Ball Don't Lie

Portland’s weird rebuilding process includes a fan revolt, a .500 record, and signing an All-Star

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Trail Blazer interim coach Kaleb Canales isn't very good at tanking (Getty Images)

In their increasing attempts to keep Portland weird, the Trail Blazers have somehow rattled off six wins in 12 attempts in the games following the trade deadline day dismissal of two of its best players and head coach Nate McMillan. Rookie coach Kaleb Canales might be a coaching neophyte, but he's somehow strung wins out of Blazers games Chicago, Memphis, and Minnesota amongst others since the team's front office essentially cleared the books in March.

And now, with a goodly chunk of cap space to look forward to in the offseason, Blazers I'm-not-really-the-GM Larry Miller is thinking he'll skip the whole "rebuilding with youth" theme, and shoot for the stars. It doesn't really make much sense to me, and Miller can't name names without tampering, but all indications is that he'd like his next GM to make a play for Deron Williams, or Steve Nash. Forget the slow and steady rebuild, the Blazers want their potential season ticket buyers to know, they're going for someone you've heard of. Weirdly. From Jason Quick at the Oregonian:

"We are dreaming big," Miller said.


So think Steve Nash. Think Deron Williams. Think Roy Hibbert. Brook Lopez.

"We can't say 'We are going after this guy, that guy, and this guy'," Miller said. "But we have positioned ourselves to compete for those big-name players. And this is a strong draft. Whether we trade our picks, or use our picks, we are going to get better going into next season."

Unless LeBron James or Shaquille O'Neal is at the other end of the table, NBA teams haven't had a lot of luck when they toss all their cash at whoever the best player available is. Teams don't exactly turn out like the Detroit Pistons (who went all-in with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva a while back) every time, but squads usually do best when they retain flexibility, and go for depth and chemistry above all else. And while we respect the heck out of Nash, think Williams (who was needlessly jerky to a reporter in Portland on Wednesday) is definitely going to Dallas, and admire Hibbert and Lopez' gifts, this sounds like something you hint at just to make the punters happy.

And the punters, in Portland, are not happy. Point guard Raymond Felton is disliked in just about every corner, and he's tossing out weird stuff like this to Blazers Edge's Ben Golliver:

"Regardless of what they say about me, I don't care. Words don't break me. I stay right off Pearl Direct, in the Indigo, if you want to come see me... I'm going to keep it 100 with them, you feel me?"

No, I don't. I have no idea what that means. And "regardless" of what Felton says, his play his speaking volumes. Enough for the team's radio guys to overhear this plea from a potential season ticket holder:

As fans filed out of the Rose Garden that evening, it got ugly. One fan yelled "Get rid of Felton!" Another angrily screamed to the Blazers radio broadcast crew that he would not renew his season tickets until Felton was gone.

Felton, who the team traded for last June and desperately attempted to move at the trade deadline, is having a miserable year. Clearly out of shape, he's shooting just 39 percent from the field, and chucking over three three-pointers per game despite shooting just 28.7 percent from long range. Based on my scouting expertise, I can assure you that he has yet to begin a Portland possession this season without backing in his defender from 30 feet out, because defenders are so much quicker than him. Don't bother to look it up, because I'm pretty sure I'm right.

The April 12th, season ticket date is key. The Blazers can't really be criticized for attempting to put all their eggs in one All-Star's basket because we don't know how committed the team is to attempting this sort of quick-hit rebuild.

Heck, we don't even know who "they" are, because the team still has yet to hire a general manager some 10 months after it let go of former GM Rich Cho. This could all be a front, a media play in an otherwise forgettable April to keep those season ticket holders around as owner Paul Allen may or may not be listening to offers to sell the team. A team with no GM, an interim coach, a major decision to make in this June's draft, major decisions to make during July's free agency period, and a squad that was designed to tank the rest of the season but yet somehow can't stop winning every other game.

Weird. Not sure if you've heard, but Portland likes it that way.

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