By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Jul 6 2010 8:37PM - Updated Jul 6 2010 10:51PM
Former Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard will be the latest executive to interview for the New Jersey Nets' GM position, according to sources.
Pritchard fell out of favor with ownership last season in Portland for still-unexplained reasons, though there was speculation that his personality grated both on fellow GMs around the league and that he took too much credit for the Trail Blazers' turnaround. But other than the deep pockets of owner Paul Allen, it's hard to find anyone or anything else who had more to do with Portland's renaissance from its "Jail Blazers" days than Pritchard. He drafted forward LaMarcus Aldridge and traded for All-Star guard Brandon Roy on Draft night in 2006, acquired guard Rudy Fernandez and forward Nicolas Batum in Draft day trades, signed free agent guard Andre Miller last summer and picked up center Marcus Camby in a trade last season after the Blazers lost both Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla to season-ending injuries.
Revisionist historians have criticized Pritchard for taking Oden with the first overall pick in the 2007 Draft over Kevin Durant, who has become a superstar in Oklahoma City for the young and emerging Thunder while Oden has been riddled with injuries that have limited him to 82 games total in three seasons. But it was next to impossible to find anyone in the league who didn't think the 7-foot Oden, whom many believed would be the next great big man in the game, was the guy to take.
When Portland's assistant GM, Tom Penn, was fired earlier this season, word came down that Prtichard was on borrowed time as well. He was no longer allowed to sit next to Allen at home games, as had been his custom for several seasons. Portland's ownership group, which includes family and close friends of Allen's, reportedly believed Penn had inflated the value of a contract offer he'd received from Minnesota last year for the Wolves' GM job, and that he did so at Pritchard's behest, with Pritchard hoping the Blazers would both retain Penn and give himself a raise.
Such supposed intraoffice politics was lost on many of the fans in Portland, who only knew that Pritchard rebuilt the team in four years from a lottery squad to one that won 50 games this past season and made the playoffs despite an incredible rash of injuries.
The Nets have already interviewed New Orleans GM Jeff Bower, who removed his name from consideration for the job on Tuesday. Detroit GM Joe Dumars has denied reports that he also has interviewed for the job.
New Jersey is believed to be going through a double-digit list of candidates to replace former GM Kiki Vandeweghe, who was not retained after the Draft by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and team president Rod Thorn, who is stepping down from his job July 15 after helping the team get through the free agent negotiating and signing period.
It's not known when Pritchard will interview, as the Nets are right in the middle of the fray with other teams trying to cash in on the free agent sweepstakes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and others. The Nets met with James last week and were said to have put together a very impressive presentation, led by Prokhorov. New Jersey has more than $30 million in cap room after trading guard Chris Douglas-Roberts to Milwaukee and forward Yi Jianlian to Washington and waiving guard Keyon Dooling, looking to build around center Brook Lopez, guards Devin Harris and Terrence Williams and first-round pick Derrick Favors.
Thorn told the Newark Star Ledger via text Tuesday night that he has not set up an interview with Pritchard, but may "in the future."
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