TUALATIN, Ore. — Any downgrade in pressure potential draftees thought they might have working out for a team with no head coach in place was quickly halted when a reasonably important figure in the Trail Blazers organization showed up Wednesday: Team owner Paul Allen.
Always known as a hands-on owner who looks forward to the Draft with great anticipation, Allen sat next to Blazers general manager Neil Olshey and watched prospects participate in pre-draft workouts. He then spoke with reporters for the first since mid-December.
Among the questions fired Allen’s way pertained to constant speculation that he plans on selling the franchise, a position Allen has repeatedly denied and continued to do so Wednesday.
“I don’t know where that would come from. I don’t understand it,” Allen said. “I’m the person that knows, and I know the answer, and I’ve stated the answer multiple times that the team’s not for sale. So it’s mysterious. There are mysterious figures lurking in the background whistling things, but who are they? Only a few people know.”
He also commented on the Blazers’ coaching search, saying that Portland is looking for “somebody that brings a lot of positive energy,” can “develop young players and bring them along,” and that the team “really wants to match the coach with the players we have.”
What roster additions await the Blazers remain to be seen, and neither Allen nor Olshey would go into detail about any specific player. But the following prospects, spread out over two workouts, were in Tualatin Wednesay: Noon workout — Quincy Acy (6-7, Baylor), Bradford Burgess (6-6, Virginia Commonwealth), Reggie Hamilton (5-11, Oakland), Kevin Murphy (6-5, Tennessee Tech), John Shurna (6-9, Northwestern), and Mitchell Watt (6-10, Buffalo).
2 p.m. workout — Portland native Terrence Jones (6-9, Kentucky), Perry Jones (6-11, Baylor), Jared Sullinger (6-9, Ohio State), Marquis Teague (6-2, Kentucky), John Henson (6-11, North Carolina) and Darius Johnson-Odom (6-2, Marquette).
Diverging from previous Blazers protocol, Olshey is opting not to release names of participating players before the workouts. Player bios still await early-arriving reporters in the media room, but Olshey, whose tenure as GM began two Tuesday ago, said his mum’s-the-word approach is “a courtesy to the agents. We do these workouts because they’re evaluation tools for us, not fodder for the internet.”
But like his owner, he did offer insight into the qualities he seeks in a head coach, saying that unlike college basketball, in which schools center their programs around the coach, NBA organizations structure their teams around their players.
“You look at it relative to where you are in your growth, what kind of roster you have, and who best suits that developing roster,” Olshey said.
Olshey added that he plans to travel to Houston next week to evaluate forward Joel Freeland, a 24-year-old Brit whom the Blazers selected with the 30th pick in the 2006 Draft.
Players such as Terrence Jones would like to go a bit higher than that. Most mock draft boards have Jones going in the middle of the first round, suggesting Portland would not use its sixth or 11t pick on the Jefferson High grad.
Jones didn’t say specifically that he wants to play for the Blazers any more so than he would another team. That, however, would not have been his stance a few years ago.
“This was the team I always dreamed of playing for growing up,” Jones said. “But any team that picks me, I’m gonna be happy to play for them.”
Perry Jones is slotted similarly on most draft boards, and admitted that playing in front of Allen Wednesday intensified nerves. While the 20-year-old Baylor product admitted that he isn’t analyzing his every missed shot the way he did during his first workout with the Warriors, he is keenly aware that the sixth and 11th picks will not be wasted on somebody who doesn’t impress.
“(Playing in front of Allen) gets you really nervous, and it gets you more tired more quickly,” Jones said. “You play your heart out and forget you still got 60 minutes to go.”
Sullinger, meanwhile, came to Tualatin a year after he was considered the top 1 or 2 players in the 2011 Draft class. Now, he’s more in the 10-11 range…although he won’t admit to having regrets.
“Everyone’s looking for the next big thing, the next big fix, and if that’s a freshman coming out of college…it is what it is,” Sullinger said. “I could care less.”