Tag:Larry Miller
Posted on: June 3, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 5:28 pm
 

Blazers GM: Can Brandon Roy play 82 games?

Portland Trail Blazers acting GM Chad Buchanan wonders whether guard Brandon Roy can play 82 games next season. Posted by Ben Golliver. brandon-roy-point

The last few months have been nothing short of disorienting for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The team was bounced out of the first round of the playoffs for the third season in a row by the Western Conference's eventual champion: the Dallas Mavericks. The loss was not unexpected, but it was still frustrating, as owner Paul Allen and coach Nate McMillan both seemed dead set on making further progress in the postseason this year.

If the playoffs were frustrating, than the offseason, so far, has been perplexing. GM Rich Cho, on the job for less than a year, was fired without warning. President Larry Miller shifted some deck chairs around, naming director of college scouting Chad Buchanan as Acting GM.

There's no bigger issue facing Buchanan and the Blazers than guard Brandon Roy. Roy went through dual knee surgeries last season and missed a good chunk of the season while rehabbing. But no one, not even Buchanan, apparently, knows what to expect from Roy in the future. 

In an interview with 750 AM in Portland, Buchanan admitted that he wasn't certain Roy can make it through an entire season.
We all recognize -- if you watch Game 3 and Game 4 of our playoff series -- that Brandon Roy has still got some game. We are very conscious of that. People have counted him out, but I think we all recognize that Brandon can play at a high level. Whether it's for 82 games or not? I think that's something that Brandon is still trying to figure out with his body and where he's at. I think, for our coaches and for Nate, we're trying to figure out best how to utilize him knowing his health. I think we're both asking: How is this going to work moving forward?

Brandon Roy has meant the world to this organization, he's helped resurrect our franchise, we're very appreciative of that. We have not had any discussions with Brandon about anything since the season ended. We let our guys decompress and get away from the game. We'll start to re-engage with Brandon here, making sure that he's on course for this summer to do the things he needs to do to be ready for next season.

With most players in his physical condition, the best course would simply be the patient one: wait and see what he can handle and how he performs, manage his minutes and keep a careful eye on his progress.

The Blazers owe Roy more than $68 million over the next four seasons, so there is a clear urgency factor at play, especially among fans. With starters Marcus Camby and Andre Miller winding down, and new arrival Gerald Wallace with just a few more years of prime play, the feeling is that the Blazers need a lot more from Roy than he's capable of giving.

Given his health and contract, though, he's essentially untradeable. The Blazers have another capable two guard on the roster in Wesley Matthews, but he lacks Roy's starpower. The Blazers don't have many other choices. If there's an amnesty clause they'll likely consider using it on Roy, but the temptation to hang on and hope will be very strong because of the lack of other options. Roy is committed to continuing his career, so retirement and medical retirement are out of the question.

Buchanan's honesty here reveals just how directionless this team is right now. Roy was once the pillar of the franchise, a perennial All-Star who could be counted on for consistent, reliable production. Now, even those with the most to gain for hyping him up, are taking a very cautious approach.

Reading between the lines, it could be tough times ahead for Blazers fans.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:27 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 3:38 am
 

Chad Buchanan takes acting GM reins for Blazers

Posted by Ben Golliver. chad-buchanan

PORTLAND, Ore. --  So, who’s next?

The Portland Trail Blazers have fired three talented executives in a little more than a year, canning assistant GM Tom Penn, former GM Kevin Pritchard and Pritchard’s replacement, Rich Cho.

Despite that carnage, the basketball operations staff still has plenty of pieces thanks to a unique group dynamic that features two assistant GMs – Bill Branch and Steve Rosenberry, hired by Cho -- and two directors of scouting – Chad Buchanan and Mike Born, installed into their positions by Pritchard. Blazers coach Nate McMillan and president Larry Miller also contribute to basketball decisions, as does owner Paul Allen, who has rightfully earned a reputation for meddling.

With all of those cooks in the kitchen, determining a chain of command can be tricky, if not fruitless. However, the Blazers did announce one official organizational move other than Cho’s firing on Monday by designating Buchanan as Acting GM in Cho’s absence.

“I’ve never really set a GM position or anything like that as a goal,” the typically aww-shucks Buchanan told CBSSports.com on Monday night from Minnesota, where he’s scouting in advance of the NBA Draft. "Whatever is on my plate, I’ll put my full effort into it. I didn’t set out to want to become a GM when I was hired by the Blazers. I just wanted to win a championship. That has not changed.”

Despite all the drama and internal political nightmares, Buchanan, 38, is as fresh-faced as he was seven years ago when he first joined the Blazers. After playing two sports at Simpson College, in Iowa, he began working his way up through the scouting and coaching ranks, including stops in the ABA and at Drake University.

The task facing Buchanan is a large one. McMillan has made it known he expects roster changes, particularly in the backcourt. The team has already committed major money to forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guard Brandon Roy, but Roy is dealing with ongoing knee issues. The Blazers also face a decision on oft-injured center Greg Oden, who is a franchise player this summer.

Buchanan said he wasn’t sure how many moves it would take to get Portland into a position to contend for a title after three straight first round playoff exits. “You have to have some cornerstones that we’re building around.  We feel like LaMarcus is definitely that and we’re still evaluating who might be another pillar for us. As far as how many moves away are we, that’s a really tough question to answer. Our team has needs. Whether we can address that with one move or three moves, it’s hard to give you an exact number of how you fix what your roster needs.”

While Blazers president Larry Miller said that Cho struggled developing “chemistry” with owner Paul Allen, raising questions about Cho’s communication style, Buchanan said he appreciated the style Cho brought to the organization. “He allowed you to do your job. He listens. He’s a great listener. He stays out of your way. He wants to hear your opinions as a scout, that’s all you can ask for.”

Miller said the team has no timetable on hiring a full-time replacement for Cho but admitted that the organization could enter training camp without hiring someone. He was vague, however, on whether Buchanan would be considered as a full-time candidate. "Once we determine what the criteria are and what the qualifications are that we are looking for. If any of those guys meet the criteria or those qualifications then they will be considered for sure."

While the organization's criteria are unclear, Buchanan's skillset is fairly obvious. He's a basketball talent evaluator, a skilled communicator and an endlessly loyal employee. The next co-worker to speak ill of Buchanan publicly will be the first. 

He's perhaps best known in Portland for his in-depth scouting report breakdowns and encyclopedic knowledge of players’ strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. For years, he's been tasked with briefing the media on the players that the Blazers bring to Portland for pre-draft group workouts, and he seems to relish the opportunity to share his year's worth of work.

Asked to break down his own strengths and weaknesses as a potential GM, Buchanan didn’t hesitate.

“My strengths are my overall work ethic and love for the game. I strongly believe in valuing everyone around you. That includes players, coaches, staff. I think everybody has to feel invested and part of what the ultimate goal is.”

Clearly, though, Buchanan is facing a major adjustment period from scout to GM, which he openly acknowledges. “I think I have a strong sense of emotional connection to people, which can also be a weakness for me. I find that trading players can be hard for me because you get attached to players and families. You see them from a human side. Sometimes maybe that’s not a good thing from an executive standpoint, that you have a human connection to people that you’re eventually going to have to make tough decisions on.”

Buchanan also noted that, unlike Penn and Cho, he is not a salary cap wizard. “I’ve never really focused a ton on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The rules of the salary cap. I have a general understanding of a lot of issues but not the deep layers of it. It’s not something that I’m totally or completely familiar with.”

As Cho was the team’s point man on salary cap and CBA issues, his departure leaves a fairly large hole heading into draft season and free agency. It's unclear how that situation will be resolved in the short-term.

The constant turnover in Portland’s management ranks is enough to turn even the most optimistic fans cynical, but Buchanan did his best to stick to what has got him this far. “I go to bed every night dreaming about what it would be like to win a championship,” Buchanan said. “For this city and for our owner and for our players and coaches. It’s something that drives me every day.”

Still, his first take upon hearing about his short-term (for now) promotion was empathy for his predecessor. “The first emotion is that you feel for Rich,” Buchanan said. “A good person who lost his job today. Has a great family. At the end of the day, we’ve got to regroup, collect ourselves, and find a way to get ourselves moving forward.”

Or, as Jay-Z might say: On to the next one.

Posted on: May 23, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 9:40 pm
 

Blazers President Larry Miller defends Cho firing

Posted by Ben Golliver

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

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

He never got a chance to use it.

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

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

And, then, Monday’s abrupt news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe the third time will be the charm.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 4:19 pm
 

Blazers sign coach Nate McMillan to extension

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed coach Nate McMillan to a two-year contract extension. Posted by Ben Golliver. nate-mcmillan

The Portland Trail Blazers announced on Tuesday that they have inked head coach Nate McMillan to a two-year contract extension, carrying his deal through the 2012-2013 season.

On a Blazers.com video stream, McMillan said that the agreement, which had been hinted at earlier this week, came together quickly. "The offer was made this morning and it was accepted this morning," McMillan said. "I was busy this morning." 

Blazers owner Paul Allen chimed in shortly thereafter on Twitter: "I'm thrilled we just signed 2-year contract with Nate McMillan who committed to coach the Blazers for 2 more years!"

The Blazers' release included statements of support from Allen, GM Rich Cho and President Larry Miller.
"Over the past 12 months we have made significant investments in this team, all keenly focused on assembling the right pieces to compete this year and in the future," Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen said. "We've done that by adding Marcus, Wesley and most recently, Gerald and, now, I'm glad that after productive discussions,  Nate is now committed to be our coach for two more years."
"With his NBA and USA Basketball track record, Nate has established himself as one of the premier minds in the game of basketball," said Cho. "What Nate has accomplished in the last few years is truly remarkable and getting his contract extended was a top priority for the franchise and me."

"Without question Nate has ascended into the upper echelon of coaches," said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. "He's more than demonstrated his leadership and commitment to the team and this community and the time was right to demonstrate our commitment to him by extending his contract."
Portland's recent history has been injury-plagued, with franchise center Greg Oden troubled by multiple knee injuries and guard Brandon Roy missing significant time this season as well. McMillan has developed a reputation as the steadying hand, guiding the Blazers into the playoffs the past two years, on track for another playoff run this year as well. 

To achieve that success, he's leaned heavily on his slow-down, rebound-centric offense that looks to create high percentage shots and limit turnovers. This season, he's shown a new-found adaptability in Roy's absence, re-structuring his offense around forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who has responded by delivering career numbers. His defenses aren't spectacularly effective, but generally work hard and "scrap," which is by far McMillan's favorite and most often used word in the English language.

The organization's stated goal remains championship contention. When personal and philosophical differences led to a new management team and a new group of assistant coaches last summer, McMillan kept his head down and his lips sealed. While an early-season losing streak briefly raised questions about McMillan's future in Portland, and some wondered whether he would be a candidate for higher-profile jobs this summer, Blazers management has been unwavering in its public and private support of McMillan. 

Once the team righted itself after the loss of Oden to microfracture surgery this season, McMillan's return began to feel inevitable. If losing his franchise center to season-ending injuries for the second time in his first four years wasn't going to affect McMillan's ability to reach the playoffs, then McMillan started to look like the building block that should be in place long-term.

McMillan lives full time in the Rose City and is extremely active in local community service efforts. He understands the Portland market's need for accountability and transparency and the fanbase's desire for hard-working teams that fit the underdog ethos of the franchise's history. By all accounts, McMillan is happy in Portland. On the other side, the Blazers had far more to lose if McMillan left town given the difficulties of luring a premier coach to the NBA's most geographically-isolated city with a roster in peretual flux and a rookie management team. 

To boil it down, life with McMillan is far better than life without McMillan, and that's why you see the extension from the Blazers now. His reliability is a big asset for a team whose roster has been turned upside down multiple times over the last few years, and still hasn't settled into a finished product.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com