A Basketball Exec talking…Basketball? Larry Miller discusses Blazers

A VHS section at the video store. A line of newly constructed payphones. An NBA executive discussing his team’s players.

Talk about things we thought we’d never see again.

Wednesday afternoon at the Rose Garden, Trail Blazers president
Larry Miller addressed the media with the freedom to discuss a subject that has been taboo for months — basketball. And seeing how the lockout prevented teams employees from even mentioning players for five months, there was plenty to talk about.

The first question was about Brandon Roy, and whether the Blazers would use the Amnesty Clause to waive him and free up salary cap room. A report surfaced last week that the organization had already decided to part ways with the three-time All-Star, but Wednesday, Miller categorically denied that claim.

“The reality is, regardless of what’s been said, no decision here has been made on amnesty,” Miller said. “Brandon has done a lot. He’s one of the people that really helped turn this organization around…For anyone who thinks that I am just standing here saying that, they don’t know me. That’s not how I operate.”

The Blazers would have to release Roy before the season started if they were going to take advantage of amnesty this year. But as Miller noted, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to waive any player currently under contract before any season they choose, therefore allowing for the possibility of a Roy test run. Miller added that he expects Roy to be at training camp when it starts December 9.

But with the season less than a month away, acquiring free agents is a more urgent matter for Portland. Which begs the question — how’s the search for a general manager coming along?

“We’ve put that on pause right now,” said Miller, who told former Blazers GM Rich Cho that he was fired last May. “I and the rest of the team are confident with the people we have in place…We want to bring in a GM that is additive to our staff, that really enhances us. We haven’t found that yet.”

Miller has long emphasized that the Blazers take a group approach to trading and acquiring players. He added that he, team owner Paul Allen, and scouts such as Chad Buchanan and Mike Born have been “working feverishly” with a team-building plan throughout the course of the lockout.

Of course, team maintenance may be of equal import, which has people wondering — what’s going on with Greg Oden?
The Blazers tendered an $8.8 million qualifying offer to the center over the summer, therefore making him a restricted free agent. And while Oden, who is still recovering from a 2010 microfracture surgery, is not expected to return to basketball-related activities until at least January, Miller said Wednesday that “Greg is part of our ‘Plan A’.”

Miller added that the ticket renewal percentage is about where it was at this point last year, that Allen will “hopefully” address the media soon (although he gave no timetable), that losing assistant coach Bill Bayno to the Timberwolves will not alter the Blazers’ policy of offering assistants one-year contracts, and that any detail of the season schedule is still unknown.

Miller also said that Buchanan — the Blazers director of college scouting — had already spoken with more than 20 agents about free agency by the time Wednesday’s press conference began. And with his final public statement of the day, the team president offered one little hint of intrigue.

As the media horde dispersed, a reporter asked Miller “why not just give Chad (Buchanan) the GM job?”
Miller stared back and said “Maybe.”

Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or matt.calkins@columbian.com

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