Posted Jun 25 2010 1:41PM
NEW YORK -- In other news, Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen just ruined what remained of his good NBA name and made his franchise look classless and disorganized.
Under the league-wide cover of darkness -- the Draft -- Allen pulled off the impossible by turning an announcement everyone saw coming for months into a shocker. Kevin Pritchard was fired as general manager, except that he needed to stick around an extra few hours to be in the room for the picks and potential trades, apparently because the Blazers hadn't rubbed his nose in it enough.
Embarrassment was obviously part of the Allen plan, since the corporate bosses had been emasculating Pritchard since March, when word first leaked that the Blazers had soured on his puffed-chest ways and went to work on the revisionist history that Pritchard hadn't played as big a role in the team's revival as previously stated. Top assistant Tom Penn was fired, Allen did nothing to dissuade speculation that Pritchard was a dead man walking, and then the guy got fired the afternoon of the Draft. Management could have pink-slipped him at the end of the season, could have dumped him Thursday and told him to go home or let him run the Draft and can him next week. It's not Allen's way.
Nothing has changed since March. Allen has gone from spending years winning back fans who left during the Jail Blazers days to risking the loyalties all over again. The Blazermaniacs didn't like the direction back then and forced Allen into a change, and they will turn on him again. Pritchard is that popular, credited in town not only for the basketball recovery but for being at the forefront of the new emphasis on citizenship.
If the Blazers reclaim their contender-of-the-future role standing next season, the turnstiles keep clicking. People don't pay to watch the GM. But if Pritchard's firing is followed by years of unrealized potential, the suits just picked a fight with fans they can't win.
The Blazers will be able to choose from among qualified successors, so this isn't a front-office dead end. Portland is a great place to live and Allen has very deep pockets and allows his basketball-operations people to be aggressive with deals. Candidates aren't going to turn and run because of this. Allen may want to, though.
By firing Pritchard in this way, at this time, the Blazers became one of the biggest developments of Draft night -- even though the move had nothing to do with the Draft. In the next-day analysis of winners and losers through the 60 picks, Portland is an unqualified loser.
Other news and observations from the frenzied Thursday:
• Da'Sean Butler, the West Virginia small forward who needed to impress teams despite being unable to work out while recovering from a knee injury in the Final Four, went to the Heat at No. 42. It's not a bad outcome. Butler was projected to go somewhere between 25 and 35 before the health concern, and Miami has nothing but roster spots while clearing cap space for free agency.
• Geoff Petrie had enough of watching the Kings get overpowered last season. His major moves have been adding shot blocker Samuel Dalembert in a trade, 290-pound center DeMarcus Cousins in the lottery and shot blocker Hassan Whiteside in the second round.
• Winner: Gordon Hayward. The Butler small forward, given an outside chance to break the top 10 as teams left the pre-Draft combine in late-May, went ninth to the Jazz. Andrei Kirilenko's fits of inconsistency mean Utah eternally has a potential opening at small forward, and there is a long history of young players developing under coach Jerry Sloan.
• Loser: the Pacific 10 Conference. A prominent presence at the Draft in recent years, the Pac-10 had two players picked this time, Quincy Pondexter from Washington and Landry Fields from Stanford.
• Winner: the people of New York. What a bunch of softies. As the night dragged on late into the night and the top names were long gone -- and most of the fans as well -- some relative unknown without the juice to be invited to sit in the green room would be drafted in the 50s and walk from the stands to the stage. And a lot of the fans would come over for high fives and make noise to celebrate the moment. Very nice. We promise not to tell.
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