Canzano: Trail Blazers face a time of darkness without leadership
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  1. BlazerManiac
    Posts: 777

    Posted 03/12/2012 8:20 AM

    The Trail Blazers front office has gone underground. Team president Larry Miller and his basketball operations staff go dark every season around the NBA's trade deadline, presumably because they don't want to complicate the talks. Acting quasi-general manager Chad Buchanan is off limits. And owner Paul Allen isn't speaking, either.

    The basketball is left out front, naked, to do all the talking.

    Nobody to make empty promises. Nobody to distract from the apathetic play. Nobody to fuzz up the reality, and say boilerplate things such as "We're exploring all options." Just the Blazers left alone on Saturday with the Washington Wizards, whom they beat 110-99, allowing fans to momentarily exhale.

    A day like this makes everything clear. Because the low point for the Blazers this season wasn't trailing Boston on Friday by 43 points with blank stares on the bench. The true low point was Saturday, as Portland tipped off against the nine-win Wizards with the rest of us unsure if the Blazers would have the personal pride to compete.

    Portland doesn't need a point guard or a center. It needs a plan, and someone to speak for it. The great irony hits you like a bag of bricks as the front office announces it's going silent, and you look around and realize that nobody in ownership or management associated with the brand has said much of substance. Truth is, the organization went underground years ago, sometime after Bob Whitsitt left, and has just been guessing and hoping and selling out the arena.

    In the past few weeks, fans got real. It's time for the organization to stop overvaluing the roster and being fooled by the phantom sellout streak and realize that if it truly wants to compete, a massive organizational overhaul is necessary.

    Players. Coaches. Executives. Philosophy. It all needs deeper examination, and at this point, most of it may be so far gone that simply starting over wouldn't be the worst idea.

    We've been asking the wrong question for the past few weeks -- What's with the Blazers?!? -- while it's become evident that what's really going on is that the organization is lost. The right question: What do the Blazers want to be in five years?

    Do they want to win? Do they want this city to be proud of them again? Do they want to make money and sell tickets? I suspect they want all of those things, and that Miller and his fellow executives are at the mercy of a semi-interested owner who doesn't appear to know what he wants out of his basketball hobby anymore. Allen is at games, mostly. But when you look at the lack of a general manager, his hardline stance during the lockout, and the inconsistent personnel moves he's made, it feels 50-50 that he's in this anymore.

    Jamal Crawford texted me two hours before tip on Saturday and said Blazers "fans have every right to be frustrated." The guard hasn't gone underground. Crawford offered hope, pointing out that the team is only a couple of games off the final spot in the playoffs.

    But I don't think a single trade at the March 15 deadline, or the sudden willingness of the Blazers to play hard and scratch their way into the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, will fix a thing. It's all fool's gold until Allen makes a declarative move that suggests he's interested in making one good, fair, final run at possibly winning an NBA championship. So, Paul?

    You in or what?

    He may have already decided that it's too difficult for a small market team to build a champion, one brick at a time. His team whiffed on Greg Oden. And now, the Blazers have lined up a pile of expiring contracts, which either means they're attractive and in wonderful position to be put up for sale or that Allen really does want to make one last run before he gives up on his NBA dream. Nobody knows which, and that apathetic lack of direction ends up a bigger issue than disinterested play.

    The team season-ticket sales staff is trying to sell renewals for next season. The "Rise With Us," era has been replaced by the marketing department's "STAY UNITED," pitch. Which is only about one click from, "Please, Baby, We're Sorry, Don't Leave." And I feel for the good people whose livelihoods are now tied to the performance of a roster that they have no role in building or coaching.

    Try selling tickets to see the team that failed to show up against Boston. Try having your commission tied to Marcus Camby, jogging up and down the court with that blank expression on his face and Raymond Felton dribbling the ball off his knee.

    Allen needs to help his sales staff out. He needs to come above ground today to talk basketball. He hasn't hired a general manager to do the talking. So it's him. And the hope here is that he doesn't push Miller, poor Miller, out front to explain how interested Allen is in winning and owning the team. That move is stale.

    Allen needs to get real with fans himself. Connect, best he can. Do what Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho might have done had Allen not fired them both. Explain his own frustration, and limitations, and the objectives. Tell the world how excited and determined he is. Allen doesn't need to give away the business plan, or compromise the ability of the front office to get a deal done. But Allen needs to get real in a way that is believable or I doubt fans will believe this franchise can ever really find traction.

    The Blazers owner met with select media members prior to the season opener. The participants were hand-picked. A security guard was stationed outside the room and anyone who wasn't invited, including this columnist, was turned away and told there was no room.

    The whole thing felt contrived, silly and Allen-esque.

    I don't even think Allen needs to make a "state of the Blazers talk" a media event this time. Fans in Portland are smart. Just grab a microphone and hold a town-hall style meeting at the Rose Garden on an off night with any Blazers fans who want to attend. Speak from the heart. Be authentic. Because the Blazers ticket holders are really shareholders.

    The play stinks right now, but if Allen showed an ounce of passion, and talked like a guy who cares, I'll bet he'll sell out the arena again next season.

    It's not a trade deadline thing. It's not a ticket-renewal thing. It's what great owners do when the franchise feels lost.

    The basketball will always speak. But it shouldn't be the only voice.

    I am a fan of WES, the heart and soul of the Blazers.
  1. Simpson
    Posts: 303

    Posted 03/12/2012 9:54 AM

    All very true points unfortunately.  Allen WAS/IS 1 of the "Hardliners" & his "press conference" DID feel ABSOLUTELY contrived!  When it comes down to it, "sometimes (that time is AGAIN now!) u gotta spend $ to make $[championship]."  He seems to believe that w/ luck/karma (we know he's spent a lot of $ on Roy & Greg w/ no championship; these 2 guys aren't to blame but we all know Allen is pissed about this stuff understandably) he can put out the minimum $ & win.  WRONG!  IF u do that, ur business will die a slow death (in the long run actually a MORE expensive death 2).  In business, ur gonna experience winning AND LOSING (much like sports), which I''m sure he's delt w/b4 in his other businesses; SO... IF he's treating the Blazers like a business... sometimes ur gonna fail a few times b4 u succeed; the only time u call it quits is when a business is no longer deemed profitable.  Is Allen "calling it quits" bc he no longer thinks the Blazers r "profitable?"  I admit, I don't know all the "problems" 1 faces being a billionaire but I don't have to, to say I think Allen can make due w/ 1 less ivory back scratcher.  Even if he gives whatever $ it is that is required AND things fall apart again, I don't think his standards of living r going to be compromised much or @ all.  All the $ that he's made... is that his $?  Yes.  Is it his choice what he does w/ it?  Yes.  However, IF he want's to win, show Blazer players respect, AND give the LOYAL fans what they deserve... then loosen the purse strings to pay players u want/want to retain!  Yes, the NBA/Blazers r a business BUT the Blazers ARE PEOPLE (I'm referring to Players)/FANS ALSO!  "So Paul?  You in or [out]?"
    I am a fan of OUR Blazers!
  1. CarlJ1
    Posts: 399

    Posted 03/12/2012 1:01 PM

    Damn Canzano went in and he made great points, that's what it comes down to just be real Mr. Allen.
    I am a fan of Respect, Loyalty, Honor & Pride the same thing the Blazer & their true fans are made of RIP CITY STAND UP!
  1. kenny c.
    kenny c.
    Posts: 418

    Posted 03/12/2012 2:37 PM

    Nice peice of writing.
    I am a fan of Winning
  1. Tobyus Sanchezo
    Tobyus Sanchezo
    Posts: 1669

    Posted 03/12/2012 5:08 PM

    We're Blazer fans. Paul Allen is a Blazer fan. We wince together when the Blazers get whooped. Paul Allen spent a lotta bread on this team. We can hope these fat paychecks inspire this team to play hard. But this season it seems that money can't buy courage, or the competitive edge needed to win tough ballgames.

    What's the Blazers? Like 0-16 this season in games when they trail going onto the 4th quarter? Might wanna leave that off the stat sheet when you advertise season tickets.
    I am a fan of multiple All-Stars on the Blazers roster this season!
  1. BDawg
    Posts: 1593

    Posted 03/12/2012 5:51 PM

    Only a quarter-season ticket holder and questioning my own renewal.  Why?  I work very hard for the money paying to support millionaires who don't (work hard).  There is something very wrong with that.  Canzano...this time you got it right.  Thank you for being the voice of so many of us not as adept with putting thoughts and feelings to paper.  Personally, as my fan statement suggests, my support is not based on record but rather, EFFORT and COMMITMENT.  As I've said in other threads, like many fans here I can be patient with a rebuilding effort so long as there seems to be clear direction.  Effort, commitment, and clear direction are all missing at time of this post, just as my disposable income previously spent on tickets is.
    I am a fan of players that play with PASSION and PRIDE
  1. barnettfan
    Posts: 392

    Posted 03/12/2012 5:54 PM

    I agree Paul Allen should come out and say something he should have said something awhile back but hey anytime in the near future would be nice. I would like to say something now on our status. Teams take years to bounce back from the hits we have taken over the past 5. Because of the amnesty clause for Roy it would be another 4 or 5 before we could really do anything and this is no hit against Roy by no means. At the start of the season when Roy announced that he was retiring I do not think that there was a single one of us that said OH BOY! we are going to the champiopnship! In fact we are getting the season that we kinda expected. We made a decent pick up with J.Crawford and we thought that could alleviate the loss of Roy along with Matthews maturing and bingo 7-2 start while we were celebrating we should have realized that the other teams just had a lockout hangover Not unlike Wallace Matthews and Felton ( althought Felton had waaaay too many movies and Bon-Bons). The players right now I think are in Quicksand (quote from the movie the Replacements) nothing they do seems to work and it is just building up and everything they try to do isn't working. Now I doubt that we can get that 7-2 start back again no matter what we do. But this entire organization needs to pull on their pants and pick up their bootstraps and get to work. If they have to shake things up than by all means shake things up but lets not lose the fan base by being silent. My one piece of advice would be Paul Allen pick up the phone and see if Jerry Sloan is available and piss off Utah.
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