we are very pleased with today’s verdict in his favor.”

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.