Saturday, June 10, 2006

Chasing Rumors

You may notice that we don't do a ton of rumor speculation here. It's not that I don't hear or heed them, more that I don't find it productive to add to the general din which arises every time a new rumor hits. There's an episode of The Simpsons where the teachers go on strike, leading to the principal and one of the teachers engaging in public debate before the town. They start out using relatively complete arguments, but the topics get so worn and familiar that they find they don't have to use sentences any more, just a word or two. The principal gets up and says, "Taxes" and the whole crowd goes, "Taxes are bad! No more taxes!" And the teacher gets up and says, "But the children..." and the crowd responds with, "She's right! Think of the children's future." Then the principal gets up and just raises an eyebrow. "Oh! The eyebrow thing means the taxes! We don't want taxes!" And so on. That's where I think we are with these off-season rumors. There are no arguments to be had that weren't already worn to death two months ago. At this point we're like amoebae getting poked with the ownership stick or the trade stick or whatever and reacting accordingly...basic stimulus-response.

While I enjoy watching this swarming petrie dish as much as the next bloke, in reality 95% of these rumors will never come true. I don't see the point in getting our collective undies in a bunch every time a columnist drops a not-so-subtle hint about a possible outcome to a hot-button issue.

Of course having read this disclaimer, you may be sure that I am now about to break my own rule. What can I say...it's a slow Saturday.

Eric Marentette at O-Live (link to your right) posted two juicy rumors pertaining to yesterday's ownership discussion.

The first is from Rob Parker of the Detroit news. He reports that Terry Porter is about to become the newest assistant coach of the Pistons. If true, we can assume this is the final nail in the coffin of the consortium's bid, at least with Porter as the public face. Assistant coach is not a job you take for the joy of it, nor to pleasantly bide your time. It's a stepping stone...to head coaching, to broadcasting, at the outside maybe even to a front office job. (Perhaps Terry sees Flip being replaced after next season. Who knows?) It is not, however, on the path to ownership. The gulf between the mailroom work of an assistant coach and the penthouse office of ownership is so great that one cannot imagine it being bridged.

The fate of the consortium became clear when it was revealed that Jeld-Wen's potential contribution amounted to $25 million or so...major money for us mortals but a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to buy and run the team and certainly not sufficient for the company to play the cavalry riding over the hill. In hindsight this probably could have been anticipated by the fact that the company, not its owner, was listed as the contributor. From Jeld-Wen's perspective it was a no-lose deal. If the offer went through, they would have made a modest investment, gotten the attendant publicity, and still owned less than 10% of the Blazers, a share which could easily be bought out at any time. If the deal didn't go through, just their offer of participation got them that same publicity absolutely free--an even better outcome. (Quick "Family Feud" question: Name a window company. Number one answer in our neck of the woods right now? Guess who. Did anyone even know how to spell their name a month ago?) I don't think they would have been dissatisfied with either outcome. This was brilliant, but not exactly the boost that Porter's group needed.

So may Porter's bid rest in peace. Amen.

This is disappointing because I think that group was the most clearly committed to keeping the Blazers local. Which brings up rumor number two...a story out of Milwaukee that puts Michael Jordan's hat back in the ownership ring again. This is even more speculative than the first, but there it is.

Far be it from me to feed the fires, but I have a really, really bad feeling about Jordan and his all-star friends owning this team. They have zero commitment to Portland. The Chicago Tribune has already quoted their expressed desire to own a team in player/high-roller-friendly mecca Las Vegas. Can't be done, you say? Virtually unbreakable lease, you say? Maybe. It hasn't been tested yet. And since we're dealing in speculation today, let me paint a scenario for you:

Jordan buys the team (and maybe Magic and Barkley along with him), professing the desire to return it to greatness. The team plays through the upcoming season, which is all but guaranteed to be lousy. The Blazers receive a high draft pick, maybe even the highest and Greg Oden along with it. The team probably plays through one more season, again playing poor to mediocre ball because of its youth. At that point--just as Oden (or whoever) and the rest of our youngsters are ready to make an upswing--the owners, with heavy hearts, state that they tried to make a run of it but can't continue to absorb the financial losses. They open the books and show the courts the $40 million plus deficit that we all know is coming in the next couple of years no matter what happens. They use this as justification to declare bankruptcy. Meanwhile the city of Las Vegas, sitting on top of what is virtually a money printing machine, offers substantial subsidies for the construction of a brand new arena. David Stern (whose professed desire is to keep the team in Portland) is not thrilled about the bankruptcy but also sees the potential--for publicity alone, if nothing else--in the move to Vegas. And after all, the new owners did try for two solid years. The NBA board of governors acquiesces. The league welcomes the Las Vegas Trailblazers before the decade turns. Jordan's promise of a return to respectability comes true the very next season, it just isn't in Portland.

Why would the owners buy an arena and then move from it in 2-3 years? I don't know...but it's been done before in other sports and it just happened in Charlotte in this one. If Vegas offers enough incentives, it would approach a wash. (And don't think the casinos wouldn't chip in. They build billion-dollar structures at the drop of a hat. A share in an arena would be peanuts compared to that. They could probably make it up in comped luxury boxes alone.)

And here's the final irony as it will appear in someone's blog or column:

In 1984 the Portland Trailblazers selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in what is widely regarded as the biggest draft bungle of all time. The bungle just got bigger. Had the Blazers selected Jordan, not only would they likely have won another championship or two, but his loyalty would have been bound to the city and its fans. Instead, 25 years after that fateful draft, the Chicago Bulls legend who once extinguished the flame of a Blazers title run presided over the move that turned out the lights of the Rose Garden for good. As the team heads for its new Vegas home, we reflect on possibilities gone by. Who could have known back in 1984 that the draft that changed an era for Portland basketball would also become the draft that ended it altogether?

It's speculation. It's just my gut-reaction. I know all that. But I'm still saying it. This possibility is about on a par with the Anaheim guy who wants a third team down there. Stay way, way away from it. Please.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

7 Comments:

Anonymous fatty said...

dave i totally agree with you
but i don't live in the west coast
also i'm a runnin-rebel fan
and a california angels fan
so either way i would love to
see them move to 2 cities i
already have an alligence with
sorry dave and portlanders
allen should've treated the
lumberjack*blue collar fan
better and you wwould'nt have
these fears trust me nyc-chi-la
you have fortune 500 in mid
level cities you need everyday
people in the seats and now
in portland wins*losses will
not bring people back players
with charecter will trust me
a.morrison*b.roy is a start
also i do agree with you if
jordan and the boys by this franchise stern will make sure
we'll win the next 3 lotteries
at least !!!later dave !!!!

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Davey said...

Boy, you had me goin' there for awhile, Dave. But I guess that was the point, huh? I was so caught up in the emotion of the Jordan scenario you painted, it almost took wing. Such is the stuff of rumors.
While it has a tinge of possibility, I'll go with the odds and say "Never happen!". I have more optimism for the next two years.I think management will make the obvious moves and put together a team with the right attitude. Granted, it won't be an overnight turnaround but we've already hit bottom and I'm expecting a good bounce from the draft and some trades.
Vegas seems like a great market and could probably use a pro team but Portland is not the only team on the ropes right now.
Michael may not have an allegiance to Portland but I believe the man who now owns them does.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

That's why I hope the man who now owns them either keeps them or sells them to somebody who respects the Portland legacy.

--Dave

6:59 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

You make some good points, but at this time I feel it’s a stretch to assume this team will move. As the young players continue to mature and we play better ball as a result, people will come. Especially if we can trade Zach & Darius. Add to that, if it really appears the team may move, I think we may find some civic pride towards the team that cannot be seen at present. Despite all that’s gone on, don’t sell this city too short.

At least, that’s my hope.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

The thing is, I'm not selling the city short. At least I hope I'm not. I, too, have great faith that we will fill the Garden again. But realistically that's not going to happen in the next year or two. It'll take time for the team to get good enough to generate mass interest and then a little more time for the word to spread about it. What I'm worried about is someone buying the team specifically to move it...someone who will take advantage of that gap and use it as justification for the move. There are people out there for whom Portland's lack of support right now is actually a drawing card for buying the team. These guys wouldn't necessarily want to see a resurgence. THAT'S the potential owner I'm afraid of. And if you ask me if MJ or MJ/Magic/Barkley would think that way, I'd bet yes.

--Dave

3:21 PM  
Blogger BLAZER PROPHET said...

That may be true. However, all those players realize the importance of maintaining a team's identity. Also, they would be villified to no end, and I'm not sure their egos can take that.

Dave, in other words, DON'T LET THEM TAKE MY TEAM!!

8:45 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

AMEN brother! AMEN!

--Dave

8:41 PM  

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