Friday, May 12, 2006

Through the Looking Glass

How many twists and turns will this ownership saga take before it's over? What an amazing soap opera it's turning out to be.

Something I should have added to the Paul Allen post below is that you can't fault him for keeping in play the possibility of bankruptcy or the team moving. As much as we'd like to be reassured as fans, he'd be foolish to give up those cards in the middle of negotiations, whether he actually intended to play them or not (which we don't know). It's the same thing with Joel. Even if he went to his agent and said, "I'd give my left lung to stay in Portland. I'll play for a buck. Just keep me there!" all you'd ever hear from the agent publicly would be, "All possibilities are open." Though smart and completely understandable, this stance firmly plants Mr. Allen on the dark side of our little Blazer drama.

In my heart of hearts, I have believed that the surest guard against the team actually declaring bankruptcy and moving was our long-time nemesis, David Stern. He would never make such a statement in public either, as his job is to do the best job he can for the league and its owners, but I always imagined him sitting down in private with Paul and saying, "Really...you can't do that. It's unprecedented in the NBA and too much of an embarrassment." So somehow we have been caught in this Bizarro World where our owner and Portland Area Management are the villains, David Stern the unlikely guard taking a desperate stand, and some unspecified ownership group the cavalry expected to ride over the hill at any moment and save us all.

If that was the construct, I think this Magic/Michael/Charles news (one post below) changes things, at least if they have Portland on their target list. (Which would make sense...small market, struggling team, cheap price.) In a swerve worthy of the WWE at its best, everyone now switches sides. That ownership group coming over the hill isn't our salvation, they're going to carry the team away. I still believe Stern would have some qualms about bankruptcy, but he's always been a businessman first and foremost. And what's better for business and the image of the league, a struggling team in Portland owned by a nondescript group or the first major professional sports team in Vegas, owned by three of the most popular stars of the league's glory years? How often do the Portland Trailblazers get mentioned on sports radio or ESPN, even when they win? How much pub would the Vegas Blazers get just for existing and being owned by that triumvirate? We can cry all we want about tradition and the feelings of the Portland fans, but I don't think the compassion in David Stern's heart for that issue would fill a thimble, especially with the potential gains the other way. And while I have been skeptical of the viability of bankruptcy and a team move passing muster in the courts, with Stern and the NBA machine squarely behind it, who knows what's possible? Anyone want to bet against the Godfather? (Now revealed again in his true evil form...)

And so in a single instant the hue and cry from the audience changes from, "Sell the team, Paul!" to "DON'T sell the team, Paul! Please!" P.A.M. doesn't benefit from a move. The door opens for a settlement between the parties. Allen will keep the team in Portland. He writes a check for a compromise amount and Voila! The bad guys wear the white hats again, the day is saved, and everyone cheers.

If you thought people were that smart, you'd almost guess it was planned this way. Magic and company give an interview to a Chicago sportswriter which is released on the same day that Dwight Jaynes breaks his decade-long grumpy streak and actually says in print that Paul Allen would be the best owner for this team? Somebody call Art Bell...

Of course there's not a shred of credibility in this. It's all fanciful speculation. But it's fascinating how things have the potential to change in the public's perception, if nowhere else.

But if should I disappear tomorrow and you suddenly start getting "404-file not found" errors from this site, you know who to blame. Tell my wife if she re-marries, he better not be a #!*%@ Laker fan.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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