While interim guy plans draft strategy, Blazers reopen GM search

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What Portland did at the trade deadline was start to wipe the slate clean… or mostly clean. There are guys you want to keep on the roster — LeMarcus Aldridge, to be obvious — and guys that still need to be moved (Raymond Felton). But Portland now has a lot of picks and some cap space to maneuver, to start to reshape the roster. It’s something they want to do fast, not build slowly.

Portland has a chance to pick its new direction and build toward it. Of course, that begs the questions what direction? And who is doing the choosing?

Right now acting general manager Chad Buchanan is making the choices, but ownership has said he is not the guy long term. They still need to find that guy. More than 10 months after letting go of former GM Rich Cho, the Blazers are starting their GM search up again, reports the Oregonian.

Team president Larry Miller said the team has reopened its search for a general manager. Go ahead, get your jokes in. What’s the rush, right? It’s only been 308 days since Rich Cho was fired.

Oregonian Blazers beat writer Jason Quick thinks they have their eye on Steve Kerr, the former Suns front office guy who now is back to broadcasting on TNT.

Whoever it is, Portland needs to find a coach and a GM that are on the same page and building toward the same style of play. Whatever that style may be. Just pick one and then get players to fit it, do not just assemble random talent.

While ownership takes its time picking a long-term GM, the short term one is the guy buying the groceries. And Buchanan told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com (via IamaGM.com) that he is willing to trade those picks get good players who can help now.

“That’s definitely something that would be appealing for us,” said Chad Buchanan, the acting general manager. “A big part of acquiring that pick (first rounder this year from the Nets), we realize that there’ll be value not only to us in the draft but also to other teams where you might be able to flip that high pick into a proven player that is ready to help your team now.

“At the end of the day, if it’s two lottery picks in a pretty strong draft, we’re OK adding that to our team and trying to add the proven veterans through free agency. We like to have the flexibility to do either.

“We’re open to moving one of those picks for a proven player. But we also like a lot of the players that could potentially be in that draft range. We feel like it’s kind of a win-win for us.”

So to sum up, Portland has a lot of flexibility and draft picks and are likely to do just about anything with all of it. Also, they are starting to look for a captain to steer the ship in whatever direction is eventually chosen. Oh, and they need a coach for next year, too.

It’s going to be an interesting off-season in the Northwest.

Dallas who? Yogi Ferrell reportedly quickly agrees to new contract with Sacramento

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Yogi Ferrell has been a solid backup point guard for the Mavericks the past couple of years, and this summer he wanted to re-sign with them — but he did so on a bad contract for him. He didn’t take the one-year qualifying offer for $2.9 million on the table, instead agreeing to a $2.5 million contract with a team option for $2.7 million the next year — he took less money and gave Dallas all the power.

Ferrell backed out of that deal — not a good look, even if it was the right move for him.

Quickly, he found a better one with the Sacramento Kings, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

That’s more money, but we do not yet know if the second year is fully guaranteed.

In Sacramento, Ferrell will come off the bench behind De'Aaron Fox at the point, and he should get plenty of run. Guys like Buddy Hield will love playing with him, and Ferrell is not big, but he is durable (he played all 82 games last season in Dallas).

This is a solid signing by the Kings, and for Ferrell it appears to be a better deal.

Dallas has had more than one player back out of a deal with them. It’s unlucky.

New 76ers big Mike Muscala in February: I don’t like the 76ers because they, especially Joel Embiid, talk a lot of trash

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The 76ers are trading for the Hawks’ Mike Muscala, which makes sense on multiple levels.

1. Philadelphia wanted a stretch four after Nemanja Bjelica backed out of his deal.

2. Muscala, on an expiring contract, carries no long-term drawbacks.

3. Because Muscala can also play center, that allowed the 76ers to dump Richaun Holmes and clear a roster spot for Jonah Bolden.

But Muscala might have to answer for these February comments about Philadelphia and Joel Embiid.

Muscala on the Road Trippin’ podcast (hat tip: Jeff McMenamin):

I don’t like the Sixers.

I just don’t like them. I just feel like they talk a lot of s—, especially Embiid.

I understand there’s going to be some trash-talking. But I just feel like – I don’t know. Sometimes, I just – I respect players that just let their play do the talking. And I think sometimes, it just gets excessive, especially with Embiid.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the league. I think it’s entertaining, and I think people can feed off of that. In a weird way, I respect him for being to do that, because it takes a lot of guts and confidence, at the same time.

This is a deal, but it’s not necessarily a big deal. The NBA has a long history of players clashing as opponents then meshing as teammates.

The biggest difference here is Muscala’s comments were public.

Sometimes, it takes a conversation to clear the air. Occasionally, the grudge lingers. But usually, this is just dismissed as just the byproduct of competition and moved past.

I doubt Embiid – who, for what it’s worth, is an excessive trash-talker – holds this against Muscala, save maybe a few jokes. I’m even more confident Muscala isn’t joining Philadelphia loudly espousing his anti-trash-talk stance.

Besides, trash-talking is way more fun when on a winner like the 76ers rather than a loser like the Hawks.

Report: After deal with Warriors leaked, opposing players called DeMarcus Cousins about reneging

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DeMarcus Cousins agreeing to sign with the Warriors sent shockwaves through the NBA.

But a few astute players noticed he hadn’t yet put pen to paper.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

As soon as word leaked that Cousins was Bay Area-bound, players around the league began calling him to gauge his mindset, and some even attempted to influence him to change his mind.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum was one of the players who wanted to know what was going on.

“Shout out to my dog CJ,” Cousins said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s funny of course. But me and CJ have that type of relationship where we rap about all that type of stuff. In a way he was congratulating me, but at the same time he was dead serious [about what I was going to do]. But at the end of the day, I think he understood my situation and kind of where my mindset was with the whole situation. That’s my dog for sure.”

To be fair, it’s unclear whether C.J. McCollum encouraged Cousins to sign with the Trail Blazers.

I find this especially interesting as players are lining up to criticize the Raptors for their handling of DeMar DeRozan. Apparently, not all players find verbal agreements binding. Yogi Ferrell and Nemanja Bjelica clearly don’t, and I doubt only those two called Cousins about backing out with the Warriors.

Everyone is trying to get an edge, and people’s boundaries differ. I believe in honesty as a mandate, but I’m perfectly fine with misleading people and hiding behind technicalities in these situations. To some, I go too far. To others, I don’t go far enough. It can get messy when our ethical boundaries don’t neatly align.

Cousins upheld his pledge, maybe because he believes in standing by his word – but at least because he probably still viewed the Warriors as his best option. Which is mostly the point. The easiest way to remain honest in these situations is having a thorough understanding of all relevant factors before promising to sign somewhere.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri apologizes to DeMar DeRozan for ‘maybe a gap of miscommunication’

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DeMar DeRozan has made his stance clear: The Raptors lied to him before trading him to the Spurs for Kawhi Leonard.

Today, Raptors president Masai Ujiri explained himself.

Eric Koreen of The Athletic:

Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

Ujiri should have not have lied to DeRozan. If he did, Ujiri should face immense criticism for it.

But I don’t know whether Ujiri lied and am definitely not assuming he did.

He didn’t necessarily owe it to DeRozan to explain exactly where negotiations with San Antonio stood. If Ujiri said he “didn’t plan to trade” DeRozan and truly meant that but was also trying to trade DeRozan, saying he “didn’t plan to trade” DeRozan wouldn’t have been a lie.

There’s no point in upsetting a player you might keep – as long as it doesn’t require dishonesty. I’m OK with misleading technicalities. That’s on players and agents to decipher.

As Ujiri said, his job is to win. That’s sometimes a messy and upsetting process.

There is some room for kindness, but it’s often at times like this – after the player is traded. I believe Ujiri went out of his way today to praise and try to placate the likable DeRozan. That’s why I don’t take Ujiri’s apology as an admission of wrongdoing. Better just to be nice now.

A couple weeks ago, Ujiri’s role was different. He was trying to negotiate a high-stakes trade, not please a potentially outgoing player.

As long as Ujiri did so honestly, I’m OK with that.