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Allen owes fans a reality check

When Paul Allen walked away from the bargaining table last week, turning his back on prospective purchasers for his Portland Trail Blazer franchise, he set off the usual round of speculation.

Is Allen in love with his team again? Did he simply change his mind about wanting to sell the Blazers, because of newfound excitement about the team's draft success? Is he still thinking he can move the franchise to Seattle? Or perhaps none of the offers was high enough? Or is this still a case of Allen simply trying to get a better deal on his Rose Garden rent?

Is he now ready to write a check to buy back the Rose Garden, which he'd previously surrendered to bankruptcy?

Nobody knows. What is known is that several potential ownership groups bid for the team. Some of the offers were in the range of the $350 million Allen and Portland Arena Management apparently had agreed to as an asking price.

But Allen withdrew from the sale discussions.

People have a right to change their mind. And Allen could still be a wonderful owner of an NBA team because he's shown, in the not too distant past, a willingness to spend money generously in pursuit of a championship. But the problem is, nobody really knows what Allen's plans are for the future of this franchise.

Remember, this is a man who never would come out and officially say he was going to sell the team - even while he was soliciting offers for it. He's complained for most of the past year about a 'broken economic model' that was created from a lease that his own team originated. Allen has acted in an unpredictable manner in regard to his arena, his lease and the future of his team.

So the problem isn't so much Allen waffling on his decisions; it's that he's not been forthcoming with whatever his intentions are. The situation cries for him to come forward to explain what he has in mind for the team's future.

This is not a private business. The Trail Blazers are the only major league sports team in Oregon and hold a special place in the hearts of a great many people in this state. At least they did before an unfortunate run of serious public relations mistakes through the past five years cut into what was once a massive fan following.

Allen seems to think he can do whatever he wishes with his team and not pay some sort of price for it. Yes, he does own the team, but what most owners of professional sports franchises eventually discover is that they share that ownership.

A community takes a great degree of pride in its pro sports teams. At least in the successful ones. And, ultimately, the community will decide whether the Trail Blazers will succeed. Allen, in the mysteriously undercover manner in which he's operated in regard to arena ownership and the potential sale of the franchise, has shown a complete disregard for those who invest their hearts and their money in the Trail Blazers.

For instance, almost every story about the team's financial woes includes some speculation that Allen may want to move the franchise to Seattle, where the Sonics appear headed out of town. Until the Trail Blazer owner addresses that speculation directly, it will continue or even intensify.

If he has no plans to move the team, why not say so? And if he doesn't address a possible franchise shift, is it because he plans to attempt a move? Or is he still clinging to the hope that he's getting some sort of leverage with arena owners by the threat of such a departure?

Allen has created doubt, mistrust and anger among even the team's most loyal followers. He has devalued the public and private investment in the Rose Garden. And his herky-jerky actions have delayed resolution of this mess.

Allen should come forward immediately and clearly define the future of the Portland Trail Blazers.