Portland Trail Blazers “Retool”
It has been a rightly busy off-season in Portland. The Trail Blazers now have their General Manager, Head Coach, and maybe even their pick and roll man. Trail Blazers fans even enjoyed almost one month with a full front office, until President Larry Miller set sails for calmer seas.
Neil Oshley, coming from the Los Angeles Clippers takes the reigns in one of Portland’s hottest seats. Considering the term expectancy of the job, the Blazers did well with Oshley. He was a key part of several moves that help raise the Clippers out of irrelevance. However, he takes over the job with a staff, half selected by Rich Cho and half selected by Kevin Pritchard. This includes long time interm-GM Chad Buuchanan. Not an easy situation for any executive.
Terry Stotts vacates the assistant coaching position with the Dallas Mavericks. He was a major component in an offense that was based around a dominant power forward; exactly what Lamarcus Aldridge will have to become if the Blazers will reclaim playoff prominence. Not only was Stotts’ offense built around a power forward, but it became a championship caliber offense built around a power forward. Stotts has spent time coaching under some of the leagues greats, specifically, George Karl and Rick Carlisle. With a high recommendation from these head coaches, Stotts edged out Caleb Kanalas, Interm-Head Coach for the position in Portland.
Probably the only thing we see more than rookie executives, knee braces, coffee shops, and bikes lanes is upside. Unfortunately upside doesn’t win basketball games. Maybe not even half of them. While rookie PG Damian Lillard is turning a lot of heads in Las Vegas, it wasn’t long ago Jerryd Bayless won the Summer League MVP. He went on to be a bench contributor, but not a franchise building block like many in Portland are starting to hope for Lillard. Or maybe I’m just jaded from a franchise who’s draft picks have gone on to leave the fan base muttering “could have, would have, should have.”
The Trail Blazers also matched the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offer on restricted free agent Nicholas Batum. After it seemed clear that Batum wanted to be almost anywhere, but in a Blazers uniform, next year he signed a $45 Million deal keeping him in Portland. This came as no surprise, since GM Neil Oshley made it clear any offer on the Frenchman would be matched. This came to the relief of many (mostly female) fans in Portland. It’s true, every year Batum has been in Portland his stats have to increase. But, if Batum is going to be a 45 million dollar franchise cornerstone, he has a long way to go. Frankly, if Batum really didn’t want to play in Portland, as his interviews during the off-season indicated, I don’t believe he is worth a dime. And every time I say that I am quickly reminded by a (probably female) fan that, “Oh he just said those things because his agent told him to,” or “No he loves Portland, he was just trying to get a better offer.” But which Nicholas Batum should we believe?
Both Oshley and Stotts have set modest short-term goals for the “retooled” franchise. And by modest goals, I mean no goals at all. Meanwhile, Blazers fans hope Wesley Matthews shooting woes last year were a fluke. We hope Nicholas Batum can learn to finish at the rim. We hope Damian Lillard is the next Terry Porter. And we hope our new organizational leadership can finally put all this in the review mirror. Here’s to hoping.