Yesterday, over on Blazers.com Mike Barrett did a video interview with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen. Over at Blazersedge, Ben Golliver delivers a killer full transcript of the interview for those who prefer those or don’t have 10 minutes, so thanks to him. Very interesting to see Mr. Allen speaking, and very interesting to see some of the things he said. A lot of people are buzzing that he didn’t talk about Kevin Pritchard or even Rudy Fernandez, which is fine…but as I talk about later I like the focus on the actual on-court product..especially after the front office decided to do a tribute to The Hills last year. Here were a couple highlights courtesy of the transcript with my thoughts under. :
New personnel changes
Well I think the draft, that’s always interesting to bring in new players and see how they’re going to contribute. I think we’ve got some players in Luke [Babbitt} and Elliot [Williams] who hopefully can make a good contribution this year. It was a really challenging draft process but we got through it and found some good players. I’ve been hearing some good things about them and their potential to develop.
Then, of course, we signed Wes Matthews to a very substantial offer sheet which wasn’t matched. That was a bit nerve-wracking and we all speculated about whether it would happen or not. But he was the player that we targeted and really wanted to get. We talked to all the basketball staff, [Blazers President] Larry [Miller] was a key part of that decision too, we all put our heads together and concluded that he was the player that could really help us next year. I’m really excited to see… I watched him just a tiny bit on practice tape and I’m excited to see preseason get started as I always am.
A couple interesting tidbits from Mr. Allen here. The ‘easy’ thing to talk about is Mr. Allen not talking about the KP incident, the fallout and all that (he never actually mentions his name during the interview). To be honest, I liked it and I respected him for just letting that die in the past. The easy way out would have been to push his side of the story and what not, instead by not talking about it we should be talking about the task at hand: the product on the court. I may be on the minority, but I liked him actually talking about the prospects. Very interesting that Mr. Allen said Luke Babbitt and Eliot Williams could contribute this year, I personally have the same exepectations for them as I did for the rookies last year: whatever they add is a bonus.
Also interesting was how high he and the organization was on Wesley Matthews. All signs point to the fact that Blazers really think that he’s the guy that can take this team to the next level. I’d say at this point, this is one of the few times where I get a feeling that Blazer management has higher expectations for a player than fans. I still don’t know what to make of Matthews and what to expect from him and I’ll reserve any judgment until I see him in regular season action. Was he a product of the Jazz system, or was he held back a little bit? Only time will tell, but very interesting to see how badly Portland wanted him when you recall how many guys they were attached to early in the off-season.
Because of all the injuries we’re recovering from it’s really hard to pin down. We would love to get a great contribution from Greg this year. He’s gone more than the extra mile to get in shape and get ready to go. You’ve got Joel who is also rehabilitating. Of course Brandon [Roy] had a few issues there at the end of the season too. It’s going to be very interesting to see how they come back. So far I’m hearing very encouraging things. It would be so great to see them back out there playing 100%.
If everything clicks, and you haven’t touched on it yet but it’s probably your next question, we have some new assistant coaches too, a little change with the basketball staff, we have some guys coming back and hopefully being 100% healthy, this could be a great year. Given the challenges of last year you have to keep an eye out for that and make sure everybody stays healthy. We’re doing the best we can there and bringing the guys along slowly.
I agree with Mr. Allen on the fact that it’s not easy to really put solid expectations on the Blazers this year. And it’s odd because you usually don’t say that when a team has won 50+ times the past two seasons. Especially when that team is returning a ton of their cast AND are seemingly healthy after a miserable year in that category. Are the Blazers purposely lowering expectations, after two years of hype? Who knows, but I think it’s an interesting question. The support for Greg Oden also needs to be highlighted, not only because this is the last year of his contract but because he’s a major key to this team’s success.