May 18

Inaugural Mailbag: Just Casey Chat Edition

By sarahhecht Posted in: mailbag
With a summer reload in progress for the Trail Blazers it natural for approximately sixteen gazillion questions to come up regarding everything from the lottery and the draft to free agency and potential targets. Normally we here on the Trail Blazers digital team would answer your questions via live chats on, but with shows only once a day during the offseason we’ve found ourselves in need of another outlet. Hence, the birth of the mailbag.

We decided to start the mailbag series with questions from the May 16th episode of Just Casey—the chatters brought a slough of questions all tied to this summer of opportunity and we want to answer them—but we’ll be taking future questions from you through email at Hit us there with anything that you’re thinking/pondering/stressing/dreaming about and we’ll do our best to answer your questions and share our opinions.

Now, let the mailbagging begin!  
Q: Do we need Freeland if we have Aldridge, Hickson and Babbitt? --cleffnote

Answered by Casey Holdahl

Answering any question pertaining to Joel Freeland playing in the NBA is always a bit difficult, seeing as how he's never played against NBA talent outside of a few summer league games way back when.

Do we "need" Freeland? Probably not. Would I like to see the team bring him over? Absolutely. My understanding is that Freeland is more of a hard-nosed banger than Aldridge, Hickson or Babbitt and probably able to play both front court positions. To me, that sounds like something we could use.

And really, I'd like to give Freeland a go if for no other reason than it being time to test out whether the idea of stashing draft picks overseas actually works.
Q: Could we offer Harden more money [than OKC]? -- Trent

Answered by Sarah Hecht

Assuming you’re talking about this coming offseason the short answer to this question is no. Why? Because James Harden is not a free agent. He wouldn’t become a restricted free agent until next summer and that will only happen if he doesn’t sign a contratct extension this year.

The long answer has a few more details because the James Harden situation is an interesting one. Oklahoma City signed both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to massive contracts and now face the conundrum of having two more of their core pieces up for extensions—both James Harden and Serge Ibaka have one year left on their rookie deals (2012-2013) and are eligible to sign extensions come July 1st. Harden and Ibaka have both shown to be solid players, Harden earning Sixth Man of the Year this season and Ibaka was one of the favorites for Defensive Player of the Year.

What makes this situation tricky for the Thunder is retaining two players who could, and likely will, command big free agent money while they still have two larger contracts on the books. According to to Marc Spears of Yahoo! sports, OKC General Manager Sam Presti will look to extend both Harden and Ibaka this summer.

It’s my understanding OKC will have to get pretty creative to have the ability to offer both guys the money they could earn on the open market. If they can’t offer them their full value in cash (which is widely understood to be the case,) their task is then to sell the two on other perks, like loyalty and being a perennial championship contender. The options for Harden and Ibaka then become to hit the free agent market and attempt to sign a larger contract or stay with OKC for the potential basketball benefits. (Remember, Harden and Ibaka will be restricted free agents, not unrestricted.)

With that knowledge we can assume a few things would need to happen to give Portland the ability to offer Harden more money than OKC come next summer. First, Harden needs to actually become a restricted free agent by not signing an extension. Second, Portland would need to have the money and cap space to sign him. This could play out in a multitude of ways and at this point, which so much already up the air for the Trail Blazers this summer, there are far to many options to speculate. And third, if Portland we’re to offer him a contract OKC would have to decide not to match it or be fiscally unable.

So the long and short of the James Harden question makes it very unlikely he’ll end up in a Trail Blazers uniform in the near future.

Q: D'Antoni, any chance he gets an offer? --Joel

Answered by Casey Holdahl

I wouldn't be surprised, though my understanding is that the team isn't turning their attention to hiring a new head coach until they get the general manager position squared away.

But in regards to D'Antoni, I think the team is leaning more toward finding, as Jason Quick noted during the May 14 edition of Courtside, an up-and-coming assistant to fill the role rather than an established head coach like D'Antoni. And while his system is fun to watch in the regular season, questions still remain about whether you can win a championship utilizing the "8 seconds or less" approach to offense. Not to mention that, with our roster, a more defensive-minded coach might get preference over someone whose bona fides are almost exclusively on offensive.


  1. A very good point, Sarah, which might otherwise get lost in the shuffle:

    With respect to any team hoping to hang on to high-ticket players, for some of those players the opportunity to win, or to play with certain other guy,s has to count as much as some % of a pay increase. It's not *all* about money, it is sometimes about those intangible "basketball benefits." No two players will value the same things in the same way.

    Harden has an excellent shot at championship with his current squad, but it may be more important to him to be a starter or to be a difference-maker on a less-lauded team. Despite the mutual love affair between Batum and Rip City, the chance to play on a finals-bound team with compatriot Tony P. might outweigh other considerations, even financial ones.

    The stage is set with the financial state of franchises, and the drama is then enacted by young men with complex human motivations.

    by occassia on 5/18/2012 3:34 PM
  2. It DOES seem that at least some of the players in the league are not motivated entirely my money, and do consider situation to be a great importance. I really doubt the Thunder will be able to find ways to keep BOTH I-BlOCK-A and Harden, but if anyone can figure how to do it, it will be Presti. If it comes down to a choice, I'm sure OKC will work extra hard to keep James. He's a major key for them. Personally, I think they are both great and would enjoy seeing them hit the free agent market, even if they are restricted :)

    by SisillaRiann on 5/18/2012 8:16 PM
  3. Hey Miss Sarah:
    This Mailbagging is a great idea; I don't get to watch to many of the Blazer TV shows live, so I don't get to hear or read the Q and A part of the show, and that is important for me to learn BB and keep up on the Blazers.

    Pertaining to Casey's statement about Freeland, I would love to see him come over or trade his rights; to me having assets overseas other then for development is the waste of talent. I have all kinds of assets in my garage that I can only get rid of by about 1% of the value in a yard sale; so stacking up to much assets with no usage or trading is wasted.
    I do understand in Joe Freeland case is he didn't want to come over to just sit on the bench and rot. So, IMO, this is a good time to bring him over since we need immediate help in rebounding and defense against the new slashing PG system. Also, this may be a question for Trailblazers mailbag, but if we got Freeland over here, wouldn't that cut some of the needs to go after a elite center in FA or trade? then leaving us more money and maybe draft picks to build up our depth. For instance, I would love to keep Jonny Flynn, at a low prise, but don't know what we will have in cap space if we go after two elite players in the FA. by getting Freeland over that would save money to keep Jonny with an elite PG, or close to elite as possible. Then I know Sarah, you don't like a Combo guard situation but that is more or less what Nolan is, so we could keep Nolan and Jonny both.
    What do you think? I will redirect this to Mailbag, but a question on that also, I know you can't answer all the questions in a blog, but can you answer the one's you don't use, so as I can get some of my millions of questions answered? Kinda like Dear miss Sarah Hecht instead of Dear Miss Ann Launders LOL.

    by Hg on 5/19/2012 6:02 AM
  4. Haha Hg, I'll do my best to answer as many as I can.

    For the Freeland question, one of the biggest unknowns in bringing Euros over is how they will transition to the NBA game. Until we've seen Freeland make the jump and prove he can compete at a high enough level to limit the need for an elite center I think we need to keep our eyes open to the opportunity of snagging the best possible big man available. So even though it seems like a great idea to rely on Freeland and open flexibility in other areas I think it's too soon to tell.

    As for Jonny and Nolan. I like both of them but they have a lot of development to do. I can't say that I picture either of them evolving into a starting PG, but I can see them becoming solid back-ups. Especially Nolan. But I can't see us retaining both of them. Even though I'm not the biggest fan of combo guards I do understand that is how players are developing themselves these days, so I better get used to it.

    by sarahhecht on 5/21/2012 10:11 AM
  5. Dear Miss Sarah Hecht;
    Thank you for the response, I know you are right, but I feel that our Euros players are not of much value, if we don't know if we can use them or not. I do like the idea of getting an elite center, I just don't know if we can get one.

    It would be better to bring Joe over as a back-up PF and Center. But I am somewhat confused as to what position JJ would be? If he was also a Back-up Center and PF, LMA can be a PF and Back up center. Joel, prey that we get him back is really only a back up center and locker room leader. If we take a center in the draft he would only be a back up center until conditioned.

    Even Asik is a back up but would love to have him. Please relieve my aching heart Miss Sarah Hecht and give me a hint of an elite center and PG that we can abstain. I surely might not live with my aching heart until the end of July.

    Thank you for your wonderful reply

    Harold Mangum

    by Hg on 5/21/2012 11:16 AM
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