SBD/April 18, 2013/Franchises

Blazers Owner Paul Allen Not Planning On Selling Team; Says Health Is Improving

Allen said that he currently has no plans to sell the Trail Blazers
Trail Blazers Owner Paul Allen yesterday said his health is "good," and his doctors "seem to think less is more sometimes," according to Joe Freeman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Allen said, "I have a few minor issues here and there, but not the major stuff." Allen added he has no plans "to sell" the team "in spite of strange reports from unknown places." Allen addressed his health and a number of other issues in a Q&A. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Q: The sellout streak ended this season. How do you feel about fan support and how concerned are you about attendance in the future?
Allen: I think our fan support, given we’re in this mode of, whatever you want to call it -- retooling, rebuilding, whatever -- it’s been great. And of course, with Chris McGowan as the new team president/executive, I think we’re doing a better job connecting with the community. Listening to them. Getting their feedback on how we can improve everything from concessions to game production to every part of what goes into fielding the Blazers and giving the fans a great experience. ... I think it's been pretty great.

Q: How would you assess the first seasons of [GM Neil] Olshey and [coach Terry] Stotts?
Allen: I think they're both doing a very good job. ... I think you saw Terry institute that new brand of basketball to start out the season. I think it’s, as compared to the styles we’ve had previous seasons, I think it’s a refreshing, unselfish style. In terms of what Neil did, I think we did very well on the draft. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

Q: How would you describe the team’s finances and where do things stand with the Rose Garden naming rights?
Allen: I haven’t heard anything new on the naming rights. I think we talk to people from time to time, make presentations. But I don’t think there’s anything new I can report on that front. In the past, we’ve had financial challenges every year. And some huge financial challenges in the past, where we were not so focused on the financial side of things. But now with the new CBA in place, I think all small market teams will be better.

Q: Why have you decided to seek naming rights? Did you have a change of heart?
Allen: Oh, no, no. In the past, we had an alternative strategy that involved pylons that were supposed to be sold that would give at least as much revenue as some additional naming as part of the facility. I came up with the name Rose Garden. So, believe me, I’ve got an attachment to it. But with all franchises, you want the franchise to be in a positive financial footing. ... Whatever transpires, if we find somebody that’s excited about it, that’s part of putting your franchise in a good financial position so you feel good about making other player moves or whatever (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/18).

OREGON TRAIL: In Portland, Jason Quick writes, "History shows Portland and the Blazers are not a free-agent destination in the NBA." Portland is "too white, too wet and too small to attract big-time players." But players and agents said that Olshey "can help level what was once an uneven playing field for Portland because of his background and relationships, which are rooted in coaching and player development." Agent Andy Miller said, "Can he land a top tier free agent? I don't know. But I would tend to give him the benefit of the doubt, because he is more of an entrepreneur, and that mind-set can't hurt. Because in terms of engagement of interaction and communication, he is one of the better general managers in the business." According to the '11 U.S. Census, Portland is the "whitest city in the NBA at 72.2 percent, and has the second lowest African American population (6.3 percent) to Salt Lake City (2.7 percent)." Grizzlies F Zach Randolph, who played six seasons in Portland, said, "It's one of the top organizations, with a top notch owner in Paul Allen, so as far as that goes, it's great. But as far as the town? It's a little different, and people know that." The "lack of cultural diversity became a factor in 2009" when the Blazers were close to signing Magic F Hedo Turkoglu to a $50M agreement, only to be "rejected at the last minute when Turkoglu's wife favored the strong Turkish community in Toronto" (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/18).
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