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This was one of the most disappointing years I've had in my 24 seasons as owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. But now I have some additional perspective on which to make decisions and plan for the future. I want to take this chance to share my thoughts with Blazers' fans everywhere.
The best thing I can say about this season was at least it was short.
Think about a couple of the challenging moments from this troubled season. We opened in December with news of a career-ending injury for all-star Brandon Roy. In the final stretch, we learned that LaMarcus Aldridge, our remaining all-star, had to shut down his season early for hip surgery.
These things happen in sports. Injuries are part of the game. Sometimes you have bad luck. But as the 2011-2012 season played out, I was asking myself the same question I know a lot of you were asking: What happened to a season that had such promise? There are no easy answers for that. But I want to share with you my thoughts on the team, the season and, most important, the future.
When the season began, I had high hopes. I hoped our performance would surprise the league and that we would make a run at the playoffs.
Within 24 hours of Brandon's announcement, we got more bad news about Greg Oden's health and a medical issue that caused LaMarcus to miss the first two weeks of training camp.
While it may be hard to remember now, the team started out strong despite all of our misfortune. But the wins didn't last long, and as the season wore on and the bad losses piled up, I found myself in lengthy conversations with general manager Chad Buchanan and president Larry Miller about what we needed to do to position the team for future success.
On March 15, Larry, Chad and I agreed we needed big changes, including replacing Coach Nate McMillan with assistant coach Kaleb Canales. I'm not a big fan of changing head coaches midseason. It's something that happened only three times before in Blazer history.
I want to thank Nate again for all he did for the team and for the city of Portland, and for the class he showed in his departure. I appreciate Nate saying that we had always given him the tools he needed to do his job. That's been an important principle for me in all the years I've owned the Blazers, and I remain committed to doing the same in the future.
Now we need to get the Blazers back on the path to being a top echelon team.
So this is the start of a new chapter in Trail Blazers basketball.
That's why we made some big trades on the same day Kaleb became head coach. It was one of the busiest days we've ever had in terms of transitions. It had been nine years since we decided on a major overhaul, or anyone had even advocated for one. And after all the changes, it was great to see the players working so hard for Kaleb.
The trades we made gave us considerable salary cap room, which in turn will give us more flexibility to sign free agents this summer. We also own three or four picks in what is looking to be a talent-rich draft pool.
Going into next season, it's a priority for us to improve defensively, to play better and more consistently, and to win on the road.
One thing we are not going to do is to spend money like there is no tomorrow, and calls to do so just don't make sense. I've tried that path before -- it doesn't work and is not sustainable. We will follow a judicious and sustainable path going forward.
We are also working to appoint a permanent general manager. While Chad and his team have executed several important transactions over the past year, we need to fill the job permanently.
We are now talking with viable candidates and I have already done my first interview. We're moving forward thoughtfully because we must ensure we have the right fit. Ideally, we'd like to have someone in place before the draft and before we decide on a permanent coach, but finding the right executive may take time.
What is the right fit? First and foremost, the GM has to have what I refer to as the"golden gut." The job requires more than an ability to assess basketball talent. It's also about weighing the intangibles, from character to medical issues, and all the risks involved. Almost every NBA draftee, for example, has some injury history. (And those medical histories are carefully reviewed by our topnotch medical team.)
The GM has to be a good fit with the players, coaches, management, and the Portland community. Of course, I'll also be evaluating how the GM will interact with me, as I'm an engaged and active owner and I ask a lot of questions. It's important for me to clearly understand all the facets of what we're thinking of doing, both on and off the court.
At the same time, I believe personnel decisions should come to me as recommendations from the GM and the president. Certainly there are times I've pushed hard in the draft room or free agency, as I did in recent years for LaMarcus, Wesley Matthews, Joel Freeland, Sergio Rodriquez, Armon Johnson and Patty Mills. But with very few exceptions, I expect the team's executives to make the final calls.
By talking about the future of the Blazers, I know it will raise questions about my continued ownership of the team. Let me be clear and repeat what I've said before: The team is not for sale. I'm working hard to get this team back on track. No offers have been made to buy the team and none have been solicited.
As I told reporters in the Rose Garden in December, there could come a time when I decide to sell the Trail Blazers. Many factors would go into that decision, including my health, the team's economics, and the progress I can see on the court. (On the first item: I'm feeling good these days and have remained in remission for two years.)
I'm looking forward to seeing how we improve the team in the coming months. From what I hear from Blazer fans, many of you are, too. It's very encouraging that season ticket renewals are exceeding our expectations and are just one percent behind where they were at this point last year. That's a great show of faith from you, and we really appreciate all your loyalty and support.
Thank you for that. And thanks to all of the fans who make the Rose Garden the best place in the country to watch a basketball game.
(You can follow me on Twitter: @PaulGAllen)
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