Pritchard talks Paul Allen, choosing Oden over Durant

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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.

Pacers fans epically bad at tic-tac-toe (video)

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Trail Blazers fans are off the hook.

A couple Pacers fans are also terrible at tic-tac-toe.

Pacers:

I can’t rule out this being staged, which is disappointing.

But if genuine – wow.

Spencer Dinwiddie signs three-year, $34 million extension to stay with Nets

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There were a lot of general managers eyeing Spencer Dinwiddie as a quality point guard they could grab on the free agent market this summer at a fair price. The hardworking point guard out of the University of Colorado has averaged 16.9 points and 4.8 assists for the Nets this season, is shooting 36.8 percent from three, knows how to be a good floor general, and while a lot of fans may not know his name smart front offices around the league saw an above-average point guard that would fit their system.

Which is why the Nets decided to lock him up and not let him leave Brooklyn. The team announced the deal, Dinwiddie himself confirmed it, and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN had the details.

That’s an above the league average but low starter money, and it’s a good deal for Dinwiddie, who is making $1.6 million this year and that’s the largest payday of his career.

If you don’t know what Dinwiddie can do on the court, go ask the Sixers — he dropped 39 on them last night.

The Nets are trying to build a culture and have a core of smart, solid players to put stars around, and Dinwiddie fits right into this model. They could have tried to lowball him and save some money, but that came with the risk of losing him this summer. The Nets decided to take care of their own instead, a good sign for the franchise.

Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas undergoes surgery on dislocated thumb, out a month

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It was clear it was bad when it happened. Not because of the violence of the play by Draymond Green — no foul was called, and the hand is part of the ball by rule in these cases — but because of Jonas Valanciunas‘ reaction. The man was in a lot of pain.

With 8 minutes to go in the second quarter of the Raptors win Wednesday night, Valanciunas got the ball with Green on him and decided to back down the smaller player, Green reached in and swiped down knocking the ball away but getting Valanciunas’ hand in the process.

Thursday the Raptors announced that Valanciunas had surgery on his dislocated left thumb and will be out at least a month.

This is a blow to the Raptors’ frontline depth, although they still have plenty of talent up front. Serge Ibaka starts most nights at center, and at times the Raptors go small and put breakout player Pascal Siakam at the five. However, Valanciunas is their matchup for other bigger, more traditional centers, or sometimes coach Nick Nurse tries him to force a mismatch. Valanciunas is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a night playing nearly 19 minutes a night, the Raptors defense is 3 points per 100 possessions better, and the Raptors outscore opponents by 5.4 per 100 when he is on the court. It will not be easy to fill his minutes.

The Raptors are 23-7 and the team in first place in the East having just knocked off the Clippers and Warriors in back-to-back nights on the road. They look like contenders, but they could use Valanciunas to help them get through the regular season (he’s harder to play in the postseason, but we’re not there yet).

 

Hornets owner Michael Jordan: Smacking Malik Monk was ‘tap of endearment’

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Hornets owner Michael Jordan smacked guard Malik Monk on the back head of the head, because Monk prematurely ran on the court to celebrate Jeremy Lamb‘s game-winner against the Pistons last night. Charlotte received a technical foul for having too many men on the court, but held on for the victory.

Zach Aldridge of WCCB:

Some people took affront to Jordan putting his hands on Monk – to the point Jordan explained himself.

Associated Press:

Hornets owner Michael Jordan says lightly smacking the back of second-year guard Malik Monk’s head in closing seconds of Wednesday night’s win against the Pistons was a “tap of endearment.”

The Hornets owner, says “It was like a big brother and little brother tap. No negative intent. Only love!”

I doubt any other NBA owner could have gotten away with that.

But Jordan isn’t any other NBA owner.

He’s a former player, widely respected as the greatest of all-time. He’s black. He’s just 55, younger than most of his owner peers.

Jordan and Monk can relate in a way other owners and players can’t.

The power dynamic still isn’t balanced. Jordan is Monk’s boss. When initially watching the exchange, I worried Jordan crossed a line.

But both Jordan and Monk laughed it off. I believe this truly was acceptable in the context of their relationship.