Problems in Portland
Good things happen to good guys, and vice versa:
Rather than celebrating the depleted Trail Blazers' stand under coach of the year frontrunner Nate McMillan, Portland ownership fired General Manager Kevin Pritchard's right-hand man, Tom Penn, amid speculation that Pritchard is next.
"They can't do Kevin in the middle of the season, but they can do a drive-by on someone close to him," Warren LeGarie, the agent for both executives, told the Oregonian's John Canzano.
"But guess who would be next."
Aside from "issues," such as the charge that Penn faked a job offer from Minnesota to get a raise, is the real one:
Owner Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder — and/or the coldblooded "Vulcans" from his Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. — are second-guessing the selection of oft-injured Greg Oden over burgeoning superstar Kevin Durant in the 2007 draft.
For all of his charitable endeavors, Allen is a callous businessman who bankrupted the Rose Garden arena he built, trying to dump it on the lenders that bankrolled him.
The brash Pritchard is hardly the league's most popular GM, but his good-guy players wiped out the memory of the "Jail Blazers," whom the Vulcans allowed to pillage for so long because they appeared to be close to winning a title.
As another GM said, "No matter what anyone says now, no one would have drafted Durant ahead of Oden."
"Kevin is the GM here," Blazers President Larry Miller said. "I can never commit to anybody being around long-term …
"To me, Kevin is our GM, and my feeling is we should focus on finishing out the season. … The situation with Tom was an isolated incident. It's unfortunate, but hopefully we can put it behind us."
Only a Vulcan could stonewall without understanding that he's actually confirming what he's trying to hide, or think they put anything behind them.
New Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, who gives good press conference, made up for his 19-day silence while awaiting formal league approval by charming the oft-jilted city, which was so thrilled, it overlooked the fact all the news was bad.... With a $60-million payroll, losses projected in the $30-million range and no desire to pay luxury tax, Jordan says he's limited in what he can do.
Oh, and if Coach Larry Brown wants out of his contract, Jordan says he'll free him. With Brown's family in Philadelphia and old owners like the Clippers' Donald T. Sterling and Philadelphia's Ed Snider pining to bring Larry back, Jordan said, "I don't see how I could stand in the way of that. I view Larry as a friend, and for me to hold a friend to a contract knowing that his spouse or his family scenario supersedes that, that's not who I am."
The years-long struggle between the young Hawks and Coach Mike Woodson is over.... "I can't beat 'em up like I did in the early days." Woodson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham. "I'm serious. Ask Smoove [Josh Smith]. I used to give them no days off. We would practice every day. They used to hate me for that."... Smith, asked if players hated Woodson: "Hell, yeah."... Meanwhile, the team's star, Joe Johnson, and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire are considered the free agents likeliest to leave.