Step away from the Trail Blazers, people. It’s about to blow.

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On another website, in the fourth week of the season, I had the Trail Blazers as the fifth best team in the league in an edition of the power rankings. They looked  awesome. I use that word a lot, but in the Blazers’ case, it was true. They played some of the best ball by any team this season in those early weeks. Gerald Wallace was doing everything, LaMarcus Aldridge was still LMA, Jamal Crawford was fitting in, the defense was superb, they were getting out and running.

That’s all over.

The smoke is coming from Camp Rose Garden and emergency services are on the way. It’s bad. Really bad.

After the Timberwolves, a fine team but by no means a dominant squad, walked into Portland and demolished the Blazers, scoring 122 points in their building, the Oregonian reports that the whole locker room nearly detonated.

Said one veteran: “You could spend a day in this locker room and you’d figure it out. Some guys really care. Others just want the season to be over.”

Who wants to win? Who wants to stay? Let’s make it simple: Can we please see a show of hands?

There are some hardworking players who still want to win. And there are loyal fans who want to see victories because they pay premium prices for tickets. And all of this is being undermined by a snickering, pouting, hollowed-out corner of the locker room that wants nothing more than to play out the final 29 games of this shortened season, collect a paycheck, and then, go on a vacation.

Joel Przybilla was ticked after the game, and bee-lined to the locker room from the bench like a guy thinking, “I came back … FOR THIS?!?” Gerald Wallace was so angry that he slammed over a large recycling bin in the arena tunnel, out of sight of fans, spilling paper and plastics that had to be picked up by some poor guest services guy in a red vest. Jamal Crawford sat by his locker, with a blank expression, and said, “It gets old.”

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

But the most concerning part was this quote from head coach Nate MacMillan, a tough coach who played many years in this league and knows as much about this game as anyone. He’s commanded a responsive, deep, strong locker room for years. Now, on why he doesn’t get a hold on things:

“If I lose it, I lose the whole thing,” McMillan said.

via Canzano: For some Trail Blazers, it’s time to cut bait and go elsewhere | OregonLive.com.

The coach can’t correct things because if he does, he’s afraid things will spiral out of control. That’s one of the worst signs you can find for a team. It’s one thing fro some of the players to have problems, another for the coach to be unable to rein it in lest the whole thing spiral out of control. He’s basically powerless in that situation. McMillan is likely fired. The Blazers, who looked so good just a few weeks ago, look so lost, and the organization seems to be on the verge of major roster and organizational change.

Such a good start that’s gone so terribly, terribly wrong.

The scavengers are going to come calling. Wesley Matthews. Jamal Crawford. Raymond Felton, to a degree. Gerald Wallace. The whole roster outside of LaMarcus Aldridge and, inexplicably, Nicolas Batum (who is a great player but could probably return a yield greater than his actual value at this point due to trade value perception) is essentially going to be up for grabs for the right deal. Chad Buchanan wasn’t really hired, he was placed in the position, the Blazers’ third GM in as many years. He’ll have to see if he can improve the team, stabilize things, or detonate the whole operation if so ordered.

Hang on, Blazers fans. It may get worse before it gets better.

Rumor: Ime Udoka frontrunner to become Bulls new coach

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Jim Boylen is the coach of the Chicago Bulls. It’s still his job and he has the backing of the owner and old-guard part of the organization.

That is very likely not enough to keep him in the job much longer, especially with the Bulls now officially not among the 22 teams headed to Orlando to restart the NBA season. Most around the league expect it’s just a matter of time until Boylen is let go (he has a .317 winning percentage across two seasons), with the new management team led by Arturas Karnisovas expected to bring in their own guy. When Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley met with players, a few key ones ripped Boylen to management, a sign of the discord Karnisovas is trying to change within the organization.

Former player and current 76ers assistant coach Ime Udoka may be the frontrunner, reports Jay Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Sources have told the Sun-Times that 76ers assistant Ime Udoka is the front-runner to become the Bulls’ new coach, with Raptors assistant — and former Bulls assistant — Adrian Griffin also in the picture.

Udoka had a seven-year NBA playing career, plus he played in Spain, then after his playing days became an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Last offseason he jumped to the bench of the Philadelphia 76ers under Brett Brown (who came out of the Spurs coaching tree). Boylen is also a member of the Popovich coaching tree.

Teams not invited to Orlando are looking at conducting “mini-camp” style workouts and maybe having scrimmages/exhibitions against each other in August, so their players don’t go from March to December without playing in games. While the Bulls are not on a tight timeline to make a coaching decision, if they are bringing in someone new they would want that person in place before that summer training camp.

 

Kevin Durant confirms “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all.”

Nets star Kevin Durant
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The betting odds on the seven seed Brooklyn Nets to win the NBA title dropped to 60-1, even with the Thunder and better than the Trail Blazers and others, all because some fans thought maybe Kevin Durant would return. That despite report after report that it was not happening.

Now Durant himself has shot down the idea, speaking to Mark Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN.

“It’s just best for me to wait,” Durant said. “I don’t think I’m ready to play that type of intensity right now in the next month. It gives me more time to get ready for next season and the rest of my career.

“My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last summer when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.”

His Nets teammate Kyrie Irving will not play in Orlando, either. Irving had shoulder surgery back in March and is still recovering from that.

Durant added in the interview he has fully recovered from COVID-19 after testing positive for the coronavirus back in March not long after the season was shut down.

Next season the Nets will enter as one of the favorites in the East. For the restart this season, however, they will be the seven seed in the East with a tough first-round matchup against Toronto, or maybe Boston.

 

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum commends Jody Allen for no vote

Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum
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The Trail Blazers, owned by Jody Allen, cast the lone dissenting vote on the NBA’s plan to resume with 22 teams.

Why?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Portland guard CJ McCollum:

Damian Lillard expressed his concern: He wanted the Trail Blazers to have a real chance at making the playoffs. They got that.

Wojnarowski mentioned how lottery odds are calculated – relevant only if Portland misses the postseason and something current players tend not to dwell on.

This feels incongruous.

Was safety a concern? The risk of coronavirus is higher with 22 teams than 20. However, it’s higher with 20 teams than 16.

The Trail Blazers are 17th in the league. And nobody publicly mentioned health. Having just 20 teams – especially with a group stage – would’ve given Portland an easier path into the top 16. (It’s unclear how many teams would’ve made the playoffs with a group stage).

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted everyone to unite behind this plan. Even other owners who disagreed with the plan voted for it. But with the Trail Blazers’ no vote, Allen engendered greater support from her players. If nothing else, that has value.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
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The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.

Frank Isola of The Athletic:

The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.

So, something must give.

It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.

More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.

It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).

Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.