Tag:Portland Trail Blazers
Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 9:40 pm

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Posted by Ben Golliver

PORTLAND, Ore – For the second time in less than twelve months, the Portland Trail Blazers have parted ways with a respected general manager. On the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, word surfaced that the team had agreed to part ways with former General Manager Kevin Pritchard. On Monday, the team announced that it was doing the same with his successor – Rich Cho – roughly one month before the 2011 NBA Draft.

Cho, known for his salary cap acumen and analytical approach, made two moves of substance during his tenure, trading away guard Jerryd Bayless and trading for forward Gerald Wallace. He had meticulously planned his draft war room structure for months, turning a conference room into a think tank with flat screen televisions and white boards adorning all the walls.

He never got a chance to use it.

“I think the big issue was chemistry between him and the owner,” Blazers president Larry Miller told CBSSports.com. “They were just never able to click. Rich is a smart guy, a really nice guy, brings some talents to the table but I think if the chemistry isn’t right, it’s hard for it to work.”

Portland’s owner, of course, is billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In his memoir, Idea Man, released a little more than one month ago, Allen writes: “After replacing Kevin Pritchard (who struggled in the managerial parts of his job) with Rich Cho, we believe that we've found a leadership team that can get us back to the Finals."

And, then, Monday’s abrupt news.

“There wasn’t an incident,” Miller maintained. “I think we learned from last year, that sometimes it’s better when you know something, to move sooner than later. If we know this is not going to work, let’s not drag it out. Let’s not put it off, let’s just go ahead and move on it now.”

Cho declined interview requests, but did release a statement through the team's public relations department. "Obviously it's a difficult day, but I want to truly thank Paul Allen and Larry Miller for the opportunity they gave me here in Portland," Cho said. "I also want to thank the fans, players, coaches, business office staff and especially my basketball operations staff who have supported me along the way. I feel good about the work we've done here and I know the Trail Blazers are headed in the right direction."

Asked for Cho's reaction to the news, Miller said simply: "Rich was shocked."

While Cho kept a very low profile in Portland, rarely making public statements, at least two rifts emerged during his tenure. First, an apparent disagreement in how to handle guard Brandon Roy, who made critical comments about his playing time and role both during the season and during the playoffs. Second, a difference in public strategy in terms of handling injured center Greg Oden. While Miller said publicly that the team would likely extend Oden a qualifying offer this summer shortly after he underwent microfracture surgery, Cho remained tight-lipped, not offering a public statement until weeks later.

Miller said Monday that neither issue figured into the decision to part ways with Cho.

“I don’t know whether there were philosophical issues,” Miller said. “The whole deal about Brandon … that really didn’t play into this decision. That was something that was talked about with Rich about how we should handle that around Brandon. We kind of agreed that the best thing was for Rich to talk to him and let him know if something happened again, there would be a suspension. That was the extent of that. It wasn’t like there was any issue around that.”

As for Oden’s future, Miller said the management team was and is in lockstep. “I think we were on the same page, although I may have expressed it one way and Rich may have expressed it another way. From an organization perspective we were on the same page. If Greg does the things that we need him to do or that we expect him to do, then we are going to issue a qualifying offer to him. Rich may have just said the same thing differently than the way I said it. The reality is, even up to Mr. Allen, we’re on the same page.”

That timing of the firing and the quickness with which it came left many Blazers fans scratching their heads and others outraged at organizational incompetence. Indeed, Miller’s explanation about a chemistry rift is a 180 degree turn from previous statements. The team had publicly vouched for Cho’s ability to hit it off with Allen during his job interview and officials had regularly spoken about the new management group’s relationship together.

Miller acknowledged those concerns but chalked it up to a casualty of doing business. “I can understand how fans and people would say, ‘But you guys said this was the right guy.’ The reality is we thought this was the right guy or we wouldn’t have hired him. The fit is just not right. I’ve seen this in other business situations where I’ve worked before. You’ve hired someone at a senior level and you think that the skillset and they’re smart people, they have all the right tools to come in and do a job. Then, you hire them at some point into it you realize that they’re not the right person for that job. The difference is that this is a public situation but to me it’s not unusual. This does happen from time to time.”

The Blazers have no timetable for replacing Cho, and Miller noted that it’s “possible” the team enters training camp in the fall without naming a full-time replacement. In the meantime, the team’s Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan will serve as Interim GM. “I think we feel comfortable with Chad and the rest of the team out there as far as going into the draft is concerned.”

Buchanan, who has worked for the Blazers for seven years, leap-frogs over Cho’s two hand-picked assistant GMs: Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry. Miller says both men will remain with the team and are still under contract.

“Chad has been around here,” Miller said. “Even though their titles were different, their responsibilities were not that different. They all reported into Rich at the same level. The reporting structure was the same, it was just a difference in title. I wouldn’t say he’s jumping over them.”

Still, the situation is as bad as it looks. A team beset by injuries on the court and drama off of it.

Miller defended his owner from charges of irascibility. “Mr. Allen is determined to get this right. He’s determined to try to build a championship team here. Determined to make sure this team is going to be the best it can possibly be.”

Miller also brushed aside the notion that he’s serving as the de facto GM. “I do have some things I can bring to the table to help with some of those decision but the decisions are going to be driven by the basketball operations staff. I’ll be there to help and assist those guys in any way that I can.”

Whether or not Miller is correct that the team learned from its mistakes, it’s clear the organization’s leadership doesn’t want to be here again.

“We’re going to make sure we take our time and do it right this time,” Miller said.” I don’t want to go through another summer like this.”

Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 4:45 pm

Rich Cho pushed for suspension of Brandon Roy

Posted by Royce Young

Two days ago, the seemingly minor story about the Blazers front office pushing for a suspension of Brandon Roy wasn't nearly as interesting. Because two days ago, Rich Cho was still the general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Via The Oregonian, Cho wanted to suspend Roy for public comments he made about playing time. Roy said after a game he played only eight minutes, "There was a point in the first half, and I was thinking 'You better not cry.' I mean, serious. I mean, there was a moment where I felt really sorry for myself. Then I was like, nah, you can't be sorry for yourself. I'm a grown man, but there was a moment there that I felt sorry for myself. Especially when I think I can still help."

The comments look harmless enough to me. But Cho didn't take them that way. Cho wanted to suspend Roy. Earlier in the season Cho had warned the outspoken Roy about making his case for more time through the media after he indicated he and teammate Andre Miller couldn't co-exist.

Cho must've seen these comments as the last straw. After discussions with Nate McMillan and owner Paul Allen, the decision was that Roy would apologize for his comments to the team. Which he did.

Roy responded by scoring 16 points in Game 3 and then 18 points in an all-time Game 4 which featured a crazy 23-point comeback from Portland. While Cho wanted to send a message I guess, Roy had a huge hand in extending the series to six games.

Here's the interesting part of the story though, especially because again, this is two days before Cho and the Blazers parted ways.
Pushing for a suspension was a bold play by Cho. Especially given that the last general manager, Kevin Pritchard, lost his job for thinking on his own. And even though I stone-cold disagree with the idea of suspending Roy for telling the world how he felt, I appreciate that Cho is trying to assert himself in a place that mostly deters it.

The well-placed source said Cho was talked off his initial position by McMillan and owner Paul Allen, who were in agreement that a suspension was neither warranted, nor a welcome distraction for a team down 0-2 to the Mavericks.

Being outranked by Allen is one thing. But the larger issue is whether the need for Allen to step in, and Roy’s subsequent performance, spells trouble for Cho in the big bossman’s eyes moving forward.
It's speculation, but the coincidence is hard to ignore. Cho might not have been doomed when he pushed for a suspension, but with the controlling manner the Blazers ownership runs things, I'm sure it didn't help.
Posted on: May 23, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 6:31 am

Blazers part ways with GM Rich Cho

Blazers part ways with GM Rich Cho, college scouting director Chad Buchanan named acting GM in stunning move. 

Posted by EOB Staff

The Portland Trail Blazers announced today that they have parted ways with GM Rich Cho. Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan has been named acting General Manager. Here's the Blazers' announcement: 

The Portland Trail Blazers announced today that they have parted ways with Rich Cho , the team's general manager of basketball operations.

"The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn't right," said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. "This was a tough move because I respect Rich and he's a good person with many strong skills. But it simply wasn't a good match."

Trail Blazers Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan will serve as acting general manager. Buchanan has been with the team for four years. Buchanan and Head Coach Nate McMillan will report to Miller until a permanent replacement is hired.

Trail Blazers Owner Paul G. Allen said the move is part of the franchise's commitment to building a championship contending team. "This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven't worked out," Allen said. "We're going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important." 

Cho of course was hired after popular and highly regarded GM Kevin Pritchard was fired after last year's draft. Now, with a month to go before this year's draft, the Blazers have once again changed directions. The Blazers made the playoffs both seasons despite dealing with significant injury issues but were eliminated in the first round each time. The instability is stunning for a franchise that seemed headed for certain prosperity and championship contention. as recently as 2008.

Reactions (Updating): 
  • Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix reports rival executives believed team president Larry Miller was the key decision maker, not Cho. 
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus notes the Blazers passed over two assistant GMs Cho hired. This looks like a clean sweep.
  • Interestingly, the Oregonian reported two days ago that Cho "pushed" to suspend Brandon Roy over his comments about playing time during the playoffs. The move was blocked by upper management, and two days after that report surfaced, Cho and the Blazers parted ways.

More on this story soon from CBSSports.com.
Posted on: May 17, 2011 5:49 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 5:53 pm

Coach McMillan: Blazers need backcourt shake up

Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan says his team has a lot of questions to address, starting with the backcourt. Posted by Ben Golliver. nate-mcmillan

The Portland Trail Blazers were bounced out of the NBA playoffs in the first round for the third year in a row, and coach Nate McMillan sounds like he is ready for something to change. Scratch that, a lot of things.

In an interview with Blazers Courtside on Monday night, McMillan said that his team has "a lot of questions that we have to answer" this offseason. His top priority? A backcourt shake-up.
"The first thing is to balance the roster. The combination of the twos that we have -- with Wesley [Matthews], Rudy [Fernandez] and Brandon [Roy] -- that combination is just... really... there's no way we can play the three of those guys.

"Our backup point guard, our guard position. I played Brandon at that spot most of the second half of the season. We've got to look at the point guard position."
McMillan also said that oft-injured center Greg Oden remains a question mark. "When will he be ready to go next season?" He wondered aloud.

His comment about the two guard spot is perhaps the most intriguing for two reasons. First, because Matthews was just signed to a five-year contract last summer and is the type of intense, two-way player that McMillan loves. He's also been mentioned as part of the team's core going forward. Second, because Roy is essentially untradeable because of the deteriorating condition of his knees.

Obviously, that leaves Fernandez as the odd man out. Fernandez is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal next season, set to make $2.2 million. While a fan favorite, Fernandez has been plagued by inconsistency and was virtually invisible in the playoffs, averaging just 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in the first round series against the Dallas Mavericks. Could Fernandez be headed out of Portland?

Whether it's Fernandez or someone else, McMillan noted that change could come as soon as draft night. "All of those things we will have to look at here before the draft and ... if it is possible to make some moves to improve the team, we've certainly got to do that."
Posted on: May 5, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 2:34 pm

Agent: Greg Oden will be back, can't fear injury

Mike Conley, agent for Greg Oden, says the center needs to get healthy so he can play without fear of injury. Posted by Ben Golliver. greg-oden-knee

Oft-injured Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and the City of Roses is abuzz about how much money Portland will have to shell out to retain his services in the likely event that he chooses to decline a one-year qualifying offer to test the free agent market.

Mike Conley, Oden's agent, told the Indianapolis Star that he expects interest to be high in his client and that he expects Oden to make a return to the court next season.
"I know that he'll play next year, and as long as he keeps his weight down, he'll get back to being the Greg we knew, being able to run and jump and everything. The thing is keeping him healthy and give him the confidence to play without being scared."
"I think there will be offer sheets on him and he'll have an opportunity to earn more at Portland, or if Portland doesn't want to match it, he can play somewhere else. I know there will be some teams interested," Conley said.
Oden did not appear in a game during the 2010-2011 NBA season as he was rehabilitating from knee surgery before suffering another injury that forced him to undergo microfracture surgery during the season. He's played in 82 games combined in four seasons and Blazers GM Rich Cho says the center is still "a way's away" from returning to basketball activities.

With veteran Marcus Camby the only real starting-quality option at center, the Blazers need a return to form from Oden in the worst way. That his agent openly admits the mental battle will follow Oden even after he returns to the court goes to show how long of a climb the center still has in front of him. 

The good news is that he will be getting paid either way this summer. If there are no offer sheets with enough guaranteed money for his liking, he can always return on a one-year qualifying offer, which would pay him $8.8 million and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2012. Life could be worse for Oden, even if it probably doesn't feel that way after being away from the court for so long.
Posted on: May 3, 2011 6:19 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 6:29 pm

Nuggets big man Nene to opt out?

Denver Nuggets center Nene Hilario says he is considering opting out of his contract. Posted by Ben Golliver. nene-hilario

It's time for Nene Hilario to get paid. 

The Nuggets big man has an option on the final year of his contract which is set to pay him $12 million. He's 28 years old, coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 14.5 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. What's more, he's been durable of late, missing just 12 games combined in the last three seasons. 

To no one's great surprise, The Denver Post reports that Nene is making noise about opting out of the final year of his contract.
While no final decision has been made, Nene said Monday he is strongly considering opting out of the final season of his six-year, $60 million contract, which would pay him $12 million, and testing the free-agent market. 
After nine seasons in the NBA, Nene has full control of his future and it could take hard work for the Nuggets to make him happy enough to return.
"I've been here for nine years," said Nene, 28. "If that doesn't work how you want it, you need to sit down and evaluate everything and see what you can do."
The most likely eventuality here is that the Nuggets and Nene eventually agree to a lucrative extension. Nene is a critical piece on a frontline that includes veterans Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen as well as the recently-acquired Timofey Mozgov. Nene is the linchpin and the Nuggets would be taking a major step backwards if they aren't able to retain him.

SI.com reports: "Nuggets and Nene are not close to an agreement on an extension, sources say. Haven't discussed terms in weeks. Nene is inclined to stay in Denver. But there will be a robust market for 28-year old center. Houston, Portland possibilities." It's worth noting that Portland is capped out so that would have to be an extend-and-trade scenario.

The Nuggets are behind the eight ball here and will be forced to pay up. But if Nene is determined to get maximum money there will be multiple teams with cap space this summer and talented, proven big men are always in high demand. In other words: ca-ching.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 5:12 am

Grading the series: Mavericks top Blazers in 6

Grades for the key players in the first round NBA playoff series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks. Posted by Ben Golliver.

The Dallas Mavericks finished off the Portland Trail Blazers 103-96 in Game 6 in Portland's Rose Garden. Here are grades for both the Mavericks and Blazers.


Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas' All-Star forward didn't shoot all that well from the field, but Portland still never found an answer for him. Why? Because he lived on the free throw line, particularly late in games, averaging 10.5 free throw attempts over the six games. All those freebies bolstered his scoring number: a dominant 27.3 points per game in a slow-down series. He was the clear winner of his match-up with LaMarcus Aldridge and he was huge in Dallas' fourth quarter close out on the road in Game 6. He will need to shoot better from the field for the Mavericks to upset the Lakers, but he was money when it mattered in round one.

Grade: A-

Jason Terry: Like Nowitzki, there's room for improvement for guard Jason Terry, who started slowly in the series as guard Jason Kidd and wing Peja Stojakovic both handled the early secondary scoring burden for the Mavericks. But, also like Nowitzki, Terry was big when it mattered most, finishing with 22 points in Game 6, including a number of huge shots, and playing excellent defense as well. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle singled him out for praise for the job he did containing and pressuring Brandon Roy, who was a virtual non-factor in the deciding game after carrying Portland to its two victories in the series. Terry knows he will need to get off to better starts against the Lakers but he sounded amped for the next round to begin.

Grade: B+

Rick Carlisle: His team was favored heading into the series so Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle isn't likely to be showered in praise. He should be, though, as his team made all the necessary adjustments as this series unfolded. The Mavericks eliminated easys buckets for LaMarcus Aldridge, forced the Blazers to hit three-pointers, limited their turnovers and remembered to run their offense late. He threw wrinkles at the Blazers by mixing up his defensive assignments and was able to get production from his bench even though J.J. Barea had a forgettable series and Terry was a bit up and down. Most of all, he kept things together after a giant momentum swing following Portland's dramatic come-from-behind Game 4 win. A much bigger test awaits in Los Angeles, but he aced this one.

Grade: A

Overall grade: The Mavericks could very easily have won both of the games they lost and they were dominant at times during all four of their wins. The Rose Garden is a tough environment to steal a road win, though, and the third time was the charm. Their offensive balance and efficiency were excellent throughout and they exceeded expectations defensively and on the boards. They did it all against an inferior opponent, though, so there's a chance the ease of victory was simply fool's good. They won't have the luxury of letting wins slip through their fingers against Los Angeles.

Grade: B+


LaMarcus Aldridge: Portland's emerging leader and All-Star candidate played well and extremely consistently, but he was unable to dominate after strong showings in Games 1 and 2. Part of that was systemic: the Blazers turned to Brandon Roy more heavily, which tends to reduce Aldridge's touches and opportunities. But part of it was also Dallas' defense, which took away his lob plays, banged him up a little bit and succeeded in turning him into a jump shooter at times. The Blazers needed an over-the-top performance from Aldridge to overcome their lack of depth and poor outside shooting. He wasn't able to deliver. That fact shouldn't mar what was an excellent season for Aldridge but it will linger on his resume until he delivers a playoff series win.

Grade: B

Brandon Roy: It was a season to forget for Brandon Roy, who underwent dual knee surgeries and missed nearly half the year. Roy played better in the playoffs than he did down the stretch, rediscovering his clutch game and shot-making abilities in both Games 3 and 4. His fourth quarter in Game 4 will remain the stuff of legend for years in Portland. Over the course of the series, though, his limitations stuck out. His three-point shooting (38.6%) was abysmal, his struggles to play team defense remain a major liability and he wasn't able to get to the free throw line with any regularity. His 9.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists made him Portland's best bench player, but the Blazers needed him to step up as a true No. 2 option given Gerald Wallace's struggles. He wasn't able to do that, but it's understandable given the circumstances.

Grade: B

Rudy Fernandez: At the top of the blame game chart in Portland will be reserve guard Rudy Fernandez, who has cultivated a reputation for being soft and coming up small in big moments for years now. Fernandez was a total non-factor in the series, averaging just 2.8 points in 13.5 minutes and struggling to stay in McMillan's playoff rotation after playing 23.3 minutes per game during the regular season. Fernandez shot the ball without confidence and it showed in the numbers: 22.2% from the field, 30.0% from deep. He wasn't able to make plays with his passing or his defense, either. Blazers coach Nate McMillan singled him out for praise for his ability to handle Barea, but it seemed like he was just trying to be nice and/or build Fernandez's confidence. This series was a mess for Fernandez and it leaves his future in Portland very much in question.

Grade: D

Overall Grade: The Blazers desperately wanted to take a step forward in the playoffs this year and committed big money to Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace to make that happen. Instead, they go home at the same spot they did last season, losing a Game 6 at home in the first round. Portland showed heart and competitiveness at times during the series but their execution on both ends of the court was lacking for huge stretches. GM Rich Cho has a lot of decisions to make this offseason. Unless the Blazers get Greg Oden back healthy or Roy makes a meaningful recovery of skill, it's difficult to see this core group advancing further in next year's postseason.

Grade: C
Posted on: April 28, 2011 8:52 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 5:44 pm

Playoff Fix: Blazers-Mavericks Game 6

The Dallas Mavericks have their first chance to close out the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday during Game 6. Posted by Ben Golliver.

One Big Thing: The Dallas Mavericks, up 3-2 over the Blazers in the series, look to be in full command. The last time we said that, though, Brandon Roy turned everything upside down by exploding for a miraculous fourth quarter in Game 4. Portland doesn't necessarily need another miracle, some consistent scoring from the backcourt would do just fine. Dallas, meanwhile, has been efficient offensively this series, even if it hasn't led to huge point totals, but it must find a way to get to the free throw line on the road. Their Game 3 effort (23 attempts) was much better than Game 4 (10 attempts). DallasNews.com notes that the Mavericks are 1-9 in Game 6s and 0-5 on the road. Continuing to contain Portland's backcourt while also getting to the free throw line is a solid formula for putting a dent in those numbers.

The X-Factor: The Blazers' offense has been anemic all series, cracking 90 points just once in five tries and shooting 25% or less from three-point land three times in the five games. The long ball, and the offensive balance it provides, is key: Portland's offense produced 97 points and looked best when guard Wesley Matthews caught fire early in Game 3. Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge is seeing increasing amounts of attention inside -- with his scoring production dipping every game so far -- and someone must step up to stretch the defense or it will be another long night. The candidates: Matthews, Roy, guard Rudy Fernandez and forward Nicolas Batum.

The Adjustment: The Mavericks haven't received enough praise for their ability to make the necessary defensive adjustments in this series. They've mostly shut down Portland's famous lob plays to Aldridge. They've crowded and frustrated Roy into a 2-7 shooting night in Game 5 following his Game 4 explosion. They've succeeded in containing Gerald Wallace throughout the series, more or less. The final necessary adjustment isn't about Xs and Os, it's more mental: they need to seal the deal on the road. To do that, the Mavericks need to protect the ball. Portland is now 9-0 in its last nine home games against Western Conference playoff opponents, winning the turnover differential battle by an average of 6.4 in those games. That's an astounding number, and it speaks to the Rose Garden's ability to rattle opponents and Portland's ability to step up its defense at home. Dallas was -7 in Game 3 and -4 in Game 4 on turnovers. They'll need to cut down on some of the sloppy, unforced errors if they way to erase the Blazers' dominant homecourt advantage.

The Sticking Point: We're just five games into the playoffs but Portland has already done its fair share of public complaining. Coach Nate McMillan questioned the officiating after Game 1. Aldridge has made mention of his fatigue multiple times. Matthews and guard Patty Mills took exception to a hard screen by Brian Cardinal during garbage time in Game 4. Aside from Roy's rally, the Blazers have appeared to be a very disjointed bunch on the court, and the talk off the court has given off the impression that perhaps they've bitten off more than they can chew mentally. Dallas, meanwhile, withstood the emotional Roy rollercoaster to dominate at home in Game 5. Portland has banded together multiple times this season -- in the wake of injuries to Roy and center Greg Oden, some early season road struggles, after the midseason trade for Gerald Wallace -- and they'll need to do it one more time if they hope to stave off elimination.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com