Portland Trail Blazers

Billy King Looks Back On Tenure With Nets

Former Nets GM Billy King, who is widely blamed for turning the organization into a perennial loser with no lottery picks, tells his side of the story in an interview with The Glue Guys, a Nets-themed podcast.

King touches on several controversial issues in the 45-minute session, including an effort to acquire Chris Paul, the failure to get Dwight Howard when he wanted to join the Nets and the ill-fated trade that sent three unprotected first-rounders to Boston for a package centered around veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

The highlights:

  • King tried to get Paul from New Orleans before dealing with Utah for Deron Williams. King believed he was making progress, but the deal went cold after Jeff Bowers was replaced as GM by Dell Demps. “At that time, I don’t think Dell wanted his first thing to be trading Chris Paul,” King said.
  • The Nets believed they were close to acquiring Howard from Orlando just before the 2012 trade deadline. “We went to bed as a staff — we left the office pretty late — we went to bed pretty much knowing that tomorrow we’re going to get Dwight,” King said. Magic GM Otis Smith had planned to finalize the deal the next morning, but King woke up to a text saying that Howard had elected to opt in for the following season. King reached out to Howard’s agent, who responded, “I don’t think he did,” and even Smith hadn’t heard the news when King called him. However, Smith returned the call an hour later and confirmed the news.
  • The Nets responded by trading their 2012 first-round pick to Portland in exchange for Gerald Wallace in an attempt to appease Williams and discourage him from opting out over the summer. The Blazers used that pick to draft Damian Lillard.
  • King reached out to the Celtics in 2013 because he thought he had a talented nucleus that needed veteran leadership and was interested in acquiring Pierce. Negotiations led to Garnett and Jason Terry being included and the package of picks going to Boston.
  • King made an offer to Pierce in the summer of 2014, but he got a better deal from Washington and the Nets decided not to match it. “Once that decision was made, I think it changed our thought process,” King said. “I think some of the players even thought, ‘What’s going on here? We were committed and now we’re not.” King added that he wouldn’t have made the deal with Boston if he knew he couldn’t keep Pierce longer than one season.

Poll: Portland Trail Blazers’ 2017/18 Win Total

After posting a 54-28 record in 2013/14, the Trail Blazers have found themselves slowly slipping down the Western Conference standings in recent years, with their win total declining from 54 to 51 to 44 to 41. Although the club earned a playoff spot last season, its 41-41 regular season record was a letdown.

The late-season arrival of Jusuf Nurkic provided a spark for the Blazers and gives the team a reason for optimism heading into the 2017/18 season. Since LaMarcus Aldridge‘s departure in 2015, Portland’s offense has been driven by its backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but if Nurkic recovers from his broken leg and continues playing like he did in his first 20 games with the Blazers (15.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG), the team’s attack looks more balanced.

Still, while a full season with Nurkic in the lineup would bode well for the Blazers’ chances to improve, they won’t have it easy in a Western Conference that looks more daunting than ever. In Portland’s division alone, the Thunder added Paul George, the Timberwolves acquired Jimmy Butler, and the Nuggets signed Paul Millsap.

The Blazers, on the other hand, didn’t make any notable additions outside of rookies Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan, who aren’t likely to make a major impact right away. Portland had to dump Allen Crabbe for nothing in order to cut team salary and reduce its projected luxury tax bill, giving the club one fewer outside shooter to rely on in 2017/18.

Despite Portland’s quiet summer and a loaded Western Conference, oddsmakers still project a very modest improvement for the Blazers this season, with offshore betting site Bovada putting the club’s over/under at 42.5 wins.

What do you think? Are the Blazers, with the help of Nurkic, set to bounce back and improve on last year’s record, or will they be hard-pressed to top 42 wins in a tough conference? Vote below and jump into the comment section to weigh in with your thoughts!

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NBA’s Board Of Governors To Examine Revenue Sharing System

ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst have published an expansive and well-researched report on NBA teams’ finances, providing details on the league’s revenue sharing system, the impact from national and local television deals, and how a lack of net income for NBA franchises could push the league toward considering relocation or expansion.

The report is wide-ranging and detailed, so we’re going to tackle it by dividing it up into several sections, but it’s certainly worth reading in full to get a better picture of whether things stand in the NBA. Let’s dive in…

Which teams are losing money?

  • Nine teams reportedly lost money last season, even after revenue sharing. Those clubs were the Hawks, Nets, Pistons, Grizzlies, Magic, Wizards, Bucks, Cavaliers, and Spurs. The latter two teams – Cleveland and San Antonio – initially came out ahead, but paid into the league’s revenue sharing program, pushing them into the red.
  • Meanwhile, the Hornets, Kings, Pacers, Pelicans, Suns, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers also would have lost money based on net income if not for revenue sharing, according to Lowe and Windhorst.
  • As a league, the NBA is still doing very well — the overall net income for the 30 teams combined was $530MM, per ESPN. That number also only takes into account basketball income, and doesn’t include income generated via non-basketball events for teams that own their arenas.
  • The players’ union and its economists have long been skeptical of NBA teams’ bookkeeping, alleging that clubs are using techniques to make themselves appear less profitable than they actually are, Windhorst and Lowe note. The union has the power to conduct its own audit of several teams per season, and it has begun to take advantage of that power — according to ESPN, the union audited five teams last season, and the new CBA will allow up to 10 teams to be audited going forward.

How does the gap between large and small market teams impact income?

  • Even after paying $49MM in revenue sharing, the Lakers finished the 2016/17 with a $115MM profit in terms of net income, per ESPN. That was the highest profit in the NBA, ahead of the second-place Warriors, and could be attributed in large part to the $149MM the Lakers received from their huge local media rights deals.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Grizzlies earned a league-low $9.4MM in local media rights, which significantly affected their bottom line — even after receiving $32MM in revenue sharing, Memphis lost money for the season. The Grizzlies will start a new TV deal this year that should help boost their revenue, but it still won’t come anywhere close to matching deals like the Lakers‘.
  • The biggest local TV deals help drive up the NBA’s salary cap, with teams like the Lakers and Knicks earning in excess of $100MM from their media agreements. According to the ESPN report, the Knicks made $10MM more on their TV deal than the six lowest-earning teams combined.
  • As one owner explained to ESPN, “National revenues drive up the cap, but local revenues are needed to keep up with player salaries. If a team can’t generate enough local revenues, they lose money.”
  • Playoff revenue from a big-market team like the Warriors also helps push up the salary cap. Sources tell Lowe and Windhorst that Golden State made about $44.3MM in net income from just nine home playoff games last season, more than doubling the playoff revenue of the next-best team (the Cavaliers at about $20MM).

How is revenue sharing affecting teams’ earnings?

  • Ten teams paid into the NBA’s revenue sharing system in 2016/17, with 15 teams receiving that money. The Sixers, Raptors, Nets, Heat, and Mavericks neither paid nor received any revenue sharing money. Four teams – the Warriors, Lakers, Bulls, and Knicks – accounted for $144MM of the total $201MM paid in revenue sharing.
  • While there’s general agreement throughout the NBA that revenue sharing is working as intended, some teams have “bristled about the current scale of monetary redistribution,” according to ESPN. “The need for revenue sharing was supposed to be for special circumstances, not permanent subsidies,” one large-market team owner said.
  • The Grizzlies, Hornets, Pacers, Bucks, and Jazz have each received at least $15MM apiece in each of the last four years via revenue sharing.
  • However, not all small-market teams receive revenue-sharing money — if a team outperforms its expectations based on market size, it forfeits its right to that money. For instance, the Thunder and Spurs have each paid into revenue sharing for the last six years.

Why might league-wide income issues lead to relocation or expansion?

  • At least one team owner has raised the idea of expansion, since an expansion fee for a new franchise could exceed $1 billion and it wouldn’t be subject to splitting 50/50 with players. A $1 billion expansion fee split 30 ways would work out to $33MM+ per team.
  • Meanwhile, larger-market teams who aren’t thrilled about their revenue-sharing fees have suggested that small-market clubs losing money every year should consider relocating to bigger markets, sources tell ESPN.
  • As Lowe and Windhorst observe, the Pistons – who lost more money than any other team last season – are undergoing a relocation of sorts, moving from the suburbs to downtown Detroit, in the hopes that the move will help boost revenue.

What are the next steps? Are changes coming?

  • The gap between the most and least profitable NBA teams is expected to be addressed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting next week, per Lowe and Windhorst. Team owners have scheduled a half-day review of the league’s revenue sharing system.
  • Obviously, large- and small-market teams view the issue differently. While some large-market teams have complained about the revenue sharing system, they’re outnumbered, with smaller-market teams pushing those more successful clubs to share more of their profits, according to ESPN.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is one of the loudest voices pushing for more “robust” revenue sharing, sources tell ESPN. Some team owners have argued that the system should ensure all teams make a profit, while one even suggested every team should be guaranteed a $20MM profit. There will be “pushback” on those ideas, Lowe and Windhorst note. “This is a club where everyone knows the rules when they buy in,” one owner said.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, some teams have floated the idea of limiting the amount of revenue sharing money a team can receive if it has been taking payments for several consecutive years.
  • Any change to the revenue sharing system that is formally proposed at the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting would require a simple majority (16 votes to 14) to pass.

Shabazz Napier 'Little More Than An Insurance Policy'?

Trail Blazers Sign Anthony Morrow

SEPTEMBER 18: The Blazers have issued a press release formally announcing their deal with Morrow.

SEPTEMBER 15: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement to sign free agent shooting guard Anthony Morrow, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). According to Charania, Morrow will receive a one-year, non-guaranteed deal from Portland.

Morrow, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday later this month, began the 2016/17 campaign with the Thunder, but finished the season with the Bulls after being included in the trade that sent Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson to Oklahoma City. In 49 total games, the Georgia Tech alum averaged a very modest 5.5 PPG with a disappointing .389/.308/.919 shooting line.

While Morrow wasn’t particularly effective last season, with his FG% and 3PT% both representing career lows, he has historically been a much better shooter — he entered last season having made 42.5% of his career three-point attempts. In 2012/13, Morrow had a similarly subpar showing as he split time between the Hawks and Mavericks, but he played well for the Pelicans the following season, so there’s a precedent for him bouncing back from a down year.

Still, Morrow won’t be a lock to make Portland’s roster out of training camp. The Blazers have 14 players on guaranteed contracts and are into luxury-tax territory, meaning the team may not want to carry a 15th player to start the season. Even if the Blazers do open the year with 15 players, Morrow could face competition for that final spot from younger guards like Archie Goodwin and Isaiah Briscoe, though he’d probably enter camp as the favorite.

Extension Candidate: Jusuf Nurkic

After slowly establishing himself as one of the most efficient, low-usage big men in the NBA, Jusuf Nurkic got his first consistent opportunity to shine when the Nuggets shipped him off to the Trail Blazers partway through the 2016/17 campaign.Jusuf Nurkic vertical

And shine he did.

It’s not Nurkic’s fault that Nikola Jokic caught up to him and surpassed him on Denver’s depth chart last season but, regardless, it was Nurkic’s value that seemed to dissipate over night. Fast forward to the end of the campaign and there’s more confusion than ever as to what the bruising low post threat really is worth in today’s NBA.

One can’t exactly blame the Nuggets for getting impatient and trading Nurkic for pennies on the dollar — there were clearly elements of addition by subtraction at play considering Nurkic’s reported attitude regarding his demotion in Denver. Still, they gave away a possible star to a division rival in exchange for Mason Plumlee, a 26-year-old with a considerably more modest ceiling.

Nurkic, just 23 years old, is entering the fourth year of his career this season and is thus eligible for a rookie extension prior to the October 16 deadline. There’s no consensus, however, about whether the Trail Blazers should rush out to sign him to one.

With few reported updates, other than Blazers general manager Neil Olshey saying that he doesn’t typically talk about ongoing contract negotiations, there’s no clear sense as to whether locking Nurkic in long-term is even a priority of the organization.

On one hand, Nurkic hit the ground running in Portland, averaging 15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game over the course of his 20-game stint with the Blazers post-trade.

The inflated numbers aren’t just the byproduct of a particularly motivated young player either, Nurkic’s 18.7 points and 12.8 rebounds per 36 were only slightly higher than the 15.3 points and 12.0 rates he posted through two and a half years with Denver.

So, yes, Nurkic knows how to fill a stat sheet and, even better, his production contributed to tangible success with his new club. In his taste of action with Portland, the Blazers went 14-6. As Joe Freeman of the Oregonian wrote at the time, the club soared with Nurkic in the lineup, his presence solidifying the squad’s offerings on both ends of the court.

Alas, the sudden arrival of the dominant young big man was, in at least one sense, too good to be true. In late March, Nurkic fractured his right leg and missed the remainder of the 2016/17 season, including the club’s four-game sweep at the hands of the eventual NBA champion Warriors.

Whether the non-displaced fibular fracture was the result of a seven-footer in supposedly sub-optimal condition being suddenly thrust into the heaviest workload of his career or an omen of things to come, the fact that he missed the last chunk of the season is a concern.

While Nurkic’s injury isn’t as catastrophic as the words “out for the remainder of the season” may seem – a similar issue set Steve Nash back a total of 24 games… at age 38 – this isn’t Nurkic’s first significant injury and that’s something that could impact whether the Blazers do or do not offer him a sizable contract earlier than they need to.

If Nurkic can return to the court healthy and put forth 70-plus games at the same standard as last season, it’s hard to imagine him having any trouble finding suitors as a restricted free agent next summer. In that regard, locking him in now could potentially save the organization money in the long run.

The risk, however, may not be worth it.

A more pragmatic approach would be to wait for Nurkic’s borderline cult-like following to normalize over the course of a full season. Then with a larger sample size on which to base expectations, Olshey and company could decide whether or not that’s a direction they want to take the franchise.

Worst case scenario, Nurkic struggles to stay on the court next season and Portland walks away unscathed. Best case scenario, Nurkic Fever continues to sweep the Pacific Northwest and the Blazers are socially obligated to max out a 24-year-old franchise talent that already thrives with the teams existing star backcourt just as they hit their respective primes.

There are worse fevers to succumb to.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Trail Blazers Sign Isaiah Briscoe To Camp Deal

SEPTEMBER 14: The Blazers have officially signed Briscoe to a camp deal, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 13: The Trail Blazers have reached an agreement with former Kentucky guard Isaiah Briscoe, who will join the club on a training camp deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Once it’s finalized, the signing will bring Portland’s roster count to 17 players.

Briscoe, 21, declared for the NBA draft in the spring following his sophomore year at Kentucky, despite ranking outside the top 80 on many experts’ draft boards. The 6’3″ guard worked out for several teams leading up to the draft, including the Blazers, but suffered an ankle injury in mid-June and had to cancel his last few sessions. He went undrafted.

In his second season with the Wildcats, Briscoe posted solid averages of 12.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.2 APG, though he continued to struggle with his outside shot. After making just 13.5% of his long-distance attempts in his freshman year, the New Jersey native improved his three-point percentage in 2016/17, but only to a modest 28.8%.

While the Sixers picked up Briscoe for Summer League play in July, it’s the Trail Blazers who will take an extended look at him this fall. Currently, the Blazers have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, and it’s possible they’ll keep that 15th regular season spot open to start the season, in order to keep their tax bill down. If they do carry a 15th man, the Blazers figure to consider Briscoe, Archie Goodwin, and any other players they may invite to camp.

Portland is one of the three NBA teams without an NBA G League squad, so Briscoe won’t have the opportunity to become an affiliate player for the Trail Blazers. However, if the club likes what it sees from the rookie guard, a two-way contract is a possibility — the Blazers have only used one of their two-way openings so far.

15 Two-Way Contract Slots Remain Open

With NBA training camps just a couple weeks away, most teams are putting the finishing touches on their respective rosters. In addition to having secured at least a dozen players on guaranteed contracts and perhaps a handful of camp invitees, each NBA club has also signed at least one player to a two-way contract.

As we explain in depth in our FAQ, two-way contracts – a new concept under the league’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement – allow NBA teams to carry two extra players in addition to the 15 on their regular season roster. These players spend most of their time with the club’s G League affiliate, but are eligible to join the NBA roster for up to 45 days per season, and remain under team control — they can’t be poached by rival franchises.

Teams have been signing players to two-way contracts since July, so we’re starting to get a better idea of what players on those deals will look like — some are late second-round draft picks; some are undrafted rookies; others are G League or international veterans, or former NBA players looking to work their way back into the league.

Every NBA club has signed at least one player to a two-way deal, but only half of those 30 clubs have filled both spots, meaning that there are still 15 two-way openings around the league. With the help of our two-way tracker, here’s a breakdown of the teams that still have an open two-way slot:

  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Dallas Mavericks
  • Golden State Warriors
  • Houston Rockets
  • Los Angeles Clippers
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Miami Heat
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • New York Knicks
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Orlando Magic
  • Philadelphia 76ers
  • Portland Trail Blazers

While the Suns and Jazz technically could be included on this list, they’ve reportedly reached agreements – with Alec Peters and Nate Wolters, respectively – to fill their second two-way slots, so unless those deals unexpectedly fall through, they won’t have any openings.

Although some of these two-way openings figure to be filled in advance of training camp, many of the clubs listed above have signed camp invitees to Exhibit 10 contracts, which can later be converted into two-way deals. So rather than signing someone new and waiving a camp invitee, a handful of teams may simply convert an Exhibit 10 contract to a two-way contract before the regular season begins.

Freeman Examines Outlook For Nurkic, Turner

  • With training camp fast approaching, Joe Freeman of The Oregonian is taking a player-by-player look at the Trail Blazers‘ roster. So far this week, he has examined Jusuf Nurkic, who is extension-eligible this offseason, and discussed Evan Turner, who will look to bounce back from a poor 2016/17 as he enters the second season of a lucrative four-year contract.

Damian Lillard Talks Carmelo, Blazers, Rivals

The Trail Blazers have had one of the NBA’s quietest summers, having not made a single free agent signing until officially inking Archie Goodwin to a camp deal today. On the trade front, Portland’s only major move involved dumping Allen Crabbe‘s exorbitant contract on the Nets — the Blazers acquired Andrew Nicholson in that trade, but subsequently waived him.

Of course, while the Blazers’ cap situation limited their ability to pursue impact free agents, the team’s star guards – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum – made an effort to recruit a trade candidate. Carmelo Anthony has been unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to join the Blazers, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying from Lillard and McCollum.

Speaking to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, Lillard admitted that he doesn’t love “doing all the extra recruiting” adding that he didn’t want to press Anthony. Despite the fact that Carmelo “didn’t seem opposed” to the idea of playing in Portland, according to Lillard, there has been no indication that a trade between the Blazers and Knicks is a viable possibility.

Lillard expanded on that subject and addressed a few other topics in his conversation with Spears, which includes details on his community work and is worth checking out in full. Here are some of the highlights from the Blazers’ point guard:

On recruiting Carmelo Anthony to waive his no-trade clause for the Trail Blazers:

“I guess they call it tampering or whatever. It’s not against the rules for us to interact with each other. We all peers, we all play in the same league and everybody hints at playing with each other. ‘What you think about this?’ ‘What do you think about that?’ All that matters is whether it got done or did not get done. Or hasn’t got done, and it hasn’t got done. So, it is what it is …

“I’m not giving up on anything. I just think I’ve done what I can do. And camp is a few weeks away. And you have to focus on getting ready with who we are, plan on going in as we are. Whatever changes, the front office will be the ones making that change, with the Knicks and our front office or whatever. But I get my mind focused on what I can control at a certain point.”

On the offseason upgrades made by division and conference rivals:

“It’s tough. The West is tough as always. I think a lot of teams in the West got better on paper, and at the end of the day, things have to work out. A lot of things look good, but it still got to work out. You got to make it work. So, we’ll see how that go.”

On the Trail Blazers’ outlook for 2017/18:

“I got a lot of confidence with everybody on our team. We still got a young team. Obviously, we could improve in a lot of areas as a group. With all the struggles we had last year, we still found a way to get it done and to get into the playoffs, which is what every team goes into the season and tries to get done. So, we make the improvements that we need to make collectively on the defensive end, and just being able to do things at a high level consistently. We should be pretty good.”

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