Tag:Greg Oden
Posted on: February 22, 2012 7:19 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 7:30 pm
 

Reports: Blazers to sign C Joel Przybilla

Joel Przybilla is reportedly headed back to Portland. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ben Golliver
 
It takes a brave man to play center for the Portland Trail Blazers, and no one ever accused Joel Przybilla of being weak-hearted.

Przybilla, an unrestricted free agent center, has reportedly agreed to sign a 1-year contract with the Blazers for the remainder of the 2011-2012 season, according to Yahoo Sports and The Oregonian.  The deal, which reportedly isn't expected to be official until this week, will reunite Przybilla with the team he spent 6.5 years with, prior to a 2011 trade deadline deal that sent him to the Charlotte Bobcats.

The news of the expected signing comes just days after the Blazers announced center Greg Oden underwent season-ending microfracture knee surgery.

Przybilla has not played during the lockout-shortened season, although his name had come up in rumors linking him to the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks

Known for clogging the middle on defense, and giving hard fouls, Przybilla was a locker room leader for the Blazers before being included in the deal that landed forward Gerald Wallace from Charlotte. Przybilla's playing time was limited during the 2010-2011 season, as he was working his way back from multiple knee surgeries. He will add depth behind starting center Marcus Camby and help fill out a frontcourt that includes All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, Kurt Thomas and the seldom-used Craig Smith and Chris Johnson.

Camby is in the final year of his contract and could be a potential trade chip for the Blazers. Przybilla's presence could potentially make Camby more expendable. 

Portland currently has 15 players on its roster, meaning a player will need to be released or traded to make room for Przybilla's signing. Oden is a likely candidate, as Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan said this week that it was possible that he would be released following his latest surgery.

Chris Johnson and second-year guard Armon Johnson are both on minimum-salary contracts so they theoretically could be potential casualties as well. Chris Johnson is Portland's fifth big man and has not seen much time but he has shown flashes in his limited minutes, and he's well-regarded by management. Armon Johnson has played even less, spending most of the season on the inactive list and has appeared in just 1 game, playing five minutes, this year.

Przybilla, 32, is a fan favorite in Portland and has posted career averages of 4.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
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 20, 2011 4:25 am
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Posted on: December 20, 2011 4:08 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 11:18 am
 

Blazers owner Paul Allen opens his dungeon

Posted by Ben Golliver

paul-allen-blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen made his fortune toiling away in dungeons.

In his recent autobiography, Idea Man, Allen wistfully recalls the small apartments, cramped workspaces, crowded dormitories, dark basements and shared offices that produced Microsoft, the computer software company he co-founded with Bill Gates that made him into a billionaire more than a dozen times over.

2011 has been a year Allen won’t soon forget. His helicopter crashed off the coast of Antarctica; he reportedly secured the premier superyacht docking spot for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London; he was sued by his ex-military bodyguards for alleged illegal activities; he fired his second Blazers general manager in less than a year; he emerged as a villain during the NBA’s collective bargaining negotiations for his hardline approach; and he watched his beloved basketball team, which he has owned since 1988, crumble at the knees, opting to spend more than $60 million to use the amnesty clause on former All-Star guard Brandon Roy so that he could begin to rebuild it.

There’s the “Mo Money, Mo Problems” explanation, but that is ridiculous.

Along the way, Allen has drawn more than his fair share of criticism, most of it centering on his unpredictability and rash decision-making. A regular luxury tax spender over the last decade, Allen switched course to push for the NBA to overhaul its financial system by drastically increasing revenue sharing and restricting large-market teams’ abilities to spend on player payroll. A certified computer genius who hand-coded Microsoft’s early products, Allen has meddled so regularly with the Blazers that his employees seemingly never know what’s coming next and his basketball operations executives spin through as if in a turnstile.

To the city of Portland, Allen has been a globe-trotting technology junkie who uses Twitter regularly but has refused to take questions from independent media outlets in years, granting only rare, rehearsed interviews to team broadcasters and occasionally issuing prepared press releases.

Allen ended that with a bang on Monday night. And he returned to the comforts of his dungeon to do it.

Roughly an hour before the Blazers tipped off their preseason opener against the Utah Jazz, Allen invited a group of six writers, one team employee, one radio talk show host and one television anchor into an auxiliary locker room inside the bowels of the Rose Garden, a stadium designed to his specifications, all the way down to the apartment and helipad for his personal use. The use of Twitter during the interview was expressly disallowed; photographs and video of the meeting were forbidden. All conditions had to be agreed to prior to entering. Inside the concrete cube, water bottles had been laid out around a square table, with Allen entering last to sit at the head of the table, as you probably expected.

Of course, this is where and how Allen would prefer to end his years-long silence in Portland. Of course it was. 

Wearing what is essentially his gameday uniform – a navy blue light jacket, dark pants, a white and blue dress shirt, square-framed eyeglasses and a turquoise ring – Allen patiently answered question after question for more than 35 minutes. His hands pounded the table, his arms waved; he held his forehead at times and crossed his arms at others. He nearly teared up when discussing Roy’s departure from basketball, and he alternated between making direct eye contact and gazing into the empty, closed airspace above the reporters’ heads. 

He looked, often, like the typecast, anti-social, middle-aged former software engineer that he is.

This wasn’t billionaire pomp and glamour; it was start-up style frank talk. His words were firm and friendly even when delivering some of the biggest doozies you will ever hear from an NBA owner.

For instance: His biggest clearly-expressed problem with former GM Rich Cho was their inadequate courtside banter during games. And Cho’s predecessor, Kevin Pritchard, according to Allen, decided to fire himself.

Cho, known as a sharp salary cap manager and analytical thinker, was abruptly fired in May 2011, weeks before the 2011 NBA Draft. The decision was made because his chatter wasn't properly stimulating.

“I sit with the general manager down on the court and I talk through every game with them and you get a sense for his thinking and his evaluation of players, how he thinks about our team, how he thinks about our coaching,” Allen explained. “You can have a good interview with somebody and be optimistic but then when it comes to getting into the season, sitting next to them, talking about the players, where you are going, potential trades, sometimes you realize it's not a good fit. That's basically what happened with Rich. He's a great person and I wish him well. But it wasn't a good fit.”

The Cho firing was stunning in its swiftness -- he was canned after spending less than a year on the job-- but it didn’t leave the same emotional crater as Pritchard’s departure, which occurred on the night of the 2010 NBA Draft. Pritchard, practically a cult hero in Portland for his salesmanship and stewarding of a young up-and-coming Blazers squad, dealt with weeks of agonizing job uncertainty after watching his right hand man, Vice President of Basketball Operations Tom Penn, abruptly fired during the second half of the 2009-2010 season. Pritchard’s chaotic draft day dismissal came to symbolize Allen’s overbearing, impulsive ownership style.

But Allen’s version is completely different. Allen’s account has Pritchard practically begging for the axe, going out of his way more than once to request that Allen let him go.

“I went out to get a breath of fresh air and Kevin tracked me down and basically said, 'Well, you've already decided to let me go.' And I said, 'Nooo, I haven't?' And he said, 'No, but you really should. Can I just meet with [Blazers president] Larry [Miller] the next day and we'll part ways?’ And I was like, 'OK… really?'”

To hear Allen tell it, Pritchard’s job wasn’t even necessarily in jeopardy. A “deep discussion” with a “real heart-to-heart” exchange could have bought Pritchard another year as Blazers GM. But it wasn’t to be, Allen said, because of Pritchard's persistence.

"He asked to be let go,” Allen said, point blank. “Multiple times. I heard that you guys had that story."

Allen’s voice rose when describing his surprise at Pritchard’s supposed statements, as if to imply that he was caught entirely off guard, the smartest guy in the room totally blindsided by a situation that had been festering for months. 

That same self-presentation emerged later, when Allen was asked about criticism he received from National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler following an October collective bargaining agreement negotiation session. Hunter and Kessler said that Allen had “hijacked” the negotiation by showing up unexpectedly to “deliver a message” to the players on behalf of hardline owners.

“I wouldn't characterize it as polarized as all that but you always have that tension in any CBA negotiations,” Allen said.

Just like the Pritchard situation, Allen painted himself as an innocent, well-intentioned participant who didn’t realize the enormity of the situation he was entering until it was too late.

"It was an unusual thing,” Allen said. “There I am trying to say, 'Look, we as small markets need to think collectively in certain ways and hold the line on certain things.' They ask me to attend one of these face-to-face meetings with players, and I said, 'OK'.

“I go in there and one of the other owners says, 'We've got some real hard-liners in this group like Mr. Allen at the end of the table.' And I'm like, 'OK, here I am. I'm [just] taking notes.' So all the players looked at me like, 'Oh, you're the hard-liner?'”

The negotiations had stopped and started for months by that point and the players seized on Allen’s presence – he is the richest owner of an NBA team, after all – to push back against a rising tide of public sentiment that the players were being greedy by refusing to compromise on the split of basketball-related income.

Within weeks, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, another small-market owner aiming to remake the NBA’s system in his own favor, had become a public target too.

“Me and Michael [Jordan], I guess, took the lightning rod as being the hard-liners,” Allen said, smirking.

And, then, as if an afterthought, Allen slipped in a grand admission at the end.

“In truth, I did believe we should hold the line on some things more than some other owners did but there were a lot of us that felt the same way,” Allen said.

The questions and answers continued to fly back and forth.

Did Allen have plans to sell his team? No. Was he ready to make a detailed long-term commitment to his ownership? No, health concerns prevented that.

Was he ready to name another GM? No. Was Acting GM Chad Buchanan, who helped Portland add Jamal Crawford, Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith during the rushed free agency period, a candidate to get the position full-time? No, but he’s done a good job.

Does Allen simply want to be GM himself?

“It's really puzzling to me when I read or hear that people think that I want to be the general manager,” Allen said, raising his arms as he repeatedly exclaimed. “No! No!”

He then added: “I just want to ask the questions and I want a great general manager.”

Of course, Allen had no clear plan or even a firm timetable to get what he wanted, as his most recent search process turned up empty and he wasn't ready to commit to starting a new one. Whoever ends up filling the position will face a different era in the financial management of the team thanks to the new CBA.

Claiming that he had lost “hundreds of millions” of dollars during his ownership tenure, Allen said that his aggressive spending stops now. Maybe.

“I've invested a lot but the crazy luxury tax days and all those things are gone,” Allen said. “I mean, there's no enjoyment to losing money. I don't know anybody who thinks there is.”

Moments later, he left open the possibility that he would spend big again if it meant winning a title, something that has eluded him as owner of both the Blazers and the National Football League’s Seattle Seahawks.

“It's one thing to say 'I'm going for it. It's a near championship year. I'll sign a couple of free agents and spend a lot more than usual.' But to do that on a regular basis doesn't make sense.”

This year’s Blazers are a clean slate thanks to Roy’s departure and lowered expectations surrounding center Greg Oden, who recently suffered a "setback" in his years-long recovery from multiple knee surgeries, according to the team. The group that is healthy, headlined by forwards LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and Nicolas Batum and guards Raymond Felton and Crawford, promises a faster tempo, more end-to-end action and another shot at winning a playoff series, something Portland hasn't managed since 2000.

Allen sounded excited for the start of the season but he, like the rest of Portland, hadn’t yet processed Roy’s decision to step away from basketball, after just five seasons and three All-Star appearances, because of chronic knee problems.

“That deliberate but ‘you're not going to be able to stop me’ style,” Allen said, his eyes squinting back the emotion behind his glasses. “Just a fantastic basketball player, not just a scorer but a passer, a rebounder, a heady player. Players like that don't come along very often. I would always chat with Brandon in the locker room.”

The Blazers had declared Roy the team’s likely starting two guard two weeks ago, only to have Roy tell the team he was stepping away from the game the day before training camp opened.

"To get that news when we thought he was going to be in training camp the next day,” Allen said, shaking his head. “That was a body blow.”

Allen knows a body blow. He’s beaten cancer, battled a heart condition and felt the full force of the NBA media turn against him. And, for once on Monday, he stood tall and took some lumps from the media. When the conversation closed and the game finally tipped off, the fact that Allen had consented to let strangers into the dungeon with him, if only for a preconditioned half-hour, was a bigger surprise than anything that he said. 

Many thought that door had been closed and locked for good.

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. 
 
 
 
 
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