The bloom is now officially off the Rose Garden. The place is a mess. And it's probably going to get worse.
I understand making cuts when you're losing money. Nobody expects an owner to lose his shirt on a basketball team. But on the other hand, I don't think innocent people should pay the price for a rich man's gluttony.
Do the math. You read it in this space months ago, before you read it anywhere else: The Trail Blazers are going to lose at least $100 million Ñ an all-sports record that is mind-boggling. They're going to be about $50 million over the salary cap, which means a dollar-for-dollar tax on that excess. That, not-so-coincidentally, comes to $100 million.
Ladies and gentlemen, forget about all those extra employees the Blazers purportedly had in the Rose Garden and in their offices. They amount to a paltry $4 million a year. The simple fact is, if the team had been operated responsibly on the player personnel side, and stayed at the salary cap, the Blazers would have lost zero dollars last season.
The $100 million this team lost wasn't because it had too many Rose Garden employees or because Nick Jones had too big a budget in community relations. The losses can be attributed directly to the dough spent on those pot-smoking, spouse-abusing, both-teams-played-hard, we-don't-care-about-the-fans con men who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
And I hardly think it's fair to blame only Bob Whitsitt for that. Come on, Portland, Paul Allen was right there signing off on Whitsitt's every move Ñ each and every cent he lavished on a roster of players so spoiled and overpaid that many of them cannot be traded, retired or simply released.
So a lot of very good folks who had nothing to do with that foolishness have to walk the plank. Lose their jobs. I think, if you were one of those people carrying the contents of your desk out of the office in a cardboard box Tuesday, you at least would have liked to see some sign that perhaps Allen is cutting back to a lower-priced caviar on his football field-sized yacht or is not flying off in the custom jet to another multimillion-dollar Hollywood party. He's still worth billions.
This is all so Ñ in a word that belongs to the rich Ñ gauche.
Meanwhile, where the real problem is, the Blazers are going to need at least a couple of years to get their player payroll in order. They have some players who are so overpaid that you simply can't trade them. In other cases, even with tradable players, you can't move toward fiscal responsibility with trades because you have to take equivalent salaries back in return.
In fact, a man who was once interested in applying for one of the team's top jobs told me, 'I'm not sure I want it. They want to lay people off and cut payroll. I don't know if I want to come in and be the hatchet man. It's going to be so hard for them to do this. It looks like a complete tear-down and rebuild.'
The Blazers haven't missed the playoffs in two decades. They've never been in the lottery. They're going to try to dump salary, and that's going to be very difficult to do while maintaining the talent level. The team's depth was its greatest asset, but you probably can't continue to have that and be fiscally responsible. And the Blazers don't exactly have a coach who is going to steal them any wins.
Forget about all the cries from fans about character and integrity; you wouldn't want to be trying to sell tickets or sponsorships around this town if the Blazers go 35-47.
Maybe the ones who got a pink slip Tuesday will prove to be the lucky ones. They got out early.