Raivio’s return culminates with Blazers workout

TUALATIN, Ore. — Nik Raivio kept it a secret as long as he possibly could.

Raivio was reluctant to tell his family and close friends about his NBA Draft workout Monday morning with the Portland Trail Blazers. Primarily because the former University of Portland guard had watched other promised workouts slip away at the last minute. But also because the opportunity to suit up in black and red and run a court bearing the iconic Rip City pinwheel logo meant something very special to Raivio.

While growing up in Vancouver and attending Mountain View High School, Raivio had been a Blazers fan. Especially during the “Clyde” years, when Raivio made special trips to Dairy Queen just so he could collect drinking glasses emblazoned with portraits of former Portland greats such as Drexler, Terry Porter and Buck Williams.

Monday, the ex-Thunder star was a temporary Blazer. And while Raivio’s goal of one day playing in the NBA could take years to accomplish, he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream during a sweat-filled 90-minute workout.

“It was special coming in here and seeing all this stuff,” Raivio, 24, said.

Blazers coach Nate McMillan had equally kind words for the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Raivio, who is coming off a three-year stint at UP where he averaged 14.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists, while leading the Pilots in scoring each season.

McMillan joked that he knew the first post-workout question delivered by the media would be about Raivio. And the normally reserved McMillan quickly offered heavy praise for a player hoping to bounce back from a frustrating senior season.

McMillan said Raivio handled the ball well and ran the court with a strong pace, adding that the three-time Greater St. Helens League selection has an excellent feel for the game.

“He can flat out shoot the ball,” McMillan said.

But making the net sway was the least of Raivio’s concerns in 2008-09.

Raivio averaged 17.5 points while shooting 61.9 percent (26 of 42) from the floor during the Pilots’ first four games of the season. By the fifth contest, UP was 5-0, had knocked off UCLA, Oregon and Minnesota, and had earned the right to take on then-No. 8 ranked West Virginia in the championship game of the 76 Classic tournament.

But an 84-66 defeat to the Mountaineers followed. As did a disappointing 86-82 home loss to Portland State on Dec. 2 at the Chiles Center, which immediately knocked the wind out of the Pilots’ first top-25 appearance in 50 years.

An up-and-down season awaited UP. But bad luck lurked for Raivio.

He tweaked his right Achilles tendon during the loss to West Virginia. Raivio played through the pain, though, doing so with the understanding that it was his final year in purple and white. Days filled with rehabilitation followed. But then Raivio went up for an offensive rebound during a Jan. 19 practice. When he came down, his tendon had been hyperextended.

“Everything went downhill,” said Raivio, who missed the Pilots’ final 15 games of the season.

More than five months separated Raivio’s injury with his Blazers workout. In that time, the Vancouver resident streamlined his strength and conditioning, while focusing on improving his jump shot. Time spent in Chicago, going head to head with draft prospects such as Luke Harangody (Notre Dame) and Jon Scheyer (Duke), helped. As did a recent heart-to-heart conversation with his brother, Derek Raivio, who starred at Mountain View and Gonzaga before heading to Germany to play professional ball.

“I had a lot of motivation coming in here,” Raivio said. “I was ready to go.”

Now, Raivio is prepared to do whatever it takes to follow in his brother’s footsteps. A selection in Thursday’s draft is highly unlikely. But Raivio is already fielding offers to play this summer in Europe. And after having the opportunity Monday to collect passes from McMillan and bury long-range 3-pointers on the same court that Blazers guard Brandon Roy calls home, Raivio is ready for the long haul.

“This is my (senior) season right here,” Raivio said. “I’m just proving myself.”

The Blazers acquired the No. 34 overall pick in the draft Monday afternoon, by exchanging the No. 44 overall selection and cash considerations with Golden State. By obtaining the No. 34 pick, Portland sits just four spots away from having two first-round selections. The Blazers also hold the No. 22 overall pick. … McMillan said he has compiled a short list of assistant-coach candidates to replace former assistants Monty Williams and Maurice Lucas. Current Blazer assistants Dean Demopoulos and Joe Prunty are also reportedly on the way out, although both are under contract through June. McMillan does not expect to move the replacement process forward until after the draft. “There are a few guys that I have some interest in,” McMillan said.

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Coming Wednesday: An in-depth look at the relationship between Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard and scouts Michael Born and Chad Buchanan.

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