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Tag:Chad Buchanan
Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:51 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 1:42 pm
 

The Greg Oden Era: Disappointment, but no regrets

Posted by Ben Golliver 

After a third microfracture surgery, Blazers center Greg Oden faces a future that is as uncertain as ever. (Getty Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. – There’s plenty of sadness and disappointment, but no self-pity, and, still, absolutely no admissions of regret.

Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden went into an operating room in Vail, CO., on Monday, hoping that his left knee, which had been operated on twice previously in the past 26 months, would need only an arthroscopic procedure to clean up some loose debris

Instead, he emerged from the anesthesia to significantly worse news: the surgeons had decided that the articular damage in Oden’s left knee was so significant that it required the dreaded microfracture procedure. Instead of the medical version of a speed bump, he was now looking at a totaled car. Instead of being able to hold out hope, however slight, for a longshot return to the court this season, his 2011-2012 season was officially over.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the man who will forever be remembered as the player who went before Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant, was back in a familiar place: at the very beginning of a long, arduous rehabilitation process. Oden woke up to the reality of a 12-month recovery timeline from microfracture surgery, a grueling rehabilitation that he had endured twice before, once after a 2007 surgery on his right knee and once after a Nov. 2010 surgery on this same left knee.

This time, though, he has no idea if he will be employed come July 2012, when his one-year contract runs out and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. For the first time since the Blazers selected him in 2007, Oden even faces the prospect of being released outright by a team that has remained endlessly loyal as he’s missed the equivalent of four of his first five seasons in the league. With three microfracture surgeries, a fractured left patella and a February arthroscopic procedure on his right knee now in his past, the chances that he is ever able to step foot on an NBA court have never been smaller.

Despite the five knee surgeries, Oden has banked more than $23 million despite playing just 82 total regular season games and he has outlasted the GM who drafted him, Kevin Pritchard, and the GM who followed Pritchard, Rich Cho. The Blazers have not appointed a full-time replacement for Cho, who was fired last May, but Chad Buchanan, the team’s Director of College Scouting, has been named Acting GM for this season.

Buchanan, then in his mid-30s, was present in the 2007 war room, when the 7-foot center out of Ohio State had just finished leading the Buckeyes to the NCAA title game and promised to help a team that had fortuitously jumped up the lottery ladder to earn the right to choose between him and Durant.

Buchanan, speaking at the team’s practice facility on Monday afternoon, told CBSSports.com that he remembered the phone call declaring the team’s intention to select Oden was being placed to NBA commissioner David Stern, thinking that the team’s braintrust was in the process of acquiring a title-delivering talent.

“I was very excited,” he said. “A chance to draft a player who could potentially get your franchise to your ultimate goal. Looking back on it, we were all excited. We had visions of Greg being a great player for us for years to come.”

As Oden has been sidelined, Durant’s star has soared faster and higher than even his biggest pre-draft proponents expected. Rookie of the Year, 3-time All-Star, 2-time scoring champion, MVP candidate, plus a trip to the 2011 Western Conference Finals and the promise of future postseason success.

But just like his predecessors and Blazers president Larry Miller before him, Buchanan said that he still stands by the team’s selection of Oden over Durant.

“Looking back on it, I would still draft Greg,” he said. “Hindsight, it’s easy to make an assumption [now]… You can’t predict the injuries that would come. Going back on it, I wouldn’t have changed anything in drafting Greg.”

Asked if the decision was unanimous among those in the room, Buchanan politely declined to reply.  

At the time, there wasn't much of a debate across the city: a vast majority supported selecting Oden. “Even Caveman Knows: Pick Oden,” read the headline of one letter to the editor that was published in the June 17, 2007, edition of The Oregonian. “Oden Possesses Championship Aura,” read another.

Blazers fans these days are an emotionally exhausted house divided. Many understand the logic and thought process that went into the pick. But many others responded to Buchanan’s “I would still draft Greg” quote on Monday night by calling for his job. Some can’t get past the Greg Oden and Sam Bowie comparisons. And others, even in notoriously polite Portland, have gone as far as to boo Oden when he is shown on the jumbotron at the Rose Garden.

“I know Greg as a person,” Buchanan said. “To hear people [boo him], it hurts a little bit. It hurts more for Greg… Greg is frustrated but this is stuff that is out of his control. It’s unfortunate that it’s happened but it has happened. No one wants to be out there playing more than Greg does.”

That desire to play has been consistent over the years, but it hasn’t been enough. The body simply hasn’t been able to withstand the rehabilitations. Somewhat amazingly, Oden is currently recovering from two knee surgeries and also was dealing with blood clots in his left ankle that, Buchanan said, delayed Monday’s surgery and could have ended Oden’s 2011-2012 season even if the microfracture surgery hadn’t been deemed necessary.

It’s been that way, one thing after another, for most of Oden’s nearly five years in Portland. For now, the Blazers say no further surgeries or procedures are expected prior to Oden becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“Nothing planned,” Buchanan said, before catching himself and deciding it might be better to not shut that particular door. “Barring something coming up again.”

Oden’s introduction to the city of Portland was pure hysteria. Thousands of fans packed a downtown square, cheering so loudly and for so long that Oden felt compelled to bow to them. He was on national magazine covers, on billboards around the city, at annual awards shows and in major ad campaigns.

Months later, his rookie season would be lost to a microfracture sugery on his right knee. Diligent updates on his status were provided on a blog on the team’s website, and he made a full recovery, playing in 61 games the following year, 2008-2009, and 21 games in 2009-2010.

He was never the same player, exactly, but he showed flashes. Despite playing limited minutes, Oden averaged nearly a double-double in his third season, at age 22, and was among the league’s leaders in player efficiency, thanks to his 60.5 percent shooting and offensive rebounding ability. He averaged more than two blocks a game during that season, hinting at the franchise-changing talent that Buchanan and company had expected.

Then, on Dec. 5, 2009, Oden leapt to contest a shot during a home game against the Houston Rockets, only to have his left leg give way beneath him. Observers compared it to an explosion or an implosion, and Oden collapsed to the floor immediately in agony, as teammates, competitors and fans turned away from the scene and medical staff ran at a full sprint to his attention. After the game, an emotional Pritchard delivered the news while holding back tears: Oden would be lost for the rest of the season.

807 days later, Oden hasn’t played in an NBA game since.

Nearly a year into Oden’s rehabilitation from the fractured patella suffered on the play, the Blazers announced that he had experienced some discomfort after working out before a game against the Lakers in Los Angeles. At a solemn press conference with the city’s entire media corps present, Blazers trainer Jay Jensen described the Nov. 2010 day that an MRI revealed the need a microfracture surgery on Oden’s left knee.

"Dr. Roberts pulled up the picture of Greg's knee on the screen and Greg didn't know what he was looking at,” Jensen said. “But Dr. Roberts did and I knew what to look for too, and there was the defect in his articular surface of his left knee. We sat there and it was like we got kicked in the stomach. We all felt like we had just been told that somebody close to us had died. It felt that way. We didn't know what to say. We were shocked."

That surgery ended Oden’s 2010-2011 season before it started. Despite the lockout, Oden was not ready to participate in Portland’s 2011 training camp, and the team announced in December that he had suffered a “setback” that made a return to the court during the 2011-2012 “less likely.”

When doctors went in to operate on Oden’s left knee on Monday, they discovered two similar defects, according to Buchanan. They then made the decision to go ahead with a second microfracture surgery, an option that Oden had been aware was a possibility before he was put under with anesthesia.

“He's obviously disappointed,” Buchanan said of Oden. “But he's been through it before... His other microfracture procedures have healed fine and hopefully he can do it again.”

The doctors have not yet officially deemed this a career-ending surgery and Buchanan reminded reporters that Oden, who just turned 24 in January, is “still very young” for a basketball player. But, asked two separate times if, in a best case scenario, Oden could receive medical clearance to play basketball at some point in the future, Buchanan hesitated and eventually refused to answer affirmatively.

“[That’s] anybody’s guess,” Buchanan said at first.

“I couldn’t give you that answer today,” he added later. ”I would have to have a further in-depth conversation with the doctors.”

Asked if Oden still had the desire to return to the basketball court, Buchanan said: “That’s tough for me to say. Greg has shown a lot of perseverance to get where he’s at now. This is obviously another big hurdle for him.”

Oden’s future playing basketball isn’t the only thing in question.

Since the team’s Media Day in 2010, Oden has not faced questions from the local media and, unlike during his rookie season, there have been very minimal health updates. Oden has now undergone three surgeries, two of them season-ending, without taking questions. With just months remaining on Oden’s contract with the team, and with the very real possibility that Oden is released to create a roster spot or potentially traded before the end of the season, there are no indications Oden plans to break his silence any time soon.

“I understand people want to hear from him but he's in a tough spot having to go through what he's gone through,” Buchanan said. “He's an outgoing person but he's also a very private person, that's how he's chosen to deal with this.”

So what’s he been up to for the last two years? It’s not entirely clear, but Buchanan did shed some new light on Oden’s rehabilitation process.

“He's gone through various drills at practice, nothing live,” Buchanan said. “He's gone a little bit of changing ends of the floor, a little of light jumping, a lot of shooting. He's had some ups and downs from when he first came back from the lockout. He's had good days and bad days.”

Good days and bad days, sure, but was he ever actually close to getting back on the court?

“It's tough to say how close he was to coming back,” Buchanan acknowledged. “He still had some progress to make.”

Oden’s most recent rehabilitation, from the Nov. 2010 microfracture, was even more complicated than the previous rehabilitation following the patella fracture.

“On this one he had a little more swelling that he was dealing with [once he] increased activity,” Buchanan said. “Before, he had more pain. It was a little different circumstance for him [this time].”

The swelling was ultimately what led to the decision for doctors to decide to proceed with plans for the arthroscopic procedures on both knees.

“There were days when you watched him out here and it was encouraging and there were other days where you could tell that it was bothering him,” Buchanan said. “That's part of coming back from that procedure and when you've come back from a couple of those you're going to experience more of those ups and downs that he was experiencing this year.”

Only with Oden can the casual phrase “a couple of those” refer to microfracture surgeries. But that’s his incredibly sad reality.

Instead of competing for a title, the Blazers have yet to advance out of the first round of the playoffs during Oden’s tenure, and they currently sit outside the Western Conference playoff picture, looking up at Durant’s Thunder, co-owners of the league’s best record. Less than 24 hours before Oden’s most recent surgery, Durant scored a career-high 51 points; hours after the microfracture announcement, the Blazers were creamed by the Los Angeles Lakers, managing to score just 7 points in the first quarter.

This year’s loss of All-Star guard Brandon Roy, also to repeated knee surgeries, has a huge hand in the franchise’s swinging fortunes, but so too does the invisible and often forgotten Oden, given how much, emotionally, financially and strategically, the Blazers invested in him.

Despite nearly five years of dealing with a decision that changed the court of the franchise, Buchanan stressed that, now more than ever, the story is about Oden and not his franchise.

“Nobody in this league is feeling sorry for us and we're not going to feel sorry for our situation,” Buchanan said.

The game will go on immediately for the Blazers; another chapter in an endless rehabilitation, or retirement, are Oden’s only options now.

“[Basketball] is what Greg loves to do," Buchanan said finally, before leaving the practice facility to find rain coming down by the bucketful. "To have that taken away from him has been very difficult for him… At the end of the day, Greg is a human being who has been through a lot. You have to have some compassion for him.”

Posted on: February 20, 2012 7:16 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 8:55 am
 

Oden gets microfracture surgery, out for season

Greg Oden underwent a second microfracture surgery on his left knee. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver 

It's been just under five years since the Portland Trail Blazer made center Greg Oden the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft. On Monday, Oden underwent his fifth knee surgery during those five years, and it was worse than expected.

On Monday morning, the Blazers announced that Oden would undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in Vail, Colo. Instead, Oden underwent a second microfracture surgery on his left knee and his 2011-2012 season is officially over. He had previously been listed as "out indefinitely."

The procedure was performed by renowned surgeon Richard Steadman, who has operated on numerous professional athletes.
"Initially, Greg was undergoing a procedure similar to the one he had a couple of weeks ago to have debris cleared from his right knee," said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan . "However, once the doctors were inside Greg's left knee, they unfortunately found articular surface damage and determined microfracture was necessary."

Oden, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, was selected by the Trail Blazers with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. In 82 career games (60 starts), Oden has averaged 9.4 points (57.7% FG), 7.3 rebounds and 1.43 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.

"This is not the news we were hoping for Greg or the organization," said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. "It's hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He's a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him. We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time."
A microfracture surgery typically has a one-year rehabilitation timeline.

This procedure marks the third time Oden has had surgery his left knee. He had left knee surgery in Dec. 2009 after fracturing his patella and he had microfracture surgery in Nov. 2010 to address an injury suffered during his rehabilitation process. 

Prior to undergoing the arthroscopic procedure on his right knee earlier this month, Oden had microfracture surgery on that knee in Sept. 2007.

Oden, 24, has played in 82 career NBA games, averaging 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.


Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:31 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 1:44 pm
 

Greg Oden to undergo 5th knee surgery on Monday

Greg Oden will undergo yet another knee surgery. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver 

It's been just under five years since the Portland Trail Blazer made center Greg Oden the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. On Monday, Oden is set to undergo his fifth knee surgery during those five years.

The Blazers announced on Monday that Oden will undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee in Vail, CO. Oden has not appeared in an NBA game since December 2007 and there is no timetable for his return.

Monday's surgery was expected. Back on Feb. 3, Oden underwent the same arthroscopic procedure on his right knee and Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan said at the time that doctors wanted to address his left knee as well.  

"He's still considered out indefinitely," Buchanan told CBSSports.com at the time. "Having this procedure on the right knee and the possibility of his left knee doesn't increase the likelihood of him playing soon."

This procedure and marks the third time Oden will have surgery on his left knee. He had left knee surgery in Dec. 2009 after fracturing his patella and he had microfracture surgery in Nov. 2010 to address an injury suffered during his rehabilitation process. 

Prior to undergoing the arthroscopic procedure on his right knee earlier this month, Oden had microfracture surgery on that knee in Sept. 2007.
 
In a statement posted on Facebook earlier this month, Oden said he would continue his rehabilitation.

"I'm sure you've all heard the news by now that I'm having a scope on my knee today," the statement read. "Unfortunately after months of intense rehab and training, the doctors discovered that a scope is necessary at this time. Thankfully this should be a quick recovery and I'll be back to training soon. I'm committed as ever to doing everything and anything to get back on the court and be a part of the team's success." 

Oden, 24, has played in 82 career NBA games, averaging 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:15 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 6:43 pm
 

Blazers C Greg Oden underwent knee surgery

Posted by Ben Golliver
Greg Oden will undergo yet another knee surgery. (Getty Images)

The Portland Trail Blazers announced on Friday that oft-injured center Greg Oden has gone under the knife again.

Oden underwent a succcessful arthroscopic procedure on his right knee on Friday in Vail, CO. He underwent microfracture knee surgery on his right knee in Sept. 2007.

Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan told CBSSports.com that a similar procedure could be required on his left knee as well.

"There's a chance that he may go undergo a similar procedure on his left knee in the coming days," Buchanan said. "That is to be determined. The doctors felt like after looking at the latest MRI in both knees, they wanted to take a closer look at both things."

Oden fractured his left patella in Dec. 2009 and underwent microfracture surgery in Nov. 2010. He has not had a firm recovery timeline since the most recent procedure and has not appeared in a game since December 2009.

"He's still considered out indefinitely," Buchanan said.

In addition to these procedures, Buchanan wouldn't rule out the need for further surgeries.

"It's hard to eliminate anything at this point," he admitted.

In a statement posted on Facebook, Oden said he would continue his rehabilitation after the procedure.

"I'm sure you've all heard the news by now that I'm having a scope on my knee today," the statement read. "Unfortunately after months of intense rehab and training, the doctors discovered that a scope is necessary at this time. Thankfully this should be a quick recovery and I'll be back to training soon. I'm committed as ever to doing everything and anything to get back on the court and be a part of the team's success."

Oden, 24, has played in 82 games since being selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Oden's career averages: 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:18 am
Edited on: December 10, 2011 2:24 am
 

LaMarcus Aldridge undergoes heart procedure

Posted by Ben Golliverlamarcus-aldridge-por

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Bad things happen in threes.

The Portland Trail Blazers announced on Friday that forward LaMarcus Aldridge underwent a successful ablation procedure to correct a recurring problem with his heart.  
Portland Trail Blazers forward/center LaMarcus Aldridge underwent a successful procedure today to evaluate the status of the electrical system in his heart, it was announced today by the team. He will be sidelined for 5-7 days before he can return to practice. Aldridge, who was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome in 2007, underwent a similar procedure to correct the problem at the time of diagnosis.  
Aldridge's diagnosis and procedure occurred on the same day that the Blazers confirmed that guard Brandon Roy would pursue a medical retirement and that center Greg Oden had suffered a "setback" in his rehabilitation from a Nov. 2009 microfracture that puts his availability during the 2011-2012 season into question.

Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan told reporters on Friday that Aldridge visits a cardiologist annually for testing and that an analysis of his stress echo exam revealed the need for an ablation procedure that "eradicated an extra node" in Aldridge's heart. 

"Going through his appointment with his routine check-up today they found a recurrence of that so they addressed that today," Buchanan said. "We expect LaMarcus to be back within a week or two weeks. The doctors feel really good about things. Obviously it's a little disappointing for LaMarcus but we're very optimistic that he'll be back on the court here in a short amount of time."

Despite the relatively good news, Buchanan admitted he had been extremely nervous. 

"Obviously LaMarcus was a scare," Buchanan said. "I'm not going to lie about that."

Aldridge, 26, was widely regarded as a 2011 All-Star snub, averaging a career-high 21.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

"Thanks for the support everybody," Aldridge tweeted on Friday night. "I'm feeling better and will be ready to go in a few days."

The Blazers open the season on Dec. 26, when they host the Philadelphia 76ers. Aldridge's current timeline means he should be ready in time for opening night. 

Aldridge sat out the balance of the 2006-2007 season, his rookie year, when the Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome diagnosis was first made. 
Posted on: December 5, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:59 am
 

Blazers will keep Brandon Roy, no amnesty

Posted by Ben Golliverbrandon-roy

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The league's toughest amnesty clause decision has apparently been made.

The Oregonian reports that Portland Trail Blazers president Larry Miller announced Monday that the team will not use the amnesty clause on guard Brandon Roy unless he suffers an injury during the preseason prior to the deadline to waive players, which is still unknown.

"Our plan right now is not to use the amnesty," Miller told the paper. "We expect Brandon to be a part of this team when the season starts. He has been there for us, and we want him to know we are supporting him. [Owner] Paul [Allen] is on board with this and feels the same way.’"

The news comes just hours after Miller, Acting GM Chad Buchanan and coach Nate McMillan held a press conference in which they stopped just short of pledging that Roy, 27, would be back on the team.

Instead, the three men told reporters that they met with Roy, who is owed more than $63 million guaranteed over the next four seasons, and his agent, Greg Lawrence, face-to-face in Portland on Monday. The Blazers trio agreed that they were impressed by Roy's attitude and said that they were planning to see Roy in camp with hopes that he would be on the opening night roster.

"Brandon is in a great spot," Buchanan said. "I think he feels good. [He's] excited about the season."

Buchanan later added that it would take a "drastic change" for the Blazers to decide to waive Roy and that the team was approaching free agency with the understanding that their flexibility would be "limited" by their position in the luxury tax, a spot they could have avoided by waiving Roy.

Miller, meanwhile, spoke glowingly of Roy's mental and physical outlook.

"One thing that Brandon said today was that he feels much better coming into this season than he does coming into last season," Miller said. "His knees feel much better."

Roy underwent arthroscopic surgeries in both knees during the 2010-2011 season and played just 47 games. Following the surgeries, Roy moved to the bench and saw his minutes fluctuate. He posted career-lows in points, rebounds and assists last season.

"I think he had enough time off resting his knees [and] he went through his normal workout routine up in Seattle with NBA players, college players," Buchanan said. "He just made the comment to us that he feels really good right now. He's tested his knee in workouts, it feels very strong, he feels a lot different this year heading into camp than he did last year and he's very encouraged how his knees feel right now."

McMillan told reporters that Roy will be operating without minutes restrictions and that he hopes Roy will move back into a starting two guard role, although he noted that Roy told the Blazers taht he would be open to a reserve role if necessary.

"One of the things that you have to look at is Brandon going back into that starting lineup," McMillan said. "That's something you didn't see last year due to medical reasons. Brandon is feeling better so Brandon back at the two position is something that I'm leaning towards and making our adjustments from that."

Reports had surfaced in recent weeks that Allen had already made the decision to waive Roy. Miller denied that during an informal press conference last Wednesday and multiple team sources disputed the report in various ways, including on Twitter.
Posted on: October 6, 2011 10:15 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 10:22 pm
 

Blazers restart GM search; eye Bower, Stefanski?

Posted by Ben Golliverlarry-miller

Every month or so, it's a good idea to check in with the Portland Trail Blazers to get the latest update on their lack of progress towards hiring a general manager.

Thursday's news: The Oregonian reports that the GM search, which included interviews with more than four candidates, none of whom spoke directly with owner Paul Allen, will start over from scratch.
A league source said the Blazers have decided against hiring any of the candidates they have interviewed to date and that Blazers president Larry Miller spent Thursday calling them to relay the news they were no longer being considered for the job.

"I don't want to get into specific details, but what I will say is that we are expanding our search," Miller said. "We're going to expand our candidate pool."

Miller refused to divulge the people he has interviewed. He also would not detail any of the names on his new, expanded list. But The Oregonian has learned that former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower and Philadelphia 76ers GM Ed Stefanski will be among the targets.
Since firing former GM Rich Cho back in May, less than a year after the team's previous GM, Kevin Pritchard, was fired on the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, the Blazers have taken a number of unusual steps. They promoted their director of college Chad Buchanan to an "Acting GM" role, then later informed him he would not get to keep the position full-time. They interviewed a group of assistant GM candidates but apparently were unable to identify a favorite and decided to scrap that route.

Keep in mind: the Blazers currently have Cho's two assistant GMs under contract and two heads of scouting that date back to Pritchard's reign. All four men specialize in player evaluation and the team's front office lacks anyone with extensive experience negotiating contracts, an inside-out understanding of the collective bargaining agreement and experience planning and managing the team's salary cap. Those are huge holes. President Larry Miller has taken on some of those duties in the past, although he is supposed to be primarily responsible for overseeing the team's business operations.

After all this time, the Blazers are now turning their attention to former GMs, candidates that obviously boast a greater degree of executive experience than their previous candidates and would likely fit Portland's needs better than most first-time GM candidates. Why did it take Miller and his staff this long to hone in on experienced candidates? Who knows. He's failed to divulge his candidate targets from the beginning of the process, so it's difficult to say for certain. There is, of course, the obvious financial explanation: not hiring a GM saves the cost of at least one salary during the lockout, and multiple salaries if the GM is allowed to bring along one or two hand-picked subordinates.

Make no mistake: Bower and Stefanski are not A-list candidates. Bower most recently served as GM of the New Orleans Hornets but was pushed out in the summer of 2010, amidst rumors of star point guard Chris Paul's unhappiness. Stefanski has been the GM or president of the Philadelphia 76ers, who are recently under new ownership and reportedly considering a change of direction, since 2007. Prior to that, he was GM of the New Jersey Nets, where he had his most success.

Regardless of who gets the job and when, the new GM will be answering to both Miller and Allen, a demanding, eccentric and rash billionaire who is prone to impulsive decisions. Allen's expectation is a deep playoff run and it's unclear whether any candidate -- no matter how supremely talented -- can last more than a season without delivering at least one playoff series victory, something Portland hasn't managed since the 1999-2000 season, the longest such drought in the league.

Miller recently told CBSSports.com that he "hopes" to have a GM in place by the end of the lockout, but he stopped short of guaranteeing that, saying instead that the Blazers could make do with Buchanan heading up the rest of the staff as a stopgap measure.

For a team that annually has sky-high internal expectations, the Blazers sure seem to enjoy setting themselves up for failure recently.
Posted on: September 19, 2011 7:26 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 8:07 pm
 

Blazers president Miller confirms GM interviews

Posted by Ben Golliverlarry-miller

PORTLAND, Ore. -- More than 100 days after "parting ways" with former GM Rich Cho weeks before the 2011 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers have yet to hire Cho's full-time replacement.

Blazers president Larry Miller did finally confirm that the GM search process has progressed in a telephone interview with CBSSports.com on Monday.

"We have talked to and interviewed some candidates," Miller said. "I'm not going to mention any names but we have interviewed candidates."

Yahoo Sports has reported that the Blazers are eying Oklahoma City Thunder executive Troy Weaver, San Antonio Spurs executive Dennis Lindsey and former Golden State Warriors executive Chris Mullin, while ESPN.com added Cleveland Cavaliers executive David Griffin and Los Angeles Clippers executive Neil Olshey to the list.

Miller refused to confirm any of those names but did say that he has interviewed "more than four" candidates in a "formal" setting. That interview process has yet to include owner Paul Allen, though.

"The process is running smoothly," Miller said, after weeks of refusing to comment about the GM search. "I think we feel good about what we we've gone through in terms of identifying potential candidates. It's gone pretty smoothly. But we're not going to rush, we're going to continue to take our time, with the goal of bringing in the right person that is going to be able to provide some consistency for us."

Miller said that the organization has settled on the ideal criteria of a prospective candidate, as laid out in a vague plan following the announcement of Cho's depature, but he would not divulge what that might be.

"I don't want to get into any of the details, but we have come to an agreement on what the skillset is we're looking for."

Miller has never been the most popular executive in Portland. His failed efforts to restructure and expand the team's television distribution deal and the firings of Pritchard and Cho have made him an obvious target for critics, who say he is now afraid to make promises that he won't be able to keep. Earlier this summer, he admitted that he rushed the hiring of Cho to the detriment of his organization and vowed to avoid that mistake during the current hiring process. 

"Our position has been that we are not going to play the search out in the media," Miller said. "I'm going to stick with that position. We are trying to do what we think is best for the organization and bring in the best possible person that we can. That's why we are taking the approach that we are taking. It's not about being afraid to make promises or anything like that."

Even though the process has dragged for an entire summer, there is no clear end in sight. Miller said it was his "hope" that the Blazers would have a full-time GM in place when the Blazers are back on the court, but he passed on the opportunity to guarantee it.

"That's our hope for sure," Miller said. "I'm not going to put any kind of timeline out there. I'm going to stick with that. I'm not going to lock us into any timeline."

He also said the Blazers were prepared to enter a free agency period without a full-time GM, relying instead on Acting GM Chad Buchanan if need be.

"I would hope to [hire a GM before the free agency period]," Miller said. "But we are prepared in the event that we don't. I think Chad and the rest of the team there have continued to work on preparing us for that so once free agency does open up we're going to be ready for it whether we have a GM in place or we don't have a permanent GM in place. We feel confident that Chad and the team will have us ready for that in the event that there's not a GM in place at that point."

The organization's drawn out, cloak and dagger approach to finding a replacement for Cho, who was fired less than a year after former GM Kevin Pritchard was deposed on the night of the 2010 NBA Draft, has worn on many fans in Portland. Miller acknowledged that he is feeling some disengagement with the team's rabid fanbase this summer and that he "definitely" understands their frustration.

"This is always a down time for us anyway," Miller said. "Usually, before training camp starts, things are a little bit quiet in terms of fan interaction. It's kind of typical... There's a lot that we can't talk about right now. Because of that, it is creating some issues with our ability to engage with fans. It is what it is. That's where we are at this point. But I do understand what you're saying [about fan frustration] and I think there is some validity to it."

Even if the Blazers haven't hired a new GM, there have been executive moves: the team's senior vice president of business affairs resigned in June and two long-time media executives were let go in July. 

"I would paint those moves as restructuring moves," Miller said. "They were all individual situations. We constantly look at our organization, evaluate it from a structure perspective and decide what changes we need to make."

Finally, Miller confirmed that longtime, popular assistant coach Bill Bayno, who will reportedly join the Minnesota Timberwolves to serve as an assistant under Rick Adelman, will not be back next season.

"I can confirm that we haven't re-signed Bill," Miller said. "We are looking to fill that position. That's really going to be [coach] Nate [McMillan]'s call for the most part. I think the way the situation will work, Nate will talk about it with myself and Chad and his other assistants. At the end of the day it will be Nate's call."
 
 
 
 
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