May 18

I know. It's been a while. Well, longer than my usual breaks from the blog anyway. It's not like I haven't been thinking about all of you.

Actually, that's not true. I haven't been thinking about you. But, how long could that last, right? And, by the way, when is training camp?

I've never been good about taking vacations. Even when I first started working for a living, I was never one who used my vacation days. Not even close. I probably should have, but because of some misguided sense of duty I'd always end the year with wasted vacation days. Usually a lot of them. Part of that is probably because I too much of my identity is wrapped up in what I do for a living. But, I'd like to think most of it is because I love my job and can't stay away. It's not work if you love what you do. Isn't that what they say?

Now, this job is different. We burn really, really hard for about seven or eight months, seven days a week. You work, or travel, on weekends and most holidays. If you've got a family, and I do, the guilt from not being around much starts to weigh you down (is it guilt or shame? I always get these two mixed up). Whatever it is, it's unnecessary, of course. But, that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. This is the long way of saying I've been playing catch up at home (and will continue to for the next several months).

Even though during the off season things are very different for us, we're never very far away from our professional passion and love- the Blazers and the NBA. There are meetings, radio and TV shows, charity events, appearances, and all the important days on the work calendar- draft workouts, the draft, summer league, free agency, and ultimately, training camp. I know this from experience- camp will be here before we know it.

Our weekly radio/tv show, Trail Blazers Courtside, continues during the "down time" as you probably know. It's never as fun, or as easy, when we're no longer playing. This is especially the case while the playoffs are still going on. But, we've had no shortage of things to talk about. The show does turn from completely Blazer-centric to a little more wide-angle view of the league.

The bulk of our time is still spent on Blazer issues however, and in the past few weeks we've had Nate McMillan on the show, along with guys like Kevin Pritchard, Martell Webster, many national writers, and now as we're approaching the draft, Blazer scouts, like Chad Buchanan.

For all the reviewing we, as fans, are doing, Blazer management is doing 10 times as much. This, after all, is their busy season. This is when huge decisions are made, as far as direction, including additions and subtractions to the team.

While I'm all for tinkering, this time to decompress has led me to realize that I like this team. Impatience has killed a lot of young NBA teams in the past. We knew it would be necessary during this building process, but that's always easier said than done.

I don't need to review the craziness of this past season, as it relates to injuries and just plain bad luck. On that front, all indications are that Greg Oden is doing very well, and is working toward getting a healthy body and mind. I spent some time with Joel Przybilla over the weekend, and he is very optimistic about his availability for training camp. Maybe that's wishful thinking on his part, but he says he's way ahead of schedule. Other than a long scar from below his knee cap to his lower thigh, he looks great.

I stopped by the practice facility last week and was a little surprised to see Brandon Roy in full practice gear on the court shooting. I'm not sure if this was an early start, or just trouble filling the down time. Either way, it reminded me how much I wish we were still playing.

We're just spectators for the rest of the playoffs, of course, and then for the time that follows. This particular management group has a very impressive track record in the draft, so I look forward to that time. And, it'll be interesting to watch the free-agent process. Not only for the Blazers, but for the rest of the NBA.

The LeBron James sweepstakes will be front and center for the next while, as you know. How nuts is this? Has there ever been a free agent, in any sport, with as much leverage? Teams who have entered the race for his services are basically in total stand-by mode, awaiting his assessment of their respective organizations. If he wants, he'll be able to hand pick a coach, a coaching staff, key teammates, and even executives. It's probably the first time we'll see a free agent negotiate directly with team owners. Everyone else will be under his control. That's the level he's playing at right now. Again, we've never seen this.

I've been reading your comments, that continue to pour in despite the fact that I've been silent. Very impressive. I've been wondering if you feel the same way I do about the necessity for change on this roster. Minor moves, or blockbuster? While you're wondering what the players have learned following the season, what have you learned? If the Blazers are going to spend their mid-level exception (and they may not), who should they target? What need should be addressed first? What individual needs to make the biggest off-season improvement? Will we roll into camp again placing all of our hopes on Oden's health?

That's a lot of questions, I realize. But, hey, we've got time. Right?


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