Recapping a crazy day in Portland, where the Blazers began to clean house

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This year’s Portland Trail Blazers campaign, to this point, has gone as badly as possible. Just before the NBA’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, the team began the process of doing something about it.

A flurry of activity went down in Portland today, and much of it set the team up nicely for a complete rebuild beginning with this year’s draft. Here’s a breakdown of the moves that were made.

Gerald Wallace traded to New Jersey

This deal netted the Blazers $10 million off of the salary cap once Mehmet Okur’s deal expires at the end of the season, and a draft pick likely to be in the lottery somewhere, even when you take into account the Nets’ improvement with Wallace aboard. Shawne Williams may or may not still be there next season, but if he is, it’ll only be for that one additional year at around $3 million.

This was strictly a salary cap dump, and an excellent one at that. When you add in the first round draft pick, this might have been Portland’s best move of the day.

Marcus Camby traded to Houston

The Blazers got rid of one of their problem personalities, sending Marcus Camby to the Rockets in exchange for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, and a second round draft pick.

Camby’s contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, so dealing him for two draft busts whose contracts also expire is a wash. Also, taking back garbage in terms of talent for someone like Camby who can actually play is the true definition of tanking, and with Portland entering rebuilding mode, it makes sense to try to lose as much as possible the rest of the way to secure the highest draft position.

In the past week, Camby was seemingly trying to flagrant-foul his way out of town — first, by trying to start a fight with Kevin Seraphin of the Wizards for no good reason, and then, by attempting to murder Landry Fields of the Knicks on Wednesday, with his team trailing by 30 points at the time. Not exactly a classy way to go out, but Camby has been around a long time, and probably deserved better than to spend the twilight of his career dealing with this disaster.

A fine move from the Blazers’ standpoint to rid themselves of a clearly disgruntled veteran, and an extremely nice addition for the Rockets.

Nate McMillan fired as head coach

We all saw this coming; it was just a matter of “when.”

McMillan lost his team at some point during the course of the season, and it ultimately cost him his job. When you clash with your starting point guard as he did with Raymond Felton, and then lose by 42 points on national television to a team as dysfunctional as the New York Knicks, it’s safe to say the party is over.

McMillan is a good coach and will eventually get another shot. In the meantime, the Blazers gave 34-year-old assistant coach Kaleb Canales the interim head-coaching tag, with his first turn in the big chair coming at an extremely challenging time. Then again, when the preferred course of action is losing the majority of the remaining games on the schedule, he’s got it better than most.

Greg Oden is waived. Finally.

This move should have been made a long time ago, but the volume of players added through today’s trade finally made it a necessity.

It was clear long ago that Oden was never going to live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders when he was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft; it certainly didn’t help that the number two pick that year was Kevin Durant. But through no fault of his own, Oden suffered multiple injuries that required surgeries which take months, or even years to properly heal from.

Oden did actually play at an above average level at times when healthy, and even showed flashes of being something special. But he was never going to be at Durant’s level, and when the injuries continued to stack up, Portland should have cut ties with him and moved on long before today.

The sum of Portland’s moves earned them an A-grade on our deadline-day report card, and it’s a beginning for a franchise that finds itself in need of starting over. Whether or not the moves they make in hiring a new coach, and using the cap space and draft picks that were acquired today will rate as high, well — that remains to be seen.

Sacramento Kings turning former arena into coronavirus surge hospital

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If you’re old enough, you might remember Arco Arena as the home of the Sacramento Kings when they were a playoff team. Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojaković, and company pushed the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to seven games in 2002 and won huge playoff games in the arena. Arco was where Jason Williams was dropping dimes without looking, and arena which later became known as the Sleep Train Arena, Power Balance Pavilion, and eventually the current Natomas Arena.

Now, it’s about to be a coronavirus surge hospital.

The Kings are making the arena available and it will house about 360 beds, the team announced on Friday. The team also is donating $250,000 to support area community organizations providing services to families in need in the area, plus donating 100,000 medical masks to state and local health agencies.

“On behalf of the entire Kings family, our hearts are with all who have been affected by this pandemic,” said Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé in a statement. “California always leads the nation and the world, and we applaud Governor [Gavin] Newsom’s strong and decisive leadership to keep Californians healthy and safe during this crisis…

“Our community has always come first, and that is more important now than ever,” Ranadivé continued. “The Kings are proud to help by providing additional space to accommodate a predicted surge in patients. We are also donating masks to help keep people healthy, and critical resources to area organizations that are addressing food insecurity and other issues as a result of the coronavirus. I have always been in awe of the resilience and ingenuity of the American people and firmly believe that together, we will defeat this invisible enemy.”

The Kings moved to the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento in 2015 and since then their former home and practice arena has mostly sat vacant. The Kings’ G-League team practices there at times, but like the rest of basketball they find their season suspended.

Hopefully, this arena helps save some lives in the California capital. That would be the most important thing ever to happen in the building.

WNBA postpones season

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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban backed off his belief that the NBA could resume in May.

It’s just already clear, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it’ll be unsafe to hold professional basketball games that soon.

WNBA release:

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert released the following statement:

“As developments continue to emerge around the COVID-19 pandemic, including the extension of the social distancing guidelines in the United States through April 30, the WNBA will postpone the start of its training camps and tip of the regular season originally scheduled for May 15.  While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees.

Many top female players – including Los Angeles Sparks guard Sydney Wiese, who tested positive for coronavirus – play overseas during the WNBA offseason. That frequency of travel makes it even riskier for WNBA teams to gather any time soon.

The WNBA will still hold its draft April 17, conducting proceedings virtually. That could provide lessons to the NBA as it determines how to handle its draft.

Joel Embiid, 76ers owners pledging $1.3M for fighting coronavirus

76ers owner Josh Harris and Joel Embiid
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Joel Embiid just showed up 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer by pledging to pay team employees who were set to have their pay cut. Amid widespread backlash, the 76ers backtracked on their salary-reduction plan.

Now – with a portion of Embiid’s coronavirus-related donation unallocated and Harris and Blitzer looking to change the narrative around them – those three are working together.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid, Sixers managing partner Josh Harris and co-managing partner David Blitzer are contributing a combined $1.3 million to Penn Medicine, establishing a funding campaign for COVID-19 antibody testing of frontline healthcare workers.

According to a Penn Medicine press release, “The pledge from Embiid, Harris and Blitzer will provide a much-needed boost for efforts to quickly identify health care workers who may have immunity to the new virus.”

This is great.

Some Utah Jazz employees laid off as part of cutback across owner’s businesses

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The Philadephia 76ers came in early, trying to force 20 percent cutbacks in salaries across the franchise’s staff. That lasted less than 24 hours before the backlash hit, the net worth of the team’s primary owner, Joshua Harris, was trending on Twitter, and the decision was reversed.

That stopped other owners from making a similar move or laying employees off for a while, but not long after the top 100 earners at the NBA League office — including Commissioner Adam Silver — were given a 20 percent pay reduction. The worsening economic crisis caused by the coronavirus shutdown of the United States is pushing NBA owners to act.

On Friday, the Utah Jazz — owned by the Larry H. Miller Group, which in total has more 80 different companies under its umbrella — sent this message to Adrian Wojnarowski ESPN:

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the (Miller Group) …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

Reports out of Utah say these are layoffs that hit a lot of people and could be permanent.

It’s not fair, but little is fair right now. As noted, this is not just a layoff of some Jazz employees but also people at other businesses across the Larry H. Miller company.

Expect other NBA owners to follow suit soon, too. Not all, but some. Like owners of businesses of all sizes, they have been both hit hard in the short term and see a looming recession beyond the coronavirus. They will be looking to save money.