Phil Knight

Trail Blazers Notes: Henderson, Draft, Billups, Lillard

Scoot Henderson‘s role in the Trail Blazers’ backcourt will be vastly different if Damian Lillard gets traded, but the former G League Ignite star plans to approach his rookie season the same way no matter what happens. In an interview with Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, Henderson said he’s grateful for the advice Lillard has offered so far and he’s not watching the internet to check the status of trade talks.

“If he leaves, I’m going to just embrace that,” Henderson said. “I’m going to embrace being the point guard for the team. And that comes with practice. I don’t have my spot guaranteed; I know that. My goal is to get better every day at practice and get better game by game.”

Midway through the interview, members of the Hornets walked past and Brandon Miller stopped to ask Henderson about the shoulder injury he suffered in his first Summer League game. O’Connor questioned Henderson about why Miller was drafted ahead of him and whether sliding to No. 3 will provide any extra incentive.

“If I was the no. 1 pick I’d still feel the edge,” Henderson replied. “So just making sure everybody knows that that’s how I’m coming, and I’m coming up with a fiery edge for myself no matter where I went. I would’ve had the same edge if I went 1. My main focus is basketball and being the greatest version of myself. So, whether I was 1, 2, 50, I would still have that edge.”

There’s more on the Blazers:

  • Henderson made an extremely strong impression on rival teams with his Summer League performance, even though it was limited to 21 minutes, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Mannix said a couple representatives from other teams suggested that even the Spurs might eventually regret passing on Henderson to take Victor Wembanyama.
  • Portland coach Chauncey Billups admitted that Lillard’s trade request has brought a level of chaos to the summer, Mannix adds. Billups stated that he understands that Lillard needs to make the best decision for his career, and he complimented general manager Joe Cronin for how he has handled the situation. “You can’t control fate. So we’ll see how it plays,” Billups said. “But for me as a coach, there’s a lot of other guys on the team that I have to coach and that I have to be here for, that I have to mentor, I have to teach, and I want us to just continue to move forward, however we do that.”
  • Lillard posted an Instagram message Friday night to try to calm a social media controversy, per Larry Brown Sports. Lillard recently liked a tweet calling for Nike founder Phil Knight to buy the team from Jody Allen and convince Lillard to change his mind about being traded. On Instagram, Lillard called the incident a “mishap” and said he didn’t intend to disrespect Allen.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Knight, Williams, Wojciechowski

After Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard floated a few destinations that would hypothetically appeal to him if he were to ask for a trade, his longtime backcourt mate CJ McCollum spoke with ESPN’s Alan Hahn, Zach Lowe and Jay Williams on “Get Up” about what he considers the best future trajectory for the Portland All-Star (YouTube video link).

McCollum, now with the Pelicans, believes the Heat would have the edge if Lillard were to request a trade, but says the Nets might also be an appealing fit for his former teammate.

“I’m going to preface this by saying Dame is my guy and I know he wants to be in Portland,” McCollum said. “He’s always talking about his affinity for bringing a championship to Portland… The obvious answer here is that if something (i.e. a trade) were to occur… Miami’s in the Finals right now, right? They have great culture, they have obviously (head coach) Erik Spoelstra, they have a young core… they have a need for what he brings to the table.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Current Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen has turned down a second proposal by Nike head honcho Phil Knight and Dodgers minority owner Alan Smolinsky to purchase the team. Bill Oram of The Oregonian writes that Knight, a unique fixture in the Portland sports world, would represent a worthy successor to Allen’s late brother Paul Allen, known for his passion about the Trail Blazers and his NFL franchise, the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Thunder rookie swingman Jalen Williams intends to play in this year’s Summer League, per Daniel Bell of BSO (Twitter link). The All-Rookie First Teamer enjoyed a standout inaugural NBA season, averaging 14.1 PPG on .521/.356/.812 shooting splits, along with 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 1.4 SPG across 75 contests.
  • Former Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski is looking forward to his new pro ball opportunity, serving as the head coach of the Jazz‘s NBAGL affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve spent two years in Park City, and during those two years, the Jazz organization — Justin (Zanik) and Danny (Ainge) and those guys, and (former head coach Quin Snyder), who’s a good friend of mine — were very generous with allowing me to observe and watch them work,” Wojciechowski said. “I want to do a great job of creating a culture that mirrors the Jazz (on the Stars).”

Jody Allen Shuns Second Bid For Blazers From Knight, Smolinsky

Trail Blazers owner Jody Allen has been tasked with selling off most of the assets of her late brother Paul Allen and donating the money to charitable causes, but she has been reticent to offload the NBA franchise just yet.

According to Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal, Nike CEO Phil Knight and Dodgers minority owner Alan Smolinsky recently made a follow-up offer to buy the franchise from Allen, a year after their initial $2 billion offer was rejected. Though Bachman does not indicate a dollar amount, she notes that Knight and Smolinsky increased their bid to keep up with the rise in sports team valuations.

“As Jody said publicly last year, the sports teams are not for sale,” Jason J. Hunke, spokesman for Paul and Jody Allen’s umbrella company Vulcan, said. Jody also inherited the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks from her brother. “That will eventually change pursuant to Paul’s wishes, but there is no preordained timeline for when that will happen. Interested parties can engage when we establish a sales process at some point in the future.”

According to Hunke, Allen’s estate team “balances an overall strategy for asset disposition with driving the best possible sales process and outcome for each individual asset and asset class. There are many different asset classes being managed to that end.” 

It appears that it could take 10-to-20 years to fully resolve the estate and establish a sale for the Trail Blazers and Seahawks, with Hunke calling that “a fair and accurate time frame.” The two clubs are worth an estimated $6.6 billion, per Bachman.

Bachman consulted with several lawyers familiar with complex estate sales. Many disputed such a lengthy window as being necessary.

“You would almost have to intentionally slow-walk it,” said Allan Cutrow, a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP. “They don’t have to accept (Knight and Smolinsky’s offer), and they may not even have to negotiate it… But at the very least, you would think, barring something else in the (estate) document, that they would reach out to an investment banker and they have some duty to market this and get the best possible value.”

“[The] concept that a complex estate takes 10 to 20 years to be fully sorted out, that would be very unusual,” Andrew Mayoras, a trust and estate litigation attorney, said.

Bachman writes that the 30-year ground lease of the Trail Blazers’ current home arena, the Moda Center, will expire in 2025, and Allen could opt to leverage public funding for improvements. Bachman notes that, at least judging by language she shared in a recent email, it does not appear that Allen is looking to offload the team any time soon.

“As chair, my focus is building championship teams and managing the franchises for the long-term,” Allen wrote in an email to Bachman. “Today, I work regularly with the GMs, presidents, and coaches on significant sports, business, and organization decisions and have final say on strategic moves such as key hires, trades, and player extensions.”

Knight, worth over $40 billion, is hoping that a sale to him and Smolinsky will keep the team in Portland for the long haul.

Even while fielding oft-injured All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers have missed out on the playoffs in back-to-back years. They sport a cumulative record of 60-104 across the past two seasons. The club has the third pick in the upcoming draft, which could be used to either draft a promising young cornerstone or to acquire an impact player via trade.

Western Notes: Warriors, Blazers, Bledsoe, Kings, Dulkys

Speaking to Mark Medina of on Wednesday, Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers suggested he doesn’t expect to make any significant changes to the current roster before the 2022/23 season begins.

“I like our team and where it’s at,” Myers said of the defending champions. “I want to give the guys a chance to do it again.”

While Medina interprets Myers’ comments as a strong signal that the Warriors won’t seriously pursue a Kevin Durant trade, such a move was already considered a long shot. Golden State hasn’t shown much interest in sacrificing its depth or young prospects in order to make a run at another marquee player, Medina notes.

For his part, Myers is curious to see what the Warriors look like defending their title after coming off a couple non-playoff seasons in 2020 and 2021.

“It’s a good group. We’re lucky. It’ll be fun to see,” he told Medina. “We were really hunting last year. Now I guess we’re back to being the hunted, which I didn’t think we’d be. We’ll see. I think we can handle it.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Sean Highkin of The Rose Garden Report attempts to make sense of recent reports about Phil Knight‘s interest in buying the Trail Blazers and Jody Allen‘s statement insisting the franchise isn’t currently for sale. Observing that Knight is an ideal buyer from the NBA’s perspective, Highkin suggests more reports like the New York Post’s dubiously sourced hit piece on Allen could surface in the coming weeks and months in an effort to pressure her to sell.
  • It slipped through the cracks when Casey Holdahl of (Twitter link) first reported it earlier this month, but the Trail Blazers have stretched Eric Bledsoe‘s $3.9MM in dead money across three seasons rather than applying the full amount to their 2022/23 cap. The decision, which results in annual $1.3MM cap hits through ’24/25, moves Portland’s team salary for this season slightly under the luxury tax line.
  • Deividas Dulkys, who served as a player development coach for Memphis’ G League team in 2021/22, will take a player development role with the Kings, reports Donatas Urbonas of The former Florida State wing, who played professionally from 2012-21, was a member of the Lithuanian national team during 2012 Olympic qualifiers.

Silver Addresses Expansion, Blazers, All-NBA Teams, In-Season Tournament

The NBA isn’t planning to expand in the near future, according to commissioner Adam Silver. During his annual press conference prior to Game 1 of the Finals, he shot down a report that the league is targeting Seattle and Las Vegas for expansion in 2024, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press reports.

“We are not discussing that at this time,” Silver said.

Silver said the league will inevitably expand and called Seattle and Las Vegas “wonderful markets.” However, he cited a lack of top-tier talent as a reason for pumping the brakes on expanding in the next couple of seasons.

“There still are only so many of the truly top-tier super talents to go around,” he said. “That is something on the mind of the other teams as we think about expansion.”

Here are some of the other highlights from Silver’s press conference:

  • With many teams moving toward position-less lineups, All-NBA teams may be determined differently in future seasons. “We’re going to discuss that with the players and sit down once again and see if there’s a better way to do it,” Silver said.
  • Amid reports that Nike co-founder Phil Knight and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky made an offer to buy the Trail Blazers for more than $2 billion, Silver stated the Blazers will eventually be sold and he hopes they’ll remain in Portland. The Blazers released a statement on Thursday saying the team is not for sale. “At some point, the team will be sold,” Silver said. “I don’t have any sense of the precise timing. … This is a hugely a complex estate, and although it’s been several years, these things take time.”
  • An in-season tournament is still a possibility but “we’re not there yet,” Silver said. With so many teams giving key players nights off during various points of the season, Silver wants to ensure the tournament is competitive. “We want to make sure we have a system where our best players are incentivized to be on the floor,” Silver said.

Phil Knight, Alan Smolinisky Trying To Buy Trail Blazers

5:14pm: The Blazers confirmed in a statement that Knight made an offer but said the team is not for sale, Wojnarowski tweets.

Knight and Smolinisky have been engaging on the purchase bid with the Paul Allen Trust and league office, as have other prospective groups. Despite the Blazers’ statement, Knight and Smolinisky are expected to continue their pursuit, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

2:18 pm: Nike co-founder Phil Knight and Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky are attempting to purchase the Trail Blazers with a $2 billion-plus written offer, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Talks about the possible transaction are still ongoing, Woj reports.

Knight’s presence in the proposed ownership group “speaks to its desire to keep the Blazers in Portland,” says Woj (via Twitter). Knight, 84, is a Portland native and one of the wealthiest people in the world at $47.4 billion, according to Forbes.

Smolinisky, 42, is a real estate investor who also owns the Palisadian-Post newspaper. He joined the ownership group that purchased the Dodgers in 2019, according to an press release.

After longtime Blazers owner Paul Allen passed away in October of 2018, his trust went to his sister, Jody Allen, who’s the current controlling owner of the team. There were whispers and speculation during the 2021/22 season that Allen might put the Blazers up for sale at some point in the near future.

After Portland’s season ended in April, multiple sources suggested to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report that the Blazers could begin exploring the market for new ownership as early as this summer. Some league insiders believe a sale of the franchise could be completed before the end of 2023, per Fischer.

The Blazers have an important summer ahead after a disappointing season saw them finish 27-55, but nothing will be more important than a potential change in ownership. Portland controls the Nos. 7, 36, and 59 picks in the upcoming draft, and the front office, led by GM Joe Cronin, will have to decide the best pathway to become a championship contender with franchise player Damian Lillard.