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
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:15 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 2:21 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Dead the noise.
Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen says his team is not for sale.
The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft addressed a select group of reports prior to the Blazers' preseason opener on Monday night, and left no doubt about his immediate commitment to his basketball franchise.
"I have no plans to sell the team," Allen said.
The owner of a small-market team, Allen took a public hard-line during lockout negotiations, which fueled speculation that his stances were formulated out of a desire to increase his franchise value in anticipation of a sale. While Allen ruled out any immediate plans, he did hedge when asked to make a specific, long-term commitment to owning the team.
"There's so many things that go with it," Allen said. "Me, my health is a factor, other things are factors. I think at some point if I felt things were getting stale or if we were going to be a lottery team forever [or if] we went through a rebuilding process. Some of those years are tough, when you're winning 20-some games or whatever, those are tough years. If I felt like we were going right back into that, that would be a challenge."
Rather than rebuilding this season, Allen has reinvested in the Blazers by using the amnesty clause on guard Brandon Roy and quickly moving to sign free agents Jamal Crawford, Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas to fill out his bench. But he didn't necessarily rule out the rebuilding option for good.
"I can't give you a definitive answer because I think every owner at some point thinks, 'OK, what's the future going to be?' You're starting to see some of the San Antonios and the Lakers who are getting towards the end of their championship windows and they're going to have to rebuild. Other people may decide… every year there's teams that have new ownership. We've got some new ownership in the league this last year."
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 10:04 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- For now, "The Natural" hangs in limbo.
With rumors swirling this week that the Portland Trail Blazers are planning to waive guard Brandon Roy using the amnesty clause, team president Larry Miller told reporters on Wednesday that the decision has not yet been made, but stopped short of saying that Roy will be in a Blazers uniform when the 2011-2012 regular season begins on Christmas.
"No decision has been made on amnesty as of yet," Miller said. "We are still looking at every possible option that is available to us but we have not made a decision as far as Brandon or anyone at this point."
Roy, 27, is a 3-time NBA All-Star and 2-time All-NBA performer but has dealt with knee injuries since high school. He underwent arthroscopic surgeries on both knees during the 2010-2011 season and played in just 47 games. He is largely credited with leading a resurgent Blazers out of a franchise dark period, serving as the face of the franchise during three straight playoff appearances.
"For anyone who thinks that I'm just standing here saying that and it's not true, they don't know me," Miller said. "Anybody that knows me or has worked with me before, that's had interactions with me before, that's not how I operate. Again, unequivocally no definitive decision has been made about amnestying Brandon or any of our players."
The Blazers, like every NBA club, were allowed to begin contacting player agents on Wednesday morning. Miller noted that the team's acting general manager, Chad Buchanan, placed his first call to Roy's agent.
"The first call that Chad made this morning -- he counted the clock down at 5:59, 6:00 this morning -- his first call was to Brandon's agent to talk about how Brandon is doing [and ask] when we can sit down and have a conversation with Brandon," Miller said. "With everything that Brandon has done for this organization, there's no way we would make a decision like that without having conversations with them, without evaluating where he is and seeing what's going on with him."
Using the amnesty clause on Roy would remove his $15 million 2011-2012 from Portland's cap number and it would take them out of the luxury tax zone. In total, it would remove more than $63 million guaranteed of future salary commitments from their books. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, Portland could use the amnesty clause prior to the beginning of the 2011-2012 season or prior to any of the three future years left on his deal.
Miller said the Blazers plan to evaluate Roy in-person before making a decision on whether to amnesty him immediately and that the team expects him to show up for training camp, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 9.
"That would make sense, right? Brandon has done a lot for this organization. He's been one of the people who really helped this organization around. So to make a decision like that without looking at every possible factor involved in that decision just wouldn't make sense."
The team said Wednesday that the NBA has not yet informed them of the deadline for making amnesty decisions.
Roy has spent the lockout in his hometown of Seattle working out with other NBA players from the area. Free agent guard Jamal Crawford, a close friend, and Sacramento Kings rookie guard Isaiah Thomas, a fellow University of Washington product, are among the players to vouch for Roy's game and health, even though his statistics tumbled across the board last year.
Roy's agent is painting a positive picture as well according to Miller.
"He said that Brandon is feeling good," Miller said. "He feels like he's able to play and that he is willing to sit down and talk to us so we're going to continue that conversation. We basically have asked the agent to set up a time for Brandon to sit down with us. Hopefully, and I don't know the answer to this, because we haven't been able to talk to Brandon, I'm hoping he will be here when we open the doors tomorrow."
Still, despite all of the gratitude for Roy's services and the obvious logic in delaying the decision, Miller hinted that the financial realities and injury issues are factors the team must look at hard.
"It's not like it's unknown that Brandon had health issues last year," Miller admitted. "Everybody knows that. But, again, what Brandon did for this organization, what he's meant to this community, what he's meant to this team, there would be no way we would make a decision like this without looking at every possible factor involved."
This week, Blazers fans sent hundreds of Twitter messages to team owner Paul Allen campaigning for him to bring back Roy. Miller said those voices would be a part of the team's decision-making process, too.
"We're going to look at every factor involved including the fan factor. For us to say, 'Hey we're just going to do this and not consider how the fans feel about it, how the community feels about it' -- we're going to look at all of that. Our goal is and continues to be to make our team better. To try to get better as a team, to try to win. That's what all of our decisions are going to be based off of."
The most genuine moment came when Miller was asked to assess the overall state of his roster, which also includes a decision on chronically-injured center Greg Oden.
"If we have a healthy Greg and a healthy Brandon we've got a great roster," Miller mused. "If there's some issues there then we've got to figure out what we are going to do."
It sounded hopeful and ominous in the same breath.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 9:59 am
By Matt Moore
Whatever your feelings are on competitive balance, market economics, or parity in the NBA, it's hard to dispute the fact that pro basketball in certain markets is an institution. There's a million things to do in Los Angeles, a million different options of how to spend your time. New York is the cultural center of the modern world. Those cities love their teams and take pride in the teams representing their respective metropolitan goliaths. But in places like Portland and Salt Lake City, it's a different feeling. In short, the fans are completely insane. It's a way of life in those places, it's part of their heritage, it encapsulates a lot of people's lives and their families.
And both of those teams could wind up getting sold if the current trends continue.
Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was rumored to be pushing for a deal in pursuit of selling the team months ago, an allegation the Blazers strongly denied. Now comes a report from the Deseret News that the family of the late Larry H. Miller could be considering selling the Jazz:
In fact, one source with intimate knowledge of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies inner workings speculated that small-market-related economic hardships could force Jazz ownership to place a "For Sale" sign on the franchise. The source told the Deseret News that the Jazz were expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season.via Could bad deal mean end to Jazz in Utah? | Deseret News.
It's unfathomable to think of the Jazz being moved. They can clearly be successful, there. You have to wonder how much of this relates to overreactions to the current economic environment, and how much of it is purposefully leaked information to help in various legal and negotiating processes.
But if the group is serious about getting out of the business, it would be the cap on a depressing year for Jazz fans. They've lost the patriarch of the franchise, their coach for the past 25 years resigned, and their star player was traded before he could leave in free agency. And now there could be new ownership. The most likely scenario if they are sold is to another group out of Salt Lake that would keep them in the city. Burning down the bridge of one of the most successful small markets, the home of Stockton and Malone, doesn't seem like something the league would be willing to tolerate.
Then again, ask the fans in Seattle how that worked out.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:07 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Shut it down.
The Portland Trail Blazers are reportedly halting their search for Rich Cho's replacement nearly six months after the team's former GM was abruptly fired back in May.
The Oregonian reports that the Blazers don't think the search is worth it now that the players have filed antitrust lawsuits against the league.
According to an NBA source with knowledge of the Trail Blazers' thinking, the team has decided to "pause" their search for a new GM.This development isn't all that surprising, as Portland's search has been muddled from the beginning and apparently stalled for several months now. The team never publicly expressed a clear set of criteria for their ideal candidate and generally refused comment throughout the summer. They were looking for an excuse to back out of the search. The lockout plus this week's legal develpments combines to provide perfect cover.
While Portland's decision is not a particularly positive sign that the NBA and its players will reach a new labor deal to save a portion of the 2011-2012 season, it's not necessarily a definitive indication that the season will be lost either. Back in September, after a round of interviews produced no clear favorites, team president Larry Miller told CBSSports.com that the Blazers were prepared to enter a post-lockout period without a new GM in place.
Blazers owner Paul Allen, the league's wealthiest owner, has reportedly emerged during the ongoing collective bargaining agreement as a staunch hard-liner and has advocated that the league address the disparity between its large-market and small-market teams. Miller said in September that none of the interviewed candidates had been forwarded to Allen for a second interview. Allen, a notoriously demanding owner, has fired two GMs -- Cho and his predecessor, Kevin Pritchard -- as well as former vice president of basketball operations Tom Penn in the last 20 months.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: October 28, 2011 4:07 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Is it starting to feel like we're entering the home stretch portion of the NBA Lockout? From here to the finish line, stick with CBSSports.com's Lockout Buzz posts to get the very latest news and rumors concerning the ongoing collective bargaining agreement negotiations. These posts will update regularly.
Agent says deal could be done Saturday?
According to NBA.com: a "prominent agent says union informed him that deal could be reached by Saturday."
Team employees advised to be ready?
Via Deadspin, some teams are informing low-level employees to be ready to resume work Monday. "The New Jersey Nets ticket sales office, idle for most of the fall, is holding a series of hastily called meetings today under the theme "Be Ready." One staffer tells us that a department-wide email has been circulated, instructing employees that "it's time to get back to work." The short-staffed 76ers' team office has been told that Monday will be "all hands on deck," as per orders from the league."
That could be something to read in to, and it could be something that's just conjecture because of all the recent optimism. Whatever the case, it seems like good news which is fun to see. But before you get too ramped up, SB Nation reports those type of emails have gone out a few times before.
According to ESPN.com, there's a push from Spurs' owner Peter Holt to tweak the amnesty clause proposal. Teams would be allowed to have at least two years to decide whether or not to amnesty one player. The concept has to be haggled out a bit more according to the report, but there's reportedly enough support to get it push through in the new labor deal.
Arenas keeping dates open?
Via the New York Times, league officials who are anticipating a resolution are prepping for an 82-game season by calling arenas across the league asking them to keep dates open in late April.
An Oklahoma City arena official told me that they have not been contacted by anyone yet about keeping dates open for an 82-game schedule.
Paul Allen sent to observe Kessler?
A lot was made of Blazers owner Paul Allen making an appearance to supposedly "deliver a message" which is what helped talks to fall apart last week. But according to TrueHoop, that's not exactly what happened.
"NBA sources, however, say it was nothing of the sort. In fact, they say, he was there at the invitation of the NBA's negotiators to watch Kessler. Allen was one of several owners who thought Stern and Silver had made players an overly generous offer of 50 percent of basketball-related income. The league's lead negotiators essentially replied: go see for yourself. You think you can get Kessler to go for 47 percent? Good luck to you."
Owners move off steep luxury tax?
SI.com reports that owners have moved away from a steeply punitive luxury tax system in the latest rounds of NBA lockout talks. But as the New York Times reports, "Some notes of caution on NBA labor talks: 'very, very difficult system issues' still to be settled, source says, including luxury tax plan."
The system is likely all but settled, but iron out the final details will be a slippery slope to walk down for the two sides Friday.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:52 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
When Thursday's labor negotiations between the NBA and its players broke down, Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen emerged as an obvious villain. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said that Allen was sent into the negotiating room to deliver an ultimatum from the NBA's Board of Governors and the union's chief lawyer, Jeffrey Kessler, said the meeting was "hijacked" by Allen's presence.
On Friday, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver defended Allen, disputing these accounts of events in an interview with The Oregonian.
"I do not understand why his presence has taken on a life of its own as if he was sent in to deliver a message to the players," Silver said.The plot thickens, though, because a sportswriter for the paper noted that the NBA and the Portland Trail Blazers would only make Silver available for an interview with a specific reporter who usually does not cover the Blazers. The writer also said that the NBA and/or the Blazers threatened to have Silver interview with a competitor if they did not agree to those terms.
Yes, you read that correctly. The NBA just allegedly disputed that one of their owners issued a "take it or leave it" ultimatum to the players by issuing a "take it our leave it" ultimatum to a newspaper. They allegedly decided to make it clear that Allen didn't issue a statement that pre-conditioned the negotiations by pre-conditioning their disputed account. They allegedly defended Allen from charges of a "my way or the highway" attitude by threatening the paper with the most basic "my way or the highway" tactic known to media.
Well, the NBA is nothing if not consistent!
As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com eloquently put it, this is circus behavior.